What I’ve Been Listening To: Books, Bodies, and Bacteria

The Library Book by Susan Orlean: In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity…

Orlean takes every angle of this topic and expands on it. As a result, it’s long. But it’s also very interesting. I especially liked hearing about the history of libraries and the first women librarians.

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt

A History of My Brief Body is an essay collection/memoir. Raw, honest and insightful, Belcourt recounts memories of his kokum, his childhood, as well as his experiences with love, sex, and colonialism. I think I’d recommend reading this one over listening to it – there were several times I wish I could go back and re-read/make a note. (With audio, I just keep going because I’m usually doing something else at the same time.)

What emerges is not only a profound meditation on memory, gender, anger, shame, and ecstasy, but also the outline of a way forward.

Happily, I’ll get to read another of his books soon – his first novel comes out in October (and has been longlisted for the Giller Prize).

Black Water by David Robertson

A son who grew up away from his Indigenous culture takes his Cree father on a trip to their family’s trapline, and finds that revisiting the past not only heals old wounds but creates a new future.

What interested me most about this memoir is that Robertson grew up with no knowledge of his Indigenous roots. His father (a Cree man) believed it would be best. As a child, he learned all the same stereotypical beliefs as his friends did, which added to his confusion when he learned who he was.

Robertson wanted to learn as much from his father as he could with the time they had left. This is that story.

Disorientation by Ian Williams

With that one eloquent word, disorientation, Ian Williams captures the impact of racial encounters on racialized people–the whiplash of race that occurs while minding one’s own business. 

This book is a stand-out for me – one I would listen to again (or buy). It was smart, eye-opening, and funny. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his different experiences as a Black man in Canada versus the United States, and even Trinidad. And, of course, I loved the essay in which he interviews Margaret Atwood.

Hers is the kind of magnetism where you are not so much captivated as held captive until she decides to release you.

Ian Williams won the 2019 Giller Prize with Reproduction.

The Gut-Immune Connection by Emeran Mayer

I listened to this one as my daughter was reading it. She’s been reading some heavy adult non-fiction lately, and this is a topic we are both interested in. Bottom line: know that everything in your body is connected, and that your gut biome is intricately important to your physical and mental health.

Talking to Canadians by Rick Mercer

Rick Mercer is well loved here in Canada – there can’t be too many of us who don’t know who he is. In this book he talks about how he got to where he is today, from his humble roots in Newfoundland. He’s a go-getter and a risk-taker, both of which paid off for him. He’s smart and funny, and makes politics way more interesting. And his rants are legendary. I spent almost as much time watching video clips of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Talking to Americans as I did listening to the book. So much fun. Watch this 16 minute video for a whirlwind tour of Rick’s career up until the last episode of the Mercer Report in 2018.

What have you been listening to lately? Are you as behind as I am? I listened to these back in December/January!

16 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening To: Books, Bodies, and Bacteria

  1. A Life in Books says:

    I read The Library Book some time ago expecting to enjoy it but found it far too long. Perhaps a better listen then read? And I’m fully bought into the gut biome theory after reading Tim Spector’s The Diet Myth a few years ago.

    • Naomi says:

      Well, I’m sure you noticed that my blurbs about them aren’t very long. And some I remember better than others.
      One of the reasons I write about them anyway, is because there are some I love so much that I want to at least mention them. It’s also my way of keeping track (like an online journal), and I often have it partly written in my draft section for weeks or months before I find the time to finish it up and post it. Or all of the above! Lol

  2. roughghosts says:

    I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to drive David Robertson around town twice when he was here for our literary festival. A really terrific guy to spend time with and his rapport with his youngest audiences is so much fun to watch. One year there was a young Indigenous boy in the front row at his reading who was so engaged and keen on reading and writing. David insisted that he wanted the boy to have the book he’d planned to donate to the school library (promising to replace it of course). The boy was called to the library and gifted the book—it was such a wonderful moment.

  3. annelogan17 says:

    I clicked on that Talking to AMericans clip and it gave me a great laugh this morning – thank you! You’ve got a great selection of books there. I would really like to read Ian Williams book, it sounds fascinating. I loved the Susan Orlean library book too – although you’re right, it was quite long lol

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