A musician's favourite books of the year, as read in tour vans and backstage, ft accompanying songs.
Shola von Reinhold
"LOTE recruits literary innovation into the project of examining social marginalisation, queerness, class, Black Modernisms and archival absences. A critically important and hugely original...More Info
The Gay Reads book of choice! This is an addictively disquieting story about restoring the archive, and the cult of academia which seeks to gate-keep and cherry pick it. Through the rootless and paranoid protagonist Mathilde, we encounter lost Black and Queer artists of centuries past, and their unconventionally decadent keepers today. I loved that the book isn’t afraid to poke fun at the nonsense that is grant application writing in the arts, too.
Accompanying song: A Performance in V Parts by Moses Sumney
Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season
In the years since her tragic death in a car accident at age thirty-two in 1967, Forough Farrokhzad has become a poet as iconic...More Info
Poetry collections are great for bibliomancy; I love turning to a random page to see what secret messages lie there for me. When I flipped this book open, the late, great treasure of Iranian literature, Forugh Farrokhzad, knocked me out / evangelized me / corrupted me into a ravenous, beauty-starved superfan with this:
"Oh you who have blended me with the ardor of poetry
who have poured all this fire into my poetry
because you ignited in me the fever of love
of course you have set my verse on fire."
She understood words as an art supply, as symbols that speak to the soul. Delicious!
Accompanying song: Salt in the Wound by Boygenius
A Horse at Night
“A Horse at Night is like light from a candle in the evening: intimate, pleasurable, full of wonder. It asks us to consider fiction...More Info
I loved this lush, Patty Smith-esque description of the sensory experience of reading and writing. Amina Cain brings us into her deeply subjective practice as a reader and writer, revealing how she is hung up on wine and butter and persimmons and Elena Ferrante and Florida Beaches. Her novel Indelicacy is top of my reading list next year.
Accompanying song: All the Things I Couldn’t Say to You by Busty and the Bass
Bedroom Rapper is a book for obsessive music fans who are looking for the definitive take on what’s happened in the last two decades...More Info
If you saw my Summer Reads list, then you don’t need to hear me gush about this again. I love this book, and believe it should be considered an essential piece of Canadiana. Go read it!
Accompanying song: Africville’s Revenge by Cadence Weapon
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm
GMA BUZZ PICK • Passion and risk, fathers and daughters, wives and single women, jazz and soul: a "gorgeously written debut" (Celeste Ng, best-selling...More Info
Here is a charismatic trumpet-playing main character, Circus Palmer, presented through the eyes of the women he uses and disappoints. He talks a big game about vague musical aspirations and opportunities, delusional to the fact that in actuality, he is an out-of-touch jazz cat that has been playing in the same local bar for years, burying his career insecurity with booze and a sex addiction, and neglecting his wife and teenage daughter, who is convinced she is in love with the Bostom bomber. The more Circus talks, the more you’ll want to rip that fedora off his stupid head. Laura Warrell nails this study of a charming and seriously-flawed character, perhaps with a pinch more redemption than he probably deserves.
Accompanying song: Clair de Lune by Kamasi Washington
A propulsive and daring new novel by the author of Very Nice about a woman on the run from catastrophe, searching for love, home,...More Info
A horrifying portrait of a traumatized mind and all the flawed logic therein. However, where a lot of trauma media is gratuitous and re-traumatizing, this one opts to focus on the strange and slow mental process of moving on. Allison, fleeing her abusive ex, buys a cute little house that is immediately destroyed by a hurricane. A chance encounter immediately after leaves her with a brain injury, and her recovery process is wild and eerie. I polished this off in an afternoon, thinking no no no no no at every turn, and had to stare at the wall after I finished it.The victim fights back in this one.
Accompanying song: Hurricane by King’s X (Lyrics: “Allison, you’re just like a hurricane.” Coincidence!?)
Strangers to Ourselves
A New York Times, Vulture, and Wall Street Journal Ten Best Books of the YearAn Indigo Best Book of the YearThe acclaimed, award-winning New...More Info
How often does the cry to destigmatize mental illness include “inconvenient” disorders beyond depression and anxiety? Can a patient seek support without being subjected to invasive and experimental tests? How does the mental health system empower suffering people in an increasingly hostile world? How do we integrate our diagnoses into our concepts of ourselves? Need every painful experience be pathologized?
These questions are addressed with patient stories: a six-year-old Rachel Aviv incarcerated for her eating disorder, a disgraced former-entrepreneur who never moved on from his failures and left behind a heart-wrenching memoir, a woman who goes off her meds, effectively rejecting her diagnosis. Aviv shares dark vignettes with delightful humanity and humor that (almost) compensates for the gaps in psych treatment today.
Accompanying song: Daffodil by Florence and the Machine
The outrageously funny and painfully relatable satire of an aspiring artist and millennial culture Walter Scott's Wendy comics have become a critical sensation, with...More Info
I read the entire Wendy series this year, and belly-laughed at the humiliation of art school crits, the pretentious and petty high-jinx of jealous classmates and drunk frenemies, and most of all, Wendy’s obliviousness to her self-destructive tendencies. If you’ve been anywhere near an art student in the last decade, this will bring on flashbacks of diy art/music venues, PBR, and bad haircuts. My inner art-school-dropout is healed!
Accompanying song: Etre un artiste by Chocolat
Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
“A standout achievement…American speech is an underused commodity in contemporary fiction and it’s a joy to find such a vital example of it here.”...More Info
Shopaholics, hustler kids, and grannies rub shoulders in this vivid and loving collection of interconnected stories set in a crumbling Harlem apartment building. The characters really jump off the page with all the hope and anxiety in their quest for a life beyond survival. Sidik Fofana asks you to suspend your judgment and voyeurism-guilt as this intimate world is nearly capsized by poverty. Make no mistake, though. The pages are rife with the beauty of complex, loving human relationships, challenging yet streaked with humor, dreams and Black joy.
Accompanying song: Go to Hell by Raphael Saadiq
In the city of San AgustÃn de Tango, the banal is hard to tell from the bizarre. In a single day, a man is...More Info
Neurotic and strange, a meditation on the process of remembering. You follow a couple through a regular day in their lives, which serves as a backdrop for philosophical and social discussion– or at least a launching pad for Juan Emar’s anxieties. Heads up, a large bird eats and ejects a lion, and there are several pages devoted to the colour green.
Accompanying song: Green Tambourine by The Lemon Pipers
Was She Pretty?
A dreamy exploration of relationships and jealousy . . . pithy and deadpan . . . It's no self-help book." --SalonWhat's left when a...More Info
Not new, but I love the concept and format of this book so much. Having been a fan of Walk Me to the Corner, this was another ink-drawn love-life hit for me. The pages lead you along a line of exes, one connected to another, each with their own unforgettable traits. It left me with a sense of being stuck in an elevator with too many people: claustrophobic, lonely, and unable to deny the ways in which we are connected to one-another.
Accompanying song: Ladies by Fiona Apple