Twice a week, I go downtown to teach. For the thirty odd minutes that the train glides and rocks its way to Lucien-L’Allier station, I can read anything I want. When the passenger next to me is also reading, I can’t help peeking to see what the book title is (electronic books are a little less peek-friendly). The snooping is fun and the reader-book pairings I detect can be pretty surprising.
We had such fun with last summer’s TEN BOOK CHALLENGE, and you were so generous and forthcoming in sharing your lists, that I thought: why not glimpse over each other’s virtual shoulders right now to see who’s reading what?
So here’s today’s challenge: WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW? What’s bookmarked in your bag or on your bedside table right at this very moment? Are you a one-at-a-time reader, or a book juggler? It’s a new, friendly and effortless way to update your Books-to-Read list!
Not wanting to leave things to chance, I’ve been in touch with many of the Online Book Club’s regular visitors (see all the Comments at the bottom of each posting), and I now have a terrific new reading list.
Judging by the titles you sent me, Online Book Club readers’ tastes are as brave as they are escapist and as bitter as they are sweet, and cover every genre.
While book club member Mel , who favours the classics, is presently wrestling with Moby Dick (with more success than the crew of the Pequod, so far), Patricia is trying hard to work through Incidents in the life of a slave girl (1861), an in-depth chronological account of the author, Harriet Ann Jacobs’ life as a slave, and the decisions and choices she made to gain freedom for herself and her children. Written in a sentimental style similar to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Jacob’s autobiography is still a tough read. Patricia is managing the book’s heaviness by switching to a second, bracing and different kind of story, a novel titled Planet Lolita (an especially daring choice, I think).
It’s a stunning departure by writer Charles Foran, whose previous book, Mordecai: The Life & Times, won the Governor General’s Prize for Non-Fiction in 2011, as well as the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Planet Lolita is a novel told in the voice of a bi-racial girl, and in the language of social media. The reviews it has received so far are intriguing, though mixed (have you read it? If so, what did you think?).
Gail is presently finishing up The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, which she describes as a “Wonderful book – I will read more by this author!” . I’ve also read The Thousand Autumns―a novel set in 18th century Japan―and while it isn’t my favourite David Mitchell book (Black Swan Green is!), I agree with Gail that it’s a brilliant (though at times disturbing) read.
Gail is also reading Sam Harris’ Waking Up, A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, which she picked up after hearing him interviewed on Tapestry (CBC Radio One).
Our male readers are no slouches when it comes to juggling books either. Jeremy’s choices show a marked preference for action thrillers and mystery. His first pick, James Rollins’ 6th Extinction, is the 10th book of the Sigma Force series. While Rollins’ books all have a pedal-to-the-metal feel to them, they are incredibly fun and well researched. They’re the kind of books worth missing your train stop for, and this is no fluke. A recent piece on the author in Huff Post’s BOOKS section provides some of the reasons why his novels are so irresistible and compelling:
“James Rollins is more than a thriller author. He’s a veterinarian, a man of science, and writes best-selling novels evocative of Michael Crichton and Isaac Asimov, but with a uniquely imaginative flavor of their own. His novels combine elements of history, scientific fact and speculation with military suspense and threats of global destruction. His books transcend all genres.”
Perhaps, to relax, Jeremy’s also reading Peter Tremayne’s Shroud of the Archbishop, the second puzzle type mystery of the Sister Fidelma series, set in 7th century Ireland. Quite a shift in gears from Sigma Force!
Online Book Club reader Christian wrote to say that he’s currently reading Richard II which is one of Shakespeare’s historical plays (it’s included in the BBC’s Hollow Crown DVD collection), so maybe it’s to escape the firm grip of time altogether that he’s also reading one of the volumes of Bill Willingham’s Fables series of fantasy graphic novels.
It’s a fun coincidence that Mary Jane and Jason both chose one novel originally written in French, and a second North American novel, in English. Mary Jane’s choice, which she is reading in English translation is Grégoire Delacourt’s The List of my Desires, an unassuming novel that I read in French in 2012 and that struck a chord in me (I think it’s worthy of a separate blog posting). I hope Mary Jane enjoys it as much as I did. Jason is re-reading Gabrielle Roy’s Bonheur d’occasion. Though he grew up in Alberta, Jason has really adopted Montreal, and he’s right in thinking that Roy’s novel, set in Montreal’s Saint-Henri district during the Second World War, reveals a lot of our city’s soul.
On a lighter note, Jason has also picked up Jim Harrison’s The English Major, which the New York Times describes as “a tragedy recast as a comedy”, written by an author whose writing “is oddly mysterious. His prose style is plain, even flat. His sentences unspool casually and are often comma-free to the point of sounding almost hapless. Yet they fuse on the page with a power and blunt beauty whose mechanics are difficult to trace even when you look closely. This straw-to-gold technique has served him in 14 previous books of fiction, including “Dalva” and “Legends of the Fall,” as well as numerous volumes of poetry and essays.”
I’ve never read Harrison’s work, but I’m intrigued and grateful to Jason for the tip. Meanwhile, in preparation for the author’s presentation at Pointe-Claire City Hall’s Council Room on December 4th (at 7 pm), Mary Jane is reading Anne-Marie MacDonald’s new novel, Adult Onset (in case you missed it in Saturday’s Gazette, there’s an excellent feature interview with MacDonald, in conversation with Ian McGillis).
David Homel, last year’s Writer in Residence at the Library, wrote to say that he’s really enjoying Miriam Toews’ All my Puny Sorrows (one of this year’s Giller prize finalists), which has received rave reviews, and has been described in turn as “brilliant and desperately sad” and a “darkly fizzing tragicomic jeu d’esprit”.Meanwhile, Online Book Club member Cathy is still trying to Read Canada. She has settled on Adrianne Harun’s A Man Came Out of a Door in The Mountain, set in a dead end British Columbia town, which, though it’s not for the faint of heart, is a rewarding read.
Lorraine appears to be In too Deep, as she enjoys Jayne Ann Krentz’ 2010 novel that’s part of the author’s Arcane Society Novel series, and Simon, another Book Club Reader, is being scared silly by Stephen King’s Needful Things (though time sure does fly while he’s riding the bus to work in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue!).
But even the most avid readers sometimes need a break. When I contacted the Book Club’s other Simon (alias La Simone) to see what he’s reading right now, he answered: “LOL! I’m reading a bulb catalog for planting ideas for next season. No literary feat to be sure”, and then kindly sent me a photo taken from his beautiful garden last summer.
Thanks to all the Online Book Club readers for their great suggestions. Once you’ve finished, make sure to let us know what you thought of them.
Consider joining the conversation by letting us know what you’re reading right now, or by commenting on any of the titles mentioned so far!