The Next Chapter

The books Scotiabank Giller Prize judge Randy Boyagoda is reading right now

After months of reading all of the books that were considered for the 2019 prize, The Next Chapter columnist reveals how the process affected his reading habits.
Randy Boyagoda is an author, academic and columnist. (CBC)
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Randy Boyagoda is a literary critic, English professor, novelist and The Next Chapter columnist

He is chair of the five-person 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize jury, which released its six-title shortlist on Sept. 30. The winner will be announced on Nov. 18.

After months of reading 117 "excellent" books that were submitted for Giller Prize consideration this year, Boyagoda tells Shelagh Rogers that he needed to clear his head and change his reading habits after such an intense judging process.

These are a few of the books he's been reading at the moment.

How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul & The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon

These two books explore how to foster good reading habits in children. (Workman Publishing Company, HarperCollins)

Both books look at how to change reading habits: How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul looks at encouraging better reading habits in children while The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon looks at why reading aloud can help adults and children improve their reading habits in the social media age.

"After reading all the Giller Prize books, I wanted to think about a different approach to reading itself," Boyagoda said. "I was thinking about the reading in a family context and reading out loud. These are two excellent books that any parent who cares about books and cares about their children's reading should be aware of."

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin was an American author best known for her works of speculative fiction. ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Robin Marchant/Stringer/Getty Images)

Originally published in 1968, A Wizard of Earthsea is the first book in the Earthsea Cycle by American speculative fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin. The series features wizards, dragons and the quest for power in a fantasy world.

"Reading these books aloud with my children on a daily basis was a good and important break from the solitary experience of reading for the Giller Prize," Boyagoda said.

The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton's books have sold over 500 million copies and have been translated into various languages. (Hachette Children's, George Konig/Stringer/Getty Images)

The Famous Five is a series of children's adventure novels written by British author Enid Blyton. The books, first published between 1942 and 1963, chronicle the adventures of siblings Julian, Dick and Anne with their cousin Georgina and her dog Timmy.

"I bought a shelf load of Enid Blyton adventure novels and started reading those with my children and then reading aloud on a daily basis," Boyagoda said. "My mother gave them to me to read when I was growing up in Oshawa and she had read them herself growing up as a girl in Ceylon."

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann 

Lucy Ellmann is an American-born British novelist based in Scotland. (Caroline Forbes, Biblioasis)

Lucy Ellmann is an American-born author living in Edinburgh. Her latest novel is a 1,000-page stream of consciousness epic about an unnamed middle-aged Ohio woman living in Donald Trump's America. The novel is on the 2019 Booker Prize shortlist.

"Told by an Ohio housewife, the novel is about making sense of her life and of the world," Boyagoda said. "This book is so good. I couldn't stop reading this."

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

The Divine Comedy is a long Italian narrative poem by Dante Alighieri. (Wikimedia Commons, Liveright)

Born in Florence in 1265, Dante Alighieri was a poet and civil leader. He has been called the single, greatest poetic consciousness in human history. His literary masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is composed of three books: InfernoPurgatorio and Paradiso

"I read a canto of Dante's Divine Comedy every single day. This is done first thing in the morning before I do anything else. It sets the rhythm, shape and structure of my imaginative life," Boyagoda said.

Randy Boyagoda's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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