For the past few years I have sent a goal for myself – to read 50 books between January and December. I didn’t make it in 2015 or 2016, but I also didn’t include all the readings I was doing for school in those two years. But this week I finished by 50th book of 2017.
Not only have I read 50 books this year, but I have read books of poetry, graphic novels, books of essays, fiction and non-fiction. I have read books written by black women about being a black woman in this world. I have read books written by fat women about being fat in this world. I have read about history that I have never known. I read a funny book about Apartheid for goodness sake.
I have read books that came highly recommended and still exceeded expectations. I found new favourite authors. (I will be buying anything and everything else Amanda Lovelace writes, poetry or otherwise).
And I still have more than a month left to read some more. And a big ol’ pile of books to choose from.
So many books, and I want to dive into them all. I’m excited about reading again. I can stand in front of my shelf and look at my books and decide how I feel. This year I felt like re-reading some of my favourites, I felt like reading nitty gritty paperbacks, I felt like learning more about my country from different viewpoints.
(And I will be reading all the Richard Wagamese that exists, because sadly he passed away this year).
It is a struggle, because as much as I try to get through the books that have been in my to-read pile people still keep writing new ones.
I have a very great desire right now to read all the things.
I have so many books on my shelf that I want to get to. Some have been sitting there for years and some are brand new.
I’m currently reading three books and I want to be reading more. I want to have read them. I want to dive in and experience them all. Now.
This is made more difficult by the fact that I am currently re-reading my favourite series, which consists of seven books. I actually mentioned this to a lady at Mill Street Books in Almonte – where I always, always find something to read, and usually something for the kid too – and she said that she never re-reads books, because there are just too many new books out there.
But I have found, in my life, that there are books I enjoy but will never read again – books that can only surprise you once – and there are books I hold onto as dear friends. There are books I want to read at different stages of my life, to see different perspectives on the characters and events.
I even have books that I may never read again, but they will forever stay on my shelves as fond memories.
Not just fiction either. Lately I have found that I have a great desire to study, to learn, to analyze. I’ve been reading memoirs and textbooks, biographies and essays. I want to know everything. Or at least as much as possible. I want to consider opinions. I want to read about experiences that are vastly different from my own. I want to know more history.
I want to have read things and remember them so that I can use that knowledge when I learn about even more stuff.
Perhaps it’s because I’m now in a place in my life when I know how much I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I have this small twinkle that might just grow into a full blown PhD application. Perhaps it’s because there is so much going on in the world that I want to gather all the information I can to form my own opinions, and be able to back them up. I want to be able to reference things. If I hadn’t slacked off in my first round of undergrad, I’d be ahead of the game at this point.
But then there is fiction. Glorious literature. I want to know stories and language and characterization. Not only because my brain craves it, but because I want to get better at it myself, and there is no better way than to read. Everything.
So, Canada celebrated 150 since since confederation last weekend. Living in the capital, this is something we’ve been talking about for YEARS and I had gotten a little tired of it all. (Especially since, in my opinion, if your going to celebrate 150 years for a whole year, at least start on July 1 and end on July 1).
I love this country, I am proud and glad to have been born here. I believe in this country, and I also know that she has many failings and has made outrageous mistakes. I am of the mind that I can celebrate the good and criticize the bad without giving up one iota of my patriotism.
And it occurred to me today, after watching the pros and cons of Canada being debated all weekend, after watching Indigenous peoples stand up and say that this country is NOT okay, that they have NOT been treated fairly, that they and their children are suffering the consequences of these 150 years, that the best way for me to quietly celebrate my Canada is to lift up those voices, and other Canadian voices. To listen.
And one of my favourite ways to listen is through the written word. So here I will share books that I have read, and books that I know I should read – and will read, hopefully by the end of this year.
Great Books I have read, so see these as recommendations:
Books for Young Canadians, which Canada does so well
Great Canadian Books I Must Read
If you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to add to my list. More fiction, history, biographies, I’ll read it all.
I recently read the book Big Girl by Kelsey Miller. It was an interesting read and I saw a bit of myself in her, though she faced more extreme struggles than I did certainly. I don’t consider any part of my childhood to have been an extreme hardship. But still, we found ourselves in similar positions as adults – overweight, struggling to figure ourselves out, scared of relationships.
But this is not a fat girl got thin book, and that’s what I like about it. Through something called intuitive eating, Kelsey Miller changed her relationship with food without getting skinny and suddenly having it all.
This book made me understand more about what it is I really want. I’m never going to be skinny. I never really have been – close in body but certainly never mentally. I have no real desire to diet. I have a desire to feel better. Less sick, less tired, less bloated, more capable of doing things that other people do.
I want to know what I want to eat, how it’s going to make me feel, how it’s going to fuel me. I want to know what I want to it and have it satisfy me when I do. I want to realize that when I am eating something and enjoying it I can and should stop when I’m full, because chances are I will have food that tasty again.
