The Canadian and international literary award season has come to a close, and all the winners have been announced. The first title to add to your reading list is truly special, as the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards winner in English-language Fiction was The Back Of The Turtle by Guelph’s own Thomas King. I first met Thomas King at a local author gala that Guelph Public Library hosted to celebrate its 125th anniversary. Thomas King had agreed to be our MC for the event and his speech that evening was as witty, intelligent, and low-key as the man himself. As his literary canon attests, King is a motivational and influential figure willing to discuss important social and political issues. The Ontarion recently published an interesting article about Thomas King, his life, his connection to the University of Guelph, and the Governor General’s Award. There has been wide media coverage of Thomas King’s recent achievement, as I recently read articles in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Guelph Public Library also provides a biography for Thomas King on its Famous Guelphites portal.
The Back Of The Turtle (publisher summary):
This is Thomas King’s first literary novel in 15 years and follows on the success of the award-winning and bestselling The Inconvenient Indian and his beloved Green Grass, Running Water and Truth and Bright Water, both of which continue to be taught in Canadian schools and universities. Green Grass, Running Water is widely considered a contemporary Canadian classic. In The Back of the Turtle, Gabriel returns to Smoke River, the reserve where his mother grew up and to which she returned with Gabriel’s sister. The reserve is deserted after an environmental disaster killed the population, including Gabriel’s family, and the wildlife. Gabriel, a brilliant scientist working for Domidion, created GreenSweep, and indirectly led to the crisis. Now he has come to see the damage and to kill himself in the sea. But as he prepares to let the water take him, he sees a young girl in the waves. Plunging in, he saves her, and soon is saving others. Who are these people with their long black hair and almond eyes who have fallen from the sky? Filled with brilliant characters, trademark wit, wordplay and a thorough knowledge of native myth and story-telling, this novel is a masterpiece by one of our most important writers.
Other recent award winners that may capture your interest:
Governor General’s Literary Award – Non-Fiction (2014):
Only one generation in history (ours) will experience life both with and without the Internet. For everyone who follows us, online life will simply be the air they breathe. Today, we revel in ubiquitous information and constant connection, rarely stopping to consider the implications for our logged-on lives. Michael Harris chronicles this massive shift, exploring what we’ve gained-and lost-in the bargain. In this eloquent and thought-provoking book, Harris argues that our greatest loss has been that of absence itself-of silence, wonder and solitude. It’s a surprisingly precious commodity, and one we have less of every year. Drawing on a vast trove of research and scores of interviews with global experts, Harris explores this “loss of lack” in chapters devoted to every corner of our lives, from sex and commerce to memory and attention span. The book’s message is urgent: once we’ve lost the gift of absence, we may never remember its value. (Publisher Summary)
The Scotiabank Giller Prize, 2014:
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
A beautiful, haunting novel inspired by the true life and loves of the famed Russian scientist, inventor and spy Lev Termen – creator of the theremin. Publisher Summary.
Man Booker Prize, 2014:
The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan
A novel of love and war that traces the life of one man–an Australian surgeon–from a prisoner-of-war camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway during World War II, up to the present. Publisher Summary
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Elf and Yoli are sisters. While on the surface Elfrieda’s life is enviable (she’s a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, and happily married) and Yolandi’s a mess (she’s divorced and broke, with two teenagers growing up too quickly), they are fiercely close – raised in a Mennonite household and sharing the hardship of Elf’s desire to end her life. After Elf’s latest attempt, Yoli must quickly determine how to keep her family from falling apart, how to keep her own heart from breaking, and what it means to love someone who wants to die. All My Puny Sorrows is the latest novel from Miriam Toews, one of Canada’s most beloved authors – not only because her work is rich with deep human feeling and compassion but because her observations are knife-sharp and her books wickedly funny. And this is Toews at her finest: a story that is as much a comedy as it is a tragedy, a goodbye grin from the friend who taught you how to live. – Publisher Summary
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein‘s most important book yet – about the economic drivers that are warming our planet and how the climate crisis can yet spur economic, cultural and political transformation. Klein argues that our current growth-based economic model is waging war on the life support systems of our planet. Using phenomenal research, she lays out why climate change is not an “issue”| – it is a civilizational wake-up call, a powerful message delivered in the language of fires, floods, storms, droughts. – Publisher Summary
Check out a copy of these books today! If you appreciate fine literature, you should also consult the New York Times Book review list of the 10 Best Books of 2014, Fiction and Non-Fiction.