Talkin’ Bout Tolkien: The Influence of War + Exeter College

Cover of Tolkien at Exeter College

War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien by Janet Brennan Croft

Having participated in the First World War, and having seen two of his sons serve in the Second, Tolkien was concerned with many of the same themes that interested other writers in the post-war period. The rhythm of war flows through his writings, but his own interpretation of the themes, symbols, and motifs of war, however, were influenced by his religious views and his interest in fantasy, which add another layer of meaning and a sense of timelessness to his writing. Croft explores the different aspect of Tolkien’s relationship with war both in his life and in his work from the early “Book of Lost Tales” to his last story “Smith of Wootten Major,” and concentrating on his greatest and most well-known works “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” This timely addition to the critical literature on Tolkien sheds new light on the author’s life and works.

  • What Croft does well in this book is place  Tolkien’s writing in a grander historical context in which it’s not often considered. He was an author writing primarily in the time following the terrible experience of WWI. Croft juxtaposes other critical writing on war writers and explores how Tolkien was similar or dissimilar, drawing primarily from Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. Croft draws reasoned connections between Tolkien’s war experiences and personal faith, and what he wrote in his fiction, without making allegorical claims.
  • One key theme which Croft is explores is the concept of courage without hope. This is not a book just about the physicality of war – grander philosophical concepts are explored throughout.
  • Not only does she explore the overall influence of war on Tolkien’s writing, she also explores concrete manifestations of ideas of war when discussing, for example, the leadership style of key characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In describing Bilbo’s actions after freeing the dwarves from the Mirkwood spiders, she writes, “This episode is the closest Bilbo gets to military leadership, and he shows a fine command of strategy in rallying and deploying his followers and drawing the spiders off with a series of feigned attacks” (82).
  • The titles of the six chapters that comprise the book offer a clear representation of the different approaches to the influence of war that Croft explores:
    1. “The Great War and Tolkien’s Memory”
    2. “World War I Themes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
    3. “World War II: ‘The Young Perish and the Old Linger, Withering'”
    4. “Military Leaders and Leadership”
    5. “Training, Tactics, Strategy, and Battlefield Communication’
    6. “Philosophy, Pathology and Conclusions”.
  • I recommend this book to readers curious about the influence of war in Tolkien’s work, an influence that should not be casually overlooked or dismissed.

Perhaps one reason Tolkien is so frequently voted “Author of the Century” is because he took what was a pivotal event in world history and transformed it into a comprehensible myth to help us understand how our world has changed and learn how we can still live in it with courage (32).

Tolkien at Exeter College by John Garth

Tolkien at Exeter College is the definitive account of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life as an undergraduate at Exeter College, Oxford, from peacetime into war. It is also the tale of how he first created his mythological world of Middle-earth in 1914–15. Rich with archive material, it includes more than 40 images, including previously unseen original sketches by and photographs of Tolkien. The 64-page booklet complements and adds significantly to the account in Tolkien and the Great War.

  • I don’t have much to add to the summary above. I can say that it’s quite accurate! I recommend it for readers whose appetite for biographical information about Tolkien’s early years cannot be satisfied.
  • I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes about the shenanigans Tolkien got up to as a undergrad. In one, Tolkien recounts how he and a friend ‘captured’ a bus and drove it around town, filling it up with other students. (Apparently this story is documented in Carpenter’s Biography, but I did not remember it. Placing details like this one within the grander context of Tolkien’s undergraduate years gives them room to be noticed). In some ways, Tolkien’s undergraduate experience is vastly different from anything I experienced (I marvel at his involvement in literary clubs), and yet in other ways, not so much…
  • Garth writes, “Already revealing a fluent grasp of vivid detail, an ability to crank up dramatic tension, and an interest in the clash of order and chaos, Tolkien’s mini-epic is his earliest known prose narrative” (27).  To which mini-epic is Garth referring? Tolkien’s report of an university club meeting. A sample: “When Mr. Trevor Oliphant arose with the white face of bitter determination and demanded that the House go back to Private Business for the discussion of the shelved constitutional question, all bounds, all order, and all else was forgotten; and in one long riot of raucous hubbub; of hoarse cries, brandished bottles, flying match-stands, gowns wildly flourished, cups smashed, and lights extinguished, the House declared its determination to have its will and override the constitution” (27).
  • The book contains a variety of images, including sketches by and photos of Tolkien, some of which have not been published before. The booklet is worth it for the images alone, but I also recommend it for the in-depth and illuminating look at Tolkien’s undergraduate years. If nothing else, you might have some fun comparing your own university experience to Tolkien’s…
  • You can purchase this booklet directly from the Garth’s website (approx. $15 including shipping).

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday #5

Diversity Spotlight Thursday
Founded by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks

Read and Enjoyed: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your GirlAmanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Add to Goodreads button Own voices for transwoman representation. I read both If I Was Your Girl and Brie Spangler’s Beast earlier this year. If I Was Your Girl features Amanda telling her story, in first person. Beast is the story of Dylan, who crushes on Jamie before realizing she is trans. This is not the place where I’m going to debate the trans representation in Beast. The reason I’m bringing it up is to highlight how important books like If I Was Your Girl are – books that center trans people’s voices and tell their own stories, as they wish to share them. Beast is Dylan’s story, not Jamie’s, and her role is little different from other love interests. If I Was Your Girl is wholly Amanda’s story, and for that alone I can recommend this book.

Side note: I had heard If I Was Your Girl was a pretty straightforward romance, but there were more painful and cringe-worthy moments than I anticipated. This is not an entirely light read.

Released but Not Yet Read: I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín

I Lived on Butterfly HillCeleste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until one day when warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates start disappearing from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.

The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” Before they do, however, they send Celeste to America to protect her.

As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?

Add to Goodreads buttonOwn voices for Latin American representation (the author was raised in Chile and moved to the US after the coup. The book is translated from Spanish.) When I Lived on Butterfly Hill tackles a subject I know little about. The cover caught my eye and the description prompted me to add it to my TBR.

Not Yet Released: Why Indigenous Literatures Matter by Daniel Heath Justice

Why Indigenous Literatures MatterPart survey of the field of Indigenous literary studies, part cultural history, and part literary polemic, Why Indigenous Literatures Matter asserts the vital significance of literary expression to the political, creative, and intellectual efforts of Indigenous peoples today. In considering the connections between literature and lived experience, this book contemplates four key questions at the heart of Indigenous kinship traditions: How do we learn to be human? How do we become good relatives? How do we become good ancestors? How do we learn to live together? Blending personal narrative and broader historical and cultural analysis with close readings of key creative and critical texts, Justice argues that Indigenous writers engage with these questions in part to challenge settler-colonial policies and practices that have targeted Indigenous connections to land, history, family, and self. More importantly, Indigenous writers imaginatively engage the many ways that communities and individuals have sought to nurture these relationships and project them into the future.

This provocative volume challenges readers to critically consider and rethink their assumptions about Indigenous literature, history, and politics while never forgetting the emotional connections of our shared humanity and the power of story to effect personal and social change. Written with a generalist reader firmly in mind, but addressing issues of interest to specialists in the field, this book welcomes new audiences to Indigenous literary studies while offering more seasoned readers a renewed appreciation for these transformative literary traditions.

Add to Goodreads button Own voices for Indigenous writer representation. Non-fiction represent! I’m very curious about this book; it sounds like an excellent topic.

What books would you select for Diversity Spotlight Thursday? Leave a link in the comment if you’ve already written about it!
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Review: Indigenous Writes is a Must Read for Every Canadian

Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel

Indigenous Writes coverFormat/Source: Paperback/Own
Published: September 2016
Publisher: Highwater Press
Length: 290 pages
Genre: Non-fiction
★★★★½    Add to Goodreads button

I followed Vowel on Twitter for some time before I picked up her book. If you’re new to learning about Indigenous experiences, her Twitter feed may seem overwhelming. Not so her book Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nation, Inuit, and Métis Issues in Canada. Vowel writes in a casual, conversational tone and doesn’t assume the reader to be familiar with the topics she explores.  Although the cover looks somewhat textbook-y, this book is highly accessible even to the uninformed reader. Of course, this would be an excellent text for classroom use, but I read it on my own and had no trouble digesting the content.

Indigenous Writes is divided into 31 chapters covering five topics: 1) The terminology of relationships, 2) culture and identity, 3) myth-busting, 4) state violence, and 5) land, learning, law and treaties. Throughout the book, Vowel tackles many widely held yet completely inaccurate beliefs about Indigenous peoples in Canada. I learnt about stereotypes I didn’t even know existed, such as the idea that Indigenous people receive free housing or education. Something else I was keen to learn more about was Métis identity (see Chapter 4: “You’re Métis? Which of Your Parents Is an Indian?: Métis Identity”). When I was travelling in New Zealand, I found myself on more than one occasion trying to explain Métis identity, something I really didn’t know much about despite having grown up in Manitoba. I wish I had had this book to recommend back then!

Finally, I often find myself thinking, “I know X idea/belief/concept is wrong, but why is that?” (A basic example: I know wearing clothing that has significance to a culture you don’t belong to is wrong, but how do I explain why?). Even though I considered myself a relatively educated person when it came to the challenges Indigenous people face in this country, I still lacked particular knowledge that allows for a greater understanding of the complex and often fraught history and relationship between Indigenous people and settlers like myself. For me, Vowel addresses that question at the top of the paragraph multiple times over. Here are just a handful of excerpts that helped me understand particular issues and concepts in a clearer light than I had ever before. Vowel offers numerous clear considerations of many issues that people misunderstand, misinterpret, or  misrepresent, out of intentional or unintentional ignorance. Indigenous Writes filled many gaps in my knowledge, making me very grateful for Vowel’s work.

On defining who is Indigenous:

Blood-quantum rules have been called a ‘slow genocide’, and I think this is an apt description. Not mass murder, but extinction via definition. Every time a non-Indigenous person enters the ‘Indian gene pool’, fewer people in the next generation are counted as Indians. I’m sorry, but what are we? A breed? Or peoples with distinct languages, customs and beliefs? (77)

On restricted vs. unrestricted symbols:

If someone unfamiliar with Canadian culture were to decorate herself with a string of fake Victoria Crosses, the reaction would be different than if the same person draped a Canadian flag over her non-Canadian shoulders. (83)

On respectful access:

What access do you think you are owed? Why? How have you earned it? Who could appropriately give it to you? And, most important, what would further access do for the people you claim to admire so much?  (87)

On colonialism and racism:

In other words, there is no history of colonialism and systemic racism that informs the modern view of Indigenous peoples, because that problem was supposedly solved at some point in the past. The ‘real’ racism is in conflating ‘legitimate’ dislike for Indigenous peoples (based not on race or ethnicity, but rather on the ‘bad choices we make’) with historical colonialism/racism ‘which is over.’ In continuing to discuss colonialism and racism as present-day concerns, Indigenous peoples are engaging in so-called ‘reverse-racism and oppressing blameless settlers’. (120)

On treaties:

What bothers me is this: a treaty is an ongoing relationship. That’s how it is in every other situation that does not involved Indigenous peoples. Treaties are nation-to-nation agreements that mediate relationships, and they can and should be revisited as a relationship progresses. Indigenous people know this; this is how we approach treaties and agreements with Canada. However, Canada does not seem to understand this. they want to settle everything and never look back. Patch up the holes in their supposed Crown titles and put the whole thing to bed. (258)

The Bottom Line

A well-written book that should squash any excuses for not educating yourself about First Nation, Inuit and Métis issues in Canada, Indigenous Writes is a much-needed resource that all settlers can learn from.

Further Reading

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Understanding The American Right in Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Strangers in Their Own LandFormat/Source: Hardcover/Library
Published: August 2016
Publisher: New Press
Length: 351 pages
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: ★★★★½
Goodreads Indigo | IndieBound Wordery

I read Strangers in Their Own Land in June. I haven’t been able to stop talking about it. When I first heard of this book, I immediately put it on hold at the library. I once thought the beliefs and convictions of the American far right were beyond my understanding. How could I ever understand how someone could hold values so severely divergent from my own? In Strangers in Their Own Land,  Arlie Russell Hochschild undertakes the important task of “truly listen[ing] to the other side in order to understand why they believe – and feel – the way they do”. Through Hochschild’s book, I have come to an understanding of how someone might hold the beliefs of the far right.

One friend of mine commented that they didn’t want to read this book because they didn’t want to empathize too closely with the actions the right. I don’t believe that would be an effect of reading Strangers in Their Own Land. My experience was that I could now understand the perspective and logic of the right, if not perfectly then at least to a better degree than before I read this book. I still think most of their fundamental beliefs are significantly flawed. For example, a few people spoke about their need to elect an anti-abortion candidate over one who was pro-environmental protection (even though they wanted the environment better protected) because God would judge them over the abortion issue and not the environment issue. I will likely never understand how someone can put their personal religion ahead of the rights of their fellow human beings. Yet I can now see how those feelings would influence their political actions.

Other aspects of their beliefs I do have a clearer understanding of. I have some small sympathy there because, from my perspective, these beliefs stem from misunderstanding, ignorance and fear. (If only we could facilitate better communication between the left and the right…) Hochschild crafts what she calls a ‘deep story’ halfway through the book. This is a story that “removes judgement [and] fact to tell us how things feel” (135). She writes in second person to share the experience of a Tea Party member. This narrative in the middle of the book helps put her research into perspective. Tea Partiers are emotional, feeling people, just like anyone else, and this story shows how they came to feel what they feel in today’s world.

Hochschild explores how Tea Partiers believe that liberals want them to feel bad for everyone who is ‘behind them in line’, when they feel “downtrodden themselves and want only to look ‘up’ to the elite” (219). They see people who receive social benefits as receiving a leg up, as jumping ahead in line when they don’t deserve to. One person is quoted as saying, “People think we’re not good people if we don’t feel sorry for blacks and immigrants and Syrian refugees. But I am a good person and I don’t feel sorry for them.” Well. :/ There’s the fundamental difference. I believe in acknowledging privilege and trying to make the world a better place for those who aren’t as lucky as me. It’s not exactly about feeling sorry for someone, yet that’s what the right wing is hearing from the left wing.  Through Hochschild’s exploration of various social, religious, and community factors, I see now how someone might come to such right wing beliefs.

There are a lot more quotes I could use to exemplify how worked up I got while reading this book. I would shake the book and scream internally, “How can you think that?!” While I may have asked that question before, it becomes almost even more frustrating to ask that question when you can see the logic and emotions behind their beliefs, and you can see where the thread of their beliefs gets pulled away from your own. Yet that’s why this is such a good read – it took me into the minds of people I would never be able to comprehend otherwise.

The Bottom Line:

For those of us on the left who want to understand why the right wing is right wing, Strangers in Their Own Land makes for an invaluable read.

Further Reading:

  • Book webpage
  • Interview @ Democracy Now
  • Review by Lory @ Emerald City Book Review
  • Review by Susanne @ Goodreads
  • Review by Ralph Benko @ Forbes (a right-wing perspective – very interesting if you’ve read the book)
  • Review by Jason DeParle @ The New York Times

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The 50 Books I’ve Read So Far in 2017

My mid-year check in is still coming on 5 July, but I decided I also wanted to do this post as a way to:

  1. remind myself of all the great books I’ve read this year
  2. easily share my reviews thus far
  3. offer a brief thought on books I won’t be reviewing (some books will still receive a review later on)

Links to my reviews where applicable. Since it’s ?? Canada Day ?? : books in red = Canadian author, books in orange = Indigenous author.

  1. * You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris – Incredibly moving, carefully written account of the days after the Bataclan attacks in which Leiris’ wife died
  2. Beast by Brie Spangler – Transgirl love interest helps cismale narrator overcome his transphobia (though I liked Jamie and thought she was well-written as a trans character, she’s something of a manic pixie dream girl). Dylan’s an unlikable guy but I liked that he had his own body image challenges.
  3. Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Danielle Martin – A balanced look at practical ways we might improve our health care system, Martin presents her ideas in an easy to read and understand manner. The ideas still seem like distant dreams rather than possible realities, however.
  4. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley – I gave this book four stars but I’m not sure why? Changing to three. Looking back, it was a quiet yet gripping story. If you like slow paced thrillers, you might enjoy this.
  5. Beowulf by Anonymous, translated by Seamus Heaney – Easier to read than I expected! Still enjoyable even when you know the whole story. Now that I’ve finally got a basic translation under my belt, I can tackle Tolkien’s Beowulf.
  6. Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada by Lawrence Hill – Drawing on interviews from over 30 biracial Black Canadians, Hill paints a comprehensive picture of the varied experiences these Canadians have had because of their racial identity. This book also got me thinking a lot about my own White privilege.
  7. The Girl Who Beat ISIS by Farida Khalaf – An intense read, this first person account of a young Yazidi woman persecuted by ISIS gave me a personal look into some of the atrocities happening today.
  8. The Wizard’s Dog by Eric Kahn Gale – I thought this book was going to be too silly for me, but it was a lot of fun. Cute premise. The illustrations are a bonus.
  9. When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin – Probably the most gorgeous book I will read this year. This is the kind of middle grade fantasy I could read all day.
  10. Neverhome by Laird Hunt – I liked the narrative style. The plot started off interesting but couldn’t keep up steam for me.
  11. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett – A fluffy little story about the Queen’s evolution from non-reader to writer.
  12. Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson – the first volume in a trilogy, Robinson has written a unique story about an Indigenous teen (the titular son of a trickster) that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking.
  13. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older – This is a very cool book about some very cool kids. A YA urban fantasy that even those who avoid the genre can enjoy.
  14. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – A wonderful read for a cozy winter evening. Looking forward to the sequel.
  15. Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin – A much longer book than I usually prefer…the intertwining of a number of historical Arctic (and one Antarctic) expeditions make this an intriguing read.
  16. Tolkien in Translation edited by Thomas Honegger –  Lots of great essays that got me thinking about the topics. Must read if you’re interested in Tolkien or translation.
  17. Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell – Fun middle-grade fantasy, just the sort I would have liked as a kid (even if there weren’t as many dragons as expected).
  18. The Hate U Give by Thomas Angie – Lives up to the hype. Not good just because it tackles an important topic, but also an overall excellent YA novel.
  19. A Secret Vice by J.R.R. Tolkien – A great companion to On Fairy Stories. The work by the editors enhances the text by giving it both context within Tolkien’s personal live and historical context.
  20. Mad Richard by Lesley Krueger – Not the sort of book I’d usually enjoy. Still readable if dry at times. Probably good for historical fiction fans.
  21. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa – Family Reads discussion coming 18 August…forgot to publish it in June!
  22. The Plants of Middle-earth: Botany and Sub-creation by Dinah Hazell – Another lovely physical book, I enjoyed this slim volume for its look at the philosophical implications of grand tale via its plant life.
  23. Sputnik’s Children by Terri Favro – I felt like I was taking a gamble when I requested this book for review. That gamble paid off in this 1970s alternate universe coming of age tale.
  24. Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: A Book Lover Bridges the Digital Divide by Merilyn Simonds – A reflective memoir about what makes a book. I liked following Simonds’ steps as she created a beautiful book of her poetry, with every aesthetic aspect of both the physical and digital book considered.
  25. Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner – Another haunting yet vivid tale. The characters all found their way to my heart (erm, I don’t want to sound mushy but that pretty much covers it).
  26. The Break by Katherena Vermette – Speaking of haunting tales…this novel, about a family of Indigenous women that’s set in my hometown and written by a local Métis woman, cuts deep. I’m still trying to find the words to review it. I wish I could get this book into more people’s hands.
