The ten titles listed in this posting include FICTION (4) and NONFICTION (4), a graphic biography (1)  and SHORT STORIES (1) and a shout out to my new professional release, Stop the Hate for Goodness Sake. from Pembroke Publishers. Most of these titles were published in 2023.





Because i don’t listen to NPR, I wasn’t familiar with Ari Shapiro, who is the host of the flagship news program All Things Considered. I recently attended a concert entitled Och and Oy where Shapiro and his buddy Alan Cumming and was entertained by his singing talent, his stories and his joyous connection with Mr. Cumming and with the audience. This book of essays intrigues as Mr. Shapiro recounts stories of coming out as a gay man, of his marriage to his partner, of his singing with Pink Martini. Much of the book is centred on his investigation of international news stories travelling around the world to dig into stories of war-torn countries, political protests, the plight of refugees etc.  The subtitle of this book is “Stories from a Life Spent Listening’.  What a life Ari Shapiro has lead/ leads! What a treasure he is for listening and for patiently and bravely discovering and sharing truths.  Reading this book provides readers entry into the world of activism, humanity, and healthy relationships.

WE SHOULD NOT BE FRIENDS: The story of a friendship by Will Schwalbe

I very much enjoyed reading two recent publications by Will Schwalbe. In this memoir, the author examines the friendship between two improbable friends. Will, a literate gay student,  first met Chris Maxey, a fairly boisterous jock while enrolled in Yale University. The seeds of a friendship were planted in secret society that had been established at the school. Though different in demeanour and interests there was some connection.  The story of this friendship is presented over the decades as Schwalbe and Maxey phoned each other and occasionally met up.  As the two reached their fifties and sixties, the friendship seemed to strengthen as they discussed ambitions, relationships, and health. Maxey’s commitment to establishing an independent school in Eleuthra thra is very much part of the narrative in the final half of the book. This is a story that helps us think about our friendships, the truths we share, the secrets we withhold (“You didn’t ask me!”) and the devotion that can emerge through commitment and trust story also helps readers to think about  encountering possibilities and the need to find  strengths to meet challenges and dreams through our work and our family – and our friendships.


Two stellar biographical titles by Michael Rosen (see SHOUT OUT)

MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF LOVE: A story of Life, Death and the NHS by Michael Rosen

GETTING BETTER by Michael Rosen (2023)



IN MEMORIAM by Alice Wynn

The first part of this book is set in an idyllic boarding English boarding school. We learn of  the close friendship between Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood.  When Gaunt becomes overwhelmed with his infatuation with the poetic Ellwood, he enlists in the army. The novel immerses readers in the horrific events of World War I. Ellwood eventually follows and the two men find solace with each other even though they are surrounded by death and fear that they could be next.  Alice Wynn has done a remarkable job of researching and vividly and cinematically portraying wartime. Moreover, she takes us deep into the hearts of two men in love with each other. For its story of forbidden love, the novel reminded me of John Boyne’s wonderful book The Absolutist and for its wretching images of combat, I was reminded of the recent  German film All Quiet on The Western Front. There have been many stories about the First World War (Michael Morpurgo’s books are treasured narratives for young people (e.g., War Horse; Private Peaceful). In Memoriam is gut-wretching, heartbreaking, brutal and poetic. In Memoriam is a  stellar contribution of wartime sagas.

