- by Alyson Shane
Last night I was checking out a post on the amazingly well-named "Gates Notes" blog, run by Bill Gates, where he shared 5 of the best books he read in 2017. Of all the "roundup" type posts that tend to pop up this time of year, I like literature-related ones best because it gets me thinking about all the books I've read, and all the books out there that I've yet to add to my collection.
I definitely don't read as much as I used to (except that time I read all of Alias Grac's 564 pages in a week on vacation*) but I still manage to make my way through several books a year. However, seeing how much Bill Gates manages to read while also, y'know, being Bill Gates definitely acted as a reminder that I ought to spend more time with my nose stuck in a book.
* My god I can't wait to get down to Belize in January, read a shit-ton, and plan this wedding.
In any case, below is my roundup of 5 amazing books I read in 2017:
This one was hands-down my favourite. It's been a while since I've sunk my teeth into a good Stephen King novel; he kinda lost me with From a Buick 8 onward and I've never really gone back since (I think the trick is to go back and figure out which of his old works of horror and fiction I haven't read pre-Buick 8, and work my way up from there.)
As the name of the book implies, it's about writing. Not just why writers write, but an in-depth analysis of the challenges of being a writer, of struggling to have people accept your craft, and why you feel compelled to do it. It was nice to read about my craft in the words of someone who, arguably, is a much stronger wordsmith than I am, and who has been at it much longer than I have.
I also enjoyed being reminded of how funny he is; how quippy, with those weird little sayings that always made his characters that much more believable. His was a refreshing perspective on the art of writing, and reminded me that I should read more about what I do, not just the ways I do it.
Obviously I read Bernie Sanders' book, which was released in November 2016. I was pro-Bernie from the moment he appeared on the political stage (ask me about my views on climate change, free post-secondary tuition, or the need for universal health coverage.)
Since I was already pretty well-versed with his political ideas, and why he believed them to be true, the book served as an opportunity to develop a better understanding of how he and his campaign managed to harness the sentiment of a growing, engaged Millennial class of voters and capture the imagination of people like me to the point where he was able to, with no campaign money, no political organization, took on the Democratic Party establishment.
I haven't read any Margaret Atwood since my binge on Alias Grace a few years back, and it was refreshing to return to an author who spends so much time analyzing her character's motivations and fears.
The novel's main character, Joan Foster, is an author who lives secret lives from the people around her, constantly worried that she will be "found out" as being less than she is perceived to be (as someone who regularly deals with anxiety and impostor syndrome, this book was often like having my own worries read back at me.)
I felt like Joan was symbolic of contemporary womanhood: trying to be everything to everyone, all the while hiding, deliberately ignoring, or shaming herself for her fantasies and talents, and it was lovely to immerse myself in Atwood's witty and often surprisingly sharp prose.
Okay, so technically I haven't finished this one yet, but I'm close.
I haven't picked up a Murakami novel in years (I voraciously read through several of his novels in my late teens, my favourite being Norwegian Wood, which I highly recommend) and his brevity was an interesting contrast from Lady Oracle, which I finished shorty before starting this novel.
Like many of Murakami's novels, Colorless Tskuru is a Bildungsroman (hi, Rhetoric degree) though significantly less whimsical than some of his other works. The novel focuses on "colorless" Tskuru Tazaki, who is nicknamed as such because all of his childhood friends have a colour as part of their last names. One day during his college years he comes home and learns that his friends have cut all ties with him, seemingly with no reason. This devastates Tskuru, and leaves him feeling empty or "lacking in color and identity" according to Murakami. The novel begins when Tskuru is 32, and follows him as he travels to visit each of his former friends to discover why they cut ties with him in order to gain a sense of closure.
Since I haven't fully finished the novel I won't delve too deep into what I like and don't like about it so far, but I wanted to include it because reading work from non-English speaking authors is always an interesting experience. I mentioned Murakami's brevity above, and I'm continually impressed with his exploration of heartbreak, loneliness, and the human psyche without delving into the flowery language that tends to gum up English authors when they start delving deep into a personal or psychological problem. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the novel concludes.
I started reading this memoir shortly after the 2016 election which left me, like many other people, reeling and feeling as though they fundamentally didn't understand the surge of white anger happening in America. I was grasping for some sort of understanding of the kinds of people who would vote for someone like Donald Trump, and J.D. Vance's memoir about growing up in a small Appalachian town was exactly what I needed to broaden my horizons.
