Thursday, December 31, 2009


It isn't cool to admit, I know, but I love lists. And as this is the last day of the decade there are lots of lists out there to enjoy. Of course, some grumble that the decade doesn't end until next year (remember the same argument in 1999?). And there is no consensus on what to call the decade (the Noughts? the Oughts? the Zeros? the Noughties?). There is some consensus among the lists about some of the decade's best books. Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (2001) and Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) show up on many lists.
For my year and decade-ending St. Albert Gazette book picks I chose two books from a writer who I think really represents the decade: Dave Eggers. From the Gazette:
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius   In 2000, the decade began with the debut of an exciting young writer and his groundbreaking memoir. Taking the ironic tone of 1990s postmodernism and blending it with a new sincerity, Eggers told the stunning story of his life — his mother and father dying of cancer within a month of each other, and his struggle to raise his little brother alone.

Zeitoun The decade ends as it began, with an excellent book from Dave Eggers. Here Eggers uses narrative non-fiction to tell the moving, true story of one New Orleans family during and after hurricane Katrina. Adulrahman Zeitoun remained in New Orleans during the storm, helping other victims, but disappeared a week later.
Happy New Year all!
My thanks to Calgary Public Library Signal Hill branch for the wifi that enabled this post!

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Year that Follows

Every time I see a current ad for Westin hotels (above) I think of 9/11. I assume estin would rather I thought of one of their hotels (like the delightful Westin Maui in Ka'anapali). But the stock photo the ad uses of a boy running through beach grass is almost identical to the front cover of Scott Lasser's 9/11 novel, The Year that Follows. The running boy in beach grass reminds me of this spring's Beachgate, where a similar shot of kids on an English beach was used to promote Alberta (below). There's something irresistible about blond kids running on a beach to advertisers and branders!

I recommended the Lasser book in September as a 9/11 read for my Gazette newspaper book picks:
When a bond trader dies in the 9/11 attacks, his family must deal with the consequences in "the year that follows". His sister and father struggle with their grief and their relationship, but also with a mystery left behind: the search for an orphaned infant son. A moving novel of grief and family ties.
The Year that Follows is a real tear-jerker, so seeing the same photo used for an ad for vacations is jarring. It isn't uncommon for different books to share the same cover however. There are blogs that feature copycat covers, including She Reads and Reads, which pointed to a recent one involving Penelope Lively's novel, Consequences (below). Other sites are here and here. Chip Kidd is the king of book cover design - read about him and other designers here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Canada Reads 2010

The 2010 edition of CBC's Canada Reads was launched with the announcement of the books and their defenders this morning. The debates will run on CBC Radio from March 8-12, 2010. Once again Jian Ghomeshi will host.
This group of CanCon has a fair amount of EdCon, with one novel, Good to a Fault, by Edmonton's Marina Endicott and another novel, Generation X,  defended by Edmonton musician and Poet Laureate Rolly Pemberton (aka Cadence Weapon).  The Edmontonian blog calls it "Edmonton Reads" (The Edmontonian blogger Alexis Kienlen will be blogging about the Canada Reads at the Roughing it in the Bush  blog).  Here's  the 2010 Canada Reads books:
  • The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy. Defended by Samantha Nutt. A 1995 novel set in Vancouver written by a Toronto writer and defended by a Toronto physician/humanitarian.
  • Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott. Defended by Simi Sara. A 2008 novel set in Saskatoon written by an Edmonton writer and defended by a Vancouver broadcaster. 
  • Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner. Defended by Michel Vézina. A 2005 novel set in Montreal written in French by a Montreal writer and defended by a Montreal writer and critic.
  • Generation X by Douglas Coupland. Defended by Roland Pemberton.  A 1991 novel set in California written by a Vancouver writer and defended by an Edmonton musician. 
  • Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Defended by Perdita Felicien. A 1996 novel set in Nova Scotia written by a Toronto writer and defended by a Toronto athlete.
A solid list of great books. Maybe a little too solid, as they are all award-winners of various kinds and except for Nikolski they are all very well-known books. With Fall on Your Knees a 2002 Oprah Book Club pick I'm pretty sure many folks have already read the book. I'm surprised a little by Pemberton's pick, Generation X. Published in 1991 it is the moldy-oldy of this group, and for me it seems a book that had its moment in the sun but now seems a bit quaint. Coupland has just published a sort-of-sequel, Generation A, so perhaps I should have another look. Pemberton could have shone the light on an Edmonton book, like Minister Faust's acclaimed SF novel The Coyote Kings of the Space-Aged Bachelor Pad. Faust has been compared to Nalo Hopkinson, whose book Brown Girl in the Ring was a 2008 Canada Reads' pick. I'm sure there is a complicated process behind the scenes picking defenders, books and authors, with the requisite cross-Canada representation (it is a CBC production after all!), so I won't hold it against Mr. Weapon.
The Library has at least one copy of each book at present, and we are buying more as demand requires.