List of countries that remain in Reading the World.
- Malawi: Imagine Africa 500 | Anthology
- Chad – Joseph Brahim Seid Told by Starlight in Chad (on order)
- Oman: Earth Weeps, Saturn Laughs | Al Farsi
- Saint Lucia: Neg Maron:: Freedom Fighter by Michael Aubertin (Kindle Free)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: The Moon is Following Me by Cecil Browne (Kindle)
- Saudi Arabia: Yousef al-Mohaieed Wolves of the Crescent Moon or Muniras Bottle; Raja Alem Dove’s Necklace
- Kuwait – The Bamboo Stalk | Saud Alsanousi (library on order)
- Lebanon: Jabbour Douaihy The American Quarter (library on order)
- Namibia: Ellen Ndeshi Namhila Mukwahepo. Women Soldier Mother OR Jane Katjavivi Undisciplined Heart (Kindle)
- Nauru: I Have Seen the Moon: Reflections on Nauru
- New Zealand: Patricia Grace Collected Stories (library on order)
- Montenegro: Andrej Nikolaidis The Coming (library on order)
- Morocco: Abdellah Taïa Another Morocco (library on order) or Driss Chraïbi
- Paraguay: Augusto Roa Bastos: Son of Man, I The Supreme, The Prosecutor (interlibrary loan request)
- Philippines: Ilustrado / Miguel Syjuco (library); Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan (Kindle)
- Portugal: José Saramago All the Names, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, The History of the Seige of Lisbon; The Anarchist Banker: and Other Portuguese Stories
- Republic of Moldova: Vladimir Lorchenkov The Good Life Elsewhere (New Vessel Press) library request pending
- Romania: Herta Müller The Hunger Angel or Land of Green Plums (in library)
- Samoa: Albert Wendt; Sia Figiel They Who Do Not Grieve (in library)
- Sierra Leone: The Memory of Love or Happiness by
- Slovakia: Balla In The Name of The Father (library on order)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis: Only God Can Make a Tree by Bertram Roach (Kindle) or Caryl Phillips Crossing the River (in library)
- Serbia: Zoran Živković The Papyrus Trilogy (library on order
- Somalia: Nuruddin Farah (in library) – Crossbones, Knots, Links (trilogy)
- Spain: Andrés Barba Such Small Hands (library on order)
- Sweden: Malin Persson Giolito, Quicksand (library on order)
- Syrian Arab Republic: Osama Alomar The Teeth of the Comb (library on order)
- Thailand: Prabda Yoon The Sad Part Was (library on order)
- United States: Underground Railroad | Colson Whitehead (purchased)
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: Paulina Pukytė Fake Rabbit – Not Available?
- Luxembourg – Nico Helminger? Robi Gottlieb-Cahen Minute Stories
- 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: Russell Soaba Maiba; Regis Tove Stella Mata Sara;
- San Marino: Republic of San Marino/
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Senegal: Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter (Kindle?)
- Seychelles: Glynn Burridge Voices (Kindle?)
- Singapore: Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe OR The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (library request) (Singapore Literature Prize)
- Slovenia: https://www.dalkeyarchive.com/product-tag/slovenian-literature-series/
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa: Marlene van Niekerk Triomf (in library) In a Strange Room / Damon Galgut
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
- The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- Trinidad and Tobago: ??
- Tunisia: THE TUNISIAN TALE, Hassouna Mosbahi, THE SCENT OF MARIE-CLAIRE, Hédi Kaddour’s THE INFLUENCE PEDDLERS
- Ukraine: The House with the Stained-Glass Window Żanna Słoniowska
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- United Republic of Tanzania
- Uzbekistan: Hamid Ismailov?
- Viet Nam
- Zimbabwe: Tendai Huchu The Hairdresser of Harare
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.
