Can-Lit chronicle picks the best

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Part anthology of summaries and essays, part intro to Can-Lit survey, and part ode to reading, T.F. Rigelhof’s Hooked on Canadian Books is a tribute to English-language Canadian fiction writing since 1984.

At first, the introduction and much of the tone of the book seems self-indulgent and self-important. If you’re going to pick this up, skip the intro material entirely and jump right in to whichever book you’d actually like to read about – it’s the only way Rigelhof’s approach makes sense.

And after all, his views are well-grounded. Westmount-based Rigelhof contributes to the Books section of The Globe and Mail, Dooney’s Café, and CNQ, has authored nine books, and has served as a juror for the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Saskatchewan Book Awards, the Alberta Book Awards, the Amazon Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the Danuta Gleed Literary Prize.

However, reading Hooked on Canadian Books is ultimately not a necessity. While I found a few books to add to my “to read” pile, many of the others that sounded interesting had been waiting beside my bed long before I read Rigelhof’s reviews. As for books that I’ve already read, I’d rather reread them and indulge my own nostalgia rather than observe his.

On the other hand, a casual flip through reveals a wealth of Canadian fiction that is not recognizably such. It is, for instance, nice to be reminded that famous authors such as Margaret Atwood or Alice Munroe are, in fact, Canadian, and no doubt less frequently discussed authors such as Heather O’Neill (Lullabies for Little Criminals) appreciate the inclusion.

This is not a book to read front to back – and definitely don’t waste your time with the introduction. But it is a good place to find something to read.

T.F. Rigelhof’s Hooked on Canadian Books will be released on April 10 by Cormorant Books.