This summer has been a delightful mix of backlisted books and new titles, readng projects and whimsical choices. The book I’ve been reading the longest in this stack is actually the shortest, Lorna Crozier’s What the Soul Doesn’t Want (2017). I haven’t been using a bookmark in it because I’ve been reading as it falls open. Before the end of this week, I’ll fill the gaps.
Her poems are accessible, her tone sometimes wry or humourous and sometimes melacholic or philosophical. Many of my favourites in this collection (I enjoyed her last one, too) are those which share their titles with the book title.
Others which stand out are those which afford the small and often overlooked (e.g. flies or cockroaches) an opportunity to inhaibit centre-stage (er, centre-page). If you think you don’t care for poetry, her work might change your mind.
Naomi Novik’s Tongues of Serpents (2010)
The sixth in the series about Captain Lawrence and his faithful, overly-clever, linguisticky and mathy dragon finds them in Australia, land of convicts and new beginnings. Although I don’t think I’ll reread any of the other books in the series as often as I’ve reread the first one (four times, as an adult rereader that’s probably a record), they are consistently entertaining.
Isabel Huggan’s Belonging (2003)
This is one I’ve been saving since I heard her read from it shortly after publication; I was sure that I’d find it warm and thoughtful, and quietly inspiring. It is all of that. Although I expected there to be only talk of France (life in a stone house in the Cévennes), I have enjoyed the pieces about other places even more (e.g. Kenya, the Philippines, Ottawa).
Bette Bao Lord’s The Middle Heart (1996)
If you loved Lisa See’s early novels, The Middle Heart will certainly please you. Her style of storytelling is all the rights kinds of old-fashioned while challenging convention in the most satisfying ways (like allowing the third member of the trio to be a young woman). The prose is dense but that’s because the story of Steel Hope, Mountain Pine and Firecrackers is so rich.
Reading in short bursts:
Edith Pearlman’s How to Fall (2003)
Her stories come highly recommended by Julia, who counts her a favourite alongside other favourites we share like Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant, so, of course I had to find some. The library’s collection is sparse, but offers just enough for me to get acquainted with Godolphin, Massachusetts (“a leafy wedge of Boston”) and its residents.
Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps’ Hair Story (2001; 2014)
Subtitled Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in Amerca, you might expect a slightly academic tone, but not only is the tone accessible – inviting, even – but there is an extensive bibliography (arranged by chapter) so that those craving some heavier research can chase down their souces if desired. It’s generously illustrated too, with sketches and photographs.
Helen Scales’ Spirals in Time (2015)
Having abandoned another book about the ocean, which was just too focussed on the present-day disaster we human beings have caused for my frame of mind, this consideration of The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells is more what I was craving. At times, there is a little too much Latin and biological detail for this not-so-sciencey reader, but mostly I find it’s informative and interesting.
Susan Woodridge’s Poemcrazy (1996)
My reading on creativity and writing has slowed a bit to make more reading time for some other projects, but I’m enjoying this longtime shelf-sitter. The combination of personal essay (including details about her regular walks and other creative practices) with advice and exercises is a pleasing balance, and I am always happy to pick it up for a chapter or three (yes, they’re short).
Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s The Right to Be Cold (2015)
Having come to the subject of climate-change through her work to restore and honour her ancestors’ culture and practices, this is an undeniably important work on multiple fronts. However, there is a legacy of destruction and genocide which shadows her story, and I have found it very difficult reading (this is the third time I’ve borrowed the book from the library and I’ve only ever managed to read a chapter of it). This time I am rereading and hope to approach it more as a student, with note-taking and contemplation to put some distance between me and the sorrowful aspects of her story. It is necessary reading.
On the edge:
Angela Lopes’ Bridge Retakes (2017)
Described as a “whirlwind milennial tale of love and family and the distances that people will (or won’t) go to secure what they want”, this slim volume seems like the perfect kind of story for an early evening on the porch, something to read all in a burst, the emotion invited to overwhelm.
Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau ‘s Winter (Trans. Susan Ouriou and Christelle Morelli, 2017)
In contrast, this story of a Métis woman tracing the life and death of her son” seems like a story to slip into a series of early morning readings, with a cup of something soothing and a light blanket for comfort, as the temperatures begin to cool in the early hours.
Commodore Ajith Boyagoda’s A Long Watch (with Sunla Galappatti, 2016)
Although I’ve barely begun this book on two other occasions, this time I am determined to read straight through, in as much of a straight-line as possible. It is a gripping but harrowing tale.
Peter Bagge’s Fire!!! (2017)
As a follow-up to Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography and essays (Dust Tracks on the Road), I am keen to read this graphic biography, which has such extensive footnotes that they seem to comprise almost as much space in the volume as ths narrative itself.
What stand-out reads are in your stack this month? Any of the books in my stack in your reading log or TBR? Which do you think you’d be most likely to read?