#MustReadIn2020 December Update

Carrie Gelson at There's a Book for That, started the #MustRead community. I have been joining in for the last four or five years. If you have a "want to read" list on Goodreads (or somewhere else) that goes on forever, then you might be interested in joining. 

This is my final update for 2020. It includes books published in 2020 as well as some that have been around for decades. 

I achieved almost all my reading goals this year. I started out with a plan to read from four categories of books: fiction, nonfiction, Indigenous authors and Canadian authors. You can read more about that here.

If you click on a linked it title, you will be taken to the books goodreads page where you can read more about it and add it to your own want to read list. 

GENERAL FICTION

My goal was to read at least 24 novels from a curated list. Almost all of the books on it are there because they received stellar reviews or because they are authors whose work I adore. I gave five stars to sixteen of the twenty-five fiction titles I finished. They impressed me for different reasons. 

A few that stand out include:


Anthem
(The Sixties Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Wiles
Kent State by Deborah Wiles
Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

NONFICTION

My goal was to read at least 12 titles from this curated list.
I would have finished my Nonfiction Goal except that I was blindsided by an ARC - Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes. So I only finished eleven. I'm not bothered (well maybe I am a wee bit) because the purpose of this goal was to increase my nonfiction reading. Since I started keeping this goal, I read much more nonfiction in general. I guess what I'm saying is that even if I didn't reach my goal here, I still think it has been a success.

Almost all of the books I read knocked my socks off, but some of them helped me understand other perspectives and see the world in new ways. 


Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD by RomΓ©o Dallaire 
Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants by Ann Hui 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 

INDIGENOUS AUTHORS

I read 30 titles by Indigenous authors this year. They included picture books, nonfiction, graphic novels, realistic and speculative fiction. They were all pretty spectacular. I accomplished my goal, but when I look back at the year, I see that I have mostly stayed with people I already knew (especially with regards to my novel reading). Next year I'm going to try and read more new to me authors. 

A few that gobsmacked me include:



You can see the rest of this list here.

CANADIAN AUTHORS

Canada has a rich wealth of authors and illustrators who don't receive the attention and credit they deserve. I do my best to highlight them in my blog. 

I read about 120 books by Canadian authors last year. (I say about because I may well have missed adding books to this list.) If you add Indigenous Canadians, it makes up almost half of my reading life. This makes me very happy! 

Although I read many remarkable Canadian titles last year, one has stuck with me. When We Were Vikings is a debut novel by Andrew David MacDonald. I have been encouraging people to read this book since I first read it last January. If it isn't the best book I read all year, it's in the top five. I took Zelda and her clan into my heart and can't seem to let go of them. I'm really hoping for a sequel to find out how they are all doing. 

Add When We Were Vikings to your #MustRead list for next year!

Here are other books I appreciated: 

Novels


Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King

Chapter Books & Readers



#IMWAYR December 28th, 2020

 Hello out there. It's #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

I hope you are all enjoying some rest, relaxation and down time during this winter holiday season. It was a bit crazy for a while here, but we are finally finding a bit of peace.  

 Every Christmas when I was a young girl, my Granny would bring over a package of her homemade divinity fudge. Each family got a box. It was the highlight of the season. My siblings and I used to fight over any extra pieces. I think Dad ate them when we were not looking. I never did learn how to make it with her, but in the last few years my sister and I have been trying different recipes in an effort to replicate it. 

Until this year, mine have been a failure. They ended up never setting, or they hardened in the bowl before I could get them out. Maybe it was the humidity at the coast. This year, in our semi desert area, I made four successful batches. Well, almost four. The first batch looked fabulous, but when I bit into them I discovered that the pecans I used were rancid. My partner and I ate too many of them while testing them out, but we did manage to save enough to give some away. 


I had a specialist appointment in Vancouver the Monday before Xmas so I missed last week. Because we were already staying with my son and his family, we stayed on to celebrate with them. The families seemed to like these quilted tree skirts I made for them. I made other gifts but forgot to take photographs of them. 


I have been thinking about the #MustRead challenge initiated by Carrie Gelson. Since she isn't prepared to host it for 2021 I am contemplating hosting it until she wants to return to it. Are people still interested in this?

Titles with a 🍁 indicate this is a Canadian Author and or Illustrator. 

Clicking on the title will take you to the Goodreads page of the book. 

PICTURE BOOKS


I Am Every Good Thing
by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James (Illustrator)

Gorgeous art accompanies this powerful collections of affirmations. They celebrate all the power and joy of black boyhood.

GRAPHIC NOVELS


Superman Smashes the Klan
by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru (Artwork)

This is a fascinating take on the origins of Superman. I really appreciate how Gene Luen Yang has made connections between Clark Kent's history as an alien from another planet to one of the Lee family moving from Chinatown to Downtown Metropolis.
Tommy, the oldest, manages to adapt and seems to fit in. Roberta, his younger sister, feels like an outsider and sees Tommy as being fake. When the family is targeted by the KKK, Superman comes to their rescue. One of the younger clan members is less than enthusiastic about being recruited. His admiration of Superman helps him help the rest of them.
There is so much to admire and love about this nuanced graphic novel. Ultimately it's about overcoming hatred and accepting ourselves and others for who we are. That moment when Roberta tries to return the pen Lois Lane gave her, and discovers that the initials are based on her Chinese name, is profound.
The back matter contains a timeline that shows the relationship between the story of Superman, WW2, racism and the role Superman played in discrediting the KKK.

NOVELS


Give and Take
 by Elly Swartz

Maggie and her family foster a newborn until her forever parents are chosen and able to pick her up. This ends up being a serious challenge for her since she has a hard time letting go of all kinds of things. How can she let go of a baby sister she's come to love?
When her parents discover that Maggie is becoming a hoarder, they make sure she gets the help she needs to learn to let go and trust that she won't lose her memories like her Nana did.
I fell head over heels for this wonderful family. Maggie has supportive parents and two considerate siblings. I would wish for all children to have a grandfather like hers.
This kind of realistic fiction is the kind I love most. It provides a window and a mirror for students dealing with mental health issues. At the same time, it provides a model for dealing with challenges and difficulties in an emotionally healthy way.


Leggings Revolt
 by Monique Polak
 πŸ  

The local high school principal is a tyrant who enforces a misogynistic dress code with unusual fervour. Eric and some of his friends have moved from a local all boys school to attend this coed institution. He ends up on the school council - a patsy group created to implement the principal's rules.
Eric is a good kid who makes some mistakes with how he treats girls, but then realizes he has screwed up and apologises. When the principal arbitrarily announces that leggings are a dress code violation and a girl he fancies gets expelled for wearing some, he decides to do something about it. I really appreciated the solution that Eric and other students finally came up with.
Add this to a collection of books about young activists.

DISCWORLD NOVEL

The more I read Pratchett, the sorrier I am for people who haven't yet discovered him. 


Witches Abroad
 by Terry Pratchett & Nigel Planer (Narrator) 

The quote in my blog's header is from this book. 
This is a reread for me. I love this book so much that no sooner did I finish listening to it this time, I started all over again. (That makes three reads in total) If you enjoy twisted fairytales, and are interested in trying one of the Discworld novels, this might be your way in. 

"Stories don't care who takes part in them. All that matters is that the story gets told, that the story repeats. Or, if you prefer to think of it like this: stories are a parasitical life form, warping lives in the service only of the story itself.
It takes a special kind of person to fight back, and become the bicarbonate of history."
The admirable witches from the Discworld: Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and Granny Weatherwax, take on this role. Magrat Garlick inherits a wand from Desiderata, a witch and Fairy Godmother. This makes Magrat fairy godmother to Emberella. Desiderata leaves instructions to tell Nanny and Granny that they must not go with her to Genua, where Emberella lives. 
I love the interaction between these witches. I love their bickering, their bawdiness, and their interpretations of foreign places and foreigners. But mostly I love their humanity and their integrity.
You can read the full review I first wrote about this book here


Small Gods
by Terry Pratchett & Nigel Planer (Narrator) 

The people of Omnia worship a warped version of the god Om. Things have changed a lot since his last manifestation and the deity the people honor has no connection to who he is. When he ends up manifesting as a turtle with no divine powers, Brutha, a young novice, is the only one who can hear him. At first Brutha is a naive youth who does as he is told, but as the novel develops, and he meets with people outside of his own faith, he begins to think for himself. Even the god Om undergoes a transformation and begins to care about the people who believe in him. 
This book brilliantly satirises multiple aspects of religious life. Pratchett pokes fun at religious institutions, people, practices and the connection to politics. It never feels heavy handed because Brutha is such an endearing character. 


The World of Poo
 by Terry Pratchett, Bernard Pearson & Isobel Pearson

This is one of the books that Inspector Vimes reads to his young son in one of the Discworld novels. Young Geoffrey is sent to stay with his Grand-mama in the big city of Ankh-Morpork when his mother is having “great expectations”
In the city Geoffrey becomes fascinated by poo. As he begins collecting samples from different animals, his Grand-mama’s gardener helps him set up a museum in an old shed. The book is full of details about how a medieval city might deal with its ‘night soil.’

NONFICTION


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
 
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is an important, profound book. It has much to teach all of us about gratitude, sharing, and reciprocity. These are all critical things if we are going to ensure our existence upon the planet. Ultimately we must defeat the Wendigo of greed and selfishness that leaves us empty, and find a new way of democratically being in the world. It’s going to be hard for many of us to start thinking of all the plants and animals as our equals, but without it we are in serious trouble.

CURRENTLY 

I'm reading Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce. The Discworld novel I'm into is Men at Arms. I'm listening to A History of My Brief Body by Billy Rae Belcourt 

UP NEXT 

I plan to start Hatch by Kenneth Oppel, the second in his Overthrow series. 

PROGRESS ON MY READING GOALS 

 #MustReadIn2020: 25/25

#MustReadNFIn2020: 11/12 one in progress

Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors: 29/25  

Books by Canadian Authors: 130/100 

Discworld Series 14/41 - one in progress

Goodreads Reading Challenge: 335/333 

#IMWAYR December 14, 2020

Hello out there. It's #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

I apologise for not getting around to commenting on everyone's posts last week. I did read them all, but time was in short supply so....

I also didn't get in much reading with my eyes. I have been very busy with house painting and sewing. I'm almost finished two Christmas tree skirts for my two sons and their families. They took
much longer than I anticipated. I just have to quilt them and will share pictures of them next week. I hope I get them done!

Our house is looking more festive even if we don't have a functioning main bathroom. My winter village and North Pole figurines are on display. My wonderful partner managed to get the windows full of lights. We plan to head off into the hills Monday to cut down a tree. Then on Tuesday we will decorate it. 

Titles with a 🍁 indicate this is a Canadian Author and or Illustrator. 

Clicking on the title will take you to the Goodreads page of the book. 

PICTURE BOOKS

5 stars

Finding My Talk
by Rebecca Thomas & Pauline Young (Illustrator) πŸ 

A couple of weeks ago I read the companion book, I Lost My Talk, by Rita Joe and Pauline Young. Rita Joe and Rebecca Thomas' father lost their language, culture and ways of knowing the world after being taken from their families and placed in residential schools.
I'm Finding My Talk is a poem about healing and recovering as much of that which was taken away as possible.
Talk is about more than language. Terry Pratchett wrote, "People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.”Words have power. Words convey meaning and provide a framework for how we see the world and connect to each other. This book is about coming home to who the Mi'kmaq people were before residential schools took it away.
Both the author and illustrator dedicate the book to their fathers. Reading these dedications nearly brought me to tears.
Pauline Young's paintings are a brilliant homage to the power of Rebecca Thomas' words.

5 stars

Mi'kmaw Animals
by Alan Syliboy πŸ 

This board book showcases petroglyph style illustrations of different animals. Each creature is paired with its name on the next page. The names are given in Mi’kmaw with a pronunciation guide and in English.
The art work is just stunning!

4 stars

Blueberry Patch / Mayabeekamneeboo
n by Jennifer Leason & Norman Chartrand (Translator) πŸ 

First off, the art in this bilingual book is swoonworthy. I want some prints to hang on my walls.
The story shares a memory of travelling with family to the blueberry patch. Set in the late 1940's, it tells of a way of life now gone. The author's family journeyed by wagon train with other members of the community to spend a month living in tents and harvesting blueberries. It's bursting with images of nature that indicate an intimate relationship to the earth.
The pages are a wee bit text heavy even accepting that it is written in English and Anishinaabemowin. The back matter contains a list of activities to accompany the book, a recipe for bannock, and information about the two contributors.

NOVELS

5 stars

Three Keys
(Front Desk #2) by Kelly Yang & Sunny Lu (Narrator)

I think I loved this sequel even more than the first in the series.
If you are looking for a book for a young activist, pick this one. Mia Tang and her friends work hard to battle racism in their school and community. It's set against the backdrop of California’s Prop 187, a law that would ban undocumented immigrants from access to health care and public schooling.


