KT summer reads bonus post: Barbara McInnes

By Rebecca Peng –

“People say that I’m recently retired,” says Barbara McInnes, former President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Ottawa, “but I don’t think it’s anyone’s definition of retirement really.”

One thing McInnes never retires from, however, is a good read. If you ask her about her summer reading list, McInnes returns with an armful of books she’s planning to get through this season.

 Barbara McInnes’ book list is inspired by her travels. Photo by Rebecca Peng.
Barbara McInnes’ book list is inspired by her travels. Photo by Rebecca Peng.

Her choices are influenced by her travels: a novel she happened upon in a fair in France this past week; four books connected to Newfoundland, the province she visited earlier this summer; one novel – just finished – that delves into aspects of Asian history, a continent she’s loved. A map seems to unfold before you as McInnes sorts through her summer choices.

The last book, Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists, is one she describes as being “just a beautiful book, a wonderful book.”

“It had everything that I like in a book: a really compelling story, well written, almost poetic. It told a tough story, centred around an amazing Japanese garden created in Malaysia. Interwoven with the story of the garden is all of the recent history of Japan and Chinese-Japanese relations.”

Though she confesses to indulging in a popular paperback or two, many of McInnes’ reads, fiction and nonfiction alike, are full of opportunities to learn and broaden one’s knowledge. Presently, she’s reading Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky’s nonfiction profile on the titular fish, from their legendary historical abundance to their present population struggles, complete with recipes at the back.

“It’s a fabulous book,” McInnes says. “I gave it to a friend when it was first published several years ago and when I was down [in Newfoundland], I thought a lot about it and thought, ‘I wish I had read that book!’

“It tells you all about the fisheries and how it’s changed over time. It’s a very, very interesting kind of social history. Really, really nicely written.”

“Summer provides that opportunity to read. It gives you the time to put your feet up and there’s nothing more glorious that sitting outside with a book and the birds are there, the weather’s there – it’s just a really different feel.”

McInnes isn’t planning on wasting a moment.

This post is part of our annual KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.

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