I finished readying Ru by Kim Thuy a few weeks ago. Normally I like to write about a book as soon as I’ve finished reading it, but this book was different for me. Ru is a finalist in the 2015 Canada Reads competition – and I can understand why it made it to the final five.

I started reading this book with high expectations. Everything I had read or heard about Ru and author Thuy had set me up to have very high expectations. I listened to a particularly fascinating interview with Thuy on the CBC Radio program C’est La Vie, which made me feel like I “knew” Thuy – she was so honest and open during the interview.

The theme for Canada Reads 2015 is: What is one book to break all barriers? My interpretation of this is that the panel is looking for a book that will help people better understand and relate to one another – to discard the judging based on appearance and voice and simply accept people for who they are. (I could be way off in this interpretation but this is what the theme means to me…)

Does Ru break all barriers?

While it is a deeply fascinating novel that is written from the heart, I don’t know if this is the book. This is not an easy read. It takes patience and commitment to read this novel. And once you’re done reading it, there are no “answers” or tidy solutions that you can apply to your day-to-day.

I would definitely recommend this book but I’m not sure this is a novel that will appeal to all readers.

Have you read Ru? What are your thoughts on this novel?

(I’m currently reading The Door is Open by Bart Campbell – this book didn’t make the final five 2015 list – but I was interested to read about Campbell’s experiences volunteering for at a Vancouver drop-in center and soup kitchen.)

(I also recently finished reading Sweetland by Michael Crummey. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will write a review in a few days.)

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

I finished this tremendous and touching novel last week. What a read. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is a book that is at once gripping and heart felt. By the end of the novel I felt like I really new Queenie as a true friend.

If you’ve read the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, then you’re familiar with Queenie. If you haven’t read about Harold and his amazing walk – well, stop what you’re doing and start reading. I guarantee that Harold will motivate you to do something different or at the very least, ensure you have a very relaxing Saturday afternoon of reading and dreaming.

The only thing I wish The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy had were a few pictures. Yes, pictures. I really want to see what the amazing rock/sea garden looked like. I have an image in my head, but I think seeing a few artist renditions would be super special. But maybe that’s the point – to not see it – just to think about and envision it.

This is a book worth reading. If know a book lover, a new grad, a dreamer, or someone who is trying to find their way – consider gifting them both the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. You just never know where these books can take someone.

(I’m currently reading The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. I know – another book not on the Canada Reads list… But I’ve been curious about this book for a while, and since I applied for a job working for Tim Ferriss – I thought it only made sense that I read his book…)

CBC Canada Reads 2015 Finalists

The CBC Canada Reads 2015 finalists were announced earlier this week. With much social media and radio fanfare, the following five books will be debated and read under the guise of the theme: What is one book to break all barriers?:

  • And The Birds Rained Down – Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins
  • Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes – Kamal Al-Solaylee
  • Ru – Kim Thuy, translated by Sheila Fischman
  • The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King
  • When Everything Feels Like the Movies – Raziel Reid

I’ve only read one book on the list: And The Birds Rained Down – this is a very good book, and well worth a read.

As for the rest of of the list? Well, honestly I don’t find it that interesting. I will read Ru – I’ve been planning on reading this one for a while and I’ve heard good things about it.

Regarding the other 10 books that didn’t make it to the finals, I am interested in reading:

  • The Door is Open – Bart Campbell
  • Arrival City – Doug Saunders
  • What We All Long For – Dionne Brand

Yes, a fairly short list, but honestly this list of books is really not that interesting to me. And if there is one thing I’ve learned from my previous Canada Reads experience is that life is too short to be spent on books I don’t enjoy.

I’m curious to hear from you – what do you think of the list of finalists? What books on the long list are you interested in reading?

(As an aside, I am thoroughly enjoying  The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. If you’re looking for interesting characters who are trying to simply do their best – this is the book for you. If you haven’t read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, then read this first before reading about Queenie.)

Happy Reading!

10% Happier

(This book isn’t part of Canada Reads… but what the heck – I think you might be interested in it….)

I just finished reading 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing my Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works.

I discovered this memoir by Dan Harris, an ABC journalist, by pure happenstance while listening to an NPR podcast. I’ve been thinking about and trying to learn about meditation for quite a while now. I knew that a quiet and relaxed mind can help reduce stress and allow us to enjoy the day-to-day, but I simply wasn’t sure how it all worked.

I’ve bought more books about mediation than I care to admit. I’ve started all of these books and then discarded them. The central theme being that I was not prepared or willing to wade through pages and pages of deep writing. I simply wanted to know how it all worked and how to do it. (Yes, a pretty clear sign that I needed to do something to help bring some slowness and patience into my hectic brain…)

While this book by Harris is not a how-to-guide per se, it does clearly show how a “normal” person can adopt a few simple daily practices that can result in some level of quietness and relaxation. I appreciate that Harris had many missteps on his path to learning about meditation. His interviews and conversations with meditation experts are super useful in helping to understand the ins and outs of this practice.

I’m still new to this, but I’ve been able to apply some of the principles during my yoga practice…. During yoga class my brain seems to bounce around the room with more thoughts than I can keep track of. But, I’m slowly but surely eliminating this and in turn finding my yoga practice is doing more for me than giving me physical strength and flexibility.

Whether you’re simply curious about meditation, an experienced meditator or someone who just wants to read an interesting memoir – this is a book worth reading. There is a very useful FAQ section at the end of the book that seems to ask many of the questions I had…

If you do read this book, drop a comment and let me know what you think. If you know of other books that might be useful, please share them in the comments.

(I’m now reading another book that is not on the Canada Reads list but one which I was very happy to stumble upon. A few years ago I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and it has since remained as one of my top recommended books. Motivating, inspiring and a great read, this is a book with so many messages wrapped into an excellent story. With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the “sequel” to this book: The Love Song of Miss Queen Hennessy. I’ve got high hopes for this book, I’ll let you know what happens.)

And The Birds Rained Down


And The Birds Rained Down was written by Jocelyne Saucier and translated by Rhonda Mullins

Wow – what a book. I’d never heard of this novel or the author – I’m very thankful that it landed on the 2015 long list. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the lives of Charlie, Tom, Ted and the other people who come into their lives. I appreciate what these men were trying to do – living simple lives disconnected (mostly) from people and simply making the most of their days in the woods.

It does take a bit to warm-up to the style of writing that Saucier uses and there are quite a few characters to understand initially, but soon enough you’ll find yourself in the bath for a very long time with a long-empty mug of tea, slightly tepid water and still reading.

I have no idea if this is a book that can help break barriers… I know that it will take more than a good book for people to stop judging others based on postal code, income level, size of the house, cleanliness of the jeans, and the supposed normalcy of their general behaviours.

My take-away from this book is to remember that everyone has a story and a reason for being the way they are. We don’t know what has happened or is happening – so remember that people are just that people. Be nice. Be open. Be willing to accept. You never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn about yourself and others.

(I’m currently reading a book that is not part of the Canada Reads long list: 10% Happier – How I Tamed the Voice in my Head. This is an interesting memoir/how-to book about meditation and general life perspective. Written by Dan Harris who is a news personality/host/journalist in the U.S. So far so good. I’ve wondered for a while about meditation but every book I’ve picked up was simply too deep or to be honest a bit wishy washy. After hearing an interview with Harris, I decided to give this book a shot. If you’re curious about meditation and want to read an interesting memoir at the same time – this might be the book for you.)