Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Man Booker Prize 2011 Winner!

The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011 was:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes


A truly wonderful novel that will have the reader immersed in the story from the very first page, and all the while marvelling at the precision of Barnes’ prose. Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove. The Sense of an Ending is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the world’s most distinguished writers.  

The short list for the Man Booker Prize included two canadians!
Carol Birch - Jamrach's Menagerie


I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the Highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began.’ 1857. Jaffy Brown is running along a street in London’s East End when he comes face to face with an escaped circus animal. Plucked from the jaws of death by Mr Jamrach – explorer, entrepreneur and collector of the world’s strangest creatures – the two strike up a friendship. Before he knows it, Jaffy finds himself on board a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies, on an unusual commission for Mr Jamrach. His journey – if he survives it – will push faith, love and friendship to their utmost limits.

Patrick deWitt - The Sisters Brothers


From the author of the acclaimed Ablutions, this dazzlingly original novel is a darkly funny, offbeat western about a reluctant assassin and his murderous brother. Oregon, 1851. Eli and Charlie Sisters, notorious professional killers, are on their way to California to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. On the way, the brothers have a series of unsettling and violent experiences in the Darwinian landscape of Gold Rush America. Charlie makes money and kills anyone who stands in his way; Eli doubts his vocation and falls in love. And they bicker a lot. Then they get to California, and discover that Warm is an inventor who has come up with a magical formula, which could make all of them very rich. What happens next is utterly gripping, strange and sad. Told in deWitt’s darkly comic and arresting style, The Sisters Brothers is the kind of western the Coen Brothers might write – stark, unsettling and with a keen eye for the perversity of human motivation. Like his debut novel Ablutions, it is a novel about the things you tell yourself in order to be able to continue to live the life you find yourself in, and what happens when those stories no longer work. It is an inventive and strange and beautifully controlled piece of fiction and displays an exciting expansion of Dewitt’s range

Esi Edugyan - Half Blood Blues

‘Chip told us not to go out. Said, don’t you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you…’ The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled. In Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong…

Stephen Kelman - Pigeon English


Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers – the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen – blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him. With equal fascination for the local gang – the Dell Farm Crew – and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of inner-city survival. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe. A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.

A D Miller - Snowdrops


"A.D. Miller’s Snowdrops is a riveting psychological drama that unfolds over the course of one Moscow winter, as a young Englishman’s moral compass is spun by the seductive opportunities revealed to him by a new Russia: a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness, magical dachas and debauched nightclubs; a place where secrets – and corpses – come to light only when the deep snows start to thaw… Snowdrops is a chilling story of love and moral freefall: of the corruption, by a corrupt society, of a corruptible man. It is taut, intense and has a momentum as irresistible to the reader as the moral danger that first enchants, then threatens to overwhelm, its narrator."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Governor General's Literary Awards 2011

The 2011 Governor General's Literary Awards have been announced. The Governor General’s Literary Awards – commonly known as “the GGs” – were first awarded in 1936.  They are awarded in seven categories, in both French and English, with a $25,000 prize. 
The finalists for fiction are:

Cover of The Little Shadows
The Little Shadows
Marina Endicott | Fiction

Cover of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

When a frontier baron known as the Commodore orders Charlie and Eli Sisters, his hired gunslingers, to track down and kill a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm, the brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, and eventually to Warm's claim in the Sierra foothills, running into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers.
Cover of Half-Blood Blues: A Novel

Half-Blood Blues: A Novel

Esi Edugyan | Fiction
This is a new part of an old story: 1930s Berlin, the threat of imprisonment and the powerful desire to make something beautiful despite the horror. Ernst told them not to go out. Said don't you boys tempt the devil. But the cheap beer in his gut must have made Hieronymus think a glass of milk would be worth the risk. Of course Ernst was right, and the star player on the Berlin scene of the late 1930s, right before the war began for the second time, was taken away that night by the Boots. An easy target, being a mixed-race German. Not like the others, the Americans, Europeans, black, white and Jewish, who could hide a while longer. Fifty years later and Sidney's going back, to hear for the first time the unfinished recording the band was making, the obsession that kept them there long after it was safe. The thing that stopped them using those visas while they were still good.

