I’ve been posting daily videos for The Short Story Advent Calendar, and enjoying it so much that I made a video for Novellas in November. Check it out:
I read five novellas during the month. Here they are, in very particular order:
- The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrente
- Grandma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by Ondjaki
- Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
- Blue Skies by Evelyn Lau
- The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
And please do subscribe and like and all that on YouTube, so my children stop making fun of my stats.
For my international readers, and Canadians who’ve been under a rock for the past couple of years:
The TRC is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The Commission will document the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience. – Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Before I read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report (the 350ish pages of its executive summary, anyway,) I bounced back and forth between believing that:
- That this document wasn’t for me, because I wasn’t one of those racist people who needed to be convinced that Indian Residential Schools were horrific or that they have a lasting legacy.
- That the above belief is extremely naive and I would likely have to challenge some beliefs and/or confront some ugly truths, and maybe I’m not ready.
As usual, reality was somewhere in between. The TRC is for me, as much as it is for you (Canadian readers, or really, anyone who lives in a country that’s ever been colonized.) There were plenty of things I already knew, but many I didn’t. Even if you’re familiar with the history, the first-hand stories are important to read, as are the calls to action, all 94 of them.
It helped that I found a reading group, which included an inter-generational survivor who was familiar with the report and its history. Most of you won’t have that much support, and this is a long, dense document, so here are some resources, tips, and recommendations for further reading.
How to read the TRC Report
- If you’re not Indigenous, and think this isn’t for you, read this essay at 49th Shelf.
- Choose your format:
- Read it in chunks. Our reading group took months to read, just a section or two per week. The sections range from pretty dry descriptions of legal proceedings to heartbreaking first-hand accounts of abuse. Take a break when you need to.
- Read it to the end. The calls to action are at the end, or you can read them separately here. You may feel hopeless that there’s so much to do, or inspired that there are so many places to begin, but this part is really important.
- Talk to people. A buddy read, a reading group, an online chat… lots of possibilities. I was lucky to have a ready-made discussion group. If you can’t find someone to talk to in real life, try #TRC on twitter.
What to read next: non-fiction
- For non-fiction recommendations, check out the end of that essay I linked above, or, check out this list at the Edmonton Public Library.
- This essay at The Toast about missing and murdered Indigineous women and girls was a more challenging read than the TRC, in terms of having to interrogate my personal beliefs and biases. Brace yourself.
- My picks, none of which I’ve read yet (non-fiction not being my forte…)
- The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter
- Up Ghost River, by Edmund Metatawabin. Article includes an extensive Aboriginal reading list.
- The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew, about his father’s experience with residential school. I’m going to see Kinew speak in just a couple of days. I can’t wait.
What to read next: fiction
- Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. I read this with a library book club where most of the participants are in their 60s or older. Many of them remembered residential schools as something that was known, but not known. They knew the schools existed, but not why, and certainly not what went on inside. An intense discussion ensued.
- Rupert’s Land by Meredith Quartermain (my review) about a residential school runaway and his unlikely friend.
- Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway, which I haven’t read, but has been recommended to me more than once.
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington. This one’s more hockey than residential schools, but there is a compelling minor plot about a survivor.
- The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and Black Robe by Brian Moore. These books are about first contact, but that history is important, too. Many of us read Black Robe in school, and I hope The Orenda will replace it in the curriculum one day. Black Robe really emphasizes the colonial perspective and frames Aboriginal people as “other” while The Orenda is a more balanced perspective.
We are apparently calling things “tags” now? I thought that was a Booktube thing. Alrighty then!
I was *not* tagged by the lovely Elle Thinks, but she swears it was just an oversight…
How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
Just recently, I moved my physical TBR to prime, eye-level shelves in my room (see above.) Before, they were mixed in with everything else. My Goodreads “To Read” shelf is more of a “to maybe think about reading” shelf. I keep track of review books in a Google spreadsheet. And, I randomly save links about books I’m interested in to Pocket.
Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?
It’s mostly not in the physical realm, i.e. my Goodreads “think about reading” list is much longer than my pile of print books or my queue of ebooks.
How do you determine which books from your TBR to read next?
Library due dates, review commitments, recommendations, readalongs and blog events, movie adaptations, award long lists, award short lists, award winners, blogs, Booktube, and social media. Not necessarily in that order. But pretty much in that order.
