Staff Picks 2020 - Arizona O'Neill

October 11, 2020

Staff Picks 2020 - Arizona O'Neill

Reading in the Time of COVID 

This summer, during the pandemic, marked three years since I joined the D&Q family. I worked all the way through the 2020 COVID pandemic, so if you ordered a book from us online during the shut down, chances are I am the one who packed it up for you. This summer I was incredibly moved by the support of the community coming to the store's aid, and it made me really proud to be from Montreal. It was crazy recommending books over the phone instead of in person, but thank you for trusting our judgements! 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Full width 1602434465 f8414900 78bd 4f3d 89d4 02e620df805b

This book is an insane page turner. Patchett consistently creates some of the most fascinating characters in literature and puts them in life situations they can never quite make sense of. In this book a brother and sister live in a beautiful mansion, envied by all, with their father. Soon after remarrying, he passes away, and their step mother takes everything the kids have and leave them with nothing. The book follows the two kids through their teen and adult lives while they obsess over their step mother and the house that was stolen from them. Every month when the brother visits from university, they sit outside the house in a car looking through its windows reminiscing over their childhood and trash talking their step mother. We follow them through their journey of trying to make sense of their father, the house, and their absent mother. The image on the cover also adds so much to the story. Those who have read it will know what I mean. I cannot express more how amazing and relatable this book is. We loved it! If you read one book this winter, I would honestly choose this one.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Full width 1602434465 9b2d5d8b add1 4f44 b516 30bec1b9c05f

Emira is a young black woman who babysits for a rich white family. One night she is out with the little three year old girl she takes care of, and she gets wrongly accused of kidnapping. The novel is an amazing story about race and privilege. Emira’s employer, Alix, becomes obsessed with her, wanting to know everything about her life and to become close friends. Alix is the type of woman who gets what she wants and has based her career on helping women do the same. Every time Emira is over babysitting, she breaks into her phone and reads all her texts and obsessed over her life. She is constantly trying to convince everyone that Emira is truly part of her family. Alix is insecure about being racist and promoting white feminism. The two women’s lives start to become oddly intertwined in unexpected twists and turns. It’s an addictive read. But more than that, it offers profound insight into the manner in which society fetishizes black women {without really knowing them}

Breast and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Full width 1602434465 695d4601 0190 497f 931f 438540e0c838

Japanese author, Mieko Kawakami, is the best. She talks about women and their relationship with their bodies so honestly. The main character is an asexual female author living in Tokyo. She has recently decided she wants to have a biological child. She starts to research her options, without having or wanting a man in her life. This path leads her to very interesting places. The book delves deep into the issues and taboos surrounding sperm banks, especially in Japan. Her sister, living in Osaka, has become consumed and obsessed with get breast implants. She says having a child ruined her breasts. Their stories parallel each other in a very interesting way. It is a thick book, but worth it.

Wendy Master of Art by Walter Scott

Full width 1602434465 4489ae37 1508 4fff aabd 3e9ca429cf80

This is the third instalment of Walter Scott’s Wendy graphic novel. It is about a young girl in the Montreal artist scene. It is incredibly funny and relatable. In this book Wendy is accepted into a Master’s Program in Hell Ontario (Guelph). We have seen her struggle to make her way in the world as an artist, and go to Berlin for a residency in the past books. This book pokes fun at the type of personalities one finds in art school and the instructors. Scott has an amazing way of capturing the fragility of being an artist and trying to find one’s medium and style. Wendy always has a hard time focusing on her art as she gets distracted by her personal life. In this book she dates someone who is in an open relationship. I’ve never seen such accurate portrayal of what it is like to be an artist in the city. Even though I love the back drop of Montreal and Toronto in these books, it truly can take place anywhere in the world.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Full width 1602434465 dbc238fc ca25 4416 a58a 925c561c9d2e

Emma Donoghue's new book is fantastic! It takes place in Ireland during the Spanish Flu pandemic. The main character is a nurse in a maternity ward, the setting of the novel. It is so interesting to see a pandemic through the lens of women giving birth. They can't be concerned of the state of the world while they are going through a nightmare of their own. It is horrifying to see the practices women had to go through when giving birth in the early 1900s. The characters are some of the bravest women ever written. The whole novel takes place over three days in that hospital room, but it feels as though it could have been a lifetime. Your heart will break, but it is worth it.

Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba

Full width 1602434465 2e3235d7 301b 472a 9625 15ee1ad980d5

I absolutely loved Andres Barba's last book Such Small Hands about a group of girls at a boarding school who descend into a grotesque childhood madness when a beguiling new student arrives. So I was very much looking forward to this. Barba deals with the nature of childhood affection and desire and transgression in original previously unspoken ways. In A Luminous Republic, a group of 32 feral children enter a small city, stirring up disorder and tempting other children to join them. What this short book is at heart is a philosophical inquiry into whether children are more properly themselves independent of parents, and might possibly create a newer better order if left on their own. And the sense of irrational terror even a smile from one of the feral children can bestow on the citizens of this fictional city is pure delight.

