Upcoming Books

List of countries that remain in Reading the World. Only 36 Left!

Read

  • Chad – Joseph Brahim Seid Told by Starlight in Chad (on order)
  • Tonga: Tales of the Tikongs by Epeli Hau’ofa
  • Saudi Arabia: Yousef al-Mohaieed Wolves of the Crescent Moon
  • South Africa: Niq Mhlongo Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree
  • Tunisia: The Tunisian Tale, Hassouna Mosbahi (Kindle)
  • Ukraine: Mesopotamia | Serhiy Zhadan
  • Uruguay: The Decapitated Chicken | Horacio Quiroga (Kindle)
  • Zimbabwe: Tsitsi Dagaremba This Mournable Body

In Progress

  • Uganda: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi | Kintu (in library)
  • United Republic of Tanzania: Abdulrazak Gurnah Desertion (in library)
  • Uzbekistan: Devil’s Dance (Tilted Axis Press) – on library order / also Hamid Ismailov The Railway (in library)

Next Up

  • United States: Lincoln in the Bardo | George Saunders (in library). OR Richard Powers The Overstory
  • United Kingdom: Belinda Bauer ‘Snap’ (Booker long list) Anna Burns (UK) Milkman OR Daisy Johnson Everything Under OR Robin Robertson The Long Take

On Order

  • New Zealand: Patricia Grace Collected Stories (library on order)
  • Yemen: Nadia Al-Kokabany It’s Just Love / Wajdi al-Ahdal. A Land Without Jasmine / Ali al-Muqri Hurma (library order)
  • Zambia: Kayo Chingonyi | Kumukanda – library on order (OR Malama Katulwende Bitterness )

Countries Still to Read! Books listed are just ideas – don’t have them yet!

  • Kiribati – ?? Islands of the Frigate Bird Darryl Tarte (*Library Not Available*)
  • Liberia: Saah Millimono Boy, Interrupted – Not Available?
  • Liechtenstein: Armin Öhri The Dark Muse – Not Available?
  • Lithuania: Breathing Into Marble by Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė OR Those Whom I Would Like to Meet Again by Giedra Radvilavičiūtė OR Tūla by Jurgis Kunčinas
  • Luxembourg – Nico Helminger? Robi Gottlieb-Cahen Minute Stories
  • Macedonia: Check out Istros Books…
  • Mali: Amadou Hampâté Bâ’s The Fortunes of Wangrin (on order)
  • Marshall Islands: Marshall Islands Legends and Stories
  • Mauritania: Moussa Ould Ebnou (French only?) / Mohamed Bouya Ould Bamba (self-published)
  • Monaco: Graham Green Loser Takes All ?
  • Palau: Susan Kloulechad Spirits’ Tides (unavailable?)
  • Panama: ?? Juan David Morgan The Golden Horse; Justo Arroyo; Carlos Russell (unavailable?)
  • Papua New Guinea: Sorariba A Medal Without Honour (Kindle)
  • San Marino: ?
  • Sao Tome and Principe ??
  • Senegal: Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter ?
  • Solomon Islands: Celo Kulaghoe ?
  • South Sudan: Julia Duany ‘To Forgive is Divine Not Human’ ?
  • Sri Lanka: Nayomi Munaweera?
  • Suriname: Cynthia Mcleod The Cost of Sugar
  • Swaziland: Sarah Mkhonza Weeding the Flowerbeds
  • Switzerland: Zoe Jenny, The Pollen Room or The Sky is Changing? Swiss Book Prize
  • Tajikistan: Check out Glagoslav Books
  • Timor-Leste: Redundancy of Courage | Timothy Mo OR The Crossing: A Story of East Timor
  • Togo: Tété-Michel Kpomassie An African in Greenland
  • Trinidad and Tobago: V.S. Naipaul A Bend in the River (?)
  • Vanuatu: Marcel Melthérorong Tôghàn / Sethy Regenvau Laef Blong Mi: From Village to Nation

Favourite Albums of 2017

Another year of discovering new music! Lots of Folk & Americana as always, but this year I also branched out to discover some different types of music. So you’ll see albums here that are hard to classify – new classical, new weird, drone folk, ambient – that mix it up a bit. There are artists here from Canada, US, Tunisia, Mali, Algeria, UK.

