Category: Features

How to read the 2023 International Booker Prize longlist in Canada

2023 will go down as the year everyone’s International Booker Prize predictions were wrong. I was surprised not to see Mieko Kawakami, Han Kang, Yōko Tawada, or Sayaka Murata, and I was so sure we’d see the new Can Xue, Barefoot Doctor, that I shelled out nearly $30 for the ebook!

I love this list though. It’s the most accessible one I’ve seen in years, meaning that even in Canada, you can read the whole longlist ahead of the prize being awarded, if you want to. You could buy half the longlist right now from Canadian retailers. You could buy the whole longlist from Blackwell’s for $332.77 CAD.

These insights and more are available in my annual spreadsheet. It includes a bit of demographic info, but mostly helps you figure out where to obtain these books in Canada for the best price. My sources are noted, but generally, Canadian cover prices are from Glass Bookshop, library availability refers to Edmonton Public Library, and UK editions are from Blackwell’s. All prices are in CAD and include shipping. I didn’t bother linking to publisher’s websites this time, because for once, it’s not necessary.

I’m happy to see a nice range of languages (Tamil, Bulgarian, Catalan, and Norwegian, in addition to the usual suspects – but notably, no Japanese!) and a nice range of ages (the youngest writer is 35-year-old Amanda Svensson, while the oldest, and the oldest ever to make the list, is 89-year-old Maryse Condé – or is she 86, as Wikipedia claims?) though it’s skewing a little older this year, and very heavy on Gen X writers (seven out of 13).

I got a lot of traction (i.e. almost 100 likes) on a tweet complaining about the “creative” way book prizes present their longlists. The International Booker Prize gave us the courtesy of a text-based list, but even then, you have to click through to see the authors and translator names, so for your convenience, here’s your plain-text, detailed longlist*:

  • Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi, translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang
  • A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding by Amanda Svensson, translated from the Swedish by Nichola Smalley
  • Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
  • Pyre by Perumal Murugan, translated from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan
  • While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer, translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire
  • The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier, translated from the French by Daniel Levin Becker
  • Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated from the Russian by Reuben Woolley
  • Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund
  • Standing Heavy by GauZ’, translated from the French by Frank Wynne
  • Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
  • The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé, translated from the French by Richard Philcox
  • Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim
  • Boulder by Eva Baltasar, translated from the Catalan by Julia Sanches

And shout out to Bookstagrammer time4reading who posted her own simple list of books plus where to source them in Canada – she’s Toronto-based, so if your library or prefered bookstore is in TO, check her out.

As always, follow the IBP Shadow Panel for reviews and Eric Karl Anderson for a peek behind the scenes (he usually gets to go to the awards ceremony, I think!)

*Not seeing any official sources for the original languages so I took my best guess!

2022 Year in review

Georges Croegaert, “Reading”, 1890 (source)

I read slightly fewer books this year (40) than the previous few, but given the fulfilment of my resolution to watch more movies (49, at least ten times more than any recent year, follow along on Letterboxd), I’d say I broke even.

I’ve heard it said that when it comes to resolutions and habits, it’s easier to stop something than to start; after all, what could be easier than not doing something? But it’s so much more fun to add more of what you love. That was my mindset this year, when I decided to add movies (back) into my life, which had unpredictable and wonderful consequences to say the least.

I’m not sure what I want to add in 2023. Writing, maybe? I didn’t post a single traditional book review this year. Much as I enjoy lighter and funnier writing about books, there’s something special about a real, formal book review. I recently discovered a review I wrote back in 2021, for a publication that never went forward (will post it here soon!) and remembered how much I like the close reading, the research, and the writing and rewriting process.

I also hosted a readalong for the first time in a few years, and while it was technically a bust (no one joined except my sister and brother in law!) it reminded me how much I love to immerse myself in a topic, and allow myself to follow various rabbit holes and threads.

Aside from books, I’m submitting a piece to a publication for the first time in a long time, about two subjects that are special to me: malls and food. I don’t really expect it to be accepted, but I’m getting the same buzz (and same frustration!) of over-researching and over-writing, in the hopes that I can pare it down into something readable.

So perhaps, if 2020 and 2021 were years of reading and survival, and 2022 was a year of pleasure and movies, 2023 can be all of those things and more, and I can write about them?

Anyway, here are my favourite books of the year and some light stats. I already wrote about my worst books of the year, a new tradition!

