Category Archives: Bestseller

It Ends With Us: So… Colleen Hoover

My teenage niece suggested I read Colleen Hoover. I hadn’t heard of her, and read so much less than I want to, and thought “I will stay relevant! I will read Colleen Hoover to stay connected with the teens!” Apparently I will also stay connected to millions on millions of other people who do not live under a rock and have heard of Colleen Hoover. An article from Slate promised me that her books sold better than the Bible in 2022, a fact which I didn’t find that impressive because I thought most Bibles were free.

Onwards: I didn’t really like It Ends With Us, but I did read it in three days.

I am so glad so many people are reading. Might I suggest your next book be… something else.


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Filed under Bestseller, Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction

David Copperfield and Demon Copperfield: Truly Genius


I know generative AI is all like ‘I can write a thing in the style of so-and-so’ but with due respect to the robots, you cannot write like THIS. Jesus but Barbara Kingslover Hit It Out Of The Park with Demon Copperfield.

I’d heard it was good – well reviewed and on all the lists from last year, plus some personal recommendations – but felt held back by having not read David Copperfield. Some told me you didn’t have to have read David to appreciate Demon, but I thought I’d better check out the original just in case. And well. Guys. Did you know Dickens was a pretty good writer? Like I know you ‘know’ but maybe you’re like me and you haven’t actually read anything by him (or if you did it was a 100 years ago and a blur of high school English) and so you don’t really know. I mean don’t go out and drop what you’re doing, but I’m here to report: Charles Dickens was no slouch. But then, I cheated. I listened to it on audiobook (double speed and it still took 40 hours) and so maybe I’m a fan because of the British accent reading it to me and the aid of different voices. But probably it’s just a good one.

Anyway. So David Copperfield if you missed it: not an orphan from the outset, but an orphan, spends some time hungry, doing child labour, exploited, left for lost by institutions that should have – could have – protected him. Demon Copperfield? Same plot a few centuries later and this time it’s opioids and underfunded schools and exploitative companies and willful neglect that take center stage for judgement. [As an aside, if you don’t to read David Copperfield, then please, please, read Empire of Pain before you read this one – as it contextualizes (and layers the outrage) in incredibly helpful ways.]

Even while both books brilliantly attack institutions for the unmitigated failure (and not just passive failure, but active harm) of the young and the poor, they simultaneously argue for the profound – life changing – impact of individuals on one another. What harm, what hope might be possible in how we show up (or don’t) for one another.

So sure, all the institutions you can think of are (probably) failing, but they’ve been failing for centuries! Optimistic spin! AND as it always was and is also now true – we aren’t helpless in the face of it. While Demon and David both narrate exceptions – characters who are themselves exceptional and find themselves surrounded by others who – despite the structural failures that crumble – are kind. Kindness and caring are very small in the face of it all, and what we really need is revolution. And still. This reader clings to that tiny thing. Being kind, showing up, despite it all, holding hope.

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Filed under Bestseller, Book Club, Erin's Favourite Books, Fiction, New York Times Notable, Prize Winner

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow: high school math and Mum and I disagree

I have this memory of being in Mr. Lowe’s OAC (yes, OAC) Calculus class. I got back another test where I had managed a 70 something after a thousand hours of studying and fretting and worrying and fretting. And feeling like #why. At the time the why was this vision that if I didn’t take OAC Calculus I wouldn’t be able to take Psychology courses at University and become a therapist*. Then I discovered a University that would let me in to their Psych program without Calculus. I digress. I’m sitting in this class and I get the 70 and I’m just Done With Calculus (despite Mr. Lowe spending hours of his own time helping me, and my friends J. and J. spending hours of their time helping me). So I go to the office to call my mum (or maybe it was a pay phone) and ask her – crying in this memory – can I please drop Calculus, I don’t think I’ll need it to be a therapist and it’s making me miserable. I don’t know if my mum remembers the call, or knows how I’d spun out the different versions of my life that hinge(d) on her Yes or No to Calculus. But she supported me and said, of course, do what you want to do. And so I dropped Calculus. Like right after I hung up I walked over to the counselling office and dropped it. Probably for Latin. Very useful. (actually) (as useful as Calculus?) (what do you want from me)*


Well, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, in addition to being (or maybe mostly being) a book about friendship and its boundaries, and a book that intentionally or not tries to capture the mood of A Little Life (credit to mum for pointing out this parallel which is Spot On), is also a book about women in math.

