As fascinating as books themselves (and oh, are books ever fascinating) are the connections between books, the curious ways in which books inform and echo each other, creating strange synergies completely outside of their authors' purview. In celebration of these connections, we've made great pairings of recent Canadian books of note, creating ideal cross-genre literary companions.
Girl Runner, by Carrie Snyder, and Older, Faster, Stronger: What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer, by Margaret Webb
As one reads Carrie Snyder's new novel, Girl Runner, her protagonist's feet kicking up dust through the decades, the reader gets the sense that Aganetha would have made an excellent interview subject for Older, Faster, Stronger, Margaret Webb's new non-fiction book about women runners competing long into their later years.
About Girl Runner: Girl Runner is the story of Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but who now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind.
When her quiet life is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of two young strangers, Aganetha begins to reflect on her childhood in rural Ontario and her struggles to make an independent life for herself in the city.
Without revealing who they are, or what they may want from her, the visitors take Aganetha on an outing from the nursing home. As ready as ever for adventure, Aganetha’s memories are stirred when the pair return her to the family farm where she was raised. The devastation of WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic, the optimism of the 1920s, and the sacrifices of the 1930s play out in Aganetha’s mind, as she wrestles with the confusion and displacement of the present.
Part historical page-turner, part contemporary mystery, Girl Runner is an engaging and endearing story about family, ambition, athletics and the dedicated pursuit of one’s passions. It is also, ultimately, about a woman who follows the singular, heart-breaking, and inspiring course of her life until the very end.
About Older, Faster, Stronger: One part personal quest to discover running greatness after age 50, one part investigation into what the women’s running boom can teach athletes about becoming fitter, stronger, and faster as we age, Older, Faster, Stronger is an engrossing narrative sure to inspire women of all ages. A former overweight smoker turned marathoner, Margaret Webb runs with elite older women, follows a high-performance training plan devised by experts, and examines research that shows how endurance training can stall aging. She then tests herself against the world’s best older runners at the world masters games in Torino, Italy.
Millions of women have taken up running in recent decades—the first generation of women to train in great numbers. Women are qualifying for the Olympic marathon in their 50s, running 100-mile ultra marathons in their 60s, completing Ironmans in their 80s, competing for world masters records in their 90s. What are the secrets of these ageless wonders? How do they get stronger and faster long after their "athletic prime"? Is there an evolutionary reason women can maintain endurance into advanced years? Webb immerses herself in these questions as she as she trains to see just how fast she can get after 50.
Men in Space
The connection is not so mysterious here—Chris Hadfield even makes an appearance in Bob McDonald's book, one of three Canadians (along with Steve MacLean and Dave Williams) who've had the experience of walking in space. Prominent science journalist McDonald interviews all three, and the book includes stunning images of their space walks. In his new book, You Are Here, Hadfield casts his eye outward, sharing images of the Earth he photographed during his time aboard the International Space Station.
About Canadian Spacewalkers: There are astronauts, and there are spacewalkers. Astronauts leave earth's atmosphere in a spaceship. Spacewalkers don pressure suits and step outside into the universe.
Spacewalking is a physically exhausting, mentally rigorous endeavor. It’s so difficult, only three Canadians have ever succeeded: Chris Hadfield, Steve MacLean and Dave Williams. Chris Hadfield and Dave Williams are record breakers; Hadfield completed the first Canadian spacewalk and installed the Canadarm 2 on the International Space Station, while Williams holds the record for the longest spacewalk by a Canadian. And Steve MacLean, Senior Research Affiliate at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and former head of the Canadian Space Agency, was one of Canada’s original six astronauts.
But what is it really like to step into that abyss; to leap out into space with only the thin fabric of your suit between you and the universe? In Canadian Spacewalkers, author Bob McDonald compiles each of the spacewalkers' perspectives and presents an extensive interview transcription—a one-on-one with spacewalkers who tell tales of training underwater in the world's largest swimming pool, recount how they learned to use power tools in zero gravity while wearing bulky gloves and describe the moment when they opened the hatch and stepped outside.
About You Are Here: Chris Hadfield's new book shows us our home—our city, country, continent, our whole planet—from a unique perspective. The millions of us who followed Chris's Twitter feed from the ISS thought we knew what we were looking at when we saw his photos. This photo documentary shows us we didn't. We caught the beauty but missed the meaning. Curated from images never before shared, Chris's big picture reveals why our planet looks the way it does and why we live where we do. Chris sees more in these images than we do, not just because he's spent months in space but because his in-depth knowledge of geology, geography and meteorology allows him to read the mysteries the photos reveal.
Divided by continent, You Are Here represents one (idealized) orbit of the ISS. This planetary photo tour—surprising, playful, thought-provoking and visually delightful—is punctuated with fun, fascinating commentary on life in zero gravity, too. In the spirit of his #1 bestselling An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, You Are Here opens a singular window on our planet, using remarkable photographs to illuminate the history and consequences of human settlement, the magnificence (and wit) of never-before-noticed landscapes, and the power of the natural forces shaping our world and the future of our species.
