Babble Book Club: Upcoming selection ideas?

431 posts / 0 new
Last post
Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture
Babble Book Club: Upcoming selection ideas?

Hey book clubbers!

I thought (for once) we could get a head start on our next selection and potentially choose another one from you, the lovely readers!

As always I have a couple suggestions to get the ball rolling and surprise, surprise they're CanLit!

1. The Beggar's Garden - Michael Christie

2. The Woefield Poultry Collection - Susan Juby

I thought it could be interesting to dip a bit more into mainstream Canadian books that have been garnering a lot of recognition and awards/nomination to see what all the fuss is about. I have read the Beggar's Garden and the fuss is legit -- that is for sure.


Feel free to add suggestions (of your choosing!) for our next selection, but please keep in mind they need to be accessible through libraries and independent bookstores and, you know, potentially good. (ha)

Thanks again everyone for your participation in the Babble Book Club, it has been a really fun and overwhelming experience, and something I always look forward to!

Issues Pages: 
infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

Well, I can't resist putting in a plug for my favourite Canadian novel of the last couple of years: Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant.


What to say about it it ..... it is sui generis. But, you'll like it if you have a penchant for strong characters (even the cameo characters are vivid and you feel you would recognize them instantly on the street), a tightly-crafted plot that gradually reveals a mystery at its heart; humour in abundance, but also deep undercurrents of serious themes of who we are, what is love, what does family mean. The novel is suffused with warmth and affection and anchored in its settings -- primarily St John's but also Cornwall, Cambridge and parts of the western U.S.

I read it summer before last but would jump at the chance to read it again and have a discussion with other readers about nuances that puzzled me, and various interpretations possible of the mystery at its heart. Here are a couple of reviews:







Another plus, maybe Jessica Grant would come online and talk to us about it.  




Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

That is a good suggestion.

I have always wanted to read her stuff as well, but it is one that always slips my mind when at the bookstore or library. I would definitely be interested in tackle this book -- did you suggest it before?

What is everyone else thinking and feeling? Too much fiction, too much CanLit (never!)?

We have still got lots of time to choose and lots of time to put forth any suggestions for our little club!

Thanks infrancinophile -- definitely on the list; let's see what everyone else thinks!


Has the next book been chosen yet?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I'm reading two companions to Marx's Capital right now: Fredric Jameson (my academic soul mate)'s Representing Capital (see superb interview with Fred here) and David Harvey's A Companion to Marx's Capital. I know that's somewhat against the grain of the books so far, but I thought I'd throw that in there. I would also recommmend, hope against hope, Lauren Berlant's sensational, incredible Cruel Optimism. Perhaps just the first chaper or so? I could provide a scan for those who can't secure a copy.

If fiction is still on the docket, I will continue to flog early c-20 fiction, since that's the only way I will likely find time to read one of these books all the way through. Sarah Orne Jewett's The County of the Pointed Firs (1910)? Anyone? John Dos Passos's Manhattan Transfer (1925) or 1919 (1932)? James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)?

Two recent CanLit novels I've read, Kevin Chong's Beauty Plus Pity (Vancouver) and Claire Tacon's In the Fields (Guelph), would be my (selfish) contempo cdn suggestions.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

not yet Caissa still figuring it out -- do you have any suggestions to throw in the pot?

@Catchfire, those are great ideas! I have been wanting to read Kevin Chong's newest book, so that would be a nice excuse! I am wondering if we are focusing too much on fiction, and within that Canadian fiction? I for one, love it, so am not let down, but do others wish we were reading a larger range of genres?

I suppose the theory is that if we read (contempo) CanLit there is a larger chance of having an author join us, whereas if we read literature and political theory there is a larger chance they are dead. I guess it depends on which format we all like (author Q&As or open discussion or both). I might try to start a poll in our facebook group with selection ideas and post the link here.

What does everyone think about the genre of book they would like to read (or that we have read) and any suggestions lighting a body part on fire?

alex alex's picture

Would love to read Kevin Chong's latest for the next BBC! :)

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Looks like we are getting a consensus on Kevin Chong! (three people, but still).

What are the feelings on this one?

I'm going to check availability at things like the library and independents outside of BC. brb.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Looks as though Kevin Chong's Beauty Plus Pity is available in (random) libraries (I searched on the internet), available for purchase from publisher Arsenal Pulp Press (shipped within 24 hours) and at various independents as well, being that he is a Vancouver-based writer (and former UBC student).

