The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

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I don’t know that I could ever say it better than The Calgary Herald did: “Nothing less than gorgeous … Evocative and unforgettable, it manages to arouse both a longing for travel and a longing for home … It is beautiful. Both inside and out.”

No. 16 on my challenge, in the sense that I went searching on a cousin’s bookshelves to find something to fulfill this entry and found this incredible little book.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)

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I loved so many things about this book. First: LOOK at the cover and endpapers. It’s hard not to instantly love a book that puts a smile on your face just by looking at the cover, and then makes you laugh out loud before you read even a single word. Second: The Bloggess is hilarious even when writing about ‘horrible things’—I laughed through the serious bits and absolutely howled through the funny bits. Third: Because my friend Rosie suggested that we read this book at the same time so we could cry-laugh about it afterwards, I decided to keep a running list of things that made me physically burst out laughing. THAT LIST IS SO LONG THAT I HAD TO RESORT TO WRITING DOWN THINGS THAT LITERALLY MADE ME SNIFFLE WITH TEARS OF HILARITY. There’s a bit about a swan attack that made me laugh so hard I almost hacked up a lung. Fourth: Every single time she talks about her mother it reminds me of my mother… there’s even a bit about dusting that could honestly be a quote straight from her lips. Fifth: Her chapter headings… you’ll see when you read it, because you will read it. Sixth: Victor is the kind of man I hope I end up with. Seventh: To live your life in a way that makes you furiously happy is a pretty genius way to live. Eighth: She makes it sound like it’s perfectly normal to have not one, but two taxidermied raccoons with maniacal grins, one of which is posable. Ninth: She named her cats Hunter S. Thomcat and Ferris Mewler, and she wants a cat named The President and a pony named Pony Danza. Tenth: She makes up words for fun, includes notes from her editor, and admonishes spell check for being racist. Eleventh: She worries over what would happen if spiders became currency, which made me think of this essay by David Thorne, which made me laugh even harder. Twelfth: Everything else.

No. 5 on my challenge. It’s about time, too. I waited all year to check this book off my list. It was so worth the wait.

Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent

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Certainly an entertaining read, but it’s pretty much the same old song and dance as with other memoirs by funny twenty-somethings—stories about being single and jobless, having awful boyfriends and no money, finding a first apartment and struggling to buy groceries, pay the phone bill, and make student loan payments. The genre is starting to get a little too familiar to be smart and original.

No. 23 on my challenge.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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I purchased this book because nearly two years ago a younger cousin of mine could do nothing but sing its praises. I was skeptical, and the photos of creepy children gave me pause (for real, creepy as hell), but it was on sale and I can’t help myself when it comes to purchasing books. And now, after having read this wonderfully odd tale of peculiar children, I cannot wait to read more. It is most definitely an enveloping read—truly original and unforgettable.

No. 21 on my challenge. “I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

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For two reasons, I cannot believe that this is a memoir:

  1. It seems unimaginable, incredible, incomprehensible that this was her life for 460 days; that she suffered so much, that she was treated so horrendously, that she had the strength and mental capacity to constantly fight for herself both inwardly and outwardly.
  2. It is so beautifully written that it at first seems it could be only literature. That she was able to feel compassion for her abusers, or to transcend her suffering and calmly build a staircase, then rooms, and a house in her mind to keep her safe from the pain, seems almost above the capabilities of mere mortals. Her character is too good to be believable. And yet, with every word, she convinced me that it was her. That it was real. That she is real. That she suffered and rose above it.

A House in the Sky is poignant, haunting, and, unexpectedly hopeful. It is a message of hope, compassion and forgiveness. It was hard to read, but even harder to put down.

No. 13 on my challenge. Amanda Lindhout is nothing if not a heroine.

Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

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Honestly, I’m not sure how he manages to do it—to weave magical realism so seamlessly with morality and truth—but he does it so convincingly that it takes a minute to understand what he’s writing about. He’s a genius.

No. 7 on my challenge. I only just discovered Kaufman last year, but he’s quickly become one of my favourite writers. Thank you, Kennedy, for the recommendation.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

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I will never not love this book. I can’t wait to read it as a bedtime story. Even the dedication is amazing:

My dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis

No. 12 on my challenge. How could it be anything else?

Also, how brilliant is that cover? Do you see all of the story’s elements in the design? My stupidly talented designer friend Sydney Barnes (you know, from the doodle up there) whipped it up for a project during our masters program. It was never published, but it should be.

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

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I’m 100% convinced that everything Andrew Kaufman writes is pure gold. Absolutely genius. I don’t know how he’s able to say so much about love in such a short book, but he is incredibly successful in doing so.

No. 14 on my challenge. Thank goodness—it would have been terrible for Nancy if she’d had to run from that lion in the winter time.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

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Well, Oprah certainly enjoyed it more than I did, but I didn’t not like it. I just didn’t love it. I should have just sat down and read it in one sitting, but I don’t think I cared enough about the characters or the story to do so. All in all, though, it was a decent read. And LOOK at that cover.

No. 10 on my challenge. I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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This is my first encounter with Vonnegut. Yes, it’s a classic. Yes, it’s satirical and anti-war. Yes, it’s very good. But holy Batman is it odd. I was not expecting Tralfamadorians. So it goes.

No. 19 on my challenge. Not because I didn’t read it in high school, but because my teachers should have assigned it in high school.