Thursday, December 29, 2011

favourites of 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

This was one of those books where I read the very last page, breathed in deep, and then flipped back to page one and read it through again. I’ve never quite met a narrator as unreliable as Briony, nor a place as dark and magical as Swampsea, nor creatures as mysterious and realistic as the Old Ones. There is darkness and danger here, but also light and love. My favourite line in the book is this one: “If you say a word, it leaps out and becomes the truth… How can something as fragile as a word build a whole world?” I think it sums up Briony’s struggle with herself, and what has happened in the past. It sums up (for me) why stories are so valuable. But I also think it sums up the world around us. So much of how we see things (ourselves, others, the situations we find ourselves in) depends on how those things have been named for us. And sometimes, in order to make things better, some renaming is in order.

Feed by M.T. Anderson

I resisted this book for a long time. I'm not really sure why. But then, one day, I found it staring at me from the shelf of my favourite used bookstore. I grabbed it, flipped it open to page one, and… couldn’t. stop. reading. I loved the voice. I loved the dialogue. I loved the fact that it was poetic and satirical, and the descriptions were sparse, forcing my imagination to do a lot of work. And I loved the fact that the whole time I had this sense of foreboding, that Titus was going to do something I didn’t want him to do, that I was going to ball my eyes out… and while all that did happen, I thought that the way Anderson did it all, the way that everything came together, the way that it ended… it was perfect. After I finished it, I let it sit. Then I re-read the last chapter. And then re-read it again. Rarely do I find a book that ends perfectly, but Feed definitely does.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Let me just say, first off, that I will happily spend all my money on books by Shaun Tan. As someone who grew up raised by immigrant grandparents, I really resonated with this book, and the hospitality of the characters found within its pages. There are no words, only illustrations. Hundreds and hundreds of illustrations. It’s a story told only in images, and Shaun Tan does it so, so well. I found it magical and moving and, as with every other piece of work by Tan, it cast a spell over me.

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