Reporters and editors in the Journal’s newsroom work day in and day out to pinpoint the perfect words to tell Edmonton’s stories.
Off the clock, many are serious readers too. We asked our team of journalists to share their favourite reads of 2018, whether it be a vintage find or a newly published work. Here’s their eclectic list, which includes favourites from the realms of fact and fiction.
Nunslinger — Stark Holborn
I’m a sucker for a good western, and Stark Holborn’s Nunslinger didn’t disappoint. The cadence of the book takes a little getting used to; it was written and originally published in a serial format online. I read the story in its full, paperback novel iteration, and found the cliffhangers that pop up every few pages a bit jarring, but fun. The campy title and premise of bride-of-Christ-gone-rogue belie a tale that both upholds the western genre’s best traditions, and gives voice and authority to characters too often relegated to the background in frontier fantasy.— Paige Parsons
Her Body and Other Parties — Carmen Maria Machado
This book floored me. It’s a debut collection of eight short stories, all told from a female perspective. Somehow this brilliant writer moves between science fiction, comedy, horror and fantasy, exploring themes ranging from queerness to body image to motherhood. Each story is spellbinding in its own way, whether it’s exploring the seedy streets of Law and Order: SVU, or learning about one woman’s sexual encounters in a post-apocalyptic world. I continue to remember Machado’s bizarre and wonderful lines that made my heart ache and soar all at once. Published late 2017, this National Book Award finalist includes some of Machado’s more well-known stories like ‘The Husband Stitch.’
— Clare Clancy
Mental Speed Bumps — David Engwicht
A friend lent me a copy of David Engwicht’s Mental Speed Bumps just after city council debated speed limits in residential neighbourhoods. It’s a favourite because he has such a different way of looking at the issue. To Engwicht, speeding is a social issue rather than an engineering problem. People drive quickly through neighbourhoods because there are no social cues telling them to slow down — no children playing in front yards, people walking and talking at the edge of the street. It’s dangerous because the street looks predictable (and only rarely is not). I’m still puzzling this one through.
— Elise Stolte
Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece — Michael Benson
I’m a fan of the film and of the science-fiction genre so this book, published in April to coincide with the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s release, demanded to be read. Benson, a filmmaker with a journalism background, explores in detail the film’s fraught evolution, the technical innovation it required and the complicated relationship between its creators: the minutely controlling director, Kubrik, and the surprisingly easily manipulated sci-fi author and icon, Clarke. It’s a great examination of the film that gave sci-fi big-screen credibility while cementing Kubrik’s reputation as an innovative artist with box-office power.
— Barry Hanson
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda — Becky Albertalli
This coming-of age story about a teenager navigating the tricky corridor to adulthood was the one that stuck with me this year. Albertalli crafts a tale of self-identity and young love told through the lens of 17-year-old Simon, with real-life moments everyone who’s been through adolescence can relate to. The story, told primarily through emails and the power of social media, is reminiscent of a modern-day The Catcher in the Rye. The novel tackles family relationships in a way that can spark discussions after sharing a book everyone can enjoy. The 2015 novel was also the inspiration for a 2018 Hollywood film, Love, Simon — something I also recommend.
— Dustin Cook
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly — Anthony Bourdain
Like much of the world, the suicide of Anthony Bourdain this year spurred me to pick up his first book, 2000’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly as a salve. It’s clear why the book made him a celebrity — its unflinching truth of what goes on behind kitchen doors garnished with his razor wit presented the unique voice of someone you wouldn’t mind sharing a beer (or something harder) with in the after hours. Honest, hilarious and at the time controversial, the book is the gonzo-spirit appetizer of the essence of Bourdain.
— Chad Huculak
Fangoria, Volume 2
As a horror film fan before the internet was a thing, the way to keep up on news about the genre was from Fangoria magazine. It featured interviews with Special FX makeup artists like Tom Savini or directors like Wes Craven. I grew up on this. Sadly in 2015, it folded and the saying “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” hit this horror fan hard. But earlier this year Fangoria announced its return as a quarterly magazine. The first issue came out in October and it was wonderful. Horror fans have their zine back.
