Archives for category: Buzz Books


Mark Z. Danielewski has both dazzled and confounded readers with his high-concept novels that utilize font, colour, footnotes within footnotes, and sometimes turning the book upside down every few pages to tell a story.

His latest book, The Familiar: One Rainy Day in May, is presented as Volume 1 of a projected 27 volume series, of which new volumes (or “episodes”) will be released every 6 months. It’s unlike any book you’ve picked up before. But should you read it?

My review on CBC Day 6 >> listen here.

For the last-minute Christmas shoppers among you, here’s my annual Holiday Gift Guide for CBC Day 6.

Here’s the audio >> listen.

For foodies:

  • How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman
  • The Cookbook Book from Phaidon

For fiction lovers:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Neapolitan Series by Elena Ferrante

For non-fiction nuts:

  • Flashboys by Michael Lewis

Stocking stuffer:

  • Remembrance by Alistair MacLeod


Conveniently timed to air on the longest day of the year (thank you, June 21, for falling on a Saturday), I’m pleased to present my annual summer reading list for Day 6 on CBC Radio One.

Here I am (up there, look!) balancing in my skinny arms my complete set of books to suit all summer reading tastes.

Moments after this photograph was taken I overheard a man sitting at the other end of the table (yes, I am on a patio drinking early summer beer) telling his friends that he likes reading crime fiction by British writers. I gave him my copy of The Farm, thus lighting my load by one book for the journey home.

>> Listen to my summer reads conversation with Day 6 host Brent Bambury here.

>> Read my suggestions for EVEN MORE reading at, here.

image: shovel ready


A writer publishes his debut novel. The writer has a toe hold in the literary establishment on both sides of the Canada/US border. The novel has a toe hold on both sides of the noir/sci-fi genre border. The setting of the novel is almost borderless; near-future New York functioning as everyplace and no place, a Gotham or Metropolis, a metaphor for where society has gone wrong. The protagonist is an assassin with a code: one foot on either side of the moral fence.

The review is not like the novel. The review has to pick a single side.

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh. Should you read it?

Listen to the segment on CBC Day 6.


image: Holiday Reads 2013


For your last-minute gift-giving needs, my 2013 gift guide on CBC Day 6 includes:

For the fiction lover:
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Stoner by John Williams

For the tech-savvy reader, nonfiction fan or parent to teenage smartphone addicts:
Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson

For the graphic novel reader or whimsical adventurer  of any age (10 and up):
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

For the cook:
The Old World Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard

Listen to the audio.

image: The Luminaries


On Tuesday night, Canadian-born Kiwi Eleanor Catton became the youngest author ever to win the Man Booker Prize. She won for The Luminaries, which, at 830-odd pages, is also the longest book ever to have won, and will forever be the last book to have won before the prize changed its entry rules to include writers beyond the Commonwealth and Ireland.

But should you read it?

I did – more quickly than I’d suggest you do. Here’s my conversation with Brent Bambury on CBC Day 6.



On Sept. 18, it was an honour to be asked to host the first event of the 40th season of readings at Harourfront Centre. Rebranded (I dig it) as IFOA Weekly, the event took place in front of a full-to-bursting house in the Brigantine Room. Why such a crowd? For Matt Galloway interviewing Joseph Boyden, that’s why.  Props to the Boyden fans who waited in line for 2 hours to get their books signed after the event.


The NYT Magazine said it’s the best book you’ll read in 2013. High praise for a book that was published on January 10, a pub. date that I’m guessing will have amused the author considering the book’s title.

I discussed George Sunders’ heatbreaking and hilarious new story collection on Day 6 with Brent Bambury

Should you read it? Here’s the audio.


My 2012 Holiday Reads for Day 6 (also Far from the Tree, which I seem to have forgotten about when taking the picture...)


Three more shopping days till Christmas!

Here are my tips for the buzziest books underneath the tree this year, as shared with Brent Bambury on this morning’s CBC Day 6.

Shoppers in Toronto: you can get all of these and more at the fabulous Type Books, where I’m often to be found selling books of a weekend. All except Building Stories, that is, which is sold out everywhere in the city (gasp!) except for The Beguiling, which was clever enough to get a Santa’s warehouse full! Go indies!

Happy holiday reading folks.

’tis the year of discord among prize juries, we are told.

With the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize and Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language Fiction lists all out, the verdict came in: an almost unprecedented level of dissenting opinion between the three juries threw Canada’s literary awards season into disarray. Or possibly into ambivalence, if one can be “thrown” into ambivalence (today’s “Guessing the Giller” article in the Globe & Mail might as well have been titled “Meh”).

“The Year of Discord Among the Literary Experts,” said  the Globe & Mail on Oct. 2, noting that, “the divergence of opinion among literary experts contrasts with the solidarity that occurred last year.”

An “almost unprecedented number of 12 different books have been selected by various juries and committees,” said the Toronto Star on Oct. 26.

Really? Or is it just that last year’s lists were so dominated by two names in particular that it gave the illusion of the awards being a race between only those two books?

As the publicist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize it was my great pleasure to work with Patrick deWitt and Esi Edugyan (the two shortlist-dominating authors in question) in 2011. What was frustrating about last year though was that the noise surrounding those two names was such that the other nominees (there were nine of them, by the way) found themselves a little drowned out. By contrast, the 2012 shortlists with their lesser (but, see below, not by as much as you’d think) accord provide, instead of one big story, many smaller ones. And isn’t that what literary awards are here to do? To re-open the window of publicity for those authors short- and long-listed for them?

The configuration this year is different, but the stats not so much.

The Breakdown (Canadian shortlists only – I’m not including the Booker):

  • In 2011, 11 out of a possible 16 books were shortlisted.
  • In 2012, 12 out of a possible 15 books were shortlisted.
  • In 2011, 3 books were nominated for multiple awards.
  • In 2012, 3 books were nominated for multiple awards.

One notable difference: in 2011, two books were nominated for all three awards (and hence became major noise-makers), whereas in 2012 none were.

Because the Giller had a six-book shortlist in 2011 it messes with the numbers a little, but let’s assume that a five-book shortlist in 2011 would have omitted Better Living Through Plastic Explosives (by all accounts the outsider), which didn’t appear on any other lists. That would still leave us with 11 books out of a possible 15 in 2011, versus 12 books out of a possible 15 in 2012.


  • The same number of books appeared on multiple lists in 2012 as in 2011
  • The total number of books shortlisted across the combined lists in 2012 is only one higher in the year of disagreement than it was in the year of accord.
  • The same number of books (3) appeared on multiple lists in 2011 as in 2012.
  • Book people are bad at math. But I think we already knew that.

As Mark Twain said, “There are three sorts of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” 2012 may be the year of discord among the literary judges or it may be the year that award recognition managed to sprinkle some fairy dust on a greater number of books than in 2011.

Good luck tonight (Giller nominees), on Nov. 7 (Writers’ Trust nominees), and Nov. 13 (GG nominees) to each and every one of this year’s literary dozen.


(with thanks to @ebcameron for swiftly pulling together these stats)