Reading – a year in review, 2016

2016 was a good year for reading. I discovered new authors whose work I enjoyed: Rick Moody, Alexis André, David Szalay, and Rachel Cusk. I continued my affection for authors with whom I had already been acquainted: Colm Tóibín, Tom Drury, Zadie Smith, Willa Cather, Elizabeth Strout, and Kazuo Ishiguro. I also wrote short reviews of each book I read this past year and posted them on LibraryThing, a few of which I re-posted here on this blog. I’m already looking forward to another great year of reading ahead.

Stats from my 2016 reading list:

  • 24 were borrowed from our public library
  • 11 have Canadian authors
  • 22 were chosen due to personal recommendations from friends
  • 4 are by authors who appear more than once on the 2016 list
  • 1 was being reread
  • 0 was read aloud by my wife and me
  • 13 are non-fiction
  • 0 are ebooks

Books read in 2016 (69):

  • Drury, Tom. The Driftless Area
  • Moran, Caitlin. How to Build a Girl
  • Cameron, Claire. The Bear
  • Grosz, Stephen. The Examined Life
  • Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace
  • Smith, Zadie. NW
  • Moody, Rick. Hotels of North America
  • Brautigan, Richard. Trout Fishing in America
  • St. Aubyn, Edward. The Complete Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, At Last
  • Richtel, Matt. A Deadly Wandering
  • Alexis, André. Fifteen Dogs
  • Evison, Jonathan. This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
  • Casey, John. Beyond the First Draft: The Art of Fiction
  • Coetzee, J.M. and Kurtz, Arabella. The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy
  • Keret, Etgar. The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and other stories
  • Christie, Michael. If I Fall, If I Die
  • Modiano, Patrick. After the Circus
  • Tóibín, Colm. The Master
  • Russell, Bertrand. The Problems of Philosophy
  • Marcus, Ben. The Age of Wire and String
  • Alexis, André. Childhood
  • Cather, Willa. A Lost Lady
  • Alexis, André. Despair and other stories
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. What is not yours is not yours: stories
  • Wilson, Kevin. The Family Fang
  • Scott, A.O. Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth
  • Doerr, Anthony. All The Light We Cannot See
  • Strout, Elizabeth. My Name Is Lucy Barton
  • Beatty, Paul. The Sellout
  • Modiano, Patrick. The Occupation Trilogy: La Place de l’Étoile, The Night Watch, and Ring Roads
  • Moody, Rick. The Ice Storm
  • Millet, Lydia. Mermaids in Paradise
  • Gardner, Leonard. Fat City
  • Petersen, Alice. Worldly Goods: stories
  • Eugenides, Jeffrey. The Virgin Suicides
  • Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant
  • Wolf, Maryanne. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
  • Szalay, David. All That Man Is
  • Currie Jr., Ron. Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles: a novel
  • Barnes, Julian. nothing to be frightened of
  • Royle, Nicholas (Ed.) Best British Short Stories 2016
  • Bryson, Bill. The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island
  • Antrim, Donald. The Emerald Light in the Air: stories
  • Kawakami, Hiromi. Strange Weather in Tokyo
  • Coe, Jonathan. Number 11
  • McKenzie, Elizabeth. The Portable Veblen
  • Goncharov, Ivan. Oblomov
  • Alexis, André. The Hidden Keys
  • Bell, James Scott. Revision and Self-Editing
  • Link, Kelly. Get in Trouble
  • Cayley, Kate (compiler), Francis, Brian (compiler), Thien, Madeleine (compiler). The Journey Prize Stories 28
  • Beukes, Lauren. Broken Monsters
  • Diaz, Junot (ed.). The Best American Short Stories 2016
  • Barrett, Andrea, and Turchi, Peter (editors). A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft
  • Winterson, Jeanette. The Gap of Time: The Winter’s Tale Retold
  • Cusk, Rachel. Outline
  • Haslett, Adam. Imagine Me Gone
  • Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited
  • Smith, Ali. Public library and other stories
  • McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian
  • Smith, Zadie. On Beauty
  • Edugyan, Esi. Half-Blood Blues
  • Svevo, Italo. Zeno’s Conscience
  • Smith, Zadie. Swing Time
  • Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed
  • Tesdell, Diana Secker (ed.). New York Stories
  • Adler, Renata. Speedboat
  • Tóibín, Colm. On Elizabeth Bishop
  • Luiselli, Valeria. Faces in the Crowd