Moms by Yeong-Shin Ma

Full width 1602434465 img 5286

Yeong-shin Ma defies the norms of the traditional Korean family narrative, offering instead the refreshingly honest and unfiltered story of a group of middle-aged moms who yearn for something more than what the mediocre men in their lives can provide. Despite their less-than-desirable jobs, salaries, husbands, and boyfriends, these women brazenly bulldoze their way through life with the sexual vulnerability and lust typically attributed to twenty-somethings.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Full width 1602434465 921cc2e6 996e 442f b19f 2529c046e76d

This is a really good page turning novel. I understand why so many people are loving it. It has romance, murder, mystery, heartbreak, and family. It’s the whole package. A young girl lives in a marsh with her family. Slowly they abandon her, one by one. Her mother is the first to go, walking away from the abusive father in her snake skinned boots. Then all her siblings depart, and finally her father disappears. She is now a little girl of ten left alone to raise herself in the wild. To the neighbouring town she becomes known as the Marsh Girl, a feral outcast. A boy in town takes an interest in her and teaches her to read. Soon she becomes obsessed with reading every naturalist text out there, and she collects all the specimens she can find. You won’t believe where the story takes you. She is such a wonderful character and she breaks my heart still.

Cats of the Louvre by Taiyo Matsumoto

Full width 1602434465 834b9942 1a69 445a a5ef b37d205d3152

Absolutely loved this manga. It is about an old man who grew up in the Louvre. His family has worked the night shift for generations. His 10 year old sister went missing one night in the museum when they were kids and was never found again. He believes she entered one of the paintings. In the attic he takes care of cats who have also been there for generations. The story becomes a sort of map of the Louvre as the protagonist tries to find the painting his sister might have disappeared into so many years a ago. His guide is a cat who has the same gift of entering into the physical world of the paintings. It is a magical touching story. I strongly suggest it to any graphic novel lovers out there.

All My Cats by Dohumil Hrabal

Full width 1602434465 17e5e11b fd3e 4215 b1a8 8e7b351a5462

Hrabal is a household name in the Czech Republic and is considered there as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. This short memoir blew our minds. It is an account of his obsession with the feral cats that populated his country cabin. It begins as a charming account of his infatuation with the personalities and vulnerabilities of cats. It then descends into a profound meditation on living with inherited guilt and metaphorically reflects the actions of the Czech people during the German occupation of the country during world war 2. Brilliant and brutal. And not exactly for cat lovers. Some terrible shit happens to cats in it.

Little Eyes by Samantha Schweblin

Full width 1602439763 img 3515

We were so excited for Schweblin’s next novel after Fever Dream, and it did not disappoint! Perfect for fans of the TV show Black Mirror, as this is a technological satire. There is a new toy created that has taken the world by storm. ‘Kentukis’ is a Japanese stuffed animal with a global server. You can choose to be watched by someone through the eyes of your toy, or watch someone through theirs. Watching someone’s life in another country can be addicting and invigorating, and knowing you are being watched can give your actions meaning. We follow different characters who have chosen both paths. It is so interesting to see how people interact with this new technology and what they chose to do with it. It is completely engaging, and you can’t help but wonder which type of person are you. Are you an exhibitionist or a voyeur?

Thank you! We recommend placing orders for the holidays early this year! In this unprecedented moment, there is currently a printing capacity shortage, so books that go out of stock are much more difficult for publishers to reprint. 


Order here:

Thumb 1575844153 images

The Dutch House

Ann Patchett

A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!From the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, comes Ann Patchett’s most...

More Info
Thumb 1587478270 images

Such a Fun Age

Kiley Reid

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A REESE'S BOOK CLUB x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK PICK "The most provocative page-turner of the year." --Entertainment Weekly...

More Info
Thumb 1602440681 images

Breasts and Eggs

Mieko Kawakami

The story of three women by a writer hailed by Haruki Murakami as Japan’s most important contemporary novelist, WINNER OF THE AKUTAGAWA PRIZE.“Breasts and...

More Info
Thumb 1590942702 wendy.cover

Wendy, Master of Art

Walter Scott

The existential dread of making (or not making) art takes center stage in this trenchant satire of MFA culture Wendy is an aspiring contemporary...

More Info
Thumb 1602440719 images

The Pull of the Stars

Emma Donoghue

Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. A small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for...

More Info
Thumb 1588956293 images

A Luminous Republic

Andres Barba

"Wholly compelling.” —Colm Tóibín"A captivating piece of storytelling."—Boston GlobeA new novel from a Spanish literary star about the arrival of feral children to a...

More Info
Thumb 1595957466 images

Moms

Ma Yeung-shin

An outrageously funny book about middle-aged women that reexamines romance, lust, and gender norms Lee Soyeon, Myeong-ok, and Yeonjeong are all mothers in their...

More Info
Thumb 1602440784 images

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING PHENOMENONMore than 7 million copies sold worldwideA Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club PickA Business Insider Defining Book of...

More Info
Thumb 1602440822 images

All My Cats

Bohumil Hrabal

In the autumn of 1965, flush with the unexpected success of his first published books, the Czech author Bohumil Hrabal bought a cottage in...

More Info
Thumb 1589234347 images

Little Eyes

Samanta Schweblin

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE"Her most unsettling work yet — and her most realistic." --New York TimesA visionary novel about our...

More Info

Happy Reading

Posted by

Arizona O'Neill

Bookseller | Libraire