Category Archives: Literary Events

What I read in 2016

When I graduated from university, I started to keep track of my books read in this wee diary that was a gift from my roommate.

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I started the books diary in 1983. It’s coming apart at the seams a bit. Over the years, I’ve backed up my list in databases, spreadsheets, Goodreads and other book apps du jour … but I’ve always updated this little diary as part of my reading routine. Yes, this book and this part of my reading ritual is getting on 34 years …

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Here are the books I read in 2016 – once again, diligently recorded in my book diary, along with a backup spreadsheet and Goodreads – with links to reviews where I have them. By the way, this is an exhaustive, “all of” list, not a “best of” list.

I continued my commitment in 2016 to a daily devotion to at least one poem … and usually more, as friends on Twitter continued to generously share their poem choices and reflections via the #todayspoem hashtag. Now five years in, I still haven’t missed a day, both contributing and enjoying selections from others in this edifying, often spirit-lifting and vital communal experience. I’ve now pondered the works of close to 1,000 unique poets, writers, translators, songsmiths and wordsmiths I’ve revisited or unearthed myself, and countless more via others wielding that often revelatory hashtag. On into its sixth year, I’m continuing with my #todayspoem habit every day heading into 2017. I hope many contributors will continue or join anew.

I welcomed some wonderful and insightful guest reviewers and correspondents to this blog in 2016. I’m so grateful for the time and thought they spent on their pieces, from which I learned a lot and hope you did, too. Let’s revisit them again:

Here are the books I read, reread and read aloud in 2016. Wherever I go, I try to carry a book with me, so for each book, I’m also going to try to recall where I was when I was reading it.

  1. Hope Makes Love
    by Trevor Cole

    I vividly recall reading this book at the cottage during the wintry first days of the new year.

  2. The Beauty of the Husband
    by Anne Carson

    I was reading this amazing book while waiting for a friend who was arriving by GO Train at Toronto’s Union Station. We were meeting another friend to go to a poetry reading – how perfect is that?

  3. Fates and Furies
    by Lauren Groff

    I distinctly recall reading this engrossing book snuggled in bed.

  4. A Little Life
    by Hanya Yanagihara

    I went through a protracted period of insomnia last winter and if, after trying to relax and consciously breathe myself back to sleep, I was still wide-eyed in the dark, I would turn on my little book-light and read. This book actually didn’t help get me back to sleep – quite the contrary – but it was stunningly memorable company during those sleepless hours. What an unforgettable wallop of a reading experience.

  5. The Mark and the Void
    by Paul Murray

    I read this two-volume paperback (a very interesting packaging of the story) mostly at our dining room table. It was February, when this household observes a month of abstinence from alcohol, so the accompanying beverages were likely tea and coffee.

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  7. Between You & Me
    by Mary Norris

    I took this entertaining book with me on more than a few subway rides.

  8. When Words Deny the World
    by Stephen Henighan

    This book kept me company on streetcar rides to physiotherapy appointments.

  9. The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl
    by Sue Goyette

    I read this gorgeous book (also a gorgeous book object) at home.

  10. Just Watch Me – The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1968-2000)
    by John English
    (read aloud)

    A lot of our reading aloud takes place in the kitchen, with my talented husband cooking and me singing for my supper. We actually read a lot of this book during the interminable 2015 Canadian federal election and it was a great reminder that there were dedicated, thoughtful and honorable politicians of all political stripes as recently as just a generation or two ago.

  11. M Train
    by Patti Smith

    I read this sweet, luminous book at home.

  12. All the Gold Hurts My Mouth
    by Katherine Leyton

    This poetry collection was company on several subway rides.

  13. Birdie
    by Tracey Lindberg

    This book was warm and fascinating company on streetcar rides to physiotherapy appointments.

  14. Innocents and Others
    by Dana Spiotta

    Among his many talents, my husband is a great seeker and finder of first editions of books. When I fell in love with author Dana Spiotta on the basis of this intriguing New York Times Magazine interview, he made it his mission to find all of her novels for me. And then I read them all this year. To a book, they were amazing. I already can’t wait for what she’ll do next.

  15. Don’t Be Interesting
    by Jacob McArthur Mooney

    I read this collection (which had me at the John Darnielle references) at home and on public transit.

  16. Model Disciple
    by Michael Prior

    This collection was fine company during the continued streetcar rides to physio appointments.

  17. Tell: poems for a girlhood
    by Soraya Peerbaye

    You know what? I was so wrapped up in the entrancing, often horrifying but also heartwrenchingly beautiful world of this collection that I in fact don’t recall a specific place or moment when I was reading it. What does that say?

  18. Lightning Field
    by Dana Spiotta

    I read this book at home, probably mostly at my desk and the dining room table.

  19. Providence
    by Anita Brookner
    (reread)

    I read this tiny, battered, much loved paperback on the subway, where a fellow passenger remarked that it was her favourite Brookner.

  20. Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments
    by Ulrikka S. Gernes, translated by Per Brask and Patrick Friesen

    This poetry collection accompanied me on more than one road trip.

  21. Who Needs Books? Reading in the Digital Age
    by Lynn Coady

    I pretty much read this in one sitting … with lunch.

  22. Sustenance … lunch with Lynn Coady's nourishing Who Needs Books? @clcualberta #canlit #books #bookstagram

    A photo posted by Vicki Ziegler (@vzbookgaga) on

  23. Caribou Run
    by Richard Kelly Kemick

    I read this very fine collection at home, on public transit and I recall packing it along to the cottage, too.

