Sunday, April 30, 2023

April 2023 Reading Stats and Booktube Activity

I went through a lot of books this month! Out of 51, these are the best (in alphabetical order):

A Is for Bee: An Alphabet Book in Translation by Ellen Heck

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades

Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke; audiobook read by Emily Tremaine

Old Babes in the Woods: Stories by Margaret Atwood

Permafrost by Eva Baltasar; translated by Julia Sanches

Remember by Joy Harjo and Michaela Goade

The Tender Narrator by Olga Tokarczuk; translated by Jennifer Croft and Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Thick Skin: Field Notes From a Sister in the Brotherhood by Hilary Peach

The Third Person by Emma Grove

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott; audiobook read by January Lavoy

Unraveling: What I Learned About Life From Shearing Sheep, Dyeing Wool and Making the World's Ugliest Sweater by Peggy Ornstein; audiobook read by the author

Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith

Welcome to St Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure by Lewis Hancox

What Feelings Do When No One's Looking by Tina Oziewicz and Aleksandra Zajac; translated by Jennifer Croft

These are the two I didn't finish:
April readathons on booktube:

Trans Girl April - I read 13 books by trans and nonbinary authors
Picture This - I read 14 picture books (actually more, but I didn't count them all)
People April - I read 10 books of memoir or biography, including the group read, The Five
Read Across Canada - Manitoba - I haven't yet read the one I chose (Wild Geese)

My goal to read from my own shelves: I read 4 (all purchased in 2023)

Booktube uploads:

Thursday, April 6, 2023

March 2023 Reading Stats and Booktube Uploads


Best Books of March:

Alberta Alone by Cora Sandel; translated by Elizabeth Rokkan

The Lost Century by Larissa Lai

Thank You, Mr Nixon: Stories by Gish Jen

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai; audiobook read by Julia Whelan and JD Jackson

The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World by Virginia Postrel; audiobook read by Caroline Cole

Antigone Rising: the Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths by Helen Morales

Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H; audiobook read by Ashraf Shirazi

Ma and Me: A Memoir by Putsata Reang

Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History by Lea Ypi; audiobook read by Rachel Babbage and the author

The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel, translated by Paul Wilson

This Strange Visible Air: Essays on Aging and the Writing Life by Sharon Butala

Booktube Uploads in March:

Books I Did Not Finish:

Monday, March 13, 2023

February 2023 Reading Stats and Booktube Uploads


Best Books of February 2023

The Outer Harbour: Stories by Wayde Compton
Highly imaginative, interlinked stories set in 2001-2025—styled as a radio transcript, journalistic reporting, real estate promotion, & a series of posters, as well as more conventional fiction narratives—that come together almost like a novel. Vancouver is a character in these stories that are mostly about biracial artists addressing racialized class conflict, anti-immigration attitudes, & police violence. Published in 2014, it still feels fresh.

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise
In this children‘s historical fantasy picture book, a small but plucky owl realizes his dream and becomes a knight. There‘s plenty of foreshadowing—dragon imagery is on almost every page—until Owl comes face to face with a massive dragon. Funny, sweet and inspiring. A Caldecott Honor recognizes the charming art, which rewards careful examination to find jokes and surprises.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus; audiobook read by Miranda Raisin
I had put off reading this because of the cover, even though it was on lots of “best of 2022” lists, including Barack Obama‘s. My mistake! Loved the main character so much! And the humour. And the early 60s setting. And the clever dog. And the fierce feminism. So good!

The Waiting by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim; translated by Janet Hong
In 1950 when the war started, people fled from northern Korea in such numbers and such haste that hundreds of thousands of family members were separated. This poignant graphic novel addresses that issue, and the sustaining hope that loved ones will once again be reunited. Two timelines: a daughter‘s present-day concerns for her elderly mother‘s wellbeing, as well as the dramatic events of the past. Stark, expressive black and white art.

