By Joseph Hutt –
Actress, author, editor, singer, and musical director, Rachel Eugster has played a broad range of roles in the Ottawa scene. She has drawn crowds at the 2015 Ottawa Porchfest and taken lead in some rather successful performances, including Bear & Co’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? To be sure, Rachel’s summer reading list is as varied as her artistic occupations.
First on the docket is one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s lesser-known but no less impressive works, The Fall of Arthur. It is hard to imagine an author better suited to meet the high fantasy of Arthurian myth than Tolkien himself, and he even aspired to write the entire story in verse. Regrettably, this is one of the stories Tolkien was never able to finish.
“I love Tolkien, and this is just such a beautiful [work], and I wish, I wish he’d been able to finish it,” says Rachel. “Of course, not at the expense of anything we do have from him, but it’s so clearly his voice.”
After snacking on The Botany of Desire, Rachel developed a taste for Michael Pollan, which is why she is also planning to devour The Omnivore’s Dilemma in the near future. Known for his uncanny ability to change the ways we think about the food we eat, Pollan takes on a much more immediate topic by examining what he calls “our national eating disorder.”
“I haven’t read this yet, but I’ve wanted to for a long time,” Rachel explains. “Michael Pollan is one of the most important and influential people writing about food and how we eat now… I was a food writer and editor for a time, and he articulates so much of what I had come to believe about food but had yet to see anybody say.”
The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Guidebook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, by Karen Elizabeth Gordon is another nod to Rachel’s history as an editor. Throwing the gauntlet at Lynne Truss, Rachel even claimed this book to be “everything that Eats, Shoots, and Leaves should have been but wasn’t.”
While just as whimsical as Truss, “Gordon is much more thorough,” says Rachel. “Much more scholarly.”
Lastly, it isn’t surprising for a trained actor to have some Shakespeare on her nightstand. Granted they aren’t his plays specifically, Women of Will: The Remarkable Evolution of Shakespeare’s Female Characters (by Tina Packer) is a collection of essays that sheds some light on Shakespeare’s women. As suggested by the title, this particular collection explores the evolution of women within the playwright’s dramas, how their roles gradually shifted from shrewish parodies to deep and motivated beings.
This may seem like an intimidating list of summer reads, but Rachel discloses that she isn’t much of a seasonal reader.
“I read casually. I read omnivorously and randomly,” she explains. “Maybe a Tony Hillerman mystery or something for a brain rest, but otherwise it’s just the next things that are in my pile and I won’t necessarily get to them right away.”
This post is part of our KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.