Top ten books of 2022

  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takamori (my hold on Life Ceremony is due in soon, thank goodness)
  • Larry’s Party by Carol Shields
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (new book when???)
  • The Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley
  • The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarcuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
  • Either/Or by Elif Batuman
  • Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton
  • Quartet by Jean Rhys
  • A tie, because these are really short stories and only books for marketing/reading goals purposes: Foster by Claire Keegan and The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt

Book of the year

And resurrecting another Reading in Bed tradition, I hereby name my book of the year to be Either/Or by Elif Batuman. Hilarious, sad, and meta, Either/Or is both a realistic reflection of life in the 90s and a glimpse of a world that could only belong to Selin. I’m not ready to leave her behind and I hope it’s not true that this is it; Selin has two more years of undergrad left and I demand a full tetralogy! I knew this would be my book of the year when I read a very valid criticism that had to do with an inaccurate reference to an episode of Sex and the City, the sort of thing that would usually drive me nuts, and immediately thought “nope, Elif is allowed to do what she wants!”


  • 25/40 woman and nonbinary authors (more than last year and well represented in my top ten)
  • 9/40 in translation (bit more than last year)
  • 12/40 Canadian, much stronger showing than last year

How to read the 2022 International Booker Prize longlist in Canada

In what has become a biennial tradition (see 2018, 2020), I present to you my guide to the International Booker Prize for Canadians. The fact that this is necessary is a good thing, as it means this prize continues to spotlight small publishers. Small publishers don’t always have international distribution, but, where there’s a will, and a spreadsheet, there’s a way.

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My Top Five Irish… Canadian Authors!

It’s week one of Reading Ireland Week and… okay look. I need a quick and easy, list-style prompt to get me back in the game. I haven’t posted all year. Nor have I read any Irish books (though that will change soon). Week one of Cathy’s long-running event prompts us to rank our top five Irish “novels, writers, films, musicians, plays, poems, albums” and so on, and I am ready to take it in just a slightly different direction…

While I love me some Tóibín, Joyce, and Keyes (Marian, that is), much of my Irish reading is actually Irish-Canadian reading. Here are my top five Irish-Canadian authors:

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Nonfiction November Week 4: Stranger than fiction

This week’s prompt is hosted by Christopher of Plucked From the Stacks, and I had a hard time with this one! We are to highlight “great nonfiction books that almost don’t seem real” and I wasn’t sure where to take it – nonfiction that in fact turned out not to be real (A Million Little Pieces) or at least disputed, or nonfiction that presents itself as fiction (thinking of genre benders like The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard and Flights by Olga Tokarczuk), or to stop overthinking it and say Bad Blood.

And I will say Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, for all the reasons everyone else is saying it. How this woman scammed everyone around her for so many years is, indeed, stranger than fiction. For extra surrealness, I’m following her trial on Twitter. Another book along these lines (though in a very different setting) that I’d love to read is My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams, though I get the sense that most of the best details are in the author’s original article. And finally, I eagerly await Bitcoin Widow by Jennifer Robertson, the wife of deceased (maybe) bitcoin mogul and pyramid schemer Gerald Cotten. I hope that there are some jaw dropping revelations, though I won’t hold my breath; if she really helped him fake his death, she’s certainly not going to spill in a book.

And I’ll leave it there. I’m off to read other entries. Start with this week’s host, he’s got some doozies, including the book that inspired the prompt, The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonnette. What a title!

Nonfiction November Week 3: Be the expert on tech pessimism

This week’s #NonFicNov prompt is hosted by Veronica, who has given us a few options: you can be the expert, ask the expert, or become the expert on a topic of your choosing. I informally put out a “ask the expert” call in my previous post, and it was answered! If you also want to learn more about Iceland, look no further. This week, I’m going to be the expert on tech pessimism, or to be more precise, on the many, many ways in which social media is harmful.

I’m not really a tech pessimist, or if I am, I’m deeply in denial, seeing as I tweet an average of 250-300 times per month. And yet I’m drawn to these books. I read them, agree with them, vow to change my ways, take week or month-long social media breaks, and then go right back to where I started. I see my Twitter addiction like my (long dormant, but never really gone) smoking addiction; the only way to beat it is to go cold turkey and to never give it an inroad. But unlike smoking, I can’t fully give up social media and neither can you, probably.

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Novellas in November 2021 TBR & Research Round Up

The best part of Novellas in November is the research. Once you start looking, there are <200 page books all over the place, just waiting for the appropriate alliterative month to begin! Here’s a round up of my 2021 discoveries and ambitious TBR.

The official buddy reads

Cathy and Rebecca have included weekly buddy reads in this year’s event, and since all four books were easily procured for no cost (library and Project Gutenberg), I’m going to try and keep up.

  • Week one is a contemporary novella, Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson. I’ve seen this book everywhere, and it got a glowing review from Rachel, so I’m in.
  • Week two is a work of short nonfiction, The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. I was obsessed with Helen Keller for a while in elementary school and look forward to revisiting.
  • Week three is a novella in translation, Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt. I’ve had good luck with Japanese novellas in the past.
  • Week four is a classic novella, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I *think* I’ve read it (it’s crossed off in my 1,001 Books page, anyway) but I can’t remember much and seems due for a reread.

