Quick Hits: Books of the Year and Books for Right Now

In Quick Hits, 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.

*****

 

Sweet Jesus, by Christine Pountney

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

What It's About

Set mainly on Vancouver Island, in Toronto, and in the American Midwest, Sweet Jesus tells the story of three siblings who, in the week before the 2012 US Presidential election, reunite and set off on a journey that will transform their lives.

Connie Foster, a mother of three young children, learns that her husband’s attempt to maintain their lifestyle has led them to financial ruin. Her sister, Hannah Crowe, a writer, desperately wants to have a child but the man she loves is determined not to. Zeus Ortega, their much younger adopted brother, who left the family home when he was only fifteen, is living in Chicago with his boyfriend and working as a therapeutic clown in a children’s hospital. Prompted by a heartbreaking loss, he quits his job and decides to search for his birth parents in New Mexico. Together, the three siblings head south and, on the way, they visit a mega church in Wichita, Kansas, where their mother, Rose, once had a powerful faith experience, and where they are confronted by the politics of the evangelical right. What unfolds is a captivating story about three people bound by family ties and caught between loyalty and desire, searching for wholeness and finding something more real in its place.

What People Say

“Christine Pountney’s prose is stunning, but Sweet Jesus is more than a beautifully written book—it is a guide to being human in an ungodly world. Her characters are unforgettable.” —Miriam Toews

"I fell madly in love with Sweet Jesus. It is everything I look for in a novel. It is my book of the year.” —Barbara Gowdy

**

 

Fruit, by Brian Francis

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: ECW Press

What It's About

Thirteen-year-old Peter Paddington is overweight, the subject of his classmates' ridicule, and the victim of too many bad movie-of-the-week storylines. When his nipples begin speaking to him one day and inform him of their diabolical plan to expose his secret desires, Peter finds himself cornered in a world that seems to have no tolerance for difference. Peter's only solace is "The Bedtime Movies"—perfect-world fantasies that lull him to sleep every night. But when the lines between Peter's fantasies and his reality begin to blur, his hilarious adventures in overeating, family dysfunction, and the terrifying world of sexual awakening really begin.

What People Say

"Sweet, tart and forbidden in all the right places."—Entertainment Weekly

"Beguilingly alive.”—Seattle Times

“Laugh-out-loud funny.”—NOW

**

 

Small Beneath the Sky, by Lorna Crozier

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Greystone Books

What It's About

A volume of poignant recollections by one of Canada's most celebrated poets, Small Beneath the Sky is a tender, unsparing portrait of a family and a place.

Lorna Crozier vividly depicts her hometown of Swift Current, with its one main street, two high schools, and three beer parlors—where her father spent most of his evenings. She writes unflinchingly about the grief and shame caused by poverty and alcoholism. At the heart of the book is Crozier's fierce love for her mother, Peggy. The narratives of daily life—sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking—are interspersed with prose poems. Lorna Crozier approaches the past with a tactile sense of discovery, tracing her beginnings with a poet's precision and an open heart.

What People Say

"Crozier's prose illuminates our world. She is a writer of the first rank." —David Adams Richards

"This is a fast read, due in great part to Crozier's superb ability to tell a story simply and from the gut."—National Post

**

 

The Longer I'm Prime Minister, by Paul Wells

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Random House

In The Longer I’m Prime Minister, Paul Wells explores just what Harper’s understanding of Canada is, and who he speaks for in the national conversation. He explains Harper not only to Harper supporters but also to readers who can’t believe he is still Canada’s prime minister. In this authoritative, engaging and sometimes deeply critical account of the man, Paul Wells also brings us an illuminating portrait of Canadian democracy: “glorious, a little dented, and free.”

What People Say

"Though viscerally funny and often biting, this book is never partisan or unfair. Impeccably researched, gorgeously written, and deeply insightful, The Longer I’m Prime Minister is an essential read for all political junkies.” —Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Jury citation

 “Thoroughly absorbing and intensely readable.”—Robert Collison, Toronto Star

**

 

Walls, by Marcello Di Cintio

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Goose Lane Editions

What It's About

In this ambitious blend of travel and reportage, Marcello Di Cintio travels to the world's most disputed edges to meet the people who live alongside the razor wire and answer the question: What does it mean to live against the walls? Di Cintio shares tea with Saharan refugees on the wrong side of Morocco's desert wall. He meets with illegal Punjabi migrants who have circumvented the fencing around the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. He visits fenced-in villages in northeast India, walks Arizona's migrant trails, and travels to Palestinian villages to witness the protests against Israel's security barrier.

From Native American reservations on the US-Mexico border and the "Great Wall of Montreal" to Cyprus's divided capital and the Peace Lines of Belfast, Di Cintio seeks to understand what these structures say about those who build them and how they influence the cultures that they surround. Some walls define "us" from "them" with medieval clarity. Some walls encourage fear or feed hate. Others kill. And every wall inspires its own subversion, whether by the infiltrators who dare to go over, under or around them, or by the artists who transform them.

What People Say

"Yet another wonderful read from one of the best travel writers of his generation. In Walls, Marcello Di Cintio tells compelling and engrossing stories with his customary mix of vivid detail, a strong sense of history, a lovely sense of humour and, above all, a fascination with the human race in all its contradictions."Margaret MacMillan, historian and author, Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World

August 4, 2015
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