Along with Spotify recommendations and NPR Music, I enjoyed The Quietus and Headphone Commute for pushing my listening boundaries.

So here’s my list. I had to make some tough decisions to limit it to 20… so just left it at 23. It includes albums that I’ve had on high rotation all year, along with some recent discoveries that I’m just starting to listen to now. Feel free to listen to my whole Best of 2017 playlist on Spotify.

Happy listening.

  1. Rûwâhîne / Ifriqiyya Electrique – new discovery, crazy music from Tunisia
  2. The Underside of Power / Algiers – industrial electronics and gospel
  3. Elwan / Tinariwen – another great one from Mali
  4. Kidal / Tamikrest – call it ‘world music’, whatever, this one rocks
  5. The Navigator / Hurray for the Riff Raff – best US album this year
  6. A Deeper Understanding / The War on Drugs – lush, lyrical folk-rock
  7. The Nashville Sound / Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – just great songs
  8. The Wild / Rural Alberta Advantage – one of the best Canadian bands today
  9. The Weather Station / The Weather Station – gorgeous folk music
  10. This Sweet Old World / Lucinda Williams – a reworking of a classic, 25 years later
  11. We All Want the Same Things / Craig Finn – underrated, exceptional songwriting
  12. Not Even Happiness / Julie Byrne – quiet, beautiful songwriting
  13. Hallelujah Anyhow / Hiss Golden Messenger
  14. Postcards / Pieta Brown – quiet sometimes bluesy folk
  15. All American Made / Margo Price – the good kind of country
  16. Tradition & Public Domain Songs / Marisa Anderson – gorgeous electric guitar
  17. Waterworks / Glenn Jones – ‘American Primitive’ style acoustic guitar, live
  18. A Pink Sunset for Noone / Noveller – cinematic, hypnotic electric guitar
  19. Noplace / Aidan Baker – experimental ambient music
  20. Escapement, Feathers, Sketches / Poppy Ackroyd – neo-classical minimalist piano
  21. All My Circles Run / Sarah Davachi – minimalist experimental strings
  22. Hunter Huntress Hawker / Laura Cannell – more experimental strings!
  23. From a Room (Vols 1 and 2) / Chris Stapleton – classic, straight-up country rock

Favourite Books of 2017

It was another year of reading the world! (You can read my full Reading the World list here.)

I continued to work by way country by country, with lots of help from Waterloo Library and web sites like Arab Lit, World Literature Today, Culture Trip and Asymptote Journal. I deepened my appreciation of the translators, publishers, and booksellers who make writers’ work available to us.

In no particular order, here are my favourite books of 2017.

