A Year in Reading: My Top 10

It hasn’t been quite one full year since I started my blog but I have just finished my 52nd book, and I consider that one year’s worth of reading, so I am posting this now. I read a lot of Canadian literature, so much so that I started this blog to spread the good word. Since last June when I started this site my traffic has steadily gone up over 2000% which I am very happy about, and I thank you for visiting. Many of the books that are my most viewed reviews surprise me, and some books that I thought would get more traffic get very little.

Just for trivia’s sake, these are the 10 most visited reviews on my site:

La Guerre, Yes Sir! by Roch Carrier
The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler
Billy Bishop Goes to War by John Gray
Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway
Tide Road by Valerie Compton
Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley
The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro
The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou
Girlwood by Jennifer Still

Now, here are my Top 10 favorite reads of the last year. This list is not necessarily the best books published in the last year. There are books from the 1990s up to this year on my list.

Number 11 (I couldn’t fit every book I wanted to on the list so I added an 11th):

A Subtle Thing by Alicia Hendley

This is the novel of a young woman and her struggles with depression and how difficult it is to forge a life with this dark cloud floating over your head. This was a very difficult and personal read for me. I was concerned that this novel would be more of a dissertation on life with depression and weak as a novel, fortunately my fears were unfounded. This is not a novel “about” depression, this is a novel about a wonderful character named Beth who’s life is veiled with this incapacitating disorder. A Subtle Thing is a gritty and raw novel that hits the reader in such a powerful and sincere way that putting it down is simply not an option.

Number 10:

Mennonites Don’t Dance by Darcie Friesen Hossack

Darcie Hossack writes with a maturity that is way beyond a first book. Her prose are sparse and punchy but have a poetic quality, the characters are developed quickly and deeply, and the stories vary from short episodes of only a couple pages to longer 40+ page stories that feel like miniature novels. I read a lot of short story collections. 2010 seemed to be the year of the story with a lot of collections receiving high praise. I’d say this is the best of that crowd.



Number 9:

The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou

I imagine that second novels are intimidating to a writer, especially when the first one was a success and well received. Angie Abdou has weaved a tale that is the perfect blend of comedy, drama, and tragedy; the author realizes that life is usually a mix of the humorous, the dramatic, and the tragic.




Number 8:

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards

Mercy Among the Children is not a happy novel. It does not have a happy ending and everything isn’t tied up in a nice little package. In this way it is very realistic, when is life ever wrapped up neatly? This is a book that will haunt you.




Number 7:

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

This is the very pragmatic story of two women, 3 kids, and a universe of supporting characters just trying to make it through life one day at a time, just like most people. What is more Canadian that helping those in need, strangers, with no obligation, simply because you feel it is your job as a fellow human, albeit guilt may have played a significant role in this decision?



Number 6:

The Harps of God by Kent Stetson

The lone play on the list. I have read a fair bit of Canadian drama but I haven’t ever really read a piece that blew me away. This play definitely did. The language and writing was poetic; molding a verse drama is a very big risk in contemporary theatre but the rhythm this creates combined with the dialog creates a play for the ages. The themes are eternal: faith, human survival, capitalism, and class divisions. The staging is experimental and incredibly vivid.



Number 5:

The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro

This collection, perhaps more than any of her others, showcases Alice Munro’s ability to write so subtly that without even realizing, you as a reader are drawn into the lives of these seemingly ordinary people experiencing extraordinary circumstances. One of Munro’s best collections ever.




Number 4:

Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor

I read this book very slowly, savored it if you will, the language and images are beautiful, the research Timothy Taylor put into the preparation of this book are indescribably well done and practically mind blowing; this book will make you hungry one moment and with the turn of a page induce gut wrenching anxiety.




Number 3:

The Good News About Armageddon by Steve McOrmond

I read a lot of poetry but McOrmond’s book is the only collection to have made my list. The opening poem, the title poem, is perhaps one of the best poems I have read from any poet of this generation. This collection brings together thoughts that are both accessible and highly literary, examining the world around us with a painter’s eye and musician’s ear.



Number 2:

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Annabel is a great gift to the world of literature. I have no hesitation in saying that this novel is one of the best books of the 21st century in all of English literature, not just Canadian.




Number 1:

The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre

The Bishop’s Man is a marvel of a book. I really do feel privileged to have had the pleasure of reading it. I believe that 100 years from now, when university students are studying 21st century Canadian literature, this will be one of the first books that are studied.

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