Summer Reading Challenges Completed

Well, I’ve done it. On Goodreads, in the CanadianContent group (also here on WordPress at A Year of Books), we were challenged to read a book from each province and territory in Canada over the summer. It could be a book based in that province or a book written by an author from that province. My initial list changed over the course of the challenge, as I found other books that I enjoyed or did not finish another and had to find something else to replace it. I discovered some books that I really, really enjoyed and a few authors new to me and I hope to read more by them.

These 13 books are also part of the #20BooksOfSummer challenge at 746Books. You can see my original list of  Cross Canada books here with others that I thought I would read to  make up the 20. The final list is a bit different.  I’ve actually read more than 20 since June. I have added a  list of seven more at the end of this post and call that challenge complete!

Here, then, is the final list with links to the reviews:

British Columbia:
Title: The Jade Peony (Review)
Author: Wayson Choy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Finished: June 19
Have I Visited B.C.?: Yes

Title: Prairie Ostrich (Review)
Author: Tamal Kobayshi
Rating: 5 stars
Finished: July 5
Have I Visited?: No

Title: Alone in the Classroom (Review)
Author: Elizabeth Hay
Rating: 2.5 stars
Finished: July 9
Have I Visited?: No

Title: The Summer of My Amazing Luck (Review)
Author: Miriam Toews
Rating: 3 stars
Finished: July 25
Have I Visited?: No

Title: The Only Cafe (Review)
Author: Linden McIntyre
Rating: 4 stars
Finished: July 17
Have I Visited?: Yes

Title: Barney’s Version (Review)
Author: Mordecai Richler
Rating: 4.5 stars
Finished: June 14
Have I Visited?: Yes

New Brunswick
Title: The Town that Drowned (Review)
Author: Riel Nason
Rating: 4.5 stars
Finished: August 16
Have I Visited?: Yes

Nova Scotia
Title: Ava Comes Home (Review)
Author: Lesley Crewe
Rating: 3.5 stars
Finished: June 11
Have I Visited?: Live here

Prince Edward Island
Title: Chronicles of Avonlea (Review)
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Rating: 4 stars
Finished: August 18
Have I Visited?: Yes

Newfoundland & Labrador
Title: First Snow, Last Light (Review)
Author: Wayne Johnston
Rating: 5 stars
Finished: August 22
Have I Visited?: Yes

Title: Rankin Inlet (Review)
Author: Mara Feeney
Rating: 4.5 stars
Finished: June 26
Have I Visited?: No

Northwest Territories
Title: Late Nights on Air (Review)
Author: Elizabeth Hay
Rating: 4.5 stars
Finished: August 30
Have I Visited?: No

Title: Gold Fever (Review)
Author: Vicki Delany
Rating: 3 stars
Finished: June 9
Have I Visited?: No

To finish, seven more books to make up the 20 Books of Summer Challenge:

Court of Lions – Jane Johnson. 4 stars, Finished June 25
Electric Shadows of Shanghai – Clare Kane. 4.5 stars, Finished
All is Beauty Now – Sarah Faber. 5 stars, Finished July 20
Persuasion – Jane Austen. 4 stars, Finished August 2
Lost in September – Kathleen Winter. 4 stars, Finished August 6
Holding Still for as Long as Possible – Zoe Whittall. 3 stars, Finished August 11
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy. 3.5 stars, Finished June 12


Book Lists

I make lists, especially when I travel. Endless lists. I like lists. I like book lists, too, because I’m always looking for that next great book to read even if I still have a stash of hundreds of ebooks that I haven’t read yet. Seriously. I have a mini library of ebooks I’ve accumulated from various sources over the years and yet, I still want more and often will buy a new book when I could have read one of the older ones for free. Such is temptation.

I blame book lists in part. I look through the book lists and read the summary of the story and add it to my wish list, my TBR (To Be Read) list. Goodreads is great for keeping track of books you want to read or have read. So is 50BookPledge. There are apps for that, and other websites, too. And you can keep a wishlist on Amazon or, in Canada, Indigo,  where you can then purchase the book. Kobo hasn’t caught up to that yet.  I keep a wish list on my local library e-site. I really should use that more often, it would save me a lot of money. More and more, newly published books are getting picked up by libraries which is a good thing.

Most of those sites above will have lists that you can check out for ideas and recommendations. Goodreads even generates a recommendation list based on books you’ve tagged as ones you’ve read or want to read. I’ve discovered some good books that way.

CBC Books, a division of Canada’s Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)’s website (Canada’s national radio and television stations) has some good lists too, obviously Canlit based. Here’s the 100 Novels That Make You Proud to be a Canadian. I’ve read just under 30 I think and there are some excellent books on that list. In a related list, they also have 100 YA books. The contents of both lists cover fiction and non fiction and even graphic novels and short stories. While we finish off with CBC, check out their general book lists for quite a few different lists, long and short including best sellers by the week and books mentioned on a couple of their literary radio programs The Next Chapter and Writers and Company, and you can listen to both of them online.

A couple of other lists I’ve seen lately:

50 Amazing New Books You Need To Read This summer  from a blog called Parchment Girl. There are some interesting books on that list, and a wide variety of sources with about 50/50 fiction and non fiction split.

50 Books Written by 50 Canadian Women of Colour on a website called Room Magazine. I applaud putting the focus on authors that don’t always get the mainstream attention. I have read a small number of books on this list but I’ve tagged quite a few more for the TBR list.

Then we get into things like the literary prize long list and short lists, Scotiabank Giller prize, Man Booker, Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction), the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards, American Book Awards, Hugo Awards (Science fiction), and so many more. Wikipedia has quite a good list of literary prizes by country and region which could keep you busy for days, browsing. All of those websites have the current year’s list as well as prior year lists.

