Lindsay Raining Bird
All My Puny Sorrows
by Miriam Toews
This Giller Prize nominated novel from heavy hitter Miriam Toews is about Elfrieda—a talented concert pianist who desperately wants to die—and her younger sister Yolandi who can't stop trying to convince her to live. Spanning their childhood and Elf's most recent suicide attempt, Toews has crafted a beautiful book about grief, depression and the limits of love.
Not That Kind of Girl
by Lena Dunham
Courting controversy at every turn, Dunham's memoir seems to be for a very specific kind of girl—the type who believes our stories should be told, even if they are as infuriatingly unrelatable as they are hilariously offside. We might not understand all the leaps Dunham takes or why, but a witty voice you can't predict is one worth listening to.
by Amy Poehler
On a mountain of humorous female-written memoirs comes Amy Poehler, flag raised, because everything about this book is just right. From the glossy paper stock (never underestimate an expensive paper choice) to the tribute to her great upbringing, important friendships and failed but still loving marriage—Poehler is full of great advice and "oops I'm crying on the bus" words of wisdom.
by Roxane Gay
As a self-identifying "bad feminist" Roxane Gay doesn't shy away from the badge, but rather thinks critically about what contemporary feminism means for both the LGBTQ community and people of colour. Through a pop-culture lens and with her trademark Twitter-verified wit, Gay's essays address how our guilty pleasures and culture of consumption reinforce the society we live in.
by Ann-Marie MacDonald
The master of mysterious and dysfunctional families returns with a week's visit with Mary-Rose MacKinnon—a popular YA author struggling with writer's block, her two young children, anger issues and coming to terms with her complicated relationship with her aging parents. Told in flashblacks, chapters of her first book and crisp moments that pack punch after punch, MacDonald is just as great as you remember.
Lindsay Raining Bird has been reviewing books since 2011 and is, as of this week, the former listings editor at The Coast. Of the 40 books she's read so far this year (#readwomen2014) these were far and away the best. (Bye Lindsay! -ed's note)
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday)
A heartbreaking and beautifully written novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands tells the story of a teenage orphan runaway whose parents may have been responsible for a nuclear meltdown. The realistic search for friendship and love in the face of immense loss is incredibly moving and tragic.
by Kate Pullinger (Doubleday)
Inspired by airplane stowaways, the characters in Kate Pullinger's Landing Gear—despite often living in the same house—are entirely alone, each looking for their own connection with someone else. It is a quiet yet complicated novel that successfully covers enormous distance, both geographical and emotional, without ever feeling over-ambitious.
by Laline Paul (HarperCollins)
Laline Paul's debut novel The Bees uses the perspective of a bee to deal with significant human themes like motherhood, religion, and deciding what is normal. Despite a slow start, it's a brilliant depiction–beautifully written, emotive and suspenseful–of a world that may be hiding just inside our own.
All Our Names
by Dinaw Mengestu (Bond Street)
An easy inclusion on a best of 2014 list, Dinaw Mengestu's lyrical novel All Our Names is set against a backdrop of intolerant America and a post-independence Uganda, alternating between the two places to capture the quiet struggle and sorrow of the heart. It is a tense and memorable story.
For Today I Am A Boy
by Kim Fu (HarperCollins)
After three sisters, Peter's Chinese-Canadian parents were grateful for a son, but in For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu, that's not how he sees himself. With an authentic and powerful voice, Peter's emotional journey is a complicated portrayal of race, family, gender and the intersection between them.
A Coast reviewer since 2013, Zoë Migicovsky is a twin who was born on Halloween and is still waiting for her superpowers to show up.
by Marilynne Robinson (HarperCollins)
The third novel set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, Lila follows the life of a woman who was stolen as a child and raised by a young runaway. The writing is quiet and serene and feels chock full of wisdom. Any new book from Robinson is a gift.
by Patricia Lockwood (Penguin)
A book that's as strange as it's title but funnier and filthier than any other poetry I've read. Lockwood is so in control of her wackiness that she can get away with throwing a jaw-droppingly beautiful line in between two sex jokes. She is also the funniest thing on Twitter.
Live From the Afrikan
by El Jones (Roseway)
"Radical speech and thought are simply an embodiment of our commitment to justice for our people," writes Jones, Halifax's poet laureate. This book of spoken word poems is itself an act of resistance; it is provocative, angry, and doesn't hesitate to point fingers. It's a book of ideas and challenges that is meant to be read aloud and shared.
Can't and Won't
by Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Davis is one of the best short-story writers out there and her seventh collection does not disappoint. These stories are shorter than most—there are over 100 in this collection, some of them a single sentence—but they never feel small. They will work into your mind and make you think strange thoughts about everyone around you.
by Anna Leventhal (Invisible)
This debut collection of short stories is so confident and skilled in its weirdness that I'm already excited to read Leventhal's next book. "Frenching the Eagle" is coolest story I've read in ages, and "Moving Day," a sinister take on Montreal's July 1st haul-ass day, is a creepy delight. I'll be giving out a few copies of this one for Christmas.
Until the age of 13, Michael Lake thought ponies were mythical creatures. He has been writing for the Coast since 2013.
2014's Best Comics, by Kevin Hartford
Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Verse (Marvel)
Assassin Spider-Man? Last Stand Spider-Man? Ben freakin' Reilly? There's the sheer awesomeness of seeing several decades worth of sorely-missed and long-forgotten alternate-universe Spider-Men (and -Women, -Hams and -Monkeys) show up in one miniseries. Then there's the fact that Spider-Verse is fun, captivating, and—a rarity amongst yearly crossover events—legitimately epic in scale.
Astro City by Kurt Busiek (Vertigo)
Four publishers and two decades after it premiered, Kurt Busiek's dazzling, expansive Astro City continues to impress with its examination of life on the fringes of superhero society, making everything from tech support to low-level thug recidivism to smashed-robot cleanup as compelling as watching bad guys get punched in the face.
Ms. Marvel (Marvel)
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image)
Quantum and Woody by James Asmus and Tom Fowler (Valiant)
Multiversity by Grant Morrison (DC)Free from the constraints of the New 52's muddled and labourious continuity, Grant Morrison's dynamic alternate-universe narrative spins intrigue out of WWII-era pulp, modern-day hashtag narcissism and, in the miniseries' best candidate for a repeat read, the dizzying meta of a Charlton Comics-inspired homage to Alan Moore's *Watchmen*, itself inspired by Charlton Comics.
Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey (Marvel)
Warren Ellis exited Moon Knight after its first six issues, but those issues are doozies: from the stunning artistic and narrative achievements of the second issue's sniper plot to its The Raid: Redemption-influenced fifth issue, Ellis crafted one-and-done single-issue arcs that fondly recalled the days when floppies, rather than trades, reigned.
Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason LaTour (Image)
The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (Vertigo)
She-Hulk by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido (Marvel)
Like Matt Fraction's excellent, sporadically-published Hawkeye, Charles Soule's She-Hulk focuses on its title character's downtime, and while the rigours of opening a new law practice might not seem like a catalyst for riveting storytelling, there's enough drama in and out of the courtroom to make this a must-read.
Kevin Hartford's first concert was Dolly Parton, but he used to tell people it was Metallica. Now he tells people it was Dolly Parton. He's been writing for the Coast since 2012.