Welcome to the May edition of Book Notes! This month, the staff at BookThug HQ share our current fave reads. Let us know if you’ve read any of these books too, and if so, what you thought of them. If you haven’t read them yet then we highly recommend you add them all to your TBR pile!
Jay MillAr, Publisher, is reading This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Astoria, an imprint of House of Anansi Press, 2017)
JM: This book got in my face a lot, and I hope it gets in the face of many of other people too. Like much of Leanne’s previous work, this book has a lot to do with the land we call Canada and the people who inhabit that land, and I think it is an important book to have arrived in the world during this thing we are calling Canada 150. My only beef is that I found it in the poetry section of my local bookstore. Probably it is there because white people like to classify things (Leanne may very well say this in her book), and when faced with a book that defies classification, even if there is no poetry in it like this one which contains stories and songs, it often ends up in the poetry section. But that also means that the discoverability of the book is lessened significantly, and this is a book that people need to find and read. Find it!
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books, 2017)
JM: This book is a love story about a couple who live in unnamed city in a country involved in a civil war. Terrible things happen and their love is intensified by these terrible things. Then they hear about the doors — doors one can walk through and arrive elsewhere in the globe, good places in the west where there is no war. And so they plan to their escape from the city they were born in. Thus Exit West becomes an immigrant story, one in which the idea of borders are both intensified and different from the borders we know today. And although the couple eventually pass through a door to arrive in a new country that seems safe, they become subjected to a different kind of war. Exit West is a love story and an immigrant story but it is also a really well-written book about the us vs. them world we live in today.
Hazel Millar, Managing Editor and Publicist, is reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (Penguin Books, 1979)
HM: The legendary British writer Angela Carter has been high on my “must read” list for a long time. This past weekend I finally delved into Carter’s most famous book, the feminist and gothic story collection, The Bloody Chamber. It consists of ten dark, sensual and fantastic stories which are based upon fairy tales and legends. The title story most closely resembles Bluebeard, while other stories are inspired by tales such as Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood. But Carter’s stories aren’t just modern retellings of these familiar legends. Instead they play with the conventions of the traditional fairy tale and, in particular, challenge the way women are represented in them. The stories explore themes of women’s roles in relationships and marriage, their sexuality, coming of age, corruption, and much more. We’ve so often encountered female characters in fairy tales that are depicted as weak and helpless, and in need of saving, but Carter’s versions give us strong female protagonists who aren’t waiting around for a prince to save them from danger, thank you very much. Instead, Carter’s heroine has a bad ass mother, with uncanny intuition and who can ride like the wind, and will arrive just in the nick of time to save her.
MS: The first sentence: “The end of the world is a seemingly interminable topic – at least, of course, until it happens.” The tone, scope and intelligence of the authors led me through this densely synthesized and urgently argued examination what ‘world’ means in relation to human agency – what it means now that we are on the verge of global apocalypse. The authors focus especially on the political ramifications of the Anthropocene developed by Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers, and non-European conceptions of time and human-ness of Amerindians). The book finds a crossroads of anthropology, metaphysics, ecology and history – a needed and scary place to be. It unsettled my world view.
JJ: I’m not reading Sarah Pinder’s Common Place, I’m rereading it. With a miniaturist’s wild precision, a soul’s loving, baggy capaciousness, and a bacteria’s inter-species generosity, Common Place is a lowercase book of quiet that takes an account of existence in the midst of 21st-century capital. This gently heretical book is formed of a single, long poem. And this teeming poem is a world of minute particulars that build into body, into bodies, tracing the continuum that is the body and world, world and language, language and world, world and body—I love this book.
Shayanna Seymour, BookThug Intern, is reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Harperteen, 2017)
SS: Everyone needs to read this book. Everyone.
The Hate U Give is something special. Originally, with all the hype surrounding it I didn’t really want to read it, but I bought it anyway and dived in. It is (so far) my favourite book of this year. It deals with police brutality, race, class and community. Starr has lived in a primarily black neighbourhood all her life, bad things sometimes happen and her community ignores them so that they are not “snitches.” Though, when Starr becomes a victim of police brutality and her former best friend gets shot right in front of her for doing nothing wrong, she has to decide if she’s going to stand up and be the voice her community needs to make a change or stay quiet. This book was filled with the richness of black culture, it had a strong family and community dynamic. It was phenomenal. Based ont he Black Lives Matter Movement, THUG was timely, moving and incredibly needed. Everyone read this book!
Melissa Myers, BookThug Intern, is reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press, 2015)
MM: Hazel recommended I read The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson when we were discussing some of our favourite books. The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir about Maggie’s relationship with her fluidly gendered partner and their experience to and through a pregnancy. Maggie explores gender, sexuality, and concepts of “family” in a thoughtful, passionate, and incredibly smart reflection on love and identity. I have really enjoyed this read so far (thanks, Hazel!).