Unless we’ve just met, you already know that I am slightly obsessed with the International Festival of Authors.

ifoa-notebook-2016I’ve already told the story about how it was one of the reasons I moved to Toronto, so that I could attend Harbourfront events without a hotel bill (like the one earlier this year with Annie Proulx).

This year’s festival has a pretty outstanding lineup and I am already saving my pennies because two of the focus events for this year (Irish authors and comics) have an immediate and intense appeal. Also spotlighted this year? Non-fiction writers. Looking forward to adding some titles to my TBR there.

As always, I aim to read all of the works in advance.

As always, that’s impossible.

Fortunately, some authors’ works are familiar, so sometimes I don’t worry so much about reading their latest.

I’ve seen Emma Donoghue read many times, and maybe I won’t get to reading The Wonder but I’ll have memories of Kissing the Witch, Room and a few others to go on.

And sometimes the author’s books have lingered too long on my stack but it’s the event which finally gets me reading.

So, for instance, it was knowing that Andre Alexis would be attending this year, which urged me to finally finally finally read A and Pastoral and Fifteen Dogs, so that I could begin The Hidden Keys in advance.  (Last year I read his story collection, Despair.)

But sometimes their appearance is what gets a book on my TBR initially and then I’m scrambling to fit something in before the festival dates.

This is true of Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Harmless Like You, a debut which might have gotten lost in my good intentions, if it weren’t for her IFOA appearance.

This year’s notes were the first page I filled out in my new calendar. The week had already passed, but I was planning more than a single week’s reading for sure.

In the photo below, you can see another year’s list. See, I’m always making reading plans. Aren’t you?

So far, in IFOA2016 reading, I am specializing in beginning books.

ifoa-samplingFor instance, Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation.

Which is, by the way, decidedly creepy. And I’ve been reading it at night, whenever I can’t sleep. This has not been helpful in any way. Except that it has made me thankful for not being able to sleep, because otherwise I might dream about this story, and that would be terrible.

I’ve read about half of it, and even though I don’t want to keep reading, I keep reading anyway. That says something.

There are at least two more books in the sequence. I’m afraid I’ll have to read those too.

Also, Auđur Ava Ólafsdóttir’s Butterflies in November, which I’ve been bringing with me on some commutes, because the chapters are short.

It often makes me smile (although more because something is dark-funny than haha-funny).

“I suffered terribly when I gave birth to you, thirty-six hours of labour, five giving birth to your brother. Took me four months to recover, just physically I mean, after having you. I have to admit, in some ways I feel closer to your brother, he also calls me more often.”

This took some getting used to, and at first I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend any amount of time with this woman. My hesitation was rooted in the fact that she runs over a goose and then brings it home to be cooked, but there are other characters who are also severing their connections to her simultaneously (or expressing disappointment in them, like her mother does here) and I felt guilty leaving her alone on the page (also, I haven’t been packing another book – it could have been more to do with that).

Despite the powder-blue cover and the strangely-softly-snarky tone, Butterflies in November is actually saying a whole lot of important things, in a strangely inviting/push-away tone, which becomes surprisingly addictive.

There are a lot of other books stacked up in my IFOA reading piles. How about you? Are you reading with this event in mind? Or with another literary festival on your schedule? Have you read either of these two authors’ works?