Burning Questions

Margaret Atwood

Burning Questions
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Burning Questions

Margaret Atwood

From cultural icon Margaret Atwood comes a brilliant collection of essays – funny, erudite, endlessly curious, uncannily prescient - which seek answers to Burning Questions such as:


  • Why do people everywhere, in all cultures, tell stories?
  • How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating?
  • How can we live on our planet?
  • Is it true? And is it fair?
  • What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism?

In over fifty pieces Atwood aims her prodigious intellect and impish humour at the world, and reports back to us on what she finds. The roller-coaster period covered in the collection brought an end to the end of history, a financial crash, the rise of Trump and a pandemic. From debt to tech, the climate crisis to freedom; from when to dispense advice to the young (answer: only when asked) to how to define granola, we have no better guide to the many and varied mysteries of our universe.



Margaret Atwood needs no introduction. But here’s one anyway. Born in Ottawa, Canada in 1939, Atwood has published more than 50 works of fiction, poetry, critical essays, works of nonfiction, children’s books and graphic novels. She has won countless awards including the Booker Prize (twice) and Canada’s Giller Prize. At the age of 82, she is showing no signs of slowing down.

Burning Questions is Atwood’s third collection of essays. Each of her collections spans approximately 20 years of her career and this is her 21st-century collection, containing pieces written from 2004 to 2021. The bulk of the essays concern two of Atwood’s greatest passions: literature and the environment, with the occasional economic or political piece thrown in for good measure. If we needed more proof of Atwood’s erudition and wit (and we don’t, really) this would be it.

Arranged chronologically rather than thematically, Burning Questions was made to dip in and out of, to follow one’s interests rather than the page numbers. It has kept me company on my bedside for the past month, asking me to slow down and consider rather than race through. Some of my favourites in the collection include her analysis of Anne of Green Gables, her somewhat tongue-in-cheek accounting of a ‘writing life’, and her recollections of her late partner, writer and bird enthusiast Graeme Gibson.

I’m often heard on the shop floor extolling Atwood, my fellow Canadian, as a national treasure. But with a career that has spanned decades and continents, given the world prescient knowledge into issues as varied as women’s rights and the debt crisis, and, perhaps most importantly, given us some of our favourite books, nationalistic sentiments feel misplaced. Margaret Atwood is a global literary figure. And we’re lucky to have her.

Tristen Brudy is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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