B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has made a Christmas tradition of picking his favourite books of the year. This year, he shares his choices with Times Colonist readers.
I am happy to publish my sixth Annual Christmas book list in the Times Colonist. The criteria are simple. These are not necessarily books published in 2017 or even recently. These are books that I have read or re-read in 2017 — books that I admired, enjoyed and wish to recommend. (To find links to my 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012 book lists on other websites, Google “Adrian Dix book list.”) In random order, my 2017 list.
1. Shea Serrano, Basketball and Other Things (Illustrator Arturo Torres)
Serrano, the Houston public -school teacher turned best-selling writer and contributor to Theringer.com has written the ultimate sports book for 2017. He asks and answers the tough questions, such as what was Michael Jordan’s greatest season and “If 1997 Karl Malone and a bear swapped places for a season, who would be more successful?”
And the Torres illustrations are terrific. Great for coffee tables and other places where you might pick up a book for a short read.
2. Rachel Rose, The Dog Lover Unit
Vancouver’s poet laureate writes an inspired work of non-fiction about police-dog units and their work. It is always great to learn about compelling things you know very little about.
3. Tony Penikett, Hunting the Northern Character
Part autobiography, part treatise, this is a beautifully written book by the former premier of the Yukon. By a politician who can really write — not a contradiction in terms — this book embraces the “Arctic identity” of Canada in a profound way. I am reminded of the Glenn Gould radio series The Idea of North, a favourite of my Dad’s.
4. Viet Tranh Nguyen, The Refugees
5. Tetsuro Shigematsu, Empire of the Son
Nguyen’s short stories depict the Vietnamese refugee experience in California. These immensely readable short stories display the tension between worlds and generations of the refugee experience. If you want more from this great young writer, I loved The Sympathizer back in 2015. Empire of the Son is the text of a one-man play — also about the immigrant experience, this time in Canada — from 2015. Read it, and if the play is ever performed where you are, go and see it.
6. Catriona Strang, Reveries of a Solitary Biker
7. Jonina Kirton, An Honest Woman
Married to a poet, I attend a remarkable number of poetry readings for a basketball fan. And I have opinions! This year, two great books by B.C. poets — both challenging to conventions of ideas and form. Three-point buzzer-beaters of poetry.
8. China Mieville, October
9. Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution
China Mieville, a brilliant writer of fantasy novels, tells the story of 1917 revolution in Russia in a refreshing and readable way. Slezkine’s book is in a different category.
The House of Government is the story of life in special apartment buildings in Moscow, built for the elite of the Soviet government in the 1920s. One of the best and most imaginative works of history in many years, it describes their lives and the shocking impact of the purges, where resident after resident from the building disappears or is executed in show trials as the Soviet elite eats itself. Those who remain deal with the impact on their beliefs and dreams. Don’t be put off by the length of the book, the pages will turn, and while the history is familiar, this work never fails to surprise.
10. Dr. Gilbert Welch, Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health
11. Dr. Danielle Martin, Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians
As minister, I do read about health care from time to time, too much perhaps. Here are two books for the patient or the specialist. Dr. Welch shows how early intervention and excessive diagnosis can sometimes lead to unnecessary and harmful results for the health-care system and individual patients.
Dr. Martin proposes some big ideas from national pharmacare to improved primary care to improve Canada’s health-care system. Both books are engaging and thoughtful.
12. Hideo Yokoyama (Jonathan Lloyd-Davies translation), Six Four
Six Four is a Japanese murder mystery in translation that sold more than a million copies in Japanese. For lovers of mysteries who are tired of reading the same plot over and over (how many murders are there in Scandinavia?), this feels new and incredibly imaginative. And for once, the ending doesn’t disappoint. Say no more!
And, finally, because 12 is not really enough, you won’t go wrong picking up Craig McInnes, The Mighty Hughes: From Prairie Lawyer to Western Canada’s Moral Compass; Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy; Jill Leovy, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America; or Joe Denham’s Windstorm.
Happy reading! Happy New Year!