A review of Some Great Thing

My second book in my “26 in 52 challenge” (#26in52 on Twitter) is “Some Great Thing” by Lawrence Hill. When I saw this book at Chapters I thought, “New Lawrence Hill book!? Must buy!” I didn’t find out until I was nearly finished, that this was actually his first book to be published, way back in 1992; they just republished it in 2009.

Thinking it was his latest and greatest novel, I was happy when I saw some a couple characters, Helene Savoie a journalist at the Winnipeg Herald and Yoyo, a journalist from Cameroon, had made appearances. If you’re familiar with Hill’s other books, appeared in Any Known Blood, Yoyo as a supporting character, and Helene Savoie as his former love who he met in Winnipeg once upon a time.

The main story followed Mahatma Grafton, who has Degrees, but no passion or drive to do anything. He decides to try things out as a journalist at the Winnipeg Herald, and moves in with his father, Ben, as he sorts things out during his four month work probation.

Throughout the novel, Mahatma has issues with the stories he’s writing, and the “editorializing” that’s done to them after he’s submitted. The more this happens it seems, the more we see him going from apathy for the job to being really passionate about what he puts his name to. This causes him to go from fighting to get his name in the paper to paying attention to the quality of his work. We see Mahatma grow as a person with the help of his coworkers, Yoyo as well as the subjects of articles.

Overall, not the best story I’ve read, but even though it was Hill’s first book, it was still written as amazingly as his other great works like The Book of Negroes and Any Known Blood. If you enjoy his writing style you’ll easily forgive the story. I give it a 3.5/5

Have you read Some Great Thing? Care to share your thoughts? And if you have any book recommendations please send them my way too!

My top 5 non-fiction books of 2009

I’m a big fan of fiction novels, but I like to throw in non-fiction every once and a while. I had too many non-fiction books that I wanted to include, so non-fiction got its own list. Here are my top 5 non-fiction books of 2009, what are yours?

NUMBER FIVE

Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada

Black Berry, Sweet Juice was the third Lawrence Hill books that I’ve read. This one was a bit different from the other two because it’s obviously non-fiction. This book allowed Lawrence to draw specifically from his experiences as he went around discussing the topic of being of “mixed race” in Canada. This is a great book for everyone to read just so you can simply understand the experiences that people who are sometimes divided between two halves of their family’s history. It was a great read for me too because if my future is lucky enough I’d like to have a family with my girlfriend who is Punjabi. The book focuses on black and white mixes, but a lot of similarities would hold true for any race mashup. If you pick this one up just beware it’s not like Hill’s other novels; sometimes it can get dry, but overall the message he’s trying to get across is the most important.

NUMBER FOUR

Here Comes Everybody

I read Here Comes Everybody earlier in the year and it was a great help to understand the power of people collaborating in social media. This is also a great boook for anyone in communications/marketing who want to know the influence that social media can have on people. Well written book too. Highly recommended!

NUMBER THREE

Blink: The power of thinking without thinking

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is a book that takes a deeper look at how we make decisions. This is a great book to read every so often to remind yourself of what you’re decisions are based on. It’s so easy to get caught up in certain marketing tactics that we don’t even think twice. I like books that dive into how the mind operates and this one does it quite well with great examples to back it up. Some non-fiction can be dull and boring but Gladwell’s writing is conversational and begs you to keep reading.

NUMBER TWO

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point looks into what makes things go from obscurity to extremely popular. This book was surprisingly published in 2002, but it’s still relevant today. Examples look into how exposing your product, business or idea to connectors or social influencers can help spread your reach more than not having a targeted approach. How the book is still relevant is with the growing popularity of Facebook, Twitter and even blogs. The ability to spread your opinion is easier than ever. Everyone who takes part online has the potential to become an influencer. Even though the book didn’t have the social media elements, many in the community still boast about its worth for businesses to read because of its continued relevance. As with Blink, The Tipping Point is also easy to read and a surprising page-turner for a non-fiction book.

