Skip to content

Best Books 2014: Ten titles worthy of your attention

Year in Review: Top 10 Books
Joanne Dugan sought the help of international photographers to contribute to the Summertime collection.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Viking Publishing, 260 pages, $30.

Into the lonely life of widowed bookstore owner A.J. Fikry comes a small child who provides the path for renewal and a second chance at life. Gabrielle Zevin delves into the turbulent waters of lost love, loneliness and tragedy but discovers friendship, trust and redemption. She brings a well-rounded cast of characters to life and makes us care about them. Her story spans years but is such a wonderful tale that it feels like it is over far too soon.

Melting Away by Camille Seaman, Princeton Architectural Press, 160 pages, $68.

This collection of breathtaking photographs provides a view of the Polar Regions that make even the icebergs seem alive. Drawing from a decade's worth of journeys to both poles photographer Camille Seaman shares these fabulous images. Seven essays spread throughout the book offer insight into her initial attraction and eventual passion for their preservation.

We Animals by Jo-Anne McArthur, Lantern

Books, 206 pages, $44.66 Jo-Anne McArthur takes the hard photos, the ones that we don't always want to look at, but through her talent with a camera, she presents them so artistically that we are drawn back to see both the image and the message. Animal's lives in captivity, their treatment and ultimate deaths are where she trains her lens.

As challenging as her photos of animals kept in tiny cages their whole lives are, the flip side of animals who've been rescued and lived out their remaining years in peaceful surroundings are as rewarding. These magnificent animals should no longer be used for our entertainment at pathetically small zoo or aquarium enclosures. Nor do we still require their fur to keep us warm when we have so many alternatives. Her message that we have a moral obligation to act in a responsible manner towards the creatures we share this planet with is presented thoughtfully and passionately.

This is Warhol, by Catherine Ingram, Illustrations by Andrew Rae, Laurence King Publishing, 80 pages, $18.95.

Catherine Ingram has taken the concept of artist profiles and turned it upside down by

using a collaboration between words and illustrations to create something brand new. The illustrations add an air of graphic novels to these books and bring a contemporary feel to the presentation.

There are plenty of fascinating details on his career, such as the 1962 painting of a Campbell soup can that became a pop culture icon.

A Million Ways to Die in the West by Seth MacFarlane, Ballantine Books, 211 pages, $26.95.

Gunfighters, escaping sheep, Apache warriors and women all conflict with cowardly Albert Stark who keeps looking for a way out but in the end must face up to the realities of the old west, where his dry humour isn't always well received.

There are no dull moments in the small town of Old Stump and soon Stark has a lot more to think about than lost love. Author Seth MacFarlane, well known for his comic work on the television shows, Family Guy and American Dad, and his film Ted, keeps the story rolling with his sharp wit and hilarious observations.

Kevin Red Star by Daniel Gibson Kitty Leaken, Gibbs Smith Publishers, 192 pages, $62.

It's a long way from the Crow reservation in Montana to European art galleries but Kevin Red Star has made the journey.

Red Star's paintings speak for themselves and explain his rise to one of the most successful Native American artists working today. Brilliant colours leap off the canvas while the subjects often stare silently outwards. Red Star's portraits vary dramatically in overall appearance but their eyes maintain a consistent presentation of a calmness and wisdom.

Mickey Muennig, Gibbs Smith Publishers, 192 pages, $62.

The rugged landscape and the isolated building locations of Big Sur suited Mikey Muenning's sensibilities and he savoured those influences. The homes he designed defined a West Coast post modernism that melded with the landscape. His style embraced the unique qualities of each location, sometimes sitting lightly on a rocky precipice, other times burrowing into a slope to become a part of the grounds and the natural surroundings.

With colour photos, architectural drawings and Muennig's own descriptions, 23 buildings are brought to life in this stunning collection.

Burning Man: Art on Fire by Jennifer Raiser, Race Point Publishing, 208 pages, $39.

Sand and fire have been synonymous with the Burning Man festival from the beginning. What began as a small group gathering on a San Francisco beach to burn a wooden figure has grown into a seven-day festival of art and alternative lifestyles held out on the Black Rock desert in Nevada.

Jennifer Raiser profiles a collection of artists who are responsible for many of the most memorable pieces that have been erected on the playa. The descriptions provide a fascinating look behind the scenes and at the complexity of the work. From the smallest solar-powered LED sunflower standing alone on the desert floor to the massive Temple that is always located at the top of the city, the creations are both remarkable and inspirational.

Summertime. Edited by Joanne Dugan, Chronicle Books, 144 pages, $34.95.

Warm breezes, children's laughter, waves lapping the shoreline, these are just some of the things that come to mind when you

think of summer. Joanne Dugan sought the help of international photographers to contribute to this collection. The images offer a broad cross-section of memories and while they may hold specific connections for the photographers, they all share in a more universal appeal and follow the summertime theme beautifully.

Hollywood Frame by Frame by Karina Longworth, Princeton Architectural Press, 208 pages, $35.

Throughout this era of film cameras the contact sheet was the standard medium for viewing the images, allowing you to see the entire roll of film reproduced onto one page. It is this contact sheet that is the vehicle for the behind the scenes look offered in this book.

Movies dating back to The African Queen in 1951 all the way forward to The Crow in 1997 are presented in chronological order. Through the images on the contact sheets we see not just the publicity photos but also those pictures taken when the cast was relaxing together or those moments when the actors confer with the director. Accompanying the images is background information that fills in the blanks on the history of the 71 films that are featured.John Goodman’s Top 10 Albums:

Julie Crawford’s Top 10 Films:

John Goodman’s Top 10 Books:

John Goodman’s Top 10 Films:

John Goodman’s Top 10 Albums:

Erin McPhee’s Top 10 Albums: