My Year of Canadian Reading: what stories are you made of?

As I’m approaching an inevitable embrace of Canada (oh, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you!) I’m aware that I have very little knowledge of the Canadian literary tradition.   A poor citizen is one who does not know his country’s stories. It is how we speak to one another–a cultural physiography and language that connects Canadians together.  How can I become a citizen without learning this cultural language?   I thought a more creative way would be for Yukoners to suggest Canadian books that meant something to them–then it would be more personal.

So I went on CBC with Dave White and we came up with a plan for book suggestions–a reading list of sorts–so that I could become more literate about Canada.  We are getting great results, but please call in to Dave and suggest more books.  I’d like to build a canon, of sorts, of Yukon-suggested Canadian literature.  Right now I’m looking mostly for fiction, poetry and drama—but creative nonfiction would be appropriate too.  I built a blog to read and discuss this literature.  It’s called “A Year of Canadian Reading” and you can follow the link to see what I’m reading, what I’m up to, and what I thought about books you suggested.  Follow along if you like.  Read them with me.  I want to get an idea about Canada from its literature.  I want to understand you through your stories.

I don’t have any intention of stopping reading after the Year is over—but an actual year is a start.  I’ve read some Canadian Literature–Mordecai Richler, Al Purdy, Tomson Highway, Alistair MacLeod, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje (as well as some great science fiction and fantasy).  But I’m aiming for a deeper understanding of Canada through breadth and depth of your suggestions.

Let me know if you want to play.  Follow these links if you want to:  SUGGEST A BOOK FOR ME, or find out WHAT I’M GOING TO READ.

5 thoughts on “My Year of Canadian Reading: what stories are you made of?

  1. broadsideblog January 17, 2011 / 9:59

    Great idea. I am a Canadian living 22 years in NY, so have been slowly learning the US through its writers.

    Some of the Canadian names that immediately come to mind (yes, Farley Mowat, for sure), Gabrielle Roy, Morley Callaghan, Mordecai Richler and his son Noah, Margaret Laurence, Lisa Moore, Jessica Grant (the latter two are St. John’s NFld writers and terrific), Anne Marie McDonald, Ian Brown and Naomi Klein (non-fiction), Douglas Coupland….Lots to choose from!

  2. kerryoncanlit September 25, 2011 / 9:59

    May I suggest: David Adams Richards: Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace, Mercy Among the Children and The Lost Highway; Mordecai Richler: Solomon Gursky Was Here, Barney’s Version, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz; Timothy Taylor: Stanley Park; Joe Fiorito: The Song Beneath the Ice and The Closer We Are To Dying; Guy Vanderhaege: The Last Crossing, Susan Hay: Late Nights on Air and A Student of Weather, Anne Marie MacDonald: Fall On Your Knees; Rudy Wiebe: Sweeter Than All the World; Paul Quarrington: The Spirit Cabinet; Wayne Johnston: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and Baltimore’s Mansion; Richard Telecky: Pack Up the Moon; Yann Martel: Life of Pi; Michael Crummey: Galore and Steven Hayward: Don’t Be Afraid…

    That should keep you busy! :>)

  3. jstueart September 25, 2011 / 9:59

    Hehe. That will keep me busy, thanks. Now, it may not be fair that you gave me 21 books to read. Which ONE is your favorite? And why?

  4. jstueart September 25, 2011 / 9:59

    But I like your blog! I can see that I’ll be reading and digesting a few of your reviews as well.

  5. kerryoncanlit September 25, 2011 / 9:59

    I’m sorry…ONE is not possible! However, after an epic struggle, I find I might narrow the field to three.

    1. David Adams Richards: Mercy Among the Children — I like almost everything he has ever done, plus he tells very funny stories, including one about a visit to Toronto to receive some major award (probably the Giller) during which he managed to accidently set himself on fire, not once, but twice. I admire this book because of his considerable insight into human motivation, his love of the underdog and his ability to lead the reader through a deeply philosophical reading experience so adroitly and so simply.

    2. Wayne Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams because of its fabulous characters, and because it helped me understand a part of the country in a way that would not otherwise have been possible.

    3. Michael Crummey: Galore. I think it’s a masterpiece. And, if more justification is needed, because it understands so well the Irish love of language — in it’s maritime guise. My roots are Irish — I can’t help it.

    Just a heads up — my own tastes seem to be biased in favour of the our East Coast, and I haven’t even mentioned Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief. Rudy Wiebe’s Sweeter Than All the World would represent the West nicely, but now I ‘m exceeding my own limits!

    Thanks for the kind words re: the blog. It’s a labour of love.

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