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Eleanor Wachtel in her backyard

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

My absolutely favourite place to read is in my backyard, because I can delude myself into thinking I'm not really holed up reading. I'm outside, I can hear birds, I'm in the world.

True, this haven is only available for a few months of the year. The rest of the time, I slouch on a couch in my sunroom. The main thing, I realize, is that I rarely read with my feet on the ground: I prop myself up on ottomans, coffee tables, desks; even on planes, I find a corner of the seat in front of me, or even better, the bulkhead, to rest on. I don't go quite horizontal, but there's something about being afloat.

I'm virtually always reading for work, but with intimations of summer, I decided to treat myself to a book I've been hearing great things about: Open City, a first novel by Nigerian American Teju Cole. He's being compared to W. G. Sebald and Joseph O'Neill ( Netherland), which isn't quite right, but in following the story's main character, a flâneur, through the streets of New York, you do feel you're in the company of an intelligent, meditative and subtle mind. Encounters in the multiracial city don't entirely assuage the protagonist's loneliness, but I sense that, as a reader, I'm in good hands.

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Another first novel I'm looking forward to is Canadian political activist and journalist Emma Ruby-Sachs's The Water Man's Daughter. I admire her ambition and global perspective in setting her work in a black township in Johannesburg.

Eleanor Wachtel is the host of CBC Radio's Writers & Company and Wachtel on the Arts. Her most recent book is Random Illuminations: Conversations With Carol Shields.

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