Bookends - Thursday, December 21, 2006 22:28 - 6 Comments

Three Questions to End 2006

My “vacation” starts in one day, so there won’t be much activity until the new year. But I thought I’d leave you with a few questions inspired by a recent interview.

1.) What was the best book (any genre) you read this past year? (You don’t have to say why, but you can if you want.)

2.) Best poetry book cover of 2006? (I’m going with Inventory by Dionne Brand.)

3.) As part of an interview, Zachary Houle asked me, “What Canadian poetry book released in 2006 would you say is a really good entry point for people who haven’t picked up a book of poetry since, say, high school?” What do you think?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Have a safe holiday and a great new year. See you in 2007.


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Invisible Ink » Blog Archive » Five Questions: Eric Barstad / and Shadow Box Creative
Dec 22, 2006 10:19

[...] Great question! I have no idea. I’m going to post that question on the site and see if I get any responses. [...]

Shane Neilson
Dec 22, 2006 11:31

(1) Best book? Richard Dawkins’ “The GOD Delusion.” Hands down.

(2) Best cover? Irrelevant.

(3) I’d pick Michael Knox as the most accessible, but certainly not the best, debut poet in 2006. (”Play Out the Match.”) A Purdy descendant that writes a direct address. That writes anecdotally. A lot of story.

As for a seasoned poet that’s eminently graspable, that’d have to be Christopher Wiseman. (”In John Updike’s Room.”)

Eric Barstad
Dec 22, 2006 12:22


I don’t think book covers are irrelevant. Despite the old adage, people will — if not judge a book — at least pick it up because of how it looks. There’s a lot of competition out there for the consumer’s dollar, and — like it or not — a cover may make the difference between a sale and being set back down on the shelf. Of course, I think substance will trump beauty in the end, but there will always be room in my library for beautifully designed books.

Thanks for your comments. Nice choices.

Shane Neilson
Dec 22, 2006 15:39

I think the covers are like wrapping paper. No kid ever says, “Hey that wrapping paper’s great! Hey man, cool box you put this in!” No- if the package is sublime but all that’s inside is socks and underwear, the socks and underwear are what people remember. There are other analogies, like giving your girlfriend a big fat cubic zirconia.

I’m not saying that there aren’t nice covers. Signal is superlative in this regard. Anansi’s not bad either. And yes, the cover might hook an uninformed person. But to the person who’s been reading poetry for awhile, I don’t think that person is going to be duped by a snazzy cover. Have you ever bought a book of poetry without reading some of it first? I never have. And if the poetry isn’t any good, then the book isn’t any good, cover notwithstanding. I only keep good books on my shelves and, barring that, useful books. The rest go to ground. And aren’t they better forgotten?

Eric Barstad
Dec 22, 2006 15:46

I certainly agree — I wouldn’t buy a book just for the cover, but I appreciate when a good book is also a well-designed book. But aesthetics is part of my job, so I put more stock into book covers than others might.

Now, I have to go return that cubic zirconia…


Jan 1, 2007 17:04

Best book: Robert Fisk’s Great War for Civilisation.

Cover question: Not sure I saw anything I thought was great. Some very bad ones. Including the GG winner, Stumbling in the Bloom. Of course the cover is irrelevant to what’s inside, but a discussion of what makes a good cover is still worthwhile. Quill and Quire has a regular feature on cover design. A lot of ink has been shed over Chip Kidd’s covers in the last couple of years. I think he’s terrible. On the other hand, it’s clear that most publishers put 0 effort into their covers so it’s easy to stand out.

Poetry “entry point”: This is a trick question. Should a poetry book offered as an “entry point” to those who haven’t read poetry in a while be more accessible, easier, something for the general reader? I don’t think so. I think the answer to this question should simply be the best book of poetry you read in the past year.

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