Saturday, January 23, 2016

January Reads

Cold days, long nights. Time to read! A string of fiction about mothers and sons, and good and evil. Then on to non-fiction, with questions about the meaning of life and death, the meaning of true creativity, and living our best lives.


His Whole Life, Elizabeth Hay: The way this author writes about place and belonging is quite special. This novel travels between a cloistered apartment in New York City and the open spaces of the Ottawa Valley. The characters remain the same in the different environments, but we see their nature's differently, witnesses to a literary form of optical illusion. I am looking forward to hearing Hay speak at an upcoming Heliconian lecture.

The Mountain Story, Lori Lansens: Book Babes selection this month. The question posed was, "Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors".  How did knowing that one of the characters would not survive shape your reading of the book?"  More than half of us admitted to being influenced and then guessing throughout the story who would be the one to die on the mountain. Morbid curiousity! Lansens drew some great characters in the telling of this story but it is definitely not one of her best books.

We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver: This is the book that brought Shriver to the international literary stage when it won the Orange Prize in 2005. A mother looks back on moments with her son, and the atrocities he has committed, with a mix of horror and guilt. Annika let us know the movie was on Netflix, so part of the BPYC book club discussion was about the film adaptation. Shriver herself was impressed. 

Purity, Jonathan Franzen: Started this with a library download, made it through Part 1, and then the novel disappeared when time ran out. It's a popular one, so I need to wait for availability. Deceptively easy, breezy read. Lots of irony and subversive humour, but dark.

After reading three dark fictions it was time for something more uplifting......
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert: You can listen to Gilbert read her own words in the audio book, as she urges her audience to pursue living creatively while revealing some of her own tribulations as an author. Gilbert is a generous soul and not of the school that creative pursuit needs to be dark and painful if you choose a path of love and joy. I liked the stories and quotes, but couldn't dog-ear any of them for future reference from my digital copy. Regular, diligent practice is key. And humility and patience. Google is helpful finding Gilbert quotes on creativity as she has inspired many.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande:  Gawande is a doctor who has asked some provocative questions in his previous books, and this one, about aging and death, questions our options as we come to the end of life. "For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn't matter whether you were five or fifty - every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. So here is a book about the modern experience of mortality - about what it's like to get old and die, how medicine has changed this and how it hasn't, where our ideas about death have gone wrong." Full of wise questions.

1 comment:

Kurt said...

I always enjoy Atul Gawande's articles in the New Yorker.

I saw We Need To Talk About Kevin, and it was an interesting film, but I kept wanting someone to do something before her son hurt someone.

Thanks for checking out my aged blog. I check yours in feedly, and I wish I commented more.