The Blood of Angels

"Another haunting novel of eco-speculation from Johanna Sinisalo, the award-winning author of Troll and a powerhouse of the Finnish science fiction and fantasy scene.

It is claimed Albert Einstein said that if bees disappear from the earth, mankind has four years left. When bee-vanishings of unprecedented scale hit the United States, Orvo, a Finnish beekeeper, knows all too well where it will lead. And when he sees the queen dead in his hives one day, it's clear the epidemic has spread to Europe, and the world is coming to an end. Orvo's special knowledge of bees just may enable him to glimpse a solution to catastrophe: he takes a desperate step onto a path where only he and the bees know the way but it propels him into conflict with his estranged, but much-loved son, a committed animal activist. A magical plunge into the myth of death and immortality, this is a tale of human blindness in the face of devastation—and the inevitable."

(A special thank you to book club member, Caity Greig for the suggestion.)

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Finnish Short Stories

A 238-page volume of 32 stories written by Finnish authors, "presenting a wide range of writing styles. 

These short stories cover the period from 1859 through modern times and include some of Finland's classic writers: Aleksis Kivi, Minna Canth, Juhani Aho, Frans Eemil Sillanpaa. More modern writers are Mika Waltari, Veijo Meri Veikko Huovinen, Marja-Leena Mikkola and Timo Mukka."

This translation by an American from Minnesota, began as a project while taking a translation course University of Minnesota to reaffirm her Finnish roots. Becoming popular, the collection was then edited by Borje Vahamaki, Professor of Finnish Studies at the University of Toronto in Ontario.

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Invisible Planets

"Mindblowingly inventive and beautifully written short stories from the most exciting new name in SF.

Hannu Rajaniemi exploded onto the SF scene in 2010 with the publication of his first novel The Quantum Thief. Acclaimed by fellow authors and brilliantly reviewed everywhere, he swiftly established a reputation as an author who could combine extraordinary cutting edge science with beautiful prose and deliver it all with wit, warmth and a delight in the fun of storytelling.

It is exactly these qualities that are showcased in this his first collection of short stories. Drawn from anthologies, magazines and online publications and brought together in book form for the first time in this collection here is a collection of seventeen short stories that range from the lyrical to the bizarre, from the elegiac to the impish. It is a collection that shows one of the great new imaginations in SF having immense fun."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

The Summer Book

"In The Summer Book, Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. The grandmother is unsentimental and wise, if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to her grandmother with the care of a new parent. Together they amble over coastline and forest in easy companionship, build boats from bark, create a miniature Venice, write a fanciful study of local bugs. They discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God and of love. “On an island,” thinks the grandmother, “everything is complete.” In The Summer Book, Jansson creates her own complete world, full of the varied joys and sorrows of life."

(A special thank you to book club member, Ivor Watkins for the suggestion.)

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Tainaron

"The classic novel by an iconic Finnish author, a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. Tainaron: a city like no other, populated by talking insects, as observed by the nameless narrator, who is far from home...

'Leena Krohn has given us a lens of words through which to consider reality, a microscope to reveal yearning and wonder, a telescope to look for what it means to be human, a window and a mirror and an eye other than our own.' - Matthew Cheney (from his afterword)"

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

The Year of the Hare

"Suddenly realizing what's important in life (with the help of a bunny), a man quits his job and heads to the countryside in this internationally bestselling comic novel. 

'Which of us has not had that wonderfully seditious idea: to play hooky for a while from life as we know it?' With these words from his foreword, Pico Iyer puts his finger on the exhilaratingly anarchic appeal of The Year of the Hare

While out on assignment, a journalist hits a hare with his car. This small incident becomes life-changing: he decides to quit his job, leave his wife, sell his possessions, and spend a year wandering the wilds of Finland-with the bunny as his boon companion."

(A special thank you to book club member, Stéphanie Gourcilleau for the suggestion.)

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

The Last Resort

"Thrilling, heartbreaking, and, at times, absurdly funny, The Last Resort is a remarkable true story about one family in a country under siege and a testament to the love, perseverance, and resilience of the human spirit. 

