Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted – Suleika Jaouad

At age 22, Suleika is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. What follows are three years of brutal treatments: extensive chemotherapy, an experimental clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant. The second half of this honest and insightful book details her “survival”, the transition back to the real world. Her coping strategy is to undertake a 15,000-mile road trip to visit those who sustained her when she was very ill. Cancer forces people to face mortality, and emotions are complicated and often conflicted because suffering makes you selfish. Suleika has to imagine a future that includes anger and fear; her writing is brutally honest and courageous. Thanks Sarah, for this recommendation.

The Map Of Lost Memories – Kim Fay

This excellent first novel is an exciting adventure story. Set in 1925, action takes place in Shanghai, Saigon, and various locations in Cambodia. A disparate group led by a woman, Irene Blum, search for a lost Khmer temple. This is Indiana Jones-style archeology, meaning the objective is temple looting. What elevates this adventure story are discussions about the moral issues of looting and removal of treasures from their home location, and the lingering effects of French colonialism in SE Asia. Descriptions of jungle travel (heat, insects, snakes …) are vivid. Thanks Joyce, for this recommendation.

They Called Us Enemy – George Takei, with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

A graphic memoir of the Takei’s family incarceration into internment camps with other Japanese Americans from 1942-45. The stark black and white illustrations are particularly effective in showing the injustice of racism applied to innocent families. Indeed, the political rationale for these incarcerations is appalling. This racial injustice also happened in Canada, an important reminder of how mass hysteria can lead to overt racism. Thanks Rhoddy, for this gift.

Scarborough – Catherine Hernandez

Scarborough is a low-income culturally diverse suburb of Toronto. This novel graphically describes a troubled community struggling against poverty, racism, and urban blight, mainly through the experiences of children. Often sad but also hopeful, this is a powerful story. Thanks Steph, for this recommendation. Scarborough is a Canada Reads 2022 contender.

The Spectacular – Zoe Whittall

A “spectacular” new book from the author of the acclaimed The Best Kind Of People. This is a book about family relationships, mainly female relationships: erratic behaviour and complicated decisions. At its core, the issue between three generations of women is motherhood with emotions ranging (often) between elation and love, to paralyzing fear. Thanks Sarah, for this book which is highly recommended.

The Code Breaker – Walter Isaacson

This fabulous book makes me think I should read more non-fiction! First, an aside: the best acronyms are pronounceable. This book is about the discovery of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspersed short patronymic repeats, if you are interested), a powerful gene editing tool that may revolutionize biology. The book is meticulously researched with a lot of science, but it is also about scientists – what motivates them to pursue discoveries? The stark differences between collegial collaborations and cut-throat competition for prizes and patents is high-lighted. Finally, the ethics of gene editing is a major focus, specifically the divide between somatic editing to cure or prevent disease and germline (inheritable) editing which could be used to enhance traits like height or intelligence. This is a thoughtful and gripping book – highly recommended. Thanks Linda, for the gift of this book.

Long Bright River – Liz Moore

Mickey is a patrol officer with the Philadelphia Police Department. Her routine patrol activities include searching for her sister Kacey, an addict and sex worker who is missing.  And there is a serial killer preying on young women. Overall a gritty relationship story: there are no completely good guys. Mickey in particular is deeply flawed and makes bad decisions. The plot is seductively delicious with a lot of misdirection. Thanks Amy, for this recommendation.

The Thursday Murder Plot – Richard Osman

Four 70-80-year-old members of an upscale retirement village in SE England meet on Thursdays to discuss unsolved cold cases. The murder of a local developer suddenly affords the the opportunity to apply their talents to a “live” case. Their manipulation of the police to share information is sublime. The writing exhibits wit and intelligence, and the diabolical plot is riddled with red herrings. Thanks Joyce, for this recommendation.

Slow Horses – Mick Herron

When MI 5 intelligence agents screw up, they are banished to a London location known as Slough House, and the disgraced agents are referred to as “slow horses”.  The story is devilishly complex: everyone has ulterior motives, like a Le Carre story. And the Slough House leader”, Jackson Lamb, is a deliciously wicked man with gross personal habits. This is an excellent spy story with 6 more to follow. Thanks Joyce, for this recommendation.