A book that has been on my TBR the longest?
Physical: I recently unearthed some books that I’ve carried with me from my condo to my first house to my current house. Among them are Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson and Vancouver by Alison Griffiths and David Cruise.
Goodreads: When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (since 2012) and I actually own a physical copy now.
A book you recently added to your TBR?
Physical: Ann Walmsely’s The Prison Book Club, which I had no intention of buying when I went to see her speak, but she’s just that good.
Goodreads: It’s November, so I’m adding to my Novellas in November bookshelf. The Trumpets of Jericho sounds completely bananas.
A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
I do really like The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go, though.
A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
Wouldn’t that be a TNR, to not read?
An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
Physical: Nope. I’ve stopped accepting review books, and all the publication dates for my BEA books have passed.
Goodreads: The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, the third (and final?) book in the Thomas Cromwell series. It doesn’t have a cover or a publication date yet. I do not expect to receive an ARC, but I do expect to buy it as soon as it comes out. I read somewhere that she’s still working on it. Sigh.
A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
The Glass Castle and The Round House come to mind.
A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?
Also The Glass Castle, hence people recommend it. Also, The Road.
A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
Icefields by Thomas Wharton, even though Naomi wasn’t taken by it.
Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, because I’m liking the angry ladies lately. #FerranteFever
How many books are on your TBR shelf?
- 74 physical
- 10 ebook
- 177 Goodreads
This is *not* a normal state of affairs for me and I’m a little dismayed. Many of those 74 books are either library book sale purchases, book swap finds, unsolicited ARCs, or contest wins. Do you sense a TBR challenge coming in 2016? I do…
Tag, you’re it, even if you’re not listed below:
I’m about halfway through my BEA stack. Many of these books will be in the spotlight this Fall. Let’s see what lives up to the hype, shall we? Full reviews to come on some of these.
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth: Don’t let the whole “Anglo-Saxon shadow tongue” thing scare you. I had to read aloud for the first quarter or so to get the language, but after that it was a snap. You should let Buccmaster scare you though. I was shaking by the end.
When you think of colonizers, you think of the British, right? It was weird and jarring to watch them get colonized a thousand years ago. I blame the Canadian education system for the fact that I didn’t know one thing about the Norman invasion except the year 1066 (and I’m pretty sure I learned that in Billy Madison.) Now I know better. By the end of this book, you’ll question what you know about everything.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh: I almost didn’t grab this. I was almost an idiot. This story was totally unexpected and everything I love – weird, dark, seedy, with a main character I want to know and save and shake violently. Reviews are starting to trickle in around the blogosphere; check out blogger Ryan Reads for excellent GIFs and Booktuber Just a Dust Jacket for the short and sweet of it.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware: This could be a genre thing; my mother in law is a voracious reader of mysteries and she liked it. I didn’t care enough about the outcome, which I saw coming a mile away. I did love the settings; the woods were creepy and the glass house was probably symbolic of many things but still felt real.
Home is Burning by Dan Marshall: Why people in their twenties shouldn’t write memoirs exhibit #172. Yes, Marshall is in his thirties now, but this memoir only goes up till his mid-twenties. It’s supposed to be funny but I found it to be trying way too hard. I should have known when I saw the Jenny Lawson blurb on the cover; I also found Let’s Pretend This Never Happened deeply unfunny.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: There were some good one-liners, making fun of literary conventions, but it didn’t add up to much for me.
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg: I’m gonna read this 900 pager before the end of the year. Promise.
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: Almost picked this up several times. I’m resisting because it feels so serious. But, um, so was her novel Year of Wonders (about the black plague) and I love that, so, I need to get over myself!
Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey: I could pair this with a Peter Pan movie night with the kids.
The Scamp by Jennifer Pashley: Started, didn’t grab me, will try again.
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford: I read Crazy Rich Asians recently and have had my fill of social climbers. Will revisit later.
Last year, I didn’t do so well with my Fall Preview. The post was fine, but I didn’t end up reading a lot of the books. I aimed a little too high, I think, trying to compete with the 49th Shelves and Quill and Quires of the world. Rather than trying harder to stick to a TBR, I’m going to aim low and round up the books I have already started or will almost certainly read. You know, as Homer J says, if something is hard to do, don’t try.
