I have very few hobbies. I’ve never been even the tiniest bit athletic. I “can” sew, draw, and play the piano, but none of them well enough that it gives me pleasure to do so regularly… and green things wither and die when I approach them. I love to cook, to drink wine, and love to travel, but there’s only so much cooking you can do for two people, I’ve gotta keep the wine “hobby” under control, and right now there is no travel happening. I also really enjoy blogging, but that requires a topic! (So thanks … or blame … for this one goes to our wonderful sometime landlord Carm.)
Fortunately, I have always loved reading. The school library was my favourite hangout, and discovering new authors and new genres gave me as much pleasure as others got from winning trophies. Reading was something I could do anywhere, for any amount of time, and there was always a book in my shoulder bag.
At around the same time as both our boys started school full time, and I started working in the education system, Ted began working full time for Random House of Canada (now Penguin Random House), one of the world’s premiere publishing houses. One of the employee perks was access to new publications at a discount, as well as an annual employee book sale. It didn’t take long for our house to fill up with books – for the boys and for me. (Before downsizing, we had completely filled ten 6 foot tall x 3 foot wide bookcases, 7 of which crowded the pool table area in our rec room, making billiards shots quite challenging.) As the boys grew and became more and more independent, the after-work hours spent being a Beaver/Cub leader, acting as team mom/scorekeeper at the boys’ baseball and soccer games, and driving them to and from part-time jobs turned into “me time”, which most often meant finding a quiet spot to read.
At various times over the years, work or family commitments have meant fewer hours of reading solitude, but 2020 has given me ample opportunity to return to book-bingeing. When we returned to Collingwood at the end of March, our library was closed while the town, and our province, figured out how to safety open public spaces during a pandemic. I had a few books loaded on my iPad, but I much prefer holding a physical book, so I borrowed some paperbacks from my daughter-in-law, who reads mostly romance fiction. That’s not my favourite genre, but beggars can’t be choosers. In July, our library re-opened for curbside pickup: I can browse the stacks virtually, place holds on-line, and the library staff let me know via email when my choices become available for pickup. In past years, I always enjoyed perusing the curated new releases and “must reads” displayed in the library – now I peruse the on-line newsletter highlighting new arrivals. It’s not quite the same, but it’s working pretty well.
This morning I started my 47th library book since July 8th, (61st book overall) which means I am averaging about 3 books per week. Some days I devour a book in a single marathon sitting; other days I slide down the Facebook/PuzzlePage/CandyCrush wormhole and don’t read at all; most days I read for a couple of hours. I read fast – for enjoyment, not retention.
Not every book is a great recommendable read, but I only once failed to finish a book because I found it so unenjoyable that I just couldn’t continue.
The list is LOOOOONG, even without including the romances, which I read and promptly forgot, so I’ll begin with the Coles Notes version (remember Coles Notes?), and just give you my “top 10”. The next blog comprises the complete list, in alphabetical order, with (very) short reviews.
Favourite book overall this year: Ellie and the Harpmaker, by Hazel Prior
Favourite Canadian classic: Not Wanted On The Voyage, by Timothy Findley
Most interesting cultural experience: Latitudes of Longing, by Shubhangi Swarup
Favourite memoir: Educated, by Tara Westover
Favourite WWII era book: City of Women, by David R. Gillham, closely followed by Gone to Soldiers, by Marge Piercy.
Favourite Victorian/Gilded Age era book: The Unsuitable, by Molly Pohlig
Favourite mystery/detective book: The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Favourite Canadian author book: Last Seen, by Matt Cohen
Made me laugh the most: The Big Door Prize, by M.O.Walsh
Don’t bother (in my opinion): Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, by Megan Gail Coles
If you’re interested in the rest of what I read, and what I thought of them, please continue on to Episode 110 – 2020’s Books