The worst thing about reading the most recent Inspector Armand Gamache Novel, is having to wait for the next one to be published. 
This story takes the Gamache family to Paris, France, where Armand's godfather is deliberately attacked by a hit and run driver. He was involved in a deep investigation of a corrupt corporation and independent security force. 
As the story unfolds, the rift between Armand and his son seems to widen. It becomes more and more difficult to determine who can be trusted, and who is out to destroy them all.

DISCWORLD NOVEL

The more I read Pratchett, the sorrier I am for people who haven't yet discovered him. 


The Discworld collection is a compendium of mini series set in Pratchett's world. I recently found this image for helping keep track of them all. 

I want to give a shout out to https://goldenaudiobooks.com/. I've been listening to many of the Discworld novels for free from here. The books have to be streamed rather than downloaded, but since I'm mostly listening to them while at home working, it's not a problem for me. 

4 stars

Moving Pictures
by Terry Pratchett & Nigel Planer (Narrator)


The alchemists of Discworld have developed Moving Pictures. Victor Tugelbend, a drop out wizard from the Unseen University, is drawn to Holy Wood. As unskilled as he might be, he ends up paired with Ginger Withel and both become super stars. Of course they are helped out by Gaspode the talking dog.
It soon emerges that Moving Pictures has a detrimental effect on the reality of the Discworld especially because they open up a portal into the Dungeon Dimensions.
This parody of the movie industry is both hilarious and terrifying.

4 stars

Reaper Man
by Terry Pratchett & Nigel Planer (Narrator)

The Auditors of Reality decide that Death needs to be replaced since he has started to develop a personality and has lost his objectivity towards humans. He sets off to live life with the rest of the Discworld citizenry. In the process he becomes even more empathic as he learns what it means to be human and die.
All the creatures on the Discworld are left to come up with a new way to configure death. Humans are slow to do this. Consequently, their life force builds up. This makes it impossible for people to die and brings the dead back to life. This is especially difficult for the recently deceased wizard, Windle Poons, who was looking forward to reincarnation. He joins the Fresh Start club, an undead-rights group, who go on to discover that Ankh-Morpork is being invaded by a parasitic life form that hatches from eggs that resemble snow globes.

CURRENTLY 

I'm still reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a book club title. The Discworld book I'm into is Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett narrated by Nigel Planer. This is at least my third go round with this book and I love it more each time. I just started Give and Take by Elly Swartz. 

UP NEXT 

A History of My Brief Body by Billy Rae Belcourt just became available so this will be my next audiobook. I hope to get to On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Ocean Vuong and Leggings Revolt by Monique Polak. 

PROGRESS ON MY READING GOALS 

 #MustReadIn2020: 24/25 - one in progress

#MustReadNFIn2020: 11/12 

Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors: 29/25  

Books by Canadian Authors: 129/100 

Discworld Series 16/41 - one in progress

Goodreads Reading Challenge: 326/333 

#IMWAYR December 6, 2020

  Hello out there. It's #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

Whoot whoot! I accomplished another of my reading goals this week!! I've read 25 books by Canadian Indigenous authors. (I might end up reading more since I have three titles in a pile from the library)

Our house renovations continue. Now that the electrical stuff is dealt with in our main bathroom, my partner is busy mudding and sanding. As soon as this is done I will go in and start painting and get the tile in while he works on the medicine cabinet. If the Gods and Goddesses are with us, we should have it all finished by next week. After this we will clean the house and take a break until after the winter holidays are over. 

I've just started making some Christmas placemats to give away for Christmas, (if they turn out.) They are supposed to be a fast project. We shall see. 

Titles with a 🍁 indicate this is a Canadian Author and or Illustrator. 

Clicking on the title will take you to the Goodreads page of the book. 

PICTURE BOOKS

4 stars

Eric
by Shaun Tan

This is a sweet story from Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia collection I read it from Netgalley. Now I want to read them all. 

It is about a family that hosts a foreign student. Eric, (his real name is too hard for them to pronounce,) is a lovely little character even if he doesn't fit into the family's expectation of normal. Any contrast to their way of knowing the world is attributed to cultural difference. Readers are only aware of Eric's perspective through the images. 

I've read this through at least three times and am still struggling to come up with words to explain the aching emotional response I'm left with.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

5 stars

Flamer
 by Mike Curato

This is heart wrenchingly brilliant! Mike Curato is a well known picture book author and illustrator for the Little Elliot series. He grew up in a Catholic home. This fictional graphic memoir, inspired by his own life, is about coming to accept being queer, for which, according to the church, he would burn in hell.