Local Reads: Edmonton and Alberta
- Sistering by Jennifer Quist (August): I’m so excited about this book that I’m already planning a read-along with my sister, and have asked the author out on a date so I can get my copies signed. This is serious. Quist’s first novel, Love Letters of the Angels of Death, is my go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a love story, or a story about marriage, or dark humour.
- Meadowlark by Wendi Stewart (September): Okay, so Stewart lives in Nova Scotia, but I wanted to highlight local publisher NeWest Press. Their Nunatak First Fiction series rarely disappoints. Meadowlark features a great, strong female main character. I mean strongly written and well-imagined, not like this.
- 40 Below Project Volume 2 (November, cover art to come): I really enjoyed the first volume and look forward to more frigid tales, this time from all over Alberta. In the meantime, check out editor Jason Lee Norman on the Best American Poetry scandal and how he considers pieces for his anthologies.
- Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt (September): Already read and reviewed! *sigh of relief*
- Martin John by Anakana Schofield (September): I was fifth in line at the library when I got my birthday book money, so now I’m waiting on a preorder. Malarky was one of my favourite reads of 2014, so expectations are sky-high.
- Pillow by Andrew Battershill (October): A BEA score that came with a chocolate coin which apparently ties into the story somehow, but who cares, it’s chocolate! I’m getting a Spat the Dummy vibe from this one.
Online and in real life, I can often be found Reading in Bed. This month, you can find me elsewhere, too.
I’m honoured-with-a-u to be the first guest blogger for Book Blogger International‘s Canadian blogger month. Check me out, trying to make sense of what it’s like to blog in Canada, and how to define CanLit, in 1,000 words or less! And you may as well bookmark the whole site, because all the cool Canadian kids are there: Tania from Write Reads, Shannon from Curled Up With a Good Book etc., and CJ from ebookclassics, and more to come.
Speaking of WriteReads, I’m the guest host on my fav CanLit podcast. I chose Fifteen Dogs for new release month and man, is it a doozy! What does it mean to be human? How important is language? Where is the line between loyalty and love? At one point, Kirt got way philosophical and I had to quote Haddaway to break the tension (as ones does.) This book packs poetry, magical realism, Greek mythology, and those fifteen dogs into 160 pages. Pick it up, read it in a day, and listen to the podcast.
Oh, and look for me on The Heavy Blanks sometime soon. I had coffee with Jason this week, and he was filming. I show off my copy of Vivek Shraya’s The Magnificent Malls of Edmonton which might as well have been written just for me, what with the 90s nostalgia and WEM memories.
ETA: Here it is! Go to 13:30 to hear Jason say nice things about me and then gaze upon my visage…
And now, shove over. I’m going back to bed.
Insert “excuses for not writing wrap-up posts, that no one noticed I didn’t write, and the excuses are also humblebrags, and/or pleas for pity and/or compliments” here.
Let’s just call this 2015 so far.
4 and 5 star reads that’d I’d recommend to almost anybody:
- The Bear by Clare Cameron (review, sort of)
- The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
- NW by Zadie Smith (audio)
- When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
- Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (audio)
- Ablutions by Patrick deWitt
Some notable acquisitions. Follow me on Instagram if you care to see my book mail and also my children.
- The Secret Library by Haruki Murakami courtesy of Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf
- Mrs. Dalloway courtesy of Robert at 101 Books. I won a contest and could pick any of the 101 books, so of course I picked his most hated book.
- Humans 3.0, Knife Party at the Hotel Europa, and Where the Nights are Twice as Long courtesy of Goose Lane Editions: My mom saw these books at my house and told me several times how attractive they were. She was petting them. She likes shiny things.
- Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz courtesy of Hello Hemlock. Read along in May and get ready to discuss in June.
- Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams courtesy of NeWest Press
Up to the Challenge
I am doing some reading challenges this year:
- The Forsyte Saga Chronicles with Ali of HeavenAli and others, because why challenge yourself to read just one Victorian novel when you can read nine that total like 2700 pages? I’m on book two and loving it.
