Best book reviews of 2013

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It's been another great year in the rabble book lounge and to celebrate we'd like to share some of our favourite original book reviews from 2013.

rabble contributors completely outdid themselves this year writing on topics from residential schools to Canadian queer icons to female sexuality to the future of Canadian politics.

Here, in no particular order, are some of our best book reviews of 2013.


'Undoing Border Imperialism' contextualizes urgency of migrant justice issue by Niranjana Iyer

Why it's great: Reviewer Niranjana Iyer carefully dissects Harsha Walia's magnum opus on migrant justice and border policies to make the heavy theory accessible and contextualize some of the activism present in No One is Illegal. Iyer's mix of opinion, humour and statistics makes this read exceptional.

Why you should read this: The jaw-dropping statistics on migrant workers alone are enough to read this review and pick up this book.


'Everything Is So Political' interprets 'What is political?' into a diverse and memorable marriage of art and politics by Jessica Rose

Why it's great: Reviewer Jessica Rose considers the complex question "what is political" throughout this review and, spoiler alert, determines that everything is so political. Rose leans on her CanLit credentials when discussing the strengths of each story and ultimately decides it is those stories that seem the simplest that ultimately shine through.

Why you should read this: We like to consider Jessica Rose as our "go to" person on CanLit, and her knowledge and discussion of these stories definitely proves that reputation.


Beyond Politics? The origins (and future) of the NDP's Orange Wave by Joel Harden

Why it's great: Reviewer Joel Harden pulls no punches as he takes a deep, personal look at the NDP past and present. Harden recounts the NDP history presented by Brad Lavigne, Jack Layton's rise to Leader of the Official Opposition and ponders what the future of the NDP is given all the recent disappointments.

Why you should read this: If you too are feeling disenchanted by NDP politics as of late and are searching for catharsis and perhaps answers, this review is for you.


'Fear of a Black Nation' pulls Black voices out of Canadian historical erasure by Muna Mire

Why it's great: Reviewer Muna Mire pours her heart into this review connecting hyper-academic theory and Canadian history with shrewd observation. The review is more than a book review -- it is an incredible in depth (and at times complex) critique of the representation of the Black Power movement in Canada.

Why you should read this: This book is the first of its kind, documenting the history of the Black Power movement in Canada and Mire layers on even more cultural critique and black activism on top.


You can do it! 'Stay Solid!' lays the groundwork for the next generation of radical youth by Steff Pinch

Why it's great: rabble's activist toolkit coordinator Steff Pinch brings her expertise and excitement for youth activism to this review and weighs out the good with the potential missteps. Pinch comends the diversity of opinion, topic and writing style and champions this book as a great tool for activist in your life, regardless of age.

Why you should read this: Getting youth excited about activism and informed about progressive issues that affect them? Why wouldn't you read this!


Why '1996' is one of the most important Canlit books of 2013 by Nathaniel G. Moore

Why it's great: Reviewer Nathaniel G. Moore set out to accomplish the task of redefining Canadian poetry's reputation from inaccessible prose to accessible writing, and boy did he succeed. Moore uses '1996' as the stepping stone for Canada's new style poetry, and reflects on how the evolution of emotion developed.

Why you should read this: Canadian poetry is awesome and we should all give it more respect. 'Nuff said.


Decolonizing mind and soul: 'They Called Me Number One' is a powerful read about residential schools and systemic racism' by Dr. Theresa Turmel

Why it's great: Reviewer Dr. Theresa Turmel uses her vast experience working with residential school survivors to provide the inspiring foundation to this review. Turmel's analysis is spot on and finds the balance between discussing the book and describing personal experiences.

Why you should read this: This review could be a contribution to the growing literature on Canadian Indian residential schools on its own. Turmel packs in so much incredible insight and truly encapsulates the horrors of residential school and the resiliency of its survivors.


'Army of Lovers' embodies community spirit of a Toronto queer icon by Jeff Miller

Why it's great: Reviewer Jeff Miller was a former friend of the late Toronto queer artist Will Munro and writes this review with two perspectives: a discussion of the importance of Munro, the artist and his contributions, and a remembrance of his friend, a passionate and inspiring person.

Why you should read this: Though Munro is considered an icon in Toronto, his reputation does not always extend to all corners -- read this if you want to feel inspired by community activism, and potentially shed a few tears for a fallen friend.


'Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics' reflects on a brilliant activist and a courageous politician by Judy Rebick

Why it's great: Founding rabble publisher Judy Rebick steps up, big time, to write about her personal and political relationship with Svend Robinson. The results are enlightening: a portrait of a complex man and politician, and ultimately an ode to that passion and commitment that, at times, is sorely lacking in Canada's political scene.

Why you should read this: This review represents an opinion found nowhere else and paints a compelling picture of 'Svend Robinson: The Politician' and 'Svend Robinson: The Man.'


Questioning assumptions about female desire by Meghan Murphy

Why it's great: Reviewer Meghan Murphy tackles two conflicting books on the concept of female sexuality to decide what the mysteries are around monogamy, sexual desire, 'disorders' and gender stereotypes. Murphy questions how the patriarchy affects the perception of female sexuality and relationships and ends up with an interesting account on societal beliefs.

Why you should read this: There are so many theories out there on the mysteries of female sexuality that it's nuts! Murphy combs through the jargon and gets straight to the facts.


Digital revolution: 'Digital Disconnect' analyzes corporate control of our digital communications future by Greg Macdougall

Why it's great: Reviewer Greg Macdougall discusses how a broad progressive movement with media and Internet centred at its core is needed in order to rehaul our digital communication. Macdougall sees eye-to-eye with the book, and brings some staggering facts about near-monopolies in to play.

Why you should read this: Democracy in media -- and Internet providers -- is still an important issue. Read this to get informed about this broad movement and how reform could actually work.


'Wielding the Force' establishes the interconnection between science and social movement theory by Harsha Walia

Why it's great: Reviewer Harsha Walia shares her personal experiences with activism, particularly with the ideas of emergence theory and the need for self care. Walia commends the book for reclamation of the word science and emphasis on healthy movements being built on a paradigm of relationality.

Why you should read this: Prominent activist Harsha Walia reviewed a book by prominent activist Zainab Amadahy on ways to be a better activist. So, you should read this.


Cyberbulling, poor working conditions, health implications: Why are we so in love with social media? by Cathi Bond

Why it's great: Reviewer Cathi Bond sits down with author, activist and musician Raffi Cavoukian to have a personal discussion about the implications of social media on children. Their conversation extends beyond just social media in the home and discusses worker conditions in factories, health implications from electromagnetic radio waves and the endgame of social media.

Why you should read this: Social media can be an important tool, but in the wrong hands can create a lot of harm. Read this to get yourself thinking about potential aspects of social media you may not have been aware of before.


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 Kaitlin McNabb is rabble's book lounge coordinator and frequently tweets @kaitlinmcnabb 

Photos: flickr/Ginny

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