Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

A collection of short essays and meditations, mostly on the natural world, from the author of H is For Hawk. It’s impossible to write about nature these days without sounding cries of alarm (not to mention melancholy, bitterness, anger and regret) but Macdonald’s wonder and pleasure in the world of swifts, hares and boars is such that she’s more apt to inspire and send you out of doors than depress. It’s worth noting, given the prevalence of “COVID-brain” that the chapters here are mercifully brief, for those currently experiencing attention focusing issues.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr5627788

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

A look at regrets, lives not lived, and learning to appreciate and live the life you're in. Reminiscent of the British feel good movies that seemed to be everywhere around the turn of the century (The Full Monty, Calendar Girls) this is light, easily consumed reading without being inane or stupid. While you know where the story is likely going, it doesn't negatively impact one's enjoyment of it. A schmaltzy feel good story, perfect for these incredibly stressful and anxious times. Sure to be optioned for film in one form or another. Haig is the author of Reasons to Stay Alive and The Humans.

Adult Fiction Paperback pr5891288

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

John Cheever meets the apocalypse when a New York family goes to holiday in a remote corner of Long Island. Satire slowly gives way to mounting dread and horror, with such a light and subtle touch that as a reader, you might as well be a frog being slowly brought to boil. My favorite Goodreads review for this book puts this simply as “Prepare to be freaked the f*ck out!!!” Indeed.

Adult Fiction Hardcover pr5701255


I've Seen the Future and I'm Not Going by Peter McGough

McGough pens a dandy look back at growing up gay in Syracuse NY in the 1970s, followed by the escape offered by art school in New York and an eventually successful career as an artist, in collaboration with partner David McDermott. Life in the seedy East Village with contemporaries such as Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol are detailed in an unpretentious, mostly unreflective, breezy style that reads like diary entries.

Running throughout are the artists’ attempts to live a Victorian lifestyle (forgoing electricity, eschewing travel by air and all modern conveniences) which brings unusual hilarity to some darkly familiar themes and places, with the shadow of AIDS looming and then arriving with devastating consequences to the community.

A sort of gay, visual arts companion to Patti Smith’s Just Kids.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr3418209

Broken by Don Winslow

Don Winslow has been in the news a lot, over the last decade. His “Cartel” series not only painted a grimly realistic picture of the US war on drugs, but proved prescient about what to expect from narco kingpin Joaquin Guzman (El Chapo). More recently, his unchecked antipathy for the Trump administration has resulted in a barrage of challenges, fact-checking, and viral videos. While he makes for an astute social critic, Winslow’s twenty-one novels are likely to be his legacy.

His latest, Broken, collects six novellas, several featuring characters from his best known works. They all connect through themes of crime, corruption, loss and redemption. If you’ve never read Winslow, this is a good introduction to his style and preoccupations.

There’s no prerequisite to have read any of his earlier work featuring revisited characters, ut those that like thrilling suspense with a social conscience will likely go there next.

P.S. Power of the Dog and Savages, which was made into a movie by Oliver Stone, are two of my favourites.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr5287323

Win at All Costs: Inside Nike Running and its Culture of Deception by Matt Hart

A behind the scenes account of the Nike Oregon Project, coach Alberto Salazar, and win at all costs corporate culture. Much of this book is already widely assumed, if not known by detail: professional athletes using performance enhancing drugs, abusive coaches, big business with seemingly unchecked greed and power – and yet freelance journalist Matt Hart tells the story so well, this all reads like revelation.

This can be read as a business expose, a sports drama, athletic history or character study. While Nike has recently been making some changes (e.g. ending financial penalties for pregnant athletes), it’s still pretty difficult to stomach the thought of buying and wearing “the swoosh” after this.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr5627270

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