Best book reviews of 2014

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Photo: flickr/Ginny
Need a book recommendation? rabble's got a few.

Welp! Another year has come and gone in the book lounge and we've got a whole slew of great reviews to prove it.

With a focus on Canadian publishers and Canadian authors, the book lounge was able to dive into a range of genres from Canadian politics to short stories to environmental issues to poetry and more with our original reviews.

So here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite original rabble reviews from 2014.


The war on higher education: What side are you on? by Tiana Reid

Why it's great: Higher education: what's not to like? Oh wait, a whole bunch. Tiana Reid tackled the challenging world of academia, questioning the structure of the institution and who ultimately is benefitting from it. So is there a war on higher education or was this war precipitated by assumptions from higher education itself? You'll have to read to find out.

Why you should read this: New to the book lounge this year, Tiana Reid came in swinging with this powerful debut. Read her review and then marvel at her glory.


Canada's complicated relationship with pro-choice politics by Michelle Reid

Why it's great: This year has been particularly not great for reproductive rights in Canada with the closing of the Morgentaler clinic serving as that symbol. This book and review act as a reminder of not only Canada's vocal anti-choice groups' terrible logic, but that pro-choice advocates need to listen and trust women too, regardless of circumstance.

Why you should read this: Want a little sass and #realtalk with your reproductive rights reading? Michelle Reid delivers.


'Gender Failure' defies gender rules, roles and assumptions By Mercedes Allen

Why it's great: Authors Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon shared their experiences of failing to fit into the gender binary through personal essay, lyrics and drawings. Reviewer Mercedes Allen is tailor-made for this review, bringing their own experience and knowledge of navigating gender narratives, roles and assumptions to this review, creating a piece that makes us think. And think. And think...

Why you should read this: Allen riffs of the authors and makes us think about the question: How do you experience gender?


Idle No More, Indigenous resistance and the larger movement by Lindsey Cornum

Why it's great: This compilation of essays from the Idle No More movement was stunning and a necessary contribution to the Canadian literary scene. Reviewer Lindsey Cornum brought a sharp analysis -- what was the role of women in INM?; what is resistance? -- to this complicated text that rabble felt beyond lucky to publish.

Why you should read this: Lindsey Cornum's focus on hope and resilience in both the past movements and what the future will hold is absolutely refreshing and inspiring.


Harper's Canada: What have we become? By Amira Elghawaby

Why it's great: Maybe you've noticed this thing called 'Harperism' sweeping over Canada, slowly at first it seemed, and with more and more speed as the years followed. Well, the impeccable Donald Gutstein wrote a book about it and the the Harper-loving think tanks that are informing Canadian politics. And it's downright terrifying.

Why you should read this: Amira Elghawaby had many contributions to the book lounge this year (yay!), and all were superb, so why not celebrate this eviscerating takedown of Harper?


Working it: Sex work as labour by Muna Mire

Why it's great: The sex work conversation is contentious -- to say the least. 'Playing the Whore' explored one side of the narrative that recognizes sex work as labour and decriminalization as the best way to protect sex workers. With Bill C-36 fresh in our minds, this is a must read for anyone and everyone involved in the conversation.

Why you should read this: Muna Mire dives into the argument of "Do we view sex workers as less than?" and comes up with a thoughtful and honest critique.


Pipelines: The answer is still no! by Meg Borthwick

Why it's great: The resistance against pipelines in Canada has been one of the bigger political actions in Canada this year with numerous communities from all across the country gathering together to say 'No!' to pipelines. This volume collects some of the most prominent voices from the movement to look at every facet of this issue.

Why you should read this: Reviewer Meg Borthwick doesn't like pipelines, and she's not afraid to tell you why.


'El Niño' draws attention to the issues of migrant labour by Christina Turner

Why it's great: Nadia Bozak's 'El Niño' was a great addition to Canadian literature this year, but also helped shed light on the ever-growing issues of temporary foreign workers in Canada and the U.S. Reviewer Christina Turner brought her passion for food politics, migrant worker issues -- oh, and a couple advanced degrees in English -- to this review to go beyond just a literary analysis.

Why you should read this: rabble always considers itself very lucky when a Christina Turner piece comes in. And this review is no exception.


Unions matter. So why does Canada pretend like they don't? by Nora Loreto

Why it's great: The blatant attack on unions this year by the Harper government is not surprising, but boy is it infuriating! Nora Loreto is well-versed in the politics of unions (and the backwards rhetoric of anti-union folks) and gave us the tools to fight neoliberalism, austerity and anti-union, right wing tripe.

Why you should read this: How do you like your articles on Canadian labour unions? Straight up and full of statistics? This review is for you.


Doretta Lau sets a new standard in Canadian literature by Yutaka Dirks

Why it's great: Doretta Lau's short story collection was widely praised this year and is another great addition to this amazing genre we call #CanLit. (How many times have I said that this year, amiright?) Lau's examination of the Asian-Canadian experience and female experience in this debut is a fascinating perspective for both the literary and political-minded.

Why you should read this: Reviewer Yutaka Dirks calls up Lau herself for a nice conversation about Canadian literature... and how she set a new standard in it this year.


'Crazy Town': Doolittle does a lot with Rob Ford's story By Heather Morgan

Why it's great: I think Heather Morgan could potentially rival Robyn Doolittle in her expertise and ability to write about Rob Ford. Seriously! This book came out, and all I thought was "Must. Send. To. Heather. Morgan. Now." And she did not disappoint. The ongoing saga of The Ford Family is... indescribably fascinating. Luckily, Morgan finds the words.

Why you should read this: Want an extra-thorough, on-point analysis of the Rob Ford Saga? It's this review. #RobFord


Why we need to win the battle over the tar sands by Brad Hornick

Why it's great: I said it before, and I'll say it again: the battle over the tar sands and pipelines was a huge issue in 2014 and there was no shortage of great books produced about it. This compilation focused on why we need to win the tar sands battle and what needs to be done in order to win it.

Why you should read this: 'Cause we need to win the battle over the tar sands! It says it right there in the headline!



Kaitlin McNabb is rabble's books coordinator.

Photo: flickr/Ginny

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