My Cultural Diet: Globe Books Editor Mark Medley

What diversions does the books editor delve into when he’s neither editing nor looking at books?

If you publish a book in English there’s a good chance Mark Medley will handle it at some point. If it’s a novel and you’re Canadian, it’s a virtual certainty he will. If you’re lucky he’ll assign someone to review it (that’s when you cross your fingers).

As books editor of The Globe and Mail since summer 2014 (and having occupied the same role at the National Post before that), Medley has had thousands upon thousands of books piled upon him over the years. He doesn’t read ’em all, but once he starts a book, he often finishes it – Medley confesses that he only recently learned how to let go of a novel that wasn’t quite grabbing him. (Here’s a video of Medley talking about his picks for the best books of 2015, to answer the usual question about what he’s been reading.)

Despite all those books and a new baby at home, Medley finds time for other diversions, including his beloved basketball and baseball. When it’s finally time to put the book down, here’s where his mind turns.

Q: All right, we are going to ask you about books, sorry. But we’ll get it out of the way first. How many books do you pick up in a month?

Medley: Well, I “pick up” a thousand or so books each month – that’s roughly the number sent my way, and I take a look at everything that comes across my desk, even if it’s just looking at the first couple of sentences. But the number I actually read read? Probably not as many as you might think – between four and eight, I think. Plus, since my wife and I had a kid the amount of reading I do is way, way down.

Now, honestly: How many do you actually finish?

I used to be able to say I finish every book I start – I’m stubborn that way. But I do give up on books if they aren’t doing it for me. But, again, anywhere between four and eight books a month.

Does being knee-deep in books all day ever diminish your enthusiasm for literature?

If anything, writing about books for a living has made me even more enthusiastic. I know how much great stuff is out there. Yeah, there are a lot of crappy books in the world, or books that just don’t interest me, but there are a ton of fantastic books, too. I have “to-read” piles both at home and at work, and there are usually 100 books in the queue at any given time. I just despair that I’ll never read them all.

When you’re not reading, how are you occupying your brain on your spare time?

Even when I’m not reading I’m reading. If I don’t have a book in my hand, I’m usually reading the paper – I still read the Globe and the Star in print – or a magazine or reading an article or essay that someone posted on Twitter or Facebook. Otherwise, at this time of year, I’m probably watching a Raptors game.

What do you think of their chances this year?

They look solid. They aren’t as flashy as last year, offensively, but the parts fit. I think they can make it to the Eastern Conference finals, and might even give Cleveland a run.

You’re a Jays fan, too. What’s your prediction for this season?

Ninety-seven (wins) and 65 (losses) and they make the playoffs. They better – I have season tickets. The lineup is too good to fail.

Name a couple of great films you’ve watched recently.

I’ve seen one movie in theatres since my son was born, and it was the new Star Wars, which wasn’t all that great. I re-watched Mad Max: Fury Road the other day, and it’s even more insane the second time around.

Are you following any TV shows at the moment? What got you hooked on them?

I usually have four or five shows on the go at any given time. I just finished Making a Murderer, which was brilliant and infuriating at the same time, though I think The Jinx was a better true-crime documentary. I just finished another Netflix show, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, which I thought was one of the most accurate portrayals of thirtysomething ennui I’ve ever encountered. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the first season, I thought season two of The Affair was brilliant, can’t-wait-for-next-week TV. I thought Mr Robot’s first season was interesting. I’m still hate-watching The Walking Dead, though I’m a few episodes behind, and I’m enjoying the Downtown Abbey’s final season. I can’t wait for the return of Game of Thrones, obviously, and I love Girls, as well. It’s just like books – there’s too many good shows. Speaking of books, I still haven’t watched the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell which aired last summer – it’s one of my favourite books – and I’m going to dip into The Magicians, which is based on Lev Grossman’s brilliant trilogy. It just debuted.

Do you listen to any podcasts?

It’s how I spend my walk to and from work. I listen to Jesse Brown’s Canadaland on Monday and Thursday, Andrew Stoeten’s Birds All Day, which is a Blue Jays podcast, on Friday, and Serial, whenever it appears online. I need a new podcast.

What about cultural events – are you finding time to get out to see any?

No. But I’m using the baby as an excuse.

Guilty cultural pleasures: We all have ’em. What are yours?

I keep threatening to buy an XBox, but it would be very problematic, both personally and professionally, if I started playing video games again.

My Cultural Diet: Globe Books Editor Mark Medley
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