Quick Hits: Funny, Moving, and Everything In Between

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.

*****

 

Dance, Gladys, Dance, by Cassie Stocks

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: NeWest Press

What It's About

Winner of the 2013 Stephen Leacock Award for Canadian Humour Writing, Dance, Gladys, Dance is about 27-year-old Frieda Zweig, who is at an impasse. Behind her is a string of failed relationships and half-forgotten ambitions of being a painter; in front of her lies the dreary task of finding a real job and figuring out what “normal” people do with their lives. Then, a classified ad in the local paper introduces Frieda to Gladys, an elderly woman who long ago gave up on her dreams of being a dancer. The catch? Gladys is a ghost. In Dance, Gladys, Dance, Cassie Stocks tells the uplifting story of a woman whose uncanny connection with a kindred spirit causes her to see her life in a new way—as anything but ordinary.

What People Say

"Cassie Stocks' debut novel, Dance, Gladys, Dance, is a quirky blend of comedy and tragedy with an intriguing dose of the other-worldly. The novel bursts at the seams with imagination..." —Globe and Mail

 

There Is a Season, by Patrick Lane

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

What It's About

Believed by many to be one of the finest poets of his generation, Patrick Lane is also a passionate gardener. He lives on Vancouver Island, a place of uncommon beauty, where the climate is mild, the air is soft, and the growing season lasts nearly all year long.

Lane has gardened for as long as he can remember, and sees his garden’s life as intertwined with his own. And when he gave up drinking, after years of addiction, he found solace and healing in tending to his yard. In this exquisitely written memoir, he relates stories of his hard early life in the context of the landscape he’s created. As he observes the seasonal changes, a plant or a bird or the way a tree bends in the wind brings to mind an episode from his storied past.

What People Say

"To enter this book is to enter a state of enchantment." —Alice Munro

“A tour de force that will break your heart and put it back together again.”—Montreal Gazette

“[A] brave and beautifully written account ...The sheer richness and beauty of the language is one of the great pleasures to be found in this book.”
Edmonton Journal

 

One Bird's Choice, by Iain Reid

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: House of Anansi

What It's About

Meet Iain Reid: an overeducated, underemployed twenty-something who moves back in with his lovable but eccentric parents on their hobby farm. But what starts out as a temporary arrangement turns into a year-long extended stay, in which Iain finds himself fighting with the farm fowl, taking fashion advice from the elderly, fattening up on home-cooked food, and ultimately easing (perhaps a little too comfortably) into the semi-retired lifestyle. Hilarious and heartwarming, One Bird's Choice is an endearingly funny comic memoir that bridges the divide between the Boomer and Boomerang generations.

What People Say

"... gentle but hilarious humour that had me chortling without a break." —Montreal Gazette

"Cross James Herriot's tales of bucolic British life with Mike Myers' comedic portrayal of his Scottish Canadian family in the film So I Married an Axe Murderer and you end up with Iain Reid's hilarious memoir One Bird's Choice." —Shelf Unbound

 

Among Others, by Jo Walton

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, SF

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates

What It's About

Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off.

What People Say

“A hymnal for the clever and odd ... an inspiration and a lifeline to anyone who has ever felt in the world, but not of it.” —€Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother

"A lovely story, unlike anything I’ve ever read before: funny, touching, and gently magical.” —Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind

"A funny, thoughtful, acute and absorbing story all the way through, but in the magic parts it is more than that."—The Guardian

 

Becoming Human, by Jean Vanier

Genre: Religion/Spirituality/Philosophy

Publisher: House of Anansi

What It's About

A modern classic that continues to resonate, inspired by Vanier's four decades of sharing life with people with developmental disability. Cultural anthropologist Pamela Cushing writes, "Vanier’s work expands our understanding of human purpose and the good life through three core questions: 'What does it mean to be fully human? What does it mean to serve others well?' How can unity be fostered among diverse people?" Vanier writes of the developmentally disabled, ‘We must stay near them and take time to listen to them because out of fear they speak quietly and infrequently.’

What People Say

"Jean Vanier has written a much-needed corrective to those one-sided attitudes that undervalue relatedness and feeling ... This short yet powerful and gripping meditation on what makes for a truly humane and compassionate humanity is not to be missed. —Toronto Star

"Revolutionary and moving at its core ... Becoming Human traces a possible path of spiritual evolution from loneliness and alienation towards joy and fulfillment.—Maclean's

*****

See more Quick Hits.

January 14, 2015
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