Cover of Touch by Alexi Zentner


Alexi Zentner | Fiction
In Sawgamet, a north woods boomtown gone bust, the cold of winter breaks the glass of the schoolhouse thermometer, and the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Stephen, a pastor, is at home on the eve of his mother's funeral, thirty years after the mythic summer his grandfather returned to the town in search of his beloved but long-dead wife. And like his grandfather, Stephen is forced to confront the losses of his past.

Cover of The Free World by David Bezmozgis

The Free World

David Bezmozgis | Fiction
Bezmozgis follows his well-received Natasha and Other Stories with a meticulous study of the capricious spaces between historical certainties. First, there's the gap that allows the Krasnansky family to flee Soviet Latvia in the late 1970s for the edge of Rome, where a population of Jewish refugees contemplate their chances of emigrating to Canada, America, or Australia while awaiting news of Israel's peace with Egypt amid widespread anti-Zionism. Then there's the generational gap between the Krasnansky patriarch, unreconstructed Communist Samuil, who only reluctantly leaves the bloc he fought and sacrificed for, and his somewhat profligate sons, Alec and Karl, keen to snatch up the opportunities-sexual, financial, and criminal-that the West affords. And finally there is the growing distance between Alec and his wife, Polina, who is fleeing an ex-husband and a scandalous abortion. Bezmozgis displays an evenhanded verisimilitude in dealing with a wide variety of cold war attitudes, and though the unremitting seriousness of his tone makes for some slow patches, the book remains an assured, complex social novel whose relevance will be obvious to any reader genuinely curious about recent history, the limits of love, and the unexpected burdens that attend the arrival of freedom. 

The finalists for non-fiction are:

Cover: The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by Andrew Nikiforuk

Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests

Andrew Nikiforuk | Non-Fiction
Beginning in the late 1980s, a series of pine beetle (also known as the bark beetle) outbreaks unsettled iconic forests and communities across western North America. An insect the size of a rice kernel eventually killed more than 30 billion pine and spruce trees from Alaska to New Mexico. The pine beetle didn't act alone. Misguided science, out-of-control logging, bad public policy, and a hundred years of fire suppression released the world's oldest forest manager from all natural constraints. The beetles exploded wildly in North America and then crashed, leaving in their wake grieving landowners, humbled scientists, hungry animals, and altered watersheds. Although climate change triggered this complex event, human arrogance assuredly played a role. And despite the billions of public dollars spent on control efforts, the beetles burn away like a fire that can't be put out. Author Andrew Nikiforuk draws on first-hand accounts from entomologists, botanists, foresters, and rural residents to investigate this unprecedented pine beetle plague, its startling implications, and the lessons it holds. Written in an accessible way, Empire of the Beetle is the only book on the pine beetle epidemic that is devastating the North American West.

Cover of Mordecai: The Life & Times by Charles Foran

Mordecai: The Life & Times

Charles Foran | Non-Fiction
Foran's book is IT: the definitive, detailed, intimate portrait of Mordecai Richler, the lion of Canadian literature, and the turbulent, changing times that nurtured him. It is also an extraordinary love story that lasted half a century. The first major biography with access to family letters and archives. Mordecai Richler was an outsized and outrageous novelist whose life reads like fiction. Mordecai Richler won multiple Governor General's Literary Awards, the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, among others, as well as many awards for his children's books. He also wrote Oscar-nominated screenplays. His influence was larger than life in Canada and abroad. In Mordecai , award-winning novelist and journalist Charlie Foran brings to the page the richness of Mordecai's life as young bohemian, irreverent writer, passionate and controversial Canadian, loyal friend and deeply romantic lover. He explores Mordecai's distraught childhood, and gives us the "portrait of a marriage" - the lifelong love affair with Florence, with Mordecai as beloved father of five. The portrait is alive and intimate -warts and all.

