Michael has been writing for The Coast since July of 2013. He once took a photo of Michael Ondaatje and Jeffrey Eugenides and asked them to pose on a jungle gym. They said no.
1996 By Sara Peters (Anansi)
The poems in this debut collection from Nova Scotian-cum-Torontonian are full of deftly observed cruelty and violence. Most people don't read poetry, maybe because it's seen as less accessible than most other writing. Seek out Peters' poem "Rehearsal" and tell me it doesn't feel like a beautiful punch in the gut.
Tenth of December By George Saunders (Random House)
The characters in George Saunders' stories embody the darkest parts of ourselves: they've been broken down by class struggle, they lash out violently at others (and at times, themselves), and their fully-formed anxieties reflect our own suppressed ones. It'll make you laugh out loud more than anything all year.
Metaphysical Dog By Frank Bidart (Anansi)
What does it mean to be alive, to have a body, to have parents, to be gay, to make art and to be angry, delighted and confused all at once? Frank Bidart would like you to know. This collection of poetry will burrow into your skull like a bad dream. In Bidart's hands, that's a good thing.
The Faraway Nearby By Rebecca Solnit (Viking)
Out of her 13 widely varied non-fiction books, this is Solnit's most personal to date, centering on her family and the time she spent caring for her ailing mother. Though not a typical memoir in the least, Solnit infuses her essays with gorgeously wrought digressions on art, philosophy and storytelling.
The Flamethrowers By Rachel Kushner (Scribner)
A wickedly fun novel set in late 1970s US and Italy. It follows a young conceptual artist as she navigates the hilariously impenetrable New York art scene then later finds herself in Rome in the midst of political upheaval. The prose is fast and punchy and there's lots of motorcycle racing.
Hellgoing By Lynn Coady (Anansi)
Americanah By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf)
The Woman Upstairs By Claire Messud (Knopf)
Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page By Sandra Djwa (McGill-Queen's)
Canary By Nancy Jo Cullen (Biblioasis)
LINDSAY RAINING BIRD
Lindsay Raining Bird is the Coast's Listings Editor and has been reviewing books since 2011. She once attempted to survive solely on the nourishment of words but got scurvy.
The Interestings By Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead)
It's the nature of old friendships; the inability to disguise your once youthful ambition and how far from it you might end up. Wolitzer's tight-knit group bounces back and forth through time unearthing secrets, envy and questions about creativity and life in an, at times, heartbreaking dive into the depths of the relationships between six friends.
The Signature of All Things By Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking Adult)
Gilbert's return to fiction has the literary world abuzz and for good reason---the adventures of a woman of science in the 1800s is as ambitious as it is enthralling. Mixing themes of religion, evolution, feminism and love under a botanist's umbrella is an experience unlike anything else I've ever read.
By Margaret Atwood (McClelland & Stewart)
Atwood's long-awaited last book in the MaddAddam trilogy caps it all off with an immensely satisfying bang. Making science fiction about ecological destruction and the brutality of humanity palatable for the masses in a truly funny but unnerving way. Note: an incredibly thorough summary at the beginning makes for an easy standalone read.
The Bone Season By Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury)
You've read all the YA fantasy you can handle and you're still hungry for more? Shannon's first book of a planned trilogy will plant you firmly in a new dystopian world, this time with a psychic twist. Read it before the movie comes out, hopefully starring Jennifer Lawrence (one can dream).
The Best of Us By Sarah Pekkanen (Washington Square)
Another great depiction of what happens to a close group of friends long after the reason they came together is gone...only this version involves an all-expense paid trip to Jamaica and a whole lot more indiscretions. Still, well-crafted character development and a whole host of interesting motivators makes the whole thing a party you never want to leave.
The Last Word By Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)
Rookie Yearbook Two Edited by Tavi Gevinson (Drawn and Quarterly)
Caught By Lisa Moore (Anansi)
The Other Side of Youth By Kelli Deeth (Arsenal Pulp)
The Miracles of Ordinary Men By Amanda Leduc (ECW)
Coast writer since 2012, Whitney Moran is an editor and writer. She is not Spike from
Degrassi and she doesn't want to hear about your e-reader.
The Douglas Notebooks By Christine Eddie, trans: Sheila Fischman (Goose Lane)
A delicately translated modern fairy tale that transforms and transports its reader---by location: into the woods just outside an industrialized town---and figuratively: into a place where love grows as naturally and uninhibited as a forest. An eco-critical romance fable, this short novel will leave you enchanted.
Ocean By Sue Goyette (Gaspereau)
A numbered sequence of poems explores the (sometimes) symbiotic relationship between the ocean and us. Here, the sea is a hungry beast; an eternal and yet dying thing. Collectively, these poems are a creation myth for our city. A roiling froth of folklore that "egg[s] the best part of us on."
Scissors By Stéphane Michaka (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)
"I make an incision that liberates what the sentence has buried." A bewitching fictional account of the tormented relationship between American short story writer Raymond Carver and his editor Gordon Lish. And a fascinating, gorgeously written exploration of the tenuous and fragile process of repurposing art for public consumption.
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish: A Novel By David Rakoff (Doubleday Canada)
A complex multigenerational novel in verse from the late NPR wordsmith, illustrated by Seth. Heart-wrenching, hilarious, superbly intelligent and masterfully conceived, this mostly cynical tale of interconnected lives offers a sliver of hope, raising it to a series of lessons in gaining perspective.
S. By Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams (Little, Brown & Co.)
Although unlike anything I've read, I feel compelled to describe this novel as the lovechild of Danielewski and Nabokov. A relationship and conspiracy theory blossom between the pages of a stolen book by a mysterious author---each "story" reflecting the other. A triumph of design, postmodernism, and the printed word.