  27. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller – A fluffy tale that was less piratey than I hoped, but still fun. I’ll probably read the sequel.
  28. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – I finally read this book…it’s definitely good, but it’s too bad he seems to think he’s the only Indigenous author of note out there.
  29. Ten Degrees of Reckoning: The True Story of a Family’s Love and the Will to Survive by Hester Rumberg – Possibly the most devastating experience I’ve ever read about (considering both fiction and non-fiction). I picked this up yesterday when I had time to kill at the library and blazed through it. I actually like that Judy herself didn’t write the book. That would have been too close, too intimate, too intense. Hester writes with sensitivity. She creates a respectful sense of Judy’s life, before, during and after the incident, without going into too much detail (unlike with other memoirs/biographies, though, I didn’t feel that she left out key details to be ‘polite’.)
  30.  The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Gaskell – A new-to-me author that I picked up for the first time for a reading event. Her writing has a very particular style – old fashioned in a way that I sometimes get in the mood for. The unicorn’s minor role was a bit disappointing, but other story elements made up for it.
  31. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – Another classic I hadn’t heard of before I started book blogging. I loved the New York setting, as many readers before me have. I wish I had this book as a kid. I might have identified with Claudia.
  32. Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George – Finally read the follow up to Tuesdays in the Castle, two years later! Just as fun as the first. I will continue with the series.
  33. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan – The book description gets it pretty spot on: “brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other”. I especially liked the relationships Amina has with her friends and family.
  34. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab – Oof. Well. Wasn’t sure what to expect with the conclusion of this trilogy but I suppose it was alright.
  35. The Luck of the Karluk: Shipwrecked in the Arctic by L.D. Cross – Great introduction to the tale of the Karluk for those who haven’t heard of it.
  36. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo – An own voices YA novel about a transgirl protagonist, post-transition. Just as good as you would hope it to be.
  37. Icemen by Mick Conefrey – I liked learning about different Arctic adventures I had never heard about before. Lots of fascinating stories in this one.
  38. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman – This may be my new favourite contemporary YA ever? Excellent novel with bi and ace rep.
  39. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel – Should be required reading for all Canadians.
  40. Drift & Dagger by Kendall Kulper – I loved reading my annotated copy of this book. I think I liked it better than the first book!
  41. In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle – My second novel by Beagle. Another unicorn story, but a very different one. I loved the fairy tale atmosphere of the real world setting.
  42. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera – A difficult read that wasn’t to my taste.
  43. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods – A great contemporary middle grade novel race and identity, especially Black biracial identity.
  44. The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell – Another Haskell book! I enjoyed this one a bit more than Handbook, because I didn’t have any expectations of dragons. I liked the unique setting and the role of religion.
  45. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – VanderMeer did not disappoint in his first book since The Southern Reach trilogy.
  46. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild – A mind-blowing eyeopener. I learnt so much about right wing America.
  47. Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell – A historical middle-grade novel that had been on my TBR for a long time. I will be reading more of Rundell in the future.
  48. Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa – Spotted this book at the library. Read it as a bedtime story. Giraffe is bored so he writes a letter as far away as possible. Penguin gets his letter and writes back. Cute premise, cute illustrations, fun story.
  49. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – One of my favourite books this year. Somehow, it was a beautiful as everyone has said. (And the romance is on fire too!)
  50. Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee – Contemporary MG novel about a girl realizing she’s bi. Somehow pulls off having a Shakespeare centered plot. Great conclusion.

And that’s that! I fudged the list a bit – I left off one book I finished last week so I could use that nice round 50. If you have questions about any of these books, I’d be happy to answer them.

What are some of your favourite books from the first half of 2017? Are there any books you wish you had skipped?

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