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The Recommend: December 2016

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month, we're pleased to present the picks of authors Yaskuko Thanh (Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains), Mark-Leiren Young (The Killer Whale That Changed the World), Danila Botha (For All the Men and Some of the Women I Have Known), Melanie Martin (A Splendid Boy), and Mia Herrera (Shade). 

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Yasuko Thanh recommends Anosh Irani's The Parcel

Sometimes you read a book that understands you. Where you find yourself dog-earring pages that were written so truthfully or that speak to you like you’re the only one in the room that you can’t let them go. Anosh Irani’s The Parcel recounts the story of Madhu, a retired transgender sex worker living in Bombay’s red light district. The tragedy of Madhu’s life is felt in every line. Every third sentence or so I had to check my heart because the story kept stopping it.

But the power of this work goes beyond its subject matter. There is an urgency behind each word driving the narrative that makes this book m …

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Books to Inspire Writers in the Thick of It

You're looking at what you've written, and it's ... not very good. You can't figure out the voice. You can't make a city come alive. Your dialogue is flat. Your magic realism is way too woo-woo. It's all feeling grim.

Maybe it's time to stop the clicking for a few hours, and go outside. Yes outside (be careful, it might be bright), en route to a bookstore or library near you for inspiration. You might find just the book to untangle your thoughts and give you a whole new idea for how to approach a writing block.

In that spirit, we've compiled a few lists from over the years from generous author-contributors that might be helpful to you (the writer!) on your way to pushing through to something great.

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Great Kid Narrators (a list from Aga Maksimowksa): Aga writes: "These eight [narrators] have made me spurt soda in fits of giggles, cry until I gave myself the hiccups, and highlight their books until the pages turned parking-ticket yellow and tacky with fluorescent ink." To her list we would add narrators from Cordelia Strube's Lemon and On the Shores of Darkness There Is Light, Nancy Lee's The Age, Susan Juby's The Truth Commission, Alan Bradley's Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Teresa Toten's The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b, Susin Nielsen's The Reluctant Journal o …

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City Books and Too Much on the Inside

Book Cover Too Much on the Inside

Danila Botha on the books that inspired her to write about life in the city in her new novel, Too Much on the Inside.

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When I  first started writing my novel, Too Much on the Inside, I knew that I wanted to write about four people who were new to Toronto. I was born in South Africa, and had also lived in Israel, and was inspired by the social realities of both. I also had a lot of Brazilian friends from my time teaching English as a second language, and knew that I wanted to write about their experiences.

At the time I started writing, I was living in Halifax, a beautiful city, and a city later described in the novel by Lukas, the character from Nova Scotia, but I was homesick for the multiculturalism, vibrancy, energy and endless possibilities that existed in my adopted hometown.

I focused on the characters at first,  then quickly realized, as I was writing descriptions of Toronto—from Queen Street to St Clair to Bathurst and Lawrence—that Toronto was becoming the novel’s fifth character.

I knew I had to read and reread some of my favourite novels and short stories collections set in Toronto (and in Montreal and Nova Scotia) for more inspiration. Here are some of my favourites.

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