NUMBER ONE

Groundswell

Back in June I wrote a review on Groundswell on Burn After Blogging. At the time I was freshly done school and finished my internship so I was in the mindset of a student. After reading the post the main points I wrote about from the book still hold true. Case Studies give examples of how companies have successfully used social media; the post method helps break down how companies can implement their social media strategies; the social technographic profiles give great insights into how specific demographics are using or not using social media.

My Top 5 fiction books of 2009

If you know me, you know I like to read. I figured it was natural to make a top 5 fiction books of 2009 blog as my next post in the series. Unlike my other reviews, these will be the best books that I’ve read in 2009; not necessarily ones that were published in 2009.

I’ll soon be posting my top non-fiction books of the year, but until then you can tell me what you think of this list, and what your list would look like.

NUMBER FIVE

White Tiger

I only picked The White Tiger up because I had a gift certificate to Chapters; that and it looked interesting of course. I believe this was Aravind Adiga‘s first book, and it was published in 2008, so right off the bat we’re not talking about books from this year. Honestly I had seen a few people reading this on the subway so when I went in to Chapters it caught my attention. Contrary to what the book cover said, White Tiger won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. Recognition for books isn’t a big selling point for me, but seeing others read it is, so I’m sure having the exposure it got from the award went a long way to seeing it on my bookshelf.

On to the story: The protagonist Balram Halwai spends the entire book writing a letter to a Chinese official named Wen Jiabao, who is set to visit India. Balram explains the true side of India, not the one the officials will boast about, and to do so he writes about his past and how he got to where he is today.

My biggest issue was the connection to the Chinese official. I Adiga could’ve come up with something better to tie in Balram’s recollections. Otherwise it was a great book and it shows the extreme class difference in the country, which isn’t something people are generally exposed to.

NUMBER FOUR

Schindler’s List

When I bought Schindler’s List I’d obviously heard of it’s great success as a book and movie (which I have still not seen) and I wanted to join the club. I was a little skeptical about how the book would read. I thought it would be page after page of sad stories and an overall depressing book, given the subject matter. Surprisingly I found it to be extremely engaging and getting to know Oscar Schindler was a great experience. That being said, it wasn’t a book for the feint of heart. It had some pretty graphic situations and it made me appreciate what everyone went through in those exceedingly tough times that probably couldn’t even be put into words.

NUMBER THREE

Any Known Blood

Any Known Blood was the second book by Lawrence Hill that I’ve read, but it was published 10 years before his more recognized book “The Book of Negroes”, in 1997. This book is different from The Book of Negroes, but Hill’s writing style is equally captivating. Set in Toronto/Oakvlle and Baltimore this book follows Langston Cane the fifth on his quest to find his family’s history and write a book about it. The book travels back through 5 generations of Cane’s (all named Langston) and tells their story; each unique to the era they lived in. I really enjoyed the generational jumps and thought that was very unique. The only issue I had with that was since all shared the same name, at times it was a bit hard to differentiate who was who. Overall it was an excellent read and had strong characters, which I always try to look for in books I read.

NUMBER TWO

Three Day Road

I previously blogged about Three Day Road after I read it. It was a late-comer to the top five list, but a fast riser making it to number two. I’ll keep this review short. It’s a great book with amazing character development and a not-often-told perspective on Canadian history. Though the book was fiction, it was based on real events and as a reader, I felt a part of what author Joseph Boyden was trying to convey.

NUMBER ONE

The Book of Negroes

I can’t remember why I picked The Book of Negroes up, but I’m glad I did because it became not only my favourite book of 2009 but one of my favourites of all time; possibly the top spot, but I haven’t decided yet (there are many that are top-spot quality and I’ll eventually blog about this!).  I cant say enough how extremely well written this novel is. It blends fiction with the harsh reality of the time. I really felt like I was reading the life story of Aminata the protagonist as she was ripped from her village in Africa, sold into slavery in America and her many travels from then on back to Africa and the UK. This one book made me a Lawrence Hill fan for as long as he keeps writing.

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