The memoir is part reflection, part sociological analysis of the "hillbilly culture" he grew up with, which acts as both a source of pride, and a social mechanism which keeps people firmly in their socio-economic place, unable to (and in some cases, unwilling to) do what was necessary for a better life for themselves. It was a stark, eye-opening analysis of what's happening in rural America, and how the social rot encouraged by "hillbilly culture" has affected the United States.
Did you read any amazing books this year? Tweet at me and let me know!
- by Alyson Shane
That line is from The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. John and I are reading it together right now - it's his first time but I've read it about four times since I first read it in my first year of university.
It's one of my favourites and it's neat sharing it with him.
We read together most evenings, and sometimes during the day on the weekends, too. Once in a while I read out loud but usually he reads to me while I curl up in our down comforter, or lie in his arms, or sometimes paint my toenails or clean the bathroom.
So far the list of books that we've read together looks like this:
which I believe is missing a few but I can't really remember at the moment.
It's weird dating another avid reader, but wonderful. Our very first "date night" after we started dating was on a Friday night. We made rosemary chicken and salad and drank red wine and sat on John's shag rug and talked made out and he read Oscar Wilde poems to me.
How could I not be completely charmed, really?
Even now we read to each other constantly; yesterday while running errands John asked me to read something to him in the car and so I did.
He drove and I read and we talked and it was lovely.
Most of what I've done this weekend involved potting plants, shopping, cooking or reading. I spent very little time online and what time I did spend was largely spent reading articles in the car yesterday.
It was nice to unwind and recharge.
Don't get me wrong, it's nice to catch up on Twitter and write a bit here and whatnot.
But honestly I can't wait to peel back the blankets, get into bed, and lose myself in that book again.
- by admin
called "Reunion" by Alan Lightman.
It's about a professor who attends his 30th college reunion on the surface but like a good book it's also about heartbreak and misery and that sad sort of indifference that sets in when you look back on your life and find yourself disappointed. It's also about lost loves, burying emotions and bittersweet heartbreak.
Though to say "I'm reading" isn't really true, because I'm having it read to me. Usually late at night after hours of talking and laughing when we should be sleeping and one of us looks at the other and says something like
"want to do some Book?"
which sounds like a secret term for something but isn't.
We're just both literary nerds.
I haven't read anything akin to a romance novel in a long time. I generally don't care for them.
The last one I read was The Time Traveler's Wife which was recommended to me while in a Chapters with an ex-boyfriend's cousin while living in Hamilton and I bought it on a whim because, looking back, I needed some romance in my life. Even if I was only going to be able to find it within the pages of a novel.
Recently though I'm finding myself drawn to romance novels. Mostly ones about betrayal and heartbreak and making beautiful, fucked-up, life-changing mistakes.
Because that's what we're all doing all the time, really, and that's what I feel my life has been lately: something beautiful that came from a bunch of fucked-up mistakes
which is the story of everyone's life when you step back and look at it.
I read a great article from Elite Daily a few weeks ago called Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With which I think is absolutely true.
Being able to draw from the references I've learned from books has made this process easier. I can turn to Wilde and Bukowski and, now, Lightman and see sides of myself in their words because books teach us to love
to look at things from other people's perspectives
to be brave
to make the hard choices
to reflect on the bad ones
to not let the fleeting, inconsequential annoyances of day-to-day life get in the way of living.
I'm falling back in love with books and it's glorious.
It's like coming home.
- by admin
I first read the book when I was seventeen.
I found it in Bison Books which is in a different, not as good, location now.
The old location had an upstairs mezzanine level with this neat little alcove area where, as it turns out, I would eventually discover some of the most important books in my life.
It was air-conditioned and I was a teenager with a lot of time to kill and at the time my mum and I weren't getting along, and she would make me leave the house at 8am regardless of whether or not I had somewhere to go.
So I went to the bookstore.
That summer I reread the book at least a dozen times. I think I identified with the girl in the novel who didn't know who she was just yet.
Astrid was lost, and to a large extent that summer I felt lost.
I drifted around from place to place during the day between the two jobs that I worked, trying to avoid the two toxic relationships in my life: my boyfriend at the time, and my mother.
Things changed, of course.
That relationship ended, and I somehow managed to mend my broken relationship with my mother, and different books came to live in the large purses that I used to carry around before everyone got smartphones.
Watching the film now feels familiar.
It reminds me of that girl that I used to be, and that summer
and how we're always, still, a little bit lost.
