Books You Should Be Reading

Comic by Liz Climo

As I mentioned on Monday blog traffic is quite slow around here this time of year, but I would like to talk about books with those of you who are still around.

Here’s my list of must-reads:

After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. These genres shine in the short story format. As much as I love dystopian fiction sometimes entire novels focusing on the same ideas can be overwhelming. This is even more true for the creepiest stories.   If you only have time to read one of these stories make it “The Segment.” The twist in it was chilling in large part because I can see how easily it could actually happen in our world.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. At first glance Hailsham appears to be a typical English boarding school but as Kathy and her circle of friends grow older they begin to unravel the mystery surrounding the only home they’ve ever known. I figured out what was happening early on but the ethical questions this book raises are chilling and based on how I interpreted the ending are not at all resolved in a typical manner. Online reviews are split as to whether Ishiguro intended to write these characters that way. Some people think he was actually trying to make the opposite statement but didn’t write certain scenes clearly enough. I disagree with this theory.

Stitches by David Small. An autobiographic graphic novel about a teenage boy who is treated for cancer without being told his diagnosis or that he isn’t expected to survive. I’m hoping his mother’s life is the focus of a future book as her experiences haemorrhaged into so much of David’s suffering. Some people respond to horrific trauma by doing everything they can to end the cycle for good. Most folks I’ve known who chose this path were extremely successful at protecting the next generation. Others recreate the terrible circumstances and play the role of the abuser this time. Often they succeed.

Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotypes of the Promiscuous Young Male by Andrew P. Smiler. Abstinence-only sex ed taught me that men can never be trusted completely because they’ll say and do anything to get you in bed. While I don’t agree with all of the assumptions in this book I’m so glad to see more people pushing back against this stereotype. There will always be individuals who take advantage of others but they are not the standard by which entire groups should be measured.

Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger. I first read this story 20 years ago and still lull myself to sleep some nights wondering about these characters. The plot in a nutshell: a lonely infertile couple asks Mother Owl to give them a child. She agrees under the condition that the child be allowed to return home on her 12th birthday. As their daughter grows up her mother binds her wings in order to prevent her flying back to Mother Owl. This works…until it doesn’t. What happens to Gwinna after she discovers her destiny is why this is the best children’s book ever written.

Delights and Shadows by Ted Kooser. A book of poetry Sabio Lantz recommended. Ted Kooser’s affinity for the written word shines through his work. This is the kind of poetry that seeps into your bones. A week, a month, a year passes and then one day these words bubble back up again in a quiet moment.

My favourite lines from this collection include:

The bright wire rolls like a porpoise in and out of the calm blue sea – “A Spiral Notebook”

and

I was that old man you saw sitting in a confetti of yellow light – “That Was I”

Respond

What are you reading over the holidays?

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