— Nathan Martin
Himself — Jess Kidd
A thumbs up from a book club compatriot and a quaint cover with a bumble bee initially prompted me to crack open British author Jess Kidd’s debut novel. Her rich blend of Irish characters, both real and fantastical, kept me turning the pages late into the night. Set in the mid-1970s, the story pivots around Mahony, a man in his 20s raised in a Dublin orphanage who returns to the coastal village of Mulderrig to find out what really happened to his mother decades earlier. The story delivers a mix of mystery and fantasy, folklore and crime. Some might find the many strange happenings in the village of Mulderrig a bit much, but I thought it was just weird enough.
— Sarah O’Donnell
Dead Men’s Trousers — Irvine Welsh
There’s something heartwarming about reconnecting with old mates, even if you haven’t been in touch in a long time, settling old scores, and reforging those bonds. This is as true in real life as it is when it’s your favourite literary characters. Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie cross paths once again in Irvine Welsh’s Dead Men’s Trousers, a sequel to 2016’s The Blade Artist. The four punters from Leith, made famous in 1993’s Trainspotting, are brought back together after some chance encounters and are forced to confront old grudges and face their own existential angst, all the while managing lives as a DJ manager, pimp, beggar and artist. Through its dark humour and madcap schemes (organ harvesting and managing a brothel, to name a couple), it makes the reader laugh and wince in equal measure as the quartet all have to come to terms with one another.
— Dave Breakenridge
You Don’t Look Fat, You Look Crazy: An Unapologetic Guide to Being Ambitchous — Ashley Longshore
Every aspiring artist needs to read this. Full disclosure: I’m a total Ashley Longshore fangirl. I read this book in one Saturday. I cried, laughed, swore and got fired up about making my own art again because Ashley’s ambition is infectious. Her raw, snot bubble-filled, real-life hustler story of how she became the successful pop artist she is today draws you in. Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t easy, but oh-my-gawd she tells you a roller-coaster crazy real story, with a lot of her cool art woven throughout the book.
— Lori Waughtal
The Rachel Papers — Martin Amis
Published in 1973, the short novel is the first by the acclaimed British writer, Martin Amis. This is amazing to me, because it feels like anything but an amateur effort. Breezy and laugh-out-loud funny, the book profiles Charles Highway, a callow youth determined to sleep with an older woman before his 20th birthday. An unreliable narrator, Highway fancies himself a sexual expert, and pens detailed descriptions of his technique, a fast-paced exercise that elicits a hysterical “please stop doing that” from his target. In later years, Amis decried this first outing as “crude,” but I literally cried with laughter.
— Liane Faulder
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City — Matthew Desmond
I picked up the book last winter but didn’t start for a few months because let’s face it, the subject matter is a bit dreary. Evicted follows precarious renters and landlords in Milwaukee and indeed, it can be completely brutal. But it’s also insightful, at times funny and overall a fascinating bit of sociology. It looks at how evictions, once a subject of neighbourhood protest, became an accepted and pervasive part of American life. It shows the system as a whole. You feel tremendous sympathy for the renters, but you also understand the incentives and disincentives landlords face. I suggest reading the afterward first, which details the incredible reporting Desmond put into this.
— Jonny Wakefield
Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL — Jeff Pearlman
My interest in this book started when the author phoned me in his attempt to find Hugh Campbell. He explained he was working on his dream project, the story of the United States Football League. Campbell left the Eskimos to coach the league’s L.A. Express. The book turned out to be not only a wonderful collection of wild and wacky anecdotes about the short-lived circuit but loaded with misfits and characters and talents such as Gizmo Williams. It was my favourite book of the year until Pearlman introduced the new owner of the New Jersey Generals, one Donald Trump. From there, the book became an important political project, revealing the current U.S. president to have given the world a preview of nearly every aspect of what we’re watching now way back then. It’s a rollicking read and remarkably revealing of the flawed character of Trump, the man essentially most responsible for bringing down the USFL.
— Terry Jones
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil — Tom Mueller
As an enthusiastic cook who goes through a lot of olive oil, this book was an absolute cracker that opened my eyes to the nonsense olive oil that we have come to accept as normal. Mueller put incredible research into this book — from Europe, Australia and the United States — and it’s left me thinking about where my olive oil comes from, its quality and what it means to farmers. I am now obsessed with finding top-quality oil (and I’m sure it’s annoying my husband). A must-read for anyone who cares about the origins of their food.
