Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Reading Resolutions from Canadian Writers & Book Lovers

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When a new year rolls in, many of us resolve to make changes to our lives. Given how important reading is to me (and if you're on this site, I think it's fair to assume you, too, dig books), I like to start each year with a new reading strategy. This year, in addition checking out newly published books, I plan to make my way through my bookshelves, reading the books that have been sitting, waiting for me to pick them up. Curious to know if other people made annual reading plans, I asked members of Canada's literary community to tell us their reading resolutions for 2013.

Gregory Betts is a writer, editor and professor in St. Catharines, Ontario. His next book is Boycott, forthcoming from Make Now Press.

I resolve to read with less instrumentality this year. Over the past few years, my reading lists have grown increasingly purpose driven and less motivated by curiosity and sprawl. I am ready for a year's worth of sprawl — or at least more sprawl in a year's worth of reading.

Stephen Cain is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently I Can Say Interpellation from Bookthug.

I need more resolve to finish what I start, especially the longer works. Last year I started four lengthy novels, but only completed The Golden Notebook and The Sot-Weed Factor. At the moment I’m halfway through Infinite Jest (2nd attempt), on Numbers of the Authorized King James version (5th attempt) and on Book 2 of The Golden Bough (1st attempt but moving slowly). All the while I keep eyeing 2666 and Against the Day….

Sean Cranbury lives in Vancouver. He is the host/regulator of the Books on the Radio Projects, which includes the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Books on the Radio is sleeping right now but will awaken for it's 5th birthday in June 2013.

My reading resolution for 2013 is to be completely self-directed and to use libraries more. Over the past few years of developing Books on the Radio, I have been inundated by new books from across the spectrum, and while many of them were very good I really began to feel overwhelmed and a bit dislocated from the place that my curiosity wants me to go. So enough of that. I will buy books and I will loan them from the library. I will trust my instincts and listen to my friends and crawl the blogs for new books and weird books and small press editions from the American backwoods and the Canadian hinterlands. I will make mistakes and buy terrible books that are lauded by all the right people but suffer from a lack of oxygen. I will make surreptitious purchases of raw materials from remote booksellers and test the systems of our public libraries. 2013 is going to be a very good year for reading.

Stacey May Fowles is the author of Be Good (Tightrope Books) and Fear of Fighting (Invisible Publishing). Her latest novel, Infidelity, is forthcoming from ECW Press in 2013.

This week, Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote a great piece about the obligation on writers, editors and critics to be familiar with the canon. “I believe in a great canon,” he wrote. “But as a writer, I don't much care. The artist's canon must be personal.”

I think as writers, we are trained to believe that there are certain things we should have read, a check list of important books we should go through, in order to gain validity as, as Coates puts it, "a public intellectual." We draw this line between reading for pleasure, and reading to be respected, we delineate between “trash” and “literature,” we name-drop our reading conquests to assert our intellect. There are books that are serious and necessary, and books that are fun and frivolous, and we pretend they can’t be one in the same. I myself have been guilty of it, reserving my most pleasurable reading experiences for the few weeks a year when I am literally on vacation.

It’s occurred to me that the writing I truly love rarely wins major literary awards, nor does it end up in the established, respected canon. More often than not I find myself a proponent of books that don't garner accolades, rather than putting “great literature” and award shortlists on my reading list. Put simply, there isn’t enough time in our days to read books we’re supposed to read at the expense of books we love. We should put faith in ourselves instead of the same kinds of people who repeatedly assert the same kinds of stories are valuable. In doing so, we might just rebuild a canon that’s looked the same for many years.

No more reading out of obligation. In 2013 I’ll take a lesson from Coates: “…I read what I like, before I read what's important. That's who I am.”

Ashliegh Gehl is a freelance writer and multimedia journalist whose writing has appeared in Women's Post, Montreal Gazette, Quill & Quire, OurKingston.ca, Northumberland Today and The Intelligencer newspapers.

In 2012, my book buying habit was incessantly impulsive and targeted at new releases. In an attempt to curb this fervor, 2013 will be rubber stamped “The Year of Mavis Gallant.” To reflect and learn from the work of an amazing writer, a virtuoso of the short story, takes the joy of reading to a new plateau. There are lessons in every page. To learn them, they must be read, re-read, plucked and applied.

Dalton Higgins's latest book, Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake, is published by ECW Press. Find him on Twitter at @daltonhiggins5

Given that I’m around large groups of “indie” musicians, delusional scribes and broke futurists most of my waking hours, my plan is to pore over Sun Tzu’s Art of War — a book that my wife bought for me last Father’s Day — so that we’re better equipped to destabilize The Suits in Toronto who continue to reward pedestrian art so well. The James Trapp translation I have comes in at just under 100 pages, so I’m thinking by at least mid-March we’ll be better equipped to apply some of Sun’s classic war strategies in our plot to stem the slow, steady decline of what is considered good “Canadian” art. Sure, ebooks are okay, but they really cannot compete with this classic edition that is printed on high quality paper, looks dope and is bound with traditional Chinese book-making techniques.

Erin Knight is Open Book: Ontario's Contributing Editor. Her book Chaser, a collection of poems on tuberculosis and manic economy, was published with House of Anansi Press in 2012.

The New Year is a time for both lists and resolutions, and I resolve to keep a list of books that sound interesting and that I intend to read... someday. Whenever I read a good review or receive a recommendation I mean to jot it down, but too often life intervenes. While I'm at it, I'll keep a list of books I've read, too.

Lucy Leiderman is the author of the upcoming book A Past Life (Dundurn Press). Follow her on Twitter via @lucyleid.

I am making a resolution to read more books in the genre I am writing in. A lot of writers think they need to go to the bookstore for some "competitor research," but hearing all the different voices tell their stories is also inspiring and encourages me to get writing.

Caitlin Smith is an avid reader and the Fundraising Director for the Open Book Foundation.

I resolve to read more Ontario-based authors this year. It is so tempting to stick with the well known and the well advertised but there is a treasure trove of fabulous local writers just waiting to be explored. We hear about the prize winners and the short listed books but if we dig a little deeper we’ll find hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Here’s my partial list:

  • The Western Light by Susan Swan (a prequel to The Wives of Bath)
  • One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Cormeau
  • Poison Shy by Stacey Madden
  • Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (yes, I know, this is a prize winner so doesn’t fit my introductory statement but everyone I know says it’s a must read)


Becky Toyne is a regular books columnist for CBC Radio One and Open Book: Toronto, and a freelance publicist for many of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s literary award and fundraising programs. One or two days a week Becky works as a bookseller at Toronto indie Type.

Reading resolutions?! Yikes! 52 books in 52 weeks type resolutions are popular at this time of year, I know, and get lots of media attention too, but reading is already my job and so I hate to apply rules and regulations to my "free" reading that can make it also seem like work. Instead of offering an impressive answer of the "This year, be is resolved that I shall read every book that has ever won the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction" ilk, therefore, I instead offer this:

Be it resolved that in winter 2013 I will sit in a cozy bar or two with a robust narrative in one hand and a warming winter drink in the other, with the muted sounds of the city buzzing on the edges of my conscience.

Resolutions inevitably get broken sooner or later, this way I know I'm making one I will really, truly keep.

Aya Tsintziras is Open Book's January 2013 Writer in Residence and the author of the YA novel Pretty Bones (James Lorimer & Company)

My reading resolution for 2013 is to finally read Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. It's a classic of the genre I write in (YA) so I think 2013 will be the year I tackle it!

Natalie Zena Walschots is the author of Doom: Love Poems for Supervillains (Insomniac Press, 2012). She is Open Book's February 2013 Writer in Residence. Follow her on Twitter at @NatalieZed

My Reading Resolution for 2013 is something I have already done and comes in two parts: 1) renew all my magazine subscriptions (which include filling Station, The Walrus, Matrix Magazine, Taddle Creek, broken pencil, Sub Terrain, Aux, Geist and the New Quarterly) and, 2) whenever applicable, to transfer my subscriptions to a digital format. I find that I am reading more and more on my tablet, and that digital subscriptions are ideal for me. My reading goal for 2013 is to read more Canadian literary magazines and to take advantage of the new technology that makes doing so even easier.

Julie Wilson is the author of Seen Reading (print: Freehand; ebook: HarperCollins), and host at 49thShelf.com. Follow her on Twitter at @seenreading and @bookmadam.

I'm a step parent in training to two teen boys who prefer gaming to reading. Before I moved in, I had fantasies of taking them to the bookstore to "pick out anything you want," my hope that if they came to think of books as personal possessions they would treasure them, come to read them (possibly reread them!) in their own time, again to their own children and, ultimately, in excerpt at my graveside. "Here Lies Julie Wilson. She Made Me Read Good."

In reality, the closest I've gotten to even any acknowledgment that the front room is now home to a rather large bookcase came the other day. Upon learning that they'd lost access to their electronics, the boys exclaimed there was nothing to do. Recognizing an opening, I produced a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide, "signed, guuuuys ... by one Max Brooks!" Crickets. "There's also The Walking Dead novel." Crickets. "I'm sure there's stuff in here you shouldn't be reading." Crickets. But then the eldest came closer, stopped short of picking up the book, and — wait for it — totally tossed his hat on the bookcase and walked away. Success!

I hot-dogged in my mind as I left the room. "Zombies are such a gateway, yo!" I said to no one in particular. This was going to be the best winter break ever, and a sick 2013 in which, side by side, we'd devour whatever zombie-lovers read, slowly progressing toward the likes of Arthur Slade and Jeff Lemire and Corey Redekop and — Squee! — Anakana Schofield and Sheila Heti and — Oh! Oh! Oh!...ALICE MUTHAFLUBBING MUNRO! "Guys! Guys! Prepare to have your minds blown with one kill shot to the head. It's a little something I like to call "Lives of Girls and Women"! Bam!"

In conclusion, my 2013 reading resolution is to wait until they develop a love-of-reading pill I can easily slip into a piece of cheese or possibly a triple thick milkshake.

We'd love to hear your reading resolution for 2013. Click on our latest poll and tell us how you're going to change your reading habits.

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