All Our Wrong Todays
by Elan Mastai (Doubleday Canada)
I used to edit a weekly comedy paper called Golden Words back at Queen’s University. It was built up over decades by a lot of blood, sweat, and tears from people before me. Elan Mastai was one of those people. He edited it in the ’90s and graduated before I arrived, but we connected when I became a fan of his Toronto comedy troupe, maybe 15 years back. We then lost touch until only a couple of years ago, when we reconnected on Twitter, and I noticed he got a seven-figure book deal... for his debut novel! I ordered it right away, and it didn’t disappoint: a fast-paced, mind-bending time-travel book that reminded me of The Martian and Dark Matter. The pace of the book just keeps accelerating, seemingly going faster and faster the deeper you go. I can’t recommend it enough.
Birds Art Life
by Kyo Maclear (Doubleday Canada)
I loved this fragile, unique small memoir of discovering urban bird-watching while dealing and wrestling with middle age. On its surface, this book may seem strange. A memoir of urban bird-watching? But there’s more here. Maclear writes in this book, “Our economic growth model assumes if you make something small (unless it is boutique and artisanal, and thus financially large or monumentally miniature), it is because you are somehow lacking and frail.” Three cheers for small. Bring back small! This is a book about life’s tiny beautiful things. I loved it.
You Are Stardust
by Elin Kelsey (Owlkids)
This is a beautiful picture book that reads like something Neil DeGrasse Tyson would tell your kids if he were over babysitting. The opening lines over the first few pages are: “You are stardust. Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded long before you were born. You started life as a single cell. So did all other creatures on Planet Earth. Like fish deep in the ocean, you called salt water home. You swam inside the salty sea of your mother’s womb. Salt still flows through your veins, your sweat, and your tears. The sea within you is as salty as the ocean. The water swirling in your glass once filled the puddles where dinosaurs drank.” It is a beautifully head-trippy, relaxing, meditative before-bedtime book.
I’m Afraid of Men
by Vivek Shraya (Penguin Canada)
I often feel like there’s a gigantic emerging world I don’t understand. Worlds, actually. Many worlds. Universes! It’s that Rich Gibbons quote from Chapter 14 of my book-themed podcast 3 Books: “The more I know, the more I know I know nothing.” And I remember hearing a Bill Gates quote when I was a kid that was something like, “Whenever I’m at a magazine stand, I buy a magazine I’ve never heard of, because that’s how you learn.” Dude is smart. I try to apply that to books, too. The tag on this one is, “A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl—and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.” Although it’s one person’s story, as opposed to any sort of broader history or societal overview in general, it was a great read. Brave and enlightening on many levels.
Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World
by Michael Harris (Doubleday Canada)
I’m still thinking about this book all the time. If loneliness is “alone and sad,” then solitude is “alone and happy.” Governor General’s Award–winner Michael Harris peels back the layers of an incredibly subtle life skill to show us why it’s crucial to master, what gets in the way, and how we can reorient ourselves in the distraction machine we live in.
Neil Pasricha is the author of The Book of Awesome and several sequels. His new book, You Are Awesome, will be published in November by Simon & Schuster Canada.