Banter / Read With Us

FROM THE EDITOR

Books can move us to tears and make us cry with laughter. They transport us to worlds we will never know and introduce us to people and places that expand our understanding of the human condition.

Most of the world’s knowledge is contained within their pages, and humans, with their big brains and insatiable curiosity, rely on them for inspiration, guidance, entertainment and solace.

If there was ever a time we needed books, this is it. Whether we are quarantining, self-isolating or social distancing, a book is one companion we can always hold close.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to Zed, the Zoomer book club, and its new online hub for books. Zoomers are big readers but, with a world of books at your fingertips, it’s hard to cut through the noise and hype and choose your next title with confidence, assured that it is exactly what you are looking for.

We have a plethora of lists, stories and author interviews for you to peruse, from fiction to non-fiction, memoirs to biographies and cookbooks to coffee-table books, to give you a small sampling. We’ve even got a section called Royal Pages for all the Windsor watchers among you and we know there are a few. Don’t miss our Read & Recommended section, where Zoomer editors and contributors personally vouch for their favourite tomes.

It’s an interactive place, with this space – called Banter, for short – your go-to spot for news on our latest book club pick, reading notes, special events with authors and, most importantly, information about our online discussions about the books we will choose every two months and read together. I’ll be checking in regularly on Facebook to answer your questions and make sure you don’t miss any of our fantastic content.

To start us off, I’ve chosen five amazing Canadian novels published this year because I’m a big fan of Canlit and I love the way our writers plumb personal experiences and use their incredible imaginations to expand the boundaries of Canadian culture. Their books are often overshadowed by the output of that massive market to the south, and they deserve our attention and support since the pandemic has cancelled or moved publication dates, book launches and author tours.

I want you to decide what we read. Once the voting closes, I’ll announce our first book club pick here and give you two weeks to start reading. Dates for Facebook discussions and virtual events will appear on the calendar. And if you haven’t signed up for our newsletter, go to everythingzoomer.com/sign-up for the latest fiction and non-fiction picks, news and reviews, book giveaways and contests.

I can’t wait to meet you all! – Kim Honey

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

DEC
4
>VOTING CLOSES
DEC
11
>ANNOUNCEMENT OF BOOK
JAN
8
>FIRST FACEBOOK DISCUSSION
JAN
22
>SECOND FACEBOOK DISCUSSION
FEB
5
>SUBMIT QUESTIONS FOR VIRTUAL EVENT WITH AUTHOR
FEB
12
>ANNOUNCEMENT OF AUTHOR DISCUSSION AND Q&A
FEB
22
>PITCH BOOKS FOR FEBURARY'S BOOK CLUB PICK

> PRESENTED BY

> VOTE ON OUR FIRST BOOK

1Indians on VacationThomas King

Mimi, a free-spirited artist, drags her husband, Bird, a curmudgeonly writer, to
Prague on a holiday quest to track down the medicine bundle Mimi’s Uncle Leroy took overseas 100 years before. They sightsee through capitals of the so-called cradle of Western civilization only to realize people the world over aren’t so different after all. Because this is Thomas King, there are killer one-liners that will make you laugh out loud and some weighty introspection on Canada’s abject treatment of its Indigenous people, not to mention marriage, class, race, mental health and the reasons we travel.

The Canadian-American author of Greek, Cherokee and German heritage, who lives in Guelph, Ont., has written more than a dozen award-winning fiction and non-fiction books, including The Back of the Turtle and The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Indians on Vacation has just been nominated for a 2020 Writer’s Trust award, and the jury called it “a novel that serves grief and anger with a constant yet somehow always-unexpected wit.”

There’s lots to talk about here with King, the ultimate raconteur.

2The Pull of the StarsEmma Donoghue

From the London, Ont.-based writer of the international bestseller – and Academy- Award winning film – The Room, Donoghue’s latest novel takes place over three days in a makeshift Dublin maternity ward during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Reading The Pull of the Stars during the COVID-19 pandemic evokes déjà vu as the protagonist, a nurse named Julia Power, travels to work on a tram and hears a man cough on the bench behind her. “At the moment, this whole city was inclined to assume the worst, and no wonder,” Donoghue writes.

The author, who often delves into the intricacies of the lives of women, chooses three female protagonists: the nurse, an untrained hospital helper named Bridie Sweeney and Dr. Kathleen Lynn, a real Dubliner and “a Protestant socialist, suffragette and republican firebrand.” The book is a female-centric take on the Great War, usually seen through a male gaze in literature, and will prompt discussions on religion, class, feminism, politics and health care.

3RidgerunnerGil Adamson

In this sequel to her debut novel The Outlander, which won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award in 2008, the Toronto author picks up the story of 19-year-old Mary Boulton, who, in the first book, was on the run after murdering her abusive husband.

Adamson, who made the Giller Prize shortlist with this book, took pains to
ensure Ridgerunner stands on its own. “After all, Jack Boulton, the kid in this book, has no idea about his parents’ lives before he came on the scene.” That said, there are a few “Easter eggs” for fans of The Outlander. Described as “part literary Western and part historical mystery,” Ridgerunner is set in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and Montana in 1917, as war rages in Europe. The book will provoke readers to deliberate on religion, internment camps, love, parenting, homesteading and the ethics of stealing.

4Songs for the End of the WorldSaleema Nawaz

In this prophetic novel, Montreal writer Saleema Nawaz provides a glimmer of hope: she digs into human connections during an infectious outbreak and finds resiliency and camaraderie among a trio of New York characters whose lives are linked by the fictional calamity that begins in 2020.

Nawaz, whose 2013 debut novel Bone and Bread won the Quebec Writers’
Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan fiction prize, started writing Songs for the End of the World the same year. By the time it came out, she was living it. Shortages of medical supplies, quarantine fatigue and front-line workers risking their lives to save patients – it’s all here.

In an interview with Maisonneueve magazine, Nawaz said she didn’t want her
pandemic world to descend into post-apocalyptic chaos where it’s every person for themselves.

“My instincts really are that people on the whole, when there’s a crisis, behave with goodwill and social responsibility.”

A meditation on loss, grief, love, hope and relationships, Songs strikes a hopeful note and provides an opening for the exploration of the indomitability of the human spirit.

5The FinderWill Ferguson

The Toronto-based author of the Giller Prize-winning novel 419 is back with The Finder, a character- and travel-driven tale of a man who searches the world for lost treasures, such as missing Fabergé eggs, the last reel of Alfred Hitchcock’s first film and Muhammad Ali’s Olympic gold medal.

Ferguson, a regular contributor to Zoomer magazine’s travel section, takes the
reader on an epic odyssey that touches down in Japan’s Hateruma island, the
Australian outback, New Zealand and the wilds of Scotland. Along the way, he
introduces us to a burnt-out travel writer, a war photographer, an Interpol agent tracking the elusive finder as well as the finder himself – a shadowy figure who profits from locating lost objects by selling them to the highest bidder. Ferguson even points readers to the real-life people who inspired his characters in his author’s notes.

This literary thriller will prompt exchanges about travel and travel writing, identity, redemption, loss and longing and the pursuit of dreams at any cost.