August 2017, In My Stacks

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.

Well underway:

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?



  1. The Reading Life August 10, 2017 at 6:16 am - Reply

    Great list. Sometimes i try to “clean out” works I have been meaning to read for a long time

    • Buried In Print August 10, 2017 at 7:48 am - Reply

      It’s hard to make time to return to books that you’ve gotten stuck in, previously, when there are so many new books to draw you forward: tidying helps!

  2. Sarah Emsley August 9, 2017 at 6:45 am - Reply

    I did! That’s how I found out about how to order the two chapbooks. Their collaboration sounds wonderful.

  3. Rebecca Foster August 4, 2017 at 6:55 am - Reply

    I’m most keen to read Spirals in Time.

  4. Valorie Grace Hallinan August 3, 2017 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Poemcrazy is a real classic, and I hadn’t read it until a few years ago. It’s a good one!

    • Buried In Print August 8, 2017 at 9:11 am - Reply

      Another one that’s been neglected on my shelves for just as long is Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. Have you read that one too?

  5. Naomi August 3, 2017 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    I’d like to hear how “Spirals in Time” works out for you – it sounds good. And I wish you better luck with The Right to Be Cold this time around!

    I have actually read some poetry this summer – I just finished Whylah Falls. I’m glad I finally got to it. And now I’m on to Atwood’s poems about Susanna Moodie.
    Standouts for me lately have been The Widow’s Fire by Paul Butler and Between by Angie Abdou, just to name a couple. I can’t believe it took me so long to read one of her books! So good!

    • Buried In Print August 8, 2017 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Surprisingly, I’m having much better luck with The Right to Be Cold this time. Maybe because I knew that I was going to have to slow down? Sometimes I trip over my own reading feet.

      Between was terrific, I thought. Some very strong scenes, and a great theme to explore. Ironically, I have The Canterbury Trail at hand, hoping to read it before her new one is printed! I didn’t know the premise behind the Butler novel: that is fun! Congrats on the poetry. I think I’ve already raved at length about Whylah Falls, but I need to reread too; I raced through because I was caught up with its rhythm. I liked the Atwood collection (but it’s been awhile) but my favourite of hers (for poetry) is The Door. (But I suspect you were reading on a Moodie-theme rather than for Atwood per se?) Sounds like a pretty great reading summer so far!

      • Naomi August 8, 2017 at 2:09 pm - Reply

        Yes, I was reading it for Moodie. But it doesn’t hurt that MA wrote it!

        I just bought The Canterbury Trail this summer at a used book store in Cape Breton. And after I raced through both Between and The Bone Cage (both from the library), I decided to move right on to The Canterbury Trail. I just finished it today! Now I can’t wait for her newest!
        I liked them all, but… Order of preference: Between, The Bone Cage, The Canterbury Trail.

        • Buried In Print August 9, 2017 at 8:32 am - Reply

          I just started The Canterbury Trail over breakfast, but only had time to meet The Hermit and The Ski Bum. It seems like I might have some walking to do, just to get on the narrative trail (and get a feel for the story). It’s been awhile since I went on a used bookstore crawl; I should do that!

          • Naomi August 9, 2017 at 11:17 am - Reply

            It takes a while for the story to get going – first you have to meet everyone. But don’t expect to like them. 🙂

            • Buried In Print August 10, 2017 at 7:49 am

              Having read a little further last night, I can see that it’s going to be some time before anyone I’ve met has a second chapter. So while I’d been thinking about reading this in occasional chapters, now I’m thinking I’ll read it more quickly, to keep people straight. Thanks for the warning!

  6. kaggsysbookishramblings August 3, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Love seeing piles of other people’s books! I read a collection by Edith Pearlman and enjoyed it very much – intriguing author!

    • Buried In Print August 8, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

      It never gets old, does it. She is! And, as is often the case, now I see her name all sorts of places and wonder how I missed her before!

  7. Sarah Emsley August 3, 2017 at 4:50 am - Reply

    Isabel Huggan’s Belonging is one of my favourites. A few months ago, I read and enjoyed June Stones and December Stones, two chapbooks that include poems by her and by Sharon Black and Lucy Wadham. I love the idea of their “poem a day” project (and I hope there will eventually be another collection of their work). I’ve read a few of Edith Pearlman’s stories and I’d like to read more. I also like the sound of What the Soul Doesn’t Want. My list for August includes some poetry: George Elliott Clarke’s Gold and the collection Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things, edited by Sheree Fitch and Anne Hunt.

    • Buried In Print August 8, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

      Did you happen to see the piece in “The New Quarterly” about their writing process? It was very interesting. Made me long for that kind of collaboration! Pearlman has been a surprise to me; I guess I was expecting a more restrained tone and they almost seem to vibrate (not always in a comfortable way, but as though there is no centre), so I am curious to see if that’s true in a later collection too. Ohhh, Clarke. I haven’t read that one, but it’s been too long since I’ve read one of his. That collection sounds delightful; I’d like to see the illustrations too.

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