Sheila Whyte always has a lot of books on the go

By Andrea Tomkins – 

Perhaps it’s a measure of a busy person, but Sheila Whyte, the owner of Thyme & Again, has lots of books on the go and her pile tends to get larger instead of smaller.

Sheila says her summer reads are a fairly accurate representation of her interests. There’s a fairly even balance of fiction and non-fiction, but books about food – what we’re eating and how we’re eating it – are in regular rotation.

heila Whyte of Thyme & Again has a balance of fiction and non-fiction on her nightstand, and of course, a few books about food. Photo by Andrea Tomkins
Sheila Whyte of Thyme & Again has a balance of fiction and non-fiction on her night stand, and of course, a few books about food. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

She heard Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect, speak last year at Terroir, a symposium which brings together professionals and business leaders who work in food and hospitality. She admires his taking on the food system and asking some hard questions about what we are doing with our food.

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton is about a woman who opened a restaurant in New York. “It’s about her journey to get there,” describes Sheila. “She writes beautifully and I find that kind of book so fascinating, to see someone else’s journey.”

Sheila admits that it’s easy to get caught up in daily work life and that reading is a good way to remind us of the world beyond our collective doorstep. It’s important to keep sight of a global perspective. This brings us to Ascent of Women, by Sally Armstrong.

Sally Armstrong has a long and distinguished CV. According to her author bio, she’s an Amnesty International award winner, a member of the Order of Canada, holder of eight honourary degrees, a teacher, journalist, human rights activist, and contributor to Maclean’s, Chatelaine and the CBC. She is also a member of the International Women’s Commission, a UN body that consists of 20 Palestinian women, 20 Israeli women, and 12 internationals whose mandate is assisting with the path to peace in the Middle East.

The connection for  Sheila happened via Project TEMBO. TEMBO partners with Tanzanian organizations that support educational programs for women and girls.

“I’m involved in TEMBO, and they brought Sally in as a speaker,” says Sheila. “It was so inspiring. Unbelievable. There’s always been an element of supporting women here [at Thyme & Again]. TEMBO as well is about supporting young girls being educated, so it all ties together.”

Sheila reads partly for pleasure, partly for business development, but it’s more than just biz admin textbooks. Ultimately, she’s interested in “the culture of a business.”

She ordered Tribal Leadership after she watched a TED Talk by Dave Logan. The book is about how managers can tap into corporate tribes—groups of 20–150 people within a company that come together on their own—to increase productivity. These “tribes” have the greatest influence in determining the quality and quantity of work that gets done.

“It’s really cool,” says Sheila. “He talks about making change and caring about something enough to move it forward. I’m really into that stuff, certainly here [at Thyme & Again], we’re always trying to develop our team and make it stronger.”

Rounding out her summer book list is Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, which Sheila characterizes as “a real page-turner.” The Globe and Mail describes it as a “twisting, intricately woven yarn that spins itself out at an incredible pace…” in which the author “takes on the snarled, pressing issues of our moment in time.”

Summer is also a great time to revisit old favourites. For Sheila, Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, is that book.

Here’s the big question: paper or e-book?

“That’s a tough one,” laughs Sheila, “but I do like the feel of a book,” she says. She’s started reading more on her iPad because of the convenience while travelling.

Her parents were big readers, so she comes by her love of books honestly. She reads every day, even if it’s just for a few stolen moments. And according to Sheila, perhaps the best thing about books is that there’s a beginning, a middle and an end.

“I do love reading,” says Sheila. “So when I get the chance, I read.”

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

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