- Rûwâhîne / Ifriqiyya Electrique – new discovery, crazy music from Tunisia
- The Underside of Power / Algiers – industrial electronics and gospel
- Elwan / Tinariwen – another great one from Mali
- Kidal / Tamikrest – call it ‘world music’, whatever, this one rocks
- The Navigator / Hurray for the Riff Raff – best US album this year
- A Deeper Understanding / The War on Drugs – lush, lyrical folk-rock
- The Nashville Sound / Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – just great songs
- The Wild / Rural Alberta Advantage – one of the best Canadian bands today
- The Weather Station / The Weather Station – gorgeous folk music
- This Sweet Old World / Lucinda Williams – a reworking of a classic, 25 years later
- We All Want the Same Things / Craig Finn – underrated, exceptional songwriting
- Not Even Happiness / Julie Byrne – quiet, beautiful songwriting
- Hallelujah Anyhow / Hiss Golden Messenger
- Postcards / Pieta Brown – quiet sometimes bluesy folk
- All American Made / Margo Price – the good kind of country
- Tradition & Public Domain Songs / Marisa Anderson – gorgeous electric guitar
- Waterworks / Glenn Jones – ‘American Primitive’ style acoustic guitar, live
- A Pink Sunset for Noone / Noveller – cinematic, hypnotic electric guitar
- Noplace / Aidan Baker – experimental ambient music
- Escapement, Feathers, Sketches / Poppy Ackroyd – neo-classical minimalist piano
- All My Circles Run / Sarah Davachi – minimalist experimental strings
- Hunter Huntress Hawker / Laura Cannell – more experimental strings!
- From a Room (Vols 1 and 2) / Chris Stapleton – classic, straight-up country rock
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
- Iraq: 100+ | 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!
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!
It was another year of reading for me. I’m grateful our public library system – I borrowed many books from Waterloo Public Library and sometimes Kitchener Public Library too. I also received an Amazon Kindle for Father’s Day, and caught up to my octogenarian father with e-reading.
At the start of the year, I focused mostly on short-story collections. Short stories deserve much wider readership. In July, I started on my Read the World quest to read a book from every country in the world. You can read the full list here. In between, a sprinkling of mysteries and horror.
Here are my favourite books of 2016.
- Danny Lenin and other stories / Guy Vanderhaeghe – a Canadian master
- The Fishermen / Chigozie Obioma – exceptional first novel, set in Nigeria
- All the Light We Cannot See / Anthony Doerr – a true masterpiece
- Vampires in the Lemon Grove / Karen Russell – a short-story master
- Instruction Manual for Swallowing / Adam Marek – surreal short-story collection
- Get in Trouble / Kelly Link – fantastic stories that defy genre boundaries
- Fifteen dogs / Andre Aléxis – Scotiabank Giller Prize winner
- The Vegetarian / Han Kang – Man Booker International Prize winner
- Martin John / Anakana Schofield – Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle / Shirley Jackson – a classic
- The Golden Scales / Parker Bilal – mystery set in Cairo
- The Hatching / Ezekiel Boone – exceptionally well-written horror
- The Invisible Dead / Sam Wiebe – noir set in Vancouver
- Three by Atiq Rahimi / Atiq Rahimi – three short novels set in Afghanistan
- Chronicle in Stone / Ismail Kadare – early novel by Albanian master
- A General Theory of Oblivion / José Eduardo Agualusa – Man Booker Int’l shortlist
- Ghosts / César Aira – challenging short novel from one of Argentina’s top writers
- A Narrow Road to the Deep North / Richard Flanagan – Man Booker winner
- A Whole Life / Robert Seethaler – Man Booker International shortlist
- The Good Muslim / Tahmima Anam – wonderful book set in Bangladesh
- Turing’s Delirium / Edmundo Paz Soldán – reminds me of William Gibson
- Crow Blue / Adriana Lisboa – finding identity and belonging between Brazil and US
- East of the West / Miroslav Penkov – short stories linked by Bulgaria past and present
- In the Shadow of the Vanyan Tree | Vaddey Ratner – personal look at Cambodia
- Indian Horse / Richard Wagamese – a must-read for every Canadian
Here’s to another year of reading in 2017!