Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

  • After 4 days of interesting and passionate debates, Kim Thùy’s novel Ru was crowned the winner of Canada Reads 2015. The novel was championed by Cameron Bailey, Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. Bailey was eloquent and thoughtful all week, and was a wonderful advocate for Thúy’s novel.
  • A new Little Women adaptation is being written by Sarah Polley, the Canadian actor and director known for Oscar-nominated drama Away From Her, and the acclaimed Stories We Tell. So far, Sony has lined up an all-female production team for the project. In addition to Polley, the studio has brought on Denise Di Novi, Robin Swicord, and former Sony executive Amy Pascal to produce the film. No director has signed on yet, although it’s possible Polley could join in that capacity after the script is finished as she usually directs her own projects.
  • Writer Andrew Shaffer’s popular parody Twitter account of bestselling author Jonathan Franzen—@EmperorFranzen—has been suspended. Shaffer said that “Emperor Franzen,” which he’s been running for five years, became more than just a parody of Jonathan Franzen, but of high-minded fiction writers in general. Luckily, a similar parody account has yet to be suspended: @GuyInYourMFA.
  • Roberto Bolaño’s 900-page novel 2666 is getting a theatrical adaptation, thanks to Powerball Lottery winner Roy Cockrum, who used his jackpot winnings to back the project and support the theater arts. The Goodman Theater in Chicago will produce the five-hour adaptation for its 2015-2016 season.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle was the victim of a police conspiracy. “Newly discovered documents show that the Staffordshire police fabricated evidence to try to discredit Arthur Conan Doyle’s investigation into the curious case of George Edalji, a Birmingham solicitor accused of maiming horses and sending poison-pen letters at the turn of the twentieth century.
  • George R.R. Martin raised the hopes of Game of Thrones fans this week, when he hinted his long-awaited new novel The Winds of Winter would be completed this year.

And, of course, I have questions for you based on this week’s news:

  1. I would love to hear about novels you adore that flew under the radar and didn’t get the attention you felt they deserved. Which books fell into this category for you?
  2. Have you read George R.R. Martin’s series yet? Do you think he will finish the latest novel this year?
  3. Did you follow along the debates for Canada Reads this year? How did you find the 2015 edition of the program?

Bookstore © xkcd

Happy reading!!

Canada Reads 2015 – 5 Books & Panelists Revealed


Canada Reads is upon us once again – nearly!  Today the 5 books and the panelists who will champion each read were revealed.  For those who are not familiar with this program, think of Survivor, except with literature and without any eat-this-horrible-thing contests.  It’s a bit of a cultural phenomenon here in Canada – a competition featuring books! But for bookish Canadians, Canada Reads is like Christmas and the Oscars rolled into one giant ball of literary awesomeness.

The program is not without its detractors, and its controversies, however.  But, overall, the program has proven great for readers, authors, and publishers. How can any program working to promote homegrown talent and literature, and featuring engaging public debates about Canadian Literature be a bad thing? Sure it can get a bit hokey with its mood music and lighting. And by eliminating a book on the first day, one book always gets the short end of the stick.  But it’s an amazing phenomenon this program, and one that draws a huge number of listeners and viewers ever year.

For 2015, the theme is ‘one book to break down barriers’. The longlist of 15 books offered a great assortment of fiction and nonfiction (a Canada Reads first having both genres in the running), as well as a broad range of socially important subjects.

Today, January 20th, the 5 finalists were revealed!

From CBC Books website:

Let the games begin.

Canada Reads, CBC’s annual battle of the books competition, revealed this year’s roster of panellists and contending books on Q:

  • Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival, will defend Ru by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman, a story inspired by the author’s own experiences as a refugee from war-torn Vietnam.
  • Actress Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and the BeastSmallville) will defend journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee’s memoir Intolerable, which chronicles his journey as a Middle Eastern gay man finding a home in Canada while members of his family slip into hard-line interpretations of Islam.
  • Activist and social entrepreneur Craig Kielburger will defend The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, the acclaimed writer’s critical and personal missive on what it means to be “Indian” in North America.
  • Broadcaster Elaine “Lainey” Lui (etalk reporter and co-host of The Social) will defend When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid, an edgy work of YA fiction that explores youth, sexuality and the search for identity.
  • Singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright will defend And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins, a haunting meditation on aging and identity.

You can learn more about this year’s contenders and panellists at the Canada Reads 2015 page.

The 2015 show will be hosted by Wab Kinew, who won last year’s competition defending The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. This year’s panellists are tasked with identifying “the one book to break barriers.”

I would love to know what you think about the 2015 edition of Canada Reads – the books, the panelists, tell me your thoughts! If you were creating a dream list of 5 books from the 15 longlisted books, which ones would you include?

Happy reading!

Ru by Kim Thúy

Ru: A NovelRu: A Novel by Kim Thúy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We lost power for over 24 hours, thank to Super Storm Sandy, so I decided to re-read this beautiful book.

Kim Thúy’s novel, Ru was shortlisted for this year’s Giller Award. Released in its original French in 2010, it won the French-language Governor-General’s Award that same year, and has secured foreign rights in 15 countries. (Though according to a rep at Random House Canada, I have been told a U.S. publication date has not been established.) The English translation has been crafted beautifully by Sheila Fischman. While I was reading, I sensed the tenderness and integrity Fischman brought to this project. (But I would now like to read Ru in French!)

Ru is a fictional memoir told in beautiful vignettes that weave us through An Tinh’s escape from Vietnam to her time in a Malaysian refugee camp to her new life in Canada. The novel begins with a note on the meaning of ru. In French, it denotes a small stream or a flow – of water, blood, tears or almost anything else. In Vietnamese, ru means a lullaby.

The opening that follows, gives us a good idea of what’s in store:

I came into the world during the Tet Offensive, in the early days of the Year of the Monkey, when the long chains of firecrackers draped in front of houses exploded polyphonically along with the sound of the machine guns.

I first saw the light of day in Saigon, where firecrackers, fragmented into a thousand shreds, coloured the ground red like the petals of cherry blossoms or like the blood of the two million soldiers deployed and scattered through the villages and cities of a Vietnam that had been ripped in two.

I was born in the shadow of skies adorned with fireworks, decorated with garlands of light, shot through with rockets and missiles. The purpose of my birth was to replace lives that had been lost. My life’s duty was to prolong that of my mother.

I love the form this book takes and feel that the way Thúy tells us this story fully captures how we remember events from the past. Our recollections help form the big picture but it’s the snippets of memory, of moments along the way, that fit together like a puzzle and create the full portrait of a life. Even in its entirety life can be messy but whole, disjointed and connected at the same time. But from the chaos and uncertainty, physical and moral strength and endurance can emerge and sustain us.

Prior to the Giller Awards gala event, Thúy did a quick Q & A session with CBC Books.

I would suggest you take a few minutes to watch this video of Thúy, as she talks about writing Ru and the immigrant experience. Thúy has become my new favourite person. She’s bright, funny and quirky. Around these parts, we call that adorakable!

Read her book; won’t you? It’s one of my most favourite reads of 2012.

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