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Arts in Review

Top books of 2014

Top 6 books of 2014 as ranked and rated by contributors and staff.



Print Edition: January 21, 2015

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Yes Please (Amy Poehler)

Yes Please

Remember how great Tina Fey’s Bossypants was? Fey’s partner in crime Amy Poehler’s debut memoir is just as good. Yes Please gave me true feminist joy. Poehler isn’t as raunchy as her fellow comedian memoir-writers — Sarah Silverman, Caitlan Moran, Mindy Kahling, Tina Fey, Lena Dunham — but her humour is on point. It’s the type of humour that makes you pause, then nod approvingly in that classy way (then sip your red wine). Poehler’s got lovable charisma, authenticity, and heart. She’s good to her fellow female comedians. She doesn’t tell all but she tells enough, especially considering she was divorcing Will Arnet at time of writing. It’ll sit alongside Silverman’s The Bedwetter, Fey’s Bossypants, and Moran’s How to Be a Woman on the shelf of candid, hilarious memoirs by women I love.  — SM



The Southern Reach trilogy is a masterful work of science fiction art; surprisingly, the entire trilogy was published in only one year. This series offers a wide range of well-developed characters, each with stories to tell within the greater narrative. Vandermeer expertly weaves a thrilling tale with moments of poetic prose and a lingering atmosphere of unnerving weirdness. From beginning to end it holds the reader in a sense of wonder and revulsion, mindfulness and dissonance. —AB


The Back of the Turtle

The same authorial playfulness and complex cultural layering that marked Green Grass Running Water is strong and alive in King’s The Back of the Turtle, but it’s paired with the glint (and occasional slice) of steel that hovered beneath the surface in the former work. With it he aims unflinchingly at the wrong in the world. One of the things I love best about King is his ability to juggle the globe (and its contents) on the back of one hand with his pen in the other. However, as much as his myth-twisting, allusions, and other literary elements make him a top-notch story-weaver, it’s the storytelling that really makes him a master. The narrative is unfailingly approachable and crisp (in-joke!), and it strikes a perfect balance among the funny, the serious, and the human.  — KS



This is Sara Peters’ first book of poems, but you’d never be able to tell. She presses the serrated edge of language to the soft skin of our alleged innocence, bleeding confession; she explores the darker, often half-buried elements of childhood and human experience with a fresh, sharp voice. It’s a collection I keep lending out as an example of good poetry, and one which I return to often, still decoding meaning even after having read it a few times over. Its layers and complexity may require a little more effort from the poetry-reading novice, but it’s unique, striking, and worth the attention. — KS


The Strange Library

On the heels of Murakami’s other (strikingly disappointing) 2014 release, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, this slim volume is a breath of relief; we find ourselves back in the fantastical, unlikely, and slightly off-putting world of magic realism that carries Murakami’s best works. The tale is short, simple, and ominous: a boy attempts to check out a library book and is tricked into the labyrinthian basement, where a menacing librarian keeps him hostage and threatens to eat his brain. Beautiful and uncanny illustrations add an extra layer to the story, making it more of an art project or chapbook than a novel. The result is clear: Murakami’s still got it. Long-time fans will love this book, and newcomers will find it an easy introduction to this classic author’s beautifully unsettling work. — DB



If you like to read non-fiction on occasion but don’t want to dedicate yourself to hundreds and hundreds of pages, Vancouver has an answer: Nonvella, a local indie publishing house that distributes short nonfiction pieces of about 100 pages, or the length of a novella. Timothy Taylor was one of the first on the Nonvella docket, and his casual and conversational book about the food scene and history of Vancouver hits the spot. It’s the perfect bite-sized break from academic writing, and you walk away feeling more knowledgeable about something relevant to real life — after all, food is not only a part of everyday life but can be imbued with intense cultural meaning. Diving into the background of Vancouver’s food scene with Taylor is a fascinating and delicious ride. — DB

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