Saturday, October 1, 2022

September 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Links

Having placed pressure on myself to read as many Giller-eligible titles as possible, I was missing the variety that I usually have in my reading life. No picture books, no poetry, few graphic novels, not enough nonfiction and fiction in translation. I'm determined to change that next month! Still, in the final week of September, I read five 5-star novels, so I finished the month feeling good.

The Giller shortlist was announced on September 27 and it is a strong one, even though some of my favourites aren't on it. (Alexander MacLeod's Animal Person didn't even make the longlist!) Anyway, I've read all five and am considering which one I think deserves to receive top honours.

These are the best books that I read in September:

My September stats:

Covers of the 26 books I read in September:

Booktube videos I created during the month of September:

My sole DNF in September is one audiobook that I gave up on halfway through (because it would be better in print):

Sunday, September 4, 2022

My Personal Picks for the 2022 Giller Longlist

I've been shadowing the Giller again this year and have read 36 eligible books so far. (Previous Shadow Giller coverage.) Time is running out because the official longlist will be announced in two days, on Tuesday September 6. Instead of trying to guess which books the esteemed official jurors will choose, I've gone ahead with my own selections, ignoring everything I haven't read, including those that are yet to be published. (The official cut-off date is September 30, 2022.)

Here's my top dozen:

And here's a link to a video I made about this: My Giller Prize Longlist

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Links

I decided to read as many Giller-eligible titles as I could in August and I'm pleased with how that turned out: 11 out of the 30 books that I finished this month fall into that category. As far as predictions go, however, I am throwing my hands in the air. I recognize that many of the books this year that are stand-outs for me are not every reader's cup of tea. So, instead of trying to predict what the judges will choose for the Giller longlist next week, I will soon put together my personal favourites. Watch for it!

Highlights from August reads, starting with two Giller possibilities:

Ezra's Ghosts by Darcy Tamayose

Remnants by Celine Huyghebaert, translation by Aleshia Jensen

These next two are on the Booker longlist:

The Colony by Audrey Magee, audiobook read by Stephen Hogan

The Trees by Percival Everett

I only read three nonfiction books in August. This is the one I've been telling everyone about:

The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration by Sarah Everts, audiobook read by Sophie Amoss

Kae Tempest's long poem is a reread and also a re-listen (I did both):

Let Them Eat Chaos by Kae Tempest

I checked a digital edition of this graphic novel out from the library and read it three times:

A Gift for a Ghost by Borja Gonzalez, translation by Lee Douglas

And lastly, a wonderful Indigenous picture book about a two-spirit child:

47,000 Beads by Koja Adeyoha, Angel Adeyoha and Holly McGillis

Did Not Finish: Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

Booktube video links:

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Literary Trepanations, again

It's been a while since my last post about trepanations encountered in my reading. (You can find it here.) Do you need these like a hole in the head? Perhaps, but here they are, anyway. 

The Animals in the Country by Laura Jean McKay

    "You're registered, all official. Here's a couple of armbands. Not compulsory, just a handy reminder that you've been diagnosed correctly. Okay? Next, thanks."
    "Wait up. I'm sick. I need medical support."

    "The doctors are busy with the psychotic," the nurse says quietly. "Those who are displaying psychotic tendencies, in danger of trepanning, talking to insects et cetera." We glance down the line to where the little girl is pawing at the ground. "Are you talking to insects?" The nurse is up in my face now, filling the world.
    One of the people outside runs her mouth along the windshield of the flat front of the van, leaving a trail. The dust we've collected on all the roads browns her teeth like she's been chowing down on chocolate cake. She wanders off. Ange is always telling Kimberly not to stare at different people, but I'm staring.
    "What's wrong with her?"
    The man makes a rat-a-tat motion on his noggin. "Bless them. Our do-it-yourselfers can get excited, turn nasty."
    "Do-it-yourself what?"
    "Do-it-yourself trepanning. Hand drill to the skull, relieve the pressure caused by the flu. Stops all the critters talking to you. You must have seen the video. I can do it for you, if you want."


The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel by Philip Pullman, adapted by Stephane Melchoir and Clement Oubrerie, translated by Annie Eaton


Fight Night by Miriam Toews

    Grandma is trying to find someone who will drill a hole in her head because she's heard that's the most effective way of getting rid of trigeminal neuralgia, which is nicknamed the suicide disease because it's the most painful physical experience a human being can have and you just want to kill yourself. But nobody wants to drill a hole into Grandma's head because of her age. They stop drilling holes into people at around age sixty. Remember that, Swiv! Grandma said.


