My book haul this Christmas

Today, JT will disassemble Christmas in our little house while I’m at work, and when we deliver the (fat, beautiful) tree to the wood chipper later it will officially mark the end of the holiday season.

All of our presents have been exchanged and unwrapped — except for the two that I still haven’t sent to my coworkers in Toronto… whoops — and that means it’s time to take an inventory of the pile of books I was gifted this season.

In no particular order, the books I received are as follows:

  • The Back of the Turtle, Thomas King
  • The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
  • Cataract City, Craig Davidson
  • Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
  • In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, Matt Bell
  • How Should a Person Be, Sheila Heti
  • The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
  • Swamplandia!, Karen Russell

backofthe turtle

BoneClocks  cataractcity fight club mattbellheti

nightcircus swamplandia

What I read this year

Hello lovely readers.

My birthday was on Monday (yay!), which signals the end of one reading year and the start of another. This year I read about 35 books… that I remembered to write down. I know that some were missed.

In my tracking sheet (sorted by completion date below), there is a conspicuous absence of books in March and April, but for the life of me I can’t recall what I was reading then. Oh well. Next year I’ll try to be a bit more dedicated to this tracking process.

Anyway, the actual excel spreadsheet also includes columns for:

  • genre
  • who/what recommended the book
  • my rating from -5 to +5; and
  • some additional key notes about the book (e.g. The Book Thief: WWII, wonderful metaphors, sad; Mrs. Dalloway: beautiful writing, insightful, difficult; Breakfast of Champions: Satire, creative, over-hyped, addictive)

…but I thought that would be a bit much to post here. Maybe I’ll add it as a separate permanent page.

Title Author last name Author first name Completed on
Y: The Last Man, Unmanned Guerra Pia & Vaughan, Brian K. 22-Dec-13
Book Thief, The Zuzak Markus 23-Dec-13
Ready Player One Cline Ernest 31-Dec-13
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Adams Douglas 1-Jan-14
Mrs. Dalloway Woolf Virginia 2-Jan-14
Extraordinary Gilmour David 3-Jan-14
Breakfast of Champions Vonnegut Kurt 10-Jan-14
Divergent Roth Veronica 21-Feb-14
Insurgent Roth Veronica 25-Feb-14
Allegiant Roth Veronica 27-Feb-14
Squirrel Meets Chipmunk Sedaris David 4-Mar-14
Naming, The Croggan Alison 3-May-14
Riddle, The Croggan Alison 6-May-14
Crow, The Croggan Alison 11-May-14
Gone Girl Flynn Gillian 23-May-14
Emancipation Day Grady Wayne 27-May-14
Slaughterhouse-Five Vonnegut Kurt 8-Jun-14
Sense and Sensibility Austen Jane 11-Jun-14
Pride and Prejudice Austen Jane 19-Jun-14
Fault in our Stars Green John 6-Jul-14
Persuasion Austen Jane 14-Jul-14
Northanger Abbey Austen Jane 16-Jul-14
Emma Austen Jane 26-Jul-14
Year of the Flood Atwood Margaret 11-Aug-14
Name of the Wind, The Rothfuss Patrick 4-Sep-14
I Capture the Castle Smith Dodie 14-Sep-14
Room Donoghue Emma 7-Oct-14
Cloud McCormack Eric 17-Oct-14
Y: The Last Man, Cycles Guerra Pia & Vaughan, Brian K. 17-Oct-14
Accidental Apprentice, The Swarup Vikas 12-Nov-14
Flamethrowers, The Kushner Rachel 14-Nov-14
Super Sad True Love Story Shteyngart Gary 21-Nov-14
Animal Farm Orwell George 22-Nov-14
Rabbit Run Updike John  in progress
Brothers Karamazov, The Dostoyevsky Fyodor  in progress

So I guess it starts with… Part 1

Who can wait for the new year? Ahead of schedule, please enjoy the first installment of what could be a horrific mess of a novel. Yay!


So I guess it starts with a girl…

Is it already cliché? I promise she’s not beautiful. Or a vampire. Or from a tragic background. Still? Fine. Then how about:

So I guess it starts with a murder…

Is that too melodramatic? What if it’s true? Okay, I’ll try again.

So I guess it starts with a broken down truck and a baby and a miscommunication…


My father used to drag my high chair into the garage where he would inexpertly tinker with a partly dismantled piece of junk “classic” car while narrating his actions. He’d leave me with a stack of those special baby-formulated dissolving cracker-cookies, most of which would end up on the floor, or in my hair, or on the corner of the work bench that was just within reach of the fingers I had recently discovered were connected by invisible wishing strings to my desires.

I’d study the shiny silvery tools that shot sunbeams into my face and shaky spotlights onto the rest of the garage while he used the wrong words to refer to parts of the car that he was restoring. I had tested a number of those words in my mouth, operating under the theory that if invisible wishing strings could command my fingers, they could also command my noises. Most of them came out as a sort of garbled screech, but motor was a bit easier. The mmm was one of my favourite sounds and possibly the pinnacle of my vocabulary. The terr was fun to practice, like spitting out letters. The oh was the hardest, but after a week or two I had figured it out by making kiss lips and pushing noise from the back of my throat.

When I was ready to put them all together, I waited for a break in my father’s babble. I wanted him to know that I had been listening – that his chatter wasn’t in vain. I wanted to show him that I appreciated the cookie stacks and the fresh air from the open garage door and the silly bouncing refracted light and the intrigue of him creating a mess slowly, piece-by-piece, over hours and then becoming overwhelmed all at once by how much there was to clean up. He reached for a screwdriver – flathead, he told me, not Phillips – and I responded with my hard-earned word.

Motor I told him.

He looked at me. “What did you say?”

Motor I repeated.

He hopped up and ran to the inside door.

“Jane, you’ve got to get in here!” he yelled.

Motor motor motor I said, enjoying the active spectacle I had created.

“Jane! He’s talking!” my father yelled again, and then ran back to me. “Your mom is going to be so excited. Though you couldn’t make it ‘daddy’ huh? Oh well. Maybe the next one.”

I smiled at him. Daddy seemed like a pretty challenging sound to make, but for him, I would do my best.

My mother jogged into the garage. She was wearing the terrifying dish-washing gloves that gave her monster hands. I tried to keep my eyes on my father to distract me from the threat of them.

“Okay buddy, can you say it again?” my father asked. I gargled a little in my throat to regain my composure.

“Come on baby, talk for mommy,” monster-hands said.

Motor I repeated, and she squealed.

“Didn’t I tell you?” my father said, smiling his big bearded smile.


She reached for me and pulled me out of the high-chair with her monster hands, and I squirmed as hard as I could to get away. “Can you say it again?” she asked, and I weighed my options. If I talked again, maybe she would put me down, or give me to my father.

Motor I said, and she laughed.

“What a funny little gentleman you are. So formal!”

“I know,” said my father. “Who’s ever heard of a kid’s first word being ‘mother?’ It’s usually mommy or mama or something. That’s one classy baby we’ve made.”

I shook my head. I wasn’t saying ‘mother,’ obviously. How boring would that be? Plus, why would I have needed another word for her? She already came when I made the screechy cry noise.

Motor I said, trying to annunciate, Mmm-o-terr.

It was no use. They threw me about and clapped and petted and hugged and kissed. Their excitement was funny, and after a few minutes I got into the spirit of it as well, especially when my mother remembered to take off her monster-hand gloves.

Sometimes I think I should have tried harder to make myself clear – that giving into the first misunderstanding set the tone for the rest of my life – that I created this destiny for myself by giggling while they twirled me around and doted on my brilliance in that garage – but, then again, maybe I would have become who I was regardless of that mistake.


© 2014 Sarah Lund

Book buying: Christmas 2014 edition *UPDATED*

‘Tis the season of gift giving, and I am, of course, a huge fan of giving books.

Books as gifts have many advantages:

1) They are easy to wrap. Seriously. The easiest.
2) It’s an opportunity to show that you really understand what someone likes.
3) It’s an opportunity to force what you really like on someone else… and then get to talk about it with someone (finally!).
4) You get to wander through bookstores.

Being someone who reads a lot and who used to select books for people as a job (*single tear as I remember my bookseller days*) comes with an expectation of book-choosing prowess. Literally four of my family members said, or put on their Christmas lists, “get Sarah to pick out some books — she knows what I like.”

Geez… no pressure there.

But I have met the challenge. See for yourself; below is this year’s attempt at pleasing everyone with books (**SPOILER ALERT** if you are related to me):

  • Sister: Zealot by Reza Aslan; My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
  • Brother-in-law: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby; Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris; Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett
  • Mum: the latest Ken Follett; Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • Dad: The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi; Wool by Hugh Howey
  • Cousin: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
  • Aunt: The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips; The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  • Mom-in-law: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Dad-in-law: City Beautiful by Randy Turner
  • JT: On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield