Monday, June 28, 2010
For me, summertime reading is about picking up forgotten books from around the house – books I've been meaning to read, books I stumble upon when rearranging and want to read again and, of course, those books that have achieved annual read status. Summer reading is also about books found at yardsales, picked up in borrowed or rented cottages and/or swapped with friends. In short, despite what most publications would have you believe, I am convinced that summer belongs to the well-loved and battered books, not the new blockbuster bestsellers.
So, what will I be reading? Here's my realistic list (that is, books I have and can read in the space of two months):
The Princess Bride by William Goldman – This has been an annual read for a long time now; I don't see that changing any time soon.
Summer Sisters by Judy Bloom – It's been a few years since I read this and I'm ready to dig it out again.
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges – A birthday gift; I do love short fiction.
Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski – Some journalistic non-fiction for good measure.
Bloom by Michael Lista – Summer is a great time for poetry, because you can read it at a leisurely pace.
I figure a book every two weeks is an achievable goal. Generally, though, I read faster than that, so if I get a chance, I'll read some of the other books on my to-read list, which never seems to get any shorter.
Now, besides what's on my little list, I would recommend the following as great holiday/beach/cottage/hammock reads:
The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown – Engaging and award-winning.
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones – Be prepared to pick this up and not be able to put it back down.
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro – It's a short-story novel and it's a classic of CanLit for a reason.
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden – Gripping stories deserve the space and time afforded by long summer weekends.
Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findlay – Dramatic and suspenseful, it's brings a little weight to the sometimes too light/sweet summer fare.
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel – It's a little smutty, but that's well balanced by the engrossing story well-imagined pre-historic setting.
For other, perhaps more contemporary, summer reading lists, check out The Walrus, NPR, Salon, The Globe and Mail, The Gazette and The New York Times.
Image shown a photo of books at a yardsale, on sale for $1 a piece.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I first read Persepolis in a first-year university history class. I did not enjoy the course, but because it introduced me to Satrapi, I don't regret taking it. Satrapi is Iranian, and historically speaking, Persepolis is as much a personal history as it is a narrative take on how Iran has changed over the last 40-or-so years.
Satrapi was just a kid when the Islamic Revolution broke out, but because her parents were vehemently opposed to regime change that was taking place, her early teenage years were filled with history lessons and and anti-fundamentalist discussions. And those values and strong patriotism run deep in this portrait of a young girl in a changing Iran.
That angle, remembering how the Revolution interrupted her childhood, is one of the aspects of Persepolis (besides the graphics) that make it interesting to read. Besides being a generally entertaining story (there's conflict, coming-of-age, angst and other delightful memoir tropes), Satrapi's perspective is a fascinating one, in part because she was sent to school in France after the Islamic Revolution succeeded, which sealed her memories rather than letting them become clouded or confused by the ensuing social overhaul.
Her memories of being angry and confused by the introduction of the niqab and the ban on western culture come across as still raw, aided by the expressive drawings that illustrate a changing world more clearly than words could.
Satrapi's childhood is entwined with the Revolution and her ability to both describe things in very personal detail and also take a step back to give a more distanced viewpoint makes this a very compelling read. And, despite the heavy-ish nature of the subject matter, the graphic-nature of the memoir reminds you that some parts are funny; their simplicity work to both add lightness to the story and draw you into the truly devastating parts.
I always appreciate it when authors take a genre and then do something unexpected with it. Persepolis is such a success in this way that I'm almost surprised more authors/artists didn't try to follow in Satrapi's footsteps. But, if they were intimidated, I wouldn't be surprised. Satrapi is a literary triple-threat: writer, illustrator and historian. And she's got a sharp wit on top of all that, which adds a little edge to her memoir, keeping it fresh and relevant. Despite how often we seem to hear or read something about Iran, you're seriously missing out if you give Persepolis a pass.
Persepolis: a story of childhood
by Marjane Satrapi
First published in 2000 (cover image from Pantheon Books edition)
Monday, June 21, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Wolf Hall by English writer Hilary MantelThe Very Thought of You by English writer Rosie AlisonBlack Water Rising by American writer Attica LockeA Gate at the Stairs by American writer Lorrie MooreThe White Woman on the Green Bicycle by English/Trinidadian writer Monique Roffey
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Karen Solie won the Canadian prize for her collection Pigeon (House of Anansi Press)Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin won the International prize for her collection The Sun-fish (The Gallery Press)
Grain by John Glenday (Picador)A Village Life by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Certainty Dream by Kate Hall (Coach House Books)Coal and Roses by P.K. Page (The Porcupine's Quill)
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
English Finalists for the Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (McClelland & Stewart)
The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown (Random House Canada)
Animal by Alexandra Leggat (Anvil Press)
The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels (McClelland & Stewart)
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro (McClelland & Stewart)
Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz (House of Anansi Press)
Lemon by Cordelia Strube (Coach House Books)
French Finalists for the Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium are:
Deux cercles by Ryad Assani-Razaki (VLB éditeur)
Pointe Maligne. L’infiniment oubliée by Nicole Champeau (Les Éditions du Vermillon)
Frères ennemis by Jean Mohsen Fahmy (VLB éditeur)
René Lévesque by Daniel Poliquin (Les Éditions du Boréal)
La Maison : une parabole by Daniel Soha (Éditions du GREF)
English Finalists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry are:
Joy is so Exhausting by Susan Holbrook (Coach House Books)
Pigeon by Karen Solie (House of Anansi Press)
The Hayflick Limit by Matthew Tierney (Coach House Books)
French Finalists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry are:
Le chant du coucou by Jacqueline Borowick (Inanna Publications & Education Inc.)
Passerelles by Michèle Matteau (Les Éditions L’Interligne)
The winners of the Trillium awards will be announced in Toronto on June 24, so stay tuned.