Matrix by Lauren Groff

    But there is a disease in the grain, or perhaps it is cursed by the devil, and after eating it, some dance uncontrollably and sing naked in the streets. Others scream with terrified visions. Others go stiff and barely breathe.
    Nothing can drive out the disease. Not praying, not bathing them in holy water, not tying them to their beds, not leaping out from the night to frighten them, not holding them by the ankle in the cold river, not beating them around the head with a yew branch, not burying them crown to toe in warm manure, not hanging them upside down from a high tree and spinning them until they vomit, not drilling a tiny hole through their skulls to let the bad humours out of the brains.


The Air Year by Caroline Bird

It's like being a windmill in a vacuum
packed village. Weekends are the worst.
The taste of nothing is like licking dew off plastic.
Floppy soul, they call it. Slack spirit. Neurological
pins and needles. Someone has drilled a hole in the crown
of my head, inserted a funnel, emptied
molten margarine into my plumbing. [...]
-from the poem 'The Deadness'


Haven by Emma Donoghue

    Cormac's fingers go up to the little crater above his left ear. "A slingstone stove my head in."
    "In battle?"
    That seems too grand a word for it. "Well, we were disputing with another clan. The blow sent me out of my senses.
    But my brother's wife had heard the Christians had strong medicine" -- he almost said magic -- "so my people brought me to Cluain Mhic Nois. A monk called Fiach, he saved me."
    "How?" Artt asks.
    "Cut the scalp and peeled me like an apple. With a hand drill he bored holes until the smashed piece came right off. Then he sewed the skin back over the hole, and poulticed me with herbs, and prayed till my fever broke."
    "You were quite well again?"
    "Better than before, in fact, Deo gratias." Cormac makes a cross on his forehead. "Wits a bit sharper and memory roomier."


Mad Honey by Katie Welch

    He leaned over and kissed her neck. She swung around, hair delicately brushing his face, kissed him full on the lips, and returned her attention to the front of the hall. Beck stared at the back of her head, wishing he could burrow through her soft brown hair, trepan her skull and examine her thoughts.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

July 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Links

Lots of queer books and lots of Canadian authors this month. 
Here are the all-star reads:

My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi

Spear by Nicola Griffith, audio read by the author

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, audio read by Aidan Kelly

Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, audio read by Soneela Nankani

Avenue of Champions by Conor Kerr

The Rental Heart and Other Fairy Tales by Kirsty Logan

Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir by Jon Claytor

But I Live: Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust edited by Miriam Libicki

How Beautiful by Antonella Capetti and Melissa Castrillon

Nour's Secret Library by Wafa Tarnowska and Vali Mintzi

These last three are all rereads:

The Small Way: Poems by Onjana Yawnghwe

Sita's Ramayana by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar

Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel

The one that I didn't finish this month is a good book for the right readers (teens):

Booktube videos:

Friday, July 15, 2022

Samples of Recent Canadian Writing, Via Tim Hortons References

My project - collecting references in Canadian literature to Tim Hortons - continues. See prior posts here.

    Cory swung his prize daughter into the passenger seat of his car. Now was his chance to warm it up. Get it nice and toasty; point all the vents toward his princess, and blast hot air at her. As the windows defrosted, Cory ran his rough hands, his dirt-stained hands, through her frozen strawberry blond hair and sobbed openly. Through his wailing he blubbered, "We're gonna pass by Timmy Ho's and get you a hot chocolate. Warm you right up. Daddy loves you. Were you in there for long, Laura? I'm really sorry. I would have come sooner, but Mommy just called me." He wasn't sure how much she understood, but her gaze was steady on his weepy eyes.

Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez


    Sunday, October 25
    I'm driving south on Main Street. A Black Woman waits to cross outside a Tim Hortons. She's wearing snowpants although its not very cold by Canadian standards. New immigrant? I feel ashamed at this snap assumption.