- by admin
- Apparently the proper way to read the book is with at least one guide book which essentially deconstructs the chapters for you and explains what's going on. Which seems a bit backwards because isn't that the point in reading the book, anyway? To figure out what's going on?
- Apparently a lot of people find it to be an incredibly challenging read and have trouble getting to the part of the book that I managed to get to in a single sitting. Which means either I'm a genius, or I have no idea what I'm doing. You decide.
- Apparently I'm not going to understand what the f is happening until I reread all 700ish pages of it again at some point in the future. Great!
- Apparently skipping back to previous chapters is totally normal and accepted, which I didn't realize was unique to Ulysses because I do that with basically every novel I read.
- Apparently reading the introduction, the errata, and the notes to pages sections are basically useless, which is good because I don't usually read that stuff, anyway, and didn't this time.
- Apparently every time I pick up the book I'm going to think of this via Kate Beaton:
and also this:
- by admin
even though he's dead but you probably knew that. It's important, I think, to remember stuff like that anyway. People who move you should always be remembered. Bukowski moves me.
I started reading Ham on Rye over Christmas break and it was the first Bukowski novel I've owned and read which is embarrassing to say out loud.
A few months earlier I was getting my hair done and my amazing baber at Hunter & Gunn, Mason, told me about when he lived in an awful, dingy, dark apartment. It was in the basement of a sketchy building with old, yellowed plastic venetian blinds in the windows and he talked to me about reading Bukowski at night.
"You have to read Bukowski" he said "you'll fall in love". So I did.
The feeling of love I get when I read Bukowski is the sickening kind. It's heavy like when you lock eyes with someone across the room and your stomach sinks into your toes. It's good but in a way that makes you feel not yourself.
Bukowski is harsh truths. It's the side of people we don't want to read about or would rather pretend isn't there at all. Reading Bukowski isn't like reading about serial killers and bloodbaths and people we can distance ourselves from. Pretend like we're different.
The personalities in his books are us in all our filth. Our hate. Our depravity. The disgusting things we think about each other. The fucked up and awful things that we do to each other for no reason.
Reading Bukowski leaves you feeling hollow afterward. Like someone came and scooped out your humanity while you were turning the pages.
Even though I'm a few days late, today I'm going to have a stiff drink and read Post Office.
It feels appropriate.
- by admin
Even though it's not doing super hot in theaters and it's only got a 51% rating on rotten tomatoes.
I can't help it, I think it's because Leonardo DiCaprio is in it.
Scratch that. I know it's Leonardo DiCaprio is in it.
A few weeks ago the cat was bugging me at like 4am and I couldn't get back to sleep. So since it was Saturday I decided to go hang on the couch and see if I was going to fall back to sleep eventually, or what, and wound up watching Titanic, which I haven't seen in a few yrs.
It was actually better than my youthful self remembers. Though that might be because I could pause it and go pee halfway through without having to push past an aisle full of peeps just trying to enjoy the movie, dammit.
Leo was great in it. I always forget what an amazing actor he is until I'm watching one of his movies. Then I'm all
"holy shit, he's handsome and talented"
which is why I want to see Gatsby, even though from what I know there isn't any nudity à la Kate Winslet's fabulous boobs like in Titanic.
But I can deal. Plus Carey Mulligan is pretty effin cute.
The thing that puzzles me still is this:
Why did people expect the movie to be so great?
It's a mediocre movie based on a mediocre book
except the movie has a zebra in a fountain.
- by admin
(plus this tune by The Airborne Toxic Event, who my dear friend Kat has been trying to turn me onto forever and who I secretly ADORE even though I keep telling her I don't ;) )
- The Jungle
- The English Patient
- The Marketing Agency Blueprint
- All Quiet on the Western Front
The weather is perfect and I'm looking forward to lying in a park this weekend and reading in the sunshine. Sounds perfect, eh?
Gimme yr book recommendations, I'll read anything!
- by admin
to be honest I was a bit stressed that all my books wouldn't come in on time
especially the odyssey which omg I have to read six sections of by next monday and a bunch of chapters from the book about
orality and literacy
both of which I am quite good at
I know everyone loves what they're taking in school or at least likes it to some extent
because why else would they take it
but I seriously love being a rhetoric student because language and communication is so, so
and fascinating and weird and I come out of my classes all jazzed up about it
which I guess makes me into one of those over-zealous students I used to make fun of
(and still kinda do)
I'm a keener
I've gotta start making better binder covers