Sunday, December 17, 2017

The best books I read in 2017

Albert Einstein once said, “Physicists believe the separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.” Apparently the bookish media does not side with physics, what with the proliferation of “best books of 2017” lists.

Like most years, my list includes books I read in 2017 but were not published in 2017. Physics aside, I've opted for this sort of list instead of the traditional because I already name-dropped most of my favourites from 2017 right hereSo Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum, The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis, A Three-Tiered Pastel Dream by Lesley Trites and Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson. All Canadian authors, by the way. Yesssir. Do yourself a favour and read those books. They deserve your time and money.

Without further adieu, here's the rest of my favourite books of my reading year.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)
I decided not to like this book before I read it. Mostly, because I normally dislike the Booker prize nominees and especially the winners. And also because I am a tough sell on an unusual format. Not sure why. Because I'm boring, probably. Even though he didn't write like 35% of the content of this book, Saunders's research was fantastic. (You can read about his process here.) And what he did write was spellbinding.

Little Sister by Barbara Gowdy (2017)
Gowdy is one of Canada's most respected authors, which says a lot about Canada because she writes about some twisted, experimental stuff. This book may actually be one of her more mainstream works of fiction, and I loved it. A woman finds herself in the body of another woman. Sort of. Weather is to blame, among other things, and the complicating factors amount to a very entertaining read. Gowdy and I have similar interests and approaches, I think. We both write highly emotional, weird fiction, and we both like to be concrete with our metaphors. So I felt a real connection to this novel. (By the way, Gowdy is fabulous in person. I saw her speak at IFOA this year and she kept the crowd well entertained. I wrote a bit about that event here.)

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (2000)
Brilliant and maddening in equal parts. If you like David Foster Wallace, give DeWitt a go.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
Set by the sea in a grand old British estate, this book drips with atmosphere. It's a classic, so I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of it until this year. The suspense is expertly paced and the tension high. The cast of characters is vast and well rounded--a young woman in way over her head and her mysterious older husband. Plus a resentful household staff--my favourite kind! The main character, though, is a secret that not even the grave could keep buried.

The Slip by Mark Sampson (2017)
I was laughing out loud one second and marvelling at the structure and the language the next with this novel. Even though The Slip is narrated by such a myopic, self-involved character, he's circling the drain of self-awareness the whole time, and it's such fun to watch him go. He gets it, but he also does not get it. Like, at all.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
This is my third reading of this book. For me, it’s perfect.

So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors (2016)
I stumbled up on this book at a book fair, I think? I don't remember. But I do remember thinking "Hey I would never normally buy something like this." I'm very glad I did! The format of these novellas is unusual, so I was turned off when I flipped through. Especially since it was a translation. If you're going to chop up prose in sort of stanza-things, how good can it be in translation? The answer: it can be very, very good! Also, inspiring. Nors' quickness and nano-scopic attention to life got me excited about writing again.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)
Sci-fi short fiction at its best. I couldn't get enough of these. They made me rethink a few things I thought I knew about the rules of writing, and even life. By the way, this is the collection I recommend to all my male friends who insist they “don’t like fiction.”

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting (2017)
The premise is genius and bizarre, the surprises are constant, and all the rules get broken. The main character has run away from her controlling, psycho, tech genius husband. Another character falls in love with a dolphin. If you like the offbeat, wicked smart and wildly original, read read read this book. ** update ** I just realized who Alissa Nutting reminds me of! Douglas Adams! If you like his books, I think it's a slam-dunk that you'll like Nutting. Although she's certainly more R-rated. So you might like her books even more. ;)

Rotten Perfect Mouth by Eva H.D. (2015)
I'd write effusively about this striking book of poetry, but this guy already nailed it. I read it for the second time this year and I got even more out of it.

By the way, in 2018 I'm excited to read For All The Men (and Some of the Women) I've Known by Danila Botha, I am a Truck by Michelle Winters, a book of poetry called Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo (who I saw speak at IFOA and was brilliant), and Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Last night my husband told me he was worried that this whole "sand" scene I was writing would wind up as some sort of excuse for procrastination. I said of course it wouldn't! 

And then I made these.