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Staff Picks 2004

We asked our staff to tell us about the best book they read this year. From Vanderhaeghe to Niffenegger, The Da Vinci Code to Cinderella's Bum, here's what we had to say about our favourite reads of 2004.

What was your favourite book read this year? Discuss in our Community Forums.


The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
Joel Bakan

In the vein of No Logo, Fast Food Nation and Stupid White Men, The Corporation presents us with the darker, confusing, manipulative world of Western Culture. Bakan shows how corporations have become pathological in nature, that they are "singularly self-interested and unable to feel genuine concern for others in any context." Scary? Yes. Depressing? Yes. Worth reading? Yes.
Recommended by Michael

Copies From: £5.67 to £16.93

Other Books Recommended by Michael:
The Sauce Guide to Cocktails, Simon Difford
Club Zero-G, Douglas Rushkoff
Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware

The Way the Crow FliesThe Way The Crow Flies
Ann Marie MacDonald

This is a story based on a Canadian Forces family returning to Canada in the sixties as seen through the eyes of their 8-year old daughter Madeleine. The Cold War and a murder in the community deeply shake the roots of a very close-knit family and its community. This is an emotional read that is not only hard to put down but even harder to forget the cast of characters long after the story is told.
Recommended by Les

Copies From: £3.08 to £50.37

Crime and PunishmentCrime and Punishment
Fyodor Dostoevsky

After two attempts I finally managed to read this classic completely: A psychological portrait of a young student who commits a murder out of 'philosophical' reasons. It is a novel of the 19th century but very relevant if you want to understand some of the attitudes and ideas that also influenced the terrible events of the 20th century. Don't give up too early, once you get accustomed to the long Russian names it is a rewarding and compelling read.
Recommended by Udo

Copies From: £1.00 - £1,027.86

Other Books Recommended by Udo:
The Isles: A History, Norman Davies

Da Vinci CodeThe Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown

Brown's latest book is an exhaustively researched page-turner about secret religious societies, ancient coverups and savage vengeance. Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history. I usually never buy “mainstream” books but Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code really got me – read it in 48 hours!
Recommended by Boris

Copies From: £3.19 - £750.00

Polar Express The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg

For reading to Aidan (age 2), the pictures are so real to him that he tries to climb into the book. "Mommy open train" is what I hear most often as he runs to get my keys to "open" the train for him. It's one of those rare pleasures in life, to be able to watch your own child explore their imagination and in turn, how they engage their world.
Recommended by Andréa

Copies From: £2.05 - £1,927.24

Cinderella's Bum
Cinderella's Bum
Nicholas Allan

I came across this book while perusing the children’s section of a local bookstore in search of something for my toddler niece. I am sure my out-loud laughter while reading the book drew many stares from the more sedate book buyers! In Cinderella’s Bum, a little girl explains the merits of different shapes and sizes of bums to her older sister who is very upset after a failed attempt to fit into a bathing suit. The story, while a hilarious tale for both children and adults, also teaches a valuable lesson – that we should appreciate the diversity of the human body and love ourselves no matter what our body shape is. I now own a copy of this book and look forward to reading it to my niece when she is a bit older!
Recommended by Kathleen

Copies From: £3.64 - £23.05

Morality for Beautiful GirlsMorality for Beautiful Girls
Alexander McCall Smith

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for the success of this series which follows the daily life of the No.1 Ladies Detective in Botswana. While not a selection for diehard mystery lovers, the five instalments in the series are consistently charming. The common sense and accessibility of Precious Ramotswe, who is in fact the only female detective in Botswana, is captivating. In the third instalment of the series, Precious and her fiancée Mr. Matekoni are locked in a rocky period in their engagement due to his depression. Precious remains philosophical in spite of her second disappointment with love and involves herself in an intriguing case of possible poisoning and a boy who ‘smells of lions’. Add in a colourful personal assistant concerned about the morale fibre of local beauty contestants and you end up with a great read which provides a warm hug in a cold world.
Recommended by Judy

Copies From: £3.08 to £50.00

The Last CrossingThe Last Crossing
Guy Vanderhaeghe

It’s frustrating… for the life of me, I can’t tell you what’s so special about this book! Usually, I insist on fiction that works at multiple levels, a good story with archetypal juice flowing in the background. But this simple tale, about a half-dozen people trekking across the prairies early in this century has little of that. Yet I couldn’t put the book down. Perhaps it’s just that this Saskatchewan native (who also wrote the Canadian best-seller The Englishman’s Boy) tells a finely-crafted yarn. The travelers—an arrogant Englishman, a fawning newspaper writer, a drunken half-breed guide—are caricatures in a Dickens-like way. The turn of events is often bizarre. Oh well, who needs to analyze—it’s a darn good read!
Recommended by Doug.
Also recommended by Frank

Copies From: £4.60 - £45.23

Hacking the XboxHacking the Xbox
Andrew Huang

The Xbox is really a full-fledged PC, repackaged and sealed up with security to prevent buyers from turning it into the ultimate cheap computer. Microsoft sells the Xbox considerably below manufacturing cost (£150), using it as a loss leader to sell games. This book is a great introduction to reverse engineering, and with its help I've turned my cheap Xbox into a fine looking and versatile machine that is the centre of my entertainment hardware, using a plethora of hardware modifications and free and powerful homebrew software.
Recommended by Pete

Copies From: £8.66 - £17.73

The Time Traveler's Wife The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

If you love weird fiction, you will love this book. A bit of science fiction and a lot of tragic love story, wrapped nicely in a very interesting, funny package. Henry DeTamble is a handsome rogue librarian, genetically cursed with "Chrono-displacement Disorder" that causes him to time travel to points of significance in his life. Henry first meets his wife Clare when he is 28 and she is 20, but Clare meets Henry when she is 6 and he is 40. The course of their relationship is very unusual and interesting, full of strange paradoxes. The narration alternates between Henry and Clare's points of view. Henry never knows where in the past or future he might turn up (without clothes - they can't time travel with you), or in what situation. Clare lives a linear life, and is always waiting for Henry to return to her, always hoping he will be safe. I was touched by her constancy, and the depth and strength of Clare's character. Henry is absolutely charming, especially once he realizes that although he is able, unlike others, to see his future, he is still just as powerless to change it. Fairly early on, you know it's not going to have a happy ending, but surprisingly it has a very touching, lovely conclusion.
Recommended by Sarah

Copies From: £1.77 - £154.18

Other Staff Recommendations: