Time’s Running Out To Finish My 2021 Reading List

There aren’t many days left in the year, and there are plenty of distractions between now and 2022. Will I finish my 2021 reading list before New Years Eve? Stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, here are some more of the books I’ve crossed off the list.

A book to build your antiracist reading list: Obasan by Joy Kogawa

As someone who has taken a total of four different Can List courses, I’ve heard Obasan mentioned time and time again. And yet, not once did I get the chance to study it in any of those four courses. So when I found this beat up, well-loved, old copy at a garage sale, I snatched it up for only a few dollars. And then, you guessed it, it sat on my shelf unread until now.

The writing definitely has that distinctive Can Lit tone I expected, but this has been one of the better Can Lit novels I’ve read over the years. I really enjoyed reading this and found that it was quick to get through. Not only were the characters interesting and well-developed, but Naomi and her relatives all embody different experiences of Japanese-Canadians. While her brother Stephen rejects anything other/Japanese/not white, her Aunt Emily’s identity revolves around being a nisei, her Obasan is presented as being more Japanese than Canadian because of the way she speaks. And with this varied cast of characters, we can see the different ways in which racism in Canada has affected these people.

With all of the hateful Anti-Asian sentiments that came about due to COVID, this book was the obvious choice for a book to build your anti-racist reading list. Just as Canadians vilified the Japanese-Canadians after the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Americans have unjustly blamed Asian communities for the spread and creation of COVID-19. Additionally, all those anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers who think their freedoms are being taken away need to read books like this. It’s abundantly clear that they don’t actually know what it’s like to have their freedoms taken away. This is absolutely an important book to read, especially as a Canadian, but I found that this book was a particularly poignant read in the midst of the pandemic.

A book that a movie or TV show was based on: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

This is not the kind of book I usually read, but the cover intrigued me from the moment I saw it in bookstores. And yes, it has been sitting unread on my shelf since I bought it. I don’t read westerns, but I’ve seen just enough western films to know what tropes to expect from this story. But beyond that, I truly did not know what to expect. I bought this book solely based on the cover. I don’t think I even read the description before until I picked it up to read last week. It could have been a ghost and I would not have known until I opened the book. No matter the genre, I was determined to read this at some point simply because of the cover art. Clearly, cover designer Dan Stiles did a good job.

The story is both fast and slow in its pacing, which made it hard to put down. What I mean is that the chapters are short and quick to get through, so it’s far to easy to say “one more chapter before I go to bed”, and then keep saying it for an hour longer. But it’s slow in that the pace of the plot is slow. Yes, the Sisters Brothers get up to all sorts of mishaps on their way to California, but the bulk of the novel is comprised of their journey from Oregon and the moments of introspection that occur along the way. All the while, there is mention of the man they will eventually kill when they reach their destination. The promised action is something the reader is waiting for; in the meantime, we get to learn about Charlie and Eli and watch them develop as characters, particularly Eli. This story is a clear case of the journey being far more important than the actual destination.

I have so many books in my collection that inspired movies and TV shows that I waffled back and forth as I tried to pick what to leave. I settled on this one in the end when I noticed that a) the movie is on Netflix, and b) the movie is leaving Netflix at the end of the month. I wanted to make sure to read the book before watching the movie, so that was the deciding factor. And have I watched the movie yet? No. I’ve been working my way through holiday movies, as is customary for this time of year. But the moment Christmas is over, The Sisters Brothers (2018) is first on my watchlist.

That being said, the mere existence of the film influenced my reading of the book. It’s hard not to know who stars in the film based on the promotional images on Netflix, so I kept John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix in mind as I followed the literary adventures of the Sisters Brothers. I’m sure Joaquin Phoenix makes an excellent Charlie Sisters, but it is the casting of John C. Reilly as Eli Sisters that really hit home. As I read the book, it was hard to imagine anyone other than Reilly playing the part. Based on the roles he’s had in the past, I truly think he’s the perfect fit for Eli, so I’m that much more excited to watch the movie now.

A book by a local author: They See Me and Other Haunting Stories by Stephanie Anne

Okay, so maybe I’m cheating with this one. But I am a local author and I have read this an alarming amount with all of the edits and re-writes I’ve been doing. In fact, it’s the constant re-reading/editing of my own work that has taken away from some of my personal reading time. Yet another sign that I need a break from work. And maybe this very biased “review” will turn into more of a sales pitch, but this short story collection is coming out in January of 2022 so I’m going to allow it to claim a spot on my reading list so that I can promote it.

My favourite short story is the one that closes out the collection. “20 Blackshire Place” was inspired by both a Reedsy writing prompt and a real house. No, the house was not haunted, but when I lived there everything that could go wrong did go wrong. In the end, I twisted that initial inspiration into a completely different house to suit my ghost story, but I’m very pleased with how it turned out. And the writing prompt? Write a story that either starts or ends with someone asking, “Can you keep a secret?”

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