Fiction for children
Peter S recommends
The Killick: A Newfoundland Story by Geoff Butler.
Parents, venture beyond Scholastic with a visit to your local university library for the richly diverse world of children’s books. This seasoned Canadian story of a boy and his grandfather on a risky spring boat ride is a refreshing alternative, and it comes complete with beautiful paintings. It offers opportunity to talk about the cruelty of the weather, hardship, death and sacrifice, as well as rescue and the gift of life and family.
Sonya VVF recommends
Paperboy by Vince Vawter.
Age 10 and up.
In 1959 Memphis, against the backdrop of the segregated South, 11-year-old Victor Vollmer takes over his friend’s paper route for a month. Sounds easy, right? Not so for Victor, who stutters when he talks. Speaking to customers is a challenge of the highest order, yet Victor perseveres, and consequently learns that lives of beauty, devastation, corruption and violence daily unfold in his neighborhood.
In this coming-of-age juvenile novel, author Vince Vawter — who has stuttered for more than 60 years — compassionately and compellingly creates a character worth meeting and celebrating.
Fiction for adults
Angela R-B recommends|
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.
Toews’ skillfully crafted and heartbreaking new novel introduces two sisters: Yoli and Elf. Yolandi is a washed-up writer, Elfrieda a world-renowned pianist. Despite her success, Elf is crushed by the weight of such “subjective sadness” that she wants to die and asks her sister to help.|
Those who have lived with mental illness know, as Terpstra says on p.13 of CC, “the harder edges of being human.” This book achingly details those hard edges, tempered by this battered family’s capacity to laugh, hope and fiercely love.
Cathy S recommends
The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry.
The Memory of Old Jack is a timeless look at another time. Unhurried prose takes us through “Old Jack” Beechum’s final day on earth, but also through a lifetime of farming in rural Kentucky. With exacting tenderness, Jack’s life is peeled back: choices that harmed, work that restored, faith that emerged. Against the novel’s finely-drawn historical backdrop of respect for the land, engrained neighbourliness and intergenerational family loyalty, our modern lives are quietly critiqued.
Bert W recommends
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
This is a gripping account of a 14-year-old African girl who was kidnapped and sold to white slavers. She ended up working on American plantations, enduring many tragic events, including rape, the sale of her baby and being separated from her husband. Her journey to freedom took her to Nova Scotia. Reading about slavery from the point of view of a slave gives the reader a deep sense of understanding and outrage at the fungus of inhumanity Western civilization allowed to exist in its midst.
Betsey Gesch and friend Affina de Jong recommend
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Set during World War II, a young German girl loses her brother to the fighting and becomes separated from her mother. She finds shelter and is “adopted” by a German family. Into this home comes Max, a Jewish man needing a place to hide.
The Book Thief shows the complexity of living in wartime from the point of view of a girl: how she sees the people in her life better the deeper she looks. The mother who abandons her, the foster mother who swears at everyone, the gentle bear of a foster dad who has endless patience and compassion, the silly neighbour boy who always wants to kiss her, the Jewish man they shelter without planning to, the mayor’s wife she steals from – each person is a surprise gift she treasures.
Brian B recommends
Idiot Psalms by Scott Cairns.
A book of Poetry
Scott Cairns is an idiot who hopes to be a fool. That doesn’t sound like the most progressive trajectory to be on, unless we recall what those words mean in the ancient Christian tradition: the idiot lives a selfish, isolated existence, while the fool – the holy fool – lives for others, even to the point of privation. Idiot Psalms tracks that journey with the deep clay language of repentance and self-scrutiny, while staying mindful of the startling, singeing, saving presence of the divine.
Angela R-B recommends
Benediction by Kent Haruf.
Dad Lewis, patriarch of a fictional town in Colorado, is dying. His wife, caretaker during his illness, longs for reconciliation with their gay son. Meanwhile a new pastor has come to town with an unpopular message: “What if Jesus wasn’t kidding? What if in spite of all that he knew, he still said ‘love your enemies’?”
This novel contains multiple story lines, each one attentive to the ordinary forms of love that make everyday life worth living. Haruf writes beautifully and his characters ring true in Benediction, which follows Plainsong and Eventide (but can be read alone).
Brent VS recommends
My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman.
Wiman is no easy believer. An exploration of faith that doesn’t always seek tidy theological answers, My Bright Abyss was inspired by a 2009 essay in which he writes, “there is no way to ‘return to the faith of your childhood’ . . . If you believe at 50 what you believed at 15, then you have not lived.” A convicting and essential read about faith that must evolve, seek challenge and be tested by fire and storm.
Derek S recommends
Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steve Garber .
In this book, author and speaker Steven Garber delightfully weaves an array of stories, anecdotes and insights that challenge the reader to answer this question: Knowing what I know, what am I going to do? Equally well-suited for college students thinking about their vocation or older folks who seek to be more thoughtful in their chosen field, this book explores what it means to act responsibly and to connect understanding with love and care.
Julia S recommends
The Holy or the Broken by Alan Light.
Light traces the history and evolution of the song “Hallelujah” by Canadian Leonard Cohen, showing us what Cohen meant when he said that there are many different kinds of hallelujahs. Of course, after reading this book, one must then read more Leonard Cohen. The best place to start is his collection of poems and music, Stranger Music.
Arleve VH recommends
Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Wellbeing by Linda Graham.
We all know what it’s like to feel stuck! This well-written guide provides practical guidance for how to “bounce back” from life’s sorrows and disappointments. Graham integrates practical insights from modern science with ancient traditions as well as neurobiology, including how to rewire our brain’s circuitry to increase our resilience.
Meindert VdG recommends
The Europe Book: A Journey Through Every Country on the Continent by the Lonely Planet.
Europe is a smorgasbord of cultures, languages, cuisines, histories, art and architecture. This ambitious book has interesting statistics and beautiful photographs from each of Europe’s 58 countries. A great coffee table book that visitors will leaf through again and again.
New books by our columnists:
We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God by David Koyzis (Pickwick Publications, March 2014).
Despite our discourse, freedom and authority are not mortal enemies. Rather, we have been “created to forge and live within authority structures that are built into the orderly nature of creation,” as Byron Borger of Hearts and Minds Books says in his review. He calls Koyzis’s book remarkable, nuanced and very rewarding.
Look for a full review in CC later this summer.
Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look by Emily Wierenga (Baker Books, July 2014).
This memoir shares Wierenga’s attempt to find God on the road as she travels across four continents, desperate to leave the organized religion of her childhood behind. It explores the universal truth that we all want to be known, forgiven and beloved. Atlas Girl is a “world-spanning story that this world needs,” according to author Jon Acuff in his review.
Both books are available at Amazon.ca.
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