Monday, 28 April 2008

Six Good Books While Waiting for the Top Ten

What are my ten favourite books? That’s a question I’ve been asked as part of promotional activity for The Violets of Usambara. There will be more about that later, but in the meantime I’ve been trying to come up with the list.. At the moment I’m rereading The Yacoubian Building by Alaa El Aswany because I’m leading a discussion on it at the Kirkland library on Wednesday. Delightful, and probably would make a Top 100 list, but it’s not the absolute best.

Here are few others that won’t make the cut either, but which should be recommended.

Most influential throughout my life: Little Women by Louise May Alcott. The first chapter book I ever read—took me three months when I was in second grade—but the moral questions it raises, its proto-feminism, and the way the story plays out against the background of the Civil War marked me indelibly.

Most moral but also sexiest: Get on Top by David Homel. The Messiah is a woman from the American South and she just can’t get enough. Serious, but you might not notice from the rollicking beginning.

Most troubling: Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. The war in Viet Nam, much drugs and sex, some rock and roll.

Three from the mid-20th century that are essential to understanding Canada:

Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan
The Tin Flute (Bonheur d’occasion) by Gabrielle Roy
These two were recommended to me during our first winter in Montreal by Joanne Burgess who was teaching English at McGill then. Must reads if you want to know the background to Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, she said. She was right.

But The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler also is required reading for anyone interested in the immigrant experience in Montreal and how it played out against the larger solitudes.

And that’s enough for this morning. I’ll have to do some more thinking. Will report back later.

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