Both January and September are inspiring times for me, the idea of fresh starts and new reading projects.
And December was the perfect lead-in, as I managed to avoid the usual year-end reading scramble, because so many of 2017’s reading projects were multi-year plans: Mavis Gallant’s stories, Louise Erdrich’s books, and Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna series.
Does this mean that lowering one’s expectations is a good thing? Or does it simply mean that I’ve slipped into underachieving, watching BBC crime dramas when I “should” be reading instead and padding out the reading plans so I have time to rewatch “Luther” and “Broadchurch”?
As far as those projects go, I am reading the final few stories in Gallant’s Going Ashore (mostly 1960s publications), Erdrich’s The Round House (skipping ahead in her works, thanks to Shivanee), and Jalna (the first written, but the seventh in the sequence chronologically). Each remains enjoyable, although each requires a particular reading mood.
Over the holidays, I read almost exclusively from my own shelves, but I did begin to gather some library loans with new possible projects in mind for this reading year, including W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. His novel The Emigrants (1992) was in my reading log in 2004, along with my good intentions to continue reading, and now that I am enjoying Austerlitz so much, I suspect his titles will appear in future notebook jottings.
I am also reading on with David Mitchell, anxious that The Bone Clocks will be a challenge (so many people seem to have been disappointed with it).
And I have begun Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy, with The Sea Poppies, which is completely enchanting. He might land on my MustReadEverything list, but, for now, I am planning to read each of the following books in the trilogy in February and March.
But, it’s true: there are new ideas for possible reading projects, even so. Not only am I always making notes of reading events (like Heavenali’s #MurielSpark2018 and The Reading Life’s short story plans), but the bookish world is always presenting more temptations.
The Canada Reads 2018 longlist has also been released. The six I have already read are worthy contenders, which makes me curious about the remaining ten, some of which were already on my TBR. (In fact, one of them was a title remaining on my last notebook post, one I’d meant to get to reading, which slipped down the stack.)
Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
The Boat People by Sharon Bala
Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette (Translated by Rhonda Mullins)
Brother by David Chariandy
Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote
Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
American War by Omar El Akkad
Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez
The Measure of a Man by JJ Lee
Out Standing in the Field by Sandra Perron
The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan
Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto
Dance, Gladys, Dance by Cassie Stocks
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
The Morning News Tournament of Books has been responsible for a number of remarkably good reads in my stacks in the past. The one I always think of is James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, which I enjoyed enough to listen to once and read once too, during the 2014 Rooster. This year, the Canadians on the longlist did not advance to the shortlist, which is unfortunate as there were some excellent books which fell off along the way. Still, the 2018 shortlist looks good. (I’ve only read George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo (2017).
Elif Batuman’s The Idiot
Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach
Percival Everett’s So Much Blue
Gabe Habash’s Stephen Florida
Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West
Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin
Hari Kunzru’s White Tears
Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko
Eugene Lim’s Dear Cyborgs
Edouard Louis’ The End of Eddy
Pola Oloixarac’s Savage Theories
Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho
George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo
Samantha Schweblin’s Fever Dream
Shanthi Sekaran’s Lucky Boy
Kayla Rae Whitaker’s The Animators
Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan