Editor’s Picks

Find yourself a nice outdoor reading nook, because here are 18 Atlantic Canadian books that are generating buzz for the summer

Short Fiction:

Ben Tucker’s Truck
Azzo Rezori
Boulder Publications

Retired CBC Newfoundland journalist Azzo Rezori calls himself a professional observer, and that skill is apparent here not only in the everyday detail, but the inner selves of his characters as they tackle religion, romance, family and death.

 

Too Unspeakable for Words
Rosalind Gill
Breakwater Books

The pride of Corner Brook, Newfoundland explores a clash of values—old v. new—in her debut collection and shows herslef, as Russell Wangersky puts it, “to be a master of character.”

 

Long Fiction:

Catch My Drift
Genevieve Scott
Goose Lane Editions

In Catch My Drift, from New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions, Genevieve Scott combines the tight, evocative prose of a short story with the scope of an epic family novel. The result is an astute investigation of the evolution of a family.

 

Marry, Bang, Kill
Andrew Battershill
Goose Lane Editions

Another gem from Goose Lane in New Brunswick is Andrew Battershill’s Marry, Bang, Kill. It’s another soft-hearted tough guy joint, but the sharp writing and the audaciousness of the protagonist’s situation make it so much more: a literary page turner.

 

Catching the Light
Susan Sinnott
Nimbus Publishing

Susan Sinnott’s debut novel won Newfoundland and Labrador’s Percy Janes First Novel Award in 2014, before being published. Previous winners include Sharon Bala (The Boat People) and Joel Thomas Hynes (Down to the Dirt). This story of two characters and perspectives, polar opposites, is lyrical and rooted in small-town life.

 

Hysteria
Elisabeth di Mariaffi
HarperCollins

There are spectral aspects in this genre buster from St. John’s’ Elisabeth di Mariaffi, but the real terror comes from the most human of characters, a controlling husband who drugs his geographically isolated wife, who is suffering deeply from earlier trauma. This and other sinister characters work because of di Mariaffi’s precision with dialogue, setting and pace.

 

Art:

Mary Pratt: Still Light
Ray Cronin
Gaspereau Press

In a sense this is a no-nonsense look (from expert curator and frequent Atlantic Books Today curator Ray Cronin) at the life and work of renowned Newfoundland artist Mary Pratt, with a sampling of seven of her diverse works in the middle. In another sense, Gaspereau has created a work of art all its own.

 

Sixty Over Twenty
Andrew Steeves
Gaspereau Press

Let’s pause and appreciate physical books and the artisans who still take the time to make them beautiful. Andrew Steeves, a co-founder of Gaspereau, chronicles 60 books published over a 20-year period, and “the influence that using traditional book-arts tools has had on his thinking about culture, design and manufacturing.”

 

Global Politics:

Pay No Heed to the Rockets
Marcello di Cintio
Goose Lane Editions

Neil Postman once observed that, given our limited locus of control, international news is a useless distraction, especially given the shallow analysis of a 41-second news segment. Fortunately, as regards Palestine, New Brunswick’s Goose Lane has brought us the work of Marcello di Cintio and his observant travels through the rich cultural heritage of an ancient land.

From Black Horses to White Steeds
Edited by Laurie Brinklow and Ryan Gibson
Island Studies Press

“Think global, act local.” Scottish planner Patrick Geddes (1915-1932) is credited with the phrase that urges us to make local decisions in the context of an interconnected, vulnerable planet. From Black Horses to White Steeds is filled with inspiring examples of local—especially rural and island—initiatives making a more liveable planet.

Folklore:

Jack Fitzgerald’s Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Volume III
Jack Fitzgerald
Breakwater Books

Jack Fitzgerald is of course a Newfoundland treasure himself, a folklorist first class and an excellent teller of the tale. In his latest, he’s onto high-seas adventure and spy stuff, including the story of a Nazi weather station in Labrador and the Newfoundland inspiration for Treasure Island.

History:

Unchained Man
Maura Hanrahan
Boulder Publications

Memorial University Environmental Policy Institute adjunct professor and multi-award-winning author Maura Hanrahan has written a gripping true-life account of two men—including the celebrated Robert Bartlett—in 1914, on a perilous 700-mile trek across the ice from Alaska to Siberia to save the crew and passengers of the Karluk, crushed and sunk under pack ice. The unsung Inuit and their teachings made the rescue possible.

The Diary of One Now Dead
Tom Drodge
Flanker Press

During the Battle of the Atlantic six men boarded the B-26 Marauder Time’s A Wastin’ in Greenland, en route to Goose Bay, Labrador. The Marauder hit rough weather and crashed in Saglek; all six men died. Drodge brings an account of the tragedy via the diary of the pilot. The title comes from the Ellis Coles song about the events.

 

The Accidental Farmer
Joan Watson with Murray Creed
Nimbus Publishing

The establishment of the original Ross Farm in 1816 in Nova Scotia is a story representative of settlers of the time, the many Atlantic crossings, the volatility of the region and its peoples and the essential labour of survival. Watson and Creed bring the history to life as part of Nimbus’s Stories of Our Past series.

Caplin Skull
MT Dohaney
Pottersfield Press

Dohaney mixes oral history, anecdote and documentary to enliven a place—a fictional one, but yet one as real as any—and time, just before Newfoundland joins Canada. Written with humour, vibrancy and poignancy, Caplin Skull is a love song to a very real people.

 

Alexander Graham Bell: Spirit of Innovation
Jennifer Groundwater
Formac Publishing

Alexander Graham Bell remains a fascinating figure who maintained a home in Cape Breton for years of his life, and who with his wife mobilized the Baddeck community to assist victims after the Halifax Explosion. Groundwater’s account includes more than 50 visuals such as blueprints, artefacts and photos.

Humour:

Half the Lies You Tell Are Not True
Dave Paddon with illustrations by Duncan Major
Running the Goat Books & Broadsides

Labrador-born Dave Paddon, aka Newfoundland and Labrador’s Robert Service, presents tall tales, wrapped in incantation, inside foolishness, but perhaps there is a key. That key is hilarity for the old, the young and the goofy at heart.

Bluenoser’s Book of Slang
Vernon Oickle
MacIntyre Purcell

It’s said that language is not merely a component of culture. It is culture. Our localized use of words—dialectical dictums, idiomatic colloquialisms and vernacular tongue twisters—give us more delightful details on a given culture’s internal logic than any anthropological study. Paging Dr Oickle, whose delightful guide to the Bluenose lingo entertains and enlightens.

Written By

Chris Benjamin is the managing editor of Atlantic Books Today. He is also the author of three award-winning, critically-acclaimed books: Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School; Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada and Drive-by Saviours; as well as several short stories in anthologies and journals.

More from Chris Benjamin

The Spring 2018 Issue of Atlantic Books Today is Here

Our latest issue explores a resurgence in independent bookstores, an ongoing legacy...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *