Christmas Reading List
December 19, 1999
December 19, 1999
Rex Murphy's Suggestions
Host of Cross Country Checkup on CBC Radio One.
The Eternal Act of Creation: Essays 1979 to 1990 by Northrop Frye. Indiana Univ.Press 1993
A wonderful compendium of razor-sharp essays. People donít have to be academics to dip into Northrop Frye.
Name Dropping: From FDR On by John Kenneth Galbraith. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999.
Combines elegance and wit...saturated with a kind of throw-away wisdom. A delightful read from a capacious mind from a lifetime or rich experience. This man was made for memoir.
Selected Non-Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges. Translated by Elliot Weinberger, Viking Press, 1999
A large and ripe coverage of Borgesian territory. Reviews, essays, film criticism, tributes, and fragments of autobiography. An open door to a truly interesting mind, with great literary depth and one of the most interesting literary styles of this century.
W. O. Mitchell Country photographs by Courtney Milne and selected by Barbara Mitchell, text by W.O. Mitchell and selected by Orm Mitchell. McClelland and Stewart, 1999.
Landscape books can be really boring but this one strikes and extraordinary chord. A remarkable book of Prairie landscape and houses and the writings of the Prairie master.
Eleanor Wachtelís Suggestions
Host of Writerís & Company and The Arts Today on CBC Radio One. Books include Writers and Company (Random House of Canada, 1993) and More Writers and Company, (1996).
Short Storys by Ingo Shulze. Or, Simple Stories: A Novel from the East German Provinces. Translated by John Woods, Knopf, 2000. Also by Schulze: 33 Moments of Happiness.
It is being described as the first post-unification novel. Itís the story of ordinary people in a small town in East Germany coping with change.
The New Fowlerís Modern English Usage third edition by H.W. Fowler, revised by Robert W. Burchfield, Oxford University Press, 1996.
The authority of how words should be used. A fascinating book for anyone interested in words.
My Garden (Book) by Jamaica Kincaid. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999.
Kincaidís writing is described as passionate and prickly. She is a startling writer. She says that memory is a gardenerís real pallet ...it inspires both satisfaction and despair.
The Best American Short Stories of the Century by John Updike (editor) and Katrina Kenison (co-editor). Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999.
This is an anthology of an anthology. Itís a selection of the best annual american short stories going back to 1915. A rich treasury ...gratifying in their compactnesss.
The Oxford Book of Stories by Canadian Women edited by Rosemary Sullivan. Oxford Press, 1999.
Wonderful short stories from Catherine Parr Traill to Mavis Gallant.
Isobel Gunn: A Novel by Audrey Thomas. Penguin, 1999.
An extraordinary tale of an Orkney woman who disguises herself as a man and signs on to work at a Hudsonís Bay post in 1806. A very vivid book.
Rembrandtís Eyes by Simon Schama, Random House of Canada, 1999.
Extravagant value and heft for your dollar. A mix of erudition and colloquial language. Schamaís descriptions are lovely, moving you right into the painting.
Neil Besnerís Suggestions
Head of the English Department at the University of Winnipeg.
Blindness by Jose Saramago.
An apocalyptic, forward-looking book.
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated by Edith Grossman, Penguin, 1996.
A beautiful cultural mediation on the afflictions of love.
The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro. Penguin, 1999.
Munro is always good ...this is an absolutely superb collection.
The Museum Guard by Howard Norman, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998.
Norman is American but writes terrific books set in Canada.
Howie Meekerís Suggestions
Hockey commentator, coach, star player with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
ĎTis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt. Simon & Schuster Trade, 1999.
McCourt has such a wonderful sense of humour and can really spin a yarn. You can just sit back and in your mind youíre floating. You get to know him so well you feel like youíve met him somewhere before.
The Good of the Game: Recapturing Hockeyís Greatness by Bruce Hood with Murray Townsend. Stoddart, 1999.
A fresh perspective on the game of hockey from a former referee in the NHL. He recognizes the lack of skills in Canadian hockey players and opposes fighting in the game.
Grandma Summer by Harley Jessup. Viking Penguin, 1999.
For any grandmothers out there who want a wonderfully illustrated book and a beautiful story for five to eight year olds, this is it.
Cross Country Checkupís Callersí Suggestions
Berlin Diaries, 1940-45 by Marie Vassiltchikov. Vintage Books, 1988.
A frank, straight-forward read ...from a Russian refugee taken in by high society. It transports you into the world of Berlin in the 1940s.
Sing Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book by Christina G. Rossetti and Illustrated by Arthur Hughes. Reprint. Dover Publications Inc., 1969.
Not what you might expect from this 19th century poet ...children just eat it up.
How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Childrenís Books by Joan Bodger. Reprint. McClelland & Stewart, 1965.
Takes you back into the world of childhood classics from one of Canadaís pre-eminent storytellers. Funny and poignant ...fills you with knowledge.
Harry Potter and the Philosopherís Stone by J.K. Rowling. Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999.
About a boy who thinks heís just an ordinary person living with his uncle and auntie who donít really like him. Heís whisked away to Wizard School and has many adventures.
Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie. Avon Books, 1990.
A very witty, comical look at human nature.
Great Owners, Good Dogs by Brian Kilcommons. Warner Books, Inc., 1999.
An excellent book for people with dogs.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Ballantine Books, 1997.
An imaginative, hope-filled novel.
Winterís Tale by Mark Helprin. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995.
A marvelous novel with wonderful descriptions of winter. Helprinís not afraid to branch into areas of fantasy.
