Quick Hits: Timeless Books With Amazing Raves

In Quick Hits, a new 49th Shelf series, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

*****

19 Knives, by Mark Jarman

Genre: Short stories

Publisher: House of Anansi

What It's About

Quill & Quire described it like this—"Jarman’s work is .... fade-resistant. Each of 19 Knives’ 14 stories (all first-person narratives) integrates sparkling linguistic kinetics and honey-like narrative stickiness. Rejecting postmodern cynicism, Jarman celebrates life’s ecstatic mysteries. Religious in their own way – finding meaning in music and everyday life, not empty theology – these stories shake like Muddy Waters riding a riff into the dark recesses of the night."

What People Say

"It is very irritating to discover a wonderful book published too long ago to be an official 'book of the year.' Jarman's collection is ... brilliant. The writing is extraordinary, the stories are gripping, it is something new." —A.S. Byatt

"The best of many highlights in Jarman's new collection, 19 Knives, is 'Burn Man on a Texas Porch.' It is not only the best story I've read in a year, it's probably one of the best ever written by a Canadian. It's focused, intense, colloquial and darkly funny—carefully crafted while remaining bracingly idiosyncratic." —Eye Weekly

Monoceros, by Suzette Mayr

Genre: Novel

Publisher: Coach House Books

What It's About

A seventeen-year-old boy, bullied and heartbroken, hangs himself. And although he felt terribly alone, his suicide changes everyone around him. By exploring the effects of a suicide on characters outside the immediate circle, Mayr offers a dazzlingly original look at the ripple effects—both poignant and funny—of a tragedy.

What People Say

"Suzette Mayr stomps all over cherished myths about the innate niceness and world-class tolerance of Canadians in her spellbinding and playful tragicomic novel Monoceros. A stylistic tour de force that depicts fuming volcanic emotions—rage, grief, regret—Monoceros is unsettling and harsh, a compelling dark vision of human nature that nevertheless tentatively points to the possibility of redemption." —National Post

"Monoceros is one of the most imaginative, quirky, and emotionally devastating novels I’ve read in a long while." —Zoe Whittall in the Globe and Mail

"‘Ms. Mayr’s characterizations are second to none and she has a wonderful wit. Monoceros should be on all school curricula."—Winnipeg Review

Happiness Economics, by Shari Lapeña

Genre: Novel

Publisher: Brindle & Glass

What It's About

Will Thorne is a stalled poet, married to Judy, a wildly successful celebrity economist. Pressured by a starving fellow poet, Will establishes The Poets' Preservation Society, a genteel organization to help poets in need. But when Will meets his muse, the enigmatic and athletic Lily White, he becomes inspired not only to write poetry, but to take guerrilla action in support of poets everywhere. A hilarious look at how we measure the value of art.

What People Say

"This novel revels in the inherent comedy of what happens when art meets commerce; when the muse inspires ad slogans. Happiness Economics hilariously pits poetry's ineffable artistic charms against the hard numbers that rule our daily lives." —Lynn Coady

"All four main characters—parents and children—are engrossing and real. Lapeña builds quiet suspense expertly, and has a knack for showing us inside these terribly flawed and sometimes annoying people, making them beautiful in their ordinary and contradictory ways. —The Globe and Mail

"A big rollicking, lusty book filled with characters who get in you and stay—I dare you to not love and care about these people. It's a rewarding story, a beautifully unraveled journey. It's as clever as hell and filled with massive heart. Happiness Economics is a Brava! performance by a writer to watch. —Winnipeg Review

Away from Everywhere, by Chad Pelley

Genre: Novel
Publisher: Breakwater Books

What It's About

Brothers Owen and Alex Collins are brought together when mental illness claims their father and sets off a chain reaction of unrelated, heart-breaking events. Part warped love story, part family tragedy, Away from Everywhere is a heart-stomping pageturner.

What People Say

"It opens up in the aftermath of a car crash, and does not let up from that brutal, mid-crisis opening. Away from Everywhere is dotted with slamming phones, speeches regretted after-the-fact, and the pain of silences." —Ashley Fitzpatrick, The Telegram

"This emotionally wrenching story made me cry. It also made me lament not having written it. His writing is both articulate and lyrical. A fascinating and tender portrait of a soul in torment." —M.T. Dohaney, award-winning author of The Corrigan Women

"Award-winning short story scribe Chad Pelley has gone all-out in his first full-length novel Away From Everywhere, a stunning and somber portrait of the family ties that can both bind us and tear us apart." —Stephen Clare, The Chronicle Herald

How Poetry Saved My Life, by Amber Dawn

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

What It's About

This story, told in prose and poetry, offers a frank, multifaceted portrait of the author's experiences hustling the streets of Vancouver, and how those years took away her self-esteem and nearly destroyed her; at the crux of this autobiographical narrative is the tender celebration of poetry and literature, which—as the title suggests—acted as a lifeline during her most pivotal moments.

What People Say

"How Poetry Saved My Life is an all too common story uncommonly told ... Amber Dawn is determined to be a voice for those who have been silenced." —Winnipeg Review

"Amber Dawn's account, which includes wise reflections on class, queer identity, and the way in which sex work can change its practitioners, is compulsively readable and nuanced. —Room

"In her witty, difficult, frank, marvelously varied book How Poetry Saved My Life, the writer Amber Dawn peels back the veneer society has imposed and humanizes the sex trade. In so doing she claims her voice. Part confessional, part polemic, part pure poetry and prose, Amber Dawn shows herself to be an author worth watching." —Ottawa Citizen

October 15, 2014
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