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Saturday, January 21, 2012

It must be winter (and raining) if I’m reading memoir. Last year’s great January escape was Keith Richard’s Life and, for a revelry of perfect contrast, the Duchess of Devonshire’s Wait for Me! This year, I spent the dwindling of 2011 reading Debo’s newest book -- All in One Basket, the compilation of two earlier collections of her essays, written over half a century.

Though she can make a gardening book sound enticing to a brown thumb, the Duchess proclaims herself to be not much of a reader. One of her fondest anecdotes of her father is his “review” of Jack London’s White Fang. He read it through and declared himself done with books. So perfect was Fang, in his estimation, that any other book would most certainly fall short.

The Duchess herself famously struggled in a column (revived for readers as part of All in One Basket) to come up with 10 books of recommended reading on Trans Siberian railway adventure. Were her father still of this earth, no doubt he would gladly break his vow to read any of his daughters’ writings—though All in One Basket is so good it would likely stop him once again from any lasting reformation of a future in reading.

And now, before the season of memoir is through, I will finish The Penguin Book of Memoir, edited by Camilla Gibb. “There are places on the planet we belong, and they are not necessarily where we are born,” writes Isabel Huggan in the excerpt from “Belonging” that joins a collection of acclaimed Canadian writers including Sharon Butala, Wayson Choy and Wayne Johnston. Carefully chosen to reflect a range of experiences--from what it’s like growing up the godson of Leonard Cohen to raising a son with an extreme developmental disability--these are often preludes and interludes extracted from greater chronicles—each promising more of a good thing.

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