Earlier this summer, in June, I maxed out my library card.
The box which usually holds my borrowed books was so full that it was bookish-Jenga to remove one (and forget trying to add one).
A neighbouring table was also commandeered. Even, for a time, the floor space between box and table.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s taken all the weeks between then and now to get that sorted.
It’s also not rocket science to posit that I’ve learned nothing from that experience.
For the time being, I’ve got a (relatively) tidy stack.
Nazanine Hozar’s Aria (2019) is in my stack because Margaret Atwood tweeted that it’s an Iranian Doctor Zhivago. Earlier this year I spent some time with Iranian women writers’ works, inspired by Nilofar Shidmehr’s Divided Loyalties (link to my piece in The Temz Review) and I’m looking for more.
Tope Folarin’s A Particular Kind of Black Man (2019) is here because he won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013. (So have No Violet Bulawayo, E.C. Osundu, Brian Chikwava, and Leila Aboulela, among others.) He’s also a judge for a short story contest I’d like to enter: it’s important to have a sense of what a judge might value in fiction.
Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love (2010) has been on my TBR since it was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. After that, she attended the International Festival of Authors in Toronto and I still didn’t get to her work. Recently, I heard her interviewed on the Guardian Books podcast and was re-inspired. Podcasts are great for fanning a dimming flame.
Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago (2019) is a return for me. I used to love his books so much that I cut into my grocery budget to buy them in hardcover, which meant more nights of boxed macaroni and less actual food, living on my own as a young adult. With the exception of Ysabel, I’ve lost track, but my recent rereading of the Fionavar stories was amazing: I’m curious.
Nell Freudenberger’s fiction has been on my TBR since The Dissident was longlisted for the Women’s Fiction Prize in 2007 (her collection Lucky Girls had been put forward for their New Writers award some years before that, too), and The Newlyweds (2012) caught my attention because of its focus on love and marriage (also, I love the birds on the cover).
It’s ironic, but the last of Thomas King’s books which I have yet to read, is the first of his books I bought, back when I was working in a department store and regularly perusing that department on my breaks. This is a replacement copy of Medicine River (1989), a paperback from 1991, which lists his previous book-length publication as A Coyote Columbus Story. Time flies!
Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms (1995) is on my shelves because I absolutely loved Power, a coming-of-age story set in Florida chronicling the experience of a young indigenous girl. I’ve enjoyed some of her essays (in Dwellings, for instance) and I’ve found a second-hand copy of Mean Spirit in a Little Free Library recently, but this will mark my return to her fiction.
Zalika Reid-Benta’s Frying Plantain (2019) is in the stack because I live a few blocks from Little Jamaica, where the book is set. I’m smack between two public libraries; it takes me four minutes longer to walk to the Little Jamaica branch. It’s worth the extra time. (And, yes, I know, normal people don’t make those journeys often enough to calculate those stat’s.)
Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch (1966; Trans. Gregory Rabassa, 1987) has been on my shelves for more than twenty years, since I fell in love with his “A Continuity of Parks”. I loved that story so much that I carried a photocopy of it in my security pouch for that retail job I mentioned above. Because you never know what emergency could arise which would call for a short story.
Carellin Brooks’ One Hundred Days of Rain (2015) was a Toronto Word on the Street purchase from two or three years ago. It’s a story about breaking up and rebuilding and there’s a blurb from Caroline Adderson on the back (whose work I’ve loved since A History of Forgetting). All that’s to-the-good, but, really, I bought it because I loved the title.