"An engrossing and charming memoir about getting back to basics: home truths, family, and the life-altering, life-saving power of books."-Emma Donoghue, author of Room
"The Reading List brims with frankness, provocative wit and acute insights into our hearts and psyches."-Kerri Sakamoto, author of The Electrical Field
"I’ve read a lot of good memoirs, but it’s a rare talent that can weave together so many threads – family, love, literature, career angst – so effortlessly as Leslie does in The Reading List."-Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung
- ► 2011 (37)
- ▼ June (8)
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My Reading List
- Book #66: Possession by AS Byatt
- Book #65: Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang
- Book #64: A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay
- Book #63: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
- Book #62: Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig
- Book #61: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
- Book #60: Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
- Book #59: In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
- Book #58: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
- Book #57: Alligator by Lisa Moore
- Book #56: Return Trips by Alice Adams
- Book #55: Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
- Book #54: The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq
- Book #53: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
- Book #52: A Mercy by Toni Morrison
- Book #51: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
- Book #50: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
- Book #49: Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
- Book #48: After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
- Book #47: The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut
- Book #46: TOK: Writing the New Toronto ed. Helen Walsh
- Book #45: Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
- Book # 44: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Book #43: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
- Book #42: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. 4
- Book #41: Brick Lane by Monica Ali
- Book #40: Finding the Words ed. Jared Bland
- Book #39: Shanghai Girl by Wei Hui
- Book #38: Room by Emma Donoghue
- Book #37: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. 2
- Book #36: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- Book #35: Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner
- Book #34: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
- Book #33: The Professor's House by Willa Cather
- Book #32: Growing Up Jung by Micah Toub
- Book #31: Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers by Jo Hammett
- Book #30: In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
- Book #29: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- Book #28: Jewels by Dawn Promislow
- Book #27: February by Lisa Moore
- Book #26: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
- Book #25: Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes
- Book #24: Impounded by Dorothea Lange
- Book #23: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
- Book #22: A Curtain of Green and Other Stories by Eudora Welty
- Book #21: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
- Book #20: Obasan by Joy Kogawa
- Book #19: The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock
- Book #18: The Professor's House by Willa Cather
- Book #17: Paper Shadows by Wayson Choy
- Book #16: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
- Book #15: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
- Book #14: Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
- Book #13: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
- Book #12: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
- Book #11: Corked by Kathryn Borel
- Book #10: Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa
- Book #9: On Photography by Susan Sontag
- Book #8: Illuminations by Walter Benjamin
- Book #7: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Book #6: The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi
- Book #5: Dubliners by James Joyce
- Book #4: The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul
- Book #3: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- Book #2: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
- Book #1: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
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Sunday, June 6, 2010
5:03 PM | Posted by Leslie Shimotakahara | | Edit Post
"When are you going to put together my reading list?" Daddy asked.
A hush fell over the kitchen. He'd been asking me about this for weeks now, and wasn't it the least I could do? After all, I'd taken his handouts during not one, not two, but three degrees in English Literature.
Recently retired, Daddy had decided to take up reading for reasons that were characteristically quantitative. The house was crammed with novels, memoirs and anthologies that my mom and I had been reading all our lives and their sheer number had convinced my dad that there must be something to this reading thing.
Now that he was no longer building steel plants, it was time to roll up his sleeves and delve into the world of literature.
"Why don't you just go online?" I said. "Google 'reading.' A bunch of lists should come up."
"That's no good." His cheeks hardened. "Those lists are impersonal - based on polls or the whims of some critic who doesn't even know me. I want a list that's just for me."
I rolled my eyes. With everything else on my mind, did I have time for this?
Then I recalled an essay I'd read in grad school, Walter Benjamin's "Unpacking My Library." What drives someone to read and collect books, Benjamin suggests, is anything but rational:
"I am not exaggerating when I say that to a true collector the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth. This is the childlike element which in a collector mingles with the element of old age. For children can accomplish the renewal of existence in a hundred unfailing ways."
Despite Benjamin's mystical language, his point is simple, I think. He's saying that what draws a person to one book over another cannot be explained purely in terms of the book's reputation. Rather, the reader yearns to connect on some deeply personal, childlike level with the world in miniature that the novel brings to life imaginatively. This is a matter of the novelist being able to predict - almost magically - your idiosyncratic fantasies and wishes that go back to your earliest memories and desires.
It's a beautiful coincidence when reader and book unite in this way, the beginning of a lifelong relationship.
So my old man wanted a reading list. But what did I know about his earliest memories and unconscious drives?
Photo from: here
- Leslie Shimotakahara
- Toronto, ON, Canada
- Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Last year, Leslie was selected as an Emerging Writer in Diaspora Dialogues and read at The Word On The Street. Her writing has been published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.