The Company of Books

Have been doing journeying in the past little while and being in hotel rooms and airplanes etc. is a good opportunity to keep up with some reading and  books as travel companions. I alway pack a book or two (or more) for my travels? Don’t you/ Call me old fashioned, but  I still need the ‘real thing’. (OK – You’re off the hook if you choose to read e-books!)

The following are ten book titles (both adult and children’s) that have kept me company in Florida, Barcelona,  Kitchener and St. Catherines and London (Ontario) – and at home:

For Grown-ups

A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara

Why I chose this: Knockout reviews. Great cover. A friend highly recommend it.

Verdict: This is a haunting and harrowing read. Disclaimer: not usually good with books over 700  pages (paperback version is 832 pages). but I hung in and read this book about the friendship of four men, the disturbing life of one character (who is a ‘cutter’), and the theme of unconditional love. Grab-your-attention cover. I have recommended it to friends.


Why I chose this: Great title! Irish writer. The relationship between a man and his dog.

Verdict: The writing in this book is staggering and I found myself turning down the corners of a number of pages to savour (“I shut my book, lean forward in the potbellied armchair an try to dredge the words from the stew of my memory and hook them together again, so I can sing along.”(p. 57). ‘Stew of my memory’: I love that.  Uniquely told in the second person, a man shares his thoughts and his life story with a stray dog he picked up as a company. And of course the man One Eye have much in common and provide comfort to one another. A very moving read. Highly recommend this one.

SLEEP by Nino Ricci

Why I chose this: Heard Nino Ricci present this book at a reading. Jacket art features Alex Colville’s painting Pacific, 1967.

Verdict: I wonder which came first the Colville painting or Ricci’s novel. The central character of this novel is tackling a sleep order and his relationship with his wife, his son, his co-workers, his job as a university professor, an author, his family, his sexual prowess and his fascination with guns.  Can’t say that I loved this book (this guy needs help!), but hung in there and the cover makes perfect perfect sense.

LUST & WONDER by Augusten Burroughs

Why I chose this: I find Burroughs funny. Enjoyed his two previous autobiographies (Running with Scissors and Dry. This man’s a survivor.

Verdict: Not only does Burrough’s survive his addictions but he is desperate (yes!) to make his relationships with three different men work. This third book in the trilogy, lets us take part in the struggles and triumphs of finding love and yes (hooray!) happiness.


Why I chose this: I love New York. I find the humans of New York fascinating.

Verdict: The stories of the humans of New York are fascinating! I wanna be a part of it.

THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller

Why I choose this: Am going to see The Crucible in New York (director: Ivo von Hove).

Verdict: A great play.

Novels: ages 10 – 12

Ms BIXBY’S LAST DAY by John David Anderson

Why I chose this: Received an advance copy of this book from the publisher. I of course, like books about student / teacher relationships. I like books presented from the points of view of different characters.

Verdict: When students in Ms Bixby’s class learn that their teacher needs cancer treatment and is not expected to return to school they are determined to reconnect with her. Topher Brand and Steve have adventures (sometimes humorous) that prolong their plans for the day when they ‘skip’ school in order to meet up with their teacher who is in the hospitalized. Have a kleenex handy. A heartwarming read that reminded me of Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea and A Begonia for Miss Applebaum by Paul Zindel.

FREE VERSE by Sarah Dooley

Why I chose this: The title, of course. The blurb on the book jacket (“Sarah Dooley’s poignant adn profound tale of family and belonging shows us that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend.”)

Verdict: This book is about LOSS in many forms. Learning about loss in a novel can strengthen our emotional connections as readers, and build compassion. We cheer for Sasha whose father was killed in a mining accident, whose mother ran off when she was five, and whose brother who had became her guardian, dies. Sasha dreams and optimism are strengthened when she meets a new friend at school and is embraced by a loving foster parent. Despite the good things that have come her way, Sasha is troubled and longs for escape from the small mining town. It is through poetry that Sasha finds reflection and hope. Section Three of this novel (pages 229-293) is devoted to the poems Sasha writes in free verse, and otherwise.

BOOKED: Kwame Alexander

Why I chose this: Alexander won the Newbery Medal for his book The Crossover. If a book is in free-verse format, I will most likely by it.

Verdict: I like free-verse novels because the narrative comes through succinctly and poetry gives a punch to the events and feelings of the character. Alexander presents an authentic portrayal of a young adolescent learning to cope with family separation, first romances, friendships, bullying, school obligations and a lust for soccer.

THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown

Why I chose this: Peter Brown is a great picture book illustrator and this is his first publication of a novel for young readers (ages 9-12).  The chapters are short. Brown’s illustrations appear throughout. And yes, the strong reviews on Amazon prompted me to click the button and buy the book.

Verdict: A great read! A fantastic read aloud!.  This one is going to win the Newbery. (Didn’t I already say that about Pax?)

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