Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

August 2014, In My Stacks

This summer is a record-reading summer; the weather has been brilliantly cooperative and I have read more this summer than, well, possibly ever in a summer before.

Perhaps not since girlhood days, when it was all about what time the library would open, whether I would have to wait until the afternoon.

August StacksEven if August is not as lovely, I am still hopeful about the stacks. I’ve actually just finished Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light. It was recommended in one of Nancy Pearl’s podcasts as a novel which provokes good discussions, and now I understand why. Have you read her before?

There are two rereads in the stack shown to the left, including Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Summer Tree, which I began on my Canlit read-a-thon weekend. I have been reading a few pages before bed, I was afraid it wouldn’t hold up across the decades, but it is just as wonderful as I remember it being.

The other planned reread is Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace but the presence of three other sizable books in the stack might edge it out.

It is such a favourite though, and my rereads of Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood and The Handmaid’s Tale have all been so rewarding that I’d like to make a habit of it.

One book I know I will finish is Gabrielle Roy’s The Tin Flute, which is my first read for the 8th Canadian Book Challenge, hosted by the Book Mine Set. Did you watch the mini-series on television years ago? I think I’ve confused it with the Plouffe family stories, but I enjoyed them both. The novel has the same feel and although the style is old-fashioned, it reads easily and the scenes are vibrant and the characters believable.

Many of the books in the stacks around here this month are inspired by upcoming autumn bookishness, principally the International Festival of Authors. This Wednesday marked the first of my annual IFOA feature posts, considering Steven Galloway’s The Confabulist.

Among the other attendees are Michael Winter, Esther Freud, and Tom Rachman.

(There are so many really, but these are the titles that caught my interest just now, pictured alongside)

Michael Winter’s book landed on the stack because I’ve heard so many good things about The Life and Death of Donna Whalen but, more recently, because I’ve read Debra Komar’s The Lynching of Peter Wheeler, a non-fiction exploration of a hundred-year-old miscarriage of justice. Michael Winter’s notes about his decision to present the research he had done into Donna Whalen’s case as fiction add a fascinating slant to the work.

Esther Freud is one of those authors whose books I’ve convinced myself I’ll enjoy, so I pick up her books second-hand when they pop up. But I’ve yet to try one. Do you have a favourite?

I’ve never read Rachman before but the cover of this one is irresistible: SO bookish. As are the first few pages. And it sounds like a pageturner, which is perfect for this time of year.

Anthony Doerr’s novel, All the Light We Cannot See, is reputed to be a pageturner as well. I’ve only read the first part, and I love the talk of miniatures and certainly, in wartime, there is plenty of tension and anticipation.

Serafim and ClaireAnother novel of another time in the stack is Mark Lavorato’s Serafim and Claire, which is set in the 1920s. It reminds me a little of Richard Wright’s Clara Callan (for the letters and sisters) and Helen Humphreys’ Afterimage (for the period photography).

I’m also keen to read Shauna Singh Baldwin’s What the Body Remembers and Francine Prose’s short stories too; they are two of the three Giller Prize judges this season.

(The third is Justin Carpenter, whose Other People’s Money is in another stack here too. Do you have a favourite of his?)

I’ve enjoyed a few other books by Francine Prose, including her non-fiction Reading Like a Writer, which is responsible for the scads of Chekov on my bookshelves, but I’m not familiar with the works of either Baldwin (quite an oversight, but I seem to collect her diligently and then choose slimmer volumes from the shelves instead) or Carpenter.

And speaking of the Giller Prize, I expect to see two of the books I’ve just finished on prizelists this autumn: Alexi Zentner’s The Lobster Kings (simply wonderful but, then, I loved Touch, too) and Nadia Bozak’s El Niño, the second in her Border Trilogy.

If you follow the Giller Prize, you can see the covers of all the books which are eligible for this year’s award on their Pinterest Page. I thought I’d been reading a lot of Canlit this year, but when I started counting how many on their page I’d read, that number seemed pretty small. Mind you, a good number of them have yet to be published, in that late-August-through-September blur of new titles that we all know so well.

But it’s not all serious reading in my stacks. I’ve also just started two new manga series (Fruits Basket and Are You Alice?) and have picked up a stack of several graphic novels from the library — not that there can’t be serious stories in these forms, but these are for fun.

Since I finished Deryn Collier’s most recent in the Bern Fortin series, I haven’t started another mystery series, but I’m definitely craving another with the same focus on characterization and complexity of structure. I think of reading mysteries in the summer but, fortunately, I am in the mood for them year round. Have you been reading any mysteries recently?

What’s most exciting to you in your stacks these days? And what would you pull out of my stacks first, whether to read it yourself or to press upon me?

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10 comments to August 2014, In My Stacks

  • “Alias Grace” is one of my favourite Atwoods – so I’d urge you to that one, obviously…… :)

  • Wait. Nancy Pearl has a podcast?! I had no idea! Reading Like a Writer is a fantastic book and it seems like everyone loves the new Anthony Doerr.

    You are on a reading roll! Can you send me some of that mojo? :-)

    A few days ago, I started reading Natalie Angier’s The Canon, which is about various disciplines of science. It’s pretty interesting. I hope August is a wonderful month for you.

    • I’ve picked up The Canon a few times; I look forward to hearing if it nourishes your reading mojo. I quite liked the Anthony Doerr novel and it definitely made me all-the-more curious about his other works, which I’ve often picked up but have never read. And, yes, she sure does! It’s here, for you, and anyone else who loves her bookish style, so laid-back and enthusiastic at the same time. There are not a lot of episodes, so it’s actually possible to stay relatively current with them, which is a nice change, rather like The World Book Club in that sense.

  • Kelsey

    Those are some fantastic reads!! I haven’t read many one your current list yet. I’m just finishing up Infidelity by Stacey May Fowles, and next up is This One Summer, which I’m really looking forward to.

  • Ooh, must have Sarafim and Claire (will have to order from Canada or wait until next spring….sigh). I returned The Lobster Kings to the library as such a towering stack was stressing me out, but now seeing your comment makes me regret that decision…. Not that I actually should start anything new but…. Glad you reading summer has been a good one. I need to do something about mine. I have not been well pleased with how my reading year has gone at all! The Ozeki is my current favorite. Hmm, what else. Am reading Red Joan and love it, too. Have you read it? This is my year of starting books and not finishing them I guess. It is frustrating and I know it shouldn’t be but. Well. You know.

    • Serafim and Claire is a terrific match for your reading taste; I’m positive you will love it. I haven’t heard of Red Joan but it sounds wonderful; I’ve added it to my TBR. I’m really enjoying the Ozeki too; do you plan to read her earlier novels too? I loved them both as well and now want to reread them to see if I still think they’re all that. Yes, I do think you would find The Lobster Kings worthwhile, but I also don’t think it’s a book to be rushed but to be savoured, so perhaps just as well that you’ve sent it back (temporarily, at least); for me, it’s a keeper. I’d say that you would know within 40 pages if you feel the same way, so you might want to skip to the buying stage if you can sample another copy just that little bit.

  • Hmm. You got me thinking about The Lobster Kings which I saw at the bookstore. How good is that one? Should I rush right out? What’s the background on the author? Cheers.

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