- Book Riot Read Harder Challenge or at least one aspect of it. I find reading bingo challenges to be a bit… much. I will never keep track or remember to check things off. So I zero’d in on one square in Book Riot’s bingo card: read a book someone recommends to you. I’m taking that to mean someone in real life. So far, I’ve read The Japanese Lover by Rani Manicka (recommended by my mom,) Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer (my husband,) and next up, Let the Elephants Run by David Usher (my brother.) I wouldn’t have picked any of these books on my own.
- Back from the DNF is my own little challenge and I hope to knock off another book or two.
A little local non-fiction:
- Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything by Timothy Caufield which I wrote about here.
- How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting: Stores of Pregnancy, Parenthood and Loss edited by Jessica Hiemstra and Lisa Martin-Demoor. I’ve already passed this on to a friend. I didn’t notice the dedication till I was about to mail it. A really beautiful book.
Where I’ll be
You might find me at these places IRL and on the internet over the next few months:
- The 2015 Kreisel Lecture with Lynn Coady. Actually happened a few nights ago. Serious literature + Grover = awesome. More to come.
- WriteReads talking about Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. Yes, the other book won the vote. I changed my mind.
- Book Bloggers International talking about book blogging in Canada. I am really feeling Reading in Winter’s absence right now, as she has written about this topic so eloquently in the past!
- The Yeggies winning the Best in Arts and Culture Award (hopefully)
- Book Expo America in NYC with ebooksclassics and JFranz.
- The Group-Along: Yes, I’ve decided on my annual read-along and it shall by The Group by Mary McCarthy, inspired by this post on Uncovered Classics, by the fact that McCarthy is from Minnesota and now so is my sister, who always gamely joins my read-alongs, and by my years of devotion to Sex and the City (pre-movies,) which took inspiration from this book. Watch for a sign up post later in the summer.
Self explanatory. Let’s go.
Only eight books were good enough, and got a strong enough emotional reaction, to get the elusive five-star rating this year. For fun, I’ve tried to sum up my emotional state after finishing each.
- Villette by Charlotte Bronte (Spaced out for the rest of the day.)
- The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (Threw up. For real.)
- The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart (Like waking from an extremely lucid dream.)
- Malarky by Anakana Schofield (Despair, happiness, urge to read again.)
- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (Heart hurt.)
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (I said “wow” out loud, like three times. That’s my review.)
- The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Cried like a baby.)
- TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Overwhelmed by how much I’d just read. Not number of pages.)
In making this list, I realized I only did a full, proper review of one book (Malarky) and didn’t mention three of them much at all (The Orenda, The Bridge of Beyond, Wolf Hall.) That’s messed up. If I’m not using my blog to ramble on about the books I loved, what the hell am I doing?
It’s not the end of the world that I didn’t review Wolf Hall, because really, you don’t need me to tell you it’s good (BBC is gonna do that for you. Also Damien Lewis. *swoon*) but I’m not impressed that I didn’t review The Orenda and The Bridge of Beyond, specifically, as it was mostly because I was afraid. I’m uncomfortable reviewing postcolonial literature, or, frankly, literature with racial themes – afraid I’ll say the wrong thing, that I’m not in a position to really “get it,” and so on. I procrastinated on The Orenda and The Bridge of the Beyond till I felt like it was too late. It’d all been said about the former, and I couldn’t remember the story of the latter.
There’s a whole movement about reading diverse, which is based on the “vote with your wallet” idea, but book bloggers aren’t always paying for their books. In this case, The Orenda and The Bridge of the Beyond were both freebies and so the fact that I’ve read them, and kept it to myself, really doesn’t do much for the cause.
Talking about books I love is why I’m here. It’s probably why you’re here. So I’m going to get over myself, and at least review the books that blow my mind this year. (Don’t worry, I’m still gonna snark on books, that is the other reason I am here.)
I’m not going to do “Worst Books” because I didn’t read anything that was truly awful this year. Mostly because no one tricked me into reading dragon porn. However, I did go into several books with expectations that were not realized. Some of these are gonna be UNPOPULAR OPINIONS. Before you hit “comment,” realize that I liked all these books, just not as much as I thought I would:
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyse: All the book bloggers liked it, even the ones who don’t like romance. I was prepared to be won over. I was diverted, but not much more.
- Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi: I liked it A LOT but I was prepared to have my life changed.
- Girl Runner by Carrie Synder: I feel bad about this one. I liked it a lot, and stayed up late to finish it and everything. I think if I hadn’t been drawing parallels to The Stone Angel, it would have been okay. But no one can compare to Hagar. (Review to come)
- Mãn by Kim Thuy: Another one raved about in book blog land. Okay, the very small and specific #CanLit book blog land, but still. And I liked it, but it left no impression on me. I don’t think about it at all. (Probably not gonna review but I am going to read Ru as I have been assured it’s even better.)
- The Girls by Lori Lansens: I feel bad about this one because it was an ethusiastic recommendation from a friend but I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief.
And, finally, the 2014 Reading in Bed Book of the Year:
Are we sick of year in review posts yet? No? I really enjoyed doing multiple, detailed posts last year, but Bookstravaganza took up most of my December so I’m gonna keep things simple this time round. Stats today, best and worst books tomorrow. And maybe top literary crushes (okay, definitely top literary crushes!)
- Books read in 2014: 64 (up from 52 last year)
About the Author
- 58% female (down from 67% last year)
- 19% person of colour (up from 12% last year)
- 55% Canadian (up from 42% last year) 22% American 16% British and 1 each: Argentinian, French, Irish, Russian, Guadeloupean.
- Only two Edmonton-area authors this year.
I put a bit of effort into reading more authors of colour this year, and I guess nearly 20% is alright – it’s tough to know, honestly. With gender I’m going for parity, but what’s parity with race? 20% is pretty representative of our population here in Edmonton, but if you expand to Canada, or North America, or world wide, your target would be very different. So my goal with regards to authors of colour next year is to review more of them. That’s where my power as a blogger lies. Some of the best books I read this year were by authors of colour, and I didn’t review them. More on THAT tomorrow.
Genres and Lists
- 19% classics (down from 35%), 53% contemporary lit fic (up from 48%), 9% non fiction (up from 6%), and a handful of YA, poetry, erotica, romance, and historical fiction.
- 8 1001 Books for a total of 123 read
- I’m kind of defunct on The Classics Club. I erased my list because it wasn’t speaking to me anymore. The idea, though, was to read 50 classics in five years, and I read 12 classics this year, so I’m on track.
- 13% were rated five stars (down from 19%), 45% were four stars, 30% were three stars, 13% were two stars, and thankfully, I did not read a single one-star book this year because I decided not to continue with the Fifty Shades trilogy. I will totally see the movie though. For research! And stuff.
Compared to the average Goodreads rating…
- I rated 27 books higher. The most underrated book was Villette, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.72 rating. How dare you, people who rated this book less than a 5! It’s perfection!
- I rated 37 books lower. The most overrated book was Me Before You, which I rated a 2, compared to average 4.31 rating. Apologies to Kristilyn and Brie, who are probably not my friends anymore.
- 23,000 page views in 2014, up from 17,000 in 2013 and next to nothing in 2011 and 2012. Thank you 🙂
- Most viewed post of 2014: The Fault in Our Stars: Use Your (Literary) Allusion. Man, you people love John Green!
- Most viewed post that was actually written this year: The Top 5 Alternatives to Traditional Book Clubs. Hope you all found something that works for you!
- Least successful posts in 2014: My reading soundtrack posts. Well, too bad, they are my favourite to write so I’m gonna keep doing them.
Stay tuned for more 2014 year in review, hopefully before it becomes ridiculously late in the current year!
I did it! I read and reviewed ten books in the month of December. I really didn’t think I’d make it. The most books I read in any other month last year was six, and reviews are far fewer. The donation page for Bookstravaganza is closed tomorrow. If anyone is as proud of me as I am, go ahead and donate a couple bucks to the Welcome Baby program at Edmonton Public Library.
Here are my reviews:
- Prairie Ostrich by Tamai Kobayashi
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
- TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
- Shopgirl by Steve Martin
- The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
- Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
- Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- Detachment by Maurice Mierau
- Longbourn by Jo Baker
TransAtlantic remains my favourite. Other standouts were The Wallcreeper, Wild, and Detachment.
Thanks to everyone who supported Bookstravaganza this year. Next year I may try to read…. 11. To celebrate my success, I’m starting the year with the longest, densest books I can find. First up: The Luminaries.