by Debra Komar

Long before New Brunswick was a twinkle in Confederation’s eye, and almost two centuries before Shediac became home to the largest lobster sculpture in the world, the county’s nascent English/Acadian settlement was the site of a macabre murder. In January 1805, an ersatz preacher named Jacob Peck arrived in town. Before he left six weeks later, he’d used his Svengali-like powers to persuade a local farmer named Amos Babcock to murder his own sister in cold blood. Read more…

by Robert Perišic

When I say Our Man in Iraq is likely to be the best novel you’ve ever read by a Croatian writer, I’m not just cynically gambling that you’ve never read any Croatian novels; or rather, I’m doing it secure in the knowledge that Robert Perišić’s first novel (originally published in 2007) is also terrifically witty and original. Read more…

A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors and High Explosives
by John Elder Robison

The maxim “it takes one to know one” doesn’t always apply to those with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that entered the DSM in 1994 only to be unceremoniously given the boot from the latest edition, due out this year (Asperger’s is to be rolled into Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD). John Elder Robison discovered he had Asperger’s when he was 39, yet failed to recognize the symptoms in his young son Jack, aka “Cubby,” who wouldn’t get diagnosed for another fourteen years. By then, Cubby was 18 and about to go on trial in Massachusetts for serious charges related to the possession of explosives. Read more…

Good Neighbourhoods, Crazy Politics and the Invention of Toronto
by Edward Keenan

Invoking Toronto’s recent history alongside its more distant past, political observer Edward Keenan, an editor at the city’s alt-weekly newspaper The Grid, has written a succinct, accessible book that brings some much needed context to the carnival-like atmosphere at Toronto City Hall under the tenure of Mayor Rob Ford. Read more…

The Race to Build the World’s Most Legendary Watch
by Stacy Perman

In 1999 the most complex mechanical watch ever made was sold at auction for a record-breaking $11 million. To the shock of the rarefied crowd at Sotheby’s in New York, the watch known as the Graves Supercomplication (and a rock band name waiting to happen) went to an anonymous bidder who beat out deep-pocketed players like Patek Philippe, the venerable Swiss company that made the watch and that was determined to acquire it as the crown jewel of its Geneva museum. Read more…

My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
by Jenna Miscavige Hill

PR-wise, 2013 hasn’t been a great year for the Church of Scientology. In January, long-time New Yorker contributor Lawrence Wright published Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (the book’s release has been delayed in Canada pending a legal review by publisher Knopf). Now comes a sober, well-written memoir by ex-Scientologist Jenna Miscavige Hill that dovetails, damningly, with Wright’s. Read more…

by Jim Gavin

The idea of the middleman has long been synonymous with money wasted; we all know they’re something to be cut out. Though “middleman” still conjures someone in a brown suit and fedora with a locked briefcase, the middleman most likely to suffer if you buy this book (which you should) is your local bookstore. Read more…

by John Kenney

Years ago, when my husband and I were travelling in Costa Rica, we found ourselves sitting across from an American family at a thatched roof restaurant high in the cloud forest. As the family rose to go, the father turned to reveal, emblazoned boldly across the back of his felt-and-leather jacket, the logo of a major diaper company (hint: it rhymes with “Campers”). We wouldn’t have been more amazed had he turned out to be wearing a howler monkey-fur codpiece. This, after all, was no Queen Street ironist. The man was a true believer. Read more…

by Ali Smith

Artful was originally a series of lectures delivered by Scottish novelist Ali Smith at Oxford University in the winter of 2012. Although the titles of the book’s four essayistic parts: “On Time” “On Form” “On Edge” and “On Offer and On Reflection” sound like standard academic exposition, their contents most assuredly aren’t. Read more…

by Manuel Gonzales

In “Pilot. Copilot. Writer,” the first story in Austin, Texas-based Manuel Gonzales’ debut collection, a plane hijacked for no apparent reason circles Dallas for 20 years. Anyone who’s flown anywhere recently knows that sitting in economy class for just a few hours is nightmare aplenty, of course. But the horror that Gonzales really wants to exploit is terrestrial society’s loss of interest in the captives after only a week of vigils and breathless news reports. Read more…

by Simon Garfield

The endless fascination of maps comes as much from what they show us as what they don’t, the missing or malformed continents of ancient maps being arguably as compelling as the voyeuristic level of detail accessible today on Google’s Street View. Read more…

What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
by Jared Diamond

As members of what social scientists refer to as WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) society, we tend to have conflicting attitudes to traditional societies, alternately romanticizing them for an imagined oneness with nature or else condemning them for the superstitions that have hampered their material progress. Read more…

by Orhan Pamuk

In his native Turkey, Orhan Pamuk is a very big deal. Around the world, he’s sold an unshabby 11 million books in 60 languages. Writing in the New York Times Margaret Atwood once called Pamuk a “rock star, guru, diagnostic specialist and political pundit,” adding that “the Turkish public reads his novels as if taking its own pulse.” Read more…

by Tamara Faith Berger

A mathematical equation proving whether a book is pornography might be based on the difference in the rate at which one reads the passages between saucy bits and the saucy bits themselves. Is it, in other words, literature when we find ourselves speculating about the pizza guy’s life before he made that fateful delivery? Was the job a consequence of failing to finish his degree or did he recognize his true calling and succumb to the lure of the open, pepperoni-infused road? Read more…

by Nancy Richler

The extended Polish/Russian Jewish family that is the focus of Nancy Richler’s Montreal-based post-World War II saga includes not one but two female members abandoned by a parent. One of them is Elka Krakauer, whose father didn’t bother waiting until she was born before walking out on Elka’s imperious mother, Ida Pearl. To her daughter, Ida offers the lie that her father left to fight with “revolutionaries” back in Europe. Read more…

by Linda Spalding

Having been First Lady on the three occasions her husband Michael Ondaatje won the Governor General’s Prize for Fiction (he also won twice for poetry before they were married), Linda Spalding continued to play a kind of Hillary to Ondaatje’s Bill last Tuesday when she received the honour for her fourth novel The Purchase. Read more…

The Life of Leonard Cohen
by Sylvie Simmons

Like laurel leaves on a video jacket, nothing lends legitimacy to a biography like the adjectives “authorized” and “definitive.” Of the dozen or so biographies written about Leonard Cohen over the years, none is authorized; “definitive” has gone, by default, to Ira B. Nadel’s informative but flawed Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen from 1996 (reissued in 2006). That flickering torch is now getting passed in a hurry to veteran music journalist Sylvie Simmons, who’d better mind she doesn’t burn her hand in the process. Read more…

by Ian Colford

In his two books, Halifax native Ian Colford has made a habit of embracing vagueness. Evidence, his well-received 2008 collection of inter-connected short stories, was set in an unspecified “province,” while the tales themselves were narrated by a refugee of indeterminate Eastern European origin. Read more…

by David Bergen

Sexuality and sexual obsessiveness have been prominent features of Giller-winner (for 2005’s The Time in Between) David Bergen’s past novels (The Retreat, The Case of Lena S.), so it comes as something of a surprise to find him taking a demure turn in his era-spanning portrait of a housewife from a small Manitoba town. Read more…

by Mark Haddon

British writer Mark Haddon was already an accomplished children’s author and artist when his first adult novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a murder-mystery told from the point of view of an autistic boy, made him the toast of the town. Curious was followed, confoundingly for some, with a book of poetry. Next came a novel, A Spot of Bother which, confoundingly for others, had the audacity to be merely good. Read more…

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