September 24, 2014
Three favourite authors are set to release new books and I am taking note. Looking out at the first truly rainy day in some time, it seems like a perfect time to sink into a cozy chair and settle in with some of the great Fall releases hitting the shelves. Let us know what you’re looking forward to reading!
I enjoyed this one …. so am looking forward to this one.
I enjoyed this one …. so am looking forward to this one.
I enjoyed this one …. so am looking forward to this one.
July 2, 2014
“I love that Canadians love books, and that we boast a disproportionate number of outstanding authors. I’ve had the privilege of hosting CBC’s Canada Reads for the past seven years. It’s a celebration and discovery of homegrown lit. Last year, an American observer wrote, “Let me get this straight: In Canada they have a hit reality show … and it’s about books?! Wow.” I loved reading that. Pride. “ – Jian Ghomeshi, Broadcaster. Quoted in Canadian Living magazine, July 2014
Have you ever tuned into the above mentioned Canada Reads show on CBC Radio? I’ve followed along in the last few years and enjoy the lively format of a notable Canadian devotedly defending his or her literary favourite with a panel of fellow debaters. The discussions among panel members are often funny, even feisty, and always entertaining. It’s been proven that the final selections and the winning choice enjoy an enormous surge in sales following the show. The past seasons’ winners are listed on the website and it is worth a perusal if you’re new to the program. Tune in to Jian Ghomeshi on Q on CBC in early September to learn how the 2015 season will unfold.
Sticking with a CBC/Canada theme … CBC Radio has compiled a Canada Day themed list: “100 Novels That Make You Proud to Be Canadian” I found myself impressed by the list itself – such a great collection of books – but, even more impressive, is the fact that all the authors are Canadian. Click on the red banner below to be taken to the page showing all 100 novels. I’ve included a few of the titles I’ve read below as a little teaser … How many have you read?
Happy Canada Day and Happy Reading Canadian!
June 21, 2014
Sarah Jio is a writer from the Seattle area who is enjoying considerable success with her novels: The Violets of March, Blackberry Winter, The Bungalow, The Last Camellia, and Morning Glory to date and more on the way. Book clubs seem to be particularly fond of her creative, multi-generational story lines, often set in the Pacific Northwest. I have read Morning Glory which takes place in a floating home community and look forward to making my way through her other tales.
In her recently released Goodnight June, Sarah has explored generational connections through a beloved classic children’s book and it’s sure to be a favourite of book and bookshop lovers. The back cover blurb states: “June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown — and steps into the pages of American literature.”
I’ve only read the Author’s Note and I’ve already learned all sorts of intriguing trivia. So if you feel like a nostalgic trip to the Green Room and an imaginary visit into the world of books, writers, letters, and bookshops, this may be your next cozy read. I know I’m looking forward to it!
May 31, 2014
In my opinion, the best reading list, summer or otherwise, offers up a good variety of themes and places to visit, intriguing characters with whom to visit, and challenges to the imagination. An opportunity to come away from the experience having learned something new or having enjoyed a few belly laughs along the way is certainly a bonus. And so, with these parameters in mind, here is a list of books I think are worthy of accompanying you on your summer adventures. I will be choosing from among these titles as I toodle to the deck chair or beach blanket or ferry line. Most are paperback though a few exceptionally well-reviewed new hard covers have made the cut. (Click on above covers for links)
The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee
Have had this on my shelf for a while. Summer seems the best time to tuck into its pages as its description reads: “a young woman in turn-of-the-century England finds love and independence at a seashore resort.” Light perhaps but engaging view of the times.
The Storied LIfe of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
An enormously popular book with all reviewers. Features a grumpy book shop owner and his emergence into a fresh new approach to life motivated by the arrival of a mysterious package. A charming community of characters and a devotion to books are at play. Count me in!
I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crossley
Released in 2008, this has been on my list to explore for a while. A book of short humorous essays seems like a good choice during the summer and these promise to be entertaining.
The Ghost Horse: A True Story of Love, Death, and Redemption by Joe Layden
This might not be for everyone but I’m already loading the beach bag with tissues in anticipation of this true tale of an underdog filly and her trainer/owner. You’ll find the book in the Sports section under Horse-racing but it is a love story too as the trainer finds a connection with his beloved late wife through time spent with the horse.