How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler; audiobook read by the author
Ed Yong calls Sabrina Imbler‘s queer memoir “transcendental.” I agree. I love the way this nonbinary Chinese American science journalist filters fascinating aspects of sea creatures through a personal lens. They are full of wonder for the natural world, and can also make correlations to their own issues relating to such things as body image, autonomy, adaptability, racism, street safety, and a sense of community.

How Not to Spill by Jessica Johns
I first read this in 2020 and wrote: Nêhiyaw (Cree) writer Jessica John‘s‘ first poetry collection is only 40 pages, so it didn‘t take long for me to read through it twice. And I will read through it again, because I can‘t get enough. “My ceremony is facetiming my nieces & nephew every sunday.” From badass grandmothers to dreams about MySpace, love letters, warnings and doorways: these are poems about holding on to joy and beauty no matter what. 
I picked it up again before reading Johns' debut novel, Bad Cree.

A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis by Vanessa Nakate
Part memoir, part manifesto: Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate addresses this book mainly to youthful readers, but I found it inspiring. Courage is contagious. She shares her experiences with burnout, racism (cropped out of an AP photo when she attended a conference in Switzerland) & overcoming her own shy awkwardness. Her delivery is earnest, there‘s an impressive array of facts, and there are concrete suggestions for individual actions.

The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz; audiobook read by Emily Lawrence
A refreshing change for me: the idea that humans will still be around in 59,000 AD, working to keep all living things in balance on a terraformed planet. Very queer, anti-capitalist, uplifting solarpunk, told in three interconnected novellas over a vast timespan. Audiobook read by Emily Lawrence includes music and other sounds. 

Frizzy by Claribel Ortega and Rose Bousamra
This wonderful graphic novel for children addresses systemic racist bias towards “good” hair by presenting a wholly sympathetic character, Marlene, who hates the weekly salon visits her mother deems necessary in order to straighten her wild curls. The tone of the narrative is humorous (despite serious topics), the resolution is celebratory, the characterization is relatable and the vibrant art is very appealing.

Sometimes They Sang by Helen Potrebenko
This had been sitting on my shelves unread and so I picked it up for the Read Across Canada Challenge. So glad that I did! Witty, fiercely feminist and oriented towards workers' rights. It was published in 1986 and stands up well to the test of time.

Man Made Monsters by Andrea Rogers; audiobook read by DeLanna Studi and Lane Factor
18 loosely interconnected stories touch on incidents across 200 years in a Cherokee family—beginning in 1839 and ending in 2039. Each one has a monstrous or horror element (vampire, werewolf, medical experimentation, ghosts, zombies, deer woman or other supernatural creatures). Author Andrea Rogers is queer and Cherokee. Her bracing stories have queer characters and address Indigenous issues like forced relocation, residential schools and MMIW.

The Sentimentalists by Joanna Skibsrud
“I don‘t believe in ghosts. I just think about them sometimes.” This is a haunting, lyrical, fragmented novel about history and how trauma affects subsequent generations. Napoleon is a veteran of the Vietnam war. In the final year of his life, his daughter seeks to know him better, and what happened when he was a soldier. There are no clear answers, but the emotional resonance rang through me like a bell.

Homie by Danez Smith
I reread this nonbinary poet's collection for Feminist Book Club, having previously read it in March 2020. This time I had a deeper appreciation and understanding. Smith expresses rage at the injustices in society and also celebrates the joy of being part of a Black queer community.

The Talk by Alicia Williams and Briana Mukodiri Uchendu
Jay is an African American child, telling us about his life from early childhood into pre-adolescence. One day his parents & grandparents give him ‘the talk‘ —about the dangerous realities of racism. Afterwards: “The family reassures me that I‘ve done nothing wrong & no, I‘m not to blame.” Their “eyes say that I‘m the beat of their hearts” and “the joy in their smiles.” A powerful, important picture book with warm, poignant illustrations.

