Friday, December 11, 2015

Michelle Whitehead's Top Two Books of 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal is a delectable debut from this past year. The story follows the life of Eva Thorvald from preconception to adulthood, but only from the point of view of other characters in her life, each of whom gets to narrate one chapter.  I wasn’t sure at first if this format was going to work but I ended up loving it and loving the quirky characters that were fleshed out as a result. As you may be able to tell from the title, food is almost a character itself in this novel and there is some really interesting mixing and contrasting of comfort cooking alongside the rise of foodie culture (there is more than one recipe for dessert bars!). The story was at turns moving and hilarious…I laughed so hard I cried at times. I can’t wait to see what Stradal comes out with next.
I’m a big fan of graphic novels and The Outside Circle is one of the most important books (graphic or otherwise) that I read this year. Patti LaBoucane-Benson wrote this fictional story about two Aboriginal brothers who grow up in poverty and violence based on her experiences working at the Native Counselling Services of Alberta. The story follows Pete as he hits rock-bottom, drawn into a gang and finding himself in jail, but finds support and inspiration to try and overcome his traumatic past. Sometimes you could expect a project like this to be too didactic to be enjoyed as fiction and art but this book does not fall into that category. Immensely readable, heartbreaking, and powerful.

Michelle is the Collection Librarian and the Adult Fiction Selector at the Greater Victoria Public Library.

And that's a wrap! Thanks to all those who shared their favourite books of the year with us. :)


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