Favourite Reads of 2020

Thursday 31 December 2020

My reading habits changed this year, and for the first time, I have audiobooks and eBooks on my list of favourite reads. It's also all non-fiction. As much as I could have used a dose of escapism this year, I seemed drawn to deep dives on important issues. 

So, in no particular order, here are the ten books from 2020 I'd highly recommend. 

Honourable Mentions
Here are a few memorable books I read this year that weren't from 2020. Add them to your list!
(I also read Normal People for a third time. It's a problem.)

Searching for Evidence of Ancestors: Lauren Carter 's Following Sea

Wednesday 30 December 2020

This review originally appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine

The first poem in Following Sea, Lauren Carter’s second collection of poetry, stands alone, untethered from one of the book’s five sections. Titled “Historian,” it’s set in modern day, a contrast from most of the other 49 poems inhabiting Carter’s meticulous look at family history and human migration.

I find
them: pressed
between pages, those sudden
cursive blooms

she writes in this first piece, searching for evidence of her ancestors’ lives on reels of microfiche and on the pages of worn ledgers.

Centred on the Canadian settler experience of her great-great grandparents, John Willson Chisholm (1823-1900) and Margaret Patterson (1824-1891), Carter crafts a narrative. With finely tuned attention to detail and elegant language, she fills the gaps between dates found on census records and land registers, weaving together family lore, Canadian social history, and genealogical research to imagine their joyful celebrations, gruelling physical labour, and daily burdens. 

Read the full review here

Leftist book world responds to COVID-19

Friday 19 June 2020

"Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different." This quotation by author and activist Arundhati Roy introduces Sick of the System: Why the COVID-19 recovery must be revolutionary, a book of essays released earlier this month as an ebook by Toronto publisher Between the Lines. Available through a pay-what-you-can model, it's just one of the ways Between the Lines has quickly adapted, imagining the publishing world anew.

Canada's coronavirus shutdown began right at one of the busiest times of the year for those in the publishing industry. International spring book fairs, where many book deals are made, operated at limited capacity, were postponed, or cancelled. When COVID-19 forced all non-essential businesses to close, bookstores and libraries were among the first to shut their doors. Book festivals have cancelled or had to quickly navigate unknown digital spaces to move programming online. With fewer opportunities to promote new books and the reduced capacity of printers, many publishers have been forced to delay spring releases.

"It's hard to get a full picture right now," says David Bush, publicity and promotions manager and member of Between the Lines' editorial committee, who expects we'll see how "disruptive" the current climate will be in the coming months. "The world is changing at rapid speed."

To read this full article, visit rabble.ca

Catherine Ocelot's Art Life

This review was originally published in the Hamilton Review of Books

Near the end of Art Life, Montreal-based cartoonist Catherine Ocelot’s introspective and playful graphic novel about her own life as a creator, she asks herself a question many of us could ask ourselves right now: “Should I stop watching TV and do some work?” Seated on her couch, books piled on a table beside her and a steaming beverage in hand, it’s clear that even in her quietest moments, she’s questioning her productivity. In many instances in Art Life, we see that there’s little division between her personal and professional life.

First published in French in 2018 as La Vie d'artiste, and named winner of the Prix Bédélys for best comic in Quebec, Art Life explores the role of artists (and in turn, art) in our contemporary world. In a series of vignettes, Ocelot has conversations with seven of her artist friends, each a storyteller, whether through film, comics, or other media. Together, they explore doubts, disappointments, and observations — some funny, some tragic — connected to living the “Art Life.”

Women: Let's Build our Own Table

From the time we're young, the world tells girls not to take up too much space. Be nice, we're told. Be small. Don't be too loud. Yet, there's another message women and girls of recent generations have been fed on repeat: You can be whatever you want to be. But the road to leadership and achievement is one lined by institutional and systemic barriers. According to No More Nice Girls: Gender, Power, and Why It's Time to Stop Playing By the Rules, a new book by journalist Lauren McKeon, current power structures aren't built for women to succeed.
"Women and others who've been historically excluded from power are more likely to battle gargoyles, to traverse rickety bridges (if there is a bridge at all), to leap over rusty spikes in the road. And god help them if they don't do it all while smiling," writes McKeon, the award-winning writer, editor, and author of the previous book F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism. Often called "too nice" for leadership herself, McKeon has written a groundbreaking book that asks women to consider "that if all women are set up to fail, it stands to reason that Indigenous women, women of colour, women with disabilities, homeless and precariously housed women, and those who are LGBTQ+ are only set up to fail more and to fall harder."

To read this full review, visit rabble.ca

Favourite Reads of 2019

Wednesday 1 January 2020

I'm careful to never call my end-of-the-year list a "Best Of," because as much as I'd like to read all the books, I get through such a small percentage of the books I want to read each year. This is a list of favourites — the books I couldn't put down, the books I highlighted in, and the books I've recommended over all others.

This year's list wasn't easy. There were a lot of good books published in 2019, but I've narrowed them down into a top-ten list that's mostly Canadian and mostly written by women. This year's list is a 50/50 spit between fiction and non-fiction (a departure for me). Read 2018's list, which was dominated by non-fiction.

In no particular order:
Honourable mention (Three books I read in 2019 that weren't published in 2019)
  • Us Conductors by Sean Michaels (for a second time, because it's just so good)
  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
  • Her by Christa Parravani
  • Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
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