Queens rule in the first Anticipated Reads of the new year, regardless if they do so over bandits or dirt. Ben goes with the blue covers, whereas Rupert goes red, just to stick with alliteration.
Winter Swimming by Susanna Soberg
A beautifully illustrated exploration of cold-water traditions in Scandinavia and around the world, and a thorough account of why it provides such a boost to body and soul.
Whether in lake, lido, river or sea, we know the benefits of swimming outdoors and in nature – environmentally friendly and accessible, it can influence our happiness, our energy and our inner tranquility, and give us that winter glow.
Danish scientist Dr Susanna Søberg leads us step by step into the icy water and explains the “cold-shock response”, the massive endorphin rush as our body reacts and adapts to very cold temperatures through the winter season. Not only do our circulation, heart, lungs and skin respond positively, but our immune system, metabolism and mental health too. In particular she explains how our “brown fat” is activated to benefit multiple health conditions.
Winter swimming is fast becoming one of our most popular pastimes. This beautifully illustrated exploration of cold-water traditions in Scandinavia and around the world shows how it can have a significant positive impact on our physical and mental health, confidence and well-being, providing such a boost to body and soul.
The Blue Window by Suzanne Berne
Secrets abound in Lorna’s family. Her mother Marika, who survived the Nazi occupation of Holland, abandoned the family when Lorna and her brother Wade were just seven and twelve years old. The reason she left, and her whereabouts afterward, were shrouded in mystery. As is a darker secret Marika has repressed for nearly seventy years.
Now that Lorna, a respected psychotherapist, has a child of her own, she’s determined to make Marika a part of their lives. But it’s been a struggle for nearly two decades. Lorna’s son Adam is creative, passionate, and uncomfortable in his own skin. Three weeks before the story opens, he abruptly returns home from college after an incident that he refuses to discuss. And he refuses to be called by his name. He refers to himself as “A” for “anti-matter” and insists that Lorna do the same.
The more Lorna tries to get Adam to talk, the more he withdraws. So, when she gets the call that Marika has had a fall and is incapacitated, she sees an opportunity to bond with Adam on the long drive north to Vermont, and to reconnect with her mother by nursing her back to health.
But how do you care for people you can’t understand, and who don’t want to be understood? As Lorna confronts this question, she must face secrets of her own, which she has tried to ignore by spending her life analyzing other people.
A deft and compelling exploration of family dynamics infused with suspense, Blue Window shows what happens to people who hide from themselves—and the act of imagination it takes to find them.
Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by David Graeber
The final book from David Graeber, the iconic intellectual, activist, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The Dawn of Everything.
Pirates have long lived in the realm of romance and fantasy, symbolizing risk, lawlessness, and radical visions of freedom. But at the root of this mythology is a rich history of pirate societies— vibrant, imaginative experiments in self-governance and alternative social formations at the edges of European empire.
In graduate school, David Graeber conducted ethnographic field research in Madagascar, producing what would eventually become a doctoral thesis on the island’s magic, slavery, and politics. During this time, he encountered the Zana-Malata, an ethnic group made up of mixed descendants of the many pirates who settled on the island at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Pirate Enlightenment, or the True Libertalia, Graeber’s final posthumous book, is the outgrowth of this early research, written while he and David Wengrow were working on what would become their major bestseller, The Dawn of Everything. In direct conversation with that work, Graeber explores how the proto-democratic, even libertarian practices of the Zana-Malata came to shape the Enlightenment project defined for too long as distinctly European. The result is a short but sweeping exploration of the non-European origins of what we consider to be “Western” thought, and an endeavor to recover forgotten forms of social and political order that gesture toward new, hopeful possibilities for the future.
Bad Cree by Jessica Johns
A haunting debut novel where dreams, family and spirits collide.
Mackenzie, a Cree millennial, wakes up in her one-bedroom Vancouver apartment clutching a pine bough she had been holding in her dream just moments earlier. When she blinks, it disappears. But she can still smell the sharp pine scent in the air, the nearest pine tree a thousand kilometres away in the far reaches of Treaty 8.
Mackenzie continues to accidentally bring back items from her dreams, dreams that are eerily similar to real memories of her older sister and Kokum before their untimely deaths. As Mackenzie’s life spirals into a living nightmare—crows are following her around and she’s getting texts from her dead sister on the other side—it becomes clear that these dreams have terrifying, real-life consequences. Desperate for help, Mackenzie returns to her mother, sister, cousin, and aunties in her small Alberta hometown. Together, they try to uncover what is haunting Mackenzie before something irrevocable happens to anyone else around her.
Haunting, fierce, an ode to female relations and the strength found in kinship, Bad Cree is a gripping, arresting debut by an unforgettable voice.
Still Pictures by Janet Malcolm
For decades, Janet Malcolm’s books and dispatches for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books poked and prodded at reportorial and biographical convention, gesturing toward the artifice that underpins both public and private selves. In Still Pictures, she turns her gimlet eye on her own life—a task demanding a writer just as peerlessly skillful as she was widely known to be.
Still Pictures, then, is not the story of a life but an event on its own terms, an encounter with identity and family photographs as poignant and original as anything since Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. Malcolm looks beyond the content of the image and the easy seductions of self-recognition, constructing a memoir from memories that pose questions of their own.