Studio Saint Ex by Ania Szado
We’ve talked before about the delicious genre of historical fiction and the fictionalized memoir. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan about Frank Lloyd Wright is perhaps one of the most popular in recent times. Studio Saint Ex is a novel that brings to life Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Writer Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes) sums up perfectly: “Studio Saint-Ex is an unputdownable novel about twentieth century fashion, French expatriates in Manhattan during World War II, the miracle of creative genius and the lives of the great writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery and the women he loved.”
The List of My Desires by Gregoire Delacourt (also titled My Wish List)
Translated from a very well loved French edition … just a wee book to sneak in between the long ones. Have you ever played the “If I Won the Lottery …” game? This heartwarming novel takes the dream to a new level in one simple woman’s life with thought provoking results.
North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both by Cea Sunrise Person
A memoir of an entirely unique upbringing and how it influenced a young woman’s choices in her adult life. Cea Sunrise Person grew up in remote Northern Alberta with her hippy family devoted to escaping civilization. Her life was unorthodox and highlighted as even more so when Cea became a model at the age of 13. Quite a ride and quite a tale.
Love, Nina – A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe
If you love London, British humour, and a dash of Brit Lit gossip … I read the review in the NYT and knew it would have to be on the list. Nina Stibbe heads to London to serve as a Nanny and finds herself working for a prominent literary figure and her family. During her time there she writes to her sister of her adventures and the real-life characters who spend time with the household, many of them well-known. Her letters are hysterically funny and were only shared with the family and friends much later on at a party. They were such a hit that, with the family’s blessing, they have become this cheeky book.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
A modern take on things … Recommended to me by BTB blog reader AM who warned this story makes one think twice about the way we use social media. Prolific writer Dave Eggers writes of an optimistic young woman who gives up her private life to work at a company called the Circle. Promises to be a bit provocative.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
The one book which appears on almost every single Summer/Beach Reading list this season. Opening the cool as a cucumber cover (still in hardback) reveals an account of a family heading on vacation to Mallorca, Spain. They’re bringing lots of baggage, if you catch my drift , and with apparent heartwarming humour sort through the drama over the course of the holiday. Leading best seller lists everywhere.
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Newly in paperback, this novel seems to rest comfortably on the fluffy chick-lit shelf (not that that’s a bad thing) however, I’m quite intrigued by the real life source of the story. J. Courtney Sullivan has researched the life of Mary Frances Gerety, the copywriter responsible for creating the advertising tag-line “a diamond is forever” for De Beers in the 1940s. Using Mary Frances as inspiration this story explores the lives of a number of women through various decades and social and personal challenges during the twentieth century. A diamond engagement ring links the characters and each plot strand together.
I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum
A good stream of humour apparently flows through this novel about an artist and his desire to re-ignite his marriage following his wife’s discovery of his wayward ways. Almost every review of this book comments on the humour and the poignancy of this tale and, of particular note, declares this author one to keep an eye on.
So there it is. Let us know what selections you make this summer and be sure to share any others you’re reading and loving. A special hello to Janice who when I met her recently for the first time, (You’re the Blog lady!) told me of her commitment to reading every book on last year’s Summer list. Impressive!
Happy reading, one and all!
May 19, 2014
I have yet to meet a Rosie Project reader who hasn’t become smitten with the quirky charm of its protagonist and the premise of his “project”; such a universally appealing cast and adventure. If you haven’t had a chance to read this yet, do yourself a favour and cuddle up this long weekend with a copy.
Author Graeme Simsion was recently visiting Vancouver from his native Australia and appeared at a Meet the Writer event hosted by the cozy 32 Books bookstore of Edgemont Village in North Vancouver. Graeme Simsion’s personal back-story is an intriguing one with several successful career incarnations before the extraordinary success of Rosie allowed him to leave his day job. At one point, he delights in pointing out, he was even “an alien with extraordinary abilities” according to Immigration officials. Graeme’s address exuded enthusiasm and good-natured self-deprecating humour – he assesses his success with an Innocent’s air of awe at his own good fortune and a cheerful commitment to enjoying the ride. The Rosie Project, which had its start in a short story and then morphed into a screenplay and finally evolved into a novel, is now in the process of becoming a movie. (Starring role actors were not revealed but were happily described as “unexpected” like Russell Crowe was in A Beautiful Mind. That gets the imagination churning!) Graeme did share the good news that a sequel to The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, will appear on shop shelves in September. Can’t wait!
