Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2018: Beginnings #MARM

Welcome to Margaret Atwood Reading Month. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, either in the comments or on your own blogs, about your first encounters with Margaret Atwood and/or her work.

From what I hear, many of us here in Canada first experienced Margaret Atwood in school. Not me. I remember Alice Munro and Hugh McLennan. But not Margaret Atwood.

It wasn’t until my husband and I bought our first house in downtown Dartmouth a year after we got married (so, around 1999), that I read my first Margaret Atwood. We were within easy walking distance to the library, so, although in the past I had relied on my mother’s bookshelves to supply me with books to read, I decided I wanted to start using the library.

Not really having anything specific in mind the first time I went, I headed for the ‘A’s. That was back before you could go online and put a hold on books. And, although, I love putting holds on books, there is also something nice about wandering into the library, not knowing for sure what will be there and what you’ll come out with. So, the Margaret Atwood I chose was limited to what was available that day.

Happily, I have kept a list of books I’ve read since 1988. If not for this (priceless and irreplaceable) list, I would not be able to tell you which Atwood I read first… The Robber Bride (which would have been new-ish at the time). Next, I chose The Edible Woman (because, what an intriguing title).

My third choice is the one that stuck with me the most over the years – I devoured it. And then I devoured it again more recently. Alias Grace, an historical novel about Grace Marks who was accused of murdering her employer. I think it is still my favourite.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to revisit the books I read so long ago I barely remember them, as well as read more of her work. I’m hoping MARM will give me that nudge I need to get started.

What do I love about Margaret Atwood? She is versatile, creative, playful, intelligent, and funny. I am constantly amazed by what she creates.

How (and when and where and why) did you first come across Margaret Atwood?

What about Margaret Atwood’s beginnings?

During a recent conversation I had with Melanie from Grab the Lapels, in which we were discussing Margaret Atwood’s parents, I realized I knew more about her father than her mother. So I googled her, I found this wonderful article written by MA about her mother.

I already knew that her parents had met at Teacher’s College in Truro, NS (more “beginnings”)…

But what I seemed to have missed is that her mother was from the Annapolis Valley. How did I not know this? So… Margaret Atwood’s beginnings originate in Nova Scotia. She’s practically a Bluenoser, wouldn’t ya say?

Furthermore, I learned that Joyce Barkhouse, the celebrated author of Pit Pony, was her sister (Margaret Atwood’s aunt). She and her sister Joyce lived to be 97 and 99, respectively. I hope that means we’ll have their daughter (and niece) with us for many years to come.


The Schedule for Margaret Atwood Reading Month: 

Today: Marcie is also posting about Beginnings at Buried in Print

November 8: Cover Images (hosted by Naomi at Consumed by Ink)

November 15: Favourites (hosted by Marcie at Buried in Print)

November 22: Quotations (hosted by Naomi at Consumed by Ink)

November 29: Endings (hosted by Marcie at Buried in Print)

November 30: A Round-Up of links collected from participants

You can find more information about this event in our announcement post here and here.

Remember: These weekly themes are in addition to any book, story, poem, essay, interview, article, etc. you want to read (or watch) over the month and discuss on your blogs or on Twitter.  #MARM

Happy Reading! 

70 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2018: Beginnings #MARM

  1. Vera says:

    I must admit that I haven’t read any Margaret Atwood books yet. After spending a few weeks in Canada last month, I have given myself a resolution to read more books written by Canadian authors.
    I am looking forward to reading your reviews of Margaret Atwood’s books. They will definitely help me with choosing.

    • Naomi says:

      She has written such a wide variety of books, it will certainly help you to narrow down your choices. Unless, you’re like me and just like all of it!

  2. Rebecca Foster says:

    I wish I could remember what my first Atwood book was. I *think* it was The Blind Assassin about 10 years ago; it’s still my favourite of hers, and one of my all-time favourite books. Nothing else she’s written has quite lived up to that for me. I’ll be reading my 17th and 18th Atwood books this month – two early ones, Surfacing and The Edible Woman. I’m looking forward to it!

    • Naomi says:

      You’ve read more of her books than I have – I think I’ve read 15.5, not including her children’s books. I remember liking The Blind Assassin, but I can’t remember much about it. That’s one of the ones I’d like to re-read. And I remember even less about Surfacing and The Edible Woman – I don’t think my 15.5 books can even count if I can’t remember half of them! Ha!
      I hope you like them!

      • Rebecca Foster says:

        I’ve read a fair bit of her random stuff: the collected poems, some essay collections, one story collection, the book on money/debt, etc. So Surfacing is my 11th of her novels. I’m enjoying it so far.

      • Rebecca Foster says:

        It was actually really fascinating! Possibly one of only two economics books I’ve ever picked up. Yet it ended up being one of the books I’ve rated highest by her.

      • Naomi says:

        Oh, wow! You’ve actually tempted me to have a peek at it! I can’t promise more than a peek, though, at this point. 😉

  3. buriedinprint says:

    What a lovely article about her mother indeed. I love the image of her heading out into the storm. And also the idea that they met in a library (but most especially what was happening in the library), which reminded me, now, of the way that the couple met in Kathy Page’s recent novel, but that was on the steps of the library technically. Still. Libraries! I’ve read a couple of biographies over the years, so I must have known this at some point, about Truro, I mean, not the library, but I’m glad to have been reminded of it. Also, I love the idea of beginning before the beginning: nice touch!

  4. A Life in Books says:

    Lovely post, Naomi. I have a set of ancient Viragos from way back when but can’t remember which was the first I read. Like you, I have a precious list of books read – mine goes all the way back to 1978! I’ve often though about computerising it but there’s such satisfaction in writing down the details I can’t bring myself to do it.

    • Naomi says:

      I have to admit that I did rewrite my list a few years ago. When I started it, it was just on looseleaf in my favourite binder (from grade 7 English class), and the binder was falling apart. So I transferred it all into a pretty notebook. I don’t think I’ll ever computerize it. I like using my nice pens. 🙂

  5. Kristine says:

    I love that you have continued adding to your list after so many years! It must conjure so many memories when you look back.

    My first Atwood was The Handmaid’s Tale. I picked it up after graduating high school a gazillion years ago because I was interested in dystopias at the time. I am so glad I did as I have now read all her novels and will likely continue to do so. My favourite, however, also remains Alias Grace. 🙂

  6. priscilla says:

    This is so wonderful! I haven’t been keeping up at all so was pleasantly surprised to see this. My first Atwood was Cat’s Eye. This was the favorite novel of the professor I worked for in grad school. She loaned me her copy (confession: I still have it, 25 years later). I read it and loved it immediately. It’s one of my favorite novels of all time, and I’ve read it several times since then, but not in the last decade. I never read a novel that felt so honest about female relationships in a way I could relate to until that book–the cruelty of little girls. After that I tried to read The Handmaid’s Tale, but it was so jarringly different, I didn’t finish it. I went on to The Robber Bride, The Edible Woman, and Lady Oracle. In the last five years or so I read Oryx and Crake and Stone Mattress. I have Blind Assassin and Alias Grace on my shelves, waiting to be read. Now I feel inspired!

    • Naomi says:

      Oh, yay, I’m glad you feel inspired! As you know already, Alias Grace is a favourite of mine. And I’ve just learned that The Blind Assassin is Rebecca;s favourite (from BookishBeck).

      It’s good to hear that copy of your professor’s at least got a lot of love over the years. 🙂

      I’m so glad you saw this and came for a visit!

  7. Alexandra says:

    I’m not reading, but I am looking forward to a fascinating ride alone with those of you who are. And I’m sure I’m going to learn a great deal on this journey of discovering Atwood via proxy! 😉

  8. whatmeread says:

    Gosh, I can’t even remember when I read my first Atwood. It was The Handmaid’s Tale, though, and I was very impressed by it. I have since reread it several times. I remember that I read The Blind Assassin when it first came out, and that was my second book by her. Then I didn’t read anything by her until The Maddadam Trilogy. Since then, I have gone back and read some of her older books.

  9. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis says:

    I first read Margaret Atwood about 1970 when I was still in high school – but it wasn’t assigned reading. CanLit was coming into its own back then and the Scholastic book order forms were full of CanLit paperbacks. I staggered back to my locker under a pile of books after every delivery. I still have dozens of the ones I got then: Rudy Wiebe, Max Braithwaite, Morley Callaghan, Margaret Laurence, Stephen Leacock – you get the idea. I ordered The Edible Woman and detested it. Maybe I just wasn’t mature enough at 16 to appreciate it, but it put me off Atwood for years.

    Since then, I have read The Handmaid’s Tale and listened to Alias Grace, but cannot bring myself to read anything else. It doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction, which I believe she has been writing ‘recently’.

    I know I am in the minority here and that there are likely thousands of people around the world who can name no other Canadian author but Atwood, but that first experience ‘scarred’ me for life 😉 I’m staying away.

    • Naomi says:

      That’s the way it works sometimes. I can’t help but wonder what you would think of The Edible Woman now, though… 😉

      Your Scholastic book order stacks sound marvelous! Were there any others you didn’t like? Do you remember if any stood out as favourites?

  10. annelogan17 says:

    I WISH I had read Alice Munro in school-what a lovely voice to be introduced to so young! And I am so jealous you have kept a reading list since 1988, you’re right that this is priceless. I only started in 2011, so I’ve got a few years to catch up to you 🙂

  11. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    I can’t say for sure but I think my first Margaret Atwood was The Robber Bride too! I loved it and immediately knew I had to read more. I’m going to participate in MARM by rereading The Edible Woman. It’s been a long time. And I’m planning to eat cake on November 18 to celebrate!

  12. Lisa Hill says:

    My first was The Blind Assassin in 2002 and I wrote five pages about it in my journal, beginning with “whoever reviewed it in The Age [a local broadsheet] and described it as ‘difficult’ is a fool!

  13. Vishy says:

    This is so wonderful! I wish I could join. Thanks for sharing your Margaret Atwood story, Naomi! It was wonderful to read about how you discovered her work (the library is the best place to discover books, isn’t it?) and your reading experiences with each of the Atwood books that you have read. I read my first Margaret Atwood book only recently, though I have heard of her for years. The book I read was – no surprises here, of course – ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I want to read ‘Alias Grace’, because you so highly recommend it, and ‘The Penelopiad’ and ‘The Blind Assassin’ and then take it from there.

    Thanks for this post and for hosting this event. Will look forward to following your #MARM posts this month.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for commenting, Vishy! The Handmaid’s Tale is always a great place to start for new Atwood readers. It’s a close second to Alias Grace for me. The Penelopiad is one I haven’t read yet!

  14. Grab the Lapels says:

    I honestly can’t remember how I first encountered Oryx and Crake. I do know that I taught it several years ago in a literature course. And then a few years after that I listened to the other MaddAddam books. The audiobook narrators would change based on which characters point of view was the focus of the chapter. So, even though they’re quite long, I got through the whole trilogy pretty fast. I was terribly disappointed with Cat’s Eye. Where should I post a link for that? Or should I wait for link roundup day?

  15. heavenali says:

    I will be reading Life Before Man hopefully, as it fits in with my A Century of Books challenge. Funnily enough I am currently reading another Canadian novelist, Margaret Laurence.

  16. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    I don’t remember what I first read by Margaret Atwood. I know I had a close friend from high school who loved her books. So that might have inspired me to start reading.

    It may have been The Handmaid’s Tale first, but it was Cat’s Eye that really blew me away. And Alias Grace was also stunning. I’m pretty sure I read The Robber Bride, but I don’t remember it clearly – time for a reread for sure!

  17. Rickster Rickster (@RicksterRicks) says:

    First Margaret Atwood book I read was Lady Oracle in 1977. I loved it and re-read it every few years. I read it because I liked the cover of the paperback. It was in the rack at the grocery store I worked at when I was in high school. I read Theophilus North by Thornton Wilder for the same reason, I liked the cover. (i’m autistic and don’t know if other people do stuff like that). I’ve also read The Handmaid’s Tale a few times and enjoyed it. I suggest everyone read Lady Oracle, I found it to be quite inventive and funny.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for your comment! I haven’t actually read Lady Oracle, but I will take your recommendation to heart!
      And, yes, I think many of us choose books by their covers, at least once in a while. 🙂
      Do you plan on joining in this month?

  18. Angélique says:

    I wasn’t born here so I discovered Margaret Atwood when I arrived in Canada and started to read Canadian authors.
    I only read two of her books so far: The Heart Goes Last, and Alias Grace. They are very different. I really, really enjoyed Alias Grace. I found the sci-fi novel a bit less special.
    I am planning to read more of her classics, like The Handmaid’s Tale. However there are so many incredible Canadian authors to read… I haven’t read a Munroe yet! 😦

    • Naomi says:

      I know how you feel – there’s just not enough time to fit them all in!
      I agree with your quick assessment of Alias Grace and The Heart Goes Last. You almost have to be in a certain mood for The Heart Goes Last. I feel like maybe MA was in a certain mood when she wrote it!

  19. The Cue Card says:

    I can’t remember why or when exactly I started reading Atwood — it was after I got out of school. I have read 6 of her books but I feel that’s a relatively small amount. Alias Grace and The Robber Bride were a couple of the first ones. I liked Stone Mattress & Surfacing quite a bit. And I read The Handmaid’s Tale most recently. Glad you are having this month!

      • susan says:

        You know, I really need to reread Alias Grace again as I read it back in the 1990s and that was long ago, but I’m inclined to pick that one as my favorite of the 6 I have read so far. The stories in Stone Mattress were very strong though! I did read Oryx and Crake so maybe I need to read Year of the Flood soon.

  20. Katie Wilkins (@DoingDewey) says:

    Wow, I’m so impressed by how long you’ve been tracking your reading! For a couple of years when I was younger (in middle school and maybe into high school) I kept a physical list of books I’d read, but I’m not sure I still have it and then there was a gap before I started tracking books on goodreads about 7 years ago.

    • Naomi says:

      Goodreads is so handy for tracking books! If I had left it that long, though, my gap would have been huge! I’m so glad I thought to start a list way back in 1988. 🙂

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