Staff Picks 2020: Mara

December 8, 2020

Staff Picks 2020: Mara
I have built a warm and wordy shelter.

The year’s end is nigh, and I have thoroughly buried myself and my immune condition under a pile of books, bread, and cats. Though I still long for the great outdoors, it isn’t nearly as difficult at this point to simply remain inside - and a lengthy reading list certainly helps. Here’s what I read and loved this year <3


Becoming Horses by Disa Wallander was such a gift to read after graduating from Art School™. Feeling lost and unfulfilled after my time in undergrad, Wallander’s unfettered curiosity and joy dispelled the perceived restraints on my creativity. Her work is liberating in its use of mixed media and meandering text. It is such a delightful and affecting expression of some of the vaguest feelings I’ve known.

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Becoming Horses

Disa Wallander

Sometimes I dream about myself and in my dream I'm someone else But also, I am me becoming the horse that I want to...

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Just in time for me to consider grad school comes Wendy, Master of Art by Walter Scott. Chaotic, lonely, and likely hungover, Wendy and co. are some of the most relatable characters to have graced any made-it-through-Uni-and-stuff-I-guess-Millennial with their presence. Wendy remains a role model to me, don't ask me why.

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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...

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The wincing and giggling went on with Dirty Birds by Morgan Murray as we follow Milton Ontario on his outright fiasco of a cross-Canada journey, leaving a burning trail of scrambled eggs, dirty money, and bad poetry in his wake. Milton’s own path to and through higher education is an absurd comedy of errors, while Murray’s Canada is an alternate universe reflecting the best and worst of our great cities.

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Dirty Birds

Morgan Murray

***THE GLOBE AND MAIL SUMMER'S HOTTEST READS*** In late 2008, as the world’s economy crumbles and Barack Obama ascends to the White House, the...

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Les Vermeilles by Camille Jourdy is a gorgeous French comic - bande dessinée in its most beautiful form. As Jo escapes from the stepmother and sister she can’t stand, she discovers a lush, magical world full of eccentric characters, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be along for the ride. Le livre est muni d’une langue radieuse et fantastique qui saura emporter quiconque à la forêt mystérieuse.

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Les Vermeilles

Camille Jourdy

Beau temps pour un pique-nique ! Pas pour Jo, la cadette, qui fuit sa famille recomposée le temps de se perdre dans une forêt mystérieuse,...

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C’est comme ça que je disparais par Mirion Malle est une expression d’une vie ordinaire accablée par le choc d’un traumatisme et la dépression, tous deux familiers chez tant de femmes de nos jours et toujours. Il s’agit d'une œuvre d’une douce beauté, à la fois tendre et perspicace.

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C'est comme ca que je disparais

Mirion Malle

« La première fois où j’ai eu le goût de mourir, j’avais genre euh 12 ans ? Mais ça compte pas, ça compte pas...

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Constellations by Sinead Gleeson collects diverse elements of the author’s own life in varied essays touching upon her home country of Ireland, womanhood, motherhood, politics, illness, love, and death. I was so thoroughly moved that even now, well over a year (I had nabbed a copy of the UK release) after having read it, I think about it still. Finally available in North America, I absolutely recommend this to anyone with even a passing interest in the above.

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Constellations

Sinead Gleeson

Winner of the 2019 Bookselling Ireland Non-Fiction Book of the Year An extraordinarily intimate book of essays that chart the experiences that have made...

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Tatouine by Jean-Christophe Réhel moves us at the speed of thought. I read this title in French, and I’m very excited for it to now reach a broader audience in English! Told in the first person, the book is written in such a way that the events taking place in the present at times give way to memories as they are conjured in the mind of the narrator, providing us with further insight into his character as well as the current story as it unfolds. Deeply reliant on the author’s own experience, the novel is entirely engrossing.

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Tatouine

Jean-Christophe Réhel

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Jenny Hval’s Girls Against God finds us in a small Norwegian town, as our young protagonist grows, studies, travels, and finds her way back to Oslo. In staying by her side we gain a sense of her very modern misgivings of her kinsmen's very traditional ways. Distrustful of the neat cleanliness of White, Christian conservatism, she is drawn to dark ritual and imagery. The protagonist's dreamy speculation gains power and momentum as the book goes on. Wrought with black metal, horror, feminism, and witchcraft, the novel makes its way out of the boundaries of reality and imagination. 

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Girls Against God

Jenny Hval

A genre-warping, time-travelling horror novel-slash-feminist manifesto for fans of Clarice Lispector and Jeanette Winterson.Welcome to 1990s Norway. White picket fences run in neat rows and Christian...

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Earthlings by Sayaka Murata is the most terrifying book I’ve read in a long while both in terms of horror and existential dread; the mundane has never been so unnerving. Not for the faint of heart, Murata’s latest book to be translated into English follows Natsuki, a young girl at odds with the demands of both her family and society. Finding both meaning and solace in her friend Piyyut - an alien, maybe - she seeks to escape the tyranny of the “Baby Factory” and live free of the constraints of humanity.

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Earthlings

Sayaka Murata

From the beloved author of cult sensationConvenience Store Woman, which has now sold more than one million copies worldwide and has been translated into...

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Be Scared of Everything is a comfy little hideout for fans of horror, sci-fi, the unsettling and the supernatural from prolific pop culture, tech writer, and media critic Peter Counter. A delightful trip into a safe space of nostalgia and vulnerability, it's like a guided tour back in time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch The X-Files.