  • The Accusation | ‘Bandi’: This book was written primarily in the early 1990s by a writer in North Korea, and smuggled out only in 2017 for publication. It is apparently the only book to have come out of North Korea from a writer still living there. The stories themselves offer a fascinating window into life under Kim Il-sung’s secretive totalitarian regime. It is harshly critical of the regime and its cruel (and often absurd) impact on the lives of citizens. In this translation by  Deborah Smith (who also translated The Vegetarian), the writing is clear and precise.
  • The Queue | Basma Abdel Aziz: Both a dsytopian surrealist novel and a very real (and critical) look at life in the aftermath of Arab Spring and the rise of authoritarianism.
  • The Healer | Antti Tuomainen: An excellent mystery-thriller, made more interesting by being set in a near-future world beset by environmental apocalypse.
  • Eyes Full of Empty | Jeremie Guez: Like the best noir, it uses a standard mystery plot to take a critical look at society – in this case a contemporary urban France divided by race and class.
  • Landscape with Dog | Ersi Sotiropoulos: An exceptional collection of short stories written with precise, poetic language in which the threat of violence or danger lurks just beneath the surface.
  • The Polish Boxer | Eduardo Halfon: A beautiful short novel – almost a set of connected stories – that offer encounters and observations that explore how people search to make sense of their lives, the ways in which literature and reality intersect and inform each other, and the mystery of the human experience.
  • Heaven and Hell | Jón Kalman Stefánsoon: A beautifully haunting novel – an adventure story, a coming-of-age story, and a meditation on life – set in mid 19th-century Iceland that follows the life of a character known only as The Boy. 
  • Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash | Eda Kurniawan: A fierce, rollicking, fun book (despite the bad title) that also provides an angry commentary on misogyny and sexual violence
  • Iraq100+ | Hassan Blasim (editor): An eclectic short-story collection by Iraqi writers imaging their country 100 years after the US invasion in 2003.
  • The Trespasser | Tana French: One of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time,  exquisitely written, with compelling characters
  • A Horse Walks Into a Bar | David Grossman: In this this short novel, a comic delivers a stand-up routine to an audience that includes several people he new in childhood and what starts as a fairly typical, funny comedy routine turns into something else altogether. A brilliant tour-de-force, winner of the Man Booker Prize International in 2017.
  • Carte Blanche | Carlo Lucarelli: Like all great crime novels, this book uses a crime mystery to explore complex themes of society, politics, and relationships. Set in Italy in 1943, in the dying days of the Fascist government.
  • The Return | Hisham Matar: A brilliant memoir that feels like many books in one – political polemic, travelogue, family history – as the author explores the recent history of Libya through his tireless search for the fate of his father.
  • The Tuner of Silences | Mia Couto: This strange, beautiful book follows the story of a boy trying to reconstruct his family history after being closed off in a former big-game park for most of his life. Echoes of Cormac McCarthy with its bleak portrayal of a kind of post-apocalyptic world.
  • Knots | Gunnhild Øyehaug: An exceptional collection of (very) short stories. Read them slowly, and read them again.
  • Swallowing Mercury | Wioletta Greg:  Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2017, this wonderful collection of linked coming-of-age stories follows the life of a girl growing up in Poland in the 1980s. The writing, in translation, is beautifully understated and precise.
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing | Madeleine Thien: An epic novel that spans decades and continents, and leaves you breathless. Won the Giller Prize and Governor General Prize last year.

Here’s to another year of reading in 2018!

A successful start-up by alumnus Scott Wahl

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Many people associate start-up culture with business and the sciences. But no one at UWaterloo is particularly surprised to find so many arts people embedded within and leading various ventures. UWaterloo English alumnus Scott Wahl is a prime example as software director at Demetic. As a recent article in The Record reports, “Less than three years ago, Dematic’s presence in Waterloo consisted of three employees, setting up shop in a 4,000-square-foot space….. Today, it numbers more than 40 staff, and is preparing for its second physical expansion.” You can read more at “Waterloo’s Dematic is growing in rapid delivery world.”

Record article and photo by Brent Davis.

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My Favourite Albums of 2016

Another year of discovering new music! One thing about streaming services like Spotify – there is no excuse not to explore new music. Grateful to CBC Radio 2, NPR Music, and friends for pointing me toward music I would not have found otherwise.

So here’s my list. These aren’t necessarily the best albums of the year – David Bowie’s Blackstar for example is probably a classic – but they are the ones I listened to the most, that stuck with me, and that I think you should check out too.

  • Undercurrent / Sarah Jarosz
  • Azel / Bombino
  • The Very Last Day / Parker Millsap
  • Beyond the Bloodhounds / Aida Victoria
  • Spirit’s Furnace / Bones of J.R. Jones
  • Montana / The Dead Tongues
  • Walking with a Stranger / Escondido
  • Last Days of Oakland / Fantastic Negrito
  • Love and Hate / Michael Kiwanuka
  • Retribution / Tanya Tagaq
  • You Want it Darker / Leonard Cohen
  • A Sailor’s Guide to Earth / Sturgill Simpson
  • Emotions and Math / Margaret Glaspy
  • Cardinal / Pinegrove
  • Into the Light / Marisa Anderson

Now I need to head over to Mr. Tom O’Connor’s list and check out what I’ve missed!