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What have I been reading lately? Well, all kinds of books and I’ve been failing miserably at reviewing any of them. Is this because the majority have just been okay? Perhaps, more than likely it is the reason, but I will take the time here to talk about the books I’ve been reading and giving you some thoughts on them.

Again this year I am participating in the Shadow Giller, which shadows the official Giller Prize, where our own shadow jury chooses their winner the night before the official winner is announced. Last year was an exciting year as the Shadow Giller predicted the official Giller winner! It was an unanimous decision last year….this year? That’s going to be highly unlikely.

Because of this, my reading lately has been heavily steeped in those Canadian literary prize nominated books. Unfortunately for me I haven’t been overly excited about any of the books on this year’s Giller Prize Shortlist, so it’s been “meh” reading lately. Last year’s winner, How to Pronounce Knife, held such an excellent reading experience, I honestly still think about the stories in this collection to this day, but this year I am struggling. I am apathetic about all of the books on the Shortlist.

I am currently reading the final book I have left to read in the 5-book shortlist, The Listeners. I’m about 24 pages in and as with the other 4, I feel completely ambivalent about it. I have no desire to pick it up, indeed it’s been sitting there unopened for the past 3 days. I only have 4 days left with it too as it is a high demand book from the library.

Of these five books above, my choice for this year’s Giller Prize would be What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad. It was the most compelling for me, felt the most “weighty” and worthy of one of the world’s richest literary prizes. I know my fellow Shadow juror Lindy is not of the same opinion as me, so this year’s debate leading up to our choice for winner will be different from last year’s that’s for sure!

The story in What Strange Paradise is about the refugee crisis as seen through the eyes of a young boy. I pulled this quote because it conveys the weightiness, the politics, the “outrage of the day” that came through for me:

“Don’t worry,” the colonel says, patting the boy on the cheek. “I’m not your accuser. I don’t care what you are.”….”But you should know what you are,” he says. “You are the temporary object of their fraudulent outrage, their fraudulent grief. They will march in the streets on your behalf, they will write to politicians on your behalf, they will cry on your behalf, but you are to them in the end nothing but a hook on which to hang the best possible image of themselves. Today you are the only boy in the world and tomorrow it will be as though you never existed.”

The other books? Well, Lindy actually made a spot-on observation (it was about one of the books in the Shortlist) saying it would make a good book-club book. While she was saying that about only one of the books, I feel this is so spot-on for all of them (with the exception of my winning pick, in my opinion). Good books, yes, award winning books? No, not for me.

Most of the books I was reading were all for the Shadow Giller, but I did manage to read two others in between and those were absolute highlights for me, with one receiving an “All the Stars” rating from me!

That book? We Begin at the End by Chris Whittaker. This was a book I saw promoted and exclaimed about repeatedly, so it was one I bought as soon as it hit the shelves over here. Hoarder Elizabeth actually read it before me and kept saying, “This is such a Penny book” so I was really excited to get into it when I finally picked it up!

Oh my! What a book! Here is my Goodreads review:

All the stars for this one!
All the stars for the writing.
All the stars for the story inside.
All the stars for the characters, especially that pint-sized outlaw, Duchess.
Loved it. Loved it so very much!

The other book? Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night by Jón Kalman Stefánsson. Oh my what a gem of a book! Again, I’ll include my Goodreads review here:

This was wonderful. A complete gem. Writing so beautiful, and so humorous too. Therefore, the translation is gorgeous. Little vignettes of the everyday lives of this group of people in a tiny village in Iceland. Simply wonderful.

In terms of audiobooks, I have not listened to one since Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. I started Becoming by Michelle Obama in audio before Greenlights actually, but when I went to return to it, I just couldn’t listen to anyone else after McConaughey! (When I’m out walking I have now found I need to listen to high energy music over listening to audiobooks.)

The book I have up next following the Giller reading is a book that Hoarder Elizabeth said was going to one of her favourite reads of 2021. Our book club also chose it for our October meeting. That book is:Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi.

After this? My plans are to read the many books I’ve bought recently, all were by Canadian authors too, all are big chunky awesome sounding books (and none were nominated for big CanLit literary prizes like the Giller and the Governor General’s Awards!) I’ve got new Guy Vanderhaeghe, Ruth Ozeki, Wayne Johnston and Louise Penny! I look forward to digging in to all of these! Perfect wonderful Fall reading material.

What have you been reading lately?