Another year, another handful of wonderful books read. In 2013 I was lucky enough to read some greatly affecting books. Some have been on my to-read list for far too long and I’ve finally made my way to them; some I’ve picked up on a whim. In varying degrees, most were surprising in great ways, and lots of them were either subjects or catalysts to a lot of the articles I’ve contributed to the Urchin Movement in the past year. Here’s a look back at some of them.
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
and Where We Know: New Orleans As Home
edited by Dave and Bruce Rutledge
The driven folks at Chin Music Press are dedicated to making top-quality books, from the way a book is written to the way a book looks and feels in your hands. The first two books of a planned trilogy of post-Katrina New Orleans are perfectly indicative of what I feel books can and should be. They rest in your hands like artifacts, open themselves up like time capsules, and treat your eyes and brain to the cacophonous voices of the Crescent City.
[read more: ‘New Orleans Knows’]
Michael Ondaatje is perhaps most well-known for his novel The English Patient, but my introduction to the Canadian writer’s work came in the form of the slim 1976 novel Coming Through Slaughter, a fictional biography that takes from what little is known of the life of Buddy Bolden, one of the first jazz musicians. This New Orleans novel is tightly controlled chaos and despair, its prose free-flowing like poetry and jazz itself, yet it never gets away from you as you read it, much in the way ghosts have been known to linger.
[read more: ‘The Jazz Page’]
2013 was also my year of introduction to the world of manga, whose history is so dense that I can say what I just said without really having read manga yet. Instead I chose to peek my head in through the voluminous pages of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s manga memoir, A Drifting Life. The book itself has a curious title, suggesting one thing and meaning another, since Tatsumi’s alter-ego and the main character of the book is completely dedicated to his craft. It’s another artist biography of someone whose life revolves around art, and it has the power to remind you that maybe yours does, too.
[read more: ‘Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Push Man’]
No year in reading is complete without checking off at least one book that is either a classic or has been on your to-read list for years. Finally getting to In Cold Blood did both for me in one fell swoop. And furthermore, it was even better than I could have expected.
[read more: ‘Truman’s Gun’]
The captive orca debate looms on, brought to the forefront of public attention thanks to the filmmakers of Blackfish, the continued work of many activist-journalists, and David Kirby’s book, Death at SeaWorld. Kirby’s book goes more in-depth on the same events that Blackfish covered, as only a book can, uncovering more hidden secrets of the public display industry and the animals at the helpless centre of it all.
[read more: ‘What Does It Mean to Save a Whale?’]