Top 5 Books of 2009
January 2, 2010

Watchmen by Alan Moore

When the hype started building around Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the Alan Moore classic, I had to read the original for myself. The book is brilliant: Moore uses the genre to it’s full potential. Dialogue from one story will narrate another, and as a result there are often three storylines coinciding in one panel, weaving in an out of each other. And beyond that, his characters are concrete and believable, flawed and full of hope.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller’s memoir about growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during civil war is striking in its honest portrayal of her parents: they’re blatantly racist, but still we sympathize with them. They’ve come to Rhodesia without an agenda. They just want to live the simple farm life, and we can’t help but accept that in its own right.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Self-deprecating, honest and mordant, Sloane Crosley has an incredible knack for tying musings into detailed, witty stories. This was my first time listening to a “book on tape,” and it was a great introduction: Crosley herself narrated the meandering autobiographical stories with her signature dry wit.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez multi-layered epic is filled with charismatic characters. The book takes place in the fictional town of Macondo, a place filled with magic, sorrow and passion. Wikipedia might have said it best: “ostensibly objective but often manifestly ridiculous.” I loved it fully and completely.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill

Heather O’Neill crafts the heartbreaking story of Baby, an adolescent girl who is raised by a single, drug-addicted father in Montreal’s red light district. I’ve recommended this book half a dozen times with a disclaimer, but everyone who reads it says they love it. A sad, beautiful book filled with empathy and heart.

Runner Up: Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice

Like Little Criminals, Ben Rice’s debut mixes beauty and sadness in his novella about a girl in small-town Australia with two imaginary friends. I was fascinated by Rice’s faith in the power of imagination, which eventual captivates the whole of this backcountry town.

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December 24th
December 24, 2009

The next day on the bus to my folks’ place, I see a pair of gumboots across the aisle. They’re cranberry red with a pattern of black spades and belong to a beautiful woman with auburn curls.

Before I can stop myself I say, “I like your boots.”

She looks up as a soft smile forms on her face and begins to speak.

December 23rd
December 23, 2009

The next night we stroll the neighbourhood looking for elaborate Christmas light displays. The best one is not far from my home: an explosion of red and white on a lawn that features two palm trees, a fountain with a Christmas tree in the middle, a Santa with a Marlin catch, and Baby Jesus presiding over the whole show.

In kneel down in the soft glow. Klink stands on her hind legs and licks my forehead. It’s her traditional goodbye.

“You’re going to miss me, aren’t you?” she says.

“Yeah.”

“Well, not too much I hope.” She pauses, searching for words. “You know, you’re thoughtful, but you need more than an imaginary friend sweetie.” And with that she turns and walks away. A street light burns out and she disappears.

I sigh. “I know.”

December 22nd
December 22, 2009

I am buzzing as I let her in. “What is it? What is it?”

“Hmphmm.”

The gift is still in her mouth. She spits it on the floor, coughs, and says, “Be patient.”

“I’ve been patient all day.”

“Yeah yeah.”

We settle in. She sits by the fire while I stand at the opposite side of the room. The package rests between us. I wait until she warms.

“Ok,” she says.

I tear the gift open in a hurry, shredding paper the way my dog does when he knows there’s a bone inside.

It’s a plush mouse.

“To remember me by!”

“Very funny,” but I can’t help but smile.

December 21st
December 21, 2009

When I wake the next morning she’s gone, but it’s too early in the week—I know she’ll return.

I spend a lazy day on my own: reading, wrapping presents, working on the annual Christmas puzzle, eating too many baked goods. My house is calm and quiet. I light a fire, make tea. I wait for her return, constantly glancing out the window as I flip pages of a novel. And for once it happens just as I imagine: she comes strolling down the street with a parcel between her cheek and jowl, arriving right on time like Christmas morn.