Six books to read this winter

Engaging new reads for the holiday season

12 Bytes by Jeanette Winterson

12 Bytes: How we got here. Where we might go next

By Jeanette Winterson (Grove, Oct. 12)

The author of Frankissstein (2020) has an abiding interest in the relationship between humans and their technology. In the dozen provocative and often funny essays found here, Winterson discusses everything from the future of love and sex (“Hot for a Bot”) to her enthusiasm for transhumanism. We need to control our evolution via such enhancements as neural implants, she writes, or AI will rule us instead.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The Sentence

By Louise Erdrich (Harper, Nov. 9)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Indigenous author and bookstore owner has a lot to say about a momentous year in her Minneapolis hometown, from the pandemic lockdown to the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. She delivers it powerfully in a quirky, beguiling novel about bookstores, racial reckoning and ghosts of all sorts, under a title as resonant of prison time as of literary building blocks.

The Singing Forest.

The Singing Forest

By Judith McCormack (Biblioasis, Sept. 21)

Toronto refugee lawyer Leah Jarvis is, for once, working on the feds’ side as Ottawa attempts to deport a nonagenarian war criminal. The novel’s twin storylines—Jarvis explores pre-war Stalinist atrocities and her own family secrets—are beautifully written, and reach a profound and unsettling moral clarity as McCormack weighs what happens when, in her protagonist’s words, “fragments of leftover history spill into the present.”


Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Small Things Like These

By Claire Keegan (Grove Press, Nov. 30)

Readers can dispute whether the newest work from the brilliant Irish short story writer is truly—at 114 pages—a novel. But there is no arguing the beauty of Keegan’s story of a crisis in the life of coal merchant Billy Furlong. Every small thing in Small Things—a nun’s gesture, a husband’s look, a wife’s veiled reference—is a polished gem.


On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times by Michael Ignatieff

On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times

By Michael Ignatieff (Penguin Random House Canada, Nov. 9)

While his political career may have ended in disaster, Ignatieff has always been a remarkably accomplished and versatile writer of fiction and non-fiction. In his compelling new work, he explores how major figures in the Western tradition, from St. Paul to Primo Levi, sought solace in times of tragedy, and how that primarily religious tradition fares in our modern winter of disbelief and discontent.


These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett

These Precious Days: Essays

by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins, Nov. 23)

The acclaimed American novelist is also a superb essayist. Her new collection—23 fluid, intricate and utterly absorbing pieces—runs a gamut from “Three Fathers,” rooted in a rare joint appearance of her father, her stepfather and her mother’s third husband, to the title essay, the luminous story of an unexpected friendship.

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