Cover : Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald; His Life, Our Times, Volume Two: 1867-1891 by Richard Gwyn

Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times, Volume Two: 1867-1891

Richard Gwyn | Non-Fiction
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER An exciting story, passionately told and rich in detail, this major biography is the second volume of the bestselling, award-winning John A: The Man Who Made Us , by well-known journalist and highly respected author Richard Gwyn. John A. Macdonald, Canada's first and most important prime minister, is the man who made Confederation happen, who built this country over the next quarter century, and who shaped what it is today. From Confederation Day in 1867, where this volume picks up, Macdonald finessed a reluctant union of four provinces in central and eastern Canada into a strong nation, despite indifference from Britain and annexationist sentiment in the United States. But it wasn't easy. The wily Macdonald faced constant crises throughout these years, from Louis Riel's two rebellions through to the Pacific Scandal that almost undid his government and his quest to find the spine of the nation: the railroad that would link east to west. Gwyn paints a superb portrait of Canada and its leaders through these formative years and also delves deep to show us Macdonald the man, as he marries for the second time, deals with the birth of a disabled child, and the assassination of his close friend Darcy McGee, and wrestles with whether Riel should hang. Indelibly, Gwyn shows us Macdonald's love of this country and his ability to joust with forces who would have been just as happy to see the end of Canada before it had really begun, creating a must-read for all Canadians.

Cover of The Damned: The Canadians at the Battle of Hong Kong and the POW Experience, 1941-45 by Nathan M. Greenfield

The Damned: The Canadians at the Battle of Hong Kong and the POW Experience, 1941-45

Nathan M. Greenfield | Non-Fiction

Cover: The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by J.J. Lee

The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

J.J. Lee | Non-Fiction

Taking as its starting point a son's decision to alter his late father's last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out -- and discovering what it means to be your own man. For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet -- his late father's last suit. When he decides to finally make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey into his own past. As JJ moves across the surface of the suit, he reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father, a charismatic but luckless restaurateur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. He also recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at Modernize Tailors, the last of Vancouver's legendary Chinatown tailors, where he learns invaluable lessons about life from his octogenarian master tailor. Woven throughout these two personal strands are entertaining stories from the social history of the man's suit, the surprising battleground where the war between generations has long been fought. With wit, bracing honesty, and great narrative verve, JJ takes us from the French Revolution to the Zoot Suit Riots, from the Japanese Salaryman to Mad Men, from Oscar Wilde in short pants to Marlon Brando in a T-shirt, and from the rareified rooms of Savile Row to a rundown shop in Chinatown. A book that will forever change the way you think about the maxim "the clothes make the man," this is a universal story of love and forgiveness and breaking with the past.

The finalists for poetry, drama, children's text, children's illustration and translation can be found at the Governor General's Literary Awards website

The winners of the Governor General's Awards will be announced November 15, 2011.

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Children's Literature Award

The 2011 winners of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the inaugural John Spray Mystery Award have been announced.

Each of these award-winning books was chosen because they exemplify the best work in the Canadian author and illustrator community. Adult and child readers alike are sure to be captivated by these engaging stories, and it is certain that they will soon become Canadian classics that will adorn bookshelves across the country.

All of the winners are available at the library, clicking on the title will take you to the catalogue listing of the title.


Sponsored by TD Bank Group

Plain KatePlain Kate
Written by Erin Bow (Kitchener, ON)
for ages 11 and up
"Plain Kate is a triumph of imagination. With astonishing skill, Erin Bow creates the world of Kate, whose talents as a wood carver mark her as a witch. The fascinating, intricate plot bravely explores the wrenching complexities of cruelty and of love. Bow’s prose is at once lyrical and raw, and her characters are indelible. This is a book that will be read for generations.”


Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie
I Know HereI Know Here
Written by Laurel Croza (Markham, ON)
Illustrated by Matt James (Toronto, ON)
Groundwood Books
for ages 5-7
“An authentic, personal voice captivates from the first line, in this leave-taking from a beloved childhood home. The centre of this child’s universe is a trailer camp in the northern wilderness, rendered in all its details with brilliant harmony between Croza’s affecting, naturalistic words and James's evocative, childlike paintings… Running throughout are bittersweet emotions, wonderfully narrated, that all will recognize.”


Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation
Case Closed?Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science 
Written by Susan Hughes (Toronto, ON)
Illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier (Toronto, ON)
Kids Can Press
for ages 8-12
“A perfect combination of science, story and history, compellingly presented by Susan Hughes who shows with absorbing detail how modern science can shed new light on some of mankind’s most beguiling mysteries… The book is replete with colourful graphic illustrations, maps, photographs and fascinating forensic notes to intrigue the curious child as well as adults… An exciting and entertaining read.”


Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund
The Glory WindThe Glory Wind
Written by Valerie Sherrard (Miramichi, NB)
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
for ages 11 and up
“A very moving portrayal of both small town life and friendship… Sherrard beautifully conveys the small-mindedness and prejudice of the town, and the subsequent consequences… The Glory Wind effectively depicts life during the 1940s, but still manages to be a modern story that resonates with contemporary readers… It did everything for me that a good novel should do – it made me smile, it made me angry, it brought me to tears.”


Sponsored by John Spray
A Spy in the HouseA Spy in the House
(The Agency)
Written by Y.S. Lee (Kingston, ON)
Candlewick Press
for ages 13 and up
“In A Spy in the House Lee has got Victorian London right; this is what Dickens’ world really smelled like, literally and morally... Interesting and unique, Mary Quinn is a strong character who can think on her feet... I loved this book from the first line to the very last... A great read for a young adult of any age... It worked from beginning to end.”

The short listed books for all the categories can be found at The Canadian Children's Book Centre.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Giller Shortlist 2011

The Giller Prize 2011 shortlist has been announced. The 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists are: 

  • David Bezmozgis for his novel THE FREE WORLD, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.  
Polina has somewhat fecklessly left her devoted, upright husband for Alec, a smooth-talking womanizer now eyeing a teenage girl. Responsible older brother Karl has big dreams but helps the family survive by getting involved in a shady business. Family patriarch Samuil, who still mourns a brother lost in World War II, remains firmly secular even as his wife drifts toward the family's Jewish heritage. Sounds like your typical family problems, but the Krasnanskys are Soviet Jews who have fled to the West (it's 1978), and the miracle of this debut novel is how effectively Bezmozgis (Natasha: And Other Stories) captures both the family's recognizable tensions and the particular difficulties of the Soviet emigre experience. Staunch Communist Samuil, for instance, contravened his convictions to emigrate and remain with his family, while Polina will never see hers again. Having opted not to go to Israel, the Krasnanskys find themselves in Rome, struggling to arrange visas to the United States or Canada. Bezmozgis fills their wait with carefully nuanced anguish and, yes, hope. Verdict Bezmozgis proves why he was recently proclaimed one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40; this is mellifluous, utterly captivating writing, and you'll live with the Krasnansky family as if it were your own. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. 

  • Esi Edugyan for her novel HALF-BLOOD BLUES, published by Thomas Allen Publishers
This is a new part of an old story: 1930s Berlin, the threat of imprisonment and the powerful desire to make something beautiful despite the horror. Ernst told them not to go out. Said don't you boys tempt the devil. But the cheap beer in his gut must have made Hieronymus think a glass of milk would be worth the risk. Of course Ernst was right, and the star player on the Berlin scene of the late 1930s, right before the war began for the second time, was taken away that night by the Boots. An easy target, being a mixed-race German. Not like the others, the Americans, Europeans, black, white and Jewish, who could hide a while longer. Fifty years later and Sidney's going back, to hear for the first time the unfinished recording the band was making, the obsession that kept them there long after it was safe. The thing that stopped them using those visas while they were still good.

  • Michael Ondaatje for his novel THE CAT’S TABLE, published by McClelland & Stewart
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “Cat’s Table”--as far from the Captain’s Table as can be--with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Cat’s Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever. As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story--by turns poignant and electrifying--about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.