Posted in Paper Chase

Q1 Read It 2020

51BFIwAkPML._AC_UY327_QL65_ML3_A mere six months after David Bowie in January 2016, Paul Morley released his biography of the Starman entitled The Age of Bowie. Expertly written from a fan’s point of view, Morley shows his deep knowledge of Bowie’s work that focuses on the 1970s. The decade is broken down into chapters for each year with major events in the singer’s life with a rundown at the end of each chapter of that year’s great albums and singles. There are no interviews or quotes, all the material seemingly deep well of Morley’s experiences, it is an interesting way to approach the singer’s life. It is a dense book that could have used some pruning as ideas that could be wrapped up in a few paragraphs instead extend over several pages. In all, a good read from an expert music writer.
7/10

 

140871048xThe wonders of the local library was on display when several branches in Winnipeg had a copy of Brett Anderson’s autobiography, Coal Black Mornings. The pages were crisp as surly I was one of the first to have taken this quite good book home for the weekend. The Suede singer focuses on growing up in Sussex England, at the edge of a council estate to a family low on money. It follows Anderson as he moves through grade school, then college in Manchester before settling in London and starting the band that would make him famous. It was a coincidence that I finished this book right after the Bowie one listed above and it’s easy to see the similarities in their lives before becoming pop stars. The book offers a glimpse into English student life in late 80s/early 90s. Anderson has recently followed this up with another book that picks up where Coal Black Mornings left off.
7.5/10

 
51nORMtr7DL._AC_UY327_QL65_ML3_I picked up George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia from Portland’s famous Powell’s Bookstore several years ago where it dutifully sat on my shelf until February of this year. The book tells of Orwell’s time fighting Spanish Fascists in the 1930s. It provides fascinating detail on what life is like on the front lines during a war with several funny moments and Orwell’s excellent writing. I have to admit, beyond fighting fascists, much of the politics was a bit beyond me. What was interesting was the amount of propaganda in the press and how life simply carries on even in the country where the war is taking place. When he finally leaves Spain, Orwell notes that upon returning to England the milk will be dropped off in the morning like any other day. In his forward, Richard Trilling talks about Populism politics. In what seems like our currently chaotic political times, it is true what people say that so much of this has happened in the past and one only needs to look at history. Unfortunately, history keeps repeating itself but while the darkness is here, this also means some light is around the corner.
8/10

 
81F-QEaxkkL._AC_UY327_QL65_ML3_My introduction to Ali Smith was a year and a half ago with Autumn. Late this winter it was time to pick up the next volume in the four book seasonal cycle set – Winter. This was the last book I checked out at the library just before the world went haywire and the libraries shut down. The story follows Art as he travels to visit his Mother over Christmas with his (fake) girlfriend in tow. The book touches on politics, the environment and relationships. Autumn received the acclaim but I think I enjoyed this one even more. Lux, the fake girlfriend, makes an impact on the family and brings them closer together, before she disappears. Sometimes life is like that, meeting people that you will never forget even if they are only around for a few days.
8/10

Posted in Paper Chase

Q4 Read It 2018

51qZ1FWdiIL._AA327_QL65_Ali Smith’s 2016 novel, Autumn, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and also landed her in the New York Times’ 10 Best Books of 2017. The novel moves between scenes of central character Elisabeth visiting her 101-year-old former next-door neighbor as he lies in a care home, reminiscing of their visits when she was a child and her art thesis on Pauline Boty. Set to be the first in a four-volume series, Autumn is never gripping but is always interesting as the story takes place around the time of the Brexit vote. It has a surreal and has a dreamlike quality as it moves through time and back again.  The follow-up Winter was published in late 2017.

7/10

 

51xCkzASckL._AA327_QL65_I’ve been a subscriber to the James Clear newsletter for about a year now. Every week he sends out advice on how to improve daily habits.  This fall, Clear released his first book Atomic Habits that expands on those newsletters and offers much additional information. This is not earth-shattering advice that comes out of nowhere but instead offers tactics on how to get a little bit better every day and keep improving over time.  Instead of saying, “I want to lose 20lbs” and not following through, work on following the process of making it to the gym three times this week.  Fall in love with the process instead of the results and you’ll get there in the end.  Lots to unpack and learn from in this book.

8.5/10

 

515pYTNTrcL._AA327_QL65_In 2017, Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for the second time with her novel Sing, Unburied Sing.  The book chronicles a family living in rural Mississippi.  Meth addict Leonie and former prisoner Michael have two kids, JoJo and Kayla. The pull between the interracial parents is stronger than the love of the two kids who identify more with their aging grandparents.  Chapters are dedicated to different character’s points of views and often features beautiful writing.  “…like paint dissolving in water, its scales turned black… until it was the color of the space between the stars”.  While the story is a sad one, there is much to like here.

7.5/10