Picks from Former Staff Members

    • The current month's picks

      Past DVD picks

      Past fiction

      Past graphic novels

      Past non-fiction

      Past children's books

      Past picks by students


      Adventures in Solitude

      Adventures in Solitude
      by Grant Lawrence
      Jennifer G’s Pick

      I picked this book up because it looked like an engaging celebration of the rugged, breathtakingly gorgeous Sunshine Coast that has become my home. It was just that! Lawrence’s earthy humour and smatterings of personal and local history were entertaining from start to finish. I was left craving the summer sun, an invigorating ocean swim, some fresh seafood and cold beer.
      Art 21

      Art:21 art in the 21st Century
      Created by Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling
      Jennifer P's Pick

      This is an extensive and exciting survey of artists burning up contemporary art scenes around the world, put together by the good ol’ PBS. Each series explores three to four themes (i.e. power, romance, ecology, etc.) and presents the viewer with a grouping of artists whose works directly or indirectly respond to these themes. The artists selected are as diverse as their practice, demonstrating just how dynamic the world of art making is in our present century. A fascinating watch from the perspective of the avid art lover right down to those mildly curious.
      Bark, George

      Bark, George
      by Jules Feiffer
      George’s Pick

      Long before we knew what the fox says George the dog was going meow, quack, and oink. Is this a whimsical story about a silly dog? Or a cautionary tale about a twisted canine with an insatiable appetite for flesh? Preschoolers love its engaging simplicity; adults worry about the grammar and message – what will the kid inside you say?
      Book Thief

      The Book Thief
      by Markus Zusak
      Shannon's Pick

      Set in Nazi Germany, Death narrates the story of a young girl's relationships with her adoptive parents, her friends, and a Jewish man hiding in her family’s basement who shares her love for reading.
      Bossypants

      Bossypants
      by Tina Fey
      Connie's Pick

      Tina Fey’s anecdotal self-appraisal is an entertaining and engaging read. She elicits a smile (okay, an outright giggle) with her encounters. And, not surprisingly, if you’ve watched her host the Golden Globes, she delivers with her comedic style of presentation. All in all, an easy, light, pleasant read – perfect for the holidays or a rainy day.
      Breakfast of Champions

      Breakfast of Champions
      by Kurt Vonnegut
      Trevor's Pick

      Funny, heartfelt, irreverent, weird. This is pure Vonnegut … and sadly you will never, ever, look at an asterisk the same way again.
      Buddha of Suburbia

      Buddha of Suburbia
      by Hanif Kureishi
      Trevor's Pick

      Damn this is fun! Karim is a young Anglo-Pakistani coming of age in 1970s London. Funny, smart, and dirty jokes make Kureishi’s first novel a joy to read.
      Capital

      Capital in the Twenty-First Century
      by Thomas Piketty
      Trevor’s Pick

      Destined to be a classic.
      Carnival

      Carnival
      by Rawi Hage
      Leanna’s Pick

      In a world that is seemingly absurd – where Carnival characters and workers roam the city, where the main character's fantastical thoughts verge on reality, where a flying carpet can replace a taxi – Rawi Hage challenges his readers to confront the norms of class, urban life, the immigrant experience, racism, and the treatment of the 'other'. Grit and violence coexist with beauty and love. Told from the perspective of Fly, who grew up in a circus and now drives a taxi, “Carnival is a tour de force that will make all of life's passengers squirm in their comfortable, complacent backseats” (from jacket cover). Hage's other two novels – De Niro's Game and Cockroach are also in the Capilano University Library collection.
      Chronicles of the Black Company

      Chronicles of the Black Company
      by Glen Cook
      Alison’s Pick

      I read Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook last summer. It’s technically 3 books in 1. It’s a morally ambiguous fantasy novel where the fantasy elements come secondary to the well-written characters. The review on the back really describes it well, “like reading Vietnam War fiction on peyote.”
      Cold Days

      Cold Days
      by Jim Butcher
      Connie's Pick

      This is the latest in The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. It is my backup read when I’m on a trip. I enjoy the interplay between humans and fairies and all the other denizens. although I skipped some of the intervening books in the series, it was easy to slip back into his groove. The author comes up with some outrageous plots but manages to make it all come together in the end.
      Collected Poems

