I love reading. But not always. I’m a writer who believes that a good writer has to read a lot, which means I take in a lot of literature. My interests are eclectic, but typically I try to mix up the kinds of books I read, so as to avoid what I call LNO, or “Literary Numb-Out.” LNO is a wispy disorder characterized by malaise and displeasure that critically-acclaimed novels can often blur into each other. I’ll follow up a literary heavy-hitter with genre pulp, a biography with short fiction, a chick-lit staple with a graphic novel, a CanLit critical success with...well, anything. Wow, you found a CanLit piece laden with the angst of our great outdoors featuring an immigrant wrestling with sexuality? Rare gem, indeed!
(For the record, I love CanLit, but more often when it tries new things and stops apologizing for itself.)
I have been privileged to read some truly remarkable contemporary work over the past few years, and I thought I’d share a few of them. This inlist, entitled the “Books that Made Me Love Reading Again” list, is my church-friend Emily Hill’s very good idea.
Neil Gaiman, American Gods
This was the work that made me want to write novels. Awesome writing about an epic battle between humanity’s new and old gods.
Ian Weir, Daniel O’Thunder*
A remarkable man boxes the devil in Victorian London. Right?!
Miriam Toews, A Boy of Good Breeding*
Small town Canada. Features a girl named Summer-Feelin’.
Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English
My favorite read for 2012. About an African immigrant child in London’s inner-city, written in his vernacular. Fabulous.
Nino Ricci, Lives of the Saints*
Didn’t know Ricci until he was assigned as my mentor through The Humber School of Writers. Now I do. He’s excellent.
Charlotte Gill, Eating Dirt*
Poetic memoir about tree-planting culture. I planted, too. She gets it.
Robert Olmstead, Coal Black Horse
Lush, literary Western.
Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers*
Deceptively simple Western about hitmen brothers. He got lots of awards. Well deserved.
Alfredo Vea, Gods Go Begging
Heartbreaking and human Vietnam War tale.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half a Yellow Sun
An excellent read, made all the better by having met and seen Adichie speak at the Galle Literary Festival.
Andrey Kurkov, Death and the Penguin
About a man’s relationship with Misha, a penguin, as they struggle together in a post-Soviet city. The penguin is an amazing character. Met Kurkov in Galle, too.
Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil*
Recounts his time with the UN during the genocide in Rwanda. Brutal and unputdownable.
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Am including this because I was able to read it again a short while ago. Absolutely the best Vietnam War novel I have read. Oh, the writing, the writing!
Markus Zuzak, The Book Thief
Learned this was a Young Adult work much later. Loved it.
Stephen King, 11/22/63
A very good yarn from a writer who makes writing look effortless. King’s best, I think, since The Stand.
Justin Cronin, The Passage
The first in a trilogy. Well-written, literary vampires. Who knew?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel
A woman’s struggle with conservative Islam. Tough read, especially if you’re of the “all religions have equal value” mindset.
Okay, I’ll stop now. Any books you’d recommend?