  24. The Mercy Journals
    by Claudia Casper

    I remember reading this haunting novel late at night at the cottage.

  25. Zero K
    by Don DeLillo

    I vividly recall reading most of this book in an incredible, absorbing whoosh while driving home from the cottage. (No, I wasn’t driving.)

  26. Saints, Unexpected
    by Brent van Staalduinen

    I remember reading this fine and amiable book while relaxing on the back porch.

  27. All That Sang
    by Lydia Perovic

    I pretty much had this captivating book read in a couple of subway rides and a sit on the front porch.

  28. Stone Arabia
    by Dana Spiotta

    I remember being absorbed in this book while sitting on the cottage dock with a refreshing beverage or two.

  29. The Quotations of Bone
    by Norman Dubie

    Subway reading, I do believe …

  30. Independent People
    by Halldor Laxness

    This one took a while to read – which was fine, as it was a read to savour and get immersed in – so I had it with me everywhere. It’s another book that a fellow subway rider remarked on, most enthusiastically.

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  32. I’m thinking of ending things
    by Iain Reid

    I had the good sense to only read this book during daylight hours.

  33. The Hatred of Poetry
    by Ben Lerner

    Some subway rides went quickly with this wise book for company.

  34. Thirteen Shells
    by Nadia Bozak

    I was reading and enjoying this book during a weekend visit with friends at our cottage.

  35. Yiddish for Pirates
    by Gary Barwin

    This book was thoroughly delightful company during a week’s vacation at the cottage.

  36. History’s People
    by Margaret MacMillan
    (read aloud)

    We read this book aloud – and learned a lot about greater and lesser known historical figures – during cozy reading sessions at home and at the cottage.

  37. The Cauliflower
    by Nicola Barker

    Not my favourite Barker, although Barker remains one of my favourite writers … I read this book while on my own for a working week at the cottage.

  38. The Dancehall Years
    by Joan Haggerty

    Remembering this book reminds me of our shade-dappled dock at the cottage.

  39. The Clay Girl
    by Heather Tucker

    I will remember The Clay Girl and the next book on this list, Still Mine, side by side and as my constant companions everywhere (home, out and about, cottage) for two or three weeks. I had the honour in 2016 of moderating a couple of special book club events for the Toronto Word on the Street Festival. Selected contest winners qualified for small, private book club meetings with authors Heather Tucker and Amy Stuart, and it was my job to introduce them to their book fans and keep the conversations going with pertinent questions about their respective books. I prepared exhaustively with questions and observations … but then didn’t need a lot of those preps because those book fans showed up excited, motivated and brimming with their own wide-ranging queries and reflections. It was really rewarding to see such warm and dynamic meetings of readers and writers – truly wonderful!

  40. Still Mine
    Amy Stuart

    See my comments about The Clay Girl … I also recall enjoying Still Mine on a coffee shop patio on a sunny Saturday morning while waiting for my husband.

  41. English is Not a Magic Language
    by Jacques Poulin, translated by Sheila Fischman

    This charming novella was good subway company.

  42. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
    by Mona Awad

    I read this book at home and out and about.

  43. The Best Kind of People
    by Zoe Whittall

    I read this book at home and out and about.

  44. The Last White House at the End of the Row of White Houses
    by Michael e. Casteels

    I recall being wrapped up in this enchanting little collection while waiting for my husband to join me for dinner out.

  45. The Tobacconist
    by Robert Seethaler, translated by Charlotte Collins

    I read this fascinating and rather prophetic book at my desk in my home office, as I prepared the readers’ guide / book club questions for this book, offered by House of Anansi Press.

  46. The Emily Valentine Poems
    by Zoe Whittall

    A squirrel jumped up next to me on the park bench I was sitting on as I read this while waiting for a friend in a parkette outside her office in downtown Toronto.

  47. Wenjack
    by Joseph Boyden

    I read this small, moving book in one sitting at home.

  48. Thrillows & Despairos
    by Chris Chambers

    I discovered this collection when I heard Chris Chambers read from it at the 2016 International Festival of Authors, and I ran to the book table and purchased it right after the reading. Immersive indeed!

  49. Do Not Say We Have Nothing
    by Madeleine Thien

    This beautiful book was constant, contemplative company at home throughout the fall.

  50. The Goddess of Fireflies
    by Genevieve Pettersen, translated by Neil Smith

    I remember standing on subway platforms with this book in my hand.

  51. Where’d You Go, Bernadette
    by Maria Semple

    I remember carrying and reading this sweet book on transit and waiting for friends at restaurants and before musical events in late November.

  52. Eat the Document
    by Dana Spiotta

    I read this intriguing book, the final in my year-long Dana Spiotta-fest, at home.

  53. Based on Actual Events
    by Robert Moore

    Devoured in just a few subway rides, I believe …

  54. The Break
    by Katherena Vermette

    I had this absorbing book with me at home, out and about and even on a wintry trip to the cottage.

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  56. Life On Mars
    by Tracy K. Smith

    I stayed up late reading this gift on Christmas night.

  57. #Poetry break after all the holiday excitement … #airedalesofinstagram

    A photo posted by Vicki Ziegler (@vzbookgaga) on

  58. Pond
    by Claire-Louise Bennett

    I treasure this quirky read, a spontaneous gift from a lovely colleague.

  59. The Albertine Workout
    by Anne Carson

    Another Christmas gift, I read this poetry pamphlet pretty much in one gulp while sitting at my home office desk.

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In 2016, I read a total of 54 works: 32 works of fiction (novels and short story collections), 15 poetry collections and 7 works of non-fiction. I re-read one book, read 4 works in translation, and read 35 works by Canadian authors. My husband and I read two books aloud to each other this year and have a third in progress as we greet the new year.

Currently in progress, heading into 2017:

Looking back fondly on my 2016 reading, looking forward eagerly and with anticipation to my 2017 reading, I’ll simply conclude (as I’ve done in previous years) …

It’s not how many you read that counts. It’s that you read that counts.

Postscript (added January 11, 2017)

I love the discussion this post has sparked, both here and on social media, including some debate about whether or not such list-keeping is usual or kind of nutty/anal-retentive. Obviously, keeping these lists every year is part of enjoying my reading. I’ve added a bit more to my scrutiny of what I’ve read every year, not so much with a view to altering the flow of what I decide to pick up and read every year as to just be aware if there was more or different directions in which I should explore. So, for example, I’ve looked in recent years at how much fiction vs non-fiction vs poetry I read, and how many works in translation, how much Canadian versus international literature, how many rereads, read-alouds, etc, etc, etc. Because the lists are easy to scan, I can quickly figure out the author gender mix every year … just to see how I’m doing, usually not to be corrective in my reading habits.

One thing I’ve decided to add to my record-keeping in 2017 is the publication year of each book read, to gauge how much current/hot-off-the-press vs back catalogue/older stuff I’m reading. I love that everyone who has joined this conversation loves their reading, loves to examine it to some extent and loves to share it. We all learn and benefit from that.

Saying thanks to The Poetry Extension and other hard-working poetry purveyors

I was recently asked to offer a testimonial for an arts initiative called The Poetry Extension. I was happy to do so, as I’d very much enjoyed their first (I hope of many) productions:

Here’s what I had to say:

I’m both a poetry reader and attendee, where possible, of poetry readings. I enjoy both the word on the page and the word brought to life. I’m blessed to live in a city that has much to offer in the way of literary events most days of the week. The majority of those events happen because of hard work by organizers, performers, venues and contributors.

If you can’t get out and/or you aren’t blessed to live somewhere that has lots of live literary events, the next best thing are virtual events. What’s wonderful about virtual events – in addition to being able to enjoy them in your pyjamas – is that they can bring together artists and performers for whom it might be difficult to be together in the same city or on the same continent, much less the same venue. That’s where initiatives such as The Poetry Extension are so brilliant, and why I was so effusive about the first of their events in March, 2016:

Amazingly, this virtual event established a balance of both professionalism and intimacy that you might not think possible in a bunch of colliding video screens in different countries. All of the readings introduced unique poetry voices in a warm, friendly, accessible format. I look forward to more such productions, and hope that The Poetry Extension can get the support it needs to make more of them possible in future.

Live or virtual, not only is it wonderful to attend such events, but it’s really rather easy to say thank you for the time and effort that goes into these vibrant offerings. Even a tweet, a Facebook comment, a quick email message are all gratifying ways to let our artists, poets, writers, performers and organizers know they are appreciated, and to let others know about the eye-opening works and events that might just be a click away. (Note, for example, that the next Poetry Extension online gathering will be livestreamed on Wednesday, August 31, 2016.)

Let’s go to the FOLD!

I’m thrilled to welcome Margrit Talpalaru, who is going to share some terrific observations and enthusiatic praise for the recent inaugural Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), which took place in Brampton, Ontario over the first weekend of May, 2016.

I regret missing the fest, but am grateful for the next best thing, seeing it through Margrit’s eyes. She brings a unique combination of the erudite and the fan girl to her observations, which I think you’re really going to enjoy. First, here’s an introduction to our literary festival guide:

Margrit has been going to school for many years, in spite of repeated decisions to stop. During those many years, Margrit changed schools, changed countries, changed roles, changed diapers, and tried hard to change the world.

Mostly, Margrit’s attempts to change the world have taken a written form. Here’s a list. Lately, Margrit has been hard at work trying to change genres, too, and make her foray into fiction.

Margrit blogs at www.creativecritique.ca, and tweets @MeMargrit.

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“When queer / trans / poc writers are treated as artists as opposed to just spokespersons of our identities, it’s very liberating.”
(Vivek Shraya, 7 May 2016)

“So many wonderful things about @TheFOLD_ but esp. loved sharing space with diverse writers and not being forced to talk about diversity.” (Vivek Shraya, 7 May 2016)

Vivek Shraya’s tweeted contention emerged as the leitmotif running through the sessions of the inaugural Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), which took place May 6-8 in the remarkable venue of the Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives (PAMA) in Brampton. Panelist after panelist echoed Shraya in remarking how crucial it is for diversity to become the assumption, rather than the subject of advocacy. In a panel about diversity in publishing, Bianca Spence said she had always been the one person of colour on staff, “but it’s not my job to teach my boss diversity.” What happens when the burden of proof and the need for validation are removed is a true celebration of diversity in literature, as the FOLD had set out as its mission in the first place. By this measure alone, the inaugural FOLD was a resounding success. But the Festival went far beyond merely fulfilling its mission statement, and the excitement around it can be easily gauged by the plethora of tweets under its hashtag #FOLD2016. (Go ahead and take a peek; I won’t tell anyone if you join the chorus.)

Isn’t this the point of diversity, that we can only achieve it collectively, rather than by token representation? That its value is intrinsic, rather than didactic or instrumental? That we, as a society should do everything to achieve it in all aspects not because it’s the concept du jour, but #becauseits2016?

The panelists’ consensus made me realize where the Festival drew so much of its energy from. The FOLD’s foundation on celebrating diversity leaves room to discuss the richness of all aspects of writing and publishing, as well as seek solutions to the disproportionate representation of people of different backgrounds, sexualities, abilities, and ages in literature and publishing. The choir needed no preaching to, so it just sang. In multiple harmonies.

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The richness of topics and viewpoints carried through to the panel options: whether interested in craft, publishing, self-promotion, or genre, there was always a brilliant choice among the concurrent panels. The only problem I had was I wanted to attend them all, but since this was no fantasy, I had to pick, and not once did I feel short-changed, both because of the in-depth discussions in the panel themselves, as well as because of the cross-pollinating conversations among them during the breaks or through social media.

I was greedy in my attendance, and went to all types of panels on offer. I started out the day listening to a conversation on “Faith and Fiction,” between Vivek Shraya, Zarqa Nawaz, Ayelet Tsabari, Cherie Dimaline, moderated by Eufemia Fantetti. I am not even a little bit shy about fan-girling over the depth of the discussion, which emphasized cultural influences in the participants’ writing through the lens of faith or spirituality. Fantetti’s questions were both prodding and generous, and the panelists’ answers revealed their personal connections to their background, and their own interpretations of it in their writing.

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Tsabari joked that “Growing up Jewish in Israel, we didn’t have to practice Judaism; we were just naturally good at it.” Shraya emphasized the crucial importance of representation, noting that “Queer kids had to be creative about where they found role models, so I found it in Hindu iconography,” with its more fluid gender boundaries. Nawaz spoke about the politicization of Islam, and how that creates generic expectations for her writing. Because of the portrayal of Muslims in the media—especially in the US—Nawaz suggested that writing a domestic novel about a Muslim woman can be transgressive. Dimaline shared the story of her upbringing in the Georgian Bay Métis Community, and the honour and responsibility of becoming a storyteller: “It’s the job of community’s story-keepers to provide a blanket of safety and spirituality and to uphold the duty to the seven generations.”

Next up, Aga Maksimowska moderated the panel on “Publishing (More) Diverse Canadian Stories,” which gathered publishing professionals from different branches of the industry. The panel description was

“From acquisition to acquired reading, industry professionals Anita Chong (Penguin-Random House), Barbara Howson (House of Anansi), Rachel Thompson (ROOM Magazine), Bianca Spence (OMDC), and Susan Travis (Scholastic Books) discuss ways to improve access to diverse, Canadian stories at home and beyond Canadian borders. Animated by Leonicka Valcius, this session is designed for industry professionals.”

However, the popularity (standing-room only) of the panel demonstrated that festival participants from all aspects of the book universe were hungry for answers and solutions.

We were not disappointed, as the panelists all focused on solutions, and how to proceed in the future, rather than on rehashing the obstacles. Thompson, for example, explained how the Room Editorial Collective restructured itself with an eye on including editors from different backgrounds before the “Women of Colour” issue was published. Chong echoed the notion of inclusion cautioning decision-makers to “be cognizant of who gets a voice at the table, because inclusiveness and quality are not mutually exclusive.” The unanimous conclusion pointed to the interconnection between the different aspects of the publishing industry: Spence emphasized the need for arts funding for the stories to be written in the first place; Howson challenged publishers to look for voices from around the world; Travis urged marketing and sales departments to ask book sellers why they’d think they would not sell diverse books, as well as push them not to insulate different voices in boxes, but put them on their genre shelves instead.

These are only three of the five panels I’ve attended. And I’ve only gone to one day of the Festival, so I hope this quick glimpse convinces you that my title was not a cheap pun, but genuine advice: the FOLD has only just begun, but it is sure to become a touchstone for literary and publishing conferences, so I know I’ll get my day passes as soon as they appear next year, and I hope you will, too.

2015 literary events … and looking ahead to 2016

As I observed in 2014, we’re tremendously blessed here in the Greater Toronto area and beyond that, to southwestern Ontario, with a year-round wealth of live events through which one can experience the joy of the written word. You can hear those wonderful words read aloud, you can meet the writers, you can purchase their works (and often get them signed or inscribed), you can celebrate with fellow booklovers. The places in which these experiences take place run the gamut, from libraries, bookstores, lecture and performance halls, to pubs, coffee shops and living rooms. It’s important to support local and regional events, but if you have fewer live options in your neck of the woods, more and more, you can still be part of literary events in the ether, as readings and panels are broadcast and livestreamed online. You can be in a remote location or under the weather and in your jammies and you can still partake of literary delights.

Reviewing my 2015 literary outings (most of them to live events, but also a few online), it looks like I went to about the same number of events, but to somewhat less of a range of venues sponsored by specific organizations, publishers and so on. This year, Toronto Public Library’s programming (between their eh List Canadian literature offerings and their Appel Salon events) seemed to hit a very appealing sweet spot, and we found ourselves heading to a number of their events.

With every event I attended, I did my best to tweet in advance that I was attending, and then where possible and with the permission of those with whom I was attending, I tweeted quotes from and observations about the events while they were in progress. I’ve captured a selection of those tweets, including retweets from others attending the same events, here:

 

As it was heading into 2015, my goal in 2016 is to do even more, if I can, to support authors, publishers and booksellers by attending and talking about their events.

