At Queen's Park Circle in Toronto yesterday (September 23), some of the countries brightest literary minds and biggest literary fans came together for the Toronto edition of The Word On The Street Festival. CBC Books were on hand the Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage, and we made the trip too.
Taking to the stage were the likes of David Suzuki, Jian Ghomeshi and Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam. Hosts for the day included Mary Ito, host of CBC Radio's Fresh Air and Michael Enright, host of The Sunday Edition.
If you're a lover of everything in the literary world we hope you headed to your local event. It's possible that happened in Toronto, as the Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage - or tent - was fit to burst. We asked Jian, Micheal Enright, Mary Ito and the 2010 Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam about their preferences in the literature world:
CBC Live: What's currently on your nightstand?
Jian Ghomeshi: I just finished three books this week: Paul Henderson's memoir, The Goal of My Life; Mortality, which is a collection of Christopher Hitchins' final work; and the Cyndi Lauper memoir! I tend to read anywhere between four and six a week.
Michael Enright: On my nightstand at the moment is a thriller by one of my favourite thriller writers called Craig Johnson. His character is a sheriff in modern day Wyoming. There's an HBO series, called Longmire, and I love that. I'm also reading The Improbable Pilgrimige of Roger Fry, by Rachel Adams, an English book about a man who walks across England to save somebody dying of cancer. And I'm reading Great Expectations. I love it. It's Dickens' 200th birthday, and I find that he centres me. When you get all these other books... I go back to Dickens and I just calm right down. There's another book that I can't remember... a book called The Oath which is by Jeffrey Toobin who's an American lawyer-writer, 'cause we're going to be covering the American election. I don't have time to eat or sleep.
Mary Ito: I've got a pile of books... I just finished David Suzuki's latest and Jeff Rubin's The End of Growth. They were really interesting reads. I'm really looking forward to reading Neil Turok - who's the head of the perimeter institute in Kitchener-Waterloo - who just wrote his book called The Universe Within. Even though I'm no science geek and I know very little about it, I'm always fascinated by that kind of stuff, especially the universe and what's been happening this last year with the whole discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. Neil Turok is a huge brainiac and he is the Massey Lecturer this year. This book is really the Massey Lectures and I'm really looking forward to reading that.
Vincent Lam: I've just started Tanis Rideout's... Above All Things. I'm bad with book names... isn't that terrible?!
What's the best Canadian book you've read recently?
JG: I really enjoyed Dave Bidini's book about the Summit Series. I'm quite immersed in Summit nostalgia right now. I just saw as many players as they could gather, I guess, from '72 get inducted into the Walk of Fame last night. I was actually in the bathroom and realised, at the urinals, on one side of me was Peter Mahovlich and on the other side was Brad Park. That was kinda cool...
ME: That's a hard question, because I tend to re-read books that I like. No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod, is one of my favourite books any time, anywhere. Rawi Hage has a new novel out called Carnival... it's raw, it's tough, but it's beautifully written. There are two books by C.S. Richardson who was on our show last week, and the names have just fled... it shows what happens when you're 106 years old! The End of the Alphabet... The Emporer of Paris is his new one and it's terrific. It's a novel that plays with time, it ends at the beginning and begins at the end and the stories are all intertwined... it's fabulous. He's on the Giller longlist.
MI: I just finished reading, yesterday, Jeff Lemire's latest book called The Underwater Welder. Jeff is a graphic novelist, I was really turned on to him when he was a Canada Reads nominee a number of years ago. People were saying to me, you've got to read his book Essex County. Loved it. I love his stark black and white illustrations. There's so much emotion that he captures in his drawings. Essex County, terrific story. Underwater Welder, love it too. It's about a young guy who works on an oil rig off the coast of Nova Scotia. He's a got a wife, she's expecting their first child and he is grappling with his past and the relationship that he had with his father. It's the whole idea of trying to find who you are, reconciling your present with your past and just really coming to terms with what's going to go ahead in the future and having a child. It's a very powerful read.
VL: My favourite Canadian book that I've read recently is Annabel Lyon's The Sweet Girl.
Tell us some of your favourite Canadian writers.
JG: I've consistently been a Douglas Copeland fan. I do worship at the altar of Atwood. Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers... I loved that book and I really did like Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. Big long time fan of Ann-Marie Macdonald. Shout out to science fiction - @GreatDismal on Twitter - William Gibson.
ME: Alistair MacLeod is so lyrical and he's wonderful. If you put a gun to my head, I would say Alice Munro, Alistair MacLeod and Mordecai Richler... who was a founder of the Giller.
MI: Well, I really enjoyed Vincent Lam and his Giller Prize winning book, Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures. You know who I read earlier this year? I'm mentioning people who might not be that well known, but, Brian Francis. I loved his book Natural Order. What really struck me about that book is, Brian, who's a male, was able to take the perspective of this elderly woman. I thought he captured her voice so well. She is looking back over her life and the troubled relationship that she had with her son, who was gay, and how that relationship had unfolded and trying to come to terms with it. I thought it was fabulous, he's a really good writer.
VL: That's a dangerous question! I can't name one single favourite Canadian author... my favourite Canadian authors would include Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Sheila Heti, Doug Coupland, Liz Hay for sure, Moyez Vassanji... I could go on for a while...
We also decided to get into the question of books versus a tablet. The love for tablets is undeniable, but it appears nothing comes close to the tangible experience of holding that book:
JG: I'm still kind of caught in the romance of the tangible book. Now that I have a book... I've been so pro-technology and devices, I'm such a gadget guy, but now I kind of want people to own the book book. The hardcover and everything... I'm sort of like... "no! you have to see it in its package!". So, I think that would be my preference...
ME: Both. I have a Kindle. And what I do with the Kindle is I put on all public domain books. I've got all Shakespeare, all of Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, all that poetry and stuff. I love it, having it on there... and it's free! But I also buy books. I like holding them but, for example, I go to Newfoundland every summer and I used to carry a knapsack of books... now I don't have to. I've got the Kindle. Maybe I carry two or three hardcovers but mostly it's on the Kindle. Actually, Great Expectations is funny. I started it at home with the real book, then on the subway I read on the Kindle. At lunchtime I read it on the Kindle and then on the way home I read it on the Kindle. Then when I go to bed I read the paperback... I don't know why I do that! I have to keep figuring out where the hell I am in the book!
MI: I've had my Kobo sitting on my desk for so long, but the thing is people - publishers - keep sending me hard copies! So I read them... but, you know, I find that the Kobo is probably going to be good when I travel. If I'm going off somewhere for a couple of weeks, I've been lugging five or six books and that's heavy. So, the Kobo's going to come in handy. Having said that, my preference is still to pick up a book, I love the tactile experience.
VL: I prefer physical books. I have an iPad, I use it mostly for magazine reading. I find that for a few reasons I end up preferring the physical book for reading actual books, but sure, I'm not someone who categorically opposed to tablets. I can see how they have their place.