      Collected Poems
      by Edna St. Vincent Millay
      Jennifer G’s Pick

      If a recent Robbie Burns’ celebration (or looming Valentine’s Day stress) finds you searching for some memorable poetry, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Collected Poems are highly recommended. From passionate sonnets to honest contemplations of our mortality and death, she covers it all. Though I’m admittedly not an avid reader of poetry, her work has stayed with me for years.
      A Complicated Kindness

      A Complicated Kindness
      by Miriam Toews
      Jennifer P's Pick

      This book really placed Canadian writer Miriam Toews on the literary radar after it won the Governor General’s award for English Fiction in 2004. It’s a story told from the perspective of a teenage girl, and it explores grief and loss through humour and wit in a way only Toews can craft. It’s also written how teenage girl might think. As a result, I found it took me a moment to get into the “flow” or style of writing, but I guarantee once you are into it you’ll want to be sure every time you open the book you are in a safe place to bust a gut. Seriously, it’s so funny.
      Conquest of the Incas

      Conquest of the Incas
      by John Hemming
      Trevor’s Pick

      There are a handful of history books that I would undoubtedly call a work of genius, and this is one of them. With the conquest of the Incan empire with only 160 men, Pizarro changed the course of South America. Of course it’s depressing and difficult to see how the Incan empire crumbled, but his research is simply astonishing and his prose informative and interesting.
      Dogs Are Eating Them Now

      The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan
      by Graeme Smith
      Leanna's Pick

      This account of former Globe & Mail reporter Graeme Smith’s time in Afghanistan has received recognition for its quality reportage and personal perspective. Winner of the 2013 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, Smith’s account “provides a candid look at the Taliban's continued influence—and at the mistakes, catastrophes, and ultimate failure of the West's best intentions” (Writers’ Trust). In a 2013 interview with the CBC, Smith said “I want you to emerge from the book feeling a bit uneasy, perhaps a little tainted, unable to shake off the lingering images of war.” Required reading for those who want to investigate Canada’s and the West’s legacy in Afghanistan.
      Feynman

      Feynman
      by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick
      Trevor's Pick

      A graphic novel on quantum physics and the really funny Nobel-prize winner Richard Feynman.
      A Fine Balance

      A Fine Balance
      by Rohinton Mistry
      Jennifer G’s Pick

      More than a decade after publication, this remains one of my favourite books by a Canadian author. Mistry’s writing style is clear and accessible while being profoundly corporeal. It completely transports the reader to another time and place, Bombay in the mid-70s. The four main characters are true. They are fallible and loveable overcoming extreme tragedy and hardship while maintaining threads of humour and hope.
      The Fionavar Tapestry

      The Fionavar Tapestry
      by Guy Gavriel Kay
      Trevor’s Pick

      Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian treasure. Before beginning his career in writing fantasy, he helped edit Tolkien’s Silmarillion, and then he created the Fionavar Tapestry. Loosely based on Norse Myths this is still the only series I could just not put down as I found myself being pulled further and further into this world with every chapter. Sure it is the tale of 5 U of T students pulled into this fantasy equivalent of Raiders of the Lost Arc – the action and twists just don’t stop. Truly a gem.
      Future of Development

      The Future of Development: A Radical Manifesto
      by Gustavo Esteva
      Leanna's Pick

      This book challenges current conventions of what it means for a country to be developed or underdeveloped and what it means for a people to live well. The authors investigate and interrogate the international organizations and statistics used to measure the world’s development and “argue that it is possible for everyone on the planet to live well, but only if we learn to live as communities rather than as individuals and to nurture our respective commons” (book jacket). This is a valuable title for students interested in global studies, global stewardship, political science and economics.
       Gods Behaving Badly

      Gods Behaving Badly
      by Marie Phillips
      Connie's Pick

      This is a humorous novel about Greek gods and goddesses living a human existence. A witty and innovative plot makes this unlikely premise work. When humans have doubts about the existence of immortal beings, how does that affect their well-being? How do they cope with their new circumstances? Well, you will have to read this book in order to find out… It was perfect light reading during a recent trip, where I was able to put it away and then take it out, easily resuming from where I had left off, chuckling to myself while on the plane.
      Golden Spruce

