My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman

Elsa is a precocious almost 8-year-old who is perceived as different and thus bullied at school. Thankfully, she has a very close relationship with her 77-year-old grandmother who tells her mythical stories about the Land-of-Almost-Awake. When Elsa’s grandmother dies, Elsa receives a series of apology letters that she is directed to deliver, and so Elsa learns about her grandmother’s incredible back story. This is a brilliant book about life and death, with inspired comic moments and deeply sentimental sad situations, so both laughs and tears abound.

The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett

A re-read of Ms. Patchett’s first novel published 30 years ago was just so satisfying. When Rose learns she is pregnant, she flees a loveless marriage in California for St. Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers in Kentucky. The important context to this story is time, the 60s-70s. Rose is mysterious, someone who does exactly what she wants. A key element in this wonderful book are complex mother-daughter relationships. Highly recommended.

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 Book of Magic – Alice Hoffman

The first sentence of this fabulous books reads: “Some stories begin at the beginning and others begin at the end, but all the best stories begin in a library”. What’s not to love? This novel is Ms. Hoffman’s final book about magic, specifically witchery, aka the nameless art (previous books: Practical Magic, Rules of Magic, and Magic Lessons). Three generations of Owens women fight to break a 300-year-old curse, but the story is ultimately about love and sacrifice.

The Book of Form and Emptiness – Ruth Ozeki

This brilliant new book by the author of A Tale For The Time Being is wildly imaginative, and thus hard to describe. Benny is a teenager who hears voices; his mother Annabelle is a hoarder. Both are grieving the death of their father/husband. Most key events take place in a public library, and books have a consciousness that allow them to narrate the story. Events are chaotic and often perplexing. What is reality, especially with grief and PTSD? What is the price of imagination? Highly recommended.

The Last Chance Library – Freya Sampson

Full disclosure: I read any book with “Library” in the title. This book is an unabashedly sentimental and schmaltzy story about a campaign to prevent the closure of a small-town library in England. There is an emphasis on books and literacy, but also on the role of a library as a community location. The plot has many predictable tropes but still …. this is a book for library lovers.

Matrix – Lauren Groff

In the late 12th century, Marie is banished to an English abbey by Eleanor of Aquitaine. Under her leadership, first as prioress and eventually as abbess, the abbey prospers because of Marie’s ambition, pride and yes, arrogance. This is a feminist story, of female creativity, religious ecstasy, and passion.

The Sentence – Louise Erdrich

This fabulous book follows one year (November 2019 – November 2020) in the life of Tookie, an Indigenous woman working in a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis. And importantly, the bookstore is haunted! In addition, there is the trauma of the pandemic and George Floyd’s murder. So, a year of living dangerously – highly recommended.