Property – Lionel Shriver

Property - Lionel ShriverAs a general rule, I do not read short stories (with a notable exception for the sublime writing of Alice Munro) for a simple and somewhat trivial reason: short stories are too short to engage me. However, Lionel Shriver is a fabulous author (Big Brother, Double Fault, the fantastic We Need To Talk About Kevin…) so I decided to read her first book with ten short stories and two novellas. Shriver is such a keen observer and reporter of human behaviour, and these stories, almost without without exception, are masterful. As is clear from the title, the stories are about the relationships people have with possessions. Her writing is insightful, sometimes hilarious and such a pleasure to read in this format. Highly recommended.

The Shoe On The Roof – Will Ferguson

The Shoe On The Roof - Will FergusonA comic treatment of the neurobiology of behaviour. Thomas is a medical student who initially uses his knowledge of neurobiology for hook-ups with women. He then digresses to try and “cure” three delusional homeless men. Not surprisingly, much chaos ensues. This book has a very entertaining treatment of sanity versus madness, with a bit of magic reality at the end. Overall, a fun alternative for those readers stuck with too many angst-filled plots!

The Geography of Genius – Eric Weiner

The Geography of Genius - Eric WeinerWeiner previously wrote the very entertaining Geography of Bliss where he related happiness to geographical places: Bhutan = very happy; Moldava = very unhappy. In this book he examines places notable for genius (aka creativity). Some are predictable (Ancient Athens, Florence at the time of Leonardo and Michelangelo, present day Silicon Valley) but some are surprising (Edinburgh, Calcutta). Part of his thesis is that genius is urban and dependent on lively conversations – the importance of formal discussion groups or informal discussions at coffee shops or even pubs (The Inklings discussing writing in an Oxford pub). Therefore, environment is key and genetics plays a minor part. Of course he is selective in presenting studies that support a subjective point of view. Nevertheless, the book is entertaining with much self-deprecating humour. Thanks Mary for this recommendation.

Precious Cargo – Craig Davidson

Precious Cargo - Craig DavidsonDavidson usually writes gritty guy-books (e.g. Cataract City) that are fiction. In contrast, this new book is non-fiction, an account of a year spent driving a school bus for five special-needs kids in Calgary. There are some very funny parts, such as the perils of substitute driving a school bus at Halloween, but Davidson takes a thoughtful look at how people with disabilities are viewed by the non-disabled, in school and in society in general. The book also includes an introspective examination of himself as a struggling writer at the time – overall, a very worthwhile read.

The Dust That Falls From Dreams – Louis de Bernieres

The Dust That Falls From Dreams - Louis de BernieresDe Bernieres wrote the delightful Corelli’s Mandolin, and his latest book is also excellent. The setting is Britain in 1914. The horror of WWI, the mud and stink and brutal death, is described vividly. Also, very precise details of flying are detailed. But this is a book about relationships within the McCosh family, in particular the 4 sisters. At times, the book is a tender love story that also touches on grief and religion. The relationships are often complicated: a sister loves someone who does not love her in return, and vice versa. There is some wry humour, particularly the class-conscious matriarch Mrs. McCosh who should be played by Maggie Smith if this story is ever adapted for film or theatre. Overall, a very entertaining story.

King John Of Canada – Scott Gardiner

king-john-of-canada-scott-gardinerWhat with the recent fuss over the royal visit, this book presents the case for a Canadian monarchy, chosen by lottery! There is some very funny satirical writing about Canadian politics: Quebec separation and the Rest Of Canada, Alberta and Toronto politics – these sections are written perfectly. There are also some interesting contrasts with American politics (gun control, etc).  My only issue with the book is that I didn’t like the ending. Nevertheless, a fun read so thank you Amy.