3 November 2017

10 Books Recommended by Book Bloggers

One of the best things about starting this blog is that we get to work with so many other avid readers. We also thought you guys may have gotten tired of hearing us ramble on about the same types of books again and again, so we invited some of our favourite book bloggers to share one of their favourite books. You're welcome.

This book was incredible when I read it and stayed with me for a while after I turned the last page. The Shock of the Fall is written from an honest and eye-opening perspective. Filer’s stream of consciousness-esque style of writing really allows the reader to immerse themselves into Matthew’s mind and more importantly shines light on the struggles of having schizophrenia. The author creates a character who not only invokes sympathy with the reader, but also challenges perceptions and stereotypes of mental health. The story reaches into the heart of the protagonist, and through his unreliable narration, allows the reader to gain a new perspective on the terrors of mental health. More importantly, it's a story about coping with loss, and how the strength of family endures even when sanity may not. With glimmers of Adrian Mole, this book is a heart-breaking and important piece of literature which illuminates so much for everyone who reads it. If nothing else, Filer’s novel helps educate the reader on understanding mental health and the dangers of stereotyping and making sweeping statements for all mental health issues. 

I 5 star adored this Swedish courtroom thriller and am amazed it hasn’t gotten more buzz in North America since its March release! In a nutshell, Quicksand is the movie Cruel Intentions (elite prep school, lots of money, partying, drugs, neglected high schoolers, and an intense love affair), if Sebastian (PS – Quicksand's main character is also named Sebastian…it’s almost too perfect!) had shot up his school and Annette had gone to trial for helping him. 

The story shifts back and forth between Maja’s (Sebastian’s girlfriend and the “Annette” character in Quicksand) trial and time in jail and the lead-up to the shooting, including Maja and Sebastian’s love affair and Sebastian’s tumultuous relationship with his billionaire father. 

This story is about far more than just a school shooting… it’s about friendship, family, a wealthy community, the complicated entanglement of young love, the law, and a slight bit of politics. I couldn’t put it down. If you like dark, twisty high school books, this is one of the best I’ve ever read! I also included it on my 2017 Summer Reading Guide!

A 2015 study, for some reason making the rounds on social media again, suggests that the happiest (heterosexual) marriages are those where the man is taller than the woman. We might be loathe to admit it in 2017, but a big, strong man paired with smaller, weaker woman isn’t just the standard in Hollywood and other media, but in many of our own desires. Alissa Nutting turns this standard on its head in Tampa. Junior high teacher Celeste wants her men smaller, slimmer, weaker, and less experienced. She doesn’t want a man at all; she wants a never-ending, never-aging supply of barely-teenaged boys. The lengths she’s willing to go to are shocking to the point of the absurd, and hilarious, until inevitably, it all goes wrong.

Nutting’s absolute commitment to Celeste’s skewed point of view makes Tampa more than an exercise in voyeurism. The language is precise, clinical, and sickening. Celeste is the embodiment of feminine toxicity, her story teetering on the knife edge between restraint and abandon. She’s been called a female Humbert Humbert, but she may actually be more depraved and less remorseful. If you can, listen to the audio - headphones on.

Great novels often elude definition. You can't quite peg them into a genre. Brian Evenson's novel The Open Curtain isn't a great mystery, a memorable thriller or a haunting existential horror novel. It's all of that at the same time. Based on an archaic Mormon ritual involving human sacrifice, The Open Curtain deconstructs the basic promise of religion, which is to provide their followers eternal life outside the confines of their mortal existence. What makes the novel so interesting is that religion fulfills its promise here, but not in the way you would think. There are no pearly gates and tiny, winged creatures in Brian Evenson's ever after. 

So, not only is The Open Curtain a pretty smart and profound book, but it features a murder investigation like you've never quite read before, a Dickensian long-lost brother who may or may not be a sociopath, and freaky, freaky supernatural stuff that will stay with you long after you're done with the book. What's not to like, huh?

Heather O’Neill is one of those authors I avoided for a long time—one of those authors recommended by so many people that I couldn’t believe her work could possibly live up to the hype. Sure enough, when I read my first Heather O’Neill in 2015, I didn’t really like it. When I read my second in 2016, I didn’t like that one either. But when I read The Lonely Hearts Hotel in February, I finally understood. I got it. It clicked. Fireworks!