Anything by authors A.J. Liebling and S.J. Perelman.
These are two humourists from the mid 1900s. They're urbane with the wit of the era in which they wrote.
The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron. Penguin Books Canada, Ltd., 1992.
My Cat Saved My Life Phillip Schreibman. Dogís Bark Publishing, 1998.
Beautifully written ...great for those with cats, an animal or someone who is grieving.
Something to Remember Me By: An Illustrated Story for Young and Old by Susan Bosak. Illustrated by Laurie McGaw. Communication Project, 1997.
A wonderful book about a little girl who visits her grandmother ...and gives her something to remember her by.
Five Hundred Mathematical Challenges by Edward Barbeau, Murray Klamkin and William Moser. Mathematical Association of America, 1995.
This book offers a tool chest of techniques to solve problems ...in the end you marvel at the ingenuity that goes into creating them.
A Childís Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. New Direction Publishing Corporation, 1997.
Deals with family matters rather than commercialism. This is the story to read with the family around Christmas.
True Blue by Daniel Topolski with Patrick Robinson. Doubleday, 1989.
The true story of the Oxford boat race mutiny, complete with clash of personalities and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Penguin Books Canada, Ltd., 1997.
A prequel to Bronteís Jane Eyre ...one of the finest modern novels of 20th Century.
Hungry Hills: A Novel by George Ryga. Talonbooks, 1974. Also by the same author: Ballad of A Stonepicker (1976) and Athabasca Ryga (1993).
These are some of the most seminal literature to evolve off of the landscape. It gives people a strong sense of what it was like to grow up in this country when a whole section of the population was marginalized.
Who Has Seen the Wind by Christina Rossetti. Found in Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti. Buccaneer Books, 1992.
Our caller spoke of the poem by W.O. Mitchell which she read and memorized from the Grade Five Reader, published by the Department of Education in Regina, Saskatchewan. A home book to those living on the Prairies.
Them Lions Will Eat Them Up by Vernon Mullen, Voyageur Publishers, 1999.
A remarkable book ...and a stirring example of what Canadian veterans have done around the world since the Second World War.
Sun Wing by Kenneth Oppel. HarperCollins Canada, 1999. Also by same author: Silver Wing.
About the adventures of a silver-wing bat with an enemy cannibal bat named Goth.
SPQR V: Saturnalia by John Maddox Roberts. Minotaur Books, 1999.
The fifth in a mystery series set in late Republican Rome. The narrator has an extremely wry sense of humour and the history contained in the stories is very good.
Turnover: The Fumbling of the Ottawa Roughriders by Fred Dowdle.
For anyone whoís a fan of Canadian football.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, Random House of Canada, 1999.
Not only a good read as a novel, but itís amazing to think all the characters in the novel actually exist in Savannah society. They made my life seem boring in comparison!
Murder in the Name of Allah by Mirza Tahir Ahmad. Out of print. Our caller said his copy was published by Lutterworth Press.
Suggests all religions drip with blood, not because of their teachings, but because of many followers' ignorance of the basic common teachings of tolerance and peace as well as politics. Also by the same author: Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, published by Islam International Publications, Ltd. UK.
Frugal Feasts: 101 Quick and Easy Single-Serving Meals From Around the World by Mary Ross. Doubleday Canada, Ltd., 1996.
This book can convert someone almost incapable of boiling water into someone who is an interesting cook.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. HarperCollins Canada, Ltd., 1999.
A story of a family that goes to the Congo in the 1960s. The characters are so alive that you take a personal interest in them and canít wait to get to the next snippet.
Inevitable Grace: Breakthroughs in the Lives of Great Men & Women: Guides to Your Self-Realization by Piero Ferrucci. Jeremy P. Tarcher Incorporated, 1991.
The author documents his lifeís work of the thoughtful examination of hundreds of extraordinary people looking for the common threads that allowed them to exceed the normal expectations of ourselves.
The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano. Translated by Cedric Belfrage and Mark Schafer
Penguin Books Canada, 1992.
The author writes single-page snippets that have a magical way of exposing the whole world in a short paragraph.
Prayers for a 1000 Years: Blessing and Expressions of Hope for a New Millennium. Inspirations from Leaders and Visionaries Around the World. Edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon. HarperCollins Canada, 1999.
A beautiful anthology of prose and poetry from contemporary political leaders, poets, activists, youth, artists and visionaries.
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Saint Martinís Press, 1997.
A book full of joy that follows the life of one family. It holds the readers attention to the very last paragraph. You fall in love with it, you live it and you donít want to let go. A great reliever of stress.
Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan. Random House of Canada, Ltd., 1990.
A prison memoir, but despite his bleak circumstance he finds a lot of humourous situations to write about. Akin in writing style to Frank McCourtís Angelaís Ashes.
In the Hands of the Living God by Lillian Bouzane. Turnstone Press, 1999.
About a 15th Century Venetian woman who writes sacred music and is the wife of explorer John Cabot. Written in the form of letters and diaries, itís a story of deception, intrigue and separation and waiting. But ultimately, itís a love story.
The Greengrocerís Kitchen by Pete Luckett. Goose Lane Editions, Fredericton.
A real introduction to more exotic vegetables as well as Italian and Mediterranean cooking. A cross between a coffee table book and a cook book from a local Halifax personality.
If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence & Spirit by Brenda Ueland. Graywolf Press, 1998.
Encouragement for anyone who has ever written or who aspires to write. The main message is that everyone is talented and original and has something important to say. Invokes everyone to tell the truth of their lives.