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Douglas Rogers is the son of white farmers living through that country’s long and tense transition from postcolonial rule. He escaped the dull future mapped out for him by his parents for one of adventure and excitement in Europe and the United States. But when Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land and Rogers’s parents were caught in the cross fire, everything changed. Lyn and Ros, the owners of Drifters–a famous game farm and backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains that was one of the most popular budget resorts in the country–found their home and resort under siege, their friends and neighbors expelled, and their lives in danger. But instead of leaving, as their son pleads with them to do, they haul out a shotgun and decide to stay. 

On returning to the country of his birth, Rogers finds his once orderly and progressive home transformed into something resembling a Marx Brothers romp crossed with Heart of Darkness: pot has supplanted maize in the fields; hookers have replaced college kids as guests; and soldiers, spies, and teenage diamond dealers guzzle beer at the bar. 

And yet, in spite of it all, Rogers’s parents–with the help of friends, farmworkers, lodge guests, and residents–among them black political dissidents and white refugee farmers–continue to hold on. But can they survive to the end? 

In the midst of a nation stuck between its stubborn past and an impatient future, Rogers soon begins to see his parents in a new light: unbowed, with passions and purpose renewed, even heroic. And, in the process, he learns that the "big story" he had relentlessly pursued his entire adult life as a roving journalist and travel writer was actually happening in his own backyard. 

Evoking elements of The Tender Bar and Absurdistan, The Last Resort is an inspiring, coming-of-age tale about home, love, hope, responsibility, and redemption. An edgy, roller-coaster adventure, it is also a deeply moving story about how to survive a corrupt Third World dictatorship with a little innovation, humor, bribery, and brothel management."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Behind Enemy Lines

"Behind Enemy Lines is a collection of stories about ordinary people and anti-heroes dragged into a search for meaning in their lives – whether it is a simple search for identity and love, or a bigger struggle for Africa's political freedom. The canvas of their actions, motivations and circumstances is a Zimbabwe of the past, present and future. Humorous, acerbic, funny and tragic, the stories cover the whole gamut of emotions. A soldier navigates his way across hostile territory to a distant safe house; a freedom fighter searches the debris of a ruined city for evidence of a horrific crime; an ordinary boy is caught up in a bank robbery; and an activist journeys home for her ex-boyfriend's funeral. Ruzvidzo interweaves the past, present and future with a confidence often missing in a debutante, offering a uniquely compelling angle to the Zimbabwean experience."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Butterfly Burning

"Butterfly Burning brings the brilliantly poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late l940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he 'wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him.' He in turn fills her 'with hope larger than memory.' But Phephelaphi is not satisfied with their 'one-room' love alone. The qualities that drew Fumbatha to her, her sense of independence and freedom, end up separating them. And the closely woven fabric of township life, where everyone knows everyone else, has a mesh too tight and too intricate to allow her to escape her circumstances on her own.

Vera exploits language to peel away the skin of public and private lives. In Butterfly Burning she captures the ebullience and the bitterness of township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

The Cry of the Go-Away Bird

"Elise loves the farm that is her home. There is always tea in the silver teapot, gin and tonics are served on the veranda and her days are spent listening to stories of spirits and charms told by her nanny, Beauty. As a young white girl growing up in Zimbabwe, her life is idyllic. 

However, this dream-world of her childhood cannot last. As Elise gets older, her eyes are opened to the complexities of adult life, both through the arrival of her step-father, and through her growing understanding of the tensions in Zimbabwean society. As the privileged existence of the white farmers begins to crumble into anarchy and farm invasions begin, Elise is forced to confront difficult choices and the ancient unforgiving ghosts of the past."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Mud Between Your Toes

"Glimpse a life filled with contradictions, discoveries, and passion in Peter Wood's fascinating new memoir, Mud Between Your Toes.

This is a powerful story about a teenage boy growing up during the Rhodesian Bush War.

Peter Wood is an African. He is white, but he also holds a Chinese passport. And he is also gay.

Growing up during the 1970s on his family's farm in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Peter was swiftly introduced to a harsh world in which friends and relatives were murdered in ambushes—and the line between blacks and whites was drawn in blood.