Wild Writers Festival 2016

It seems like every year around this time* I’ve got a choice to make. I could spend the first Saturday in November writing furiously (but with a touch of grace). Or I could attend the Wild Writers Festival and learn from the pros just how difficult it is to write and (worse) publish. Few of them, I think, will mention the challenging distraction of the best Canadian writers festival within walking distance of one’s house.

It’s not procrastination if you are gaining valuable insights into the art and craft of writing. Right?

This year, The New Quarterly has brought together such luminaries as Michael Crummey, Carrie Snyder, Madeleine Thien, Michael Helm, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Rosemary Sullivan. As per usual, there is a Friday night gala event, a Sunday brunch event, and a Saturday night speakeasy. But for me, the heart of the festival is on Saturday when a raft of small-enrolment workshops are offered (for a small fee) as well as a series of panel discussions (free) on everything from small press publishing to the art of dialogue or writing a thriller. There is something there worthy of distracting almost any writer from a hard-won full day of writing.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

* Well, every year since 2012.

Grand Porch Party 2016

Sunday, 12 June, promises to be a sunny day. Perfect for a stroll around the neighbourhood pausing in front of host houses as a selection of fine musicians perform on porches.

Yes, it’s time for the Grand Porch Party again! Between 2 and 5 pm, the streets in our area will be humming with adults and children catching some free tunes, everything from soulful rhythm and blues to folk and pop and even a hand-clap orchestra for good measure. Rain or shine. But it’s a bit nicer in sunshine.

The Grand Porch Party is always great fun (it’s been running since 2011). However, this year the organisers have shifted the party over a street or two. So I could just sit on my own porch and listen to the music coming from two doors down. But it’s more fun to take a walk and soak in the ambience.


NUMUS concerts and fundraising

For a number of years (though not every year in the past 9) my wife and I have had season subscriptions to the NUMUS concerts. NUMUS showcases some of the incredible musical talent, both musicians and composers, found locally as well as from across Canada and beyond. The concerts are diverse, sometimes challenging, thought provoking, and always filled with exceptional musicians. In advance of the 2016-17 season, NUMUS has embarked on a fundraising effort through Indiegogo.

Please consider contributing to NUMUS’ future. Or even better, come out to one or all of the concerts next year. You are sure to find something breathtaking.


The Sifnos Chronicles – tales from a greek isle by Sharon Blomfield

Writing is a way of life, they say. I think it is good one. They also say that the life of the writer is lonely. For many writers, I’m sure that’s true. Not so much for me. I’ve been pecking away at the keyboard for some time now. But for the past five years I’ve been sharing a portion of my output on a monthly basis with a group of like-minded poets, novelists, and life writers. We read each other’s work. We offer comment and criticism. And we stoke the fire of enthusiasm.

The Sifnos Chronicles by Sharon BlomfieldThe publication of a work by one of the writers in our group is an occasion of joy. Seeing something that you’ve watched gestate, develop, and mature over the years take wing and start flying on its own—well, it feels good. I imagine the only thing that would top it would be for a book of my own to begin its life on the book store shelves. Maybe some day I’ll find out.

Sharon Blomfield has written a lovely book about her encounters on the Greek island of Sifnos. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to visit immediately and return to as often as possible. Which she has. And each time her relationship with the locals, her knowledge of the island and its history, and her love of the place expands. I’ve been watching this book take shape over the past few years and am absolutely delighted that I’ve been able to purchase it today at my local independent book store, Words Worth Books.

It’s a beautifully produced publication. I’m looking forward to enjoying it all over again.

You can find out more about the book on Sharon’s website, and while there you might also want to visit her blog where her chronicles of life on this beautiful Greek isle continue.