Best Books of 2014: What’s yours?

It’s that time of the year again, when every newspaper is coming out with lists of their best books of 2014. One of my new years resolutions last year was to read more books. I am, of course, a lover of books but often find myself distracted by many, many, MANY other things! Working in a research field I tend to spend most of my time reading non-fiction and academic articles however this year I was able to read…wait for it……11 books! Sad I know, but it’s almost one a month right?!?!?!

downloadMy favourite book that I read this year was The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed by John Valiant. A non-fiction book, published in 2006, The Golden Spruce tells the story of well….a golden spruce tree growing on Haida Gwaii, the only one of it’s kind, which had deep cultural and spiritual significant to the Haida people. Valiant provides a very deeply researched book about the history of trees and our exploitation of forests for the lumber industry. The Golden Spruce focuses on one man, Grant Hadwin, an ex-logger who had become disillusioned with the lumber industry and cut down the golden spruce as an act of protest. It is truly a fascinating and moving book which I recommend to all my friends and family, and I highly suggest you pick up a copy!

Other books I thoroughly enjoyed this year include:
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
Book of Negros by Lawrence Hill
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

This Is Our Life: Haida Material Heritage and Changing Museum Practice by Cara Krmpotich
Totem Pole: An Intercultural History by Aldona Jonaitis and Aaron Glass
First Nations, Museums, Narrations: Stories of the 1929 Franklin Motor Expedition to the Canadian Prairies by Alison Brown

The Globe and Mail released their list of the top 100 books of the year here

CBC’s list of best Canadian books here

The New York Times here

NPR here

And finally The Guardian here

What was your favourite book you read in 2014? Let us know!


Book lists!


Book lists, you either love them or hate them!  They are a great way to find ideas for books to read but also make you feel a little guilty that you haven’t read all the “must read” books.  here’s a new one a friend sent along to me, BBC Believes You Have Only Read 6 of These Books.  They are mostly classics and some really good literature choices, so if classics aren’t your thing you may be out of luck.  I scored 24 (I know, shame!) but it’s one point over the average Goodreads member score! How many have you read?

Winter is Coming: Time to Catch up on your Game of Thrones reading

Ok, so who else is addicted to Game of Thrones in book and tv form? I am, seriously, I mean I was never really into Fantasy before Game of Thrones, and now it is the most unbelievable series I have ever read (Alan Bradley close your ears).  The new series starts on HBO on April 6th at 9PM so you have less than a month to catch up on your reading, I’m definitely reading book 4 again before the series starts as SO MUCH CRAZY STUFF HAPPENED! And there are a lot of new characters to keep track of.  Check out the first trailer below and stop by to have a look at our fantasy selection. We’ve also got lots of other suggestions to tide you over  until George R.R. Martin decides to write another book!

Canada Reads 2014 Winner announced: Joseph Boyden, The Orenda.

If you have been following the Canada Reads competition on CBC recently you will know that Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda won the 2014 competition. The competition was pretty stiff this year with five excellent books being put to the test:  The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood, Annabel by Kathleen Winter, Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, Cockroach by Rawi Hage, and The Orenda by Joseph Boyden.  Here’s some more info on each book:


The Year of the Flood is the second novel in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy, which deals with a dystopic future and the aftermath of environmental degradation. In a world driven by shadowy, corrupt corporations and the uncontrolled development of new, gene-spliced life forms, a man-made pandemic occurs, obliterating human life. Two people find they have unexpectedly survived: Ren, a young dancer locked inside a high-end sex club, and Toby, who has barricaded herself alone inside a luxurious spa. But they can’t stay hidden forever…

The Year of the Flood was published in 2010 by Random House. Atwood’s final installment in the trilogy,Maddaddam was published this year.


Annabel deals with the birth of an intersex baby in rural Newfoundland in 1968. The baby’s parents make the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, keeping his feminine side a lifelong secret in the rigidly defined masculine culture. But as Wayne grows up, he can’t entirely ignore the feminine presence in his identity.Annabel is an unforgettable novel about one person’s struggle to discover the truth in a culture that shuns contradiction.

Annabel was published by House of Anansi in 2010 and became a national bestseller. The book won the Thomas Head Raddall Award, and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Orange Prize.


Evoking the world of Paris during the Second World War, Half-Blood Blues is about the disappearance of Hiero, a talented young black German jazz musician at the hands of the Nazi Party, and his friend and fellow musician, Sid, who is still coming to terms with Hiero’s fate 50 years later. Half Blood Blues is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.

Half-Blood Blues won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011. It is published by HarperCollinsCanada.


Urgent and unsettling, Cockroach takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal’s immigrant community, where a self-described thief has just tried but failed to commit suicide. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naive therapist. The story leads us back to the narrator’s violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current urban life, and out into the frozen night-time streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge.

In 2008, Cockroach was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It won the Paragraph Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, presented by the Quebec Writers’ Federation. Cockroach is published by House of Anansi Press.


The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family, and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees that the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar. The world is in flux, and a new nation is about to emerge.

The Orenda was published this year by Random House, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Literature.