As travel bans and UN sanctions caused a deepening chasm between his country and the rest of the world, Peter struggled with his identity as a white Rhodesian and later in life, when living in London, he nurtured his skills as a photographer—and finally found the courage to come out as gay.

Now a twenty-year resident of Hong Kong and an official Chinese national, Peter is arguably the only white, gay, African man in China. But his wildly entertaining anecdotes delve much deeper than that superficial—yet admittedly fascinating—label. These stories, based largely on Peter's childhood diary entries, offer insight into the universal human experience: from tragedies and triumphs to catastrophes and, perhaps most importantly, joy."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Rainbow's End

"This is a story about a paradise lost. . . . 

In 1978, in the final, bloodiest phase of the Rhodesian civil war, eleven-year-old Lauren St John moves with her family to Rainbow's End, a wild, beautiful farm and game reserve set on the banks of a slowflowing river. The house has been the scene of a horrific attack by guerrillas, and when Lauren's family settles there, a chain of events is set in motion that will change her life irrevocably. 

Rainbow's End captures the overwhelming beauty and extraordinary danger of life in the African bush. Lauren's childhood reads like a girl's own adventure story. At the height of the war, Lauren rides through the wilderness on her horse, Morning Star, encountering lions, crocodiles, snakes, vicious ostriches, and mad cows. Many of the animals are pets, including Miss Piggy and Bacon and an elegant giraffe named Jenny. The constant threat of ruthless guerrillas prowling the land underscores everything, making each day more dangerous, vivid, and prized than the last. 

After Independence, Lauren comes to the bitter realization that she'd been on the wrong side of the civil war. While she and her family believed that they were fighting for democracy over Communism, others saw the war as black against white. And when Robert Mugabe comes into power, he oversees the torture and persecution of thousands of members of an opposing tribe and goes on to become one of Africa's legendary dictators. The ending of this beautiful memoir is a fist to the stomach as Lauren realizes that she can be British or American, but she cannot be African. She can love it -- be willing to die for it -- but she cannot claim Africa because she is white."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)
Canada note: No Kindle version is available on amazon.ca; only a paperback. However, you can buy the Kindle version on the US or Canada sites. Also, the included link is just 1 of a variety of paperback versions available. 

Shebeen Tales

"'Beautifully written — a glimpse into a rarely seen African reality.' -Weekly Journal

Throughout southern Africa, shebeens are where jokes are born, news is embellished and exchanged. They are unique vantage points where men go after a day's work, both to escape from the troubled world around them and to observe and comment on it. In Shebeen Tales, Zimbabwe's leading author offers a view of his country not from the privileged and insulated perspective of a well-heeled visitor, but that of the ordinary person who, with the help of dry wit and illegal beer, pokes fun at the rich and mighty. Struggling against madcap motorists, pompous bureaucrats and the other woes of life in the city, the man in the shebeen sees modern Africa as it really is, not as press releases or tourist brochures would have us believe. Hove looks straight in the eye of a society suffering from AIDS, drought and economic hardship, but does not succumb to despair. With a wry sense of humor, he celebrates a people who live life to the full, laugh and sing, tell tall tales – whatever is thrown at them. In new pieces written for this edition, he discusses the vexed issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe and also casts an amused eye at President Mugabe's wedding."

(A special thank you to book club member, Ivor Watkins for the suggestion.)

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

I Am a Cat

I am a cat book cover

"'A nonchalant string of anecdotes and wisecracks, told by a fellow who doesn't have a name, and has never caught a mouse, and isn't much good for anything except watching human beings in action...' —The New Yorker

Written over the course of 1904-1906, Soseki Natsume's comic masterpiece, I Am a Cat, satirizes the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era. With acerbic wit and sardonic perspective, it follows the whimsical adventures of a world-weary stray kitten who comments on the follies and foibles of the people around him.

