Bookmas! It’s almost here! Squeeeee!

Ah, Book­mas. I know Novem­ber may seem a tri­fle ear­ly to begin the cel­e­bra­tions, but I sim­ply can­not wait, it’s my favourite time of year!

And any­way, all the stores dec­o­rate for Book­mas ear­li­er and ear­li­er these days. Book­mas has become too com­mer­cial­ized, y’know? Remem­ber when it used to be about the books? Now it’s all the Book­mas lifestyle accou­trements: read­ing lights, bookmarks…I guess that’s it. Still, though.

One of my fond­est mem­o­ries is of when I was a child of ten or so, rush­ing down ear­ly in the morn­ing to the Book­mas tree and dis­cov­er­ing tome upon tome of won­der­ful (and some­times not so won­der­ful) prose. My father would gift me with a new Stephen King or Isaac Asi­mov, and my moth­er would good-natured­ly warn me that too much read­ing would pop my eye out. Then the fam­i­ly would gath­er ’round the piano and chime in on a cho­rus of “Hark the Her­ald Authors Sing.”

Good times. Good, the­o­log­i­cal­ly con­fus­ing times.

To get the fes­tiv­i­ties under­way, until Book­mas 2014 is final­ly in the books (slight pun!), I’ll be post­ing rec­om­men­da­tions from a vari­ety of authors and oth­er pub­lish­ing-ori­ent­ed per­sons. Let your con­science tell you whether to fol­low them. I do not per­son­al­ly endorse their rec­om­men­da­tions. I do, how­ev­er, agree with most of them any­way.

Today’s Not-so-secret Book­San­ta: Corey Redekop! (seems only fair to sub­ject myself to the same relent­less ques­tion­ing. Damn my Men­non­ite polite­ness!)

What 2014-pub­lished fic­tion would you rec­om­mend?

Eric McCormack’s Cloud marked the won­der­ful return of Canada’s pre-emi­nent pur­vey­or of goth­ic strange­ness. If you haven’t yet dis­cov­ered McCormack’s deli­cious­ly dark worlds, you don’t know Can­Lit. Cloud, with its Dick­en­sian nar­ra­tor, Scot­tish moor bleak­ness, exot­ic locales, unnerv­ing sci­en­tif­ic explo­rations, and wit as black as tar, is as good as they come.

In a sim­i­lar vein, Ian Weir’s fan­tas­tic Will Star­ling is a rous­ing, rib­ald trek to the past, vivid­ly res­ur­rect­ing 18th cen­tu­ry Lon­don and its grue­some surg­eries, fran­tic graver­ob­bers, bla­tant clas­sism, and Franken­stein­ian sci­en­tif­ic achieve­ments. It’s a mas­sive­ly enjoy­able nov­el and a trea­sure trove of lan­guage; while I can­not prove it (as of yet), I’m cer­tain I have not come across a nov­el with as many colour­ful euphemisms for male and female gen­i­talia. Con­sid­er Will Star­ling the nov­el Charles Dick­ens nev­er had the bol­locks to write.

What one 2014-pub­lished book do you believe needs more love?

Lavie Tidhar’s This Vio­lent Cen­tu­ry is one of the finest super­hero nov­els out there, retelling events of the 20th cen­tu­ry through mutant inter­ven­tion. Think The Third Man meets Stan Lee (who’s actu­al­ly in the book, albeit briefly).

What book that you’ve read in 2014 (not nec­es­sar­i­ly a 2014 book) would you rec­om­mend?

Mis­sy Marston’s The Love Mon­ster was an unex­pect­ed treat for me, a lyri­cal­ly odd love sto­ry tinged with Von­negut­ian absur­di­ties (not to men­tion Von­negut­ian aliens). I also reread Ray­mond Chandler’s The Long Good­bye, which I believe is the finest detec­tive nov­el ever writ­ten. So, yeah, read it! And then go watch the Alt­man adap­ta­tion: so good!

What ongo­ing series of books would you rec­om­mend?

I recent­ly dis­cov­ered Ben H. Win­ters’ Last Police­man mys­ter­ies, three nov­els set with­in the six months before a mete­or is due to strike the Earth, killing most of human­i­ty and throw­ing the rest back to the stone age. It’s a weird­ly bril­liant and risky idea to set mys­ter­ies in a time when few would care if they’re ever solved, but Win­ters pulls it off with aplomb.

What author would you rec­om­mend?

140905_SBR_SouthernTrilogyCOVERI’ve known of Jeff Vandermeer’s genre-strad­dling work for some time now (his nov­el Finch is one of the finest noirs I’ve read, and cer­tain­ly the best that involves intel­li­gent mush­rooms), but he’s real­ly arrived on the pub­lic stage this year with the release of his acclaimed South­ern Reach tril­o­gy of Anni­hi­la­tion, Author­i­ty, and Accep­tance. It’s weird fic­tion at its finest, three seper­ate-yet-linked nov­els that demand to be read more than once. At your ear­li­est con­ve­nience, start going through his back cat­a­logue, it’s some of the best sci-fi/­fan­ta­sy/other out there.

What’s the one book you think every­one should read?

I think that if every­one read Dou­glas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we’d have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the make­up of human­i­ty. That is, every­one who loves it is a genius, and every­one who doesn’t like it isn’t worth talk­ing to.

Let’s go genre spe­cif­ic: what books would you rec­om­mend for

  1. The sci­ence-fic­tion fan: The Rest is Silence by Scott Fother­ing­ham / As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem
  2. The hor­ror fan: Eutopia by David Nick­le / The Troop by Nick Cut­ter
  3. The fan­ta­sy fan: Weave­world by Clive Bark­er / The Lava in My Bones by Bar­ry Web­ster
  4. The strict real­ism fan: Enti­tle­ment by Jonathan Ben­nett / Curios­i­ty by Joan Thomas
  5. The thriller/mystery fan: Niceville by Carsten Stroud / Open Secret by Deryn Col­lier
  6. The non-fic­tion fan: The End of Else­where by Taras Grescoe / My Leaky Body by Julie Devaney
  7. The Can­Lit fan: You Com­ma Idiot by Doug Har­ris / The Big Why by Michael Win­ter

If, god for­bid, peo­ple couldn’t find any of your books, who else would you sug­gest they seek out for a sim­i­lar lit­er­ary fix?

How dare you pre­sume to sug­gest there’s any­one who com­pares to me! You bas­tard! Oh, my feel­ings! That said, the works of the late great Paul Quar­ring­ton seems like a good fit, if way beyond my pay grade. I’d sug­gest Kurt Von­negut, because his sen­si­bil­i­ties have long been sol­dered to my being, but Von­negut doesn’t deserve hav­ing my work asso­ci­at­ed with him.

And final­ly, what would you rec­om­mend for the hol­i­days in a non-lit­er­ary con­text.

Just try to under­stand more of the world, not sim­ply what you can see from your house. Get out, meet peo­ple, try new things.