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January 22, 2015
Appel Salon – Toronto Public Library
Venue: Toronto Reference Library
Writer: Peter Carey
Host/moderator: Jared Bland
Peter Carey, Australia’s two time Man Booker Prize winner, read from and discussed his new novel Amnesia with The Globe and Mail‘s Arts Editor Jared Bland.

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January 29, 2015
Appel Salon – Toronto Public Library
Venue: Toronto Reference Library
Writer: Miranda July
Host/moderator: Sheila Heti
Filmmaker, artist and writer Miranda July enjoyed a congenial interview with author Sheila Heti, in front of a very receptive capacity audience. Read more about the event here, and replay it here.

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February – April, 2015
One Book, One Chicago Reading Sprints for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
It was a reading event promoted primarily for readers living in Chicago, but because it included an online read-along component, I was able to take part in the One Book, One Chicago Reading Sprints for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon from Toronto. The program is described here, and I wrote here about what I got out of it, which was a great experience reading a captivating book.

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March 2, 2015
Rowers Reading Series
Venue: Central, Markham Street, Toronto
Writers: Elisabeth de Mariaffi, George Murray, Waubgeshig Rice, Kathleen Winter
Host/moderator: Heather Wood
The Rowers Reading Series is a monthly literary reading series based in Toronto, which runs the first Monday of the month, from October to June. The series showcases the finest poetry, fiction and nonfiction writers from diverse backgrounds, as well as selected emerging writers. The reading series was incorporated in May 2007. The March 2nd, 2015 lineup is described here.

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April 9, 2015
McClelland & Stewart Poetry Night at International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Brigantine, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Madhur Anand, Dionne Brand, Kevin Connolly, Lorna Crozier, Liz Howard, Cassidy McFadzean
Host/moderator: Jacob McArthur Mooney
Read more about this event here.

Since its inception in 1974, the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), which started as the Harbourfront Reading Series, has played an important role in the cultural life of Canada. IFOA presents the finest international novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers and biographers, and provides Canadian writers with an internationally recognized forum in which to present their work. IFOA events range from weekly readings to their annual fall literary extravaganza to initiatives for younger readers.

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April 15, 2015
Anansi Poetry Bash
Venue: The Tranzac, Toronto
Writers: Shane Book, A.F. Moritz, Erin Moure, Karen Solie, David O’Meara reading on behalf of Elise Partridge
Host/moderator: Damian Rogers
This was yet another evening of compelling readings from the latest crop of fine poetry coming from House of Anansi Press, a storied Canadian publishing company founded in 1967 by Dennis Lee and David Godfrey, and early publisher of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Matt Cohen and other writers forming the foundation of modern Canadian literature.

shabe-sher
April 28, 2015
Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night)
Venue: Beit Zatoun, Markham Street, Toronto
Writers: Timaj Garad, David Bateman
Host/moderator: Bänoo Zan
Read more about this event here.
The most diverse poetry reading and open mic in Toronto, for more than two years Shab-e She’r has been bridging the gap between diverse poetry communities, bringing together people from different ethnicities, nationalities, ages, disabilities, religions (or lack thereof), poetic styles, voices and visions.

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May 19, 2015
Toronto Public Library Author Talk and Lecture Series
Venue: North York Public Library
Writer: Anne Enright
Host/moderator: Marci Ien
Man Booker Award-winning bestselling author Anne Enright read from her latest, The Green Road and was then interviewed by Canada AM’s Marci Ien.

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May 27, 2015
Toronto Public Library Author Talk and Lecture Series
Venue: North York Public Library
Writer: Marina Endicott
Host/moderator: Alissa York
Giller-shortlisted Marina Endicott visited with her new comic novel, Close to Hugh. She and author Alissa York enjoyed a warm, wide-ranging conversation.

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June 3, 2015
Griffin Poetry Prize 2015 shortlist readings
Venues: Koerner Hall, Toronto + livestream
writers: Eleanor Goodman, Wang Xiaoni, Marek Kazmierski, Wioletta Greg, Michael Longley, Spencer Reece, Shane Book, Jane Munro, Russell Thornton
Host: Scott Griffin
Founded in 2000, the Griffin Poetry Prize is the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in English, with international (including translation) and Canadian prizes. The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry aims to spark the public’s imagination and raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life. One of the most coveted Canadian arts events tickets are those to the annual Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist readings, which are now generously shared via livestream so poetry lovers around the world can enjoy them.

toronto-public-library
September 17, 2015
Toronto Public Library eh List Author Series
Venue: Toronto Public Library Beaches Branch
Writer: André Alexis
André Alexis read from Fifteen Dogs, which was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award and longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize at the time of the reading. The book went on to win the Giller Prize and the Writers’ Trust award.

toronto-public-librarySeptember 24, 2015
Appel Salon – Toronto Public Library
Venue: Toronto Reference Library
Writer: Salman Rushdie
Host/moderator: Brent Bambury
Read more about and replay the audio of this event here.

word-on-the-street
September 27, 2015
Word on the Street
Venue: Harbourfront, Toronto
In its new Harbourfront Centre location, Toronto Word on the Street (one of several Word on the Street festivals across Canada) invited booklovers to participate in hundreds of author readings, discussions, and activities, and shop in a marketplace that boasts the best selection of Canadian books and magazines anywhere.