A classic of Japanese literature, I Am a Cat is one of Soseki's best-known novels. Considered by many as the greatest writer in modern Japanese history, Soseki's I Am a Cat is a classic novel sure to be enjoyed for years to come."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

The Cape

The Cape book cover

"'Western readers often assume that Japan is one homogeneous culture, but Nakagami, award-winning burakumin writer, exposes the fissures behind this facade. In these stories, Nakagami is unrelentingly grim, showing a Zola-like obsession with inherited traits. In the final entry, Nakagami gives rein to his erotic side, depicting the frenzied and strange coupling of Kozo, a construction worker, and a mysterious red-haired hitchhiker.' —Publishers Weekly

Born into the burakumin—Japan’s class of outcasts—Kenji Nakagami depicts the lives of his people in sensual language and stark detail. The Cape is a breakthrough novella about a burakumin community, their troubled memories, and complex family histories."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Geisha, A Life (aka Geisha of Gion: The True Story of Japan's Foremost Geisha)

Geisha, A Life

This book has been released under 2 different titles: Geisha, A Life as well as Geisha of Gion: The True Story of Japan's Foremost Geisha. 

"No woman in the three-hundred-year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story—until now.

'Many say I was the best geisha of my generation,' writes Mineko Iwasaki. 'And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave.' Trained to become a geisha from the age of five, Iwasaki would live among the other 'women of art' in Kyoto's Gion Kobu district and practice the ancient customs of Japanese entertainment. She was loved by kings, princes, military heroes, and wealthy statesmen alike. But even though she became one of the most prized geishas in Japan's history, Iwasaki wanted more: her own life. And by the time she retired at age twenty-nine, Iwasaki was finally on her way toward a new beginning.

Geisha, a Life is her story -- at times heartbreaking, always awe-inspiring, and totally true."

(A special thank you to book club member, Tatiana Medvedeva for the suggestion.)

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Narrow Road to the Interior (Shambhala Centaur Editions)

Narrow Road to the Interior book cover

"Here is the most complete single-volume collection of the writings of one of the great luminaries of Asian literature. Basho (1644–1694)—who elevated the haiku to an art form of utter simplicity and intense spiritual beauty—is best known in the West as the author of Narrow Road to the Interior, a travel diary of linked prose and haiku that recounts his journey through the far northern provinces of Japan. This volume includes a masterful translation of this celebrated work along with three other less well-known but important works by Basho: Travelogue of Weather-Beaten Bones, The Knapsack Notebook, and Sarashina Travelogue. There is also a selection of over two hundred fifty of Basho's finest haiku. In addition, the translator has provided an introduction detailing Basho's life and work and an essay on the art of haiku."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)
Note: A variety of different translations are available with this version recommended as the best.
UK note: While the paperback version is available on amazon.co.uk, the Kindle version is not. However, you can purchase the Kindle version via the US or Canada site instead.

The Next Continent

The Next Continent book cover

Winner of the prestigious Seiun Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Hugo Award!

"THE PRIVATE MISSION TO THE MOON IS ONE WOMAN’S DESTINY

The year is 2025 and Gotoba Engineering & Construction--a firm that has built structures to survive the Antarctic and the Sahara--has received its most daunting challenge yet. Sennosuke Toenji, the chairman of one of the world's largest leisure conglomerates, wants a moon base fit for civilian use, and he wants his granddaughter Tae to be his eyes and ears on the harsh lunar surface. Tae and Gotoba engineer, Aomine head to the moon where adventure, trouble, and perhaps romance await.

'It harkens to conventions of a certain genre of science fiction and yet is nonetheless infused with Japanese optimism and culture.' — World SF Blog"

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

The Stories of Ibis

The Stories of Ibis book cover

"Even a machine has tales to tell.

In a world where humans are a minority and androids have created their own civilization, a wandering storyteller meets the beautiful android, Ibis. She tells him seven stories of human/android interaction in order to reveal the secret behind humanity's fall. The tales Ibis tells are about the events surrounding the development of artificial intelligence in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

At a glance, these stories do not appear to have any sort of connection, but what is the true meaning behind them? What are Ibis's real intentions?"

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

The Strange Library

The Strange Library book cover

"From internationally acclaimed author Haruki Murakami—a fantastical illustrated short novel about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library.
 
Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of best-selling Haruki Murakami's wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written. Designed by Chip Kidd and fully illustrated, in full color, throughout, this small format, 96-page volume is a treat for book lovers of all ages."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)