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So long, and thanks for all the books

Once again, it is time to take my annual look back at the best books published over the past 12 months. This will, however, be a last look, as this is my final column for The Morning Star.

After 25 years in Vernon, and writing this column for 23 of those, I am relocating to Alberta for the position of Library Director of the Grande Prairie Public Library. It is a big step up in my career as a professional librarian, and an opportunity to return to my hometown.

Over the years, I have received countless comments from readers who enjoy my column, and I thank you. It is gratifying to know that I have contributed in a small way to your enjoyment of books and reading. The emergence of e-books means that readers have a wider choice than ever before of where and how they read, but rest assured that your library will always adapt.

As I say goodbye to this community and its many readers, I leave you with a quote by 18th century English essayist Joseph Addison that captures a simple truth, even in this world of rapidly changing technology: “Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.”

FICTION

n Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. In this Booker Prize-winning sequel to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (also a Booker Prize winner), Anne Boleyn sits triumphant on the throne she schemed so long to get – only to discover that her position is anything but secure.

n The Round House by Louise Erdich. When a 13-year-old native American boy becomes frustrated with the investigation into the attack that left his mother too traumatized to speak, he looks into the crime himself.

n Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. A hero of the Iraq war is paraded before the American public at a Texas football stadium over Thanksgiving weekend in this darkly comic and incisive portrait of war and modern society.

n Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. When a young wife disappears on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary her husband becomes the automatic suspect in this compulsively readable thriller, which is as rich with sardonic humor and social satire as it is unexpected plot twists.

n Canada by Richard Ford. An expansive coming-of-age novel about a 15-year-old boy who is spirited away to Canada and forced to survive on his own after his parents are sent to prison for robbing a bank.

NON-FICTION

n Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo. This searing portrait of life in a Mumbai slum reads like a novel, but it’s all too true. Pulitzer Prize-winner Boo’s writing is superb, and the depth and courage of her reporting from this hidden world is astonishing.

n Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. In an increasingly talkative world, are the softer voices of the reserved and cerebral among us being undervalued?

n Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1,100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

n Iron CurtainThe Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum. The acclaimed journalist delivers a ground-breaking history of how Communism took over Eastern Europe after the Second World War and transformed in frightening fashion the individuals who came under its sway.

n Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. For more than a decade, the author studied the challenges, risks and rewards of raising children with traits they don’t share with their parents.

As he investigates how families have raised prodigies, dwarfs, schizophrenics, transgendered children or those conceived in rape, he discovers stories of love and success, and also failure and heartbreak, that illuminate and celebrate the bravery of millions of ordinary people in dealing with and getting past difference and adversity.

Ed note: The Morning Star thanks Maureen Curry for her 23 years of insightful and interesting columns, as well for all her contributions to this paper and the Greater Vernon community as a whole. We wish her well as she embarks on a new future in Grande Prairie.

It’s been a pleasure, Maureen.

 

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