Three Books that I Would Have Avoided

In my books, this is unmissable bookishness. At one point, I had fallen six months behind in my listening, but there was no question of deleting those episodes of The Next Chapter; it’s a no-fail source of reading recommendations for me.

Shelagh Rogers’ casual around-the-kitchen-table bookchat brings out a layer to the writing that makes everything — from picture books to literary novels, from bestsellers to sports-writing — sound interesting. Her passion for literature often urges me to try books that I would otherwise have overlooked and, quite often, they turn out to be fantastic.

Here are three books that “The Next Chapter”’s enthusiasm nudged up my TBR list. (I’ve noted the original episode date; they’re all available for download. And, yes, I’m chronically behind with my TBR lists.)

Andy JonesThe Queen of Paradise’s Garden: A Traditional Newfoundland Tale
Illus. Darka Erdelji
Running the Goat, 2009
(October 26, 2009 episode)
This illustrated tale is one of the many “Jack” tales from Newfoundland which have, according to the author’s notes, lived longer in speech than in print. He explains that the sentences and the style are more musical than grammatical and asks that readers attend to the “vivacity, intelligence, and the wit of generations of storytellers”.

If you love fairy and folk tales, you’ll love the vibrant illustrations and the personable voice of the tale-teller in this slim volume. It manages to feel both familiar and distinct and opens and closes with traditional phrases familiar to Newfoundland tale-spinners: “Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, not in your time, indeed not in my time, but in olden times….” and “Now, when I left they were havin babies in basketfuls, and all they give me is a slipper and a glass. And I come all the way slidin on me ass.”

Billeh Nickerson’s McPoems
Arsenal Pulp, 2010
(Jan 8, 2010 episode)
Think you don’t like poetry?
Scarred by Wordsworth’s daffodils in school?
Scared you’ll be expected to parse or diagram or do something equally mind-boggling with the words that make up a poem?
Then you should definitely check out these poems.
They’re funny, sweet, and sad.
They’re observant, flippant and poignant.
Ever worked in fast-food?
Ever eaten fast-food?
Ever heard of fast-food?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you should give this one a try.
I’m positive that I’d’ve missed it, but I’m so glad that I didn’t: sign me up for everything else he’s written.
(Excerpt of five poems available at Geist online.)

Terry FallisThe Best Laid Plans
McClelland & Stewart – Douglas Gibson, 2007
(December 27, 2010 episode)
In this case, I would have read this book without Shelagh Rogers’ nudging. But I would have left it until the end of my 2011 Canada Reads list. I’m not one of those readers who automatically shuns novels with a political flavour. No, I think about it, and then I shun it. I’m not proud of it, but when I hear the phrase “political novel”, it makes me inwardly cringe. Which is all to say that, even if you have the same “thanks, but no thanks” reaction, don’t let it stand in the way of reading Terry Fallis’ debut novel. I’ll have more to say about it in a couple of weeks, when BIP snugs into Canada Reads and Canada Reads Indie reading but, meantime, if you want a laugh, need a laugh, are wondering if you’ve forgotten how to laugh, pick up The Best Laid Plans.

*“Angus had warned me that Rumplun had been born with a severe mirth defect; the long-term effects were obvious.”
*“It’s like Trudeau without the rose, Diefenbaker without jowls, or the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup. It’s unnatural…”
*I’m not sure how old the chips were, but I don’t think you should be able to fold them.

Read any of these? What’s one of your favourite no-fail source of bookishness?



  1. Buried In Print February 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I agree, Steph: the novel has a wide appeal for sure. And it’s especially fun to find a humourous Canadian novel.

  2. steph January 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    I’m reading Fallis’s book now and I too would never have picked it up if it hadn’t been for much nudging. I am surprised to find myself enjoying it, considering it deals with my least favourite subject, politics. There’s so much more to it, thank goodness. It’s also got a lot of…story, and that’s what keeps me reading. That and the humour!

  3. Erin January 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    I haven’t heard of any of these! I love the McPoems excerpt, though; the writing reminds me a little of Billy Collins, who I love. Thanks for pointing these out!

    • Buried In Print January 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Erin: it does have a similar feel, being so down-to-earth, intense emotions caught in relatively few words, everyday images and occurrences.

  4. Kate January 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Ooohhh! I love Shelagh Rogers and The Next Chapter (in fact, it’s on the radio right now as I am reading your post!). I too have read books that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, and bumped others up my TBR stack based on her recommendation. And I especially love listening to her interviews after reading the book being discussed.

    I don’t remember hearing about the first book you listed, but the McPoems interview made an impact on me, and I’m glad that the book lived up to the interview.. I enjoyed her interview with Terry Fallis as well, but I was already planning on reading this book after sitting next to Terry Fallis for lunch at the Sleeping Giant Writer’s Festival last August. If he is half as interesting in print as he is in person, the book will be worth reading.

    • Buried In Print January 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Kate: nice to know there are other TNC lovers listening devotedly. And, I agree, it’s extra-satisfying when you have read the book. I think that’s because she does a great job avoiding spoilers, but referring solidly enough to things that, if you have actually read it, you get the additional layers to her comments. I think you’ll enjoy The Best Laid Plans: there are some great characters therein. What a great lunch you must have had!

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