Blog readers AW, DH and I had a fun, quick chat with the personable Graeme. He is a fierce advocate of the Independent Bookstore and was quick to give credit to an indie book shop for his “Fictional Character” tee-shirt seen in the picture below. (available here) Inevitably, comparisons between the character Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory and Rosie character Dan Tillman are made but Graeme explained he’s never seen an episode and will strategically avoid Big Bang viewings in order to remain true to his version of Dan. Dan is in fact inspired by a long-time friend of his.
Graeme expressed concern that any reader ever feel he is ridiculing Dan’s Asperger’s condition; he indicated it was his goal to simply reveal the social anxieties we all feel and I am sure readers would feel he has indeed done that sensitively and very well.
I enjoy attending these events as it gives one some insight to the humanity behind the stories – a real person, sitting at a real desk or kitchen table, creating our entertainment from a spark of an idea. Hearing Graeme speak only enriched the Rosie experience. I hope you have chances to attend meet-the-writer events soon too!
April 17, 2014
Sometimes I struggle to select a blog post topic, usually due to an excess rather than a dearth of ideas. And sometimes, like today, a most wonderful subject simply lands in my in-box!
After reading the e-mail message (from my boys’ high school English teacher) and its contents, I was reminded of my own high school English teachers and their roles in inspiring my interest in, and love for, engaging with the written word. I imagine many of you share a similar experience. What an influential role those teachers have!
Today, a high school teacher and a politician share a refreshing devotion to instilling a love for reading in young minds. Ms. Gin, the English teacher we are fortunate to have teaching the boys in our family, began a project with her students which involved connecting with none other than our country’s Prime Minister. The e-mail I received this morning was Ms. Gin’s update on this project. Read on and enjoy! (Original letters are followed by text for easier reading)
Dear Mr. Harper:
Over the summer, I came upon a book about books: 101 Letters to a Prime Minister, by Canadian writer Yann Martel. As a high school English teacher, I often find myself in a predicament similar to Mr. Martel’s but instead of wondering about what kind of literature piques the mind of our country’s leader, my concern lies in our country’s youth. What books are of particular importance in shaping the next generation of adults, the next wave of thinkers and leaders?
Inspired by Mr. Martel’s steadfast, albeit, one-sided book club, I asked my grade 11s at St. George’s School a similar question: If you were to recommend a book to our Prime Minister, what book would you put forth?
Our discussions were so rich and enthusiastic that I knew I had stumbled upon a “teachable moment.” What is enclosed in this envelope is a collection of letters from a coterie of energetic, astute and passionate young minds. They have spent a good deal of the past three weeks brainstorming, writing, editing, and sharing their book recommendations. More than anything they hope you will take their painstaking compositions seriously.
While it is widely known that Mr. Martel never received a personal reply from you, my two classes of grade 11s are hopeful that you will not only take the time to peruse their letters, but that you will also honour their work with a reply of your own.
Ms. Sandra Gin
Thank you for sharing the letters from your Grade Eleven English classes. They clearly demonstrate that a love of reading is alive and well in Canadian schools.
I would like to extend my congratulations on your efforts to promote literacy among your young charges. We are fortunate to have dedicated mentors in our nation’s classrooms.
My love of reading was also nurtured at an early age by teachers passionate about the written word. Reading opened up a tremendous window on the world for me, as it has for your students. The local public libraries near my childhood home were places of wonder and exploration.
My late father, Joseph Harris Harper, was an avid researcher and historian. He produced two studies for the Canadian Military of his day – “Old Colours Never Die” and “A Source of Pride”. I credit him for instilling my passion for history. Books, of course, have been an integral part of pursuing this great interest.
As your students will be aware, 2015 will mark the bicentennial of the birth of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. Author Richard Gwyn has written an outstanding two volume biography which I would highly recommend to your students. The Man Who Made Us and Nation Maker present Sir John A’s compelling story with great skill. Canadians are in his debt.
On a more personal note, I would like to share a story with your students. In August of 2012, I had a speaking engagement in Amherst, Nova Scotia, on the grounds of the local high school. I was graciously accorded the school’s library as my temporary office. It is not often that one has an entire library at one’s disposal, and I was compelled to peruse the selection of reading materials on hand.
To my delight, a book entitled Here Stays Good Yorkshire, written by Will R. Bird, was prominently displayed. This historical novel tells the story of hearty immigrants who came to Canada from Yorkshire in the 18th century. My ancestor, Christopher Harper, was part of this early wave of immigrants, and I was deeply moved by this imagined account of experiences that would have been similar to his own.
