On the Shelf: Book Recommendations

Since I’m not in school right now, I’m finally reading things again other than poetry written in Middle English or something Shakespearean. Those are not bad things to read at all, but I haven’t read anything by choice in way too long. However, the drought is over. I’ve been reading books like it is my job. This is a random list of some of the best authors and poets that either I’ve read recently, or that I know I love.

Non Fiction:

I read non-fiction more than any other genre. These books are mostly ones that I’ve read in the past month.

Blue Nights, Joan Didion

If you’ve never read Joan Didion, you need to read Joan Didion. Read anything she’s written. She’s one of my all-time favourites. The other day I was wandering around Chapters and found this book for like $6. You don’t leave a book by Joan Didion on the shelf for $6. This is written in a memoir style, but it speaks to themes that we all can relate to. Those kind of books are my favourite. They are the ones you read and discover things about yourself through other people’s stories and observations. This book is about themes of change, loss, fear, illness, and growing up and older. It’s pithy. It’s honest. It’s not hard to read.

How to Breathe Underwater, Chris Turner

This is a collection of Chris Turner’s best work over the years. He’s a long form journalist and this book is so, so interesting. He mostly writes about technology and the environment and all of his works span from about 1999 onward. It gives a very smart, in-depth overview of the changing face of technology and culture over the past decade or so. The way I’ve been going through this one is by reading one article, putting the book down for a few days or a week to think over what I just read, and then coming back to another one. There is a lot to process in this book but it is good stuff.

The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan was 22 years old, a graduate of Yale, and an accomplished writer for someone so young, when she died suddenly in a car crash. This is a collection of her short fiction and essays. This book is definitely an experience to read. It is a collage of thoughts about life, growing up, relationships, career, etc., mostly from the perspective of a student. The story behind the book and its author adds an extra layer of depth and weight to her words.

Scary Close, Donald Miller

I’ve always liked Donald Miller’s writing style and his books, Blue Like Jazz, and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years are some of my favourites ever. Once again, this book is easy to read and honest. This particular book is more about relationships than his other ones. I read it in one day and I keep going back to re-read my favourite parts. You should read it too.

Still Points North, Leigh Newman

I didn’t read this book this past month, but I love this one, so I decided to include it anyway. It is about the author growing up in Alaska with a very broken family. The story goes through her journey of healing and finding herself as she becomes a journalist and travels all over the place. The writing style and the story combine to make this a very worthwhile book if you enjoy memoirs.

Poetry:

I’m always looking for new poets to read and listen to. I like poetry that is accessible and readable, yet deep. I’m not into the sentimental fluffy stuff. These are poets I keep coming back to.

T.S Eliot

Yes, I have a strong devotion to T.S Eliot. The Waste Land is obviously a classic and straight up one of the most amazing works I’ve ever read. Then there is Rhapsody on a Windy Night, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Preludes, etc. It’s all poetry with substance and depth written by a master poet. He’s not for everyone for sure, but if you want to read some good poetry, I’ll always recommend T. S. Eliot. I also love his essay, Tradition and the Individual Talent, especially if you are an artist or writer or creative type.

Jamaal May

More of a spoken word poet, but again, lots of depth. He can create the most amazing metaphors and word pictures. I heard him live at a poetry reading a few years ago. Honestly, I had always been skeptical about poetry before I heard him speak. After listening to his poems, I was more willing to explore this genre.

Warsan Shire

Worth it. I love her poetry

Rumi

I only include Rumi because his poetry intrigues me in general. You have to read it with an open mind, but it is very good.

Fiction:

It has been a while since I’ve read fiction, so these books are a few years old, but they are still some of the best on my bookshelves.

The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak

I love the style this book is written in. I like this perspective of World War II. This book just made a very deep impression on me in general. It will always be one of my favourites. Also, the movie is fine but you really need to read the book.

Dubliners, James Joyce

This is an older book. It might be hard to find, I’m not really sure. However, it is a collection of short stories and it is incredible. As a disclaimer, though, I also first read it in an English course. We analyzed the whole background of it to death, so I’m not sure if you’d get the full experience if you didn’t really take the time to analyze each story. If you ever do read the book, though, it is an amazing work of literature and a very intelligent commentary on the culture of Ireland at the time it was written.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer 

This is a movie, too, but you have to read the book. The way it is written is so creative and unique and memorable. I heard the author speak live in an interview and I really respected his perspective on the creative process and what it means to be a writer. Anyway, this book is well worth the read.

The Wednesday Wars, Gary Schmidt

This is a humorous, yet serious, novel about a boy growing up during the 1960’s. He is convinced that his teacher hates him and gets into all kinds of crazy, unfortunate situations. This is NOT Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Timmy Failure stuff (although if we are going to talk about that genre of book, read Timmy Failure. It has an unexpectedly deep message. Also, yes, it is for kids, but one afternoon in university I was really desperate for some light reading. This was the perfect thing). This book is surprisingly astute. I have no idea how many times I’ve read it, but it is many. Apparently the sequel, Ok for Now, is amazing too.

Hopefully this short list gives you some new inspiration for future reading!

Have a restful weekend.

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