This sounds like a great selection (thanks Catchfire!) so let's select Kevin Chong's latest Beauty Plus Pity as our newest BBC book! 

I'll make up a new thread for the selection, but how about we keep this one open to bounce ideas off for all our selections -- seems it could be easier?

Thanks again for everyone's input!


Looks like a good choice.

I started this novel yesterday.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

@Caissa -- that is a great novel. Definitely the better of some of Michael Chabon's books. It's a pretty big read, but I found I flew through it because it was so interesting and engaging.

I really like how Chabon weaves Judaism, comics, war history, slang and modernity into his writing. He is really talented (although sometimes a bit wordy, and like, pretensious wordy).

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Okay as mentioned we have decided to go with Vancouver-based writer Kevin Chong and his newest book Beauty Plus Pity! We have yet to set a final discussion date, but I think it will probably be early June sometime to give everyone time to grab a copy, have a relaxing read, and get ready for our conversation!

Beauty Plus Pity seems to be widely available through Canadian libraries, also publisher Arsenal Pulp Press sells and ships copies of the book, and independent bookstores have it (especially in Vancouver -- I just grabbed a copy from the People's Co-op bookstore. They are always great for local writers)

Will keep everyone up-to-date and posted as the information comes up!

alex alex's picture

Woot! Excited about reading Beauty Plus Pity...looking fwd to getting my hands on a copy...and yes, an early June date sounds perfect!

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

I'm excited to start!

It has been really interesting hearing anecdotes coming out from people we associate with. The guy at People's Co-op not only being excited, but mentioning that he is friends with Kevin Chong and telling a couple things about him (re: he is really cool). And then editor Derrick also knowing him, and having read the book in two days!

Seems like Kevin has really plugged himself into the Vancouver writing community and beyond!


Bought my copy Saturday. Should get to it by the end of the week.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

nice. I have yet to start reading it, I think i'm going to save it and savour it -- something I have not been doing lately because I leave everything to the last minute. Because I'm awesome.

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

Awesome, yes, and very funny. Keep it up. 

derrick derrick's picture

As Kaitlin mentions, I read this book in a weekend and really enjoyed it. Kevin is a prolific, talented and versatile writer - he also has a non-fiction book out this year, My Year of the Racehorse. (And I'd say all these things about his work even if Kevin wasn't a friend.) So, yes, I'm looking forward to this one. For folks in Vancouver, I'm happy to lend my copy; better yet, buy the book at People's Co-op Bookstore, and support one of our few remaining independents... 

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

better yet Derrick stay tuned for some surprises.... wink, wink, nudge, nudge!

Also, I was surfing the internet in fits of procrastination (as per usual) and stumbled upon some interesting Kevin Chong interviews, mainly this one from the Montreal Gazette being noteable. The interviewer is pretty candid and relaxed and actually read his works too!

My Year of the Racehorse looks interesting and so does Neil Young Nation -- what a diverse writer, my goodness!


Started the book last night. They say all writing is autobiographical but  reading can be autobiographical as well. The first couple of chapters have me contemplating my relationship with both my father and my 15 year old son.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

That is an interesting perspective to take. I only become aware of my projections on a book, when that book is (inevitably) made into a movie and the characters aren't how I imagined. 

Actually once or twice, my experience in life have shaped my reactions to the way I perceive characters intents in situations. While some may deem a person one way, another can say the opposite. I guess that is why everything is a crap-shoot. Who knows what you'll like.

I'm glad to hear you are enjoying the book though and your insights make me excited to get reading!


I enjoyed the book, finishing it Saturday evening. Some interesting relationships in the book and many symmetries throughout: birth, death, father/son relationships, birth choices.


Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

This might be old news to some, but apparently @CBCbooks hosts twitter chats about CanLit (!) and their next one is Thursday June 7 2 p.m. EST. The discussion is on "the future of libraries and the role of libraries in the digital age".

I think I am going to hop on this discussion on Thursday to also mine the conversation for any interesting CanLit gems for our next selection and just general conversation because that is super interesting!

They are using a bit of an ambiguous hashtag (#CanLit), but still, could be cool! Check it out! Babble Book Club mingling with the CBC!


How about something written by a dead white guy? After all, they're so ignored by the literazzi ...

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture


Just throwing it out there -- what about something by Steven Galloway? Editor Derrick's publishing of apiece by Steven Galloway on the Quebec strikes made him pop into my mind again. Cellist of Sarajevo?

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

Can we consider alternating fiction and non-fiction selections?

Picking up on Caissa's "dead white guy" comment, and an earlier post by Catchfire, what about something by Tony Judt -- a recently deceased white guy?

His obituary in the Guardian  is interesting in its own right:

This is interesting, too:

Both "Thinking the Twentieth Century" and "The Memory Chalet" have been out long enough to be readily available. The Hamilton library has multiple copies plus Playaway and downloadable audiobook formats.

"The Memory Chalet" mixes political and personal and might be a more engaging general reader work:

while "Thinking the Twentieth Century" promises to be an intellectual roller-coaster ride:

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

that's a good idea to bring in some non-fiction! 

What do others think about reading either of the books suggested by infrancinophile?

We could also consider more of a Canadian angle to things (I know, I know) -- someone way back when had suggested the recent book on Lester B. I do believe.

Any thoughts on some biographical or fact based readings?

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Got a few suggestions from the twittersphere:

John Raulston Saul's 'A Fair Country' that the babble boards have already chatted about a fair bit.

When I Left Home: The Buddy Guy story

Democracy Matters by Cornel West

Not sure if they are completely what we are looking for, but nice suggestions nonetheless.

I stumbled upon The Tyee's summer reads list and these popped out:

Worlds Apart: British Columbia Schools, Politics, and Labour Relations Before and After 1972 by Thomas Fleming (Bendall Books)

The Bear's Embrace: A True Story of a Grizzly Bear Attack by Patricia Van Tighem (Greystone Books)

Tecumseh & Brock: The War of 1812 by James Laxer (House of Anansi)

All non-ficition, little bit of Canada in there and a rabble blogger too!

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

I was thinking West of Here by Jonathan Evison could be a great read.

I picked it up when I was in Seattle for the first time in Elliot Bay Books. It seems like a melding between history and story-telling, and could be an easing in of sorts to non-fiction. The methadone of books perhaps?

But seriously, I have grown to really like this style of blending fact with fiction (in a Lee Henderson "the Man Game" way not James Frey "A million Little Pieces" way) and I think this could be an interesting read.

It is about American Northwest history, but could still be interesting!


alex alex's picture

That's excellent that you got some suggestions from the Twitter-sphere...

I'd be interested in Cornel West's Democracy Matters...

On my summer book list for the summer - Jane Jacob's The Death and Life of Great American Cities (I've been wanting to read it for ages!)

We've got a review of James Laxer's Tecumseh and Brock to be published in the lounge this summer!

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

The Death and Life of Great American Cities!

That's a great suggestion Alex, and strangely enough, one of my co-workers just started reading that as well.

I like that it on the subject of urban planning. I'd be interested in reading that for sure!

What does everyone think?

Also, Cornell West is the coolest -- did you see the Examined Life?


The Jacobs book is over 450 pages.  Are people up for that as a summer read? The campus library has a copy so I would avoid buying this one.


ETA: I'm going to check it out now. It is one of those books on my reading bucket list, if I had such a list.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

maybe a larger read would be good for the summer because things tend to be a little harder to coordinate in summer.

We could all spend more time on the in between discussion and therefore wouldn't interfere with vacations and moving plans and sun (which is a myth in Vancouver).

It seems to be on at least two people's 'bucket list' so maybe it should be a go?

What does everyone think?


alex alex's picture

I'm also keen to read Karen Armstrong's latest...

12 Steps to a Compassionate Life

It's half the length and looks like a quick read :)

I do feel that we should probably stick to a Canadian author though...someone with less profile than Jane Jacobs and Karen Armstrong! My two cents...any thoughts?


We have already read an international author. I'm not sure we need to choose another Canadian author. That said i'll read whatever is chosen.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Books are so 20th century. (sorry, couldn't resist Tongue out )


I'm reading a book called The Dumbest Generation which argues that we adopt that attitude at our peril, Boom Boom.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Geez, do you really have to read a book to reach that conclusion??? Tongue out

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

for Caissa, who will love this, I'm sure:


LOL. Thanks Boom Boom.

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

Caissa wrote:

I'm reading a book called The Dumbest Generation which argues that we adopt that attitude at our peril, Boom Boom.

Is that the one by an English professer named Bauerstein or something like that?  I found it a gripping read, if perhaps (I sincerely hope) an overstatement of the author's case. Pretty sobering, although my own limited experience doesn't seem to reflect the author's observations. My extended family and friends tend to be nerdy, bookish and omnifarious readers -- not the characteristics Bauerstein was concerned about.


Yes, Bauerlein. Here is a 2008 LA Times article about the book.


Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

I think reading a non-Canadian author is okay? We have done it before, twice, and might be a nice way to explore other topics too!

Maybe less profile is an option, but we did say this could be a book club where one could finally read those books they have always wanted, high-profile authors included.

I guess summer could flip-flop between either getting into a long book because we all have a bit more time (and hopefully sunlight) to read, or we could also read a shorty so we have lots of time to play in the sun too!

I'm afraid I'm a bit indecisive these days, so how about we narrow it down to a couple options and decide from there.

Cassia you already started reading "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" right? So that option can stay on the table. 

Which others?


I have read the introduction but please don't let what i am reading influence the discussion. I read 120 books a year.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

I'm going to put up [url=]Somet... Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter[/url] by Carmen Aguirre as a suggestion.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

120?! I actually gasped. Gasped.

Something Fierce is a great suggestion! I know that it has been featured in the book lounge, but there is also so much subtext with the whole Canada Reads controversy, the politics within the book, and the historical-memoir hybrid style. 

What do others think of that suggestion from Left Turn?

alex alex's picture

120 books a year Caissa! My god - that's incredible! Not sure about 'The Dumbest Generation' - sounds depressing...

I'm also easy going...I read Something Feirce a few months ago and loooved it!

Another non-fiction book by a Canadian on urban planning I'd really like to read:

Straphanger: Saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile


On a bad year I read 100. Reading is my top leisure activity obviously.

Since ther are so many good suggestions maybe Kaitlin should just put all the titles in a hat and pull one out.



 Hey all, I'll join in with this book discussion.  I've recently got back into reading like crazy since I was given an ereader. Don't know what it is about that thing but I've read more books in the past 2 weeks then I have in the last 6 months.  At this rate I'll be doubling Caissa's book count by this time next year. ;) 

Anyways, my current non-fiction read is Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie.  Just started it yesterday and so far it's great.  Right now I'm finding myself attracted to reading about women in history and am balancing the 'big names' with books about women in general. I also have Climbing the Stairs by Margaret Powell, a memoir of life as kitchen maid in the 1920's and The Fearless Mrs Goodwin, the story of how NY's first female detective who is 1912ish solved one, if not the biggest bank heist in the cities history in my to-read list.   Looks fascinating but as far as I can see it's only available in electronic format.

 As a side note since getting my e-reader I've discovered a whole new world of books and social book nettworks to go with them published by self named "indie" authors that are primarily available in digital format as people by-pass publishers and just do it themselves.  I'm finding it one of the interesting developments and in my opinion a positive of this new fangled digital tech.  The downside is that now I have even more reads that I have to choose from.  Too many books not enough time!!

I'd be happy enough reading anything the group chooses.  I think I can fit it in. lol


(Oh and hi, everyone.  Used to post here as ElizaQ.  Stopped a while back for a few reasons but never left reading completely.  I couldn't remember my PW and the email connected to the account is gone so here I am...ElizaQ the second.")

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

thanks for joining us ElizaQ2 and for your suggestions and opinions on e-readers. I might start up a different thread on e-readers to have a chat. Opinions on digital books vs paper books are always interesting!

Cassia you are right! I'll throw them all in the hat and choose one so we can get going! I'll report back soon with the decision! Any last minute suggestions or begs and pleading for a certain book throw em' in!

alex alex's picture

Hi ElizaQ2 - nice to have you back...I like the '2' addition to your moniker. Nice ring to it :)

I've been watching (embarrassed to admit) a lot of Downton Abbey and I'm curious about Eliza's Climbing The Stairs suggestion about the life of a kitchen maid.

Anyways, I agree with Caissa (note spelling here - not 'Cassia' ) - toss all these great suggestions into a hat!

But before you last suggestion from me!!

I've been wanting to read Wade Davis for years...anyone read The Wayfinders yet?