      The Golden Spruce
      by John Vaillant
      Leanna’s Pick

      I reconnected with the story of Kiidk'yaas – the golden Sitka spruce tree – after watching the film Hadwin’s Judgement at the this year’s Vancouver Film Festival. The film is a retelling of Vaillant’s first book, The Golden Spruce. The book, subtitled “A true story of myth, madness, and greed,” tells the story of the cutting down of the Golden Spruce by Grant Hadwin – a man who made his living in the forest, but was compelled to destroy one of Haida Gwaii’s most sacred trees, in response to he industrial destruction of old growth forests. Vaillant’s ability to intertwine meticulous research with amazing storytelling brings this complex time and event into focus for the reader, providing a greater understanding of the fate and future of Kiidk'yaas, the Haida and their home, and a world impacted by the clear cutting of North American forests and insatiable appetite for wood.
      Good in Bed

      Good in Bed
      by Jennifer Weiner
      Connie's Pick

      This read was a lot of fun and also endearing. The perspective is from someone who would be “classified” as overweight. The main character is a successful career woman with a lot of chutzpah. But her path to happiness is not a straight line and this tale is littered with good intentions, failed relationships, and heartache. I not only found myself entertained, but also found some of my perceptions altered and challenged.
      The Good Soldier Schweik

      The Good Soldier Schweik
      by Jaroslav Hasek
      Trevor’s Pick

      Possibly the funniest book about the First World War. Schweik is a good-hearted buffoon who through an ongoing ridiculous series of events goes from Prague to the Eastern Front. Loved by readers and banned by armies around the world, it is just darn fun.
      Great War

      The Great War and Modern Memory
      by Paul Fussell
      Trevor's Pick

      An intelligent and seminal book looking at what the soldiers during World War I experienced. From poems to diaries, Fussell provides one of the most insightful views into what happened during the war by the men who experienced it.
      Hardcore Logo

      Hard Core Logo
      Directed by Bruce McDonald
      Trevor's Pick

      Tarantino loves this one! Headstones’ frontman Hugh Dillon leads the fictional punk band’s reunion tour across Canada as the aging rockers try to make some more dough. Based on the works of Michael Turner (The Pornographer’s Poem: a novel), Bruce McDonald’s documentary-style road trip has possibly one of the best soundtracks you will ever hear. Yeah, you’ll have “Son of a Bitch to the Core” stuck in your head after seeing this one.
      History of the World in 6 Glasses

      A History of the World in 6 Glasses
      by Tom Standage
      Trevor’s Pick

      I always say that History is more fun with a pint, and this book looks at how all human civilizations have worked thanks to beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. So pour yourself a cold one, grab a deck chair, and relax this summer with a tall drink of history.
      The Information

      The Information
      by Carl Hiassen
      Trevor’s Pick

      Wonderful book looking at not simply how technology works, but the content we encode in technology. From drums that carried messages to Turing and Weaver, this is a fascinating look at how we push information into a world beyond ourselves.
      The Jade Peony

      The Jade Peony
      by Wayson Choy
      Alison’s Pick

      A tale of three children living in 1930s and WWII era Chinatown in Vancouver struggling to find their identities as Chinese-Canadians.
      Jonathan Strange

      Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
      by Susanna Clarke
      Alison’s Pick

      This 2004 debut novel presents an alternate 19th-century, Napoleonic Wars England. It is based on the simple premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men, Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange, but Clarke draws on traditional English faerie tales and myth to create a sinister backstory to this story of the rivalry between two magicians.
      Joss Whedon and Religion

      Joss Whedon and Religion
      edited by Anthony R. Mills, John W. Morehead, and J. Ryan Parker
      Leanna’s Pick

      Attention lovers of all things Buffy, Angel, and Firefly! This collection of essays takes a look at the religious themes in screenwriter Joss Whedon’s creations. “The book addresses such topics as ethics, racism, feminism, politics, witchcraft, spiritual transformation, identity, community heroism, apocalypse and other theologically significant themes” (from book cover). A must for Whedon fans and aficionados.
      The Last Light of the Sun

