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8 Books You’ve Probably Never Heard About, but Should Read this Spring

I spend a lot of time—not ironically—in used book stores. My favourite one to visit is across the street from where I work. I was drawn initially by the beat-up exterior and a desire to support local businesses; but I go back for the surprisingly extensive selection of books and the charming old man who inexplicably charges 10% sales tax instead of the required 13%. As a result of my numerous visits, I’ve read a bunch of offbeat and unusual books that I would never have come across, otherwise. Here’s a list of a few of my favourites, some new and some old, that you should check out, too:

Death With Interruptions – Jose Saramago

Portuguese writer, Jose Saramago is known for exploring incredible “what if” scenarios in his novels. He stretches them out to their logical extreme in an effort to uncover the faults in society. In Death With Interruptions, Saramago writes about a country in which, suddenly, no one dies. At first people are elated, but as the story goes on, Saramago exposes the crude and often inhumane ways that governments deal with crises.

Great House – Nicole Krauss

Personally, I’ve always been partial to stories that reveal people as they are—with all their flaws and eccentricities. In this novel, Krauss’s characters follow separate story lines, which, although separated by time and space, overlap in intriguing and emotional ways. Centred around the mysterious history of an old desk and its various owners, the story is romantic, dramatic, witty, and heart-wrenching.

Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer

This is one of my favourite books of all time. It was also an OK movie starring Elijah Wood. The author takes us on the journey of Jonathan, a young Jewish-American novelist, as he travels to Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather’s life during the Nazi invasions. The novel alternates between chapters of Jonathan’s novel-in-progress and the story of Jonathan’s trek, as told by his Ukrainian guide. This novel is heartfelt and funny; definitely worth a read.

White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

The sometimes funny and sometimes sad story of a man in India who, against all odds, rises from the slums to become a wealthy entrepreneur. The story is told in the form of a series of letters from the main character, Balram, to the Premier of China. The novel visits the issues of poverty and classism in India and gives interesting insight into the way that Indian society is changing to adapt to globalization in the 21st century.

Bright Shiny Morning – James Frey

Frey’s novel tells the story of Los Angeles through the narratives of his many characters. Interspersed among stories of love, loss, life, death, wealth, and poverty, are short sarcastic excerpts describing the history of the city. The novel gives a poignant and relevant account of both the beauty and horror of the urban landscape.

The Genesis Code – John Case

This is a fast-paced and thrilling mystery novel about Joe, a man whose sister and nephew were killed in a house fire that was later discovered to be arson. As the story progresses, Joe learns of other similar murders. His investigation leads him around the world and into many precarious situations. This novel has an ending that’ll really make you think.

 Atmospheric Disturbances – Rivka Galchen

Dr. Leo Liebenstein wakes up and discovers that his wife, Rema, has been replaced by another woman. Although she looks exactly the same, the man is convinced that the woman in his house is someone else. In her novel, Galchen follows the man’s thoughts and insecurities on his quest to figure out what happened to his wife. Despite the unusual premise and the somewhat clunky prose, Leo is extremely relatable. You’ll find yourself alternately shouting at the book and on the edge of crying. Just try not to do this all while on the bus like I did. People will judge you.

The Killing Circle – Andrew Pyper

Set in Toronto, Patrick, a failed novelist, joins a creative writing circle where he meets a number of dark and unusual characters. At one of their meetings, Angela, a mysterious young woman, reads her chilling story of a man who steals children. Something about Angela’s story leads Patrick to believe it may not be completely fictional. When Patrick’s own son is taken and the police prove ineffectual, he begins a perilous journey to find the kidnapper and discovers that the line between fiction and nonfiction is not always as clear as one would hope.

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