If I were to offer one piece of advice to your students, who are obviously bright and engaged, I would strongly encourage them to continue reading, both for edification, and for pleasure. And to any budding young authors, I would reiterate that reading voraciously is the best preparation for writing of any kind. I found this to be true when writing my own book, A Great Game. I have enclosed a signed copy for your school library.
In closing, it is my hope that your students will follow in your fine example, and encourage younger students to take up this most fulfilling pursuit.
Sincerely, Stephen Harper
The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Books mentioned in this exchange:
March 26, 2014
Many years ago, I spent a summer working in a shop. During the inevitable quiet times, my co-workers and I needed to get innovative in order to avoid debilitating boredom. (It only took so many minutes to tidy the shelves. Clearly it wasn’t a book shop or boredom would NEVER have set in!) One of our preferred pastimes was to entertain one another by making up stories about the people walking by the window; the more outlandish the tale we could muster, the better! It was clear to us everyone had a unique story. Now imagine collecting images of the people who pass and learning their real stories. Brandon Stanton is a photographer who began a project whereby he intended to simply archive 10,000 photos of people in the city of New York. After a period of time he began to also record the brief conversations he shared with his subjects. Brandon’s gentle kindness and the way he clearly relishes the time he spends with each subject creates lovely moments. And stories … such stories! Poignant, funny, thought-provoking, disturbing, romantic, cheeky … all united in their human-ness. Brandon uploaded the images and, understandably, an enormous following gathered. His blog can be found here at Humans of New York.
The blog beget the book, such a beautiful book …
For a glimpse into Brandon’s story, here’s a clip:
March 20, 2014
Mary Oliver simply writes the most beautiful, evocative poetry. The first day of Spring seemed like the ideal time to draw your attention to her spunky spirit and love of Nature. Gosh it was hard to narrow down the quotes from her poems – I have collected so many. You may recall her Peonies poem being featured here a few years ago. I encourage you to take a Spring stroll through the pages of any one of her books, savouring the images she paints with her words as you go. She has won many awards (a little one called the Pulitzer among them) and she is widely cherished though rarely appears in the media. Fortunately, she has made good use of her quiet time and has many volumes available, the most recent being these two:
“Why I Wake Early
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.”
Happy Spring to you!
March 5, 2014
Well, hello there! It’s been a while … No, I was not lost in a giant bookstore, or trying to read my way out of an avalanche of unread books, nor did I choose to hibernate like a bear, cuddled up with pages and pages to enjoy. (As appealing as all of those options sound!) No, I am afraid I very simply slipped out of the blogging routine. I’ve missed our chatting and appreciate all the kind inquiries as to what the heck happened. Ready or not, Bedside Table Books is back in action.
The writing may have come to a halt but I did keep up some slow-paced reading. I thought I’d bring you up to date on the good ones and encourage you to share any happy discoveries you’ve made too. ( Click on the book covers to learn more)
The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger: This had been languishing on my bookshelf for some time and now I realize it was a treasure hiding in plain view. Inspired by true events, this fits into that Fictional Memoir/Historical Fiction category I so adore. Off to Egypt with you – you’ll be glad you did!
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal: A loaner from the UK (thank you A.L.!) … I devoured this. What an exciting foray into history and a man’s compelling investigation of his own story. So beautifully written you’ll want to have a pen on hand to jot down some of the sentences. I borrowed but will have to collect a copy of my own to take pride of place on my shelf.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa: A slight book with some might. This is truly one of those stories you’ll be able to finish in a sitting and savour every moment doing so. Very moving and, well, just lovely!
The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy: Thank goodness for well-read hockey moms … I had just surfaced from a lo-o-o-ng slog through A Winter’s Tale and was in desperate need of something to restore my faith in a good straight forward, engaging story when a fellow hockey mom recommended this one. Just the ticket! (Yay P.D.!) If you loved the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society …
The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler: The title alone had me snookered, of course. I will be honest, I went in to this expecting a treacly chick-lit romp but have to admit, there was a little depth here that pleasantly surprised. Furthers romantic notion of book shops being magical but also brings attention to the untethered folks in big cities and to how important belonging is to us all.
The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood: Alternating points of view from chapter to chapter which can be off-putting to some but a thoughtful tale of two women in different eras whose stories connect.