Booktube links:

Reading challenges, buddy-reads and readathons in February:

Black History Month - I read 9 books by Black authors
Book Naturalists Book Club - A Bigger Picture by Vanessa Nakate
Read Across Canada: Alberta - Sometimes They Sang by Helen Potrebenko
Buddy-read The Sentimentalists with Melissa and Sarah
Started buddy-reading Alberta Alone with Maya on Feb 9
Reading what I already own: I read 2 from my shelves; one was a gift more than 10 years ago, the other I purchased in 2022

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

January 2023 Reading Stats and Booktube Uploads

January favourites:

Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town, and the Road to Reconciliation by Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Douglas Sanderson
A breath of hope for the future of Indigenous-NonIndigenous relations in Canada. I want every Canadian to read this.

No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani; translated by Omid Tofighian; audiobook read by a full cast
I tried this in print last year but got bogged down in the extensive translator notes at the beginning. This time, I listened to the audio, performed by 10 different narrators, including Richard Flanagan (who wrote the foreword) and Omid Tofighian, who translated the work from Farsi. Kurdish Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani was illegally imprisoned by the Australian government. This book was smuggled out in text messages on a contraband phone. An AMAZING call for justice for asylum-seekers everywhere.

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
A supernatural mystery and a coming-of-age, set in a contemporary Haisla community on British Columbia's west coast. It's the third time I've read this and it gets better every time.

Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin; audiobook read by a full cast
The print edition -- which consists of a verse narrative composed in three long sentences, set within stylized collage art created by Jason Griffin -- was my favourite YA book last year. It's about a boy coming to terms with the challenges of our world, including the Covid-19 pandemic and police brutality against Black bodies. I wasn't sure how it would translate to audio but it works. It REALLY works! There are two performances, one by author Jason Reynolds, followed by a full cast version. The audio edition also includes a conversation between the two Jasons.

Foster by Claire Keegan; audiobook read by Aoife McMahon
A small girl spends the summer with childless relatives in rural Ireland. From that unprepossessing outline, Claire Keegan has crafted a perfect novella about family secrets and the acquisition of wisdom. Beautiful and haunting.

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us by Rachel Aviv; audiobook read by Andi Arndt
The connection between mental illness diagnosis and identity is explored with great sensitivity in this audiobook, beginning with the author's own experience of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at age six.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville; audiobook read by John Lee 
This epic fantasy is a wild and wondrous ride, fully deserving of the many awards it has garnered. I was fully immersed in a steam-powered world shared by humans, bird people, insect people, frog people, cactus people and conscious metal constructs, and their love, loyalties and betrayals. 24 hours in audiobook, superbly performed by John Lee.

Ten Days In a Mad-House by Nellie Bly; audiobook read by Rebecca Gibel
A classic work of investigative journalism: Nellie Bly writes movingly of the shocking abuses she witnessed and experienced during her time undercover in a mental asylum. It was 1887; she was 23. Once inside, she acted as she normally did outside, but every doctor dismissed her claim to sanity and attempts to advocate on behalf of patients who were being mistreated. Her exposé yielded an investigation and improvements, a laudable achievement.

Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah
I had this on my shelves ever since it made the Giller longlist, then was spurred to pick it up because it's in the running for Canada Reads. Wow! I fell hard for the wonderful central character, widowed Muna, who escaped the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s by emigrating to Montreal with her young son. 

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au
It‘s cold and rainy in Japan in October, where the Chinese Australian narrator is travelling with her elderly mother. “[Writing] was the only way that one could go back and change the past, to make things not as they were, but as we wished they had been, or rather as we saw it.” The simple, self-reflective prose style of this novella grew on me until, by the end, I absolutely loved it and the way it left me feeling melancholy yet satisfied.

Creature: Paintings, Drawings, and Reflections by Shaun Tan
A collection of essays and gorgeous narrative artwork from a prodigiously talented Australian artist, Shaun Tan. There‘s something for every reader of every age when you open one of his books, including this one.

