He laid his hand on the cover of the book, gently, as though reluctant to disturb the rest of the sleeping lives interred there.
Diana Gabaldon, Voyager
I have a complicated relationship with reading these days. It used to be that I would spend hours curled up on the couch with a good read, often finishing several books a week without even sparing a thought for how much I could have accomplished in that time I devoted to losing myself in the written word.
Lately, however, this seems to be a harder practice to justify. Whether this is because I’m now a mother with a very busy and curious little one to raise or simply because adulthood comes with a million tiny yet important responsibilities that seem to need attention with alarming consistency, I’m not entirely sure.
The result, regardless of the reason, is that I spend so much of my time gazing longingly at my to be read pile without picking a single one up, or feverishly adding tantalizing new books to my Goodreads “Want To Read” designation at a pace that defies the possibility of ever getting through them all.
The author of this book is my father. However, my review reflects my honest opinion of the book!
I read this book very very quickly. As someone who had fallen out of the reading habit for years before recommitting to it at the beginning of this year, I was surprised at how fast I devoured this book.
As Gurski writes, it is a practitioner’s look at the history of terrorism in Canada (including Canadians who committed acts of terror abroad) and it therefore reads almost more as a memoir of a life in counter-terrorism than a straight non-fiction history – which is a good thing.
Though not all of the experiences detailed were his own, Gurski adds interesting commentary to each of the anecdotes he includes. Upon finishing this book, I can honestly say I have a much better understanding of the impact terrorism has had on Canada over the last 160 years. More importantly, Gurski successfully emphasizes that when we talk about terrorism in Canada, we are not only referring to the Islamist variety (though this, of course, has been a main focus of counter-terrorism efforts since 9/11).
The writing is uncomplicated and fast-paced thus avoiding the trap of becoming a dry retelling of historical events. Though there were a few small editing errors and some possibly unnecessarily long quotes from his earlier books (which are also excellent), overall this was an interesting and engaging look at how Canada has not escaped the global terrorism scourge.
Highly recommend if you’re at all interested in the topic.
Have you read this book? Or do you have any other terrorism-related books to recommend? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
I truly believe that reading is something that should be done daily. Even if you only read a page, or perhaps naught but a few sentences, it is such a good workout for your brain.
Don’t feel you have time to open a physical book? Try an audiobook, I tend to listen to mine while I’m cooking dinner or doing the dishes! It makes the work go faster and helps me get through my massive “To Read” pile faster.
Since becoming a Mom, I find I need to schedule reading into my day, much as I pencil in time to exercise. This way, I am sure to exercise both my mind and my body consistently. Otherwise it is much too easy to get stuck in the mindless scrolling or binge-watching loops that don’t bring me nearly as much joy as reading does.
And, on that note, here are the best things I read this month!
Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in the spring
Vladimir Nobokov, Mary
Perhaps it is because it is springtime, or because this latest lockdown truly does feel as if it may be one of the last, but I found that Nobokov’s concept of nostalgia in reverse greatly influenced what kinds of articles and blogs resonated with me this month.
Whether it was a longing for a lifestyle I have never perfected (fitting writing into my daily routine); an urge to continue traveling the world…heck, even browse a bookshop at my leisure; or the deep desire to use my inherent privilege to help make a positive and notable difference in this world for those who have been marginalized for too long.
While an interesting premise, the writing was not great.
I should have heeded my gut-feeling when the very beginning of the book started with an unlikely tale of the author being surrounded by adoring teenagers removing their headphones to listen to him wax poetically about the history of the brewery nearby.
And yet, I kept on reading.
The back cover describes it as “frothy and delicious, intoxicating and nutritious” and though I would agree that these words are accurate to describe Guinness as a beer (I’m a fan!) I’m not sure they apply to the book they ostensibly describe. The writing was certainly frothy, sure, but there was not much that was either intoxicating or nutritious in this book.
As someone who has studied history for over a decade, I realize I have a certain preference when it comes to non-fiction books about history. I recognize that there are many different ways to weave history in prose, and not everyone likes to wade through thousands of footnotes, but I found that in this book, the treatment of history was overly superficial.
It seemed to be that a lot of presumptions were declared as “likely” facts, and much of what was written seemed to be a re-hashing of what has already been explored in the books Mansfield praises glowingly in his bibliography.
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. Still, I did learn a few things!
Looks like I’ll have to pick up all the books he mentioned for a deeper dive into the history of Guinness and the family that created it.
Wisdom may be rented, so to speak, on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.
Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
As I was going through my book of quotes today (woefully out of date as it is since my novel reading has fallen drastically over the past few years…) I came across this sentence written by the brilliant Canadian author Robertson Davies – one of my husband’s favourites!
What struck me about this quote was the image of a price for wisdom. For me, that price seems to be time as I have so many things I am curious about, so much I wish to learn, and yet all of this takes time. Time which is hard to find as a first-time-mom working from home during a pandemic.
For where can one find more noble distraction, more entertaining company, more delightful enchantment than in literature?
Muriel Barbery, Elegance of the Hedgehog
As my motivation to write returns in leaps and bounds, so to does my willingness to drink deeply of the fountain of literature. For me, literature does not only mean fiction but blogs, articles, non-fiction, op-eds, anything in the written word that piques my curiosity.
From here on out, on the first of every month I will be publishing an account of the most moving, interesting, fascinating, striking pieces of literature I read over the course of the last 30 days. In trying to keep these entries as short as possible, I’ll attempt to stick to a quick recap of what struck me about the work and a favourite quote. No promises that these blogs won’t be characteristically long though…