My Canada Reads for 2015

The focus last year was stated to be to find the one book that all Canadians should read to inspire social change in this country. Social change was not defined so the possibilities were infinite. I do believe that became problematic as participants and viewers/listeners tried to keep track of the focus and simultaneously monitor the panel discussions and manoeuverings. I just thought I would have a little fun thinking about “what I would have done if I were running the world/contest”  kind of thing. This year’s focus, by the way, is “one book to break barriers” which is a variation on last year’s focus it would seem.

Love of a Good WomanMy first suggestion would be that everyone read one of Alice Munro’s many collections this year and one of the same in each of the following years until the reader runs out of collections and must start again. If this is too difficult to do alone find someone else who is willing to join you. Don’t be one of the people who says “I’ve never read any Munro but I want to.” Just do it! Probably works out to one or two stories a month: how hard can that be?! After all, folks, it’s called Canada Reads. She did win a pretty big prize you know! Must be something to her stuff, eh?

My second suggestion is that we include a category not included at all in the 2014 Canada Reads but one that is timely given the demographics in this country:

Aging: some possible titles to start off with would beCR 2014 I

Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot; Natural Order by Brian Francis; Ragged Islands by Don Hannah;  Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff; The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence; Memoir of Mourning by Heather Menzies;  Making a Stone of the Heart by Cynthia Flood; Penelope’s Way by Blanche Howard; Kicking Fifty by Lisa Appignansi; The Memory Man by Lisa Appignansi. And from this year’s long list: And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier.

And for some of the other reading areas with the potential to break down barriers, how about the following?

Blacks in Canada: Childhood by André Alexis; Asylum by André Alexis; Whylah Falls by George Elliott Clarke; George & Rue by George Elliott Clarke; Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady; Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill.

Canada’s Indigenous People:  The Victory of Geraldine Gull by Joan Clark; TheCR 2014 A Dream Carvers by Joan Clark; The River Thieves by Michael Crummey; Flint & Feather by Charlotte Gray; Napi’s Dance by Alanda Greene; The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King (on this year’s short list); Daughters are Forever by Lee Maracle; Seven Generations by David Robertson and Scott Henderson (Jan/Feb 2014: reviewed on this blog); Blood Sports (also Monkey Beach which is on this year’s long list) by Eden Robinson; Celia’s Song by Lee Maracle (Dec. 2014); The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King; The Diviners by Margaret Laurence.

Environment: The Once and Future World by J.B MacKinnon (Dec. 27, 2013); The Year of the Flood (the Mad Addam trilogy) by Margaret Atwood;  This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein (this year’s long list); The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King (Jan. 2015); Celia’s Song by Lee Maracle (long list 2015/Dec. 2014).

Gender : Bow Grip by Ivan E. Coyote (March 12014); Annabelle by Kathleen Winter; Natural Order by Brian Francis (March 2014); Sex of the Stars by Monique Proulx;  When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reed (this year’s short list); Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon; (you) set me on fire by Mariko Tamaki (this year’s long list); Intolerable: a Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee 2015  short list).

CR 2014 JImmigration (or understanding the “other”): The Juggler’s Children by Carolyn Abraham (Nov. 23,2013); Jade Peony by Wayson Choy; Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa (Oct. 8, 2013); From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison; Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove (Jan. 2014);  A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Dec. 4, 2013);  The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler; Cockroach by Rawi Hage; Everything was Goodbye by Gurjinder Basran; Diamond Grill by Fred Wah; The Year of Finding Memory by Judy Fong Bates; The Russlander by Sandra Birdsell; Ru by Kim  Thúy (long list 2015).

Do you have some additions and/or suggestions? Any nominations for an”urban culture” category? poetry? historical fiction? short stories?

Want to make your own list? It can be fun and also a reminder of some great rereads.

 Check out the 2015 long list here.  Short List here. 

P.S. The panel for 2015 demonstrates exceptional promise for a solid balanced discussion: here’s hoping they don’t get side tracked by the possibility of “winning”.


Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

“The girl who remade the world was born in winter.

“It was the last day of the Nameless Moon, and bitterly cold. For as long as she could, the girl’s mother, whose name was Willow, walked round and round the outside of the midwife’s lodge, leaning on the earthen walls when pains came fiercely.  Willow’s hair was full of sweat, and her body was steaming like a hot spring. She was trailed by a mist of ice that glittered in the bitter sunlight. She looked like a comet.

She looked like what she was: a woman of power.

Willow was a binder: a woman whose power and duty it was to tie knots that bound the dead. But her knots could do more than that. When the time was right, she went into the midwife’s lodge, and there, as the last binder had taught her, Willow let her power turn backward and undid the knot between herself and her baby, and made an easy birth.”

The baby was Otter and she was born into “Shadowed People, the free women of theSorrow's Knot forest, in the embrace of mountains so old they were soft-backed, so dark with pine that they were black in summer.” She grew up in a town (known as a pinch) called Westmost: named thus because it was the “westernmost human place in the world.”

Otter grew up with a constant awateness of the dead but was “almost without fear of them.” She lived in the binder’s lodge with her mother and the first binder, Tamarack. They lived “a quiet life” comfortable with one another and honoured by their people.

