February is I Love to Read Month and the Manitoban staff is celebrating reading, writing and literacy with a list of books we picked up during the pandemic and just couldn’t put down. Diversify and expand your reading lists, tackle that “to be read” pile, support your local booksellers and share the joy of the written word all month long.
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Shaylyn Maharaj-Poliah, arts and culture editor
Hajime Isayama’s manga series Attack on Titan almost needs no introduction. Its unique premise, complex characters, chilling suspense and impressive action sequences have intrigued and horrified readers since its debut in 2009.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is threatened by giant man-eating monsters called Titans. The protagonist, Eren Yeager, is a flawed young man who channels his anger and grief into the single-minded goal of eliminating the creatures that stole everything from him.
The series is not for the faint of heart. It is violent, gory and the Titans’ designs and behaviours range from hokey to downright nightmarish. Some chapters hit like a freight train while others tend to focus too much on shock value, but the narrative itself is gripping. It’s full of twists and turns and hosts a colourful cast of characters within a highly sophisticated and developed setting.
In short, the popularity is well deserved. The series goes to great lengths to show a world that is cruel and merciless but also very beautiful, just like our own.
Cats of the Louvre by Taiyō Matsumoto
Zoë LeBrun, arts & culture reporter
Cats of the Louvre follows a vast array of human and animal characters whose stories are embedded in the Louvre’s history. Every chapter includes a secret from these personalities and the museum itself to provide vital pieces of the story’s puzzle.
The main characters are Cécile, a tour guide, and the night guards Patrick and Marcel, in addition to a clowder of cats that live in the Louvre’s attic — one of which is a tiny white cat called Snowbébé, who is infatuated with the Louvre’s paintings and never seems to age.
Throughout the book, many mysteries are revealed — what happened to Marcel’s sister, and what does a certain painting have to do with her disappearance? What sudden illness of the heart and mind has befallen Snowbébé? And, ultimately, how are these and other mysteries connected?
With each page filled with beautiful drawings that provide a vivid stage for its whimsical and poignant story, Cats of the Louvre is delicately woven and perfectly executed. The story is fantastical yet still relatable and accessible — you don’t need to be an art connoisseur, a manga fan or even a cat lover to appreciate Matsumoto’s storytelling, which is evidence of its narrative strength.
The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector
Alex Braun, arts & culture reporter
The Hour of the Star is barely a novel. In fact, at only around 80 pages, it is barely a novella, but it contains as much wisdom and humour and beauty as any full-length book. Clarice Lispector writes with a wonderfully unique narrative voice. Here it takes the form of Rodrigo S.M., a sort of omnipresent but insecure phantom who is ostensibly telling us a story about class — but really about Macabéa, a young typist in Rio. But a plot summary cannot come close to the full experience of the writing. Lispector’s narrator spends just as much time contemplating philosophical nothings as he does teasing at the blurry edges of a story that he can’t seem to fully understand himself.
Every single page here contains something mind-blowing, whether it’s a well-constructed one-liner, a thrown-off aphorism that comes at life from an angle you’ve never thought of or just a beautiful, emotive description. The Hour of the Star has the rambling philosophical ecstasy of Virginia Woolf, plus a smirking curtness, psychedelic humour and gorgeously romantic heart all its own, all in under 100 pages.
The Woulda Coulda Shoulda Guide to Canadian Inventions by Red Green
Grace Paizen, arts & culture reporter
As a Canadian kid growing up in the ’90s, you could always rely on The Red Green Show for peak Canadiana entertainment. Though Red Green has written a few fun previous titles, The Woulda Coulda Shoulda Guide to Canadian Inventions remains a personal favourite. Filled with inventions that were invented by Canadians, those that “should” have been invented by Canadians and the inventions of the ridiculous imagination of Red Green himself, the book is as educational as it is hilarious. The fun anecdotes between chapters are also a blast, full of Red Green punchlines that you can hear in your head — “if you can’t make it pretty, make it shiny.”
For a funny, light read in these ridiculous times, an afternoon spent with Green is sure to keep the blues away.