January’s Books for Blokes

Winter is allegedly here, so it’s a good time to catch up on your reading. Pour yourself a single malt and settle in for a good read, thanks to this guide from our resident man of letters, Russell Smith.

All My Friends Are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman (Coach House Press). An underground cult hit that’s been translated into Norwegian, among other languages, this is a funny fantasy about a city that looks a lot like Toronto where everybody has some kind of weird superpower. There’s the Perfectionist, who can will things into order; there’s the Businessman, who can assess a person’s net worth by looking at him; there’s Hypno, who can convince you of anything. A fun and moving allegory.

The Fearsome Particles, by Trevor Cole (McClelland and Stewart). What’s happening to Canadian literature? There are guys writing novels set in the present day and they are allowed to be funny. Someone should alert the Canada Council for the Arts; your mom’s book club will be furious. Here’s the story of a stressed out urban family whose son has just returned from Afghanistan. Cole’s first novel, Norman Bray In the Performance Of His Life, was good too.

Afterlands, by Steven Heighton (Vintage Canada). If you like historical fiction, you’ll find this one particularly masculine. It’s about the survivors of a disastrous 1872 polar voyage, who were stranded on an ice floe for several months and dealt with nasty national and ethnic tensions.

Snobs, by Julian Fellowes (Weidenfeld and Nicolson). This satire of the British upper classes came out in 2004, and is just as intriguing today. You’ll like it if you’re a fan of Waugh and Wodehouse, or if you’ve ever wondered who goes to those Mayfair nightclubs you can’t get into.

Under The Skin, by Michel Faber (Harcourt). This 2000 science-fiction tale is unusually intelligent. We can’t even tell you what it’s about, because you won’t figure it out until about 50 pages in, but it starts with a sexy woman kidnapping hitchhiking guys in rural Scotland. Creepy and gripping all the way through.

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