Asking for It – Louise O’Neill

Content Warning: Please be advised that this episode features discussions of sexual assault, rape culture, victim blaming, and uses language that some may find triggering. Now is the time for difficult conversations. We need to listen to voices that have long been silenced and challenge those who promote fear among vulnerable populations. This is particularly…

This One Summer – Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

When summer finally arrives in Canada, people walk around cities and towns in a daze. It’s as if we’ve all woken up on another planet and are trying to remember long-forgotten survival skills. Once the shock wears off, people flood onto patios and into parks to pay homage to the sun and to melt the…

The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Grab your best walking stick, find a supply of lembas bread, brush up on your Elvish dialects, and join me on a journey through Middle-earth with our twenty-sixth reader. After decades of composition and revision, The Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) between July…

The Botanist and the Vintner – Christy Campbell

I think it’s fair to assume that at some point many of you have sipped a glass of wine, nodded your head solemnly, and murmured: “Mmm. Yes, that’s good.” Whether you’re under the watchful eye of an eager waiter or in hearing distance of someone you want to impress, the appearance of connoisseurship in this…

Middlemarch – George Eliot

Ah, Victorian fiction; lengthy narratives, plots that may involve the return of at least one character from the dead, and the frequent determination of a woman’s character based on her gaze/finger slenderness. I admire Victorian authors for their commitment to realism and their vital reflections upon the complexity of human nature amid sociocultural change. When…

Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton

I met our twentieth reader on a bright morning after a heavy snowfall. We cleared off a bench overlooking some subway tracks, buttoned up our coats a little tighter, and began a conversation about Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country (1948). Paton’s eloquent advocacy for racial equality and his depiction of the devastating consequences of…

The Holy Terrors – Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau was a true Jacques-of-all-trades. Throughout his life and career he garnered both critical and popular acclaim as a filmmaker, playwright, designer, author, and poet. His inner circle of friends and collaborators included Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Coco Chanel, Eric Satie, and Marlene Dietrich. Cocteau penned Les Enfants Terribles (1929) during a week of…

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) often catches readers off guard. Centuries of stage and screen adaptations have resulted in a game of interpretative broken telephone that distances us from the original narrative’s poignant reflections on human nature. Our eighteenth reader studied the novel as a high school student and as an undergraduate. We sat down to…

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies – Jared Diamond

In this seventeenth episode I make a new friend, we grab some beer, and sit down to discuss Jared Diamond’s deconstruction of 13,000 years of human history, the spread of colonialism, and racial exceptionalism in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1997). This ambitious work of non-fiction quickly became an international bestseller…