— Emma Graney
Munich — Robert Harris
The Munich Agreement of 1938 is synonymous with the concept of appeasement, in which the western powers of Europe relented to the demands of an expansionist Nazi Germany. Harris transports the reader back to that momentous event, but uses the lens of historical fiction to offer a unique, thought-provoking take. In particular, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is cast as a more intriguing player than the weak capitulator role history has ascribed to him. Though the ending is uneven, this is still highly satisfying thanks to Harris’s mastery of delivering rich, accurate detail while simultaneously building suspense.
— Keith Gerein
Babe: The Legend Comes To Life — Robert W. Creamer
The old sports editor is currently reading — what else? — an old sports book about an old sports star. It just happens to be about one of the biggest stars of them all, Babe Ruth, written by the fine Robert Creamer and published in 1974. The story of Ruth is fascinating in general, from his vagabond upbringing in Baltimore to his baseball-god status as the prime member of the Yankees’ Murderers Row in the 1920s. He still is one of the most endearing celebrities of all time in any field. And while plenty has been written about Ruth, Creamer’s version of the tale is engrossing — the tapestry of detail is mind-boggling for a “sports book.” While I’m sure he pored over plenty a newspaper recap to recount (minus clichés and jargon) Ruth’s feats on the diamond, he talked to many a former teammate and rival, too, painting a layered portrait. Ruth certainly comes to life in this one.
— Craig Ellingson
Watergate — Thomas Mallon
The late Richard M. Nixon has 47,000 Twitter followers and I am one of them. Watergate, the scandal that helped define the 37th president of the United States, has fascinated me for decades. I remember watching the congressional hearings on our black and white television in the mid-1970s. I have listened to hundreds of Nixon tapes and my first wedding day was also the 12th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. I have accumulated something of a Nixon library and Mallon’s book stands out first because it is a work of fiction, but mostly because he crawls inside the heads of Watergate’s central actors and provides a completely believable and gripping commentary on the scandal.
— Dan Barnes
The Sandman — Neil Gaiman
A set of 13 graphic novels, this is the breathtaking masterpiece that earned Gaiman his subtle international fame. Set around a dysfunctional, larger-than-gods family of eternals known as the Endless — Dream, Death, Desire, Delirium, Destiny, Destruction and Despair — the real magic of these stories is the gigantic cast of mortals affected in their wake, the highly literate stories in its most recent chapter going back to before the Earth was born. You will cry, cover your mouth in horror and gasp with joy as its dozens of seemingly separate stories click together in the end in a way Asimov would envy. I’ve really never read anything like it.
— Fish Griwkowsky
All the Light We Cannot see — Anthony Doerr
As a history buff, I was drawn to this novel written about the lives of two children in Germany and France as the Second World War engulfs Europe. One is the blind daughter of a French museum keeper entrusted with the safekeeping of a priceless jewel; the other is a German orphan boy who can fix anything and loves radios. For different reasons, both of their unusual backgrounds draw the attention of the Nazis. Their paths eventually converge as the Allies close in. As compelling as the story is, it took me an embarrassingly long time to get through it. Perhaps I kept putting it down and coming back because while the story is compelling, it’s also long and full of lyrical (overwritten?) description and relentlessly comprehensive backstories. If that doesn’t daunt you, it’s a book as intricate and unique as the puzzle boxes portrayed in the story.
— Bill Mah
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me — Sherman Alexie
If you want to get to know someone, ask about their mother. I’ve been turned on to Sherman Alexie for three decades, and with this memoir on the death of his mom — a woman complicated by her own histories — I’ve come to know him, to love him, even to dislike him, more. Alexie’s childhood on the Coeur d’ Alene Indian Reservation was one stung by humour, hate, love, fear and pain. The main line running through all these squares of emotions is his conflicted tie to his beautiful shattered mother. Like the quilts she wove, the memoir is a patchwork of ugliness and joy strung together in 450 pages of prose, poetry. He is contradiction connecting us all with musings about his ferocious delicate matriarch. As she was, is he.
— Nicole Bergot
Midnight Light, A Personal Journey to the North — Dave Bidini
Just out this past fall, Bidini recounts his adventures as a guest columnist at the Yellowknifer newspaper in the capital of the Northwest Territories. While much of the book focuses on the trial of a reporter charged with obstructing police officers while taking photos of a van being searched on a downtown street, it is Bidini’s travels to the communities that make this a worthwhile read. Through visits to Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and Deline, Bidini is able to vividly portray the true legacy of the residential school system through the eyes of residents. It’s not pretty, involving sexual abuse, alcohol and violence. But it’s also something people in the big cities in the south should know about.
