A Book Published This Year: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge

December 8, 2021 | M. Elwood

Comments (0)

TPL Reading challenge 2021 blog banner

There is something great about reading a brand new book. They feel good and smell good. Books published recently are less likely to have dog-eared pages and coffee stains. It's magical to be the first one of your friend group to read the latest thriller before someone accidentally reveals the totally unexpected twist ending. It's also a lot of fun to read a book and play casting director before it gets made into an actual film or TV show. 

These are my choices for a book published this year.

Dogs on the trail

Dogs on the Trail: A Year in the Life by Blair Braverman and Quince Mountain

Twitter is a great source for dog pictures. A few years ago, one of the cute pictures that found its way to my timeline was from Blair Braverman's account. She and her husband Quince Mountain are dog sled racers and I quickly became obsessed with their dogs--Hari, a blind retired sled dog, Flame, fashion icon/surrogate chicken mother, Grinch who has a "heart of gold and a brain like a box of rocks" and Pepé (shown on the cover) the fearless and brilliant lead dog. Braverman and Mountain are great storytellers and that's hard to do on Twitter. 

Welcome to dunder mifflin

Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of the Office by Brian Baumgartner and Ben Silverman

Another one of my great obsessions is the US version of The Office. I rewatched it endlessly during the the first 6 months of the pandemic. (Except for the Scott's Tots episode which I just can't face.) There was something comforting about a workplace that wasn't on lockdown where people were working, arguing and falling in love. When I took a break from watching, I listened to Office-related podcasts. This book grew out of An Oral History of the Office, produced and hosted by Brian Baumgartner (aka Kevin Malone). The book, like the podcast, is a lot of fun for fans of the show. 


Exit by Belinda Bauer

Felix Pink is an Exiteer, a volunteer who sits with terminally ill patients as they die by suicide. Unfortunately, a recent job has gone terribly awry -- the wrong person has died. Now running from the law, he begins to suspect that it wasn't an accident and he's being framed for murder. 


Staff Recommendations

Here are some recommendations from TPL staff for this category. 

Apollo murders

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

The Apollo Murders' by Chris Hadfield. Say what you will about non-writers writing books, this story is a page turner, not to mention a lesson in what actually goes on inside a space craft. Loved all the technical stuff, too.

—Susan, Driver/Public Service Assistant


Arriving today

Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door--Why Everything has Changed about How and What We Buy by Christopher Mims

This book explores the immense complexity of the global supply chain. Mims uses an interesting narrative structure and takes readers along the journey of a simple USB stick as it goes from microchip to store product, dropping well-researched information about the historical contexts and present political implications of things like shipping containers, long-haul trucking, and port cities. It is a shockingly fast-paced and exciting read that reveals what truly goes into the world of e-commerce. 

—Taylor, Librarian


Beautiful country

Beautiful Country: a Memoir by Qian Julie Wang

This a memoir about Qian who lived undocumented in New York as a child. It's beautifully written, intimate and captivating. I haven't read a memoir that truly captures resiliency through the eyes of a child experiencing trauma.

—Lucas, Librarian

(Also, Qian used to work as a page at North York Central Library with me before she went on to become the lawyer that she always wanted to be!)


Beautiful world where are you

Beautiful World, Where are you by Sally Rooney

—Katelyn, Public Service Assistant


Centaur's wife

The Centaur's Wife by Amanda Leduc

This spellbinding novel opens like a fairy-tale: "In the beginning, a horse fell in love with a woman." But then, as in most fairy tales, things soon take a magical, catastrophic turn. A woman gives birth to twins, in a town at the bottom of a magic mountain, and awakens to find a meteor shower has destroyed much of the world. But the mountain is spared and the woman is drawn to its secrets and promise of hope. Part post-apocalyptic story, part fairy tale, part magical realism, with themes of grief, disability, community, and survival.

This is Leduc's second book to be published in all-accessible formats, like braille and audio, at the same time as regular print (a rare thing we need more of!) - the first was Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, which I also loved

—Winona, Senior Services Specialist


The councillor

The Councillor by E. J. Beaton

This is the start of a new fantasy narrative full of Machiavellian political scheming in a riveting setting. When the palace scholar is thrust into the position of Councillor after the death of the heirless queen, she is pulled into a world of intrigue and subterfuge where the fate of the nation lies in the balance. While the ending leaves a few questions to be answered in the sequel, this is nonetheless a riveting read that kept me up at night to finish just the next chapter.

—Michael, Librarian


Desolation called peace

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

Second book in a fantastic sci-fi series starting with A Memory Called Empire, and one of my top 2021 reads! Nuanced, detailed, filled with political intrigue and unpacking the complexities of colonialism.

