Archives for posts with tag: review

Alexander Masters cover


One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Especially when it comes to celebrated biographer Alexander Masters’ relationship with “I,” the enigmatic author of 148 diaries found in an Oxford Dumpster. Fifteen years after the discovery of the diaries, Masters’ latest book, A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip, is the result: a biography, mystery, love story and chronicle of social class in 20th century England.

It’s a delightful read.

I reviewed it for the National Post, 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.



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.


As we prepare to ring in 2013, here, in no particular order, is my top 5 for 2012.


Londoners by Craig Taylor
These oral testimonials create a living, breathing portrait of a city. I was happy to see the book turn up on two out of three National Post critics’ lists on the last Saturday of the year, proving my love for it isn’t too too swayed by my personal love of London.

You Aren’t What You Eat by Steven Poole
This smart and hilarious rant about foodie culture caught my eye in an advance edition  in the UK this past spring. I read most of it in a gastropub  and giggled away over my pint and wild boar sausages. Available only as an eBook in Canada, it’s a steal at $1.99.

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Listen to Andrew Solomon talk about his book in this episode of CBC’s The Sunday Edition and see if you can resist picking it up. Solmon’s book about children, parenting and identity is both sad and hopeful, and holds relevance for us all.


The Faster I Walk the Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold
This short novel about an old woman approaching death has echoes of Will Self and Alan Bennett. A terrific debut from a young Norwegian author that I was delighted to discover at this year’s International Festival of Authors in Toronto.

Siege 13 by Tamas Dobozy
Dobozy emerged as the literary darling of awards season, with a Writers’ Trust win and a GG nomination topping off a collection of absolute rave reviews. Linked short stories  about the lasting effects of Siege of Budapest, this collection stood out by a mile and deserved every word of praise.

Honourable Mentions

Straphanger by Taras Grescoe — an important and eminently readable book about urban transit. Watch out for the paperback in the spring.
The Measure of a Man by JJ Lee — a 2012 paperback (I came to it late). I was reading passages to people out loud I enjoyed it so much.
In One Person by John Irving — his best novel since A Widow for One Year. Too bad about the horrendous cover.


Fall = big book season.

Erin Balser and I sat down with Mary Ito on CBC Radio One’s Fresh Air to talk about what we’re looking forward to this season.

We talked about:
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hill
NW by Zadie Smith
Y by Marjorie Celona
The Blondes by Emily Schultz
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

And mentioned:
1982 by Jian Ghomeshi
Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Dear Life by Alice Munro

Listen to the audio.


It’s been 12 years since Zadie Smith published her break-out debut, White Teeth, and 7 years since her most recent novel, the brilliant On Beauty.

So … was NW worth the wait?
On Day 6 with Brent Bambury I say … YES. With a word of caution that the novel is “crazy good” in parts, but “chaotic and cluttered” in others.

Here’s the audio.


I found Karen Thompson Walker’s much hyped debut to be a slightly flawed but overall impressive and tightly wrought feat of the imagination. And it absolutely screams “summer read.”

Read my review in the Globe and Mail.


One of the great American novelists has published his first novel in 6 years and called it CANADA.

Cue excitement in literary circles everywhere, but most especially north of the border.

So … should you read it?

On CBC Day 6 this morning I said … probably not, no.


First you couldn’t be online without hearing about it. Then you couldn’t open a newspaper without reading about it. Then you couldn’t even walk into a bookstore without seeing it piled high in all its suggestive tie-me-up-ishness.

Fifty Shades of Grey was everywhere. But is it any good …? Of course not.

Erin Balser and I went in to the CBC Fresh Air studio to talk to Mary Ito about why we think everyone’s going gaga for Christian Grey, and to offer some suggestions for smutty reading with a little more literary style.

Here’s the chat.

NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg examines the life of the “singleton” in Going Solo.

I read the book for the National Post and found it perhaps a little too focused on North American city life, but overall a meticulously researched and thought provoking examination of the reasons we might choose to live alone at any stage of our adult lives.

Read my review here.