In the past I would post reading lists early in the year and add to them as months passed but after a long bout of reading paralysis, I felt hesitant. Alas, I have been reading steadily (perhaps not at the Ravenous Reader level) and have been privileged to read/edit/workshop several pre-publication manuscripts of writer friends. Most of the books thus far have been recommendations, lenders, and gifts which have landed with great success.
The Ground Beneath Her Feet – Salman Rushdie
A Complicated Kindness – Miriam Toews
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
Nothing Man and the Purple Zero – Richard Scarsbrook
Daisy Miller – Henry James
The Remains of the Day -Kazuo Ishiguro
The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
Night Shift – Stephen King
Retro Vol. 1 No 3: Selections from Joyland Magazine
The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt
Nobody Looks that Young Here – Daniel Perry
The Sailor and the Pugilist – Nadia Ragbar
Stories for Ibarra – Harriet Doerr
Open – Lisa Moore
Dust to Dust – Timothy Findley
Post Office – Charles Bukowski
The Family Fang – Kevin Wilson
The Tale of One Bad Rat – Bryan Talbot
A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Rosie reads and reads and rereads in Etobicoke.
1. Do you have an early memory of learning to read?
No, I don’t remember learning to read, the actual process. I remember specific picture books I became obsessed with. I would take the same Halloween books out of the public library throughout the year. For some reason I just liked all the pictures of the witches. And then there was a particular Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I remember the pictures more than the words. My earliest memories of reading are more about the visual.
2. Have you always been an avid reader?
I think so. By around eight or ten I was constantly reading, pretty trashy stuff for the most part. I think I read all the Nancy Drews, and then there was some kind of teeny bop, whatever the teen version of salacious reading was.
3. How do you decide what to read next?
Sometimes out of desperation, whatever I can get my hands on because I’ve usually run out of things to read. Sadly these days, I’m often looking at my bookshelves to see what book I haven’t read so many times.
4. Do you have any reading rituals that you follow?
Lately one of my patterns has been to read in the bathroom, smoking while sitting on the edge of the bathtub.
5. What makes a great story or novel?
For me, there’s a couple of things. Definitely character, but I’m not sure if I can articulate what that is. I tend towards female characters, maybe because I relate to them better. I like books that tell me about the inside of a person and not just a quick moving plot. And the setting or creating of atmosphere is really important. I have to be able to see it clearly. It has to feel like a real place to me, which doesn’t mean the author necessarily needs to give me all the details, but they have to give me enough that I can continue to create the rest of it for myself. Stories that don’t address atmosphere at all tend to fall flat for me.
6. Do you have a favourite genre?
I’m not sure. I read just about everything.
7. Who was the first author you fell in love with? The last?
I think the first book that really grabbed my attention, that seemed really special, was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. That was my favourite book for many many many years; something about it just stood out for me as being in its own kind of category. I don’t know if there’s anyone I’ve felt the same passion for since. One author I enjoy reading these days is Joanna Trollope which I find kinda funny because I think she has a reputation as writing women’s slightly trashy fiction. I’m not sure where I got that idea, but she writes about everyday situations that really speak to me.
8. What classic or well-known book have you never been able to get through?
I did try Middlemarch several times but was unable to get past the first couple of pages. Nothing about it grabbed me.
9. What book or books do you reread?
I reread most of them because I’m always running out and have to have a book to read at all times. I read every Jane Austen novel every winter for probably ten years in a row, but it’s finally reached a point where they’ve sort of lost their magic. I do like to revisit books that I’ve enjoyed, some more than others. I like to reread Jane Urquhart. Yay! Canadian authors.
10. Do you have dry spells where you stop reading or read very little?
Very very infrequently, and a dry spell would be like two days or something like that.
11. How do you organize your collection?
It’s half organized and half disorganized. I have books separated into fiction and non-fiction (martial arts, natural healing, gardening, and other subjects). I did have a system where books were arranged alphabetically by author, at least for novels, but then I got too many books so as you can see they’re two rows deep and the alphabetizing got lost somewhere along the way.
12. Do you enjoy recommending books to others? What criteria do you use?
It’s rare for me to recommend a book. It would have to be something fairly specific and to someone who I have a good sense of what they like. For me, reading is more of a personal love, so I don’t feel a huge need for anybody to like the things that I read. Every once in a while, if something seems to speak to a particular person then I might say, “try this,” or “this made me think of you,” but as a rule, I don’t share the books that I love.
13. You host a dinner party for five authors (dead or alive). Who’s invited?
I don’t host dinner parties.
14. Do you write? If so, how does reading influence your writing?
Actually, I have a phobia of writing, which is why you’re recording this and will have to transcribe it. I did write when I was younger, poetry and journal writing, but any writing that may ever, in any way, be viewed by another human has no interest for me and causes great anxiety.
15. What are you reading right now?
This morning, I pulled five books off the shelf to contemplate which to reread.
Ravenous Reader is a regular series.