The idea of Book Bingo is to have fun and expand your reading horizons. Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman of the Books on the Nightstand podcast created online bingo cards with all kinds of categories. If you want to play, go here: BOTNS and refresh the screen to get a new card. I decided to play two cards simultaneously, and started at the end of May. Card #1 is now complete - YAY! - with details below. There are 25 books, so I'll go row by row and make my descriptions brief.
- Unification of Italy in the 19th century, as experienced by a Sicilian prince. Tipping point of cultural and political change. Atmospheric with period details. Understated, elegant prose. Only book on my card that I would not have even known about if not for bingo-related research. It was a rewarding experience.
- Layered. Poetic. Mythic. Interwoven lives of two people existing across centuries, from the middle passage to colonial times to present day USA. Black women, lesbians, and a fabulous intersex character named Jules. So good! Parts are set at university in Buffalo, NY, where Zen has an affair with her professor, a Jamaican woman.
- This satire of consumer culture is like a cross between Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last and the Welcome to Nightvale podcast. Wonderful, weird, smart, funny. I remember bailing on this last year after a couple of pages because I wasn't in the right mood. So glad that I gave it another chance!
- In episode 369, Ann said she had fun with this. So did I. Travel. Amusing trivia. Cranky humour. It's Bill Bryson, how can you go wrong?
- Monty is an endearing 16-year-old coping with mean girls and rude boys, making mistakes and finding forgiveness. Her parents are caring and in the forefront (rare in YA) and her parents are also lesbians (rare in any novel). I liked this a lot.
A novella: Trouble Is My Business by Raymond Chandler, audiobook narrated by Elliott Gould (who is perfect for this).
- "I felt terrible. I felt like an amputated leg." Chandler's hard-boiled style cracks me up. "'...he should be there in 20 minutes.' 'Ok, that just gives me time to drink my dinner.'"
- Wow. Thought-provoking and compelling. A Black family agrees to be studied while they raise a chimpanzee as a member of their family. Eugenics. Racism. Well-observed interpersonal dynamics. This one has zing and sting!
- "My father was a bigamist." One father, two mothers, two sisters. Audio switches to a different narrator when the storytelling switches between the two sisters at the midpoint. Black lives. Bittersweet and satisfying.
*Booktopia events are like mini writers festivals hosted by Michael and Ann at various bookstores over the past few years. BOTNS podcast listeners know about them; I attended one in Bellingham, Washington in 2013 and wrote about it here.
- Poetic. Surreal. Disturbing. Haunting. A short novel about transformation and other heady things. International Man Booker prizewinner. Some people I know through the books social media app, Litsy, hated it, as did reviewer Tim Parks in The New York Review. Loved isn't the right word for how I felt, but it had a strong impact on me. Spent days processing it after it was done.
- I like the idea of this gender-swapped science fiction retelling of Homer's Odyssey better than its execution. Shades of Paul Pope's 100% and Fiona Staple's planet Sextillion from Saga. Prefer Gareth Hind's graphic novel rendition of the Odyssey.
Humour or satire: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
- Gender pronouns. Radical queers. Racism. Intersectionality. Polyamory. So many issues, and yet this is a bubbly affirmation about finding one's truth. Delightful.
- "Stories have the power to guide us through the dangers of the world to a fuller understanding of our place in it." Interwoven flood tales in graphic novel format. Powerful.
- Poignant coming-of-age, balancing traditional expectations of immigrant parents, long hours working in family's convenience store in dicey Toronto neighbourhood, and desire to assert independent identity. Well done. With "lucky" in the title, I had to use this for my free middle square!
- I'd planned to use this for the 'Gifted to you' category - it's from my dear friend Claire in Auckland - but it turns out that this quirky tale of a New Zealand boy obsessed with filmmaking begins and ends with Christmas holidays one year apart. Took a while to draw me in, but things fell beautifully and cogently into place. The final 30 pages are outstanding and I cried at the end. So worthwhile!
- Battling for women's rights... to perform magic in an alternate England. Excellent historical fantasy with people of colour as main characters.
Gifted to you: Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith.
- Passionate about books and reading. Loops together unrelated thoughts into creative, profound fiction. Humane. Genius wordsmith. Ali Smith never fails to astound me. My friend Kathy ordered this direct from the UK in order to give it to me at Christmas six months ago. Somehow it got lost in my piles of books until now. So happy that book bingo made me go looking!
With a protagonist/narrator over the age of 50: Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery, translation from French by Alison Anderson, audiobook narrated by Norman Dietz and five others; I love it when audio productions do this, especially when the narrative switches between points of view (including, here, a cat).
- This short novel about a despicable restaurant critic longing for just the right taste before he dies is all about food. Since I've used a different book for that square, I'll count it here. If there was a square for "made you salivate while reading" this would be perfect.
Recommended by a librarian or bookseller: The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales, audiobook narrated by four different narrators as the perspective switches around; all are good and Natasha Soudek is my fave.
- It's girls with superpowers trained as assassins, or not that but a secret organization battling evil, or not that exactly but fireballs of love and revenge, or maybe it's not that but something else entirely. Wild. Genre-bending. Loved it. Liberty Hardy from All the Books podcast recommended this.
With food as the theme: Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi, audiobook narrated by author.
- Memoir. Immigrant/international fashion model/celebrity chef/former wife of Salman Rushdie. Cooking has helped Lakshmi cope with hard times and she includes recipes. I'd like to try making her kumquat chutney when the fruit is in season.
A literary magazine or journal: Geist, Fall 2015.
- This issue has an excerpt from Ivan Coyote's latest: Tomboy Survival Guide. It wasn't hard to get my hands on something for this category, since we have stacks of Geist, Eighteen Bridges and Room Magazine around the house.
Poetry collection: Shift by Kelly Shepherd.
- Humble things: animals, trees, rubber tires, manual labour, even in the oil camps of Fort McMurray - all are transformed by grace in these compassionate, intimate poems. So lovely. "close to a fire, we no longer / see the night sky; we / are seated around a star."
A dark, upsetting, or sad book: The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni, audiobook narrated by Xe Sands.
- As melancholy as can be (in the best possible way). Elegiac. Atmospheric. Nature, red in tooth and claw. A wildlife photographer mourns her mother during a year on an island bird sanctuary. Human behaviour is as interesting as that of any other creature.
With a blue cover: Sistering by Jennifer Quist.
- (Trust me, the cover in person looks more blue than the image above.) Dark comedy. Chapters alternate between five sisters' points of view. Lots of domestic drama in my hometown, Edmonton. At one point, a sister was doing something that made me want to put my hands in front of my eyes so I didn't have to witness it, like I was watching a movie, saying no no no no no!
Sports-related: Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems by Randall Maggs.
- Powerful and compassionate narrative verse captures soul of mid-20th century hockey and glimpses into psyche of one goalie. Terry Sawchuk takes stitches to his mouth without anaesthetic in order to stay in the game; hit in the shoulder by a 120 mph slapshot, he stands up and keeps playing; blocks all but 3 of 108 shots in back-to-back games (losing both) then is too tired to lift his hand to smoke; gets traded and traded again; plays for two decades. I felt something change inside me as a result of reading this book. That was unexpected, because I'm not a hockey fan.
Manga: Planetes, Vol 1, by Makoto Yukimura, translated by Tokyopop.
- The opening scene in this character-based manga takes place on July 13, 2068, my 108th birthday! Three garbage collectors working in space. Traditional right-to-left Japanese comic format. Solid writing and appealing art.
Thank you for reading this very long post! I hope you will return for bingo card #2.