Our protagonists, Sam and Sadie, spend the book falling into their friendship and then creating wildly successful video games together. Their lives are peppered with the accidents of circumstance and the mistakes of choice that make for any life, and their friendship is one of the accumulation of small moments layered on a true connection. The book is mostly about this friendship – how they come to be friends, how they betray one another (or think they’ve betrayed one another), how other people interrupt and intersect with their friendship, and what the boundaries of love in a friendship fall. It is a beautiful story on this thread – even if, again credit to mum, Sadie’s grudge against Sam midway through the book stretches the boundaries of plausibility.

And it is also a book about what Sadie has to experience and respond to because she is a woman who is very good at math, and one who loves video games, and one who wants to make those games in an industry and institutions full of men. I’d forgotten I read this book, truthfully, but then remembered when reading a list today of top books of last year, and was like oh right, that one. And then found myself tonight listening to a podcast about how boys are struggling in school and how this is impacting men’s outcomes in a bunch of domains. And truly – I’m a mother of a self-described boy and am not dismissing the (surprising to me) information about the widening gap in gendered achievement in schools. But was also like Come On. I suppose I can accept two things at the same time: women are doing better at school/university across a wide range of metrics AND the programs that men dominate are still the ones preferentially valued. The glut of women in universities is hardly yielded Power to the extremely well educated, and extremely underpaid teachers at my daughter’s daycare.

So maybe that’s the thing I liked best about Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: its careful exploration of how Sadie navigates computer science programs, video game making/marketing and Silicon Valley. The way she finds herself used, abused and manipulated by men with power and then ‘lucky’ to find the good ones. The way efforts at ‘wokeness’ risk violence, and the tension between what we know about our friends as individuals and the way we let their individual identities influence our perception of their actions (like: did he do that because he’s my friend, or did he do that because he’s a man?).

And there’s more someone else would read into this book about race and class and orphan-hood and disability. There’s a heap to think through and plenty to enjoy. It reads quickly, is absorbing, and in the end – I think – satisfying.

But for me? I couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Lowe. And what we tell ourselves about math.

*I did not become a therapist. But Latin probably got me the degree.

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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, New York Times Notable, Prize Winner

Lessons in Chemistry: When You Have a Six Hour Flight

I suppose on a six hour flight there are a lot of things you could do. Watch 1/3 of the Lord of the Rings movies. Contemplate mortality. Crotchet a hat. OR you could read Bonnie Garmus’ entirely fun Lessons in Chemistry and you might not notice the cramped seat and tiny cup of cold coffee meant to sustain you for the duration.

It is a very fun romp through the the 1960s as we follow scientist, Elizabeth Zott, who encounters sexism and gender-based violence in all the usual places, and some extras, in her efforts to simply be who she is: a scientist. The first half of the novel is something of a rom-com heavier on the rom. With the second half taken up with the shine of celebrity after Elizabeth becomes – and not too much of a spoiler here as I think its on the front cover or maybe in the prologue – a celebrity chemist-chef, maybe famous primarily because she imagines (apparently for the first time) that women might just like someone to talk to them like adult humans.

There are some lovely characters – a Mary Poppins-esque neighbour who saves Elizabeth and whom Elizabeth saves in return. A heroic dog (as a person long on the record for distrusting dogs, even I found this one endearing). A precocious child. Some rowers who – for whatever reason – are not subject to the same misogyny of the rest of their societal peers and are instead just interested in good rowers.

It is problematic in ways that we can just skip over so as to enjoy the book for what it is. But worth noting that the plot arc of individual who persists amid challenge demands a lot from individuals to pull up their bootstraps etc etc – which isn’t to say the novel isn’t aware of the structural impediments to Elizabeth’s success – quite the opposite! or that it’s not interested in how Elizabeth relies on others in a community for her eventual triumph – she does! or that there aren’t examples of other individuals who learn and grow – there are! more that in celebrating this exceptional woman – incredibly smart and tenacious – there’s something of a thread that the people likely to succeed, and those who can do the work of change, are those of the talented genius. Rather than a collective effort of community. And that if you happen to be someone who doesn’t learn to read by age 3 you might not change the world.

What a relief for me, then.

All that said: fun and absorbing and you’ll thank me when your plane is delayed for deicing and you have something to sustain you for the extra seventeen hours.

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Filed under Bestseller, Book Club, Fiction