HAPPY-GO-LUCKY by David Sedaris

The newest collection of short stories that are,very very funny and yes, quite moving. This will be at the top of my list of favourites for 2022. I wish I could write like Sedaris. Happy and lucky to be able to read him. 

LEARNING TO TALK by Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel, two-time winner of the Booker Prize, author of the Wolf Hall trilogy has written short stories about childhood and youth, drawn from her early years growing up in the 1950’s in a village in the north of England. Stories of loss and identity and identity, the 7 soulful short stories are part memoir, part imagination, originally published between 1987 and 2002 and have now been published for release in  North America. Even though slim at 157 pages, some stories (‘Learning to Talk’ and ‘Third Floor Rising’) are better than others. 


NEW YORK CITY HAIKU from the readers of the New York Times

In celebration of National Poetry month (2014), the New York Times put out a call for citizens to write about the Big Apple by submitting snapshots of the sites and people written as  three-line HAIKU (five, seven, five syllables). Poems were created under such themes as ‘strangers’, ‘solitude’, ‘commuting’, 6 a.m.,’ and ‘kindness’. This book is a collection of 150 entries and was a fun way to read poetry and an inspiring way to be a part of it, New York, York. 

I see all of you

And you see me sitting here

We all stare ahead.

TIME IS A MOTHER by Ocean Vuong

I rather enjoyed the award-winning author’s novel On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous so decided to delve into this poetry collection of poems of tribute, memory and grief as Vuong searches for meaning following the death of his mother. Truth be told. I didn’t ‘get’ most of the poems and found myself working too hard (or not). Too oblique for me. My  poetry-reading brain just didn’t click in . Oh well!

the tub is a red world save for the silent

    island of fur flickering

in my fugitive words guys I say

   just wait for me alright

THE WAR POEMS by Siegfried Sassoon

After seeing the marvelous movie BENEDICTION directed by Terence Davies I wanted to read the War Poems by Siegfried Sassoon who served on the Western Front in the first world war, and later was charged for speaking out against the war. This collection of 60+, fairly short poems, presents stark image of the ugly truths of the trenches, the soldier’s dreams and those left behind. Astonishing.

“The battle winks and thuds in blundering strife.
And I must lead them nearer, day by day,
To the foul beast of war that bludgeons life”
(excerpt from ‘The Dream’)


NIGHTCRAWLING by Leila Mottley

That this novel was selected by Oprah Winfrey intrigued me. That this debut novel was published when the author was 19 years of age intrigued me. It is 2015 and Keira Johnson is months behind in the rent. Her father, a former Black Panther died of cancer after being released from prison. Her mother is in prison after drowning her baby daughter. Her older brother Marcus with dreams of becoming a famous rapper, refuses to get a job and he too ends up in jail. Keira is desperate to get work to support herself and her crack addicted neighbour’s son. Things spiral downwards when 17 year old Keira is at the centre of sex-trafficking where the johns are police. The story is set in Oakland California which has the reputation of being at the top of the list of criminal cities in the United States.  Mottley was inspired to write this story in response to a 2015 court case in which the Oakland Police Department was accused of sexually exploiting a teenager. Nightcrawling’s readers accompany Kiera through the streets of Oakland and  come to the desperation of black citizens living poverty and tragedy.  The book opens with description of a swimming pool filled with dog poop. A grim metaphor of a grim story. 


On a recent trip to Reykjavik I stepped into a book store to investigate titles written by Iceland writers and an employee recommended this title by  one of Iceland’s award-winning authors. The story is set early in the 20th Century when the Katia volcano erupted, the Spanish flu comes ashore killing hundreds. The protagonist of this short (142 pages) novel is Mani Stein, an orphan,  a film fanatic, a male hustler who like the citizens of the time struggles to survive, find love as the capital city of Iceland transforms. An often poetic narrative that blends imagination and reality in a unique setting.

SCHOOL DAYS by Jonathan Galassi

Sam Brandt teaches English at an uber-preppy boarding school and one day in the year  in the year 2007, he is called in to investigate an allegation of a sexual assault that may or may not have happened decades ago. Readers are transported back to 1964 where stories of privileged, bright boys abound with friendships, crushes, yearning, and sexual adventures. My oh my there was a lot of gayness merrily going on (a bit too ‘accepted’ and abundant/confusing for me).. Sam, as others did, contemplate their sexual identity, often drawn from their admiration of a charismatic (closeted) teacher. In the last third of the book, the narrative returns to 2007 (and eventually 2017) where Sam and his former classmates question their past struggle to understand what happened all those years ago and what impact it had on their adult selves.

THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS by Laurie Frankel

At five years old, Claude loves wearing a dress, dreams of being a princess and knows that when he grows up he wants to be a girl. Claude ‘becomes’ Poppy and even though he has strong support from mother and father, problems in Poppy’s life emerge with his family (Poppy is the youngest of five brothers), his friendships (with girls), the world outside his home. but mostly within Poppy herself. This is a powerful story about parent and sibling relationships and a powerful story about being true to self as a transgender young person, uncertain of what the future will bring.  I was intrigued and sometimes challenged by the family’s discussions, arguments and decisions to both protect and prepare Claude/Poppy.  I would highly recommend this Reese’s Book Club novel, even though the last third of the novel lessoned my emotional response to the story.  



John Schu is a popular conference speaker and school presenter who is on a mission to help everyone find the books that their hearts need. This book provides the author with a chance to explore the affective side of the reading life by considering story as healer, story as inspiration, story as clarifier, story as compassion, story as connector. The book includes voices from teachers, librarians and authors. Throughout the book, a number of authors define what story means to them and of there is a wealth of Mr. Schu book suggestions that includes book cover images, synopsis and applications. John Schu’s passion, enthusiasm and inspiration leap off every page of this celebration of story and worship of children’s literature.  He is children’s book lover extraordinaire. 

“Story connects us. It gives us calm in the storms of life. It rejuvenates us. It helps us feel safe. Reading someone else’s story can inspire us to tell our own stories and live an authentic life. Stories contain the healing power to make our hearts calmer and more compassionate, comfortable and roomy.” (p. 131)


Journalist CraigTaylor interviewed hundreds of New Yorkers about their experiences about living in New York and this book documents 75 conversations that provide a remarkable testament to living, surviving, and dreaming a range of experiences.  A window cleaner, an elevator repairman, a lice consultant, a private cook,  a meditation teacher, a subway conductor, a retired 911 dispatcher, a security guard at the Statue of Liberty are some of Taylor’s subjects.  Everyone has a story, everyone is a story and this book is a fascinating portrait of a the people and in a city that never sleeps.