Reading for the Shadow Giller in 2018

Although I’m tracking my Giller Prize reading on my Autumn 2018 Prizelists and Events page, I have more to say about reading this year’s Giller list because this is my first year as a Shadow Jury member.

Joining Alison and Kim and Naomi is a pleasure. If you are interested in how the shadowing began, you can search the archives at Kevin Peterson’s blog, where the remaining members’ contributions are chronicled even still.

This year, all members commit to shadowing the 2018 Giller jury (comprised of Kamal Al-Solaylee, Maxine Bailey, John Freeman, Philip Hensher and Heather O’Neill) by reading the five books which were included on the jury’s shortlist on October 1st. They will announce their winner on November 19th.

Read here for news of Kim’s progress and here for news of Naomi’s and you can find Alison’s contributions in comment sections and on KevinfromCanada’s page.

All four of us will be reading (or have already read) these five shortlisted titles: Patrick deWitt’s French Exit, Eric Dupont’s Songs for the Cold of Heart (2012; Trans. Peter McCambridge, 2018), Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, Sheila Heti’s Motherhood, and Thea Lim’s An Ocean of Minutes.

Those of us who tend towards the obsessive will have something to say about the seven books on the longlist as well: Paige Cooper’s Zolitude, Rawi Hage’s Beirut Hellfire Society, Emma Hooper’s Our Homesick Songs, Lisa Moore’s Something for Everyone, Tanya Tagaq’s Split Tooth, Kim Thúy’s Vi (2016; Trans. Sheila Fischman, 2018), and Joshua Whitehead’s Jonny Appleseed.

Every year when the longlist is announced, I hope that I’ve read all the books. That never happens. Not even close. And, this year, because I’ve been obsessing about the backlog of books on my TBR, mostly backlisted titles (and a ridiculous number of them – 8,381 at last count) I knew I would have a lot of reading ahead of me.

This proved true, as I had only read the two books which appear with hyperlinks above: Lisa Moore’s short stories (because I love short stories in general and Lisa Moore’s stories in particular) and Kim Thúy’s novella (in Sheila Fischman’s translation) for “Women in Translation” month.

But I was fortunate with library holds, some having been placed in the past which fortuitously arrived just when I was looking to read them, and even more fortunate in “discovering” some copies on the Best Bets shelves in various branches, which are not part of the hold system, and instead just hang about on their shelves, hoping a browsing reader will take them home and spend time with them.

Tomorrow I will have a review of Paige Cooper’s story collection. I’ll be experimenting with a new format for my Shadow Giller reading, aiming for a 300-word and spoiler-free summary for each book, followed by a longer consideration of one aspect of the novel which strikes me as remarkable (which might be more interesting to those who have already read the book or to other writers).

How about you? Are you reading anything Giller-wise? Or perhaps reading one of these because it has come to your attention for other reasons? Perhaps another prizelist captures your attention?



  1. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis October 15, 2018 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Congratulations, by the way for being chosen for the Shadow Giller jury. I have already read your review of Zolitude & Washington Black in your new format and I found it very useful and informative.

    I didn’t realize your TBR list was so long – I’ve finally found someone with a longer list than mine (6,447). Alas, mine is in a spreadsheet and not on GoodReads, so we can’t use the ‘compare’ function. 😉

    • Buried In Print October 16, 2018 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Thanks, Debbie! I’m excited about it too. And, yes, it is a long list. Mine was written into notebooks for many years, but finally I entered them all into GR over the course of a summer (entering a certain number of notebook pages each week). It was tiresome but I’m glad I did it. It would be fun to compare: I bet there is a lot of overlap!

  2. LiteraryHoarders (@LiteraryHoarder) October 15, 2018 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    I’ve just finished Songs for the Cold of Heart. Just throw all the prizes at it is my opinion. The translation is wonderful and keeps the lyricism and eloquence of Dupont’s writing (so hoping it wins the GG for Translation) and for an award awarding quality fiction – this checked it all off for me. Fantastic storytelling! The only other one I’m “really” interested in reading from the Shortlist is Washington Black – which is one that seems to be dividing readers so far. A mixed bag of reactions.

    • Buried In Print October 16, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

      You’re done already! How long do you figure it took? I am reading it very slowly (because it’s the kind of book I have to read while sitting a certain way and with certain lighting) but I think it’s mesmerizing. My guess is that readers who are looking for a good yarn in Washington Black might be frustrated by what seem to be diversions, but Edugyan has built in a lot of layers to explore her theme, and that’s hard to do but it’s admirable crafting.

  3. annelogan17 October 15, 2018 at 11:53 am - Reply

    I must say I’m very impressed that you’ve managed to get these books from the library! I loved Washington Black, and Sheila Heti’s motherhood is my November book club pick. And of course I really enjoyed the giller readings at Wordfest-all five were amazing! Eric Dupont is absolutely hilarious.