The Call of the Red-Winged Blackbird: Essays on the Common and Extraordinary by Tim Bowling
The first 74 pages contain nine philosophical essays, including "Should I Really Read The Remains of the Day in What Remains of My Days?" The second part is a long essay (195 pages)--"The Hermit's Smoke"--about the author's conflicted desire for solitude. Edmonton author Tim Bowling is considered a writer's writer, meaning that his language is exquisite. I really enjoyed his  ruminations.

Waves by Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel; translated by Edward Gauvin
A graphic novel that sensitively portrays a lesbian couple and their anguish after a stillbirth, and then the subsequent journey towards emotional wellbeing, based on Ingrid Chabbert's own experiences.  

A qui appartiennent les nuages? by Mario Brassard and Gerard Dubois
Told from the viewpoint of a woman looking back on a traumatic time in her childhood during un unspecified war, this deeply moving Canadian graphic novel with vintage-style art captures the uncertainty of memories. When she was 9, she was afraid to fall asleep because every time she woke up, more of her world was destroyed. When she did sleep, it was always the same terrible dream of a line of people walking. Her family eventually joined the line. An English translation is now available. Age 9 to adult.

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington
Angela Joy‘s outstanding picture book biography and history book is summed up by the subtitle: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement—and truly does justice to its subject. Distinctive papercut art by Janelle Washington manages to capture the love, dignity and strength. Lots of helpful back matter too. Ages 8 up. Adult readers: this would be a good book to pair with Percival Everett‘s The Trees.

Pink, Blue, and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes by Elise Gravel with Mykaell Blais
This appealing Canadian picture book about gender stereotypes is well-suited to its audience: children from preschool through to Grade 2. Author/illustrator Elise Gravel received the Rights and Freedoms Award in Quebec for “raising awareness and popularizing complex and sometimes taboo subjects among children.” Gravel worked with trans educator Mykaell Blais.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
“I love goat! Let me count the ways.”
I love authors who sneak in some exposure to Elizabeth Barrett Browning to preschoolers.
As expected from this brilliant duo—Barnett and Klassen—this picture book retelling is hilariously clever. It follows the traditional pattern, with surprises. The convention of the troll‘s poetic manner of speech has him fretting over what rhymes with strudel. The trick played on him by the first two goats becomes, in the troll‘s mind, his own doing. Goat number three 
is astonishingly huge. There‘s another big, bigger, biggest towards the end. Etc. Kidlit fun!

Maybe: A Story About the Endless Potential in All of Us by Kobi Yamada and Gabriella Barouch
An award-winning picture book with whimsical, dreamy illustrations and an inspirational message for all ages. 

Still This Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Julie Flett
Buffy Sainte-Marie says writing the song that has been made into this picture book was like “taking photos with my heart of the things that I see on the reserve.” Cree-Métis illustrator Julie Flett has contributed her gorgeous collage artwork. Sheet music is included at the end. This book is a celebration of nature and community, and a treasure for readers of all ages.

My goals for 2023 include reading more from my shelves. In January I read 4 books that I had purchased in 2022 and 2 that I purchased this month, so I'm happy about that. I also reread one that was gifted to me about 20 years ago. Woohoo!

Another goal is to continue to focus on Indigenous authors. I read 9 books by Indigenous or mixed authors in January. Good job, me.

These are the two I gave up on, because, in both cases, I wasn't in the right mood:
Booktube uploads in January:

Book clubs and buddy-reads:

Valley of the Birdtail - with Kathy R
Monkey Beach - with Kathy R
Boat Number Five - with Shawn the Book Maniac
Homegoing (previously read, not in January) - Feminist Book Club
Braiding Sweetgrass, YA edition, plus Does My Body Offend You? - YA Book Club
How to Read Now (previously read, not in January) - Lesbian+ Book Club

Reading challenges:

Read Across Canada (January is BC + nature): The Call of the Red-Winged Blackbird. (Monkey Beach would have fit this prompt also)