if your bookshelf is empty or you’re looking for an idea about what to read next… below are some suggestions from our CFUW members. If you’ve read a book that you especially enjoyed and think other members would like to read it, please email the book’s title & author along with a brief comment about why you liked the book to Martha Abra. The book could be one that you read through Book Club or Revolving Books.
All We Leave Behind: A Reporter’s Journey into the Lives of Others by Carol Off, Recommended by Susan Middleton
Carol Off, the host of CBC’s As it Happens, and her connection to Asad Aryubwal and his family started in 2001 when she traveled to Afghanistan to work on a CBC Television documentary. It’s a riveting story about how Carol got the family to Canada when it became apparent, they were not safe in Afghanistan due to their connection with Carol. Each chapter covers an era in the complex history of Afghanistan with an easy-to-follow timeline in the back of the book. I enjoyed this book immensely and the narrative reads like a thriller. Carol writes clearly and with compassion about the situation the Aryubwal family was in. She describes the mind and body numbing bureaucracy refuges must go through, with both the Canadian and foreign governments and non-governmental organizations, to get heard and move the process along. This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in the situation of refugees in Afghanistan, Syria and around the world.
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, Recommended by Marian Lips
I was really interested to learn about this period in history especially with Ethiopia back in the news.
“A gripping novel set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King takes us back to the first real conflict of World War II, casting light on the women soldiers who were left out of the historical record.”
The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride by Joe Siple, Recommended by Jean Armitage
I don’t usually become emotionally involved in books but this one had me both laughing out loud and close to tears and, although the ending was perfect, I wanted to read more. 100 year-old Murray McBride is looking for a reason to live. He finds it in Jason Cashman, a 10-year-old boy with a terminal heart defect and a list of five things he wants to do before he dies. Two of the most unlikely friends, they share a relationship. Together, with Tiegan, a feisty but practical, 10-year-old neighbour, they race against the limited time each has left, ticking off wishes one by one. Along the way, Murray remembers what it’s like to be young, and Jason fights for the opportunity to grow old. But when tragedy strikes, their worlds are turned upside-down, and an unexpected gift is the only thing that can make Jason’s final wish come true. Of note, one of the wishes focuses on baseball and provides a fascinating look at this sport from both a 100-year-old and a current lens.
Humble PI – When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker, Recommended by Martha Abra
Written by a 40-year-old retired Australian/English teacher who is now a recreational mathematician, stand-up comedian, author, YouTube personality and communicator. This book is filled with hilarious fascinating quirky facts – what’s wrong with England’s soccer field traffic signs, what caused Koreans working on the 38th floor to mistakenly think they were experiencing an earthquake, the reason another Y2K-like risk could occur in 2038, and so on. Spoiler alert – there are some pretty detailed nerdy sections of the book which computer geeks will love – if you’re not into that – just skim over those parts to find the interesting tidbits – there are many.
The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman. Recommended by Marian Lips
A fascinating look at bird behaviours. You will never use the disparagement “bird brain” again.
“There is the mammal way and there is the bird way.” But the bird way is much more than a unique pattern of brain wiring, and lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviors they have, for years, dismissed as anomalies or mysteries. What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, and survive. They are also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own: deception, manipulation, cheating, kidnapping, infanticide, but also ingenious communication between species, cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play.”
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Recommended by Joyce Chappell
I reread the last chapters several times trying to figure out what I had missed as I did not foresee the ending.Very different.
Often referred to as a psychological thriller. This debut is hypnotic and haunting. Alicia, a famous painter, appears to have a perfect life until she shoots her husband in the face five times and becomes silent. She does not speak at her trial or in the criminal mental hospital. A criminal psychotherapist is determined to get her to talk. Through intelligent character analysis, the “blank canvas” of Alicia is filled leading to an astonishing and unpredictable ending.
One Good Reason by Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon. Recommended by Trish Loat (on the 2020-21 Revolving Books List)
I wasn’t sure how much a book about “Addiction and Recovery, Music and Love” would appeal to me. I was wrong, What a great read.
In this deeply personal memoir, co-written with wife Andrea Aragon, singer-songwriter and renowned mental health, addiction, and recovery advocate Séan McCann describes his childhood in Newfoundland indoctrinated in strict Catholic faith, followed by the creation of the wildly successful musical group Great Big Sea, his courtship and early marriage with Aragon, and his battle with alcoholism that nearly cost him everything. At the heart of this insightful coming-of-recovery is McCann’s exploration of the root cause of his alcoholism, a secret he kept until 2014 when he came out as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Aragon’s parallel narrative offers a rare and intimate spousal perspective, making the memoir a nuanced and complex portrait of the effects of addiction on family.
Agent Sonya: Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy, by Ben Macintyre (Hardcover) – recommended by Brenda Dolha, Revolving Books;
“The true story of an intrepid female spy during the Cold War”
In 1942, in a quiet village in the leafy English Cotswolds, a thin, elegant woman lived in a small cottage with her three children and her husband, who worked as a machinist nearby. Ursula Burton was friendly but reserved, and spoke English with a slight foreign accent. No one knew she was a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer or that her husband was also a spy. Behind the facade of her picturesque life, Burton was a dedicated Communist, a Soviet colonel, and a veteran agent, gathering the scientific secrets that would enable the Soviet Union to build the bomb. This true-life spy story casts new light on the spy battles and shifting allegiances of our times.
Ben MacIntyre also wrote A Spy and the Traitor on 2019-20’s Revolving Books list.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – recommended by Trish Loat, Revolving Books
Lydia owns an Alcapulco bookstore. A man enters the shop. Unbeknownst to her, Javier is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and her 8-year-old son soon find themselves worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, they ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the USA, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?
The Last High by Daniel Kalla – recommended by Jean Armitage, Revolving Books
“The author is the chief of Emergency Medicine at St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver. I heard him interviewed on CBC and was impressed.”
Dr. Julie Rees is stunned when the emergency room she works at is flooded with teenagers suffering from life-threatening drug overdoses. The patients were all at the same party, and Julie soon recognizes that these aren’t typical cases. She suspects the teens took–or were given–fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative. Julie and Detective Anson Chen begin to try to track down whoever supplied the drugs. But when other people with the same disturbing overdose symptoms begin showing up in the ER–and the morgue–Julie starts to realize that something extremely disturbing is happening on the streets of Vancouver.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker – recommended by Martha Abra, Revolving Books
“I felt that I had stepped into the world of an orphaned boy in Burma in the 1930s as he goes blind and learns to live through developing extraordinary hearing”
When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia travels to the village where the woman lived.