—Emily, Librarian


Don't call it a cult

Don't Call it a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM by Sarah Berman

Don't Call It a Cult chronicles the rise and fall of the self-help cult (and multi-level marketing scheme) NXIVM. You might know about NXIVM because of the CBC podcast series, the HBO docuseries, or the Starz docuseries on the cult. NXIVM has certainly been extensively covered in the media, but I think Sarah Berman provides the most complete and thoughtful account of NXIVM and its founder Keith Raniere. Berman sensitively discusses the difficult topics surrounding this case, including sexual, emotional, physical and financial abuse.

—Myrna, Librarian


Fight night

Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Fight Night is told from the perspective of nine year old Swiv who has endless curiosity and wit but few answers as she navigates life with her ailing but fiery grandmother and pregnant (struggling) actress mum in downtown Toronto. The story is funny and touching in equal parts, filled with Toews signature heart. It explores intergenerational relationships between women and family, disability and aging, and trauma. A balm for the soul in these tough times!

—Heather, Page


Pastoral song

Pastoral Song: A Farmer's Journey by James Rebanks

I recently read and loved Pastoral Song by James Rebanks. It’s a beautifully written memoir about the author’s family farm in the Lake District. Rebanks uses the story of his childhood and inheritance of the farm to explore climate change, sustainable food sources, and agriculture, and how these issues are all intimately intertwined.

—Kait, ITS Senior Specialist


Recipe for daphne

A Recipe for Daphne by Nektaria Anastasiadou

This is the story of the few remaining Greek Orthodox Christians left in Istanbul Turkey, since the Byzantine times, or 'Rum' as they are called, set in an Istanbul neighbourhood where many Rum live. 

Older Fanis still misses his lost fiancee who died in the 1955 Pogrom, a violent night against Greeks and other minorities in Turkey. Daphne arrives from the States and he falls instantly for her. She reminds Fanis of his youth and love. Younger Kosmas, a pastry chef, is looking for a good Rum wife. The choices are limited though in such a small community. In comes Daphne from the States to save the day and Kosmas also falls for her instantly. He agonizes over perfecting a recipe for her. First though he must accept the other half of Daphne's roots -- Turkish Muslim -- and cope with his mother's opposition to their relationship. 

—Despina, Branch Head


Razorblade tears

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

A page-turning novel about a gay male couple who were murdered, and their parents who are left to deal with the fallout. Major themes are gender relations, ex-cons, and racism.

—Catherine, Librarian


Smoke hole

Smoke Hole: Looking to the Wild in the Time of the Spyglass by Martin Shaw

This title is very good. In the genre of the Last Lecture but with more to do with way finding and reactions to being lost. Also a very helpful and short read.

—Jennifer, Library Assistant


This is how i disappear

This is How I Disappear by Mirion Malle

I recently read This is How I Disappear by Mirion Malle. I read it in French and English, and it was really special to be able to experience the book in both languages (it's excellent no matter what format/language you read it in). It's a sweet, simple graphic novel that follows a young woman, Clara, as she balances her creative life as a writer with her office day job. It's also a story about Clara's mental health journey, how she struggles to ask for help in the face of past trauma, and the friends who support her along the way.

—Kate, Librarian



Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance by Jesse Wente

CBC personality and journalist Jesse Wente speaks about cultural appropriation and Indigenous representation and identity, while also sharing stories about going to the movies. He argues that reconciliation is not possible, and instead offers a different path forward. I listened to the audiobook version of this and highly recommend it.

—Nalini, Branch Head


Unseen body

The Unseen Body: A Doctor's Journey Through the Hidden Wonders of Human Anatomy by Jonathan Reisman

I'm currently reading The Unseen Body: A Doctor's Journey Through the Hidden Wonders of Human Anatomy by Jonathan Reisman. The author compares some of the amazing inner workings of the body to natural phenomena. It's fascinating and poetic at the same time!

—Lisa, Library Assistant


War for gloria

The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish

Written with extraordinary tautness, anger, and energy, this is the story of Corey, a teenage boy whose mother is dying of ALS. He is struggling to care for her while navigating his absentee father's malevolent and misogynistic designs, and the poverty and ignorance that surround him. Like Lish's first novel, Preparation for the Next Life (2014), an agonizing indictment of contemporary America.

—Joel, Librarian


When the apricots bloom

When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson

This is the story of three women in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The relationship between Huda, her estranged friend Rania, and Ally, the wife of the Australian Deputy Ambassador is filled with mistrust with ongoing threats from the regime. Huda is forced to spy on Ally, or her young son will be sent to a deadly militia. There are scenes that are absolutely terrifying and I kept wondering if one of the women was going to die. The story is based on the author's work as a foreign correspondent while in Baghdad, when a friend was forced to report Gina's every move. 

—Debra, Librarian



Workhorse: My Sublime and Absurd Years in the New York Restaurant Scene by Kim Reed

An insider's look the NYC trendy restaurants scene, and all the craziness that working in such a place entails.

—Anna, Librarian


More Staff Recommendations


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the suggested titles from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2021 discussion group. You can read all of the responses in the original post. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.


What would you recommend for "a book published this year”? Add your suggestions in the comments section below.