The Lonely Hearts hotel is about two Montreal orphans who dream about starting a circus, and also about the unlikely pragmatism of living a simultaneously whimsical and disenchanted life. It’s about the beauty and sacrifice of loving another person, and how it’s possible to destroy someone just by loving them. It’s about how even the most beautiful things in life are tied to the ugliest—how music is inextricable from heroin, how love is inextricable from history, and how finally opening the Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza you’ve always dreamed about is inextricable from smuggling drugs across international borders. The result is both gorgeous and grotesque, sturdy and fragile, and as ephemeral and icy and sharp as a snowflake.

Every now and then a book comes along about which it’s hard not to gush. Victoria’s Redel’s lovely Before Everything fits that bill for me. It’s about five women, friends since school, who come together when one of them is dying. 

Anna is the lodestar of the Old Friends, the name the five adopted when they were eleven. Beautiful, clever and vivid, she can also be selfish, manipulative and bossy. They all know that but they love her, regardless, gathering around her for what may be their last day of the never-ending conversation the five of them share. These are women who have seen each other through joy and misery, difficulty and triumphs, for decades. None of them can envisage a world in which they won’t rush to tell Anna of their news, fashioning the latest mishap into a story, confiding a fear or a hope.

Redel neatly avoids the saccharine, portraying the friends with all their flaws and capturing the intimacy of death when the world falls away, all attention focused on the dying. Before Everything is a gorgeous empathetic and tender portrait of friendship, shot through with a dry humour which steers it well clear of the maudlin. Highly recommended.

This book deals with bullying and the repercussions, which is not an easy topic to write or read about, but is an important topic nonetheless. While this is darker than Nielsen's other books, it’s not as dark as other novels I've read on this topic, so I think it’s perfect for younger or more sensitive readers and as a way of opening up the discussion.

And what can I say about Nielsen’s actual writing? If you follow my blog or know me at all then you know I am a bit obsessed with her books. She has such an amazing way of talking about important things without hitting the reader over the head with it and her characters are so wonderfully real and flawed that I think I have fallen in love with each and every one of them.

The book that’s had the biggest impact on me this year is Evicted by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond. In the book, Desmond embeds with eight Milwaukee families and their landlords, trying to understand why it is so difficult for poor families to keep a roof over their heads, especially after they’ve been evicted for the first time. He couples this in-depth reporting with the somewhat limited data we have on the impact that housing insecurity and extreme poverty have on families, many led by single mothers and people of colour. The book takes place in Milwaukee, but Desmond shows how these issues are common in other cities, and that there are a number of potential solutions we could try if there were the political willpower to do it. It’s weird to say that I enjoyed a book on a topic this frustrating, but I did. I appreciated the work Desmond put into the reporting and storytelling – it really is remarkable – and I know the book is one that will become a classic text on the eviction crisis and the additional challenges that come from lack of safe and affordable housing. Definitely pick this book up.  

Jenny Lawson doesn’t write about mental illness like anyone else, she injects her own hilarious spin on it in Furiously Happy. When a book has a stuffed raccoon on the front, it’s difficult to pass it up. Luckily, I took a chance on this book and discovered Lawson’s unique sense of humour and honesty. Lawson’s life is one interesting moment after another, including witnessing pharmacists eating dog biscuits, cat rodeos, and stuffed raccoons. The entire book is part memoir and part chaos. One of my favorite stories is when Lawson moved to a new, fancy neighborhood. She tried to feel like she belonged by taking a walk in the park and a herd of swans attacks her. Lawson was convinced this swan incident was a sign that the swans were onto her. Be prepared to laugh in public. Jenny Lawson’s candid take on anxiety and depression is no somber journey. Her ridiculous stories and amazing sense of self shows us that different isn’t always a bad thing.

A novel about life in a beehive, as seen through the eyes of a bee. Suspend belief about a bee telling its story, and be amazed at what goes on inside, and outside, a beehive.

The main character in the book is Flora 717, who is born as a lowly sanitation worker bee. Through Flora 717 the reader is shown every area of hive life, including the hierarchy and the really scary bee police. Threats to the hive and its occupants, including human threats, are plenty, as are the joys of finding pollen and nectar filled flowers. The author lets Flora 717 tell her gripping story. Its sometimes scary, sometimes violent, often wonderful, and always full of loads of interesting facts mixed in with the fiction of Flora 717's thoughts and activities.

I recommend this book to everyone who has ever watched a bee gather pollen, and enjoys a great read. You'll never look at a bee in the same way again!


  1. Loved reading this list, I will definitely make sure to pick up some of these books soon. Thanks so much for inviting me to collab with you guys! - Amy @ Amy's Bookshelf

  2. Awesome post - thank you for including me! And I'd actually forgotten which book I'd sent you! Also thrilled to have some new bloggers to follow.

  3. Great list! Lots to choose from here. Thanks so much for asking me to contribute.