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 Notebook

I’ve been reading so fiercely this summer, that my notebook was sadly neglected, in favour of backs of envelopes, sticky-notes, and receipts.

Tin Flute Gabrielle RoyIt was actually back in June that I scribbled down this quote from Phyllis Theroux’s The Journal Keeper (2010), which I was inspired to pick up because I had been re-reading some of May Sarton’s journals. Have you read either writer’s work?

“I am beginning, by small degrees, to realize how one might eventually become enlightened – not as the result of ‘heavy lifting’ but by quietly reflecting, or coming upon an idea so integral that one is subtly, permanently, changed by it.

There is another note from Alice Walker’s The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers (2013) which contains her recommendation of Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Nancy Turner Banks’ AIDS, Opium, Diamonds and Empire: The Deadly Virus of International Greed, and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

She says “these three books, read in this order, are a university course in history and present-day reality hard to obtain otherwise. Enjoy! Not because they’re easy to read. They’re not. They are deeply painful. The joy comes from their existence, since our only hope is knowing what is (and has been) going on.”

Alice Walker is one of my MRE (MustReadEverything) authors. Have you read her work too? Do you have a favourite? Do you agree with her assessment of these three recommended titles? I did really admire Isabel Wilkerson’s book.

A long green sticky-note outlines Gabrielle Roy’s oeuvre, which I plan to read for the Book Mine Set’s Canadian Book Challenge. Have you thought of joining or already signed up?

  • The Tin Flute (Bonheur d’occasion) (1945)
  • Where Nests the Water Hen (La Petite Poule d’Eau) (1950)
  • The Cashier (Alexandre Chenevert) (1954)
  • Street of Riches (Rue Deschambault) (1955)
  • The Hidden Mountain (La Montagne secrète) (1961)
  • The Road Past Altamont (La Route d’Altamont) (1966)
  • Windflower (La Rivière sans repos) (1970)
  • Enchanted Summer (Cet été qui chantait) (1972)
  • Garden in the Wind (Un jardin au bout du monde) (1975)
  • My Cow Bossie (Ma vache Bossie) (1976)
  • Children of My Heart (Ces Enfants de ma vie) (1977)
  • The Fragile Lights of Earth (Fragiles lumières de la terre) (1978)
  • Cliptail (Courte-Queue) (1979)
  • What Are You Lonely For, Eveline? (De quoi t’ennuies-tu, Eveline?) (1982)
  • Enchantment and Sorrow (La Détresse et l’enchantement) (1984)
  • The Tortoiseshell and the Pekinese (L’Espagnole et le Pékinoise) (1987)
  • My Dearest Sister: Letters to Bernadette, 1943-1970 (Ma chère petite soeur: Lettres a Bernadette) (1988)

New Jim Crow AlexanderTechnically, I only need to read 13 books to complete the challenge, but some of these are children’s books, so I figure that they should be bunched together, not expected to hold the same weight as the bulk of The Tin Flute, for instance. Have you read any of her work?

I’ve read 74 of the books on the 100 Novels List compiled by the CBC for Canada Day in July, so I’ve jotted down the titles of the remaining 26. All of them except two are already on my shelves, so I’ve been meaning to read them for years, but perhaps a list will get them read sooner rather than later. (Oh, haven’t I said THAT before.)

There are two collections remaining in my Alice Munro Reading Project so I’ve been jotting down a plan to finish reading them this year. But this month has not felt like a Munro-reading month. Which is strange. Most months (maybe even all months) do feel like Munro-reading months. But not this one. It feels like an Alistair MacLeod reading month. Would it be disloyal to consider a detour?

As the year winds down, I’m wondering how well I’ll do with finishing my Reading Bingo columns/lines/grids. I might yet finish the version with adult books, but I am draggingdraggingdragging with the YA game.

I’ve noted some possibilities in my notebook, like Jennifer Donnelley’s Revolution for a Book Set in Paris and Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War for Classic YA. Except it’s not so much a problem of not thinking of something to read, more that I’m not reading as much YA as I expected to read.

But a Book with a Female Heroine? That’s easy. Of the nine I have read, all but one would have filled that square (I was aiming for the squares that seemed harder to fill). And then I only have to read a Book Set in the Future to fill a column. So, I’m not cashing in my cards yet.

How about you? What’s in your notebook lately? Any new authors/series you’re curious about? Reading plans or projects? A prize-list you’re smitten with? Recommendations from a writer whose books you enjoy?

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4 comments to August 2014, In My Notebook

  • You have bold reading plans. Nice list. I’ll be interested to see which books make the short list of the Booker Prize on Sept. 9. I have a few more summer reads to do and then get into heavier fall stuff after. All in good time. Good luck with your challenges.

  • I so want to read Wilkerson’s book. Desperately in fact! New writers that I want to read include Caribbean writers Tiphanie Yanique and Karen Lord. Also want to read some Hungarian literatre. Happy reading.

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