I want to not be thinking about food all the time. That I should eat, what I should eat, when I should eat, what I shouldn’t have, what I feel like having.
Now that I’ve read this book I know that I should do some more reading.
I have started reading a book about Columbine by Dave Cullen. I read a good review, and apparently the author has delved a bit deeper and looks at the case as more than just what was reported the day of.
I remember the shooting at Columbine very well, and it hit me hard particularly, I think, because I was in my last year of high school at the time. The timing of the shooting was such that I was home from school in time to watch the live coverage while students were still running for their lives.
I also remember that the next day I was sitting in my OAC history class and our principal came on for announcements and ask for a moment of silence – 15 dead – and one of the thoughtless teenage boys in my class laughed – turned to the guy next to him and LAUGHED, saying “oh yeah, did you hear about that…”
The memory stings all the more because it was only two years later that same principal – a lovely, much-loved man – and his wife were shot to death themselves during a robbery.
So much has happened between then and now. So much bad has happened, some of which surpasses what happened that day, but the fact that those killers were my age, going through the same day-to-day life that I was. The fact that what they did never would have occurred to me before then. It seemed totally monstrous.
It is even more so now that I know they weren’t bullied kids who were targeting people. They did this thing because they wanted to, and at least one of them thought it was fun.
Never did it occur to me that my daughter would be doing lockdown drills at school.
That’s some legacy.
Last summer I had a goal of reading a while whack of books about politics and politicians to help me get ready for my Masters, but I planned, god laughed, etc. I ended up picking up new books for that pile from my father’s collection, some of which is still in my basement.
This summer I realized that I had – almost by accident – started reading stories of women and feminist memoirs, even some essays, so I decided to go with it if that’s what I feeling the need for right now.
For a little while I forgot how important reading is to me – how deeply it matters. And it’s been very interesting reading as an adult because I find myself more drawn to people’s true stories than I ever was as a child. I never used to read non-fiction. Ever.
So far this summer I’ve read two books of essays – Caitlin Moran’s Moranifesto and Me, My Hair and I. I’ve read four feminist memoirs – My Life on the Road, which I bought after seeing Gloria Steinem speak, Shrill by Lindy West, which spoke to me in so many loud and clear ways, The Year of Yes by the great Shonda Rhimes, and Sex Object by Jessica Valenti, which pushed me out of my comfort zone. Now I’m reading Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism, just as she has taken herself off social media because of threats made against her daughter.
I’m also currently reading Birdie, a Canadian novel about the life of a Cree woman. We can’t forget great novels in our tour – I’ve got Dumplin‘ up there, which is a novel about a fat girl, and The Girls, which combines two of my interests – a story of women and a Manson family type situation. And in that pile up there you can also see Alias, the graphic novel on which the Jessica Jones series on Netflix was based. The series has been hailed not only for the portrayal of Jones – a strong, take no crap, feminist superhero – but also for it’s portrayal of Jones’ PTSD.
I wanted to include great black women in my summer as well, so I am planning to finally read the iconic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and also Melissa Harris-Perry’s Sister Citizen. If you haven’t heard of Melissa Harris-Perry, seek her out. I recommend her interviews on the Another Round podcast.
If you have any suggestions for great woman that I’m missing I’d love to hear them. I am very much enjoying my summer of girl power.
I don’t often write book reviews, and I certainly don’t write them before I’ve finished a book.
I first heard of Shrill by Lindy West when one of my Facebook friends mentioned it, and when I saw a copy in the store I opted to pick it up. And when I started reading it, I could not have wished more that this book had been around when I was a teenager. So I want other girls who are currently teenagers to be able to read it too and feel less alone.
When I was a teenager I felt surrounded by popular culture that told me menstruating was this super great adventure marking the path to motherhood. I feared my period. I didn’t want anything to do with growing up. It was bad enough I was the first girl in my class to have to buy a bra. I didn’t want to spend a lifetime worrying about how hairy my legs looked or whether my eyebrows were thin enough. I didn’t want to wonder if people were judging me for not wearing makeup or wonder if I looked like a fool in makeup.
And in all of this I felt alone. It felt as though every girl around me was blossoming and thrilled about it and I was missing out on the excitement because I was so scared of what came next.
I cannot imagine what it would have been like to read Lindy West’s words instead of Seventeen Magazine. To know that at least one person out there knew. That one other person felt it too. It feels life-changing now. It would have been life-changing then. It would have set into motion all of the things I’ve found out for myself along the way to adulthood. Along the way I have managed to find friends who have made me feel less alone, less different, less wrong.
And so I thank Lindy West for this book. For giving me a book I can hand to my daughter when she’s 14 or 15 knowing that she’ll understand that there are all sorts of girls out there. All of them becoming all sorts of women at their own pace.
As I wrote before, I have a pile of books that I’m planning to read this summer sitting in my bedroom. They are a mix of political books helping to prepare me for the year ahead in my Masters program and business books helping me improve the work that I hope to do when I’m finished.