    • Buried In Print October 16, 2018 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Most other years I’ve ended up buying a couple of them, because the lists were too long for me to receive copies before the winner was announced. so this is a nice treat. (I can direct my book-buying dollars elsewhere, trusting that a lot of readers buy Giller titles but not necessarily other CanLit titles.) Have you started reading Motherhood? I’m curious what you’ll think…

  4. iliana October 14, 2018 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    I would say I have about that many books on my backlog too! 🙂
    Unfortunately I have not read any of these books but will definitely be looking forward to your reviews!

    • Buried In Print October 16, 2018 at 9:47 am - Reply

      Yay: it’s nice to have company in the madness of overpopulated reading lists! (I’ll try not to add more to your list, but shrug some of these are really good.)

  5. lauratfrey October 12, 2018 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Oh I like the sounds of this review format. I’m reading a few select titles… so far, Jonny Appleseed, Songs for the Cold of Heart, Washington Black, and currently, An Ocean of Minutes. Éric Dupont is my new author crush

    • Buried In Print October 16, 2018 at 9:34 am - Reply

      What I’ve read of Songs, so far, I absolutely love. So I can understand your enthusiasm. I’ve read the others you’ve read, too. Why did you choose those out of the bunch?

  6. Lisa Hill October 12, 2018 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    I’ve been following the Giller for a good while now, and (though I miss Kevin because he was an online mentor to me) I am delighted that it is still active and that you have joined the team.
    I haven’t read any of the books. It usually takes a while for Giller books to make it to bookshops here in Australia, and even longer before they get into our libraries. And, (speaking of TBRs), I have more than a couple of Giller winners on my TBR so I should hold off buying any more.
    But I won’t, of course. Kevin made a good case for similarities between Canadian and Australian literature, and I am rarely disappointed by the winners that I have read.
    I look forward to your reviews!
    PS Don’t stress about the TBR. I have about the same number of books: at 200 books a year that’s only 4 years supply, (or 8 years if you read 100 p.a) and that’s essential insurance in case something terrible happens to publishing (as we all thought it would when the eBook came along).

    • Buried In Print October 16, 2018 at 9:33 am - Reply

      Thanks, Lisa: I am delighted as well. I try to consider which of the longlisted titles he would have most enjoyed/appreciated, as quite often a book I admired he enjoyed and a book I enjoyed he admired, but it’s always hard to guess that kind of thing. I remember you making lots of comments on his blog during the Giller seasons (and year-round too) and am certain you’re correct that he wouldn’t think you should stall in buying new Giller nominees just because you still have a couple on your shelves as-yet-unread. They will need company on there, after all! (Thanks, too, for the optimism regarding my TBR: I think you might have missed a digit, but I’ll take the optimism all the same!)

      In the late ’90s I was part of an online reading group which discussed Australian literature and that’s where I got the idea about a similarity between the two countries’ literature as well: maybe you were on that list?! Back then, there weren’t that many options for bookchat online, so one chatted where one could; the group introduced me to all the classic Australian writers I’ve read (except for Patrick White, who had trickled in via a family recommendation when I was younger) and it’s the reason I follow the Miles Franklin and the Stella Prize although, for the very reasons you’ve listed as challenges for your Booker reading, I am usually years late getting to any of them.

  7. Naomi October 12, 2018 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    I’m excited to see what “remarkable aspects” you find in the books. I just wish I could read them all first! But maybe reading your considerations before my own reading will get my brain working differently as I read the book for myself.
    I love the picture of your library books all lined up perfectly. I can’t believe none of my other library books have come in yet! All those extra shifts at the library and nothing to bring home!

    • Buried In Print October 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      So far, I’m finding it hard to limit myself to just one remarkable aspect. Even if not of all these books are to all readers’ tastes, all seven that I’ve read have given me something to think about and usually a reason to go back and reread certain sections after finishing.

      I’ve certainly had library years like that. And, as it stands, it feels like everything is due on one of the days in next week, so my current comfy state is in jeopardy for sure! Ironically, most of those are for the “other” awards, but as you know, there are some really good books on those lists too (Kathy Page, we’re looking at you!), so I’m hoping to read a LOT this weekend.

  8. Rebecca Foster October 12, 2018 at 9:18 am - Reply

    How lucky that all your holds came in at once! I hope you enjoy the whole shortlist. (I can hardly believe I’ve read 3 of 5 — the books seem to be more internationally available this year than previously?) And I like the sound of your review format. I might just borrow that for my Wellcome shadowing next year.

    • Buried In Print October 12, 2018 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      That does seem extraordinary, in general, and also in that we have read the same three! (I’ve just begun the DuPont and the Lim, both of which are immediately engaging, although in different ways. The new format is a good challenge: I could use some practice with the 300-word mark. (But, simultaneously, there is so little books coverage in the world in general these days that I do want to probe more deeply than that allows.) You’re welcome to “borrow”, of course!

      • Rebecca Foster October 12, 2018 at 12:15 pm - Reply

        I’ve had to write 175 words for Publishers Weekly, and 350 for Kirkus. It’s good discipline!

        • Buried In Print October 12, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

          I was just reading about Emily Carr’s process of “peeling” words away, trying to get at the heart of something she was writing (and, then, later she might paint out of that, too). Isn’t that just the perfect way to describe it? (175: wow. shakes head)

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