A Year of Wonder Pens Book Club

No two persons ever read the same book.
Edmund Wilson

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.
– Haruki Murakami


This year, our team started a book club, and it’s turned out to be one of my favourite things about working here.

Here are our selections from the year:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Saachi Koul
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

And our current selection for December is Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor.

I have to admit when I first heard the pick for December, I was skeptical – I’m not really a fantasy or sci-fi reader. In fact, I’m prone to conflating the two genres together, and we have a few on our team who are quick to correct me. However, to my surprise, I’m really enjoying the story so far, despite an abundance of unpronounceable and confusing names and stations, like Dazhis Athmaza and Hesero Nelaran and Csoru Drazharan.

The whole year was a year of surprising finds for me, other than Catch-22 and White Teeth, both of which I’d read before. It was great to read books that are outside of the usual genres and authors I would pick for myself – and also great to have some motivation to finish books and really give them a chance. I’m normally a big believer in giving up on a book if it’s not doing anything for you, but I also do believe that sometimes seeing something through to the end can give you a different perspective.

But of course, the best part was getting up a bit early and having breakfast in different diners and cafes and parks with some pretty great people.

You can really get a sense of who someone is by the books they read (and also the book they choose when they’re under pressure to choose a book that they know everyone’s going to judge you for), and what they think of certain stories and characters. For example, you really learn which of your coworkers you’d stick with in the event of an apocalypse.

But mostly it’s been fun and funny and wonderful getting to just hang out with the people I work with.

In case you need a little inspiration on reading books, here’s a TED Talk on How books can open your mind, and one I think I’ve shared before but fills me with warm fuzzies every time I read it, Neil Gaiman, on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.

If you don’t have willing bookclubbers in your midst, you may also consider joining me on my new year’s resolution to read 52 books, although I attempted it this year and I’m not going to make it without a miracle (I’ve currently read 36, and can optimistically finish maybe four more, including the ones I’m partway through), so you might consider finding someone with better stamina than me.

If you’d like to start your own book club, I’ve discovered that the Toronto Public Library offers sets you can borrow. The selection is great, with classics as well as new fiction and books across many genres. For our book club, Jon and I often borrowed one copy from the library and then purchased another one – you can only borrow one copy of a book on a card and it’s usually just me going to the library.

In any case, books aren’t quite dead – not even paper books. I recently began reading e-books on my phone while nursing the baby in the dark, and now I’m a bit more optimistic that some of the people in waiting rooms or on the streetcar who are looking at their phones may indeed be reading a book. I have no idea if book sales are rising or falling in different countries or cities, or if ebooks are slowly taking over, but I can’t help but think that there’s nothing that unites people like a good story.

Now that Caleb is in preschool Monday to Friday, it’s a bit sad he can’t join us for book club breakfasts. I suppose it’s for the best, he mostly just ate pastries – but it was nice for him to live in a world where the adults that surround him read books. Technically he still lives in that world, I guess it’s just not quite as apparent.


Currently reading: Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor

Currently eating: on the brink of expiry steam buns from T&T

Currently writing with: Pelikan M600 with Bungubox Dandyism, Lamy Vista with Plains of Abraham, Pilot G-2 Metallic pens for some last minute Christmas card envelope decorations

Current analogue project: organizing my 2018 Hobonichi + notebooks

Currently looking forward to: walking the trails covered in snow, at the cottage




  1. Bobbi S

    I’ll have to check out some of those books from your list! This year I plan on reading 24 books(although, considering I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books lately on my commute, I might even be able to double that number), and I’m going to try BookRiot’s Read Harder challenge! I’m looking forward to reading books I might not normally think twice about.

    • wonderpens

      Wow, the BookRiot challenge looks hard! There are many, many of the tasks on the list that I would normally not even think to try. I’m also a big fan of audiobooks – while I’m walking the baby around to sleep, on walks, or especially on long car rides. Let me know how your challenge goes! Maybe I’ll work up the courage to try a few of them myself.

  2. Love the list. My fav Cormac book is All the Pretty Horses. I downloaded One Day we’ll all be dead to my Kindle, so thanks!

    Happy Holidays to your growing family!

    • wonderpens

      Happy holidays to you and your family as well!

      Let me know how you like One Day We’ll All Be Dead. I have read All the Pretty Horses – but a while ago, I may have to pick it up again this year. My personal list seems to be ever-growing 🙂

  3. kris

    You guys should read Keigo Higashino’s books. He’s known in Japan for his detective novels, and they’re not the typical ‘experienced detective who normally gets into trouble with the law but always find the culprit’ kind of style that western culture repeatedly use for the detective genre. My current favorite book from him is Malice, as well as Journey Under the Midnight Sun.
    Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mystery series is a surprise in the genre that’s about a precocious and witty child who enjoys solving cases involved in her village (and did I mention the author is Canadian?).
    The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is a very good read, too (it still makes my heart ache). Short stories written by Shirley Jackson and Roald Dahl are must reads and I highly recommend them to your group (as well as Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in a Castle). If any one of you want to read something humorous, I’d pick Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans or Stephen Leacock’s Literary Lapses.

    • wonderpens

      What great recommendations! Thanks so much for taking the time to share – I suspect we might be kindred spirits in reading.

      I will add your book suggestions to our list!

      • kris

        They’re amazing books, I guarantee! Whenever I will finish a great read, I’ll post it somewhere on your blog. Merry Christmas, and enjoy your stay at the cottage!

  4. Hi Liz,

    The book club is a great idea. Congrats.
    It took one visit to Wonder Pens last summer to rekindle a long-dormant fascination with fountain pens and I’ve been deep down the rabbit hole ever since. Thank you! (I think.) I’m also a novelist and I do a lot of book clubs. Just wanted to let you know that I’d be happy to visit your book club to talk about any of my six novels (McClelland &Stewart) and swap pen stories as well. No pressure on this, just an offer from one fountain pen nerd to another. http://www.terryfallis.com

    • wonderpens

      Actually I have read the Best Laid Plans! What a wonderful story, even for someone like me with not a lot of experience or background in politics. And how delightful that you’ve visited our shop!

      We would love to have you, although I’m slightly afraid you may find our discussions less…academic than you might imagine. I will keep you in mind, and hope that you will not one day come to regret your offer 🙂

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