Quill and Quire

Books of the Year

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Q&Q’s picks for books of the year 2014

Q&Q staff pick the titles that topped their personal lists for 2014, selected by review editor Steven W. Beattie, staff writer Julie Baldassi, and editor Sue Carter Flinn


Us ConductorsSean Michaels(Random House Canada)

Us Conductors
Sean Michaels
(Random House Canada)

In lyrical, measured prose,­ Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels creates a convincing and flawed protagonist from the little known historical figure Lev Termen, the Russian inventor of the theremin. Michaels inverts the archetypical American dream story as he plunges his character from privilege and accomplishment in New York’s gilded age to despairing immobility in the prisons of his homeland. – JB


All My Puny SorrowsMiriam Toews(Knopf Canada)

All My Puny Sorrows
Miriam Toews
(Knopf Canada)

Betting houses in the U.K. do a brisk business around the Man Booker Prize, but so far, gambling on CanLit prizes has not become part of our literary culture. And yet, when Miriam Toews released her sixth novel this spring, insiders were quick to declare the book would top every award list (it was eventually nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize). This loosely autobiographical story of a writer coping with her sister’s suicidal wishes is fierce and funny, while subtly political, and entirely deserving of all the praise. – SCF


All Saints
K.D. Miller

Miller has been a perennial fixture on critics’ lists of best Canadian writers, but to this point she has unfortunately flown under the radar of most readers. Her new collection, centred around the eponymous Anglican church, has been shortlisted for the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Award; perhaps a few more readers will discover her as a result. It helps that the collection is one of her strongest books to date. – SWB


The Girl Who Was Saturday NightHeather O'Neill(HarperCollins Canada)

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night
Heather O’Neill
(HarperCollins Canada)

The worlds Heather O’Neill builds in her fiction are drawn with entrancing charisma. For The Girl Who Was Saturday Night – as in Lullabies for Little Criminals before it – O’Neill creates a relatable yet memorable character in Noushcka, who feels too singular to be considered an “Every Woman.” – JB


If there is one piece of advice I’ll take away from the books that crossed my desk this year, it’s from Kathleen Winter’s friend, who advised her to pack a getaway bag in case of unexpected travel opportunities. Thank god she did, because otherwise we might not have Boundless, Winter’s stunning memoir of journeying through the Northwest Passage. Winter’s personal reflections on marriage, family, and past relationships, combined with her poetic observations of the Northern geography and people, breathe new energy into the traditional travelogue format. – SCF