Disorientation: Being Black in the World by Ian Williams


    My second job was at Tim Hortons: more yelling. The owners were a husband and his wife; the husband did spot checks to make sure we kept the bathrooms locked, and then yelled at his sixteen-year-old workers about "crack whores" and needles when we didn't. Once, I cried after the wife yelled at me; my supervisor told me not to let her catch me crying, or things would get worse. (I try to picture, now, being in my forties or fifties and screaming at teens; I can't picture it.)


    When I worked at Tim Hortons in the early 2000s, the milk and cream came in ten-litre sacs with built-in spouts. The sacs were rectangular, made of clear plastic, slick with condensation. They were heavy, difficult enough to carry from the fridge to the front of the store that the only real way to do it was to hug the sac against your chest. The whole rest of the day after replacing the cream or milk, I'd smell waves of soured dairy emanating from my striped polycotton blend shirt. This smell returned a few days after Sinclair was born.


    Tim Hortons was the worst job I'd ever had, and Adbusters was the second-worst. One of my first tasks was to read through a book the magazine was producing and offer feedback; I came across a picture of a desert with one line floating mid-air, something like, "It takes a thousand years to produce one inch of soil." When I flagged it for fact-checking, a senior editor told me not to bother: the page had appeared in the magazine before, the same concern had been raised, and the publisher didn't care if it was true. The greater truth was that it sounded good. And that it felt true.

Like a Boy But Not a Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary by Andrea Bennett


    But for all of Canada's territorial instincts and actions around the stories told here, in its denials of a proper voice for Indigenous peoples it has ruined any chance at telling its own story truthfully and completely. Indigenous communities are as crucial to the story of this place as their English and French counterparts, so in attacking the narrative sovereignty of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples, Canada has torn a hole in itself. That absence is the root of this nation's ongoing identity crisis. As it attempts to fill the void with hockey, Tim Hortons, and jean jackets, it ignores the truth that what has been and remains missing from Canadian culture are the stories of Indigenous peoples, the stories that have been told on this land for thousands of years.

Unreconciled: Family, Truth and Indigenous Resistance by Jesse Wente


    I take a taxi to the Northern Store to buy groceries. We drive to another house to collect a family of four on their way to a birthday party. In the car, we make small talk about our favourite types of cake. In the Cree spirit of egality, all the taxis operate like buses: the cars pick up as many passengers as possible, with everyone paying four dollars regardless of the destination.
    Hungry, I decide to stop at one of the local stores a few metres away to grab a chocolate bar and coffee. Most of the stores sell Tim Hortons with Coffee Mate. I stand by the counter, and sip.

Invisible North by Alexandra Shimo


    His mother who might say anything, who had the capacity to startle with drilling questions, or flummox with shards of raw honesty that made people see themselves in new ways, his mother could only think to ask where Lily got her dress.
    Lily had said, Online. A one-word answer that did nothing to crack the bizarre electricity between his date and his mother, both inert, unable to move. Lily was into girls, but she and Xavier had been partners on a science project, and they fell into going to the prom together without really talking about it much, because she was such a laugh.
    I expect you to take care of him tonight, his mother blurted. I expect you to make sure, she was telling Lily, that nothing bad happens to him or to you. I trust you in this. Do you think you're able to do that? It was a bizarrely sexist thing for his mother to say. Stella had gone to her prom in a dress that had been strategically ripped and torn, a pair of army boots. It had been necessary to make sure neither of the grandmothers heard about it.
    Lily's face instantly became the way Lily's face usually was, full of being up for anything. Her face had been as still as a lake, and glassy with the too-dramatic makeup, because she seemed to think she owed something to the dress, which had cost a fortune of her own money from working the counter at Tims. But his mother had busted out of the doleful stillness that had taken over her face, and instead here was his mother's ordinary rapacious need for intimacy or cutting the crap.
    That's exactly what I plan to do, Lily said. I'm going to keep an eye, don't you worry. I has every intention of making sure we has a good time.