— Glenn Werkman
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow — Yuval Noah Harari
If Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind traces the path of how we got here and why things are the way they are, then Harari’s followup may very well provide a road map of where humanity will end up, and what will follow. Harari connects the dots like no other, and presents it all without feeling the need to come across as the smartest guy in the room. Spoiler alert: He quite likely is.
— Gerry Moddejonge
The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine — Tom Standage
Every year I promise myself that I’ll replace at least some of the non-fiction books on my reading list with fiction and every year I fail miserably. This year’s amazing find comes from 2002 and details the inner machinations of an automaton that played chess. In the 18th century it toured Europe with some of the greatest minds — Catherine the Great, Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allan Poe — becoming enthralled at how it worked. How does it work? Well I don’t want to ruin the ending.
— Juris Graney
The Road to Serfdom — F.A. Hayek
It’s a challenging time for those of us who still hold tight to individualism, liberty, meritocracy and colour blindness in racial matters. Identity politics, socialism and the politics of group grievance are ascendant in our politics. There’s a new need to make coherent and persuasive arguments against popular collectivist approaches. For understanding, I turned to economist F.A Hayek’s classic 1944 work, The Road to Serfdom. In his study of the socialist roots of Nazi Germany, Hayek demonstrates how allowing any government to seize control of an economy inevitably leads to despotism. If we fail to uphold classic liberal values, Hayek warns, we’re headed for tyranny.
— David Staples
The Dagenham Murder: The brutal killing of PC George Clark, 1846 — Linda Rhodes, Lee Shelden, Kathryn Abnett
Librarians and historians from the London borough of Barking & Dagenham had a jolly geek out through newspaper archives, police, church and court records among hundreds of other sources to piece together the story of the unsolved murder of 20-year-old police constable George Clark, who was killed just six weeks into his station in the then-rural settlement. True-crime lovers who delight in historical context and newly found sources will appreciate the fruitcake-density detail in this impeccably researched tale. Why am I reading a British history book published in 2005? My great-great-great grandfather was one of three fellow police officers convicted of perjury in connection with the case — a proud family moment, indeed.
— Janet French
Clare Drake: The Coaches Coach — Derek Drager
I knew Coach Drake for almost 50 years but I didn’t know until reading Derek Drager’s entertaining book that the Hockey Hall of Famer Drake and pregnant wife Dolly travelled from Quebec City to Germany for nine days on a ship, somewhere between a tramp steamer and an ocean liner, in 1954 for Clare’s first pro coaching job in Dusseldorf. Only two of his German players spoke English but there Clare was on a team bus shortly after arriving, furiously drawing Xs and Os for a bunch of guys who could barely understand what he was saying. Not that it deterred Coach Drake. He could explain hockey like nobody else, language barrier or not.
— Jim Matheson
The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy — Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis’s writing is so fun and easy to read, you’re almost happy with how badly Donald Trump botched his government’s transition in 2016-17. The insanity begins with Trump firing Chris Christie as his transition chief, making the former New Jersey governor seem like a hero of public service, and not the fool he is often portrayed as. Tales of government employees eagerly waiting to brief the new administration, only to be repeatedly stood up is a fascinating look into the Trump White House. But Lewis heavily implies something more sinister is going on. He presents all the ways the U.S. government’s data on climate change or nuclear-waste disposal is being suppressed or ignored. It almost takes all the fun out of Lewis’s lovely prose.
— Carson Jerema
The Good Son, the Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini — Mark Kriegel
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini was my favourite boxer as a kid. I didn’t know much about boxing or Mancini himself when I was younger, I just liked the nickname, “Boom Boom.” Back before cable channels like HBO or TSN, boxing was only broadcast on major networks, and due to Mancini’s talent and style, his fights were usually shown nationally, and my father and I would watch whenever “Boom Boom” was fighting. The Good Son chronicles the life of Mancini from his days growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, through his most infamous bout where South Korean opponent Duk Koo Kim died after being knocked out in the 14th round of a championship fight. I had the pleasure of meeting Mancini once and told him how his fights would bring my father and I closer together. Mancini had a close relationship with his father, too, who was also a boxer, and dedicated his first World Championship title to him.
— Derek Van Diest
Source : https://edmontonjournal.com/news/insight/words-we-loved-journal-staff-share-their-favourite-books-of-2018