County Life: 2015 in Review

new-years-eve-2015-583221_1920Bessie’s Books and Other Things

Of the 100 books I read in 2015, I gave twelve five out of five stars using the Goodreads rating system.  It is an eclectic mix of fiction, non-fiction, young adult, and a graphic novel.  The books are as follows:  Stories about Storytellers by Douglas Gibson and Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto are both non-fiction,  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne are young adult fiction, Tangles by Sarah Leavitt is a graphic novel, and six adult fictions, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Punishment by Linden MacIntyre, Joyner’s Dream by Sylvia Tyson, Tell by Frances Itani, Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese, and Ru by Kim Thuy.

How I find the books I’m going to read often depends on what we are doing at the library.   Joyner’s Dream by Sylvia Tyson was one of our February on-line book club choices when the theme was the family saga in honour of Family Day.  It is the sweeping story of a family and its dubious legacy: an abiding love of music coupled with a persistent knack for thieving. Beginning in England in the 1780s, continuing in Halifax at the time of the Great Explosion, and ending in Toronto in the present, eight larcenous generations from all walks of life: craftsmen and highwaymen, aristocrats and servants, lawyers and B-movie actors are connected by music, a secret family journal and one long-lived violin. This book is written by THE Sylvia Tyson, one half of the folk duo Ian and Sylvia who performed together from 1959-1974.  “I’ve been a writer all my adult life,” says Tyson, “It’s just that I’ve been writing songs instead of books, so I finally got to expand a bit, and went a little crazy, it’s a fairly hefty book. But it didn’t have to rhyme. That was good.”  And good it was telling the story of eight different generations in distinctive voices that flow from one to another.

Ru by French Canadian writer Kim Thuy was chosen as an example of an immigrant story for a Library Moments we did on CanoeFM recently.  It won the Governor General’s award for French Literature in 2010.  The English translation was a Canada Reads title in 2015.  In vignettes we are carried along on an unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded and muddy Malaysian refugee camp, and onward to a new life in Quebec. There, the young girl feels the embrace of a new community, and revels in the chance to be part of the American Dream. As an adult, the waters become rough again: now a mother of two sons, she must learn to shape her love around the younger boy’s autism. Moving seamlessly from past to present, from history to memory and back again, Ru is a book that celebrates life in all its wonder: its moments of beauty and sensuality, brutality and sorrow, comfort and comedy.

There are many ways to get good reading ideas including signing up for one of our automated book newsletters.  At Haliburton County Public Library we are happy to help you find your next read, check out the Readers’ Advisory tools available on our website and talk to staff at any of our eight branches.

*Originally published in County Life on January 28, 2015.

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