Getting out of the reading-rut with 2019 favourites
By Erin Kernohan-Berning
Every year I post a reading goal on the book recommendation website Goodreads. It’s always 50 books. I never read 50 books. I usually manage about half that, but it’s nice to have a goal. However many books I read, I always have a handful that I’m eager to share – whether a book was particularly enlightening, or an audiobook had a standout narrator, or I read something that got me out of my inevitable reading-rut. This year, I’ll share some of my favourite books of 2019, and a bit about why they were my favourites.
Most Enlightening Duo
I read I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya and This One Looks Like a Boy by Lorimer Shenher one right after the other. Both books are about being transgender, but coming from vastly different points of view. Despite their very different lived experiences, and different styles of expression, Shraya and Shenher tread some very common ground around how not living as their true selves affected their life choices, what it means to live a good life and be a good person, the importance of being able to live with dignity, and how important empathy is in helping make everyone’s lives better.
Where an Audiobook Made All the Difference
Milkman by Anna Burns won the Booker Prize in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019. The main character, Middle Sister, is busy trying to keep her Maybe-Boyfriend a secret from her Mother, when First-Brother-in-Law catches wind of her encounter with the Milkman – a dangerous renouncer-of-the-state. In Milkman, Burns strips away the names of the places and characters, referring to them only by their relationship to one another. This makes for a captivating but challenging read, and in my case the audiobook made all the difference. Brid Brennan does a pitch-perfect job of narrating this audiobook, which is available on Overdrive.
Best Recommendation from My Mom
Mom and I talk about what we are reading on a pretty regular basis, and while our reading tastes aren’t completely alike, there’s usually at least a few books per year that we both really like.
Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper was one that Mom kept reminding me about – have you read Our Homesick Songs yet? The story takes place in a fictional Newfoundland fishing village where the fish have disappeared and people are slowly moving away.
The Connor family find themselves split in two as parents Aidan and Martha take turns flying out to Alberta for work, while children Cora and Finn dream up ways to get their family back together again. When a letter arrives, detailing plans to relocate the remaining residents, Finn is determined to bring the fish back so that no one has to leave home. Our Homesick Songs is a tear jerker, but in the best sort of way. It’s a story about how family and home can transcend where you live, even when they feel so strongly rooted to it. Thanks, Mom.
The Book that Broke Me out of My 2019 Reading Rut
I had been picking through the same book for a couple of months when Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat by Suzanna Crampton came in. Bodacious was a great big tabby cat adopted by Crampton, a shepherd in Ireland. He found his way onto the Twitter feed for her farm because of his willingness to accompany her as she tended to her herd of Zwartbles sheep. While many Twitter-to-book adaptations fall flat, Crampton uses Bodacious as a conduit to write her own memoir, rather than just rehashing the same old memes.
Through his eyes, she is able to write about her fascinating life with humility and self-deprecating humour. Sadly, Bodacious died earlier this year, but this modern-day All Things Great and Small still stands as a meaningful tribute to their extraordinary relationship.
The library is a great place to find new things to read, and all the books I’ve mentioned here I stumbled on in one way or another at Haliburton County Public Library. Drop in to your local branch and see what new books you can discover.