Books·My Life in Books

Indie music icons Tegan and Sara share their high school reading list

The famous identical twins and authors of the memoir High School reflect on their love of books and reading.

'We constantly have a pile of books next to our beds.'

Calgary indie pop duo Tegan and Sara’s new memoir, titled High School, shares the life story of the famous identical twins and LGBTQ icons. In this CBC Books video, Tegan and Sara talk about the six books they loved reading during high school. 5:10

Calgary indie music duo Tegan and Sara's new memoir, titled High School, shares the life story of the famous identical twins and LGBTQ icons. 

High School is written in chapters alternating between Tegan's point of view and Sara's. lt explores how the twins navigated issues around love, drugs, sexuality, queer identity and academic pressures during their high school years in the 1990s.

Tegan and Sara talked to CBC Books about the books they loved reading during high school.

"We're both big readers. We constantly have a pile of books next to our beds," said Tegan. 

"I do get into first editions and I like buying hardcover books," said Sara. "Books saved me. They gave me a way to imagine a future for myself."

Tegan and Sara will be on CBC Radio One's The Next Chapter on Saturday Sept. 28 at 4 p.m. ET (4:30 NT).

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Marion Zimmer Bradley was an American author of fantasy, historical fantasy, science fiction and science fantasy novels. (Kent Denault, Ballantine)

Tegan: "This is a classic story about medieval times, but told through the perspective of a female character."

Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig

Juan Manuel Puig Delledonne, commonly called Manuel Puig, was an Argentine author. (Elisa Cabot/Wikimedia Commons, Vintage)

Sara: "My mother had a copy of Kiss of The Spider Woman. I remember not understanding much of what was in the book. But I remember feeling very cool reading it."

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh was published in 1993. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images, Random House Canada)

Tegan: "This book made me laugh. The movie adaptation came out when we were in high school. We asked for the book for Christmas and consumed it. The soundtrack also was deeply influential."

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Ann-Marie MacDonald is an author, actor, playwright and broadcaster. (Guntar Kravis, Vintage Canada)

Sara: "I remember this book so vividly. It was the first time I'd ever read a book that included a queer love story. In the book, one of the protagonists goes to New York City and becomes involved with a woman who is a musician.

Books saved me. They gave me a way to imagine a future for myself.- Sara Quin

"There was also something that was compelling about that. It allowed me to imagine a world where I might be able to have a romance, or that I might be able to fall in love or be loved. It gave me an opportunity to sort of imagine my own future."

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear is a 1980s book series of prehistoric fiction by Jean M. Auel. (Bantam, Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Tegan: "I can remember in Grade 10 being profoundly moved by The Clan of the Cave Bear series. I don't read anything like that now, but at the time I became really consumed by it. There was so much focus on the female characters. That was probably why my mom read it —and then she would give us anything that she bought."

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is the author of The Handmaid's Tale. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images, Penguin Random House)

Sara: "My grandmother was obsessed with Margaret Atwood. She loved, loved her books. I remember reading The Handmaid's Tale and not understanding why my grandmother was so compelled by the writing. She always seemed so buttoned up, conservative and conventional. Now as an adult, I can see that she was using books and reading as a way to escape the life that she was supposed to live, which is sort of heartening to me now."

Tegan and Sara's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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