That’ll do for now. I plan to keep a list of good sites like this for future posts! Or just, you know, make a note of them somewhere!

What year were you born?

One of the Bingo Squares I have to fill for 2017’s Goodreads CanadianContent challenge is to read a book published in the year you were born. I’ve looked up the lists of Canadian books and there’s not a lot that interests me. One book, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler would have been my choice but I read it last year! If I do stick to a Canadian author, probably I’ll be reading The Watch That Ends the Night by Hugh MacLennan. Apparently, I could go with anything published in the 1950s because the challenge says Year/Decade but we’re still pushing things.

During a discussion thread on the group the other day, someone posted a link to a slide show of the Most Popular Book The Year You Were Born, showing one for each year back to 1930. This will be American published books and ranking, which is obvious from the book titles, some of which are indeed classics.

There are 87 books on the slide show, going right up to 2016. I would suggest that the last 5 – 10 years wouldn’t be of interest to anyone born during those years, not yet anyway and they wouldn’t likely be reading the list in the first place but never mind. I’m being a bit pedantic. Of the books, these are the ones I’ve read:

1936 – Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell (one of my all time favourite movies. The book is great, too!)
1937 – Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (short book, more of a novella really, liked the movie better!)
1943 – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith (a real weeper, loved it and loved the movies (film and tv) as well)
1945 – Forever Amber – Kathleen Winsor (I can’t remember it well, but I’m pretty sure I read it. One of the first historical romances I think I read)
1948 – Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Hasn’t everyone read it?)
1952 – The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger (I don’t think I finished it. Didn’t like it)
1957 – Peyton Place – Grace Metalious (a real pot boiler soap type book, early “trash” reading and it was great! Due a reread, I think! It’s probably pretty tame by today’s standards but it raised a few eyebrows in its day)
1960 – To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (Very long time since I’ve read it. Might read again sometime)
1966 – Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann (another pot boiler, racy book, probably the best example of early “chick lit” aka “women’s fiction” there is. Certainly one of the most famous along with Peyton Place)
1971 – The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty (I read this many years ago, was probably too young but I seem to recall being a bit sneaky while reading it! I must have enjoyed it!)
1977 – The Thornbirds – Colleen McCulloch (every woman I know that read this book absolutely loved it. Soap story in Australia, romance between a young woman and a young priest at the heart of it. It follows several generations of a family and was probably the book that really sparked my love of the family generational sagas.)
1979 – Sophie’s Choice – William Styron (I know I’ve read it, but I don’t remember how much I may have liked it or not)
1980 – The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum (I really liked it, never read too many thrillers before that but this one was good. Read a few early Ludlums until they all started to become “samey”)
1983 – The Color Purple – Alice Walker (A modern classic. Very good book)
1986 – The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy (Liked it a lot as I recall)
1987 – Patriot Games – Tom Clancy (Quite liked a lot of the early Clancy books)
1988 – Queen of the Damned – Anne Rice (I preferred Interview with the Vampire and the Vampire Lestat, this was the third book I think, or the middle of the three but not as good as the other two for my liking)
1992 – Waiting to Exhale – Terry McMillan (Four women friends, all looking for love, all older than the age of 35. yes!)
1993 – The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller (Read this months after everyone else. Wondered why the hype? Boring book. Boring movie)
1994 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt (Scandal behind the posh doors of the Savannah mansions)
1999 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (aka The Philosopher’s Stone) – J. K. Rowling (another book I didn’t read until months or even a few years after everyone else was in Pottermania. This first book really is a children’s book but they became more and more grown up and while a bit long and unwieldy at times, were very un-put-downable)
2003 – The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown (Didn’t get more than about 4 chapters in. Dreadfully cliche writing, just couldn’t do it. Watched the movie so that I knew how it ended. it spurred on a raft of books with similar plots, some of which I did really like, such as Labyrinth by Kate Mosse)
2007 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J. K. Rowling. See above.
2010 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson (love it, really kicked up my love of “serial” killer thrillers. Great characters, flawed and fascinating. What Would Lisbeth (Salander) Do? Kick ass.)
2011 – The Help – Kathryn Stockett (Liked it, though it could have taken the subject a lot further I think)
2013 – Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (Liked it a lot, though I think her two earlier books were even better)
2015 – The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins. (Liked the book, but the movie really lacked something)

These are the ones that I think I’ll add to the To Be Read list. I do like to mix in a few classics each year and I think by now, anything before the mid 60s for the most part could be considered a classic.

1931 – The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck
1939 – The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (a “maybe” to be read, haven’t decided)
1959 – Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak (My birth year and I think I’ll read this even if it doesn’t get used for the Bingo square. I have a feeling I’ll like it more than MacLennan’s offering)
1961 – Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller (first published in 1934 in Paris, banned in the USA for almost 30 years.
1967 – Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin (Another classic or candidate for a modern classic. The movie was superb, it’ll be interesting to compare to the book since books are usually better)
2001 – The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen (looks like a good family saga, A have an eye on a few of his books, I really must get around to him)
2002 – The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold (Been on my TBR list for a long time but keeps getting passed over. One of these days!)

When I look over the list, especially the books from the past 30 years, I wonder if any will be considered true classics in another 30 years. Certainly The Color Purple should be on that list. It’s far more than just popular fiction, it’s an examination of a culture, a social commentary. I wonder if that’s the modern equivalent, in some ways, to To Kill a Mockingbird? They’re certainly along the same lines though two very different stories and told from different points of view, of course. I think perhaps they complement each other in a way, maybe because they are told from opposite sides of the coin.