January 2018, In My Notebook

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).

If you are curious about the longlist, I’ve made a simple text list, useful for list-lovers.

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

And how about you: what’s in your notebook? Are you making plans?



  1. Laila@BigReadingLife February 3, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

    So true – the bookish world IS always presenting more bookish temptations!!!

    I’m executing my “plans” for the year so far – I’m reading my own books (some,) short stories (slowly,) and just seeing where my curiosity takes me!

  2. Naomi January 29, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    I’m hoping The Marrow Thieves and Scarborough will both end up on the short list, in the hopes that it will nudge me to read them soon! And Forgiveness because I own that one. And Tomboy Survival Guide and Seven Fallen Feathers because I won those ones too. And Brother because I love it. Hmm… that’s six. Well, there’s a good chance a couple of those will make it on the list!

    I’ve requested Goodbye Vitamin from the library – and it’s on the ToB list! So, that’s one I will hopefully be reading. It seemed to be a good choice based on my recent read of The Pursuit of memory, which was so fascinating.

    • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

      Is it the only ToB book that has tempted you? I’m still toying with the idea of reading more from the list, but yikes, all the other reading projects are crowding in! I’m not sure what to hope for with the CR books; part of me wants them to choose all the books I’ve read (all good ones, too) so that I can just enjoy the debates and discussions. But the other part of me wants to read some of the others (like JJ Lee’s which has been on my TBR since it was published, and Dance, Gladys, Dance which sounds entertaining indeed and comes recommended!) and this would make a great excuse to finally make time for them in the stack. Have you read Norman Doidge’s stuff?

      • Naomi February 1, 2018 at 6:58 pm - Reply

        Haha! I’m so behind in reading comments that the CR list is long out now.

        I like some of the other books on the list, but Goodbye Vitamin stood out the most right now. Baby steps. I’m worried I won’t even be able to fit in all the CR books this year! (I must, I will!)

        I haven’t read Norman Doidge, but his books are always a temptation when I run into them at the library. 🙂

        (As an aside, I’m trying to train Luna not to step all over the keyboard. It’s not going well!)


        • Buried In Print February 2, 2018 at 8:50 am - Reply

          Also, I’m not sure I can think of anything negative someone has said about Khong’s book. I’ve got three to fit in as well, but it’ll happen. I’m especially looking forward to American War, which I had intended to read when it landed on a couple of prizelists, but, now, I have another excuse to push it up the stack (plus Anne’s enthusiasm, of course!). Maybe Doidge is best enjoyed in interview anyhow, leaving both hands free to pet the new adoptee!

  3. BookerTalk January 27, 2018 at 12:32 am - Reply

    You’ve reminded me that I have Sea of Poppies to read – the only other book by him I’ve read is The Glas Palce which I enjoyed but I’m told Sea of Poppies is even better. As for plans, this year I’m not making any. I’m not joining any challenges etc, just reading whatever takes my fancy.

    • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      That’s the one I was pawing at in the library most recently; perhaps your enjoyment of it had lodged somewhere in the back of my mind. Oh, yes, it’s your “year of reading naked”, right?

  4. iliana January 26, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    I always enjoy peeking into others’ journals so thank you for sharing the picture of yours! Isn’t Broadchurch wonderful? I just love the dynamic between the two main characters. I heard season 3 was the final one and I’m bummed out. I wish there was more to come!

    • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      If I remember correctly, you have multiple journals? I do have a separate notebook in which I log the films I watch, and another notebook for writing which isn’t journalling. Wait, is that still a journal? Maybe I have multiple journals, too, and I don’t know it?

      I felt exactly the same way about hearing that Broadchurch was done. In fact, it stopped me from watching the final season for ages. But, it was actually just the perfect ending and, because they did it so well, tied together the themes so beautifully (and painfully), I’m very glad to have watched it.

  5. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis January 26, 2018 at 11:44 am - Reply

    I love your handwriting too. My journal never looks so good.

    Ack – I’ve not read one of the Canada Reads longlist, and only two are on my TBR list. I clearly have some catching up to do!!

    • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 12:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Debbie. Yes, I’m wondering how the Canada Reads shortlist will shape up. I suspect I’ll have a few to read myself!

  6. Rebecca Foster January 26, 2018 at 5:30 am - Reply

    I do love your handwriting! All of my bookish plans are housed in a boring old Word file.

    I would like to try Sebald and read more of Mitchell this year myself. Were you still interested in doing a buddy read of Levy’s Small Island at some point?

    Some familiar and some not-so-familiar titles on all these lists. I’m currently reading The Boat People and enjoying it. Not very subtle, perhaps, but a powerful message about accepting refugees — since most of us are immigrants, after all.

    • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 12:50 pm - Reply

      Those boring old Word files are very useful, however, when it comes to sorting and searching. When I am properly reading new publications, I cannot do without that method. But in a year (another year) of backlisted reading, I am only dabbling in new books, so I am content with paper-and-pen. And, yes, definitely, when it comes to Small Island; I’m so glad you remembered! She is one of my MustReadEverything authors. My stack for February already seems daunting: would March or April be good for you?

      • Rebecca Foster January 29, 2018 at 1:43 pm - Reply

        Sure, how about mid or late April?

        • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 2:45 pm - Reply

          Because we are both more likely to have lighter reading plans in April? grins

          • Rebecca Foster January 29, 2018 at 4:33 pm - Reply

            In that I can’t remember a blog I have planned for April…yes!

      • Naomi January 29, 2018 at 5:26 pm - Reply

        I’d like to join in on this, if I have time! I’ve owned Small Island forever.

        • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 5:41 pm - Reply

          I was just about to ask if anyone else would be interested! Shall we aim to start reading in the middle of April and check in again as the month gets underway, to see how quickly/slowly we might like to move through it?

          • Rebecca Foster January 30, 2018 at 4:33 am - Reply

            Sounds good 🙂 I’ve never done a blog buddy read before!

          • Naomi February 1, 2018 at 6:59 pm - Reply

            Sounds good to me! 🙂

  7. kaggsysbookishramblings January 26, 2018 at 4:39 am - Reply

    Still very few plans – just to read as much as I possibly can and love what I read!

  8. The Reading Life January 26, 2018 at 3:25 am - Reply

    I also enjoyed Sea of Poppies

    There is a lot in this book. We get a good look at the pernicious influence of opium in India. We see how it is traded, how the poppies are turned into opium and how it destroys traditional culture. We learn a lot of nautical slang. We learn many expressions for occupations in the period. We learn a lot about the caste system. We learn a lot about life inside an Indian prison. (His prison scenes are really well done and can compare with classic Victorian depictions of prison life.) We get a good idea of how it might have felt to live in the period. We see the food, family relations, brothels, and clothing. We get a strong feel for the extreme diversity and richness of Indian Culture. We see the effects of colonialism. ( As I read this work I was reminded of Edmund Burke who argued that Indian should be set free as it was in fact a much older and in many ways richer culture than England)

    I like Sea of Poppies a lot. It made be realize how little I know of Indian history. There are wonderful set pieces in the book, miniature narratives brilliantly done. The book does have an old fashioned feel. By this I mean it seems like it was written for a time when readers were happy to read what will eventually be a 1500 page character rich trilogy. It makes use of many words which will be unfamiliar to the reader who is not a scholar of the period. (In an appendix to the book, Ghosh indicates the authoritative sources for his use of expressions. My guess he has got his history and terms correct.) Ghosh takes his time building up to the start of the voyage. He is in no hurry. We know, shades of The Count of Monte Christo, that vengeance will be dealt out eventually. Sea of Poppies ends on a cliff hanger

    It and the other two works in the trilogy have a kind of old fashioned feel.

    • Buried In Print January 29, 2018 at 12:47 pm - Reply

      The dictionary is fascinating; I can only imagine what it was like to begin to write this book, to explore the works he refers to in the glossary, to truly inhabit the rigging of these vessels, linguistically. And the imprisonment is so vividly sketched that I could not put aside the book in those sections (once the location of the prison shifted for the first time, and then it was doubly interesting when it shifted again – I don’t want to say where/how, as that would include spoilers).

      It does feel old-fashioned, I agree, but, at the same time, I was thinking that this is the kind of storytelling I am actually craving when I think I am craving a nice baggy classic. It’s got all the bonuses of contemporary writing without the prejudices and serial-plotting-pitfalls of the truly old-fashioned yarns. I’m also curious about his standalone works (because I know I’m going to be done this series all-too-quickly) and wonder if they have the same feel.

      But what I love most of all is the question of opium-colonialism-addiction (for the colonies are addicted to the process of colonizing too). The process of growing and treating the poppies was all new to me and I didn’t think it could get any more interesting but, then, we are offered a glimpse inside the production in the factory (and in the minds of the engineers behind the scenes) and, wow, it’s just fantastic.

  9. annelogan17 January 25, 2018 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    I see you’re a reader of Quill and Quire-me too! Interesting letter from the Knuxta people in this past issue, no? I feel bad for Angie Abdou…

    Sorry to go off on a tangent, I know this is completely unrelated to your post!

    • Buried In Print January 25, 2018 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      Tangents are fun! I’ve been so impressed with the shift in Q&Q over recent years, its obvious and determined efforts towards inclusiveness; but with this particular matter, I would rather have read some different perspectives in the same issue of the magazine, so that readers could see an actual dialogue and conversation rather than two seemingly disparate and extreme positions in different issues of the magazine, or, even better, actual exchanges and discussions between various interested parties as a feature of some sort and not just two voices from the whole scenario, each isolated single perspectives and in two separate issues.

  10. Helen January 25, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    I’m glad you’re enjoying Sea of Poppies. I read the whole Ibis trilogy a few years ago and loved all three books, although I still haven’t read anything else by Amitav Ghosh.

    • Buried In Print January 25, 2018 at 5:41 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure if I was following your reading at that point, but I’m glad to learn that you enjoyed all three as well! I am amazed by his ability to bring such a wide variety of characters to life, with such varying priorities and motivations. Also, I never think of myself as enjoying sea stories but, it seems that I do!

  11. A Life in Books January 25, 2018 at 3:48 am - Reply

    I’d recommend Idaho, but Manhatten Beach, not so much. Very much hoping that the Everett will be published here in the UK

    • Buried In Print January 25, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

      I’ve picked up Everett’s books so many times, even borrowed a couple from the library here and there, but I’ve never read one. The premise of each is always intriguing, but I guess I haven’t matched mood wtih moment yet. Do you have a favourite?

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