My favourite books of 2013

Time Being The Orenda Cinnamon and Gunpowder

This has been an interesting year in books for a number of reasons, from the changing face of the landscape itself (self-publishing, big publishing house mergers) to major nominations and award wins for Canadian authors, to my own reading habits. I included more non-fiction in my reading list this year, and for the first time began listening to audiobooks. I read 64 books total (not including manuscripts for work, of course! That would push the number considerably higher).

This year I consumed 15 audiobooks (two of which, A Tale for the Time Being and Night Film, I enjoyed in combination with their book version, because they both included visual material that enriched their stories), three short story collections, three non-fiction titles, five mysteries, seventeen historical fiction books, two YA, and ten sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre. I’ve read books set in eighteen different countries, and because of discussions on diversity in publishing at BookCampTO 2013, I’ve become more conscious this year of how many books I read by people who don’t look like me. (For the record, this year I read exactly the same number of books by women as I did by men, without any forethought, and fourteen books featuring main characters and/or written by authors of colour. That second number could certainly be higher.)

As for my blog, the number of views in 2013 is more than double that of 2012, I included more author interviews, ran my first contest, and participated in a few blog tours. I also learned that I’m really bad at keeping up readalong posts, and the next one I attempt, if I do one, I’ll write in its entirety before starting to post! I want thank everyone who has stopped by to read, and who commented or tweeted or emailed. Thanks for the conversation! I look forward to a bigger and better 2014.

And now the fun part: my list of my favourite-favourite books of everything I read in 2013! (You can check out 2012’s list here.)

In chronological reading order, my favourites of 2013 are:

Continue reading “My favourite books of 2013”

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On the surface: a review of Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady

Windsor, Ontario, may not seem like an obvious setting for a novel, but in Wayne Grady’s fiction debut Emancipation Day, tensions simmer beneath the surface, and things are not always what they seem. Jack Lewis is one of three children born to a working class black family. But Jack is born different—his skin is white.

Emancipation Day

“It felt safe, but it was dangerous for Jack in this house. He was pretty sure Peter and his mother didn’t know anything about his family, but he couldn’t be certain. Peter probably wouldn’t rat on him if he did know, but he couldn’t be sure of that either. The Barnses were white and they were rich, and he didn’t really understand such people, didn’t know what they were capable of, how fiercely they would protect one of their own. Coming to Peter’s house, talking to Peter’s mother, even calling her Della, was like putting his hand  on a hot stove to see how long he could stand the heat.”

Emancipation Day, Wayne Grady

Windsor, Ontario, may not seem like an obvious setting for a novel, but in Wayne Grady’s fiction debut Emancipation Day, tensions simmer beneath the surface, and things are not always what they seem. Jack Lewis is one of three children born to a working class black family. But Jack is born different—his skin is white. Not albino, but to all appearances caucasian. And growing up in the 1930s and 40s across the border from Detroit, this doesn’t make for an easy situation for anyone involved.

Race, family, and identity form the central tensions of the novel, each pulling at and playing with one another. Jack rejects his blackness and, in doing so, his family, passing for white as much as possible. A talented trombone player, he joins the Windsor All-Whites (who are) while rejecting the jazz music that’s rising in popularity particularly among black musicians and music lovers. When he joins the Navy during World War II, he is transferred to Newfoundland and sees the opportunity to distance himself from his family and community entirely. And when he meets, woos, and eventually marries Vivian Fanshawe, he doesn’t inform his new wife and her family of his own heritage.

Continue reading “On the surface: a review of Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady”

The Event: Will Ferguson (the Amusing) and the Translators (the Awkward) at IFOA 2011

“Pierre Burton showed me a Canada that was worthy of passion.”

–          Will Ferguson, IFOA, October 22nd, 2011

The events: International Festival of Authors: Shelagh Rogers interviews Will Ferguson; Wayne Grady hosts a roundtable on translation

When you’re preparing to host or be a guest at an International Festival of Authors event, part of your process should be a consideration of why people have purchased tickets. Why are you expecting a group of like-minded literary types to come down to Harbourfront and spend an hour of their time with you? What is the advertised topic of your event, what is the author’s style or genre, what interesting stories do you want to share with your audience so they feel like they’ve been a part of a fun or stimulating day?

October 22nd: Shelagh Rogers interviews Will Ferguson

                  

I ventured down to the Festival twice this weekend. First up was Shelagh Rogers of CBC fame interviewing Will Ferguson, prolific humourist and most recently author of the book Canadian Pie. Rogers, I think, was as much of a draw as Ferguson. It’s always fun to see the face behind a radio voice, and Rogers was fearless as she started off the interview by reminiscing about the first time she and Ferguson met—“cheek to cheek” and naked but for a screen separating them as they received on-air massages at Temple Gardens spa in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. (Side note: I’ve been to Temple Gardens for some truly excellent mineral bathing and spa treatments, including an hour spent in zero gravity in the sensory deprivation tank.) Continue reading “The Event: Will Ferguson (the Amusing) and the Translators (the Awkward) at IFOA 2011”