September 27, 2015
High Park Reading Festival
Venue: High Park, Toronto
Writers: Liz Howard, Amanda Jernigan, Jim Johnstone, Stevie Howell, Phoebe Wang, Anna Yin, Jeff Latosik, Ian Williams, Priscila Uppal, Ken Babstock, Alexandra Oliver, Damian Rogers, Madhur Anand, Ben Ladouceur, A.F. Moritz, Robin Richardson, Daniel Renton, Julie Cameron Gray, Helen Guri, Laura Clarke, Bardia Sinaee

project-bookmark
October 1, 2015
#RaiseAGlass4Alistair for the Bookmark for Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief
On October 1, 2015, Project Bookmark launched the 14th bookmark on Canada’s literary trail, commemorating Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief on Cape Breton Island. Part of the cross-Canada celebration included a virtual toast using the hashtag #RaiseAGlass4Alistair.

ifoa2October 24, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Poets’ Summit
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Brecken Hancock, Talya Rubin, Zachariah Wells
Host/moderator: Erin Balser
Read more about this event here.

October 25, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Short and Sweet
Venue: Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Samuel Archibald, Kate Cayley, Tim Conley, David Constantine
Host/moderator: Steven W. Beattie
Read more about this event here.

October 25, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – At Language’s Edge: Poetry in Translation
Venue: Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Anna Aguilar-Amat, Erín Moure, Martí Sales
Host/moderator: Oana Avasilichioaei
Read more about this event here.

October 25, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Poets reading
Venue: Pub Hub, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Brecken Hancock, Kate Hargreaves, Jeff Latosik, Andy McGuire, Talya Rubin, Zachariah Wells, Liz Worth
Host/moderator: Oana Avasilichioaei
Read more about this event here.

October 27, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Artist talk with John Burnside
Venue: Pub Hub, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writer: John Burnside
Host/moderator: Steven W. Beattie
Read more about this event here.

October 27, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Poets reading
Venue: Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Claire Caldwell, Ulrikka S. Gernes, Stevie Howell, Damian Rogers, Deanna Young
Host/moderator: Jessice Moore
Read more about this event here.

October 28, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – 25th Anniversary of CBC Radio’s Writers & Company
Venue: Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Aleksandar Hemon, Caryl Phillips, Zadie Smith
Host/moderator: Eleanor Wachtel
Read more about this event here.

October 30, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Best Canadian Poetry Launch
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Barry Dempster, Richard Greene, Stevie Howell, Amanda Jernigan, Jeff Latosik, Jacob McArthur Mooney, A.F. Moritz, Shane Neilson, Hoa Nguyen, Alexandra Oliver, Karen Solie, Priscila Uppal
Hosts/moderators: Jacob McArthur Mooney, Molly Peacock
Read more about this event here.

October 31, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Authors reading
Venue: Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Michel Basilières, Farzana Doctor, Milan Jesih, Anakana Schofield
Host/moderator: Ania Szado
Read more about this event here.

October 31, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – In Conversation with Damian Rogers and Karen Solie
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Damian Rogers, Karen Solie
Host/moderator: Ken Babstock
Read more about this event here.

October 31, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Authors reading
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Kate Cayley, Elizabeth Hay, Mark Anthony Jarman, Jim Shepard
Host/moderator: Sheniz Janmohamed
Read more about this event here.

November 1, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – In Conversation with Rosemary Sullivan
Venue: Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers/guests: Chrese Evans, Rosemary Sullivan
Hosts/moderators: Anne Michaels, Grace O’Connell
Read more about this event here.

November 1, 2015
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Poetry Games
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Christian Bök, Claire Caldwell, Richard Greene, Stevie Howell, Andy McGuire, Shane Neilson, Alexandra Oliver, Damian Rogers, Dane Swan, Priscila Uppal
Host/moderator: Steven W. Beattie
Read more about this event here. (Andy McGuire was later crowned the competition winner.)

scotiabank-gillerprize
November 9, 2015
Scotiabank Giller Prize 2015 finalist readings
Venues: Koerner Hall, Toronto + livestream
writers: André Alexis, Samuel Archibald, Rachel Cusk, Heather O’Neill, Anakana Schofield
Hosts/moderators: Richard Crouse, Carol Off
The Giller Prize was founded in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, who passed away from cancer the year before. The award recognized excellence in Canadian fiction – long format or short stories – and endowed a cash prize annually of $25,000.00, the largest purse for literature in the country. Over 20 years later, the prize now provides $100,000 to the winner and $10,000 to each finalist. Part of the celebration of the finalists for the prize includes public readings and presentations of the nominated works, which are also presented via livestream.

al-purdy-poster
December 8, 2015
Al Purdy Was Here documentary
Venue: Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, Toronto
Writers: Al Purdy, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood + more
Host/moderator: Director Brian D. Johnson
What does it take to carve out a career as a poet? Why on earth would anyone attempt it? Al Purdy Was Here is the portrait of an artist driven to become a great Canadian poet at a time when the category barely existed. Al Purdy is a charismatic tower of contradictions: a “sensitive man” who whips out a poem in a bar fight; a factory worker who finds grace in an Arctic flower; a mentor to young writers who remained a stranger to sons. Purdy has been called the last, best and most Canadian poet. “Voice of the Land” is engraved on his tombstone. But before finding fame as the country’s unofficial poet laureate, he endured years of poverty and failure. Learn more here.

toronto-public-libraryDecember 10, 2015
Toronto Public Library eh List Author Series
Venue: Toronto Reference Library
Writers: John Geiger, Alanna Mitchell
Award-winning Canadian science journalist Alanna Mitchell and John Geiger, CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society presented Franklin’s Lost Ship: The Historic Discovery of HMS Erebus.

