The Decafnation lists its favorite books read in 2018
Each year on Jan. 1, Decafnation presents its annual collective book report. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share micro-reviews of books they enjoyed in last year. You can read previous year’s recommendations here.
Kathy Gilland Duperron — Women Who Dig: Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World by Trina Moiyles of Alberta. — Ms Moyles travelled to six different countries and interviewed women who dig (garden, farm) in order to feed their families. We meet brave, hard-working women around the world. Canada, the US, Uganda, Cuba and more. Women outside North America get the most they can in order to feed their families and if they sell some products their children may be able to go to school. This is a book filled with hope, the opposite of what we are generally hearing and reading in the news.
Anne Baker — The Boat People by Sharon Bala — “When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and 500 fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks—and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security” — review excerpt taken from Goodreads.
Brad Morgan — The Library Book by Susan Orlean — This is every bookworm’s dream read, said a reviewer and it’s true. If you love books, you’ll love this book. It’s actually a tribute to libraries via an arson investigation and filled with real-life characters and stories so unexpected, they feel like they’ve been misshelved from the fantasy section. It’s starts out about the 1986 fire that destroyed 400,000 books at the Los Angeles Central Library, and that becomes Orlean’s excuse to introduce the eccentric who’d been the city’s first librarian, a successor who walked from Ohio to L.A. to claim the post.
Robert Moore — Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders — An initially baffling, wild, creative and surprising book. Second choice, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Hamid — Evocative and interesting voice.
Charles Shelan — Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and the Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish.
Sarah Seitz — A Little Life by Hanya Yanaguhara — I loved this tale of four young men navigating friendship and trauma. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Also enjoyed Educated by Tara Westover — a memoir about her life growing up with survivalists in rural Idaho.
Meredith Wright Hutchins — Circling the Sun by Paula McLain — This book is One of my favorites. It’s an biographical fiction and I was into the book before I realized Beryl Markham was an actual person. I was equally surprised to learn that one of her friends, Karen Blixen, was the character played by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. The book is set in British East Africa in the early 1900’s. Beryl was, among other things, a race horse trainer and pilot at a time when those were not vocations for women.
Helena Spears — The Winters: a reboot of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca — It has great characters, and plot twists. If you enjoyed the original, you will enjoy this one too. A quick, fun read.
Jim Lewis — Washington Black by Esi Edugyan — This third novel by a Vancouver Island writer offers a unique spin on the traditional slave narrative. Its protagonist, known as Wash, is an 18-year-old freeman looking back on a childhood spent in bondage and on the unlikely events that allowed him to escape a Barbados sugar plantation in a hot-air balloon and travel from Virginia to the Arctic to Europe while blossoming into an accomplished artist and scientist.
Ramon Martinez — Riding the Continent by Hamilton Mack Laing, with an introduction by Richard Mackie, edited by Trevor Marc Hughes — Hamilton Mack Laing was an illustrious early British Columbia writer and naturalist. But few know him as how he described himself in his mid-thirties: a motorcycle-naturalist. For several years beginning in 1914, Laing used the motorcycle to access the natural world, believing it gave him a distinct advantage over other forms of transportation. During this period in his life he would take on a transcontinental journey, riding across the United States from Brooklyn to Oakland in 1915. His previously unpublished manuscript of this journey has been hidden away for nearly a century.
Peter Jacobson — The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood — A World War II–era family drama turns into a story within a story, within a story — as well as a mystery, a thriller, and a tract on the politics of love, passion, and betrayal. It’s brilliantly written, sharp as a blade, and completely engrossing.
Ken Adney — The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough — I love everything else I’ve read by him. Also, McLuhan for Beginners (one of the For Beginners series).
Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw (just because people keep talking about him). Jacobs’ Dimensions of Moral Theory (more meta arguments than how to). Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (loved her essays). William Gass The World Within The Word (few writers write so well about writing)
Dan Vie — I generally read no fiction except for an occasional folktale. However, I re-read the Lord of the Rings after several decades, just because the narrative feels topical in this political climate. It is a gorgeous and engrossing read. Tolkien was masterful at crafting a sense of physical environment – the journey takes them through so many uniquely illustrated spaces, and it’s vivid.
Gloria J. Balazs — Becoming by Michelle Obama — A great book. Predictable, but warmly entertaining. Loved it!
Robert Marshall — Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday — Shortly after 9/11, a young woman working in New York City publishing enters into a romantic relationship with a famous older Jewish novelist. But the book’s second half changes everything, which I won’t reveal and spoil it for you.
Jessie Kerr — Sapiens (a brief history of humankind) by Yuval Harari –This book was difficult to put down. It caused me to reconsider my beliefs, attitudes and bias. I think it is a must read for thinkers. Also I’m Right and You’re an Idiot by James Hoggan. I heard him at the Denman Island book fest. A thoughtful discourse on the toxic state of public discourse. Another must read.
Richard Clarke — How China’s Leaders Think by RL Kuhn — an informative insight into the machinations of the CCP leadership and China’s dramatic change over past 40 years.
Mary Lang — Women Talking by Miram Toews — A small masterpiece. Launching off of a (tragically) true story, Toews explores the many powerful shades of resistance and witness in the wake of oppression and violation.
COMOX VALLEY BOOKSTORES
Blue Heron Books
1775 Comox Ave., Comox
Laughing Oyster Books
286 Fifth St., Courtenay
Nearly New Books
1761 Comox Ave., Comox
Second Page Used Books
546 Duncan Ave., Courtenay
Driftwood Mall, Courtenay
North Island College Bookstore
2300 Ryan Road, Courtenay
The Cannabis Innovation Centre in Comox, founded by Vanier grad Jon Page and now called Aurora Coast, has produced its first new strains of cannabis and will release them to consumers later this month
Comox Valley anthologist Jane Wilde pulls together 32 stories of women who moved to the Comox Valley between 1970 and 1975 and broke down gender barriers, and built lives based on self-confidence and self-reliance
Baffled by the imagery of Guernica? An art critic explains Picasso’s famous anti-war painting to random people in a New York subway.
Does Cumberland want to save the historic Ilo Ilo Theatre or does it want to create a performing arts space in the most viable location? That was a question debated recently in the renovated lobby of the former opera house
Art Alchemy, the Comox Valley art collective born out of a desire for more places to see local art, will hang its eighth annual Square Foot Art show this weekend
Marianne Enhorning mixes her love of nature and the human figure with subtle architectural elements to create dreamlike paintings that establish her place in her family’s artistic heritage
Photographer Bob Cain has documented life on Hornby Island for nearly 50 years, capturing the people, events and rituals of island living in black and white, and going mostly unnoticed. Now he’s sharing his voluminous archive with the world.
Fraser Cain was raised on Hornby Island, but his mind was always on another planet. Most of the time, Cain led the life of a normal teenager. He played video games and fooled around on the two-ferry, two-hour bus ride to school in Courtenay. But whenever he could, Cain dreamed about the stars, the planets, the universe.
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