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Be Scared of Everything

Peter Counter

Horror essays that read like Chuck Klosterman filtered through H.P. Lovecraft. Slinging ectoplasm, tombstones, and chainsaws with aplomb, Be Scared of Everything is a...

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The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio was a 14th century collection of novellas set within an overarching narrative, both set and written over the course of the Black Death. In March 2020, The New York Times Magazine set out to do the same: create a document of our current time, over the Covid-19 pandemic. As things continue to rapidly change, we’re more aware than ever of the importance of remembering the past. The Decameron Project collects twenty nine short stories as varied as the authors - some of the most lauded of our time - invited to write them. The audiobook, narrated by a stellar cast, is available through our Libro.fm storefront!

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The Decameron Project

The New York Times

A stunning collection of short stories originally commissioned by The New York Times Magazine as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, from twenty-nine authors...

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Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen lays down a fundamental groundwork from which we can begin to discuss and understand the oft chided generation that is Millennial. Expanded from the article that erupted onto the scene in January 2019, Can’t Even responds to and elaborates on the uncertainty and disillusionment of the aptly dubbed Burnout Generation. Fitting in that category myself, it was enlightening to read the many experiences of others with whom I may share little else. 

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Can't Even

Anne Helen Petersen

A BEST BOOK OF THE FALL AS SEEN IN:Apartment Therapy •Book Riot •Business Insider •BuzzFeed •Daily Nebraskan •Entertainment Weekly •Esquire •Fortune •Harper’s Bazaar •HelloGiggles...

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The Maze of Transparencies by Karen An-hwei Lee is poetically experimental. Indeed, our narrator: the data cloud Penny, has come over time to compose poetry of their own, now that words appropriated for describing tech have regained their original meanings; a jellyfish is now a jellyfish. What a relief! The world has suffered a collapse due to an epidemic of data-fatigue, and humanity has regressed into a strangely artisanal semblance of agrarian life. Penny follows their user (who can no longer access them) as he departs on a pilgrimage to find the meaning of true happiness. It is a beautiful dream.

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The Maze of Transparencies

Karen An-hwei Lee

Dear reader, I am not dumping my shattered cloudbits on your eardrums for your pity or counsel, sympathy, or advice. Nor do I offer...

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Familiar Face by Michael DeForge conjures up a future where daily patches and updates affect all of existence, to the extent that city roads, your kitchen, and your body may suddenly change in service of the relentless betterment of society through technology enacted by a faceless entity. It is absurd, but somehow believable as we follow our protagonist as they go to work at the government’s Bureau of Complaints, simply to be the person who reads them, whatever they may be, nothing more. Full of humour and sensitivity, I rooted wholeheartedly for this person, though they were unrecognizable one moment to the next.

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Familiar Face

Michael DeForge

The bodies of citizens and the infrastructure surrounding them is constantly updating. People can?t recognize themselves in old pictures, and they wake up in...

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The Skin We’re In: a year of black resistance and power chronicles a year (2017) in the life of author, journalist, activist, and broadcaster Desmond Cole, as he confronts racism around every street corner. It is exhausting, heartbreaking, empowering, enraging - it goes on. To know that which so many go through on a daily basis makes this required reading for our time. It is too easy to dismiss the news until it is at its most shocking, but we must deal with the small, the seemingly insignificant aspects of our culture of oppression just as much, if we ever hope to achieve real change.

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The Skin We're In

Desmond Cole

A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a...

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The pleasure was mine to have hosted our Graphic Novel Book Club featuring Paying the Land. Joe Sacco's latest is the result of five years' work, two trips to the Northwest Territories and countless photographs, notes, and statements by and of the people there. An impressive exercise in listening, Paying the Land gathers the varied perspectives of a number of communities as they struggle to reclaim and maintain their land rights and ways of life. I would consider this required reading for anyone lacking a proper understanding of the legacy of Canada’s colonial effort, which I’ve no doubt is a great many Canadians today.

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Paying the Land

Joe Sacco

From the “heir to R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman” (Economist), a masterful work of comics journalism about indigenous North America, resource extraction, and our...

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Umma’s Table by Yeon-sik Hong is a steadfast meditation on family and age. As Madang moves into a remote new home with his young family, he must grapple with his poor relationship with his ageing parents. When his mother’s health takes a turn for the worst, he comes to realize what it is he holds most dear. Food is at once a comfort, a link to the past, and a source of unbridled joy. Hong’s playful shifting of size, movement, and shape when it comes to the enjoyment of food is a pleasure to read, and works wonders to evoke the small oasis that a good meal can provide.

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Umma's Table

Yeon-Sik Hong

Following his acclaimed English-language debut Uncomfortably Happily, Yeon-sik Hong returns with a graphic novel that is as insightful as it wrenching as it probes...

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Kama La Mackerel’s Zom-Fam is both jubilant and rebellious. It sings a song like the sea and calls upon us to breathe in the brine of the island nation which the author calls home. It is a balm unto those othered who read it. Finding themselves at the intersections of cultures, genders, and languages, La Mackerel’s verses are imbued both with intent and playfulness. I can’t recommend it enough - it's gorgeous.

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ZOM-FAM

Kama La Mackerel

In their debut poetry collection, Kama La Mackerel mythologizes a queer/trans narrative of and for their home island, Mauritius. Composed of expansive lyric poems,...

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Tamara Elali

Tamara Elali

Virtual Events Coordinator | Bookseller