What Books, Writing and Reading Mean to Me

Scully and Christine in June 2010

If you don’t already know about HarperCollins Canada’s new Savvy Reader website, I want to be sure to tell you about it! It’s run by an absolutely wonderful group of book lovers and employers of HarperCollins Canada, and there’s something delightful to be found there for every book lover!

I was honoured to be asked to contribute to The Savvy Reader’s new Blog Spotlight feature, and today, they published my article on What Books, Writing and Reading Mean To Me.

This is my original version which is a little bit longer and was edited for space:

My mom told me that ever since I was a toddler, my favourite toy or present was always books. She read to me constantly from the time I was a baby to the point when I could read on my own at five years of age. The fact that I could read at that age allowed me to skip kindergarten, and ever since I was in grade school, I have written poems and stories myself.

I always dreamed of being a writer, and I guess you could say that I am one, even though I don’t make a living that way. When I was fourteen, I wrote a poem about Shaun Cassidy that was published in Scholastic Book Services’ Rock’s Biggest Ten. Since then, I’ve had quite a few poems published in newspapers, magazines and poetry anthologies and in 2008, I self-published a book of poetry called Eden Refugee after being encouraged by my mentor – author, actor, former head of the CBC and all-around Renaissance man, Patrick Watson. It’s safe to say that I simply cannot imagine a life without writing or books!

There are so many reasons why I love books. I love the look of them, the smell of them, and the way they feel in my hands. Holding one is always like anticipating an unknown, wrapped gift and wondering what it could contain inside. A good writer’s ability to transport you to different times, places, and worlds and to allow you to envision in your own imagination what it’s like there is extraordinary. I love to read on the couch, under a tree, on planes, trains and automobiles, and especially in bed in the morning while I enjoy my first coffee of the day. That’s the epitome of luxury to me! I haven’t purchased a Kindle or Kobo yet, but I imagine that I soon will because I have three full bookcases in my home and little room for more. I think they’re pretty cool, even though a printed version of a book will always be special to me. I love to read literary fiction, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, historical romance, chick lit, horror, poetry, spirituality/philosophy, biographies and memoirs.

I have been writing book reviews for years, but it has only been in the past two years that I’ve really made a conscious effort to write about every book I read. I started my blog Scully Love Promo Reviews on Blogger in 2008 and switched to WordPress at in December 2009 (my business name changed to Bodacious Copy in November 2020). I write book reviews because I enjoy the process. I love to read, and I like to do what I can to help promote authors, whether they’re making their publishing debut or are already well-known names. I also write to give my blog content and to drive traffic to my website. I not only write book reviews, but I write CD and live performance reviews as well as blog about the arts in Kingston, Ontario (where I live), my clients and about social media.

I read other people’s book reviews but not as many as I’d like to because I’m busy reading books and writing my own. I look for intelligent reviews that are well-written and thoughtful, as well as those about the work of my favourite authors or, in particular, Irish authors that I haven’t heard of. To say I am very fond of Irish writers is a glaring understatement, and I go out of my way to look for books on the sale tables of Chapters or Indigo Books & Music that are written by them. My favourite Irish writers include Patrick McCabe, Colum McCann, Neil Jordan, Roddy Doyle, Edna O’Brien and Maggie O’Farrell.

My reviews of books are usually based on my emotional reaction to the story. However, I also look for the following factors:

1. Did it move me?
2. Could I relate to the characters?
3. Was I captivated, fascinated, or held spellbound?
4. Did it make me laugh, cry, or think about it long after I finished the last page?
5. Was I intellectually challenged by the story?
6. Did I learn something I didn’t know before?
7. Would I want to read more work from the same author?

If the answer is yes to all of the above, then it would be more than likely that I would give the book a high rating and recommend it to my blog readers, and these are the kinds of things I look for in a fellow blogger’s review as well.

My top 5 favourite reviews that I’ve written since I started blogging are:

1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
2. Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann
3. Thaw by Fiona Robyn
4. The Complete Poetic Works of Michael Madsen Vol. 1: 1995-2005
5. The Wizard Within by Albert Thor

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is a book I just finished reading, and it’s absolutely the best book I’ve ever read!  This is the kind of read I always hope for but seldom experience, and it’s why I’ll spend the rest of my life reading as much as possible.

Follow me on Twitter @BodaciousCopy.

My Favourite Books: Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let The Great World Spin

Book Review
Title: Let The Great World Spin
Author: Colum McCann
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 2009
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 1554684830
ISBN-13: 978-1554684830
Stars: 5.0

Redemption, joy, wonder; that which is meaningful to the human heart. These are just some of the themes of the most brilliant book I’ve read in years: Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann. This story will stay with you for a very long time. As McCann writes in the Author’s Note at the back of the book:

“Literature can remind us that not all life is already written down: there are still so many stories to be told.”

Let The Great World Spin intertwines the stories of several remarkable and yet ordinary people’s lives, how they intersect with each other over time, and how life can be changed in seconds by people who don’t even know us. In these stories, he punctuates that no matter how badly our hearts break, the world doesn’t stop for our grief, so it is essential to realize that love, joy and the journey are all there is. “Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.”

We see the world through the eyes of Corrigan, an Irish priest living in the bowels of the burning Bronx surrounded by hookers and have-nots as he struggles with whether or not he will fail God if he breaks his vows and gives in to his love for a Guatemalan woman named Adelita. We meet Corrigan’s brother Ciaran and later, his wife Lara and the hookers that Corrigan tries to help in modest ways. Tillie Henderson is a 38-year-old hooker whose daughter Jazzlyn walks the streets in her footsteps and Jazzlyn’s two young daughters who may or may not have a future.

On the other side of the city, a group of mothers who mourn the loss of their sons to the Vietnam War gather in a Park Avenue apartment to share their stories. We are particularly captivated by Claire and Gloria, who are as unlikely to be friends as two people can be, and yet they find peace with each other. Gloria was my favourite character because her strength and integrity are inspirational, but it is hard not to love something about every one of them.

“A big smile went between us. Something that we knew about each other, that we’d be friends now, there wasn’t much could take it from us, we were on that road. I could lower her down into my life and she could probably survive it. And she could lower me into hers and I could rummage around. I reached across and held her hand. I had no fear now. I could taste a tincture of iron in my throat, like I had bitten my tongue and it had bled, but it was pleasing. The lights skittered by. I was reminded how, as a child, I used to drop flowers into large bottles of ink. The flowers would float on the surface for a moment and then the stem would get swamped, and then the petals, and they would bloom with dark.”

The characters have a depth, honesty and beauty that come alive with such truth that it seems inconceivable that McCann created them from his imagination. All but one character, the tightrope walker, who is based on the true story of Philippe Petit, are works of fiction, but in some ways, they are more authentic than many people I have known.

While described as the “first great 9/11 novel”, the New York City of 1974 that McCann describes with his magical, eloquent prose is as alive in every sense on the page as the pulse within my wrist. He also takes readers back to Dublin, Ireland, where we not only discover Corrigan’s history but McCann’s.

Winner of the National Book Award and a plethora of stupendously positive and prestigious reviews, Let The Great World Spin should become a classic for the ages and have as much longevity and relevance as The Catcher In The Rye. I often buy novels by Irish authors and leave them on my shelves unread for years while I am distracted by other books. I purchased two other works by McCann ages ago. Everything In This Country Must was also an Oscar-nominated Dramatic Short by McCann and This Side of Brightness. As I have fallen in love with this author, they have moved to the top of my must-read list.

If you read one book this year, let it be this one.