Life After Life By Kate Atkinson (Doubleday Canada)
A Bird's Eye By Cary Fagan (Anansi)
The Faraway Nearby By Rebecca Solnit (Viking Canada)
The Widow Tree By Nicole Lundrigan (Douglas & McIntyre)
The Orenda By Joseph Boyden (Hamish Hamilton)
Coast writer since April 2013, Zoë Migicovsky is apparently spending the rest of her life in university, but in the meantime likes to read books about people who do things besides go to school.
Alice in Tumblr-Land By Tim Manley (Penguin)
Tim Manley's satirical debut featuring updated fairy tales and matching illustrations was the book that managed to make me laugh this year. Besides its entertainment value,
Alice in Tumblr-land is reflective about life as a 20-something and what it's like to still be waiting for your own Happily Ever After.
By Sonali Deraniyagala (McClelland & Stewart)
Sonali Deraniyagala's memoir Wave is definitely the book that made me cry this year. It's a story of how she lost her sons, husband and parents in one big wave, but it's more complicated than a tragedy, Deraniyagala also tells a story of survival. Poetic, beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking.
The Illusion of Separateness By Simon Van Booy (Harper)
The Illusion of Separateness is a story of surprising connections filled with quiet, complex characters. Van Booy's writing is some of my favourite because of his ability to write simply and honestly, capturing a world with so few words---for an example that perfectly encapsulates the novel, see its title.
A Tale for the Time Being By Ruth Ozeki (Viking Canada)
A Tale for the Time Being is a puzzle the reader works to untangle, and Ruth Ozeki herself is a part of it. It's difficult to know where reality blurs into fiction but Ozeki's story and her writing sucked me in, leading to an inventive novel I did not expect.
The Empty Room 10;By Lauren B. Davis (HarperCollins)
In The Empty Room a woman cannot run from her alcoholic demons anymore, and one ordinary day her life falls apart, seemingly without hope of ever coming back together. Davis only covers 24 hours, but her haunting novel is filled with detail and depth about addiction what is buried underneath.
Ocean By Sue Goyette (Gaspereau)
In The Land of Birdfishes By Rebecca Silver Slayter (HarperCollins)
If You Find Me By Emily Murdoch (St. Martin's Griffin)
Eleanor and Park By Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Griffin)
The Deer Yard By Allan Cooper and Harry Thurston (Gaspereau)
2013’s local literary triumphs
Authors and avid readers alike shared their favourite moments from their literary dance cards.
Sue Goyette's launch for Ocean
We all piled into that room like an ice pack coming down river. Some of us broke free and one by one stepped forward, revealed themselves and left the rest of us salty, either blotting tears or licking arms. --DD
I think one of the best literary moments of the year in Halifax was the launch for Sue Goyette's Ocean. For her last couple of books of poetry, Sue has opted for a communal kind of launch---other people reading her poems to an audience. For this launch, which was at the Khyber, the readers stood in an undulating line in dark that was illuminated by footage of the Atlantic from Shandi Mitchell's excellent film The Disappeared. It was holy and powerful and funny and awesome. Exactly right. --Stephanie Domet, author and broadcaster
This past November, some friends and I decided to revive BookCamp Halifax. I am still humbled by the outpouring of passion, enthusiasm, and book-love that took place inside the Khyber that day---I can't wait for next year! --WM
Getting intimate at Oral Tradition
After living in Montreal for almost a decade, I moved back to Halifax in March and headed to Gus'. There happened to be an erotic poetry slam happening, so rather than a quiet night of drinking in anonymity, I was accidentally reacquainted with some old friends by hearing them read smutty sex poems about their genitals. Homecomings can be a slippery business. --ML
Jian Ghomeshi's 1982 reading at Word on the Street
It came off almost more like an awkward date than a reading. Someone gave him flowers, he told us funny stories about himself, we told him how great he was and then out of nowhere he said that he wouldn't be able to spend the night in Halifax because he had a plane to catch and a show to do. He broke a lot of hearts in that main events tent, but there's always hope that he'll call again someday (probably when he writes another book). --Shannon Fay
Stephanie Domet's Fallsy Downsies reading at Word on the Street
Thirteen years go, Domet was my boss at The Coast. Now she's my life coach (a volunteer position), a deal from which I am the clear winner, as at Word on the Street when she asked me to introduce her and her excellent second book, Fallsy Downsies. The tent was packed with CBC nerds and readers stoked to grab copies ahead of the October release (an official launch party at the Carleton a month later was also a delight). I told an out-of-school tale from the Coast trenches. Life coach or not, it's always satisfying to see the cream rise to the top, especially when you know the kind of work that's been put in. --TT
The creativity of youth
The best moments this year have been the youth exploding with truth and creativity all over the city. The youth from Centerline Studio bringing hip-hop into City Hall and getting the Mayor bouncing to "902." The raw and real honesty of "Youth Against Stigma." Aidan and the crew in West 7 calling into Youth Now! radio on CKDU 88.1FM on Mondays at 5:30pm and sharing prison cypher with us. All the youth who are bursting with talent all over the city and are speaking out! --El Jones, spoken word artist and Halifax poet laureate
Steven Laffoley's Evelyn Richardson Award win
I was thrilled to see Steven Laffoley, talented and dedicated Halifax author, win the Evelyn Richardson Award for best Atlantic nonfiction book on Saturday evening at NSCAD on September 21. He's paid his dues and this was well deserved. --Lesley Choyce, author
Write Now! book launch
This summer I was lucky enough to be a part of a teen and adult volunteer writing group that met every Tuesday to eat snacks, write outside our comfort zones and share our work as a group---even if it was silly. At the end of the program, our work was collected into a book that featured stories about pizza, moms and vampires. The launch was a wonderful celebration of a great summer with some inspiring people. And cupcakes. --Stephanie Johns