This book resonated in me for all kinds of reasons. From the cultural references I assume that Aiden would have been about the same age as my sons. I came to love this character as much as I loved my sons' friends.  I grew up in a Catholic household so I understand the religious references all too well. I abandoned the church for all kinds of reasons, but for me it was primarily when, as a teen, I discovered feminism. My mother and mother in law used to ask me if I would ever come back to the church. I would respond, "When women become priests and my queer friends can get married in it."

NONFICTION

5 stars

Turtle Island
 by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathey Lowinger
 πŸ

This book tells the history of the people in North and Central America centuries before Europeans arrived. Readers learn about these people  through the results of different kinds of archaeological research, artwork, myths, oral storytelling and imagining. 
It includes different origin tales from across the different regions and peoples. I knew there were a great many different nations living on this land, but I really appreciated learning more about who they were and how they survived. I was fascinated by the canals of the Hohokam who created verdant gardens out in the desert. I had no idea about the city of Cahokia on the Mississippi River. The inhabitants of Cahokia, the largest city north of Mexico, created numerous clay mounds that were used for multiple purposes.
Did you know that the people of Mesoamerica wrote books? When the Spanish arrived they burned whole libraries of them down.
The latter part of the book deals with the tragedies following first contact with Europeans after 1492.

This should be in every school library across the continent. 

NOVELS


I adored this book so much. I don't have the self discipline that Shaye has to savour it in small amounts. I devoured it. That said, no sooner did I finish it, I started it all over again. 
It feels eerily prescient to our present day circumstances given that Nevermoor is in the middle of a pandemic and that a certain group of citizens face racism. 
Jessica Townsend's world building is bloody brilliant. The Gobleian Library is probably not a place I would want to work in, but I sure would love to stay at the Hotel Deucalion. 
Now that I'm done I'm left with so many questions careening around in my head. I want desperately to have a conversation with someone about this. What is going on with Ezra Squall? Is he really as evil as Morrigan has been led to believe? Does he have a new strategy to get Morrigan to be his apprentice? With the corruption and manipulation of community leaders, what is the real truth behind what happened a century ago? 

If you are looking for a series to give to a kid in your life, look no further.


Sometimes I forget how much I adore really good realistic MG fiction. Then I read a title like this, experience the satisfaction of a tale well told, and remember all over again.
Amelia Peabody's older sister died in a tragic boating accident three years earlier than this novel takes place. She's still struggling with grief when she ends with a letter written by her sister outlining her goals and dreams. Amelia decides to accomplish them for her. The goals are pretty ordinary, but in the process of achieving them, Amelia initiates changes in her life. She ends up making new friends, gets to understand her old ones better, and starts on the road to healing.
The adults in this novel are realistic individuals who do their best to support the young people in their care. I especially appreciated Amelia's parents who struggle with their own grief, but are there for her when she needs them. 

DISCWORLD NOVELS


The Discworld collection is a compendium of mini series set in Pratchett's world. I recently found this image for helping keep track of them all. 

 4 stars
  
Guards! Guards! 
by Terry Pratchett & Nigel Planer (Narrator)

When a secret society conjures up a dragon in Ankh-Morpork, it's up to Vimes and the rest of his City Watch crew to figure out how to get rid of it. In the middle of it, romance blossoms. 

I am infatuated with these earlier works of Pratchett. I read Thud (a later book in this mini series) ages ago, but now I'm now looking forward to reading more books about Vimes and the rest of the City Watch.

CURRENTLY 

I'm listening to Three Keys by Kelly Yang narrated by Sunny Lu. I'm rereading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a book club title. I've also got The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett on the go. The other Discworld book I'm into is Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett narrated by Nigel Planer.

UP NEXT 

My next audiobook will be A History of My Brief Body by Billy Rae Belcourt. I'm planning to read On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Ocean Vuong and Leggings Revolt by Monique Polak. I also hope to get to Give and Take by Elly Swartz so I can complete another of my reading goals. 

PROGRESS ON MY READING GOALS 

#MustReadIn2020: 24/25

#MustReadNFIn2020: 11/12 

Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors: 25/25  

Books by Canadian Authors: 125/100 

Discworld Series 14/41 - two in progress

Goodreads Reading Challenge: 319/333