Currently I am learning a lot from the two books I have on the go. The first is The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, which is both an autobiography and a call for action on climate change. I am learning a lot from this book, including about the changes our Inuit population has already seen in the Arctic.
In it Watt-Cloutier has managed to perfectly describe what it is I aim to do in my business and my career when she writes:
Engaging in the politics of influence rather than the politics of protest. … Relying on the powers of persuasion and the ability to get people to want to work with us.
The second book is The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown. This much less serious book is teaching me the value of sharing information visually. It helps you learn through a series of exercises that have been waking up a part of my brain I loved using as a kid.
I used to sit and sketch with my grandfather in the summers, and in high school I was known for my doodling during class. I firmly believe that doodling focuses your ears during long lectures or meetings. The book pushes you towards info-doodling, which helps collect information and present it in a way that’s easier to interpret for people who learn in different ways.
One of my favourite info-doodles ever:
What’s on your reading list this summer?
This morning I found out from Twitter that Jonathan Crombie had passed away. Crombie is best known for playing the most perfect Gilbert Blythe there will ever be. Hearing that he had died brought tears to my eyes.
I’d never met the man, but through dozens of viewings of the Kevin Sullivan miniseries I had fallen for Gilbert Blythe, like so many others. Because Anne was clearly an idiot and Gilbert was the perfect match for her and why couldn’t she just come to her senses. Dammit.
When I read the Anne series he and Megan Follows are the people I picture clearly in my imagination.
I know it must have been difficult for both of them, as actors, being so defined by those roles. I was so glad to read the interview with his sister who said he was happy to be recognized and remembered for it, and even responded to the name Gil on the street.
Rest in Peace Jonathan Crombie, you will always be Gilbert Blythe to me, and you will be my daughter’s Gilbert too. And thank you.
I was reading Lynn’s blog, and she posted about something Nicole had done, so I read Nicole’s post and both got me thinking about all the books I read when I was a kid and all the books I rushed out to get when I found out we were having baby, and then a baby girl because I wanted her to read what I read and love what I loved. But really I was kind of the same when I was a kid as I am now – when I find an author that writes a book I love, I read everything else they’ve written.
So this is going to be a little bit about books and a little bit about writers and a while lot about adolescent memories.
1) The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger
I read all the Danziger’s that the library had on its shelves, but this is the one that I read over and over again. I loved her books because they were about girls whose parents had split up or were splitting up and that spoke to me. I mean, I loved Judy Blume but I never understood why all her characters were so excited about getting their periods, so I think my love of Danziger was a reaction to that too.
2) The Fudge series, Judy Blume
I loved these books, I read them over and over and over again and they are sitting on the kid’s shelf waiting for her to be ready for them. I can’t say what it is about them, but Peter and Fudge and Sheila just felt like friends.
3) Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself, also Judy Blume
This, I think, is one of the lesser known Blume’s, but something about Sally, who is a young Jewish girl living right after the Second World War, spoke to me. I still love that time period.
4) Bruno and Boots, Gordon Korman
I loved Bruno and Boots as characters, I loved their friends Cathy and Diane from Miss Scrimmage’s, and The Fish and Miss Scrimmage herself. It’s a great Canadian series that I think is currently out of print, so I look for them at used book stores whenever I visit them. I’m also a big fan of Korman’s Losing Joe’s Place.
5) All the Babysitter’s Club books
I know that it gets to the point where you can skip the first three or four chapters because it repeats every damn book, but Kristy and Mary Anne and Stacey and Dawn and Mallory and Jessie were good friends of mine for a lot years.
6) And All the Nancy Drew Books
Again, lots of repetition, but still great starter mysteries, and strong female characters in Nancy and George and Bess. I loved these books enough that I got very upset when they casted a brunette in the role of Nancy for a TV series. Every book says she’s strawberry blond. Every book.
7) Rilla of Ingleside, LM Montgomery
Given how much I loved the mini-series, it took me a long time to get around to reading the actual Anne books, but when I did I fell even more deeply with the Anne-girl and Gilbert Blythe. As much as I love those two and their love story, though, Rilla of Ingleside became my favourite of the books. I cried for days.
8) The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, EL Konigsburg
I had actually totally forgotten about this book until I saw it in the Scholastic flyer and memories came flooding back. There’s something about exploring a museum after hours.
9) The Ramona Series, Beverly Cleary
I remember feeling very much like a Ramona as a child reading these books. I was very surprised to find how old fashioned the first couple of books in the series are when I re-read them with my daughter.
10) Different Dragons and Mine for Keeps, Jean Little
Remembering how much I enjoyed these books I really shouldn’t have been surprised by how much I enjoy having a dog that helps take care of me. Both of these stories are about kids who are emotionally vulnerable and find dogs that know how to make them feel better. (Also Little is another great Canadian writer).