People in Clothes
Women in Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, and Mr. Frank, by Irene Luxbacher
Two books about clothing and fashion, about the intersections between the personal and sociological when it comes to clothes, and changing fashions over time. One just happens to be the exquisitely-illustrated picture book by Irene Luxbacher, and the other "a book unlike any other" (by Canadians Heti and Shapton) that's already being celebrated in great reviews around the world.
About Women in Clothes: Women in Clothes is a book unlike any other. It is essentially a conversation among hundreds of women of all nationalities—famous, anonymous, religious, secular, married, single, young, old—on the subject of clothing, and how the garments we put on every day define and shape our lives.
It began with a survey. The editors composed a list of more than fifty questions designed to prompt women to think more deeply about their personal style. Writers, activists, and artists including Cindy Sherman, Kim Gordon, Kalpona Akter, Sarah Nicole Prickett, Tavi Gevinson, Miranda July, Roxane Gay, Lena Dunham, and Molly Ringwald answered these questions with photographs, interviews, personal testimonies, and illustrations.
Even our most basic clothing choices can give us confidence, show the connection between our appearance and our habits of mind, express our values and our politics, bond us with our friends, or function as armor or disguise. They are the tools we use to reinvent ourselves and to transform how others see us. Women in Clothes embraces the complexity of women’s style decisions, revealing the sometimes funny, sometimes strange, always thoughtful impulses that influence our daily ritual of getting dressed.
About Mr. Frank: On his last day before retirement, Mr. Frank is sewing the most wonderful outfit of his long career. Who could it be for?
In all his years working as a tailor, Mr. Frank has made all kinds of clothes. From the practical uniforms of the 1940s to the wild and weird designs of the 1960s and 1970s, he has seen (and sewn) just about everything. But today’s project is especially close to Mr. Frank’s heart.
With its use of textiles and sensitive period detail, Irene Luxbacher’s artwork is the perfect complement to her understated text. The result is a story that children and grandparents can share with equal delight.
Stories of Sadness and Loss
Both celebrated—Viswanathan's book has been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Saklikar's was nominated for the 2014 Dorothy Livesay Prize—these two books eloquently explore the legacy of the 1985 Air India Bombing, one through fiction and the other through poetry.
About The Ever After of Ashwin Rao: In 2004, almost 20 years after the fatal bombing of an Air India flight from Vancouver, two suspects—finally—are on trial for the crime. Ashwin Rao, an Indian psychologist trained in Canada, comes back to do a "study of comparative grief," interviewing people who lost loved one in the attack. What he neglects to mention is that he, too, had family members who died on the plane. Then, to his delight and fear, he becomes embroiled in the lives of one family caught in the undertow of the tragedy, and privy to their secrets. This surprising emotional connection sparks him to confront his own losses. The Ever After of Ashwin Rao imagines the lasting emotional and political consequences of a real-life act of terror, confronting what we might learn to live with and what we can live without.
About children of air india: children of air india is a series of elegiac sequences exploring the nature of individual loss, situated within public trauma. The work is animated by a proposition: that violence, both personal and collective, produces continuing sonar, an echolocation that finds us, even when we choose to be unaware or indifferent.
This collection breaks new ground in its approach to the saga that is Canada/Air India, an event and its aftermath that is both over-reported and under-represented in our national psyche. 329 deaths. 82 Children. Canada's worst mass murder. The accused acquitted.
What does it mean to be Canadian and lose someone in Air India Flight 182? Why does 9/11 resonate more strongly with Canadians than June 23, 1985? The poems in this book search out answers in the "everything/ness and nothing/ness" of an act and its aftermath, revealing a voice that re-defines and re-visions.
Air India never happened. Air India always happens.
Wilf Perreault: In the Alley, by Dave Margoshes, Timothy Long, and Donald Kerr, and The View from the Lane, by Deborah-Anne Tunney
An art book and a collection of short stories whose closest connection is the subject of their cover images (back alleys), both covers suggesting glimpses of raw and unpolished life behind the groomed front lawns and careful facades that are put on for the world to see.
About Wilf Perreault: In the Alley: Wilf Perreault is in a class of artists known primarily for a single subject—in his case, the humble urban back alley. Coteau Books proudly joins forces with the MacKenzie Art Gallery to present a coffee-table book with more than a hundred full-colour images, accompanied by essays discussing the work of the artist best known as “Wilf.”
Wilf Perreault contains an additional treat—11 pieces of creative prose and poetry by Saskatchewan literary artists responding to Wilf's work in general, or to specific paintings that have inspired them.
Walking up the alley with Wilf Perreault, we see how his work fits perfectly into the tradition established by Saskatchewan artists from Ernest Lindner to Joe Fafard to David Thauberger. His paintings are rendered in a breathtaking detail that asks us to take another, closer, look at the everyday.
About The View from the Lane: Spanning the twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first, this masterful collection of linked stories follows the life of Amy, through tales stretching back to her youth in 1950s Ottawa, her experiences as a young wife and mother in a small Ontario town, and her later years back in the city. Through a collage of unique voices and points of view—including a dog that introduces us to the neighborhood where Amy lived as a child—The View from the Lane examines the authenticity of memory and the brimming life in the everyday.
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