Naomi Wakan and her husband Eli each has a box of books to read. Her books are in an old milk crate next to the couch and her afghan while his "linger in his fruit-crate storage box" on the window seat beside his dining room chair. To gather all these books, they visit the Gabriola Island, British Columbia library every Saturday and come home with twenty books between them. Saturdays are also for shopping, banking, and catching up on weekly gossip.
Reading about Wakan's year of reading, along with her regular pastimes on her "little island," make this book a delight. In May, Wakan is propagating seeds and in June preparing for an annual "haiku meet" at her house that takes place in July. All the while she is reading about four books a week and writing poetry. She intersperses her book notes with poetry and tells of writing to authors whose books she has enjoyed.
Wakan calls herself "an everyday poet" who writes about "everyday petty things." She hopes her readers will find that her poems lead them to view the everyday as "pretty wonderful." Her poems, other writing, and sense of humour definitely lifted the spirits of this reader and I'm sure others will find her enthusiasm for life and learning quite contagious.
Book Ends makes me want to keep track of my own reading, and weave it together with stories of what I am doing and what memories surface. Reading always offers "a nugget of information about the world or about myself," Wakan writes. She says reading allows her to enter another reality where her exploration may reveal fresh perspectives that might help her deal "with the bewildering reality I live in." She also likes to feel creativity in her hands.
Wakan is a creative woman herself, continuing to read voraciously, write books, write tanka and haiku, give workshops and readings, make a quilt, tend a garden—all at the age of seventy-eight. Among the books she explores are a variety of forms and topics—fiction, poetry, biography, history, science, mathematics, gardening and several books on reading and writing.
Wakan admits to not being "an analytical literary critic" but rather "just the average obsessive reader." As such, she has set herself the task of getting other people excited about books as she knows books can enrich one's life. I'd say she has succeeded in her task.
Among her final books in December is Reading and Writing by Robertson Davies. She says "this may well be the best sixty-four pages you will ever read on the subject of reading and writing." Perhaps it will be the first of the books that I'll look up—now that I've read Wakan's book on the same subject. A list of all the books she read in a year is included in "A Reader's Bibliography" at the back of the book.
Naomi Beth Wakan has written over thirty books including Images of Japan, Segues, Compositions: Notes on the Written Word; and Late Bloomer: On Writing Later in Life. Her essays, haiku and tanka have appeared in many magazines and anthologies and have been broadcast on the CBC. Wakan lives on Gabriola Island, B.C. with her husband, the sculptor, Elias Wakan. Visit her website.
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