Staff Picks 2013: Aleshia

Last December I finished my undergraduate degree in translation, so I've had 12 glorious months of reading whatever I want, whenever I want. As my coworkers have lamented, it is incredibly hard to choose favourites when your workplace is overflowing with thousands of wonderful books, but here's what really stands out for me this year:

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This book is a wonderful social commentary on both American and Nigerian life, wrapped up in a great love story and some truly incredible writing. I devoured it on a long train ride and it was so engrossing that I was somewhat disappointed to arrive at my final destination. Though Ngozi Adiche touches on a subject that is hardly new in the literary realm, she skillfully sheds new light on the seemingly obvious, producing a perfect balance between social scrutiny and celebration of life.

Susceptible, Geneviève Castrée

Susceptible stands out from the rest this year partly because I can't resist a good sob inducing tale of childhood woe, but also because Castrée weaves together fragments of her life so perfectly in this book. Each moment is told and drawn in charming detail, making her story all the more personal and overwhelmingly touching.

Marble Season, Gilbert Hernandez

I can't be nostalgic about living in the suburbs in the '60s since I grew up to a neighbourhood fondly referred to as "the granola belt" in the '80s, but I absolutely loved this book nonetheless. It perfectly captures how it feels to grow up, bringing together all those exciting and crushing moments that define life as a kid.

Ariol: Thunder Horse, Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant

The adventures of Ariol the donkey and his trouble-making best piglet friend Ramono is the complete embodiment of my idea of funny. Guibert's fantastic storytelling paired with Boutavant's captivating, humorous drawings results in a hilarious set of stories that had me chortling and smirking the whole way through. Ariol: Happy as a Pig comes out next week, and I couldn't be more excited!

 Kitaro, Shigeru Mizuki

My favourite panel in this book is near the beginning, when Kitaro's dad (the eyeball pictured here on top of Kitaro's head) is taking a bath in a teacup. Things just get more hilarious from here on in... It is impossible not to love this magical yokai boy who goes around solving problems, basically a mini Japanese Dr. Who.

Eye of the Majestic Creature, Leslie Stein

This collection of stories is the first of Leslie Stein's work that I've read. Stein takes text from Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie (a "racy" novel written in 1900 about a young country girl who moves to the city) and combines it with autobiographical stories about working as a shop girl and growing up in the 1980s. The beautiful art (the detailed stippling makes each page look like a pointillist painting) and her unique way of telling a story produces something truly worth reading.

Tenth of December, George Saunders

Tenth of December shoveled in stellar reviews, and the book did not disappoint. The stories are dark, and the writing is crafted with careby far some of the most memorable short fiction I've read.

Océano, Anouck Boisrobert & Louis Rigaud

It is quite difficult to describe how this amazing pop-up book by Hélium looks inside, so it is easiest just to have a look at the image on their blog. The lovely writing which tells of a ship's voyage seems, perhaps, to be just an aside to some of the most beautiful children's book illustrations I've ever seen. Anouck Boisrobert's art is so detailed that it would be easy to spend hours examining the tiny sea creatures floundering around these pages.

Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space, Dr. Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

A book for children written by a Quantum Physicist, containing all you ever wanted to know about the wonders of space... if this isn't enough, the main character is a cat with a PhD. Enough said.

The Property, Rutu Modan

When Jade from the office brought me my reading copy of The Property, I was so excited I kissed the cover. Rutu Modan is one of my favourite cartoonists, and this book did not disappoint. Her drawings (in colour!) are amazing as always, with that special ability to capture human movement, and the story is full of intrigue and emotion—truly deserving of a spot amongst my top ten.

Honorable Mentions:

NW (paperback) by Zadie Smith
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Journal by Julie Delporte
Life Zone by Simon Hanselmann
Wild by Emily Hughes


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