To get the new year off to a promising start, I hope to attend the following:

pivot-readings
January 6, 2016
Pivot Readings
Venue: The Steady Café, Toronto
Writers: Derek McCormack, Andy McGuire, Jane Munro
Host/moderator: Jacob McArthur Mooney
Learn more here.

… and who knows where it will go from there!

As I asked last year, I’d love to get your comments, here or on Twitter (sent to @bookgaga, please), on your favourite literary events of the past year, and what you’re looking forward to in the new year.

  • Did you attend any of the events listed above?
  • Did you see any of these same authors, but at different festivals, venues, etc.?
  • What were your favourite literary events of the year?
  • Who are your favourite literary programmers in your area?
  • Did you attend any virtual literary events last year?
  • What literary events are you looking forward to attending in the new year?
  • Who would you like to single out for praise for championing and organizing literary events in your community?

2014 literary events … and aiming for more of the same in 2015

We’re tremendously blessed here in the Greater Toronto area and beyond that, to southwestern Ontario, with a year-round wealth of live events through which one can experience the joy of the written word. You can hear those wonderful words read aloud, you can meet the writers, you can purchase their works (and often get them signed or inscribed), you can celebrate with fellow booklovers. The places in which these experiences take place run the gamut, from libraries, bookstores, lecture and performance halls, to pubs, coffee shops and living rooms. More and more, those places are also in the ether, as readings and panels are broadcast and livestreamed online – so you can be in a remote location and/or in your jammies and can still partake of literary delights.

Looking back over 2014, I’m delighted to recall just how much I took advantage of what was available to an avid reader hereabouts. My goal in 2015 is to do even more, if I can, to support authors, publishers and booksellers by attending and talking about their events.

January 26, 2014
Transatlantic Poetry
Venue: Google +
Writers: John Glenday and Dorianne Laux
Host/moderator: Robert Peake
Poets John Glenday and Dorianne Laux took part in this unique virtual event, with Glenday reading from the Scottish Highlands and Laux reading from her home in North Carolina. Read more about it here.

pivot-readings
January 29, 2014
Pivot Readings
Venue: The Press Club, Toronto
Writers: Eufemia Fantetti, Julie Joosten, David McGimpsey
Host/moderator: Bianca Spence
Curator/organizer: Jacob McArthur Mooney
Learn more here about the well regarded and always warmly anticipated Pivot Readings series. They present monthly “the writers breathing life into Canadian literary culture. Established and emerging, time-tested and fresh; we’re what’s happening in literature, right now.”

March 5, 2014
Brockton Writers Series
Venue: full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, Toronto
Writers: Michael Fraser, Angie Abdou, John Degen, Veena Gokhale
Host/moderator: Farzana Doctor
Founded in 2009, Brockton Writers Series has aimed from the outset to host writers who reflect Canadian literature and Canadian diversity. That definition of diversity includes: established and emerging writers, writers of colour, queer writers, younger and older writers, aboriginal writers and other writers who might not always have the platform to showcase their work. Learn more about the series here.

ifoa2March 13, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Claire Cameron, Karen Russell, Helen Walsh
Host/moderator: Emily Keeler
Read more about this event here.

Since its inception in 1974, the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), which started as the Harbourfront Reading Series, has played an important role in the cultural life of Canada. IFOA presents the finest international novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers and biographers, and provides Canadian writers with an internationally recognized forum in which to present their work. IFOA events range from weekly readings to their annual fall literary extravaganza to initiatives for younger readers.

March 24, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writer: Lorrie Moore
Host/moderator: Jared Bland
Read more about this event here.

league-canadian-poets
April 1, 2014
National Poetry Month with the League of Canadian Poets
Venue: Ben McNally Books, Toronto
Representatives of the League of Canadian Poets gathered to celebrate the start of National Poetry Month and to announce the shortlists for their slate of poetry awards: the Raymond Souster Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the winner of the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award. It’s all detailed here.

wolsak-wynn2
April 16, 2014
Wolsak & Wynn / Buckrider Books launch
Venue: Gladstone Hotel, Toronto
Writers: DD Miller, Erina Harris, David James Brock
Host/moderator: Paul Vermeersch
As they describe themselves, Wolsak and Wynn is a quirky literary press based in the heart of Hamilton. With steel mills on one side of us, the Niagara escarpment on the other and Toronto somewhere off in the distance we spend our time producing brilliant, highly individual and sometimes provocative books. Learn more here.

anansi-logo
April 22, 2014
Anansi Poetry Bash
Venue: The Garrison, Toronto
Writers: Sarah Lang, Garth Martens, Anne-Marie Turza, Matthew Zapruder
Host/moderator: Damian Rogers
This was an evening of compelling readings from the latest crop of fine poetry coming from House of Anansi Press, a storied Canadian publishing company founded in 1967 by Dennis Lee and David Godfrey, and early publisher of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Matt Cohen and other writers forming the foundation of modern Canadian literature.

brickbooks-logo
May 9, 2014
Brick Books launch
Venue: Ben McNally Books, Toronto
Writers: Joanna Lilley, Jane Munro, Arleen Paré, Karen Enns
Host/moderator: Kitty Lewis
This was a celebration of the latest poetry releases from Brick Books, a press specializing in publishing poetry founded in 1975 by Stan Dragland and Don McKay … and now celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015.

