Choosing my all-time favourite books was much harder than I thought it would be. There are so many books that I adore, and my favourites are always changing. But, for now, these are the books that continue to blow me away, those that I will always recommend to friends, and the ones I love going back to.
Blue Nights by Joan Didion
Written as only Didion does, Blue Nights weaves through Didion’s experience as a mother and the life and death of her daughter Quintana Roo. It’s a jubilant and heartbreaking read that exemplifies Didion’s expertise as a writer.
Midway through reading this book, I found out a member of my family had died. I think if there is any proof that some sort of destiny exists, it was that. Blue Nights explores the complexity of grief, the universality of loss, and the specificity of a mother-daughter relationship.
Short Haul Engine by Karen Solie
A collection of poetry released in 2001, Short Haul Engine shows us that poetry doesn’t have to be convoluted or inaccessible. Comedic brevity and emotional depth are exposed through seemingly everyday details of a somewhat unsatisfying life. Short Haul Engine takes from the physical landscapes and explores the importance of places and people and happiness.
This book is a favourite because it reminds me that anyone has the right to write about their experiences, even if they are a small-town prairie girl. I was recommended this book by a university prof I had, and when I received the book, on the cover there was a photo of a tire shop in my hometown. I took it as a sign that I was supposed to love it.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Carver’s writing is perfection. It’s simple, nuanced, and never ornamental. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is Carver’s third collection of short stories and was published in 1981. His prose latches onto the dirty details and mundanity of an average middle-aged life. You can read these stories time and time again and get something new from every read. My favourite stories are “Why Don’t You Dance” and “I Can See the Smallest Things.”
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
First, this book is just so crazy. It’s absolutely bizarre but also carries an undeniable punch. By the end, I was probably shouting, “WHAT IS HAPPENING!? THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” Yet, it’s incredibly reflective of humanity and our propensity to utter chaos and self-destruction. Three cheers for satire. I love this book, and all of Vonnegut’s writing, because of its strange nature and stark and creative existence. There's passivity to its madness. You must accept it for all its weirdness. But then, that act itself mirrors being in the world.
Cat’s Cradle follows a writer named John as he reflects on his time researching for a book about the atomic bomb. Through his research he meets the son of the inventor of the bomb and is introduced to the banned religion of Bokononism and the fabled substance of ice-nine.
Songs for Relinquishing the Earth by Jan Zwicky
Hello, my name is Aleesha, and I have an academic and literary crush on Jan Zwicky. If anyone even says the name Jan or Zwicky (less likely than Jan) I turn into an obnoxious monster and cannot stop fan-girling. I’ve met her twice and behaved the same way I would have if I met a Jonas brother when I was 12 (or 24).
Songs for Relinquishing the Earth was first handmade by Zwicky and gifted to friends upon request. Eventually, it was published on plain brown paper and is beautiful in its simplicity.
The collection of poetry sings praises to the natural world, specifically the Canadian prairies and rural Ontario. Her love for music and her experience as a musician is weaved throughout alongside her ideas on philosophy and odes to language. She writes with precision and grace.
Zwicky believes metaphor is as exact as a mathematical equation. There is only one perfect answer. I am in love with that notion.