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!)
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?
I’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
- The science-fiction fan: The Rest is Silence by Scott Fotheringham / As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem
- The horror fan: Eutopia by David Nickle / The Troop by Nick Cutter
- The fantasy fan: Weaveworld by Clive Barker / The Lava in My Bones by Barry Webster
- The strict realism fan: Entitlement by Jonathan Bennett / Curiosity by Joan Thomas
- The thriller/mystery fan: Niceville by Carsten Stroud / Open Secret by Deryn Collier
- The non-fiction fan: The End of Elsewhere by Taras Grescoe / My Leaky Body by Julie Devaney
- 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.