griffin-logo2
June 4, 2014
Griffin Poetry Prize 2014 shortlist readings
Venues: Koerner Hall, Toronto + livestream
writers: Rachael Boast, Carl Phillips, Brenda Hillman, Tomasz Rózycki, Mira Rosenthal, Anne Carson, Sue Goyette, Anne Michaels
Host: Scott Griffin
Founded in 2000, the Griffin Poetry Prize is the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in English, with international (including translation) and Canadian prizes. The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry aims to spark the public’s imagination and raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life. One of the most coveted Canadian arts events tickets are those to the annual Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist readings, which are now generously shared via livestream so poetry lovers around the world can enjoy them.

June 25, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Emma Healey, Linda Holeman, Tom Rachman
Host/moderator: Becky Toyne
Read more about this event here.

type-books
September 16, 2014
“Domestic Chaos” book launches (Arsenal Pulp Press, Coach House Books)
Venue: Type Books, Toronto
Writers: Angie Abdou, Brecken Hancock
Host/moderator: Trevor Cole
In the cozy setting of beloved Type Books in Toronto, Angie Abdou read from her novel Between (Arsenal Pulp Press) and Brecken Hancock brought to life selections from her poetry collection Broom Broom (Coach House Books).

September 17, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Ben Lerner, Ian McEwan
Host/moderator: Carol Off
Read more about this event here.

October 24, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Colm Toibin, Marilynne Robinson
Host/moderator: Eleanor Wachtel
Read more about this event hereand listen to it here.

October 25, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Poets’ Summit
Venue: Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Gary Geddes, Catherine Graham, Julie Joosten, Jacob Scheier, Adam Sol, David Martin
Host/moderator: Mary Ito
Read more about this event here.

October 26, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Oana Avasilichioaei, Martha Baillie, Nick Cutter, Gary Geddes
Host/moderator: Farzana Doctor
Read more about this event here.

October 26, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Outer Influences
Venue: Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Adam Sol, Matthew Thomas, Russell Wangersky
Host/moderator: Steven Beattie
Where does a story come from? A poet and two novelists shared their influences and inspirations. Read more about this event here.

October 28, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Penguin Canada’s 40th Anniversary
Venue: Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Joseph Boyden, Lee Henderson, John Ralston Saul, Johanna Skibsrud
Host/moderator: Jared Bland
… at which everyone was provided with a glass of champagne to toast Penguin Canada, thereby setting the tone for a most lively occasion. Read more about this event here.

October 29, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Joseph Kertes, Laila Lalami, Eimar McBride, Kathleen Winter
Host/moderator: Nathan Whitlock
Read more about this event here.

October 30, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Crowds, Comments and Community: Understanding Writing in the Digital Age
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Emily Lindin, Sina Queyras, Anna Todd
Host/moderator: Mark Medley
Read more about this event hereand listen to it here.

November 1, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: Dionne Brand, Frances Itani, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Kate Pullinger
Host/moderator: Ania Szado
Read more about this event here.

November 2, 2014
International Festival of Authors (IFOA)
Venue: Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Writers: David Bergen, Michael Crummey, Charlotte Gray, Claire Holden Rothman
Host/moderator: Jacob McArthur Mooney
Read more about this event here.

scotiabank-gillerprize
November 3, 2014
Scotiabank Giller Prize 2014 finalist readings
Venues: Koerner Hall, Toronto + livestream
writers: David Bezmozgis, Frances Itani, Sean Michaels, Heather O’Neill, Miriam Toews, Padma Viswanathan + guest presenters
Host/moderator: Carol Off
The Giller Prize was founded in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, who passed away from cancer the year before. The award recognized excellence in Canadian fiction – long format or short stories – and endowed a cash prize annually of $25,000.00, the largest purse for literature in the country. Over 20 years later, the prize now provides $100,000 to the winner and $10,000 to each finalist. Part of the celebration of the finalists for the prize includes public readings and presentations of the nominated works, which are also presented via livestream.

wild-writers-litfest
November 7, 2014
Wild Writers Festival
Venue: CIGI Campus Auditorium, Waterloo
Writers: Emma Donoghue, Ann-Marie MacDonald
Host/moderator: Craig Norris
Now in its third year, the Wild Writers Festival presented by publication The New Quarterly, Words Worth Books and other generous sponsors pays tribute to “the fearless readers and writers who open up new worlds. Who revel in a well-turned phrase and a well-worn page.”

ecw-press
November 20, 2014
ECW Press fall book launch
Venue: Cadillac Lounge, Toronto
Writers: Tony Burgess, Catherine Gildiner, Paul Illidge, John Jantunen, Paul Vermeersch, Bruce Whiteman
Founded in 1974 by Jack David and Robert Lecker, ECW Press started as a Canadian literary magazine named Essays on Canadian Writing. Learn more here.

I’d love to get your comments, here or on Twitter (sent to @bookgaga, please), on your favourite literary events of the past year, and what you’re looking forward to in the new year.

  • Did you attend any of the events listed above?
  • Did you see any of these same authors, but at different festivals, venues, etc.?
  • What were your favourite literary events of the year?
  • Did you attend any virtual literary events last year?
  • What literary events are you looking forward to attending in the new year?
  • Who would you like to single out for praise for championing and organizing literary events in your community?