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ: the Graphic novel, based on the book by Antonio Iturbe (ages 12+)

The Librarian of Auschwitz is a bestselling novel by Spanish author, Antonio Iturbe, and for those who admired this book, a new graphic novel verson has been created. Iturbe tells the y fourteen-year0old Dita who was, along with her mother and father imprisoned in Auschwitz. For Dita, the horrors of the concentration camp were counterbalanced when she was asked to become the librarian of Auschwitz and take charge keep safe, the 8 books that were smuggled past the guards. The books along with real stories told by prisoners educated the children in the camp, even though they discovery of the books in Block 31, the children’s camp would prove to be dangerous, perhaps resulting in execution. Iturbe’s story is based on the true story of Dita Kraus, a Holocaust survivor. This graphic novel adaption synthesized the 400 pages of the original novel by presenting historical facts and  powerful narratives. The strong images  illustrated by Loreto Aroca along with the narrative captions and dialogue match the power of the original novel in presenting another haunting historical account of the Holocaust. Novel: An

LOVE LIDA by Mark Hyatt

Poor Leda. He is so unhappy with life. He relies on the kindness of strangers (older gay men, divorced women)  who feed and cloth him, helping him  to escape from complete homelessness.  And he is unfortunately obsessed with Daniel, who as a man of the Lord, will never love Leda. The setting is 1960’s London. Coffee houses, house parties, and outdoor trysts abound. This book is a curiosity. I feel that the story , thought set in Soho (pre-dating the Sexual Offences of Act of 1967) could have been written by any generation of gay men in the past 60 years. It was written in 1988 but only now published to give readers insights into queer London and the vagabond life of one working class chap who seems to get through life day by day but has little hope for what life has dealt him. (“I turn my head for dreams and lost sunsets and my own fears.” / “My head is beating like a clock, going around in continuous circles.” / “I live sheerly for myself, and not for other people’s thoughts.” The novel likely autobiographical. The author, Mark Hyatt committed suicide in 1972.

OPEN THROAT by Henry Hoke

Here is the opening line of book blurb: “A queer and dangerously hungry mountain lion lives in the drought-devastated land under the Hollywood sign. Opening line of the novel “I’ve never eaten a person  but today I might.”.   Readers who embark on the journey with this rather short (156 pages) novel are in for a strange, poetic novel told from the point of view of yes, a queer mountain lion who overhears hiker conversations, protects those in a homeless encampment, who early in the narrative observes an S&M encounter and later witnesses two men having sex.  in lion. Mountain lion craftily observes ‘ellay’ (L.A.) life, with citizens who complain of  therapy, gender identity and the spreading of fire. Having read many children’s novels, I am ‘in tune’ with – and very much admire -novels with anthrapromorphic voices (Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White),  Abel’s Island William Steig, The One and Only Ivan trilogy (Katherine Applegate) and the wonderful 2023 release, The Eyes for the Impossible by David Eggers.  I was prepared and intrigued to read this new  highly praised review . However, I can’t seem to join in the rave comments received for Hoke’s book (‘unwilling to put down’, ‘my favourite book of the century so far’, ‘an instant class classic’, ‘a bloody masterpiece’, ‘fantastical’. But there’s no doubt that Open Throat is inventive and animal witness to the behaviour of humans. I loved the free verse style.  (practically every sentence gets a stand alone stanza). I loved the brevity of chapters. I was intrigued with the atmosphere, the feral views of life. At the same time, I was sometimes puzzled by events and not completely in tune with the observations and commentary of ‘ellay’ life, even if it was from the point of view of a gay mountain lion.

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Early in the 20th century Belle de Costa Greene is hired by JP Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts and artwork to by displayed in the Pierpont Morgan Library. Her talents and wisdom have taken her to galleries and auctions in New York, Paris and Italy  as she builds a remarkable worLd-class collection for the remarkable, powerful JP Morgan. Belle quickly becomes immersed in New York City Society and her journey over the years shows her impeccable taste and negotiating skills as the decades unfold. However, Belle’s secret as a Black American women who was forced to hide her true identity and passer  as a white woman is fascinating. At all times, through her encounters with family, friends and ‘the rich’ as well as an impassioned love story with a married man. Belle remains steadfast and faithful as Morgan’s personal librariaN. This is a wonderful, compelling  piece of historical nonfiction. It has inspired me to make a visit to the Morgan library on my next trip to New York.

