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Assembling My Atheneum: Thomas King

November 27, 2012

If I had unlimited funds, which authors would I want to see filling my bookshelves? That question originally arose from my musings about my home library, and I decided to start a new series to answer it. In Assembling My Atheneum, I’ll discuss the authors whose entire works I’d love to possess, as well as which books of theirs I’ve read, which I already own, and which I’d recommend to those wanting to give them a try. If you’re curious, you can see everyone I’ve featured so far.

My first encounter with Thomas King occurred back in 2009, when I realised I’d barely read any Canadian literature and thus joined John Mutford’s annual Canada Books Challenge. A couple of months in, I picked up his novel Green Grass, Running Water, and as my fangirl post makes clear, it was love at first page. His writing is such a marvelous mix of rich mythology with everyday people going about their lives, there was no real hope for me.

Since then, I’ve read Medicine River and DreadfulWater Shows Up (written under the pseudonym Hartley Goodweather, which makes me heart King even more) and loved them both. Brief digression: I seem to average one book a year when I’m reading more of my favourite authors, unless they write series. In the past, this was a deliberate policy because I didn’t want to ‘run out’ of the author’s back list too quickly. But now, I can’t help wondering why I’m not spending more of my reading life with authors I already adore. So I’m trying to change that habit! Anyway, that means I have two novels (Truth and Bright Water and The Red Power Murders), two short story collections (A Short History of Indians in Canada and One Good Story, That One) and a nonfiction book (The Truth About Stories) left to read.

If you’re interested in literary books with heart, you should definitely look into Thomas King. He’s also a First Nations author who writes First Nations characters, in case reading diversely is important to you (it is to me). If you love magical realism and/or a bit of experimenting in your novels, start with Green Grass, Running Water. If you prefer more standard fiction, Medicine River would be the best choice. And if you’re a mystery fan, look no farther than DreadfulWater Shows Up, the first in a planned series (he’s also published the second, The Red Power Murders).

As far as Thomas King’s physical representation on my shelves, well, thanks to the generous Melwyk I have a copy of Medicine River that matches the above cover. And that’s it. My library is barely any better; it only has that one and Green Grass, Running Water in its catalogue (although technically I can ILL the others for free). Which means I’d be quite justified in buying more of his books, wouldn’t I? ;)

Do you love Thomas King too? Know of any similar authors I should try?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2012 6:12 am

    That is an interesting thought – if space and money were no object, what would I like to own in my personal library, so I can dip in and out at leisure? I’ll have to go and muse a little on that one. I am not familiar with Thomas King (or, sadly, with Canadian literature in general), but he sounds intriguing.

  2. Elizabeth permalink
    November 27, 2012 7:27 am

    I too enjoy Thomas King. Do you know he has a new book out, a bit of a memoir called The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. I have not read it yet but I did hear an interview with him and it sounds great. Also did you know The Truth About Stories was first a lecture series he did. The lecture series is called the Massey Lectures and Thomas King was the first Aboriginal person to deliver the lecture. (they have been going on for 50 years). You can listen to him if you go to and click on Masseys at that sight and you will see where he delivered the lecture in 2003 and be able to listen to the 5 part series. I hope I have given you the right info to access it so you can enjoy it. I enjoy your reviews and am glad you are feeling able to do so presently.

  3. November 27, 2012 9:11 am

    I share your love of Thomas King. His Truth about Stories lectures are insightful and delightful. You might check out my review.
    Thanks, Elizabeth for letting me know about his new book.

  4. November 27, 2012 12:49 pm

    Oh yes–quite justified! :D

    I remember how much you loved Green Grass, Running Water, but I have to admit that I’ve either forgotten or I missed your reviews of the other two. Must fix that…though I know what it will do to my wish list…

  5. November 27, 2012 1:04 pm

    Another favourite that we share. I just picked up a copy of his latest (which has already been recommended here, I see) and had the same thought you’ve articulated here: why do I parse out the works of these favourite authors, why not indulge and celebrate (because in my case, my reader’s memory is so poor that I can simply enjoy them all over again, just like the first time, in only a few years time). I’ve only randomly read his short stories and would love to read them more deliberately if you’re ever in the mood for a readalong of them.

  6. November 27, 2012 6:54 pm

    Just went back and read your fangirl post about Green Grass, Running Water and now have to add it to my TBR! And Medicine River, too.

    Thanks! I love your posts about your atheneum — I always get such great recommendations :)

  7. November 27, 2012 10:33 pm

    I love Thomas King!! I have his new book actually. I wish I was reading more regularly so I could break it out!!

  8. November 29, 2012 2:27 pm

    So glad to see this, and see that I was able to add to your bookshelves ;) I do love Thomas King — I went to a public lecture he gave once when I lived in Montreal, and it started late because they had to move him to a larger room — there were people lined up out the door! He was a charming, intelligent, funny speaker…much like his voice in his books. I’m a definite fangirl of his as well.

  9. November 30, 2012 9:10 am

    Oh! Oh! I just heard Thomas King talk 2 days ago, and he was fantastic. So funny and moving and wise. Also learnt that the city i live in was built on unceded land…but few were surprised

  10. December 1, 2012 10:56 am

    Just saw this review of his latest — in which “Thomas King is beyond being a great writer and storyteller, a lauded academic and educator. He is a towering intellectual.”

    • December 1, 2012 11:41 am

      Thanks for sending me to this review. I really need to read this soon.

  11. December 11, 2012 12:00 pm

    What a wonderful idea! And, of course, with ebooks we can make our atheneum as big as we like. Perhaps Borges was right after all when he wrote about the infinite library!

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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