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.
Even 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.
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.
Another 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?