      The Last Light of the Sun
      by Guy Gavriel Kay
      Trevor’s Pick

      VIKINGS!!!!! After the Fionavar Tapestry, Kay started creating fantasies based on distinct historical periods. In a way these are simply period novels based on known history with new place names and a dash of magic. For the Last Light of the Sun, he takes the Viking raids on the British Isles to create a perfect summer read. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
      Martian Time Slip

      Martian Time-Slip
      by Philip K. Dick
      Trevor's Pick

      Bloody weird book. After reading Blade Runner I wanted to read more by Dick and was impressed by this weird hodgepodge of a book with the UN, land speculation, Union leaders, and a young boy who can send people into the future. Oh and of course they’re on Mars. Definitely one of Dick’s best and made me a lifelong fan.
      Media in Transitional Democracies

      The Media in Transitional Democracies
      by Katrin Voltmer
      Leanna's Pick

      Today’s news headlines are filled with stories of countries around the globe moving toward democracy – but how does that news reach us and the citizens in the transforming countries? What is the media’s role in global democratization and how do media themselves move from propaganda to information delivery and to an institution of accountability? These questions and more are investigated by Voltmer, whose book “takes a global view by exploring the interplay of political and media transitions in different pathways of democratization that have taken place in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia” (book jacket). This book will be of interest to Communication and Media Studies students and current events followers.
      Moody Cow Meditates

      Moody Cow Meditates
      by Kerry Lee MacLean
      Connie’s Pick

      Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean resonates with me of course because I practise yoga and enjoy the moments of meditation that it encourages. My grandsons were very attentive when I read them the story of Moody Cow’s terrible day and how he let his temper get the best of him. His mother wisely suggested a visit to his grandfather, where he watched all his angry thoughts “swirl around like crazy in the jar.”
      I enjoyed spending Halloween with my two grandsons and had a lot of fun. However, it was exhausting and the next day, I was able to tell them that I felt like Moody Cow and needed a yoga “time-out.”
      My Brilliant Friend

      My Brilliant Friend
      by Elena Ferrante
      Connie’s Pick

      My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is the first book of the “Neapolitan Novels.” The daily challenges of two young girls, Elena and Lila, united at an early age by their mutual determination to succeed, are so empathetically described that you are immediately immersed in their struggle for an education and a better life. Their environment is an impoverished suburb of Naples after WWII where the residents strive to rebuild amidst the postwar destruction and political upheaval.
      The Neapolitan Novels is a 4-part series by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein. They include the texts: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (September, 2015).
      Next of Kin

      Next of Kin
      by Roger Fouts
      Trevor’s Pick

      One of my top 5 favourite books. Before Coco the Gorilla there was Washoe and Dr. Fouts. Fouts was a young graduate student unexpectedly working on a groundbreaking new study: teaching Chimpanzees to use American Sign Language. Next of Kin details the lives of Fouts and Washoe, the first non-human to communicate with people. From his life as a graduate student, to becoming a passionate animal rights advocate, this is one of the most amazing stories. I eagerly push this book on all my family and friends. Dare ya not to love it!
      No 1 Ladies

      The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
      by Alexander McCall Smith
      Connie's Pick

      The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a quick, fun read. If, like me, you prefer your mysteries ‘light and humorous,’ this series is a good fit. It helps that the detective is not stereotypical. The interaction between staff and clients is most entertaining. Precious Ramotswe is a detective in Botswana where she navigates the countryside in her tiny white van. Her sleuthing produces results because she is observant and caring. The author’s knowledge of the country lends authenticity to his storytelling. It was intriguing to learn more about Botswana and its people during the course of her investigations.
      On the Front Line

      On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin
      by Marie Colvin
      Leanna's Pick

      Award-winning and veteran war reporter Marie Colvin was killed in 2012 in Syria. Her legacy lives on in her work, including this collection that spans about 20 years of Colvin’s work, reporting for the Sunday Times. From Libya to Kosovo and Zimbabwe to Sri Lanka, Colvin reported from the frontlines, providing the world with accounts of events that have shaped history – and our future.
      The Orenda