The books in my library

Unread novellas from #NovNovs past and recent additions.

  • My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley is 199 pages exactly and arrived last week. It’s a sign.
  • The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, a leftover from this year’s 20 Books of Summer
  • Quartet by Jean Rhys, ditto.
  • And on loan from the library, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, recommended by Caribbean Girl Reading the World.

The discoveries

The novellas that have crossed my path leading up to #NovNov. Will I get to any of these? Almost certainly not. But maybe… in time…

  • Committed Writings by Albert Camus is a perfect nonfiction novella combo, a collection of speeches and letters, and sounds fascinating. Reviewed by Brona.
  • The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe won a novella prize, and is in the tradition of Wide Sargasso Sea (another solid #NovNov pick), in that it takes a side character from a classic novel and gives her new life. Reviewed by ANZ Litlovers.
  • Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, profiled in The Guardian.
  • A wide selection of novellas by women in translation, selected by Naty.

Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year in Nonfiction

This week’s #NonFicNov prompt is hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction, and it’s a very good place to start. My year in nonfiction has been pretty good, with a third of the books I’ve read qualifying. I’ve struggled with various reading slumps (or more realistically, stress and depression) in 2021, and sometimes I can convince myself that reading something “real” is more… worthwhile? Grounding? The juicier the better, and I read a few doozies this year. Let’s check out Rennie’s prompts!

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I’m still participating in book blog events ft. Nonfiction November and Novellas in November

My favourite part of blogging has got to be the events. I love hosting a good read-along, but I don’t have the energy right now. So I’ve decided to throw myself into some events hosted by other, more ambitious bloggers.

Nonfiction November

I’ve never participated in Nonfiction November, despite nonfiction making up a significant portion of my reading (about a third of the books I’ve read in 2021, up from about a quarter in 2020 and 2019). It’s time to correct this gross oversight.

Nonfiction November has been running for many years. Returning hosts Doing Dewey and What’s Nonfiction are joined by newcomers The Thousand Book Project (sounds like we’d get along), Plucked From the Stacks, and The OC Book Girl.

You know I love to dive into book blog lore, and I see someone already tried to piece together the origins of Nonfiction November, tracing it back to 2013 and two defunct book blogs (the sad part of looking into book blog history is how many blogs are abandoned… or in this case, one of them redirects to a porn site, beware!). I also found a podcast where the current hosts reminisce about the origins of this event.

As for me? I’m trying to go all in, which means blogging about each of the weekly prompts, starting with a fairly easy one about your year in nonfic so far. I’m most looking forward to “be the expert” week, where I will choose between my expertise in tech pessimism (finishing up The Ugly Truth as we speak), and Jonathan Franzen’s nonfiction, which I should complete at some point during the month (just his most obscure work, The Kraus Project, to go!)

Novellas in November

This one should need no introduction – I did a whole post on the history of my beloved #NovNov and despite appearances, I’ve never hosted, just participated enthusiastically. Which I hope to do again. Capable hosts Bookish Beck and Cathy of 746 Books have not only created weekly themes, but will host read-alongs for each – this might be too much for me and my pandemic-addled brain to keep up with, but on the other hand, it saves me the trouble of choosing books. Territory of Light has been on my radar… and I can’t quite remember if I’ve read Ethan Frome.

Depending how this goes, I might see what’s happening for December as well, anyone organizing anything?

I’m still listening to podcasts feat. Mr. Difficult

A year ago, I surveyed my media habits after six months of pandemic living. I looked at bookish blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts. My podcast consumption had suffered the most, since I didn’t drive anywhere. I was also feeling too burned out and disconnected to keep up – imagine, we weren’t even in the second wave yet! Now, from deep in the fourth wave, it’s time to take stock.

Lately I find myself drawn to podcasts. They lend themselves to projects, conversation, and retrospectives, rather than roundups and book hauls, and the tone tends to be more soothing than your average YouTube video. My only frustration with podcasts is that, unlike blogs and YouTube, there’s no comment section.

But that’s the whole point of a blog, right? Spouting off unqualified opinions? Who needs a comment section!

A new bookish podcast launched this month, and it seems tailor made for me. Mr. Difficult is a podcast devoted to Jonathan Franzen, both his works and his public persona. The “project” is reading and discussing Franzen’s novels in order of publication, culminating in Crossroads.

The hosts, writers Erin Somers and Alex Shephard, plus producer Eric Jett, are not fully fledged Franzen stans. In the first episode, they acknowledge that he is difficult to love, and easy to dunk on. Alex says he’s “attracted and repelled” by him, and Erin says she’s somewhere between a lover and hater. Personally, I find his dunkability endearing, but that’s just me…

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