WHAT’S A GOOD READ?

Were you aware that a third of Canadian adults did not read a single book in 2007?

That’s the bad news. The good news is that more than two-thirds of Candians read so voraciously last year that the average person cracked no fewer than 20 books. Fiction was the most popular genre among Canadians attracting 56 per cent of those who read at least one book. Mysteries and thrillers followed at 55 per cent and historical n on-fiction at 46 per cent.

Among individual titles, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows was right up there. I haven’t read a single Potter book. Should I?

Rhona Byrne’s The Secret was the top-selling book in Canada in 2007. (Don’t know a damn thing about it).

As for my own reading, I whipped through Brian Mulroney’s Memoirs because I had contracted to do a review. I say whipped through because, whatever you think of the former prime minister, his autobiography is a page turner.

I also recommend the following: Atonement by Ian McEwan; The Kite Runner; The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and the new biography of Sir John A. MacDonald by Richard Gwyn.

I also am reading two books by personal friends. Louise Penny (formerly of the CBC) has set her third murder mystery, The Cruellest Month, deep in the Eastern Townships. And Peter Hallward in Damming the Flood has written an impressive and challenging new book on Haiti.

Have you read a good book lately? Share it with us.

14 Comments »

  1. 1
    SUZANNE Says:

    I don’t read novels, although I would like to. Most writers are liberal and write with a liberal worldview. Plus the subjects of the stories are often boring. Plus they often include immoral scenes.

    It’s just not worth my while. Jane Austen is all well and good, but I’d like to read something contemporary.

    And I find most Christian literature to be crap.

    I do read non-fiction. I’m slogging through Mulroney’s Memoirs. They’re about 500 pages too long. Then I’m going to read Chretien’s Memoirs.

  2. 2

    The novels and short stories of Mark Helprin are as good as they come. Ilia Delio’s “The Humility of God” and “Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida” were quality texts I read this past year.

  3. 3
    Chimera Says:

    Neil, if my assessment of you from your writing is anything to go by, I think you’d probably enjoy the Harry Potter series a lot. It’s high fantasy, grand adventure, and superbly imaginative. And it’s written in such a way that different ages will comprehend it on different levels. I rarely recommend anything specific, but I do recommend this series!

    I also read Philip Pullman’s “Dark Materials” series. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Harry Potter, but it was still a pretty good read. I really like it when a writer can find his own imagination, rather than cribbing from someone else.

    I have no idea who Rhona Byrne might be, but I did a little research on her book. If, indeed, it is the top-selling book in Canada for last year, that tells me that a lot of people are really, really unhappy with their lives!

    I tend not to like the styles of most Canadian writers, but I love murder mysteries. I’ve made a note of Louise Penny’s book titles, and I’ll pick up the first one next time I’m at the library. Thanks for the tip.

    If you like Canadiana, have you read anything by Ian and/or Will Fergusson? I prefer them over “cheerleaders” like Berton and Broadfoot. The Fergussons (especially Will) like to examine the flaws rather than the perfections. Flaws are so much more interesting! Canadian History for Dummies (yes, one of the yellow-and-black Dummies series) is in reprint — a bit of a novelty for Canadian writers! Bastards and Boneheads is a thorough scraping of the veneer from Canada’s leaders, and How To Be A Canadian (Even If You Already Are One) — also in reprint — is a rollicking side-splitter.

    I like biographies, but I’m always wary of the autobiographies of politicians. I find a lot of them entertaining, but I seldom take them seriously. I do have a small collection of bios of media personalities, though, people like Peter Worthington and Lotta Dempsey.

    And I’m currently trying to find time to get into Terry Pratchett’s books, especially the Discworld series.

    Huh. I had no idea I had time to read as much as I do…and I still would like more time, yet. I’ve always got at least three books on the go at any one time, and some of them are re-reads.

  4. 4

    Suzanne:

    Two of the best Christian (not to say Catholic) writers of the twentieth century are Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. If you haven’t do by all means read Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

    Kyle:

    I’ll give Mark Helprin a look.

    Chimera:

    In your impressive list of books and authors you metion Dave Broadfoot. He was the first guest on my TV show. What a dud he was.

  5. 5
    Cate McB Says:

    In the fiction dept., I loved “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” and Elizabeth Hay’s Giller Prize winner — “Late Nights on Air.”

    In the non-fiction dept., I found most interesting Shirin Ebadi’s, “Iran Awakening: From Prison to Peace Prize: One Women’s Struggle at the Crossroads of History,” and Carl Bernstein’s book on Hilary Clinton entitled, “A Woman in Charge.”

    Also in the non-fiction dept., I was re-animated by the 10th anniversary edition of Parker Palmer’s classic, “The Courage to Teach” complete with a CD. For a couple of workshops I gave, I found most useful Jerome Groopman’s, “How Doctors Think.”

