Culture & Conversation

Rover Writers’ Best Books

Whither the book in 2010? Is this ancient and beloved vessel, this missile of mass education, the most subversive invention yet produced by our civilisation, headed for extinction? A subject for chat. Meanwhile, check out Rover’s favourites as read and reviewed by our faithful writers.

Katia Grubisic: Michael Crummey’s latest novel, Galore: you get to the end and – what? The end, already? Where are you all going? Hey, guys, we’re just getting to know each other. I haven’t even gone mumming with you! Can I have some tea, at least? … Barely get the smell of fish off my hands…

David Homel: The Dragan Todorovic novel was one of my best picks for books this year: Diary of Interrupted Days.

Sarah Fletcher: Tim Winton’s Breath: Winton presents a breath-taking glimpse into the surfing culture of Western Australia. Poetic and riveting.

Aparna Sanyal: Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone.

Maria Schamis Turner: I haven’t reviewed too many books this year, but my favourite would be Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen.

B. A. Markus: It was hard for me to choose my favourite review of the year. In the end I’m going for A Drifting Life, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi published by Drawn and Quarterly Press. Many of the books I reviewed this year were revelatory but this one not only introduced me to the graphic art form of manga and the artistry of Tatsumi, one of its icons, but also gave me a long overdue education on the cultural, social, and political environment in Japan after WWII. The fact that Drawn and Quarterly has a Montreal connection was just the icing on the cake.

Mark Paterson: Of the books I reviewed for The Rover this year, my favourite was Zoe Whittall’s novel Holding Still For As Long As Possible (House of Anansi Press). Some books, thanks to their authors’ skill with details, description, and storytelling, have a certain cinematic quality. For me, Whittall’s latest read like a really cool mini-series, the kind you temporarily abandon your social life for. A series has more time to invest in its characters than a movie, and Whittall makes an enormous investment in hers, creating an excellent ensemble piece by employing a trio of first-person narrators who each speak with a voice all their own. Holding Still … is also distinctive for shining a light on a generation we haven’t seen much of yet in literature: the current mid-twenties crowd who came of age in the early days of the 21st century. Add Whittall’s sense of humour and vibrant writing style, and you’ll be proud to say, “I read that book,” when (hopefully, someday) that mini-series comes to TV.

Mélanie Grondin: My favourite book this year was Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s Perfecting. I loved it because it was different; different from other books I’ve read, different from the “typical Canadian novel” many people seem to hold in contempt. I also loved it because it was chock-full of symbols and I’ve always been a fan of symbolism.

Brian Campbell: I liked everything I reviewed this year, but standouts include: Sina Queyras’ Expressway, Creeley’s On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay, Gendun Chopel’s In the Forest of Faded Wisdom. I’d also give a definite hat tip to Shannon Stewart’s Penny Dreadful.

Marianne Ackerman: Rover literary editor Elise Moser published her first novel Because I Have Loved and Hidden It, a wonderful book, brilliantly structured, always surprising. She captures the feel of Montreal, the fast-paced slightly crazy world of urbanity co-existing with our indefatigable love of life, especially all that tastes and feels good. Mesmerizing, original. Roberto Bolerno’s 2666 moved and impressed me. Hugh Brogan’s magnificent biography of Alexis de Toqueville was a delight. I especially enjoyed reading the bit about Toqueville’s publisher making a policy never to read a book he agreed to publish. Seems he considered pre-reading to be unnecessary, if not a conflict of interest. If a writer doesn’t have a slew of influential friends to recommend him, where’s the hope of success?

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