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Book Scene: Recommendations

This week is really dead. So instead of listing the usual events, I'm going to tell you what's around at bookshops - what I've picked up and put back down, what I've continued reading, and what I've actually managed to finish. You'll be looking for your summer reads, soon - something to take with you to the cottage - and I'm here to help.

First up, Joe Fiorito's Union Station - which is kind of like a love letter to Toronto, written by someone who knows every ugly nook and cranny, every fault and shame and bad habit, and loves the city anyway.

Fiorito chats with people, gets their stories - and he's not afraid to talk to everyone. He starts up conversations with his neighbors, asks people what they're doing and where they're going - and not just the harmless looking grannies, either. Fiorito gets the word from people from everywhere, business owners to crack whores. His only real complaint is about the quality of our coffee.

I haven't finished the book yet - but I will; because it's an honest portrayal of Toronto as a home, rather than a tourist destination or a background for business. Fiorito introduces you to people who seem familiar, you've seen them in line at Tim's, and draws out a little of their life. It's fascinating.

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Mean Boy, by Lynn Coady, is the only fiction title I've actually finished recently. I polished it off in one day - ate it whole. It tells the story of university sophomore Lawrence Campbell, who is studying poetry under his hero Jim Arsenault, a real masculine, I-chop-my-own-wood kind of guy.

Using Campbell's earnest adoration of his mentor, Coady sinks her teeth into the foibles of academia, the melodrama of the publishing world and the writers in particular, in the context of insulated university life. I don't want to spoil any of the fun Coady has with the evolving relationships between teacher and student for you, so I'll just tell you it's fun to read, fast paced, and captures that segue between young adult and adult.

Stumbling on Happiness is Harvard man Daniel Gilbert's attempt to finish the phrase "Humans are the only animal that ______." And not just for the sake of psychological theory - but to steer us in the right direction in our constant pursuit of happiness.

We anticipate, we plan, we envision the future, and we get our panties in a bunch when things don't turn out as planned. Gilbert's accessible, jocular and often comical tone makes reading about why we think how we think compelling - he anticipates the reader's eye-rolling and joins in, so we stay with him.

I have yet to reach the last chapter, wherein he'll suggest how to use our forward-thinking minds to better feel happy (and which he's already said we probably won't do), but I am curious to see how he thinks we can assuage anxiety and frustration.

Here's my list of new paperbacks that I absolutely intend to read because I know they're going to be great, but I haven't been in the mood for yet.

The Girls - Lori Lansens - about twins joined at the head in small town Ontario. The first page blew my mind. Now I just need to read the rest of them.

Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka - family comedy about a widower who gets involved with a hedonistic golddigger, and his daughters try and thwart her. I like the idea of some oldish, full of personality lady coming in and turning lives upside down.

The Accidental - Ali Smith - has been getting such good press I can't ignore it.

There are always more, but those are heading the list for now.


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