The Disaster Artist

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Image Oh my goodness. Where to start with this one?

I’ve been crazy excited to read The Disaster Artist since I first got wind that the guy who played ‘Mark’ in The Room was writing a book about his experience making the film. The Room has to be one of the best bad films in existence, and it – along with Troll 2 – is one of my very favourites. I watched it for the first time about four or five years ago and fondly revisit it about once every six months. I notice something new every time, and quoting it never gets old. It’s quite fun, for example, to greet everyone that comes into a room with “Oh hi, [insert name of friend].”

I polished off Greg Sestero’s book in a couple of evenings. It’s a pretty compelling story (though maybe not if you haven’t seen The Room first – trust me, it’s worth the $10 on Amazon to do this before you dive right into this book) and Sestero and Tom Bissell do a nice job of weaving in the day-to-day insanity of the making of The Room with flashbacks to tell the story of the unlikely friendship between Sestero and the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau.

Sestero throws a lot of fascinating insight into what makes Wiseau tick (the answer? Nobody seems to know!) – and although sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder whether Wiseau thought of this book as a sort of betrayal by his former friend (and roommate. Seriously, these guys lived together!), mostly I just enjoyed the crazy story. I highly recommend this one for bad movie buffs, or for anyone who is having a bad day and needs to be cheered up. But fair warning: it’ll make you want to watch The Room again.

I leave you with The Room’s unforgettable flower shop scene. Hi doggy!

The Rosie Project

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The Rosie Project (Photo: HarperCollins)

I came upon The Rosie Project when my friend Jason and I took a wander through Chapters after meeting up for coffee and a catch-up for the first time in months. The Man Booker Prize Longlist for 2013 was recently announced, and Jason’s a big book fan, so we went for a browse. And then I saw Rosie, with her bright cover and charming description. I was particularly taken with the description of Graeme Simsion, a former IT consultant who decided to try something new.

It said: “Graeme Simsion, PhD, was the owner of a successful consulting business before he decided, at fifty, that he would become a writer. The Rosie Project is his first novel.”

If Graeme Simsion can career change, so can I! I thought. Sometimes, I feel self-conscious about going back to school after a moderately successful career in online media. But here was Graeme Simsion’s little bio on the back flap of The Rosie Project giving me a boost of inspiration.

I liked him already, just for that. And after my friend Jen, who works at Chapters and came over to say hi, gave the book her seal of approval, I was sold. Or rather Jason was sold – he promptly bought Rosie and turned her over to me to read first. That’s a nice friend for you (and also, he had the entire Man Booker Prize Longlist to get through first, which is no small feat). So I took Rosie home and promptly fell in love.

As Anita Sethi of The Guardian points out, this isn’t the first book to tackle the subject of autism. As a matter of fact, I often find myself drawn to books (fiction and nonfiction) about people on the autistic spectrum. I devoured Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when it first came out, and last fall, I was completely captivated by Matthew Dicks’ Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, which I picked up to read on a long-haul flight. I also really enjoyed Daniel Tammet’s fascinating memoir Born On a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, which my friend Sarah lent to me when we lived in Manchester a few years ago.

But while it’s not the first book with a protagonist on the autistic spectrum, it’s rare to find one as charming as this. Don Tillman is one of the most endearing leading men I’ve come across in a long time. Simsion clearly loves him (he’s even set up a Twitter account for Don, written in his voice, which is really, really fun), and if you read this lovely long Sydney Morning Herald interview with the author, you’ll love him too.

It’s a really sweet, unlikely and unconventional love story with lots of charm, humour, moments of sweetness and sadness, and lots of other literary and film references (To Kill A Mockingbird! When Harry Met Sally!) that made me feel very happy and very at home reading Rosie. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a spectacularly-crafted romantic comedy, which is a genre that never gets old for me.

In short, go out and get The Rosie Project. Seriously, go get it right now. Best book of 2013 so far.

Everything is Perfect When You’re A Liar

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Everything Is Perfect When You're A Liar (Photo: HarperCollins)Kelly Oxford’s book Everything is Perfect When You’re A Liar was featured prominently in a bunch of Canadian magazines I subscribe to last month, so I put in a request for it on the wait list at the Okotoks Public Library. I managed to get it pretty quickly, which is the benefit of having library membership in a town rather than a large city. Thanks Okotoks!

I actually wasn’t aware of Kelly before all the reviews of this one came out, but I guess she’s quite a big (and funny!) deal on Twitter, and she’s from right here in Alberta. There’s a great profile on Kelly in Chatelaine and another in Elle, and once I started reading about her, I thought this was something I could get into.

This book was the perfect escape from my horrendous biology course (yes, that’s still going on, I write my final exam on June 20). It’s a collection of essays about Oxford’s life – growing up in Edmonton, meeting her husband and being a mom to her kids. She’s funny and sharp and irreverent, with a massive unrequited crush on Leonardo DiCaprio. Really, she’s the Everywoman, except that she’s smarter, funnier and better looking than all of us.

Everything is Perfect When You’re A Liar is not a G-rated book, but it’s really, really refreshing – and exactly what I needed in my life right now.

Anne of Avonlea

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Anne of Avonlea (Photo: Sterling Publishing)After I reread Rilla of Ingleside for a Canadian history paper I wrote last month, I dug out my old Anne of Green Gables box set to get reacquainted with one of my oldest literary friends.

I’m not alone in my Anne love. Apparently, the Duchess of Cambridge is also a big fan (I’m a fan of Kate too, and this made me like her even more). The Anne books, along with Gone With the Wind, are among my very favourites – particularly the first four (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars). My mom read at least two of them out loud to me when I was a little kid, and in 1995 when I was 10 years old and my family went on an east coast road trip to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, I made my dad and brother spend a couple hours at Cavendish Figurines, where I got to dress up like Anne (I must have read about this place in some kind of guidebook, because I don’t think we had the internet at our house until at least 1999).

In 1995, this happened.

In 1995, this happened.

Because I recently re-watched the Kevin Sullivan Anne of Green Gables miniseries (which yes, I still have on VHS), I thought I’d skip book one and instead tuck into Anne of Avonlea.

Reading the Anne books as an adult is a much different experience than reading them as a kid, and each time I go back through them, I find something new that resonates with me. Anne of Avonlea picks up when Anne is 17 and largely chronicles her adventures teaching in the Avonlea one-room schoolhouse. Kind of apt for an education student-to-be, hey? Yes, she’s a fictional character and this book was written more than a century ago, but Anne experiences some of the same fears and emotions that I know I will in my own classroom, and in its own way, that’s very comforting.

Actually, comforting is a very good way to describe the whole experience of re-reading any of the Anne books. My friend Dipika in the UK, who I still do some freelance writing work with from time to time, mentioned to me on Facebook not too long ago that she found her recent re-read of Anne of Green Gables to be quite a comfort. I think she’s absolutely right. To me, Anne’s a bit like a bowl of soup on a cold day or a phone call from a long-lost friend. And when you add in a dash of Gilbert Blythe (who, in spite of being a completely fictional character, may have been the first boy I ever really fell in love with), how can you go wrong? I love this book every time I read it.

Canadian Pie

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Canadian Pie (Photo: Penguin)When it comes to sharp, observant essays and travel writing with a heavy dollop of humour, Bill Bryson stands head and shoulders above the pack – but if I had to pick a second place contender, Will Ferguson would definitely be the guy for the job.

I first encountered Ferguson when I was gifted a copy of Beyond Belfast for Christmas a few years ago (thanks Mom!). It’s also worth a read. It’s about hiking the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland and is brilliant and funny – and I was living in the UK at the time, so I especially appreciated it. The Globe & Mail did a great review when it first came out, which you can read here.

While I was knees-deep in Canadiana at the public library researching a pretty major history paper I have to write on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside for one of my courses, I came across this guy. And of course, in the interest of paper procrastination, I just had to read it.

I’m so very glad I did. If you could put The Morningside World of Stuart McLean and whatever the Canadian equivalent of Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Big Country (released in the US as I’m A Stranger Here Myself) into some sort of combination machine and blend them together, the result would probably come close to Canadian Pie. Chatelaine calls it a “laugh-out-loud travel read” and I’d have to agree.

When you go away from a place for awhile, like I did (I lived outside of Canada for over six years), it’s impossible not to return and see it through the lens of an outsider a little bit. Ferguson totally nails this feeling – and the result is a keenly observant, often very funny look at Canadian culture and what makes us tick. He gets stalked by cougars on Vancouver Island, muses on Canadians’ obsession with creating “big-ass objects by the highway” and generally appears to be having a very good time. I had a very good time reading it, too.