Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Book of Brilliant

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If you’re a regular reader of this column (thank you), you’ll have spotted that on balance I tend to be a glass-half-full kind of literary observer. Content to leave the woe-are-we-and-our-Jurassic-industry perspective to others, I prefer instead to focus on reasons to celebrate what we’re achieving and what’s already done.

One of my favourite book ads running during Christmas 2010 was from Penguin Canada, complete with a tailored list of Christmas awesomeness from The Book of Awesome author Neil Pasricha — a Christmas spirity reminder of little things that happen to be really lovely. The Book of Awesome, a runaway 2010 bestseller, came from the laptop of a Toronto Wal-Mart cubicle worker, theretofore unattached to the “literary” establishment. Pasricha had a really simple, just-sugar-coated-enough idea that would elicit a smile from one and all in these doom-and-gloomish recessional times. And it asked less of your attention span than WikiLeaks to dip in to and enjoy. Good for him.

Had I come up with this idea myself, my family would have been thanking me for expensive Christmas presents this year. I did not, however, have this idea. But that doesn’t mean I am above appropriating it as the calendar clicks over from 2010 to 2011. So in a continuation of optimistic verve — but because I am English and it sounds a bit weird when I say “awesome” — herewith, Becky’s Book of Brilliant! (book-themed and 2010 relevant…mostly).

You know what’s brilliant?

  • Time to re-read your favourites.

  • Working retail in a bustling indie bookstore in December. Dear Margaret Wente, The book is not dead! Reference Exhibit A, Type Books one week before Christmas!

  • Neil Pasricha signing your copy of The Book of Awesome (he does it with a veritable rainbow of Sharpies).

  • Reviewing a book for the Globe and Mail and then having customers call Type Books (where you are working a bustling Saturday shift — see above) wanting to buy it. The system at work! Properly!

  • Stranger to you at book event: “Hi, I follow you on Twitter.”

  • @EvilWylie. The skull-and-crossbones Twitter avatar (at the time of writing, wearing a jaunty New Year’s Eve party hat) gave us a fun and faceless way to vent at all bullying publishing practices embodied by The Jackal. Bravo Andrew Shaffer!

  • @EmperorFranzen, who effortlessly combined my love of Star Wars and fanatical plugging of Freedom in late August. Andrew Shaffer you did it again (Twitter Person of the Year?)

  • London friend to me on producing the Kindle she got for Christmas from her handbag: “Do you know about these? It’s kind of like an iPod for books.” (I am including this as brilliant because it’s nice to be reminded sometimes that people do think about other things. And because I love my friend, who happens to be a voracious reader.)

  • Royal Wedding Books! You know they are going to both abundant and abhorrent. And also bestsellers.

  • Fresh-baked bread with your morning newspaper.

  • The continued health of our public library system. (In the UK there are almost daily reports of nationwide closures and budget cuts. Not so in Toronto.)

  • That books coverage may not quite so diminished as we think. CTV rolled out an unprecedented level of on-camera coverage for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists. The National Post started its own book club, and national books coverage on the radio (if you’re listening to the CBC at least) is wide and mighty. I had some issues with the whole crowd-sourcing Canada Reads process this year (glass half empty on that one), but it can’t be denied that it sells books — and backlist titles to boot. Shelagh Rogers' The Next Chapter is packed with recommendations for books both old and new, including the "Fictional Therapy" column (your problems answered in prose), and, new in 2010, an occasional “Like/Love” segment which takes a global publishing phenomenon — Eat, Pray, Love, John Grisham — and suggests further reading from Canadian writers. What a good idea!

  • Planning to read half a dozen pages before you go to sleep and then realizing two hours have gone by.

  • Getting all meta and disguising your MacBook as an antiquarian tome. The Book Book was introduced in January 2010.

  • Writing notes in the margin.

  • Getting your fan on and waiting in line to get your friend/family member to sign your book when they become newly published.

  • Finding the brilliance in the little things — because that’s where great ideas are born.

Becky Toyne is a freelance editor and publicist based in Toronto. Since embarking on a career in publishing in 2002, she has worked as an editor at Random House UK and Random House of Canada; as a bookseller, event planner and publicist for Toronto’s Type Books; and as Communications Coordinator for the International Festival of Authors and Authors at Harbourfront Centre. She is a member of the communications committee for the Writers’ Trust of Canada, and the publicist for the 2010 Writers' Trust Awards. She tweets about life in book land as @MsRebeccs.

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