The binder was one of the “cords” of the community.
Other cords were the rangers, the storytellers, the bonesetters and/or healers. The younger people worked in the fields and did a variety of jobs in the community before they became full fledged members of a cord. Otter had two very good friends: Kestral, destined to be a ranger and Cricket, who would become a storyteller and who was apprenticed to Flea. The three were exceptionally close while growing up. Seasons were named for the moon: Moon of Ease, Sunflower Moon etc. The sunflower years were what they called the space between childhood and adulthood, the time which is almost over for Otter, Kestral and Cricket.

Because her mother is a binder and because the binder’s most important task is to bind the dead and also, of course, because Otter has always believed that she will be a binder, she does not fear the dead. Other members of the community did fear the dead considerably.  “The dead were of three kinds. The commonest were the slip. They had no more form than a clump of roots and earth. They had no more will than hunger. ”

“The gast were different…They were stronger, rarer.”

“But better to be touched by the gast than the Ones with White Hands. The slip and the gast – their touch went to the body. The touch of a White Hand went to the mind.”

“The touch of the White Hands does not kill. It transforms. Those touched by a White Hand become Hands themselves.”

The book is an interesting combination and I would urge anyone who finds the theme of the dead and or the undead  too unsavory to withhold judgment initially if possible. The society which Erin Bow has created is a fascinating one and how Otter and Kestral and Cricket’s generation proceed to learn about the old ways and then challenge them is well worth following through to its conclusion.  There are harrowing adventures on the way but there are beautiful friendships and loving relationships that develop also. There are other peoples besides the Shadow People : the Sunlit People, the Water Walkers. And most of all there is the mystery of Sorrow’s Knot to unravel: “She’d been wrong. All her life. About everything. Wrong.
It was a very big thing. She sat with it awhile. Her hands on her knees were quiet: one white, one brown.”

A thought-provoking read with enough tension, adventure and suspense for readers of all ages. Very strongly drawn female characters for readers looking for that quality.

By the same author and reviewed on this blog in January 2013, Plain Kate.

Random House Reading Bingo Challenge 2014

I am planning to participate this year for the first time in the Random House Reading BINGO challenge 2014. There are two Bingo cards that readers can work at completing by reading a book which is described on one of the cards and then crossing off that square. The fun part, or one of the fun parts – just reading is the biggest fun part for me – is that you can make your goal filling out the entire card or cards (one is categorized as ADULT and the other as YOUNG ADULT) or you can go at it like an actual Bingo game and go for one line or a line at a time or whatever suits your fancy.

Here’s what I’ve done so far  on the ADULT challenge…

I’ve read Muse by Mary Novik and also posted on this blog elsewhere on this title. It will meet the criteria in the box labelled “A BOOK WITH A ONE-WORD TITLE”. At first I didn’t think I would find one for this category and there it was, right under my nose.

In January, I also read The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud and I will use it for the category “A Best-Selling Book”: I really liked this novel and my blog on it will explain why.Reading-Bingo Adult-small

My first read in January was Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado and I will use it for the box labelled “A BOOK BASED ON A TRUE STORY” (also on my blog in a separate entry).

I am almost finished Above All Things by Tanis Rideout and that will go in “A BOOK SET ON A DIFFERENT CONTINENT”: I haven’t written my blog yet but it will appear in the next 7 to 10 days.

So, I have read four bingo boxes already just by reading titles I’ve wanted to read. Easy enough eh?

Things I have lined up for the ADULT card at this point include The Blue Book by A. L. Kennedy for the “A BOOK WITH A BLUE COVER” category and I think The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman for “A BOOK WITH MORE THAN 500 PAGES” and Alice Munro for “A BOOK OF SHORT STORIES” and maybe “Miss Montreal” by Howard Shrier for  “A BOOK WITH A MYSTERY” but I reserve the right to change any or all of these, of course, when another unexpected title rears its head! Such as, for female author category or non-fiction category: Ascent of Women (Sally Armstrong), But Hope is Longer (Tamara Levine) and/or A New Leaf (Marilyn Simonds)!

And then there is the Young Adult Bingo card! I haven’t finished even one title yet but I am so excited about this challenge and it has been so much fun looking for possible reading choices! Here are some that I want to read:

My Book of Life by Angel (Martine Leavitt) will fit in at least two categories so I will have to choose where it fits best after reading; Feed by M. T. Anderson which also fits in at least two categories; Reading-Bingo-YARed Planet by Robert Heinlein for the colour in the title challenge; Seraphina by Rachel Hartman for “A BOOK WITH MUSIC”; The Changeover by Margaret Mahy for “A BOOK WITH MAGIC”; several for the graphic novel but perhaps Sweet Tooth Volume 6.  I have  started “THE FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES”, by Lauren Kate the title of which is Fallen (also the title of the series) and it shows promise in the first half. For the Dragon book and/or the last book of a trilogy I was  considering  Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series but I see it is a four book set now called the Inheritance Cycle so perhaps Book 3, Brisingr, for the “BOOK WITH A DRAGON”. For “A BOOK SET IN PARIS”, I am considering The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen in which the protagonist is eleven so it should be suitable for a strong YA reader. I haven’t narrowed down several of the other categories but doing so will yield many new titles I know and that is what is so pleasureable about these challenges.

So far I’m not making any large-scale promises to myself or anyone else about how far I will get on my cards because sometimes that takes the pleasure out of the experience but almost always a book will fit somewhere in these many and varied categories. If you don’t know about the challenge just put Random House Reading Bingo in your search box and I’m sure you will get there. Turn your reading into an even more positive experience than it already is and, even better, get a friend involved.