And there you have a few highlights of my reading season. What have you been reading lately?
P.S. Has this been happening to you too?
July 22, 2013
I promised I’d write when I’d finished your book, Cinnamon Toast at the End of the World. Your web scouting let you know it was featured on my summer reading list and you were curious, as I imagine every writer must be, to learn how your work would be received. Lots of pressure for both of us there! What if I’d promised, and then abhorred the book? What if I couldn’t finish it, even? Fortunately, neither of those scenarios applies.
Let’s start at the very beginning ( a very good place to start, tra la,la) What led me to selecting your book from among the many vying for attention on the shelves of my neighbourhood book shop? The cover of the book is enchanting – pastel tones with a portly little toaster popping up toast. Intriguingly, said toaster seems to be sitting at the beach. I had beach books on my mind so this must have been a subliminal draw. (I’m none the wiser after finishing the story as to why the toaster is at the beach but really not an issue. I also understand that most authors have little to no say in the appearance of the book.) The “Cinnamon Toast” in the title evokes cosy nostalgia and simple traditions … a waft of burnt toast always reminds me of breakfasts with my late Grandmother who preferred her bread charred … “The End of the World” had me a bit confused but I was convinced there was humorous hyperbole involved – a good thing in my mind. I flipped to the opening paragraph and found immediate clarification:
“ ‘It’s not the end of the world.’ That’s what people will tell you. That’s what people will tell you when they want to say, ‘Your problems are stupid, your reaction to them laughable, and I would like you to go away now.’
‘Oh, Stephen, for God’s sake, it’s not the end of the world,’ my mother will say, over and over, in tones of sympathy or distraction. Or sometimes plain impatience.
So of course if she’s ever running around looking for her keys and cursing, I’ll always tell her, ‘It’s not the end of the world, Mom.’ And if she’s really been pissing me off, I’ll scoop the keys up from wherever she’s left them and stick them in my coat pocket. Then I’ll settle back to watch with a sympathetic expression while she tears the house apart looking. Lost keys? Not the end of the world.“
You had me, right there. Fantastic! This Stephen seemed a bit of a scamp and I wanted to get to know him. As an ’85 Grad myself, the promise of a nostalgic tour through the era in his company seemed inviting too … So Writer, I purchased your book.
In this modern era, a quick trip to the author’s website is often a worthy venture. Sometimes, you’ll find out she/he is a wit, a charmer, friendly to fans … and sometimes, not so much. You, Ms. Cameron, come across as the former: personable and fantastically fun. And thoughtful too – an 80’s music soundtrack to accompany a reader is kindly provided on your site along with photos of the setting’s inspiration.
And so, all of this pastel and perkiness had me ready to ease myself into a light and airy read …
Alas, I was hoodwinked!
As I merrily started in, it soon became clear that this journey was going deeper than a mere trip to the beach. I won’t expose the tale but let’s just say as I compulsively turned pages, my heart broke and then was pieced back together with optimism and then out loud laughter (OLL?) – repeatedly; tears ran down my cheeks on several occasions. You took me so convincingly to small town Nova Scotia and the era with wonderfully evocative details like a “Welcome to Town” sign with a “Thanks for Visiting” message on the reverse and a Grandmother sporting those crocheted slippers with the pom poms on the toes.
I am astonished by your compelling ability to write from the perspective of a teenaged boy – an awkward, tormented teenaged boy. Frankly, I wouldn’t normally be drawn to a character exhibiting tormented traits and you might have lost me (especially as I had toast at the beach in mind) but you imbued him with the most lovely optimistic spirit despite his situation in life. He’s a character who will linger with me. Beyond Stephen, the story illuminates the importance of family, whatever it may look like, and friends, whatever they may look like. Vital values indeed. One reviewer declared this “an important book” and I couldn’t agree more.
And so, I thank you for the positive experience of Cinnamon Toast and The End of the World. As your publisher, Hachette Ireland, fittingly included on the last page of your book:
“Reading is so much more than the act of moving from page to page. It’s the exploration of new worlds; the pursuit of adventure; the forging of friendships; the breaking of hearts; and the chance to begin to live through a new story each time the first sentence is devoured.”
Your story succeeded in doing all of those things for this reader. I already look forward to reading your next endeavour … perhaps a love story featuring a Nick Hornby book? (Blog readers will be let in on the joke in the next post)
All the best to you, Janet. Do hope you are happily writing your way through a lovely summer!