Editor's Note: Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis won Canada Reads 2017. It was defended by Humble The Poet. Sadly, it wasn't among the books that the WWAC crew backed this year. Hello again! Hope you're all doing well. Last week I suggested reading books that helped with mental health, re-reading books, and reflecting on how much
Hello again! Hope you’re all doing well. Last week I suggested reading books that helped with mental health, re-reading books, and reflecting on how much you’ve grown since you first read the same book. But what about reading books just to relax, no development involved? I think every reader has a certain book, series, or author they know they can turn to to take their mind of things and escape from reality. Unlike re-reading a book you haven’t even thought of in the past couple years (which can be just as awkward as suddenly seeing a childhood friend and realizing that you have nothing in common besides a favorite color), a favorite book can feel as easy and familiar as a weekly movie night or brunch with friends or picking up a friendship as if no time has passed at all. Books, as the Matilda movie put so well, remind readers that we are not alone — that people just like us, people who can be our friends, do exist (my favorite book “friend,” by the way, is Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery). So by all means borrow or buy new books, but be sure not to forget your old ones.
Speaking of books or book characters feeling like old friends, has anybody else ever felt close to a favorite author even though you’ve never met them in real life? It’s a bit like having a crush on a celebrity — you build up this idea of them in your head. It’s quite comforting when everything you learn of the author fits this image. For instance, everything I’ve read of Angela Carter from Edmund Gorden’s new bio, finally available in the U.S., is totally unsurprising to me. Had her own demons? Well sure. “High sorceress”? Called it. On the other hand it’s rather shocking if authors turn out to be completely different than the image you built up of them. It’s not necessarily a bad sort of shock, but you have to rearrange your worldview a bit. Take Ernest Hemingway. I haven’t read any of his works, but suffice to say my image of him certainly did not include being a spy for the organization that was a precursor to the KGB. Maybe we can’t ever really know authors and their political thoughts and personalities.
Or at least, we couldn’t know what they thought prior to the advent of social media. Harry Potter authoress J.K. Rowling, for example, has been quite clear about her feelings on U.S. President Trump. Earlier this week she revealed that he and his son-in-law Jared Kushner wouldn’t be Slytherins — they wouldn’t be invited to Hogwarts at all. It all seems a bit elitist, but I admit that imagining both Trump and Kushner throwing temper tantrums as the gates of Hogwarts were closed to them cheered me up considerably.
You've got to get the letter before you put on the hat, Oliver. https://t.co/KFvRtrwdpy
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 27, 2017
Sometimes it’s also quite clear what political leanings readers have. There really must be something about literature and freedom from fear and dictatorship — dystopian novels 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are being reissued as brand-new hardcover editions according to publisher Houghton Miffler Harcourt. It’s not really all that surprising after both books were on top of U.S. bestseller lists in January.
Of course, non-fiction can be political too — together with literacy non-profit 826DC, senior high school students from Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. compiled a cookbook of not only recipes, but memories and minority stories. In my opinion, food is one of the easiest ways to establish cross-cultural communication and it’s exciting to read about how the students opened up dialogues within their families in order to contribute to the recipe collection. Aside from the portions of the profits that go to 826DC, I hope that the cookbook will also encourage people who buy the book to try dishes outside of their comfort zone and communicate with others.