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World Book Day 2021

Happy World Book Day!

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

― C.S. Lewis

Opening a book is like traveling without leaving your home; a truth that has hit hard during a year of spending most days at home. Last count I believe I had read about seventy books during this global pandemic. I don't think a day has gone by that I have not had both a book, and a cup of tea in my hands at some point. To say I am eternally grateful for the existence of writers is an understatement. They've literally been a life line.

My reading spans many genres. To be honest, there's probably no genre I won't at least try. Rarely do I find that I do not complete a book; even though some may be challenging. I think it is important to challenge our world view, and to give other voices a chance to be heard. All our stories are valid and important. Thus, to celebrate World Book Day, I thought a fun prompt would be to share five books I think everyone should read.

Epic Storytelling! A well read book lover simply must have at least one epic tale on their bookshelf. The grand scope of new worlds, new characters, new languages, and great truths. For me that is without question, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien (and include it's prequel The Hobbit for a lovely weekend - and bottomless teapot). I love the magical world of Harry Potter, and of course the idea of stepping through a wardrobe into a whole new world, and it is a true fact that I have muddled through War and Peace. Evermore, it is Middle Earth's beginning of a hole in the ground to the fires of Mount Doom that first, and continues to enthrall this reader.

“But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.”

Romance! A good romantic tale is probably not everyone's cup of tea, but my favourite is not just a simple romance. Sure it's absolutely swoon-worthy with the most dashing and daring hero to probably ever be penned; but the story truly has something for every reader. It also puts several romance tropes topsy turvy with the female heroine having more experience and control than her love interest. Their dynamic is powerful, addictive, fantastic and frustrating... and intensely loyal. There is history, battles, magic, intense trauma, heart breaking choices, and the time travel that starts it all. Diana Gabaldon has given readers nine epic volumes in her Outlander series, with the final book due in the near future. To be truthful, I have not even read all nine yet, but you can bet I will be finishing this series and hoping to know the question above all questions: will handsome Scottish warrior and bae of our hearts, James "Jamie" Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, time travel to Claire Randall's time in the future? Gabaldon initially stated he never would, but the latest chatter concerning the Starz dramatization indicates he most certainly will. Sing me a song indeed!

A Journey I have a particular fondness for authors that take the reader on the kind of journey that spans miles, while also traversing the internal maps of our own experience. I think it's important to broaden our narrow little words to new stories. New experiences. Sweep off that dust of daily life and not just challenge our world view; but discovery the authentic self buried beneath the layers of others expectations. If you don't write your story - be sure that someone else will. One of the best novels I've read in the past two years is To Wake The Sleeping Self, by Jedidiah Jenkins. I think it holds the prestigious place of Most Underlined Passages. Not only was his epic bike journey inspiring in the scope of its adventure and challenges, but literally every word seemed to awake something within my own sleeping spirit. I gained so much insight in peeling back the layers of the life I had built to see if it truly was the one I wanted to live. Also, I am huge fan of the great outdoors so he pretty much had me at "taking a trip."

“I have learned this for certain: if discontent is your disease, travel is medicine. It resensitizes. It opens you up to see outside the patterns you follow. Because new places require new learning. It forces your childlike self back into action. When you are a kid, everything is new. You don’t know what’s under each rock, or up the creek. So, you look. You notice because you need to. The world is new.” ― Jedidiah Jenkins, To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret

Storytelling Tradition Of course the single most important thing is that whatever you choose to read has to be a great story regardless of the genre. Typically we feel that the best stories are those with happy endings, but I love a dark and twisted tale. Poe and King figure prominently on my Kindle as well as the others listed here, and thus this list would be incomplete without a dystopian book. I've read so many it's the hardest to choose a favourite, so I will suggest one of my most recent reads, Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice, who is a Canadian Anishinaabe author, journalist and radio host originally from Wasauksing First Nation. Not only are you supporting a Native author and thus amplifying other voices, you also get a great story that has many of the elements of traditional indigenous storytelling, including excerpts in the Anishinaabe language which is really wonderful considering many of these languages are lost. I won't spoil the ending by saying it's happy or sad, but I do love the idea of new society being born from the ashes of an old one; in particular a return to the nature world.

Poetry Words matter because they are powerful. They can inspire or they can destroy, so they must be chosen carefully. Storytelling is one way, but for me poetry tells a story in an entirely different way. Each poet has a unique language, their own magic of metaphor, and the simplicity and complexity within a few lines. If you have difficulty expressing yourself, I find poetry to be very therapeutic. You are granted a glimpse into the soul of another and a door is opened; a light shone. It's impossible to suggest a single poet, and a quick tour of Instagram will reveal that poetry certainly is not dead. Many are rediscovering the power of poetry in new platforms, and I would encourage readers to seek them out.

Oh captain, my captain says it best!

John Keating: We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

The kettle is boiling so it's time for a comfy seat and a good read. Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments.

Happy reading!

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