O Canada, I stand on guard for thee and yet I am sadly unfamiliar with many of the wonderful authors and books produced in my own backyard. My dearest friend, @librarikat and I decided in the Fall to make it our mission to read more Canadian Literature. However, it took some time to decide what exactly to read because there is a treasure trove of books just waiting for us to discover. Finally, we picked a few must-reads and let random.org decide the rest of our fate.
Without further ado, here is our CanLit 2014 reading list in reading order!
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Bristling with intelligence and shimmering with romance, this novel tests the boundary between history and myth. Patrick Lewis arrives in Toronto in the 1920s and earns his living searching for a vanished millionaire and tunneling beneath Lake Ontario. In the course of his adventures, Patrick’s life intersects with those of characters who reappear in Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning The English Patient. (Goodreads)
~ I read The English Patient shortly after seeing the movie and don’t remember much other than it was a little slow-going.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space. During this time he has broken into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, and been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft. The secret to Col. Hadfield’s success-and survival-is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst-and enjoy every moment of it. In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. (Goodreads)
~ We realize this doesn’t count as CanLit, but we really really wanted to read it … and @librarikat got it for Christmas.
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family, and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees that the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar. The world is in flux, and a new nation is about to emerge. (Goodreads)
~ Lots of buzz in Canada surrounding this book and many bloggers have good things to say about it.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
From Mordecai Richler, one of our greatest satirists, comes one of literature’s most delightful characters, Duddy Kravitz — in a novel that belongs in the pantheon of seminal twentieth century books. Duddy — the third generation of a Jewish immigrant family in Montreal — is combative, amoral, scheming, a liar, and totally hilarious. From his street days tormenting teachers at the Jewish academy to his time hustling four jobs at once in a grand plan to “be somebody,” Duddy learns about living — and the lesson is an outrageous roller-coaster ride through the human comedy. As Richler turns his blistering commentary on love, money, and politics, The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz becomes a lesson for us all…in laughter and in life. (Goodreads)
~ I’ve always wanted to read something by Mordecai Richler just because he seemed so intriguing in real life.
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Cat’s Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman—but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat’s Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life. (Amazon)
~ I’ve read a few of Margaret Atwood’s books and have always been fascinated by her vision.
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
Set in the first half of the twentieth century, but reaching back to Bavaria in the late nineteenth century, The Stone Carvers weaves together the story of ordinary lives marked by obsession and transformed by art. At the centre of a large cast of characters is Klara Becker, the granddaughter of a master carver, a seamstress haunted by a love affair cut short by the First World War, and by the frequent disappearances of her brother Tilman, afflicted since childhood with wanderlust. From Ontario, they are swept into a colossal venture in Europe years later, as Toronto sculptor Walter Allward’s ambitious plans begin to take shape for a war memorial at Vimy, France. Spanning three decades, and moving from a German-settled village in Ontario to Europe after the Great War, The Stone Carvers follows the paths of immigrants, labourers, and dreamers. Vivid, dark, redemptive, this is novel of great beauty and power. (Goodreads)
~ It just sounds like a darn good story.
Have you read any of these books? I would love to hear your thoughts.