      The Orenda
      by Joseph Boyden
      Leanna’s Pick

      Joseph Boyden’s latest novel transports readers back to the early 17th century, to the land that was to become Canada. Told through three main characters – a Huron warrior, a captured Iroquois girl, and a Jesuit missionary – the story travels through many seasons, narrating the historic intersection of First Nations people with colonists and missionaries. With graphic and violent detail, the wars between the Huron and Iroquois and the devastating effect of colonization is shown through the eyes of all three characters. While this three-part telling provides the readers with varying points of view and motivation, it never comes to a satisfactory or clean conclusion: nothing is romanticized, no-one can claim a moral superiority. As Quill and Quire reviewer Kamal Al-Slaylee writes, this story “is Boyden’s struggle – as a writer, a Canadian, and a human being – to reconcile the irreconcilable.” The Orenda won the CBC 2014 Canada Reads contest, was shortlisted for the 2013 Governor General’s Award for English fiction, and longlisted for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Boyden’s previous novels, Three Day Road and Through the Black Spruce are also available at CapU Library.
      Perfume

      Perfume
      by Patrick Süskind
      Shannon's Pick

      When Jean-Baptiste Grenouille discovers he has no scent, he is determined to create the perfect perfume using his incredible sense of smell and perfume making skills. In order to create the perfume he commits a series of murders leaving the entire city on edge. If you enjoy books that are on the creepy side, you should definitely read this.
      P&P&Z

      Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
      by Seth Grahame-Smith & Jane Austin
      Alison’s Pick

      Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is likely the result of a English Literature society's end of term pub night. The result is a clever mash-up of zombie movie clichés and regency social drama.
      Ragnarok

      Ragnarok
      by A.S. Byatt
      Trevor’s Pick

      Great holiday read. Cool retelling of the Norse myths, which are cool by themselves, but Byatt ties these stories together so well that they are perfect for curling up by the fireplace after your exams.
      Simulacra and Simulation

      Simulacra and Simulation
      by Jean Baudrillard
      Trevor’s Pick

      “Welcome to the desert of the real….” words spoken by Morpheus in The Matrix, but actually written by Baudrillard in 1981. His work on hyperreality becomes more relevant every single day. He was one of France’s foremost post-modernist thinkers and this book explains so much of our world.

      Stardust

      Stardust
      by Neil Gaiman
      Shannon's Pick

      This is a fun and quick read about a young man named Tristan who leaves the safety of Wall to find a shooting star that has landed in Faerie. While on his journey he encounters a lot of adventure, meets interesting characters, and learns about his family history.
      Story of a New Name

      The Story of a New Name
      by Elena Ferrante
      Connie’s Pick

      In The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, the second book of the “Neapolitan Novels,” the two girls are striving to develop their individuality in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Brilliant Lila is hemmed in by her family’s ambitions, whereas Elena is more fortunate to at least be able to ‘earn’ the grudging support of hers. These forces propel them in different directions towards achieving their goals.
      The writing is lyrical: “time quiets down and the important facts slide along the thread of years…” p.336

      The Neapolitan Novels is a 4-part series by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein. They include the texts: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (2015).
      This Is Happy

      This Is Happy
      by Camilla Gibb
      Grace’s Pick

      Gibb is an Oxford scholar who examines her life with a microscope in order to understand her own depression, the mental illness of her father, and the profound impact of growing up in a family where there are no stories told and where much is hidden. As an adult she creates her own ‘family’, community, and an understanding of how happiness might be possible. This book is thought provoking and despite the content, quite optimistic.
      We Need New Names

      We Need New Names
      by NoViolet Bulawayo
      Connie's Pick

      I am interested in reading articles and books about Africa. However, this year, while I read this book, my son and his family were living in Zimbabwe (a two-year World Vision work placement).

      Life in Zimbabwe is seen through the eyes of a young girl named Darling. Half of the book is about her life in Zimbabwe amid strife and poverty. She is able to get to America because her aunt lives in Detroit. Her life in America has its own challenges, of course.

      It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
      What Does the Fox Say?

      What Does the Fox Say?
      by Ylvis
      George's Pick

      Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

      Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

      Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

      wire

      The Wire
      Created by David Simon and Ed Burns
      Trevor's Pick

      One of the smartest shows of all time. Over five seasons, this Baltimore police drama looked at both sides of cops and criminals where you start to understand both groups better – you probably don’t like either of them by the end, but wow, what a ride.