Spring is here! This week, to shake things up, I have prepared a juicy list of wonderful books by – wait for it – PEOPLE WHO ARE ALIVE! Hurrah! It’s deviant. I like it. Here’s what I have been reading. You should too.
- I finished this just the other day and I am quite lost without it. Isn’t that the sign of a great book? I saw the movie (once in theatres, where I ugly-cried publicly, and again in my living room, where I could snivel in privacy). This story is so close to my heart (see my letter to Yeats – of course I am a sucker for this story). The film was a perfect creation, which made me very wary of the book – the fear being that it would sully the magic in any way. The book is not perfect, but it beautifully draws out some of the details that the movie glazes over. It’s wonderful and intoxicating and you should read it.
2. Heather O’Neill is a wizard. I only got to know her in the last year: I first read ‘The Girl Who Was Saturday Night’ and I just guzzled it – then bought ‘Lullabies for Little Criminals’ but waited three months to read it just to ration her. ‘Daydreams of Angels’ is the first short story collection by Heather O’Neill. It feels like a book of fairy tales or fables. The stories address, as she puts it, ‘the physics of the world’, often through the voices or perceptions of children. What I love most is the energy, the looseness, the joy. It is easy to read; it is funny, it is dark, sometimes sexy, and still poses beautiful questions. She manages to say a lot about life, and the world, and us in it. I have an enormous writing crush on her. Read everything she’s written. There is no one like her.
3. This is a teeny tiny, enormously important book. It is really a speech, adapted from her TED Talk of the same name. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie manages to break down very tricky, outdated ideologies with warmth, humour, and intelligence. It is a quick read and her voice is sharp and smart. She is also a wonderful writer of fiction. Check out ‘Americanah’. Beautiful.
4. Are you especially interested in female American botanists of the 19th century? Me neither! I am, however, very interested in mostly everything that Elizabeth Gilbert does. This is her first novel since the phenomenon ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and the vastly underrated ‘Committed. This is such a skillfully nuanced work about growth, travel, self-awareness. It’s beautiful. It’s witty. It’s sexy. It’s unbelievably well researched. Everyone I know who has read this book has fallen madly in love with it. You will too.
5. I am not a dog person. I would not trust any person who ran up to me, smelled me and jumped on me while declaring their love (unless it was Ryan Gosling, then I would just go with it). I much prefer the retrained distain of cats. I’ve never really credited dogs with having much of an inner life: ‘Food! Friend! FOE. Squirrel! Wheee!’ This book has ruined all of that. The premise (revealed in the first page, but stop reading if you really don’t want context for this adventure) is that two Greek gods are chillin’ in Toronto’s oldest pub, bored. They make a bet that animals, if given human intelligence, would be even more unhappy than humans are. Their victims are the fifteen dogs spending the night at a local animal shelter, and what follows is a powerful exploration of what it means to be human. Yes. This is revealed through dogs. Just trust me. I have the great fortune of living in one of the neighbourhoods where the book is set (and detailed with perfect accuracy) and I simply cannot look at any dog I meet the same way any more. I also kind of want one now. Andre Alexis won the Giller Prize for this highly original piece of fiction.
6. Remember the amazing Dear Sugar advice column I talked about in my letter to Rilke? It’s a book! It’s one of those glorious little gems where you can read just one, or, if you’re me, you can binge and cancel plans so you can stay in bed to read this. This began as a column in The Rumpus and here Cheryl Strayed has written some of the most generous, clear, and compassionate advice out there for some very complicated questions. My personal favourite is ‘Write Like a Motherf****r’. When you are finished reading this and missing it terribly, you can hear Cheryl and Steve Almond (the first ‘Sugar’) on their wonderful podcast. This book is the oracle. I just love it.
There you go! Hope you enjoy some of these.