This Is How We Love by Lisa Moore


Now we line up in cars at the drive-thru as we double-double down,
while our ahistorical children play under the backyard tree
(those darling digital citizens of our wombs).
Meanwhile, broadcast across glass, phosphor, cerium, plastics, copper,
tin, zinc, silicon, gold & chromium: The spectacle of human migration,
displacement as entertainment industry,
kitten videos as news of the day,
plus the variation, mutation, competition & inheritance of memes
despair has become --
"things have to be named properly."

from 'Nothing Beside Remains'
Nothing Will Save Your Life by Nancy Jo Cullen


    Inside the Tim Hortons, a cat is the least of anyone's worries. It's packed in there. One side of the eating area has been completely taken over by homeless people. They're spread out on the benches and on the floor, under tables and in the aisles. Prairie and I find a spot under one of the only free tables and settle in. I use my backpack as a pillow. It's uncomfortable as fuck and the floor is sticky, covered in something that's definitely not double-double. But shit, it could be, too. At this point, I'm tired and my mind is clogged from eating only scraps and smoking cigarettes all day. I put Prairie right next to me. I'm not worried about anyone taking her since everyone here has their own problems to deal with. At this moment, we all just want to get through the night and this cat is the only thing bringing me any sort of comfort.
    I never truly sleep in a situation like this. I'll get a bit of rest and then I'm awake again, constant vigilance, you know. Never comfortable. Cold and sticky, fluorescent lights burning down, and a stream of people from the university hospital and kids from the residence buildings coming in for coffees and Timbits. They all avoid looking at our little camp. Which is probably for the best, as I don't want to see anyone I might be in a class with. It's already embarrassing enough having a cat in class. Now I have a cat and I'm sleeping on the floor of the Tim Hortons. Classic fuck-up right here.

Avenue of Champions: A Novel by Conor Kerr


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

June 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Links

Best books of June:

Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory by Sarah Polley

Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser

Woman Running in the Mountains by Yuko Tsushima

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir by Harvey Fierstein; audiobook read by the author

Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

Did not finish:

Weekly Reading Wrap-Ups on Booktube:

Other videos I uploaded in June:

Saturday, June 4, 2022

May 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Links

10 Best Books of May:

Companion Piece by Ali Smith

Buffalo Is the New Buffalo: Stories by Chelsea Vowel

Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby, audiobook read by the author

Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy by Martin Gayford

When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O'Neill

No One Else by R Kikuo Johnson

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in her Head by Warsan Shire

Personal Attention Roleplay: Stories by Helen Chau Bradley

In the Company of Men by Veronique Tadjo, translated by John Cullen

Heaven No Hell by Michael DeForge

Three that I abandoned:

Links to my May booktube videos:

Friday Reads May 6

Friday Reads May 13

Friday Reads May 20

Saturday Reads May 21 All Indigenous Edition

Friday Reads May 27

Stand with Trans Kids Tag

World Migratory Bird Day (books)

Soggy Expat Book Maniac Random Questions Tag

World Parrot Day (books)

Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Links

Best of April:

Best Book OverallHumankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman, translation by Erica Moore and Elizabeth Manton; audiobook read by Thomas Judd

Best Canadian Book: Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu (LGBTQ; graphic novel)

Best Graphic Novel: Stone Fruit by Lee Lai (LGBTQ; lives in Canada)

Best Graphic Nonfiction: Welcome to the New World by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan

Best Fiction in Translation: Dog Park by Sofi Oksanen, translation by Owen Frederick Witesman

Best Audiobook: The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, read by a full cast

Best Speculative Fiction: Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, audiobook read by Xe Sands (LGBTQ)

Best Short Stories: Gordo by Jaime Cortez (LGBTQ)

Best Mystery: What's the Matter with Mary Jane? by Candas Jane Dorsey (LGBTQ; Canadian)

Best Nonfiction: Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari, audiobook read by the author (LGBTQ)

Best Essays: People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn, audiobook read by the author

Best Picture Book Overall: The Balcony by Melissa Castrillon

Best Picture Book in Translation: Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch

Best LGBTQ Picture Book: Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild and Charlene Chua

Best Art Book: Original Sisters: Portraits of Tenacity and Courage by Anita Kunz (Canadian)


Friday Reads April 1

International Children's Book Day - Julie Flett Spotlight

Shawn and Lindy's Excellent Read-Aloud Adventure

LGBTQ Picture Books

Friday Reads April 8

More Picture Books!

