This is a challenging set of essays published in 2014. Gay displays righteous anger toward issues like rape culture and sexual violence. Her writing is always provocative but also self-deprecating. Above all it is her honesty that is compelling. Comments on Sweet Valley High, The Hunger Games and her obsession with Law & Order (SVU) are delightful. She is very aware that her life (and opinions) is messy, full of contradictions and biases. It will be interesting to read follow-up essays in this era of #MeToo. Gay is an American cultural treasure.
Sometimes a book can provide a perfect reading experience, usually due to both content and timing, and this book is a wonderful example such a sublime event. Ms. Paul is Editor of the New York Times Book Review. This fantastic book is an autobiographical recounting of her love of reading. The “Bob” in the title is an acronym for “Book of Books”, a journal that lists every book (title and author) the she has read since 1988. A wonderful aspect of this book are the references to her philosophy of reading, and her motivations for choosing to read particular books at specific periods in her life: childhood, young adult, while travelling in France and SE Asia, and finally re-reading books to her children. This is just an exceptional book about the joy of reading.
A young Australian woman was on a Rotary Exchange to Iceland, where she discovered a story of Agnes who was beheaded in 1828 for alleged murders. This was the last execution in Iceland. The story is all context, life in Iceland in the early 19th century and the place of an independent woman, with issues of poverty and religion. HK was a participant in a Vancouver Word Fest session on archival research about 2 1/2 years ago that I attended. She talked about the issue of cultural appropriation, for example. This is an excellent debut novel, and my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that I read this book in Iceland!
This is a sequel of sorts to Bryson’s brilliant book about Great Britain, Notes From A Small Island. Twenty years after Notes was published, Bryson again travels over much of England and Wales to the northern tip of Scotland, often walking. His observations range from self-deprecating comedy to insightful and informative commentary. Bryson loves the sublime countryside so even his complaining is good-natured. This is a charming book.
This is a mixed-bag collection of Gaiman’s non-fiction writings: transcripts of speeches and addresses, introductions to books by favourite authors, newspaper reviews, and other articles on diverse subjects. Not surprisingly, he offers a passionate argument for the value of reading and the importance of libraries and bookshops. He was a precocious reader as a child, reading and then re-reading authors like CS Lewis. He also describes how reading some of the same books to his children has changed his perceptions. He also writes extensively about comics, aka graphic novels, which is a form of writing that has distinct and unique features compared to novels. So, there are some redundancies but overall this is a very good read with lots of favourite author recommendations.
Sarah and I were introduced to Tammet as an interviewed author at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival. Tammet is an autistic savant with incredible mathematical and linguistic skills. For example, he memorized the value of Pi (3.14 ….) to 22,514 decimal places and recited this in Oxford in a performance that was >5 hours. He also learned the Icelandic language in 7 days. He also has another rare characteristic: synesthesia, the ability to visualize numbers as colours, shapes and texture. In this book, Tammet describes his childhood as an “odd kid”, and his evolution to become an independent living fully functioning person who has a loving relationship with his partner Neil. This is a remarkable story.
Editors Note: Also of interest might be Daniel Tammet Ted talk “Different ways of knowing”
Most of you know that I rarely read non-fiction, but this book was a very rewarding excursion into the world of non-fiction literature. MacDonald has written a really excellent book with three interacting themes: (i) the human emotion of grief precipitated by the the death of her father, with a detailed description of her emotional paralysis; (ii) an intense human-bird relationship because she decides to train a goshawk as a coping mechanism; and (iii) an examination of the author TH White who had a tortured life and wrote a book about training a goshawk in the 1930s. (TH White wrote the exceptional novel called The Once And Future King, a book that I rank in the top-ten books that I have read in my entire life). MacDonald’s book is wonderfully introspective about both the psychology of humans and birds, and the physiology of birds in relation to flight. A section of the book about the shared responsibility of hunting and killing is truly remarkable. This is a great read.