It’s been a long few weeks as the days get shorter and shorter. I’ve been feeling the lack of sunlight more than usual as the days cut to the quick. Luckily I was able to take advantage of the early snow and the dark evenings to get a lot of reading done.
Reading, like most things, gets easier the more you read. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably found that your cellphone takes up a frustrating (terrifying) amount of mental space and attention. Earlier this year, I was finding it really hard to read a full chapter of a novel without stopping to check my messages. One little milestone this past November was discovering how easy it was to read an entire book in one sitting without once looking at my phone. Maybe they were just engrossing books, but it was remarkably nice regardless.
These past few weeks I’ve been regularly drinking gyokuro, from either Cha Do Raku or Camellia Sinensis. I’m drinking a lot of this tea this winter that reminds me of the ocean and seafood. I know not everyone is down with a tea with this much umami flavour, but I find it irresistible!
The other day, while ferretting out some useful links in my bookmarks, I fell upon a poem by Emily Jungmin Yoon that I found particularly beautiful and à propos for this time of year and all my tea drinking: Between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, Today. It's dreamy, yet sharp.
And now, the books:
- Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq — I originally read this book in anticipation of Tara McGowan-Ross’ Indigenous Book Club at the Drawn and Quarterly at the end of last spring, and loved it. Reading it for the second time this past fall simply cemented my vast admiration for this book. The book is a full-bodied synaesthetic experience and quasi indescribable — but it is pure wonder to sink your teeth in. Tagaq breaks down genre, story, expectations, the very barrier between the mundane and the spirit, the idea of literature itself, in order to create a story that feels as grounded as it is mythic. It’s a real masterpiece, it transcends bookness and magical realism and autobiography. It is art. If you can, please read it!
- Lettres en forêt urbaine: le projet Xanadu by Bertrand Laverdure — This is a book of poems where each poem is a (love) letter to a different tree in Montréal. I believe many the trees are real, as I recognized a few during my reading (especially the trees in Percy Walters, Jarry, Lafontaine, and Laurier park). I especially loved the premise behind the collection that led me to pick it up: trees in urban spaces are political beings. (It might be fun to run around one day with the book and actually read the poems to the trees they are meant for….)
- Les brutes et la punaise: les radios-poubelles, la liberté d’expression et le commerce des injures by Dominique Payette — I heartily recommend this book of essays to anyone who wants to understand what’s going on in Québec right now. In particular, this book looks at the poisonous activities of talk radio in the province, how it has aided the dissemination of reactionary talking points and ideologies, contributed to the utter normalization of a racist and sexist climate in the province, as well as now become the propagandist mouthpiece of our increasingly repressive, rightwing regime. It also examines up close how the zeal for “freedom of speech” is smoke and mirrors, undermining actual frank communication and understanding and, well, freedom of speech.
- All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries #1 by Martha Wells — This science fiction novella is sharply (and twistedly) humorous and a treat to read. It came highly recommended from Moti at the Argo, and I really did love Murderbot! If you’ve ever read any of my other blog posts on artificial intelligence, you might remember in particular a blog post about ME Andromeda where I lamented about how Bioware's franchise represents a missed opportunity for actually discussing what it really means to be corporate property either through endless surveillance or because one is sentient. I’m really looking forward to reading the next instalments in this series!
- Le français est à nous ! by Maria Candea and Laélia Véron — This book examines the political, ideological and historical forces that have shaped the French language for centuries, and how truly loving the French language means we must take it back and not fear changing it. The book is well-written, engaging, funny, and very persuasive. Highly recommend.
As we approach the holidays I keep thinking back to the books from 2019 I’m going to want to reread again and again. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is one of those books (from my August #DrinkTeaReadBooks post), as well as Kai Cheng Thom’s I Hope We Choose Love (which I responded to in French in September). I discovered Becky Chambers this year and fell in love with her characters. A series of books I haven’t written about at all yet but which I finished reading in 2019 was N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. I’ve been itching to reread them before I can even muster up the courage to respond to it in writing. And, undoubtedly I am going to want to revisit Split Tooth again and again. I was already discovering so much more upon my second rereading, and finding the poetry easier to sink into.
There have been so many incredible books published in the last few years, it’s energizing and wonderful!
And, before I end the post, I wanted to ask: what did you read this year that moved you? Infuriated you? Bored you? And, do you have any recommendations or books you’d think I’d enjoy? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me a message on twitter, mastodon or instagram.