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Reading week picks: 5 great books by Concordians

Take these tantalizing titles with you
February 12, 2014
By Tom Peacock, Marisa Lancione and Alyssa Tremblay

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Whether you’re hitting the slopes, the beach or the library this February 17 to 21, you’ll want to bring along a book or two that’s not listed on a syllabus. So why not pack a reading-week read written by a Concordian?

From Mordecai Richler’s St. Urbain’s Horsemen to Nino Ricci’s Lives of the Saints to to Johanna Skibsrud’s 2010 Giller-Prize-winner The Sentimentalists, Concordia's alumni, staff and faculty have produced a plethora of powerful page-turners over the years.

These five books are new additions to this illustrious list.


The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever
Doubleday Canada, 2013
By Adam Leith Gollner, BA 04

Toronto Star critic Robert Collison called The Book of Immortality a “beautiful, illuminating opus.” After taking “a delectable journey through jungles, street markets, and orchards in search of the world’s most exotic fruits” in The Fruit Hunters (Anchor Canada, 2009), Concordia alumn Adam Leith Gollner set off to examine humanity’s obsession with cheating death.

Gollner visits David Copperfield on his private archipelago, where the illusionist claims to have discovered a fountain of youth. The Montreal-based writer converses with religious believers around the world, from Sufi mystics to Hasidic Jews, uncovering myths and legends that claim to hold the secret to eternal life.

Last November, The Book of Immortality won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction. Gollner’s first book, The Fruit Hunters, was a national bestseller and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. In 2012, it was adapted into a feature-length documentary directed by Yung Chang, BFA 99.


The Barista and I
Insomniac Press: Serotonin/Wayside (2012)
By Andrew Szymanski, MA 12

Andrew Szymanski’s debut collection of short stories, The Barista and I, won the Concordia University First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers’ Federation in November.

He examines our struggles to find love, deal with failed relationships and connect meaningfully with others in what National Post critic David Berry described as a “hilariously blunt” combination of “sparse emotion, unalloyed honesty and dry, dry, dry cleverness.”


Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume
Astor + Blue Editions (2013)
By Kit Brennan

Lola Montez is back with a bang in the second installment of Kit Brennan’s vivacious series.

In Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume, readers join the dancer in 19th-century Paris as she seeks fame, fortune and affection. The historical Montez, née Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, ended up as mistress of King Ludwig of Bavaria, so it’s pretty certain she will find all three.

Brennan is a member of the Faculty of Fine Arts and coordinator of Concordia's BFA major in playwriting.


Vigilante Season
Linda Leith Publishing (2013)
By Peter Kirby, BA 80

Inspector Luc Vanier returns to prowl the mean streets of Montreal in the latest work of crime fiction by Peter Kirby.

Vigilante Season picks up where Kirby’s critically acclaimed debut, The Dead of Winter, left off: a string of suspicious disappearances in the gritty Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district leaves Vanier searching for answers as he tries to clear his name in the police force.


Three Deaths
Snare Books (2010)
By Josip Novakovich

Concordia English professor Josip Novakovich made the short list for last year’s Man Booker International Prize, an honour that recognizes the winner’s entire body of work — in this case, a novel, three short story collections, four essay collections, two texbooks, and numerous individual stories and essays.

The Croatian-Canadian writer’s most recent book Three Deaths contains a fable, a story and an essay in which he reflects on his life.

At the upcoming Thinking Out Loud conversation series, Novakovich will join two-time Booker-winner Peter Carey on stage at Concordia for “On the Writing of Inspiration,” a conversation about the nature of inspiration and the distinctions between novel and memoir.


“On the Writing of Inspiration” takes places on Thursday, March 20, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Oscar Peterson Concert (PT) Hall (7141 Sherbrooke St. W.) on the Loyola Campus. A book signing will follow at 8:15 p.m.

Register for Josip Novakovich and Peter Carey’s conversation — and see the full Thinking Out Loud schedule.

Check out 16 great reads chosen by Concordians.


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