New Books

Bibliophile on Commercial is closing and while a new bookstore will be replacing them they will be switching stock. An opportunity to buy all the books I’ve been looking at over the past year but never managed to take home. Six of these are also from Pulpfiction on Main st.


  • Vincent Lam, ‘Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures’ (2005) – I would not have bought this had it not won the Giller prize in 2006 and I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book based on a prize list before. But – Canadian short stories, set in Toronto, acclaimed, this is something I might as well read. And from this whole list it is the only one I have already read, in just two days, last week. It’s an easy read, very engaging and fast but it goes just as quickly. There’s just nothing really there.
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ (2008) – My friend Haida told me to buy the first Jhumpa Lahiri, ‘Interpreter of Maladies,’ when we were in Toronto, November 2007. I did not read it until December 2008 and actually read it downstairs in maybe two days while Jan was watching MacGyver. So, for better or worse, I associate Jhumpa Lahiri with MacGyver.
  • Robert Kroetsch, ‘The Studhorse Man’ (1970) – This was out front on the $3 rack, another Canadian classic, Governor General’s Award winner, an entry in the ongoing deconstruction of the Old West and an early entry in Canada’s aggressive refashioning of the Prairie myth. Sure, for three bucks.
  • Mordecai Richler, ‘Barney’s Version’ (1997) – I think my friend Dave told me to read this; we were camping in 2006 outside of Lillooet and he was finishing it. More Canadian classics I’ve never bothered to read for various reasons. also a Giller prize winner.
  • Howard Norman, ‘The Northern Lights’ (1987) – Hooray for $3 novels that I know nothing about.
  • Carol Shields, ‘Larry’s Party’ (1997) – I remember when this came out and thinking that it sounded a lot like a story that I had been writing in elementary school about the day-to-day life of some guy that worked at Scotiabank. It was awful but I was proud of having written some proto-literary fiction when all my peers were writing about ghosts and talking-animals. I had forgotten all about Carol Shields until my friend Chris told me, in response to a trivia question, that if I did read Carol Shields I should start with Larry’s Party.
  • Russell Smith, ‘Muriella Pent’ (2004) – I actually really like this guy’s columns in the Globe about books and writing so hey, maybe I should finally read one of his novels.
  • Stephen Amidon, ‘Human Capital’ (2004) – I don’t know anything about this book but I am happy to again take a chance of a $3 novel about suburbs and a hedge fund.
  • Robert Kroetsch, ‘The Man From the Creeks’ (1998) – Maybe this summer I will finally read one of the four(!) Robert Kroetsch books that I have collected this year. Then again, maybe I should stop buying books about the Canadian prairies until I actually go east of Castlegar for once in my life. But before I read George Melnyk again I need to finally read some of the writers he writes about.
  • Paul Auster, ‘The Book of Illusions’ (2002) – I didn’t like Paul Auster enough to buy another novel but I was interested enough in what he was doing to try again. Is this about grief? Or just distancing devices? Here comes summer.
  • Albert Camus, ‘The Plague’ (1947) – Everything is compared to this and I have never read it!
  • Richard Ford, ‘Independence Day’ (1995) – I realize that what I am looking for in modern American fiction is a novel that mirrors Safe, by Todd Haynes. Something, anything, that can do in a Vintage paperback edition what that movie does on screen.
  • Michel Houellebecq, ‘The Elementary Particles’ (1998) – I have nothing better to do than buy famous modern novels in Vintage paperback editions.
  • Douglas Coupland, ‘Miss Wyoming’ (1999) – I feel bad for abandoning Douglas Coupland as a hip crutch after reading just three of his books, all of which I actually really enjoyed. None of his other novels look even almost interesting but I had five books and the sixth was free and there it was, Miss Wyoming, if I’m going to take another chance I might as well make it meaningful.


  • Orhan Pamuk, ‘Istanbul – Memories and the City’ (2004) – This guy became a big deal when he won the Nobel prize and then everyone (i.e. Kevin Tilley and Geoff Meggs and at least one other person I kinda know) read his novels. I went to Istanbul in 1999 and while it was not a big deal at the time (thanks to Grade 10) I have read a bunch of Ottoman history since then. If this does manage to tell a history of a city through memory it might be my new favourite book.
  • Jennie Erdal, ‘Ghosting: A Double Life’ (2004) – A memoir of 15 years of work as a ghostwriter; of course.
  • Christopher Hallowell, ‘Holding Back The Sea: The Struggle on the Gulf Coast to Save America’ (2001) – This is a 2005 edition, cross-promoted as a tie-in with Hurricane Katrina but it was actually written in 2001 which makes me think it is actually a non-sensational sequel of sorts to my favourite chapter in John  McPhee’s The Control of Nature on the absurd efforts of Louisiana to reshape the Mississippi flood plain.
  • John Keegan, ‘Warpaths: Fields of Battle in Canada and America’ (1995) – Personal history/geography.
  • David Brooks, ‘Bobos in Paradise: The New Middle Class and How They Got There’ (2000) – The back of this says “Comic Sociology” and it is a decade out of date but this obnoxious book is still referenced in a lot of the US politics I read and again, it was only $3. Would I take this book over a hot dog at a baseball game? Can I get a hot dog at a baseball game for $3?
  • Scott Russell, ‘Open House: Canada and the Magic of Curling’ (2003) – Yes, this was another $3 book.
  • David Fromkin, ‘A Peace to End all Peace: The fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East’ (1989) – The end of the Eastern Question, for now.



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3 responses to “New Books

  1. reneethewriter

    as always your lists intrigue – the life short, the art long – that kinda thing, too. R

  2. Sam

    Your lists have inspired me to keep track of my own this year. I expect Joan Didion to now feature prominently.

  3. Sam, yes – she is remarkable. read ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ and ‘Salvador’ and all of it is good but most especially ‘The Year of Magical Thinking,’ written in 2006 after her husband died. maybe the most incredible piece of memoir, or literature in general that I have read.

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