Still Pictures begins with the image of a morose young girl on a train, leaving Prague for New York at the age of five in 1939. From her fitful early loves, to evenings at the old Metropolitan Opera House, to her fascination with what it might mean to be a “bad girl,” Malcolm assembles a composite portrait of a New York childhood, one that never escapes the tug of Europe and the mysteries of fate and family. Later, Still Pictures delves into her marriage to Gardner Botsford, the world of William Shawn’s New Yorker, and the libel trial that led Malcolm to become a character in her own drama.
The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan
From the multi-award-winning and internationally bestselling author Donal Ryan, a searing, jubilant story about four generations of women and fierce love
The Aylward women of Nenagh, Tipperary, are mad about each other, but you wouldn’t always think it. You’d have to know them to know that—in spite of what the neighbors might say about raised voices and dramatic scenes—their house is a place of peace, filled with love, a refuge from the sadness and cruelty of the world.
Their story begins at an end and ends at a beginning. It involves wives and widows, gunrunners and gougers, sinners and saints. It’s a story of terrible betrayals and fierce loyalties, of isolation and togetherness, of transgression, forgiveness, desire, and love. Of all the things family can be and all the things it sometimes isn’t. The Queen of Dirt Island is an uplifting celebration of fierce, loyal love and the powerful stories that bind generations together.
After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz
Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize
An exhilarating debut from a radiant new voice, After Sappho reimagines the intertwined lives of feminists at the turn of the twentieth century.
“The first thing we did was change our names. We were going to be Sappho,” so begins this intrepid debut novel, centuries after the Greek poet penned her lyric verse. Ignited by the same muse, a myriad of women break from their small, predetermined lives for seemingly disparate paths: in 1892, Rina Faccio trades her needlepoint for a pen; in 1902, Romaine Brooks sails for Capri with nothing but her clotted paintbrushes; and in 1923, Virginia Woolf writes: “I want to make life fuller and fuller.” Writing in cascading vignettes, Selby Wynn Schwartz spins an invigorating tale of women whose narratives converge and splinter as they forge queer identities and claim the right to their own lives. A luminous meditation on creativity, education, and identity, After Sappho announces a writer as ingenious as the trailblazers of our past.
In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas
The fates of two unforgettable women—one just beginning a journey of reckoning and self-discovery and the other completing her life’s last vital act—intertwine in this sweeping, deeply researched debut set in the Black communities of Ontario that were the last stop on the Underground Railroad.
Young Lensinda Martin is a protegee of a crusading Black journalist in mid-18th century southwestern Ontario, finding a home in a community founded by refugees from the slave-owning states of the American south—whose agents do not always stay on their side of the border.
One night, a neighbouring farmer summons Lensinda after a slave hunter is shot dead on his land by an old woman recently arrived via the Underground Railroad. When the old woman, whose name is Cash, refuses to flee before the authorities arrive, the farmer urges Lensinda to gather testimony from her before Cash is condemned.
But Cash doesn’t want to confess. Instead she proposes a barter: a story for a story. And so begins an extraordinary exchange of tales that reveal the interwoven history of Canada and the United States; of Indigenous peoples from a wide swath of what is called North America and of the Black men and women brought here into slavery and their free descendents on both sides of the border.
Sweeping along the path of the Underground Railroad from the southern States to Canada, through the lands of Indigenous nations around the Great Lakes, to the Black communities of southern Ontario, In the Upper Country weaves together unlikely stories of love, survival, and familial upheaval that map the interconnected history of the peoples of North America in an entirely new and resonant way.
Daughters Beyond Command by Véronique Olmi
An absorbing bildungsroman that tells the story of three sisters during a decade of radical societal transformation.
Three sisters were born into a modest Catholic family in Aix-en-Provence. Sabine, the eldest, dreams of an artist’s life in Paris; Hélène, the middle girl, grows up divided between the bourgeois environment of Neuilly-sur-Seine and the simple life led by her parents; Mariette, the youngest, learns the secrets and silences of a dazzling and crazy world.
In 1970, French society is changing. Women have emancipated themselves whilst men have lost their bearings, and the three sisters, each in their own way, find ways to live a life of their own—a strong life, far from the morality, education, and the religion of their childhood.
This family chronicle, which takes us from the May 1968 protests to the 1981 elections, is as much a tender and tragic stroll through the 20th century as it is the chronicle of an era, where consciousnesses are awakening to the upheaval of the world, and heralding the chaos to come.
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
Five years ago, Geeta lost her no-good husband. As in, she actually lost him—he walked out on her and she has no idea where he is. But in her remote village in India, rumor has it that Geeta killed him. And it’s a rumor that just won’t die.
It turns out that being known as a “self-made” widow comes with some perks. No one messes with her, harasses her, or tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for business; no one dares to not buy her jewelry.
Freedom must look good on Geeta, because now other women are asking for her “expertise,” making her an unwitting consultant for husband disposal.
And not all of them are asking nicely.
With Geeta’s dangerous reputation becoming a double-edged sword, she has to find a way to protect the life she’s built—but even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry. What happens next sets in motion a chain of events that will change everything, not just for Geeta, but for all the women in their village.
Filled with clever criminals, second chances, and wry and witty women, Parini Shroff’s The Bandit Queens is a razor-sharp debut of humor and heart that readers won’t soon forget.