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

Faves of 2003-2005

2005′s Favourites
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
One of the many things that I love about her work is her versatility: The Penelopiad is as different from Oryx and Crake as a reader could imagine, and yet it is every bit as rewarding and provocative.

Luck
by Joan Barfoot
An intensely satisfying read with credible and sympathetic characters, vibrant and memorable dialogue, and a pace that never lags.

Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis
This debut collection broke the seemingly-unbreakable overly-humid summer reading malaise, forcing me to read whilst walking before demanding I sit until I had finished.

What We All Long For by Dionne Brand
The poetic elements of her prose in this novel are lighter, the rhythm suited to the city swells, not to tides and the humidity, but to the streetcars and the viaduct.

Fledgling by Octavia Butler
Despite the annoyance of countless copy-editing errors, this story has great suck-you-in-ability and is, like Butler’s other work, challenging and entertaining.

Ladykiller by Charlotte Gill
Although I might not have discovered this collection without its inclusion on the GG list, I am now on the edge of my proverbial seat waiting to see “what’s next” from Charlotte Gill.

All Times Have Been Modern by Elisabeth Harvor
A haunting voice that pulled me back to the story multiple times, so that it was done long before I wanted it to be.

Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin
It’s always a treat to settle into a tale spun by Le Guin. It makes short work of an afternoon, but leaves you lots to dream about in the afternoons to come. This one begs for a sequel. <crosses fingers>

Weight by Jeanette Winterson
Again, the sense that every word has been chosen, deliberated upon, marvelled at: admirable.

2004′s Favourites
Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
As for Me and My House (1941) by Sinclair Ross
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (1971) by Elizabeth Taylor
The Dispossessed (1974) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Green Grass, Running Water (1993) by Thomas King
A Fine Balance (1995) by Rohinton Mistry
Cereus Blooms at Night (1996) by Shani Mootoo
Persepolis (2000; 2003 English translation) by Marjane Satrapi
The Lost Garden (2002) by Helen Humphreys
Secret Life of Bees (2002) by Sue Monk Kidd
A Complicated Kindness (2004) by Miriam Toews
Runaway (2004) by Alice Munro

2003′s Favourites
Unless – Carol Shields
I’d hesitated to read it because I’d heard so many good things about it that it seemed it couldn’t possibly live up to all the praise. In fact, it surpassed it. Immediately upon finishing I wanted to start reading again.

The Idea of Perfection – Kate Grenville
The author’s previous and forthcoming works are headed for my MRE list. What an impressive story: satisfying in so many ways.

Household Saints – Francine Prose
A single-sitting read, this author’s fifth novel is filled with fascinating characters amidst an evocative setting of 1950s Little Italy. “Maybe the miracle is when you stop and pay attention.”

Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim
Simply delightful; I spun this out for as long as possible, hoping never to have to turn the last page, and I fell asleep every night to the sounds and scents of the castle that carried over from its pages.

Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findley
An incredibly powerful novel which reaffirms the author’s status as an influential force in my reading and writing life. The book as a whole provides an alternative to the story of the ark and reminds the reader that there is always more that can be imagined/told about a given story. And though this is story is very painful at times, this version of it is, ultimately, more about hope than despair.

Downhill Chance – Donna Morrissey
Morrissey’s sense of place and characterization is so evocative that it changes the way you move through the days. Fantastic characters, brilliant use of language, compelling plots: what more could anyone want between two covers.

The Other Wind – Ursula K. Le Guin
And so ends my Earthsea re-reading/reading. For anyone who read the original trilogy as a youngster, I highly recommend revisiting and seeing it through to the author’s latest contributions; everything you loved about them as a child will be that much more meaningful now in the wider context of the Earthsea narrative.

Clara Callan – Richard Wright
Although I was reluctant to read this because everybody gushed all over it, I must say that I wholly enjoyed it and was very, very sorry to have it end. If you doubt whether a male writer can create a wholly-credible female character, give this multi-award-winning novel; you’ll be checking the jacket photo in amazement.

All Over Creation – Ruth Ozeki
Lest you ever lose faith that novel-writing can change the world, give Ozeki’s fiction a try: her conscience never gets in the way of her storytelling and yet her writing makes you want to make a difference in your tiny corner of the Earth.

All Passion Spent – Vita Sackville-West
With this book, Vita Sackville-West wedges herself onto my MRE list and Lady Slane joins Hagar Shipley and Eva Carroll on the list of great female characters who defy the odds and star in their own stories past mid-life.

Scribbling Sisters – Dale and Lynne Spender (NON-FICTION)
I read these letters over several weeks, portioning them out as though to allow for posting time between them. I found the discussion of Dale’s work on Women of Ideas particularly interesting (that was a life-changing book for me) but the spirited and substantive exchanges between the sisters was inspiring and informative, regardless of the specific subject matter, and felt remarkably pertinent (especially with the talk of the Falklands prominent for Dale in Chelsea then and the fallout from the recent U.S. invasion of Iraq still unfolding in the news here). I will definitely return to this collection: there’s a lot to appreciate in a single letter and re-reading will certainly be rewarding.

The Giver – Lois Lowry (YOUNG ADULT)
A wonderful tale; I made lists of all the readers I know who would delight in its questions and ideas and miracles, its insightful exploration of such immense themes as memory and loss, in a style that is remarkably simple and complex.

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