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Some favourite reads of 2011
Comic Books

Asterios Polyp
- David Mazzucchelli
My old co-worker Mark recommended this for Chris, and when he was done, I snagged it. Visually, it is stunning, with a style unlike anything I've ever seen in a graphic novel. The story itself explores the ideas of duality in both art and life, often concept vs. sentiment. But forget the ponce talk. It's just beautiful. A love story. A journey. Read it.

Paying For it - Chester Brown
Man decides to eschew traditional romantic intimacy in favour of paying for sex with prostitutes. From his first encounter to his final, more lasting relationship, he maintains a detached attention to detail and pedantic approach that reminds me of certain hackers I've known. But this cerebral documentation surprisingly contains (not sure whether it's always intentional) emotional information (despite the fact that he obscures all the faces of the sex workers).

Sweet Tooth
I got totally sucked into Jeff Lemire's dystopian serial about children born as animal-human hybrids, (the only people immune to a deadly plague that has decimated the human population) and the former hockey enforcer who tries to save them from the mad scientists. I don't know if you will like this, but I do.


The Magicians - Lev Grossman
Cory recommended this on  BoingBoing a little while ago as a wizard school story for grown ups. I have a soft spot for books where people do magic, I do. It contains homages to Harry Potter and Narnia and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  It's not a perfect book by any means, but I snatched up the sequel this boxing day and can't wait to return to the messed up, dark world of Fillory.

Blue Nights - Joan Didion
Even talking about the loss of a child is like touching hot coals for me; I have to pull away before I make contact. But when I saw Joan Didion's latest novel - in which she chronicles the loss of her daughter - knew I had to push through that narrative.  And it didn't kill me. It was poetry.

I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
Sarah leant this to me when I needed a light read. And it was so. much. fun. Mostly I loved it for the 12 year old in me and I wish I had found it at that age. Find yourself a young teen girl and gift this book to her! (Or really, just read it yourself).

The Believers - Zoe Heller
I had never read anything by Zoe Heller before this. But it was savagely funny, smart, and totally compelling. When the patriarch of a famous family of New York Lefties is struck down by a stroke, his wife and kids have to figure out what they still stand for, what they believe in. The caustic, destructive mother, the dogma-addicted daughter who turns to religion, and the self-loathing daughter who sublimates with danishes - they have stuck around my head since I read this, and I can still hear their banter.

The Family Fang - By Kevin Wilson
You know this is going to be a hit movie. You should read it now so that you can be blase when Wes Anderson puts it in theatres. Two kids raised by performance artists (who incorporated their children into their controversial public performances from birth), try to strike out on their own. With mixed results. Quirky. Funny. And not obnoxious (thought the movie is certain to be).


Although I do eat meat, I get obsessed with vegetarian cookbooks. Last year, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian had me fixated - and this year it has been the two Ottolenghi books - the eponymous volume (which has meat recipes) and Plenty, which has a collection of sweet vegetable and grain dishes. If you have not seen them, you live in a cave.

10 years ago, every veg-centric cookbook had you stocking your larder with sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, quick-cooking polenta and balsamic reduction. In 2011, cookbooks demand you keep your fridge stocked with a fresh selection of herbs, greek yogurt, buttermilk, pomegranate (fresh and molasses) and maldon sea salt. 

Kid's Books

I have loved reading with Gabriel this year. We devoured "James and the Giant Peach" together, and he seemed to get it, and love it,  so now we're on to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". We're also reading the BONE comic series, which is a bit old for him, but he keeps demanding more.
When my mom was in palliative care this summer I was looking for a book that talked about death, but was for children. That dealt with the spiritual plane but didn't have religious homilies. I put the question out there on Facebook, and was surprised to find that a friend, Sheila,  had just received copies of her first children's book, the beautiful "We Need a Horse". She brought it over to my home that day. Wise, dreamy, beautifully illustrated. It was perfect.

What have your favourite reads been this year?

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