Picture This Book Tag

Friday Reads April 15

Retro Graphic Design in Picture Books

Cookbook Review: The Flavor Equation

Friday Reads April 22

Tough Topics in Children's Picture Books

Wordless Picture Books

Friday Reads April 29

These are the three books I started but gave up on in April:

March 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Links

Best of March:

Overall Best Book: The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translation by Jennifer Croft, audiobook read by Allen Lewis Rickman and Gilli Messer

Best Short Story, audio format: Recitatif by Toni Morrison, introduction by Zadie Smith, audiobook read by Zadie Smith and Bahni Turpin

Best Short Stories: Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (LGBTQ)

Best Nonfiction: The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth by Ben Rawlence, audiobook read by Jamie Parker

Best Youth Nonfiction: All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

Best Middle Grade Fiction: Robber Girl by Franny Billingsley

Best Picture Book Overall: Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Best Picture Book in Translation: Moon Pops by Heena Baek, translation by Jieun Kiaer

Best Graphic Nonfiction: Grass by Keum Suk Gentry-Kim, translated by Janet Hong

Best Graphic Novel: Descender, Volume 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Best YA: Heartstopper, Volume 4 by Alice Oseman (LGBTQ; graphic novel) 

Best Mystery: Elena Knows by Claudia Pineiro, translation by Frances Riddle

Best Cookbook: The Korean Vegan: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen by Joanne Lee Molinaro

Best Survival Story: Cove by Cynan Jones

Best Speculative Fiction: Migration by Charlotte McConaghy

Monday, February 28, 2022

February 2022 Reading Stats and Booktube Video Links

Best of February:

Overall Best Book: Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper (Picture Book)

Best Poetry: The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas (Canadian; LGBTQ)

Best Literary Fiction: Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Best Graphic Novel Series: Descender Vol 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen (Canadian)

Best Essays: 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next by Jeanette Winterson (LGBTQ)

Best Indigenous Fiction: Home Waltz by GA Grisenthwaite (Canadian)

Best Indigenous Graphic Novel: Borders by Thomas King and Natasha Donovan (Canadian)

Best Indigenous YA: The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley, audiobook read by Isabella Star LaBlanc

Best LGBTQ Memoir: Lost and Found by Kathryn Schulz, audiobook read by the author

Best Fiction Audiobook: The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton, read by a full cast

Best Nonfiction Audiobook: Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit, read by the author

Best Canadian Nonfiction: Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism and the Rise of Racist Nationalism by Harsha Walia, audiobook read by Cindy Kay 

Best Graphic Nonfiction: The Black Panther Party by David F Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson

Best Canadian Graphic Novel: Fictional Father by Joe Ollman 

Best Disability Own Voices: The Words In My Hands by Asphyxia (Deaf; LGBTQ)

Best Call to Action: What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri, audiobook read by the author

Best Reread: Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, translation by Noah Stollman (graphic novel)

Best Picture Books (3-way tie): The Rock from the Sky by Jon Klassen (Canadian); The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear and Gracey Zhang (Canadian); Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin

Best LGBTQ PictureBook (French language): Anatole qui ne sechait jamais par Stephane Boulay et Agathe Bray-Bourret

My booktube videos this month:

Sunday, February 27, 2022

January 2022 Reading Stats

I didn't manage a round-up post in January (mostly due to ongoing vision and other concussion-related problems), but here are my stats for future me to look back upon.

Best Books:

Overall Best Book: People Change by Vivek Shraya (LGBTQ; Canadian)

Best Poetry: Iron Goddess of Mercy by Larissa Lai (LGBTQ; Canadian)

Best Full Cast Audiobook: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, read by Prentice Onayemi, Janina Edwards, Dion Graham, JD Jackson, Allyson Johnson, and Lisa Renee Pitts 

Best Audiobook Fiction: Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, read by Traci Kato-Kiriyama

Best Nonfiction: The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson, audiobook read by Kaiulani Lee (LGBTQ)

Best Youth Nonfiction: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

I started a Booktube channel at the very end of December, 2021. Here are my Friday Reads videos from each of the four weeks of January, in which I talk about all of the books that I read each week:

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Reading Pie Charts 2021

According to Goodreads, I read 424 books in 2021, totalling 102,946 pages. Divided by 365 days, that looks like about 282 pages each day.

It's the time of year when I look back on my reading in order to better understand myself. What have I been feeding into my brain? This means... pie charts! Since I keep monthly stats, the yearly ones are easy to compile. 

My reading intentions tend to remain constant: to read widely, and to give priority to authors who are queer/Indigenous/nonWhite/Canadian/women. I will leave analysis for when my concussion is healed, but meanwhile, here they are.