    Then just in time for Christmas, a new interpretation of the Huron Carol entitled, “An Aboriginal Carol.” The lyrics are re-worked by award-winning Metis poet David Bouchard. The illustrator is First Nation artist Moses Beaver. And the musical interpretation on the enclosed CD is provided by Susan Aglukark. So this is possibly the first collaboration between Canada’s three Aboriginal peoples. Superb !!!!! and it made a wonderful Christmas gift!!

  6. 6

    Neil,

    A Soldier of the Great War is the finest of Helprin’s works (in my opinion).

  7. 7
    Alex Thomas Says:

    Suzanne does not read novels because they pose a “liberal” bias. Um, Suzanne? Jesus wasn’t crucified because he was part of the old boy network of his time. He wasn’t threatened with stoning because he kissed up to the Sanhedrin. He wasn’t arrested because his nose was brown from hobnobbing with the occupying Roman government. He wasn’t scourged and crowned with thorns because he set up the most fascinating dealer’s booth just outside the Temple.
    Jesus was a shit-disturber, a rabble rouser, a boat-rocker, a firebrand, a radical, a liberal, who hung with tax collectors, prostitutes, publicans, fishermen, working class losers, who told them to forgive any offense seventy times seven times, who told the hyprocrites to cast the first stone ONLY if they were without sin, who rousted the hucksters and money-changers outside the Temple, who told the Pharisees of the day, “God thinks you suck!”
    Jesus was hardly what one would call “conservative.” It’s odd that you worship the Son of Man, but NOT His philosophy. What do they call that kind of outlook again?
    Please DO NOT EVER read Andrew Greeley. You’ll go screaming, slobbering, batshit-outa-your-tree blind, I’m sure of it.
    Jesus told parables, any of which would probably make great novels or even better movies. Were any of them true, or were they educational fiction? And how do you know whether you would enjoy a novel, UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY READ IT?
    I’ve been a voracious, omnivorous reader all my life. If I were to list all my favourite authors, and my favourite stories, St. Peter would probably send me to Hell, just to shut me up.
    Novels are simply stories. That’s how we educate one another. That’s how Jesus did it, that’s how Father Greeley does it, and so far, it’s working pretty good.
    My name is Alex Thomas. Good night, and may your God go with You.

  8. 8
    Joanne Nicholls Says:

    Neil, I do know you and I do think that you would enjoy Harry Potter. It’s a visual read and they are fun too! I think the first Harry Potter book is my favourite. It isn’t dark at all. Try it. You might like it!

  9. 9
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    I would strongly recommend 3 books:
    1) Niall Ferguson’s Colossus, the rise and fall of the American Empire;
    2) Gavin Menzies’s 1421, the year China discovered America;
    3) Charles C, Mann’s 1491, new revelations of the Americas before Columbus.
    Light reading they are not but they are real page turners as Neil would say.
    Another one that I am currently reading and have not made my mind about yet: R. T. Naylor’s Money, Myth, and Misinformation in the War on Terror. He teaches Economics at McGill University.
    And yes Suzanne, even though not fiction, it could be said to have a rather liberal outlook, at least as far I have read to this day.

  10. 10
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    What I find amazing is that the Harry Potter books are popularly known as “children’s books”. Yet virtually every adult I know has read them and borders on being fanatical about them.

  11. 11
    Chimera Says:

    “Two of the best Christian (not to say Catholic) writers of the twentieth century are Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene.”

    Add to this list: Morris West. And if you like murder mysteries, William Keinzle, Sister Carol Anne O’Marie, Ellis Peters. Alex has already mentioned Andrew Greeley. There are others, but these are the ones that leapt immediately to mind.

    BTW, Neil, I picked up Still Life last night, and peeked at the first chapter. Your friend has a delightfully cheeky style, and I’m looking forward to reading it, probably in one sitting. Are you sure she’s Canadian? LOL!

  12. 12

    Chimera:

    Indeed Louise is Canadian. And a tall willowy good looker to boot.
    I did a little work on the first draft of Still Life, her first book.
    I agree with you about Morris West – very good.

  13. 13
    bernie12 Says:

    Neil
    I am so grateful that I enjoy reading ..it is such a gift espesially in retirement. I tend to prefer hidtory and bios. Like you , have not read a Harry Potter and do not intend to. Rabbi Jesus , Rabbi Paul , and Mary Magdelin , all by the American Episcopal priest were all a great read, I recommend them all.
    Currently reading “1421 ” quite an amazing story of the Chinese discovering the world with huge fleets . Alsp enjoyed John A . I have a memory of hearing that he visited Hastings . Always thoughy it was to visit my grandfather. But after reading the book, it had to be my great grandfather. I trust he didn ‘t go there for a binge.
    Tim

  14. 14

    Tim,
    Thanks for the reading tips. You have covered a broad spectrum. If Sir John A. (today is his birthday) went to Hastings for a binge, he would have had no trouble tying one on.
    Happy New Year.


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