Quietly in the background, as the world went into lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic saw library activity increase around the world. People began to seek refuge in reading and rediscover the books at their local libraries. As a result, libraries have been forced to adapt quickly to radically increased readership, the demand for digital content and the enforcement of social distancing measures.
It’s the start of a new year and a popular time to evaluate routines and set new goals. If your reading practice is ready for a reboot, we’ve got you covered with nine suggested “reading resolutions” to expand your mind (and your library) in 2020.
1. Meet local authors and interesting people who enjoy books as much as you do.
2. For Canada’s 150th we are spotlighting Canadian Literature.
3. Receive reading recommendations directly from authors.
4. Be introduced to books you may not otherwise read.
5. You can finally discuss character development, setting and plot twists to your heart’s content.
6. The monthly meetings will make you set time aside for reading.
7. Literary debates.
8. Sharpen your communication skills.
9. Learn more about Toronto’s literary community.
10. IFOA offers perks to their Book Club members.
11. Book clubs provide intellectual stimulation.
12. Good coffee!
13. Help authors get insight into the mind of readers.
14. Read at least one new book a month.
15. Stimulate your mind.
16. Stretch your outlook.
17. It’s a lot of fun!
Even though we’re busy planning the 2016 festival, the IFOA staff still finds time to read. Read on to see what everyone’s enjoying right now!
Catherine Coreno, communications and marketing assistant:
The beach is my favourite aspect of summer, so I am making my way to the sand as often as possible, always with a book in hand. While taking a break from Elena Ferrante’s novels, my current beach reads include We’re All In This Together by Amy Jones and The Girls by Emma Cline.
Dean Keranovic, festival assistant:
As of now I’m reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, as well as Endymion by Dan Simmons. Once those are done I’ll move on to some other sci fi/fantasy novel/comic!
Eirini Moschaki, communications and marketing coordinator:
I love it when a story transports me to other times, traditions, and cultures. Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red is an intricate mystery that immerses you in the life of 16th century Istanbul miniaturists. Power, love, art, religion, and politics; this novel has it all!
Rebecca Hallquist, executive assistant:
I just finished reading Hisham Matar’s book The Return – just out – and it’s a bit of a heavier read but very important considering current events. This book discusses the repercussions of grief, loss and ultimately living history, which I just find so fascinating. At the heart of it all, this memoir is really about a son trying to comes to terms why his father has been absent from his life for some 20+ years. I like to use the (traditionally) more time I have in the summer to read for pleasure to better inform myself about topics that interest me (history, current affairs, environment, biographies) as well as for general enjoyment. Any sort of fantasy/historical fiction series I can get my hands on to read in the shade on a sunny day is pure bliss to me.
Risa de Rege, communications and marketing intern:
I usually end up tackling really long, heavy books over the summer – past endeavours include Les Miserables by Victor Hugo; We, The Drowned by Cartsen Jensen; and (most of) A Song of Ice and Fire. But right now I’m taking it easy with a book of Edwardian ghost stories I picked up at a local bookstore. I love history, and ghost stories, so I’m really enjoying reading stories that have entertained people for so long.
Zviko Mhakayakora, executive assistant, programming:
Right now I’m reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I’ll be reading some books by NoViolet Bulawayo and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie too. I’m really into a mix of non-fiction and fiction right now.
By Ania Szado
There’s a good crowd gathering in the Brigantine Room as the event’s featured writers and I convene in the green room. I’m here to host, with an added twist: I’ve been asked to read an English translation on behalf of one of the featured writers.
I agreed enthusiastically. I love doing readings. But now, receiving my instructions backstage, I hear, “He’ll read the first poem in his own language…” and two things hit me: reality, and nerves.
I’m a novelist, not a poet. It’s been years since I’ve written poetry, never mind read it to a discerning audience. And who could be more discerning than the poems’ creator? The last time I read an internationally renowned poet’s work to a packed house while he stood beside me listening was…
I can’t do this.
The poet comes into the green room. The book he holds is layered with numbered sticky tags. He has a friendly face and handshake. He walks me through the order of the poems he has chosen. His English is heavily accented, but excellent—he’ll definitely know if I mess up. Six poems. He’ll read the first one, then I’ll read them all. Maybe he’ll take the mic back at the end for a few lines. He looks concerned. I am concerned.
“It will be fine,” I say. He hands me his book.
When his turn comes, I introduce him, and step aside while he reads. Standing two feet from the spotlight, I’m far enough from the poet to be audience, yet close enough to feel the gathering power of the aura that seems to coalesce around him as he introduces his collection. I feel the energy that connects him to the listeners below us. I share their sense of anticipation, their focus, as the poet begins reading. I don’t understand his words, but I understand his commitment to them. A lump starts to form in my throat.
By the time he finishes that first poem, I don’t feel nervous; I feel privileged to help him present his work here.
I step into the light. I sense rather than see him beside me. I want him not to worry. This is his first English translation. I want to not disappoint him. I do my best. I take my time with the words, and they take me through. My best is not perfect, but it’s fine; I can feel it. The poet’s words and presence have made me a better reader.
When I finish, he extends his hand, but I gesture toward the podium, asking if he will read a few more lines in his language. He does so, adds a warm tribute to his translator, and exits the stage.
When the final author has read and the event is over, I approach the poet. I say, “I’m sorry—I didn’t take your hand.” He looks perplexed. I explain, “Onstage, after your reading. You offered your hand, and I didn’t take it.” It has been gnawing at me, this disrespectful thing.
But he says, “You didn’t? I don’t remember.”
I’m relieved. More than this, I realize that we were in all of this together—the pull of the written words, the audience’s attention, the slight logistical confusion.
He thanks me for my contribution, and I tell him it was an honour. I put my hand on my heart. It truly felt like an honour.
He tells me that he likes when his poems are read in a straightforward way. I suffer one last pang of anxiety. Had I been I too dramatic, swept up as I had been in the emotion of connection? He smiles. “So I appreciate how you read them.”
In 2014, CBC called Ania Szado one of “Ten Canadian Women You Need to Read.” Her short fiction has been nominated for the Journey Prize and National Magazine Awards, and her bestselling novel Studio Saint-Ex has received international acclaim. Szado’s debut novel, Beginning of Was, was regionally shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.