What your neighbours are reading

Please submit titles to Denise Rackus at denise.rackus5@gmail.com. Young readers’ selections are encouraged and welcome.

By Denise Rackus


The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton

In this “masterpiece of discernment and insight” (The New York Times Book Review), acclaimed biographer Kati Marton sets out to pierce the mystery of Angela Merkel’s unlikely ascent. With unparalleled access to the chancellor’s inner circle and a trove of records which only recently came to light, Marton teases out the unique political genius that was the secret to Merkel’s success. No modern leader so ably confronted Russian aggression, cleverly enacted daring social policies, and calmly unified an entire continent in an era when countries were becoming more divided. Again and again, she cleverly outmaneuvered strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin and former U.S. President Donald Trump, and weathered surprisingly complicated relationships with allies like former U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Famously private, the woman who emerges from this “impressively researched” (The Wall Street Journal) account is a role model for anyone interested in gaining and keeping power while staying true to one’s moral convictions.


An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

The author of the international bestseller A Suitable Boy returns with a powerful and deeply romantic tale of two gifted musicians. Michael Holme is a violinist, a member of the successful Maggiore Quartet. He has long been haunted, though, by memories of the pianist he loved and left ten years earlier, Julia McNicholl. Now Julia, married and the mother of a small child, unexpectedly re-enters his life and the romance flares up once more.

Against the magical backdrop of Venice and Vienna, the two lovers confront the truth about themselves and their love, about the music that both unites and divides them, and about a devastating secret that Julia must finally reveal. With poetic, evocative writing and a brilliant portrait of the international music scene, An Equal Music confirms Vikram Seth as one of the world’s finest and most enticing writers.


I am Billy the Kid by Michael Blouin, submitted by Alexandra Diebel

History tells us that the short and violent life of William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, ended at the hand of Pat Garrett on the moonless night of July 14, 1881. But I Am Billy the Kid tells a different story, straight from Billy himself. This revisionist history, seen through the lens of a twenty-first century sensibility, features the picaresque hero we thought we knew and the unexpected one that we don’t.

Billy has been in an alcoholic haze since a failed attempt to escape notoriety by faking his own death. By 1915, his fame has only increased, and when word of a possible ruse leaks out, Billy finds himself once again on the run. He agrees to follow his elder brother Joseph north from New Mexico Territory, to possible sanctuary in Canada. Billy and Joseph encounter Turner Wing, a young woman with a fierce sense of self-determination and the skills with a gun to back it up, and her father, a man with a past and a burlap sack over his head due to a significant facial disfiguration. They are in desperate search of Turner’s sister, who has been abducted by a pair of marauding thieves. Billy and Joseph know the truth about the girl’s fate and, following their own code of honour, form an uneasy alliance with the Wings to avenge her death.

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard, submitted by Bob Zettel

The world is a web of stories, connecting us to one another. Finding the Mother Tree carries the stories of trees, fungi, soil, and bears–and of a human being listening in on the conversation. “The interplay of personal narrative, scientific insights and the amazing revelations about the life of the forest make a compelling story.” (Robin Wall Kimmerer).

In this, her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees. She brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths — that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complicated, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities. Simard writes — in inspiring, illuminating, and accessible ways — how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, with characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies — and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.

Taste: My life through food by Stanley Tucci, submitted by Grazyna Finckenstein

Stanley Tucci grew up in an Italian-American family that spent every night around the kitchen table. He shared the magic of those meals with us in The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table, and now he takes us beyond the savoury recipes and into the compelling stories behind them.

Taste is a reflection on the intersection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about Tucci’s growing up in Westchester, New York; preparing for and shooting the foodie films Big Night and Julie & Julia; falling in love over dinner; and teaming up with his wife to create meals for a multitude of children. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burned dishes, is as heartfelt and delicious as the last.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, submitted by Suzanne Ouimet
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits; a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also encounters Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Dead Man’s Ransom:The Ninth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters, submitted by Denise Rackus

November 1145. While Cadfael has bent Abbey rules, he has never broken his monastic vows — until now. Word has come to Shrewsbury of a treacherous act, leaving 30 knights imprisoned. All have been ransomed except Cadfael’s secret son, Olivier. Conceived in Cadfael’s soldiering youth and unaware of his father’s identity, Olivier will die if he is not freed.