Friday, October 10, 2008

What and Why?

How do you choose your books? This is a question that fascinates me, because reading choices can be so random--you like the cover, you receive it as a gift, you find it on a bus seat. Or else so intense--you follow an author's career for life, you become obsessed with a subject, someone likes something and is chatty about it, and suddenly half their colleagues, their family and their church is reading it.

Is this a marketing question or a social one?

I talk about books with everyone I know, and am thus rarely short on texts lent, recommended, reviewed or given. I also have the opportunity to buy books at readings and launches, which I love doing because then the author can sign it. I don't actually care about the signature, but I like the little personal moment when this person I admire looks into my eyes and says, "One "b" in 'Rebecca'?" (I am still looking for the one-and-only two-B Rebecca in the world, that started *everybody* asking me this.)

So basically, my book selections are a collaborative and somewhat random project of lots of people. In an effort to encourage others to make a similar list (post it on your blog and tell me! or put it into the comments here!), below are the last 10 things that I've read and why (list starts with what I'm currently reading and goes backwards in time, in case you care):

The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel, with Introduction by Lionel Trilling. I've been reading a story a week from this one forever. I first realized I needed to read Babel when I read Leon Rooke's fabulous Balducci's Who's Who, in which Babel figures as a character. I also know that Babel is a favourite author of my former classmate, Jonathan Garfinkel, whose book Ambivalence I so admired. So when I saw an old copy of my father's on a shelf, I picked it up and said, "Oh, can I have this?" (gotta love parents--who else's house could you do that at?)

Pardon Our Monsters by Andrew Hood. I caught a ride in the same car as the author, and he was very witty. I am halfway through, no regrets.

Nellcott Is My Darling by Golda Fried. Purchased at the Coachhouse Books open house, based on the fact that the main character and I shared some life experiences in common, and vaguely remembered good press somewhere years ago.

Songs for the Dancing Chicken by Emily Schultz -- Iliked her previous work (novel Joyland, editorship of Broken Pencil), we have a mutual friend that told me she is cool, then I saw her read the poems and bought the book.

The Withdrawal Method by Pasha Malla. Wanted to read it in anticipation of our shared reading at Thin Air Winnipeg last month, also was intrigued by the fact that the book was on the Giller long-list. [Aside: This year marks the first that I've even known what was nominated before the winner was declared, thanks to That Shakespeherian Rag.] Mr. Beattie's Canadian Notes and Queries review also piqued by interest.

Stunt by Claudia Dey. Saw her read, twice. That's it--she's a powerhouse.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. One of those books that *everybody* reads and loves and talks about, to the point where you feel like you've read it too. When I saw it at BMV for $4.95, I realized I hadn't.

Make Believe Love by Lee Gowan. I was walking past a bus stop when I saw a friend standing there reading a book with a beautiful cover. I asked her what it was and she told me the above. I said, "Oh, hey, I've met him a couple times, he's really nice. Is the book good?" She said, "Yeah, it's pretty good. Do you want to borrow it when I'm done?" I said yes.

The Hart House Review 2008. I picked it up at the University of Toronto masters in creative writing graduation reading, several of my friends from that class (Helen Guri and Laura Boudreau--you can't link to the individual pieces, but they are online) having wonderful work in the issue.

Split Images by Elmore Leonard. A used copy that my editor John Metcalf gave to me. He had marked out specific dialogue that he thought I would find a useful example for my own writing, but it's a *thriller*--of course I read it all.

Sort of random, huh? But fascinating--reading is such a social thing for me, even though it's actually done alone. What about you?

I had my eyes closed in the dark
RR

2 comments:

Ferd said...

I did it too! Thanks for the idea.

naya said...

Love this post! Will try to write a tweaked version of your list.

(And yes, I read and loved Dillard's The Writing Life years ago too!)