SEVEN EMPTY HOUSES by Samanta Schweblin (short stories)

Translated from the Spanish version, Seven Empty Houses,  issmall collection of short stories. Actually 6 of the stories are fairly short (10-20 pages) One story, “Breath from the Depths” is 82 pages, is about a cantankerous senior citizen named Lola who is difficulty breathing and severe back problems. Dealing with grief, and a pesky neighbour, Lola patiently preparing for and, and awaiting death). In “It Happens All the Time in This House” a woman tosses her dead son’s clothing into her neighbour’s yard and sends her husband to retrieve them. One character says ‘the whole things is ‘nutso’. ‘Nutso’ can be used to describe elements in each of Schweblin’s stories. In None of That a woman drives around her neighbourhood, rearranging furniture and plants at her whim (“None of That”). In “Parents and Children” a woman brings her children and new love interest to visit her ex-husband’s grandparents who enjoy frolicking around nude in their backyard.  Nutso. Cukoo. Strange. Each story presents a slanted sense of reality whether it involves a fight, a vision, trespassing, a death plan, when in truth, nearly everyone has a story about the bizarre behaviours of others. The world is nutso. I found these stories to be both weird and believable, humourous but sad. Seven Empty Houses is an anthology about belonging and the strange connections we have with others. A gem!



MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF LOVE: A story of Life, Death and the NHS by Michael Rosen

Shout out to Chris Ridell’s illustrations that introduce each of the 8 sections.

Stricken by coronavirus, British writer Michael Rosen hospitalized with an induced coma for six weeks and weeks then spent weeks of rehab and recovery. This is the story of that time period. How does he get to tell remember his experiences, when in a coma? The first part of the book presents transcripts of emails that his devoted wife Emma had written to friends and family reporting her husband’s progress.  Also, a notebook was kept by his bedside where the nurses who provided him with care wrote letters of hope, support and love. h of the book is presented as remarkable prose poems, where Rosen writes about his near-death experience and he many different kinds of love that spurred him on to survival. This is a beautiful beautiful book about the  that life might send our way, the trauma  of death hanging over our heads and the indomitable spirit and care of the National Health Service and especially the important people in our lives that carry us through dark times. This is a book of Health, Hope and Heart.  each with a capital ‘H’.  It is a sobering read that should be put in time capsule paying tribute to the resilience of those who suffered through Covid-19. This poetry memoir (published in 2021) is absolutely at the top of the list favourite reads this year.  You are a hero, Michael Rosen. From the back cover:

A doctor is standing by my bed

asking me if I would sign a piece of paper

which would allow them to put me to sleep pump air into my lungs.

‘Will I wake up?’

“There’s a 50:50 chance.’

‘If I say no?’: I say.


And I sign.

GETTING BETTER by Michael Rosen 

Michael Rosen was appointed Children’s Laureate (2007-2009) in the UK and is a renowned poet, performer, and broadcaster. Loss has been a part of Michael Rosen’s life. He has lived with a chronic hypothyroid  illness grieved over the loss of his mother and over the sudden death of his son due to meningitis (meningococcal septicaemia). During the Pandemic, Rosen was in a coma for 40 days and 40 nights, facing death in intensive care for 48 days in a London hospital and then recovering in rehab for three weeks.  Getting Better provides essays of how Michael Rosen, struggled to recover from trauma and grief and helps readers understand how we can find it within ourselves to live well again, during and after dark times.  The subtitle of this book is Life Lessons on Going Under, Getting Over it and Getting Through It.  What a brilliant writer, Michael Rosen is!. What a courageous soul. Michael Rosen  is so grateful for his writing, so grateful for getting through life’s shit that came his way. so grateful for the loving care of family and friends.  He may consider himself to be lucky. We are lucky to have him and his writing, especially for helping us  take a journey on the path to being better, getting better.



STOP THE HATE FOR GOODNESS SAKE by Andrew B. Campbell and Larry Swartz (professinal resource)

Stop the Hate for Goodness Sake