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…

The Mediator Series – Meg Cabot

I met our sixteenth reader on a rare and well-deserved break from her postgraduate studies in law. It was clear from the beginning of our conversation that she was intent on building a strong case in defense of the oft slandered genre of young adult fiction. Her initiation into YA is attributed to late-night readings…

The Blazing World – Siri Hunstvedt

This fourteenth episode features an in-depth conversation about Siri Hunstvedt’s expansive and confrontational novel The Blazing World (2014). I sat down with our reader to discuss Hustvedt’s tragic heroine, Harriet Burden, and her strategic exposure of gender inequality within the art world. The novel is provocative, insightful, and draws the reader toward an understanding of…

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing – Melissa Banks

I met up with our sixth reader after her return home from work as a community librarian in the Markham Public Library system. (A truly dedicated book lover never shies away from a conversation about literature even if they spend each day embedded in stacks of books.) After an introduction to her cat and a…

My Grandfather’s Science Fiction

Our fifth reader is my grandfather. He has been an avid science fiction reader since high school and has held a subscription to Analog: Science Fiction and Fact since 1970. Countless copies of the magazine reside upon bowed shelves in his basement, and I am regularly asked if I have any leads on a loving adoptive…

Veronika Decides to Die – Paulo Coelho

I met with our fourth reader in a crowded cafe (pardon the occasional hiss of the espresso machine) to discuss the novel Veronika Decides to Die (1998) by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. Our reader, a recent recipient of a Master’s in Social Work, discovered the novel during a self-guided study of fiction featuring narratives of…

A Complicated Kindness – Miriam Toews

Our second reader selected the novel A Complicated Kindness (2004) by celebrated Canadian author Miriam Toews. We spoke about teenage reading, the author’s deft treatment of emotional trauma, and the profound empathy found in reading the right book at the right time. Our reader (a very talented writer) also emphasized the importance of reading in…

A Bird in the House – Margaret Laurence

Ah, the profound satisfaction of picking up the right book at the right time. The subject of this first post is the novel A Bird in the House (1970) by beloved Canadian author Margaret Laurence. This series of short stories chronicles a writer’s recollection of her childhood in the small fictional town of Manawaka, Manitoba….