Photo by Kristine MacDonald
I’m stepping away from the heavy stuff this week to bring you a list of books! Fun, inspiring, beautiful, and possibly magical books. Since this post is a month overdue, and since I spent most of the Christmas holidays reading, I had a huge list of books and though I narrowed them down to my absolute favourites the list is still super long. Buckle up! And maybe take a couple of weeks off work 😉 Enjoy!
One year, my mom brought home a stack of children’s books for us to read over Christmas, and ever since then I’ve started doing the same. I often check Brain Pickings‘ lists of books for recommendations, and my favourites are below.
The Day I Became A Bird by Ingrid Chabbert
Super cute story about a boy trying to become something he’s not to impress a girl.
Daytime Visions: An Alphabet by Isol
Not your average alphabet book. Matt says it’s dark – I say it’s full of depth.
Cry Heart, but Never Break by Glenn Ringtved
So beautiful. Three children meet death and ask him why he has to take their grandmother away.
The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
This one gave me a huge smile. A little girl follows her father into the woods and instead finds a gathering of animals having tea. The illustrations are precious.
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito
A young boy who loves sounds learns to seek out silence in bustling Tokyo.
This past Christmas I realized it had been ages since I had read a good graphic novel so I added those to the stack as well. I still haven’t gotten through all the books I put on hold!
Unflattening by Nick Sousanis
Super cerebral, this book is more of a philosophical treatise than a novel. It blew my mind a little bit. It’s all about creating meaning, learning to open the mind and change perspectives: to “unflatten” our thinking. The black and white drawings are mind-bending in their combination of precision and fluidity, giving the dense text room to breathe and wander.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
A great superhero story with a twist: turns out the bad guy is actually the good guy and his new teenage sidekick is almost too much for him to handle. Great story and characters.
Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton
This was hilarious. Beaton puts characters from history and literature in ridiculous scenarios with just the right amount of irreverence. Some serious lols were had.
Panther by Brecht Evens
This story was creepy and strange and wouldn’t have won me over completely if it wasn’t for the amazing ink drawings, unlike any I’ve ever seen before. They had me totally mesmerised, and I needed to find out what happened next.
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
This one got me in the feels, big time. A failing sculptor makes a deal with death – his life will be shortened to 200 days in exchange for the ability to sculpt anything out of anything. One of the promotional blurbs quoted Neil Gaiman (a favourite graphic novelist of mine) saying this was his favourite graphic novel of the year, and though I don’t usually like such grandiose tales, I can see why. It deals with big themes like meaning, legacy, love and loss and despite the main character’s annoying flaws, I was rooting for him.
Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese
A boy is summoned by his estranged father with a last request: “I’m dying, please take me into the woods and bury me.” Heavy stuff. And it just keeps getting heavier as the father tells the son his story and we find out how he ended up where he did. But it’s so simply written and finds such sweet, tender moments that I felt carried along, rather than overwhelmed by the characters’ struggles.
The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King
I started reading this on my only camping trip of last summer, when we were huddled in the car waiting out a downpour. I hadn’t brought a book but thankfully had enough internet to log onto the library and download the ebook version. Doing that from a remote campsite in the woods felt a little like magic.
Anyway, I finally finished the book months later and I’m glad I did. It had a healthy dose of some of my favourite things to find in books: hope and redemption. A man goes back to the small town that he helped obliterate with toxic chemicals, with the intent of killing himself. Instead, he saves some mysterious people from the ocean and ends up being saved himself. Along the way we meet some delightful weird characters and experience tiny miracles.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I re-read this book after finding it at a thrift shop and remembering how much I loved it the first time around. It’s a dark and gloomy mystery set in post-war Barcelona and starts in an enchanting place called the Cemetery for Forgotten Books. It’s the type of atmospheric thriller I used to wish I could write.
Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening by Martha Beck
This book is part fantasy and part self help, and where the two collide is pretty inspiring stuff. A woman is stranded in the woods and meets a talking wild boar who teaches her seven “Tasks” to become her true self and save the world. It’s pretty out there and woo woo, but also somehow feels completely believable to me. While I’ve never been healed by bees or cuddled with bears, I’ve had enough mystical-seeming experiences in nature to get on board. Apparently it’s the first part of a trilogy and I cannot wait for the second one to be released.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The first book in another trilogy that is thankfully already released, since I’m already halfway through the second book and will likely dive right into the third. The story is set in the far-future, after our world has gone to shit and idealists have sought out a new one, but it feels like the past because there is no modern technology. A young queen is struggling to take charge of a kingdom that has been given over to excessive inequality and injustice. When she decides to stop the slave trade that has been supporting the kingdom for years, she has to face seemingly impossible consequences. Not only is the writing sharp and witty, with strong characters and a break-neck plot, but the story has so much to say about our own times. It’s a brilliant political diatribe disguised as a rollicking fantasy story. I love it.
Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide by Charles Foster
This book combines the bizarre first hand experiences with super in-depth explorations of philosophy and psychology. It was pretty dense, which meant I had to read it in quiet places, but beneath the verbosity was a wicked sense of humor and compassion. In an attempt to understand animal consciousness, Foster “becomes” such animals as badgers, foxes, and otters by living in holes and eating earthworms, trying to track his children by their scat, and scavenging for food in back alleys. It’s gross at times, but also absolutely compelling for an animal lover like me.