What book would Timothy Taylor take to a desert island?

The Red and the Black by Stendhal

“I really wanted to say The Red and The Black, because if I were trapped on a desert island I might finally get around to reading this one, both volumes.”–Timothy Taylor

Timothy kindly recommended something that we could easily read in a month instead, whew!

The Grand Inquisitor by Feodor Dostoevsky

Recommended by Timothy Taylor, author of Stanley Park and The Blue Light Project.

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.

Holding Myself To A Fictional Standard

We are reading A Prayer for Owen Meany this month; it paints a truly idyllic picture of childhood and an even more idealized vision of motherhood.  The children in the story spend hours of unsupervised playtime together: riding their bikes, hiding in the attic, swimming in the quarry etc. When playtime is over they are able to rest, secure in the arms of the main character’s beautiful and loving mother (well, that is until she dies but that is beside the point).  
The childhood experienced by John Wheelwright and his friend Owen Meany is what I envisioned for my children when I became a mother and their adoration of Tabitha Wheelwright, as mother (and surrogate mother in Owen’s case), was how I dreamed my children would feel about me.  As usual, reality turned out differently.  My children enjoy unstructured playtime but much less than I’d like, and it’s usually squeezed in between a myriad of scheduled activities.  And yes, there is lots of love in my home but there is also lots of screaming, nagging and guilt – guilt which tends to increase when reading about Tabitha, the “perfect mother”.  I can’t help but wonder are there actually mother’s out there like her – mothers that are ever-flowing fountains of love, nourishment and patience? 
Granted, Tabitha’s experience of motherhood is much different from mine.  First, I’m struck by how hands-off Tabitha is with the children’s lives. Other than being the arms they run into and the vision of beauty they stare at, she seems to figure very little in their day-to-day activities. She doesn’t cook, so there are no hurt feelings when the children spit out her food. She lives in a home with maids so she doesn’t have to pick dirty laundry up off the floor.  The boys seem to be involved in very little organized extracurricular activities so she never has to scream “Get in the car; we’re going to be late!!!”  There also appears to be no screens (TVs, computers, games etc) against which she has to compete for attention. 

Still, all excuses and realities of our era aside, I gave up a career outside the home to raise my children so that they could experience a childhood like the one I’m reading about. In my desire to make sure my kids have it all: personal safety, proper nutrition, a clean and cozy home, success at school, sports and arts, the latest technology so they don’t get left behind, have I failed at providing what Tabitha fosters so well – a peaceful, easy, feeling?  At the end of the day, do I want to be remembered as a task-master or as the maternal embodiment of love and beauty. So, while I realize I am holding myself to an idealized fictional standard, this mother’s day I’m committing to re-acquainting my children with my own inner-Tabitha.

What books would Steven Galloway take to a desert island?

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Recommended by Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo.

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Our Book Club Pick for April 2011

A Confederacy of Dunces

Suggested by Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes

This month’s author was chosen by Rebecca because:

I chose Lawrence Hill because he’s a great Canadian writer and a genuinely nice man. His hugely successful The Book of Negroes, which we did for book club last summer, was a wonderful and thoughtful epic story about the life of a young girl who is taken by slave traders and sold to a plantation in the US.

I wondered if Lawrence would suggest a serious book for us; something political or historical perhaps. His recommendations were fascinating, and I loved that he chose books that were such a range of styles and topics. They are all favourites for probably very different reasons.

However, making the choice between his choices wasn’t so easy! Book club has already done The Cellist of Sarajevo and I’ve read Bel Canto, so that left three. I love Paul Quarrington, but we did Galveston not too long ago. So then I was torn between Andrea Levy’s Small Island and  A Confederacy of Dunces. In the end, I decided that book club is ready for a lighter, entertaining read, which sealed the decision.

Thanks, Lawrence! I think we’ll have fun with this one.

What books would Lawrence Hill take to a desert island?

Small Island by Andrea Levy

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

And his wacky fun suggestions…

Home Game by Paul Quarrington

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Recommended by Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes.

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.

Our Book Club Pick for March 2011

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Recommended by Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat

This author was chosen by Maria G. because:

I have been a francophile since I was 8 years old and taking my first ballet class. I spent as much time in France as I could and in my mid-twenties, finally moved to Paris where I lived for 3 years.

I was intrigued by the French approach to life: the senses are treasured above almost anything else and much of your day is spent indulging them whether it is a crusty bite of warm baguette fresh from the bakery, a particularly stinky (in that OMG this is going to be amazing kind of stink) piece of cheese, to the fact that a French woman would never be caught dead wearing track pants to the marché because then you (the public) would have to look at something ugly.

It’s all about appreciating the base elements of living and elevating them to an art form as well as helping those around you to do so as well. Whether it is a fabulously prepared meal or a beautiful flower arrangement or the whiff of an amazing perfume, you get to revel in the now.

Whenever I see a book title about France, I usually pick it up and read it:
A Year in Provence
Le Divorce
Almost French
any French cookbook, the list goes on.

So a few years ago when I first saw French Women Don’t Get Fat , I immediately picked it up.

Written by Mireille Guiliano, a French native, I was surprised that the title was so direct. Usually the French beat about the bush a bit as it is considered more polite. Perhaps Guiliano’s years of living in New York had something to do with that. Personally, I appreciate directness, so I really enjoyed her dissection of French culture and the subsequent “secrets” of living well and in balance with your body while not giving up pleasure one little bit.

Because I now live in a culture of excess that is then offset by Puritanical deprivation in order to achieve balance, it is wonderful to be reminded that beauty and pleasure should be part of our daily lives. Guiliano’s credo is reminiscent of both Benjamin Franklin (“Moderation in all things — including moderation.”) and Mae West (“Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”)

So when I was thinking about an author going to a deserted island, I was really curious to know what the Moderate Pleasure Queen would pick. Her choice, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), is lovely. Having read this as part of my mandatory reading in high school French class, I was reminded of what a surprisingly deep impact this book had on me and how it resonated for me through much of my late teens and early twenties.

I am looking forward to reading it again. I hope the rest of the book club enjoys it too. Merci Mireille!

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.

What books would Mireille Guiliano take to a desert island?

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Les Yeux d’Elsa (Elsa’s Eyes)  a poem by Louis Aragon

Recommended by Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.

What books would Andrew Davidson take to a desert island?

My Favorite Book – Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy.
Book I Recommend Most Often – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Süskind.
Terrific Book, Written by a Terrific Friend – Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden.
Book That Always Makes Me Happy – Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins.
Wild Card – The Bone People, Keri Hulme

Recommended by Andrew Davidson, Author of The Gargoyle

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.

What book would Janet Evanovich take to a desert island?

A stack of Scrooge McDuck comic books

Recommended by Janet Evanovich, Author of One for the Money a Stephanie Plum Novel

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.

Our Book Club Pick for February 2011

Not Wanted on the Voyage,
by Timothy Findley

Recommended by Hal Wake, Artistic Director of the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival

To learn more about our “Special Guest” Book Recommendations project, please click here.