Our public libraries remain open for curb-side pick-ups, which I’m grateful for, because many of these projects rely on borrowed materials.

After they’ve been returned, however, the library keeps materials in quarantine for 6-8 days, so they are not removed from a borrower’s record for that length of time, which means I am perpetually hovering near my borrowing limit because I’ve been borrowing in chunks to reduce excursions.

In other words, it makes my library addiction appear to be an even more serious affliction than it is. (A lovely “problem” to have.)

Here and Elsewhere

Throughout 2020, I enjoyed the seemingly random incentive to explore a new place on the page each month, by taking the illustration on my desk calendar as a prompt.

Simmering beneath was a deeper curiosity about how we move between spaces, and how our views of the world are shaped by how we do and do not move, whether we can choose to stay or are compelled to leave.

My “here” is another person’s “elsewhere”. A simple idea that feels impossible. Akin to trying to remember that winter is peaking on the other side of the globe while you are sweltering.

Reading allows us to play with other “heres”, other “elsewheres”. This year I plan to read more about moving between them. (Some of my favourite books on this theme are here.)

Short Stories

Through the year, I read 25 collections of short stories along with some memorable singles in magazines and journals: Winter 2020 | Autumn 2020 | Summer 2020 | Spring 2020. And because I’ve so enjoyed reading through the short stories of Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant, I have some new short story projects in mind. Up first, mid-March, is the work of Alistair MacLeod. That name might not be familiar, even to Canadian readers, but he is recognized as a master of the short story and would be welcomed by anyone who’s appreciated Munro or Gallant, Adichie or Li, Paley or Trevor.

280898 Reasons

Like my Here and Elsewhere reading, books about slavery, historical and contemporary, have appeared regularly in my reading stacks.

My formalizing the effort is partially inspired by the fact that 280,898 people residing in one American state voted, last November, to keep slavery on the books.

In Canada, people like to talk about the Underground Railroad and Freedom, more than slavery. But slavery has endured and the injustices perpetuated by that system have endured. We don’t read about it because it’s more comfortable to pretend that’s not true.

Nonetheless, many writers and poets create narratives and art to reveal the truth: tell me if you have a favourite.


Last year I read about the ocean and about bonobos; I don’t know, yet, which books will fit into this category for me in 2021.

One that’s in my stack now is Nina Lakhani’s Who Killed Berta Cáceres? Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet.

What interests me is how hard some writers are working to confront the kind of change that many of us feel too afraid to even look at.

There’s a note in my calendar for this year, that the five people we spend the most time with influence us more than we know.

So I’m putting some courageous writers/thinkers/doers in my stack, in hopes that they rub off on me.

Image by ARTJANE from Pixabay

The Writing Life

Last year I planned to read a longtime shelfsitter, The Habit of Being, a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters, and I ended up reading more about Flannery O’Connor than I read about any other single author in 2020.

Now, I’m delving into Langston Hughes. A few years ago I found a copy of The Ways of White Folks at a college library sale (the Trinity sale, well-known and -loved by other Torontonians) and I loved it. Browsing in the North York Central Library branch a couple summers ago, I spotted a trove of letters and biographies. So far, it’s shaping up to be a great project too.

What excites you about 2021?