I know we are definitely excited to get our hands on these books and give them a read as we have always been a great supporter of Canadian writers and have a great selection in store.  Which ones have you read? Did you think Joseph Boyden deserved the win?  Personally I’ve just started reading Three Day Road and I’m hooked! Happy Reading!

(Thanks to CBC for the abstracts)

Diving into the Northwest Passage

This summer, Parks Canada launched yet another search for Sir Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which disappeared when in search for the Northwest Passage around northern Canada in 1845. Many attempts were made to locate the ships which had become stuck in Arctic pack ice in 1846. Crew members tried to survive as long as possible before the 105 survivors were forced to abandon ship in 1848 and try and make their way to Back’s Fish River. Sadly none would survive. There are stories of encounters between the local Inuit people and the crew members recorded in oral histories. In fact, John Rae, one of many British explorer’s sent to find the ships and learn the fate of the crew, heard these oral histories from the Inuit in 1854. The stories he heard were not for the faint of heart, the Inuit told of how they had come across the dead bodies of the crew members and evidence that they had resorted to cannibalism in order to try and survive. Upon his return, Rae’s report was not well-received in England, in fact it was outright rejected by the British Navy and the general public, even Charles Dickens attacked John Rae’s findings in a weekly column he wrote called ‘Household Words.’ The fate of the crew is still debated today. The HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus have never been found, but the wrecks have been designated a Canadian National Historic site…..when and if they are found.

We have quite a few exceptional books in at the moment about the search for the northwest passage, Sir Franklin and his contemporaries as well as other Arctic expeditions, see below for descriptions! Call us 780-962-9686 or comment for more information on these wonderful books!


Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot
by Ken McGoogan

A fascinating non-fiction book written about Joh Rae’s 1854 expedition in the Arctic to find the Franklin ships. John Rae’s expedition was not done in a large sea-faring boat, but rather by snowshoe and small boats around the inland. it is said he surveyed 1,765 miles of uncharted territory, and 6,555 miles hiked on snowshoes. Ken McGoogan argues that through his research Rae found the last link in the Northwest passage, but because he also brought a terrifying story of Franklin’s crews cannibalism back to the British public, he was denied all honour and fame he deserved. This book rocketed onto the National bestseller list in 2001 and stayed there for 14 weeks, McGoogan is recognized as the authority researcher on John Rae.

The Man who Mapped the Arctic: The Intrepid Life of George Back, Franklin’s Lieutenant
by Peter Steele

“George Back went on three Arctic expeditions under Sir John franklin, searching for the mythical Northwest passage while opening up the vast barren lands of the north. But unlike Franklin, comma, Back lived to tell his tales and left behind an inspirational legacy of journals, drawings, watercolours and maps. From these sources emerges a story of remarkable endurance in the face of appalling odds.

Back was one of natures survivors, his crowning achievement was the discovery and descent of the treacherous Back River. Not only did he shoot it’s 83 rapids, but on reaching the Arctic rapids he dragged his home-made boat back upstream as winter closed in. After a final ill-fated expedition to Hudson Bay, Back retired, was knighted and died in his bed at the age of 82. A gifted artist and map maker, Back was a brave and important explorer who has long been denied the limelight he deserved.”

Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage
by James P. Delgado

James P. Delgado, and underwater archaeologist and historian, brings together the multiple stories of exploration of the northwest passage. He brings these sagas to life with quotations from grim first-hand accounts with dramatic images, 100 colour and 100 black and white. These painting, engravings and photos of the intrepid men and their ships, as well as relics and archaeological sites, provide a poignant and compelling link with the past.

Midnight to the North: The Untold Story of the Inuit Woman who saved the Polaris Expedition
by Shelia Nickerson

Tells the story of the American Polaris expedition of 1971-1873, it was the first official American party to the north pole. Five months in, the ship was locked in ice, and Captain Charles Francis Hall was dead, likely murdered by his crew. Nineteen of its crew and passengers were forced to embark on what would be the longest ice drift in history, and remarkably they all survived thanks to one Inuit woman, Tookoolito, Hall’s translator. Brave, resourceful, and unassuming, Tookoolito kept the expedition together physically and emotionally in the face of starvation, disease, freezing col, storms and the constant danger of being crushed by drifting ice. had it not been for the deep loyalty of this heroic but largely forgotten woman, the journey of the ill-fated Polaris might stand to the monument of bravery and madness that constituted much of early Arctic adventure.

Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition
by Leonard F. Guttridge

In July 1881, an expedition of 25 American soldiers led by Lieutenant Greely went north to set up a scientific base in the remote Arctic region of Lady Franklin Bay. The expedition put an American flag further north than any British explorer had been able to. But then disaster struck, the ships that were meant to relieve them one year later, never came, the ship that was supposed to come two years later never came. They had been abandoned. A non-fiction story of government neglect, bad luck, starvation, mutiny, suicide, shipwreck, execution, and cannibalism.

Book trees for Christmas!

So we have been seeing a lot of interesting Christmas trees surface on the internet this year, and why are they interesting you say? Oh because they are made out of books! Check out these spectacular specimens:

Image courtesy of Lisa See
Image courtesy of Lisa See

Image courtesy of Lisa See

And for our very own contribution, visit us on Twitter! @Bookwormz_YEG