Kitchissippi Reads: Staff picks

Since this issue is all about summer book lists, we thought it would be fun to share what Kitchissippi Times staff and contributors are reading as well. Read on Kitchissippi!

Dave Allston, Contributor
My summer reading includes Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance by Ric Gillespie. The mystery of what happened to Earhart has drawn me in recently and I’m enjoying exploring the various theories. I’m also reading Alaska and The Klondike Gold Fields by A.C. Harris. Published during the peak of the gold rush, it was essentially a manual for amateur prospectors, detailing where to go, what to bring, and how to survive. So intriguing!

Judith van Berkom, Proofreader and Contributor
I am tackling a 713-page historical novel by Annie Proulx (author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain), published in 2016. The book follows the lives of two young Frenchmen and their descendants over a 300-year period (from the late 17th century on) and their involvement in the lumber trade or Barkskins, the title of this book. The second book I am reading was given to me by my dear friend, Lois, and came out in 2006, winning several awards, including Irish novel of the year. The author, Sebastian Barry, lives in Ireland. The Secret Scripture is described as a great novel of a 99-year-old woman trying to understand the truth of her life.

Ellen Bond, Contributor
The book on my “to read” list is Death In The Family by John Chipman. It details some of the lives affected by disgraced former Ontario coroner Dr. Charles Smith. This story is personal to me, as I personally know one of those affected, William Mullins-Johnson. I met Bill while volunteering in the Warkworth prison, where he spent some of the almost 12 years in jail for a murder he did not commit. I also had the opportunity to meet Bill’s mother, the only person in his family who believed he was innocent. The others believed the doctor because, why would a doctor lie? I had great conversations with Bill about the Toronto Maple Leafs, his love of music, among other topics. He struck me as kind and gentle, and not a typical “criminal.” This story of justice gone wrong is sad and details some of the life that is lost forever. I will definitely have the Kleenex ready.

Anne Boys-Hope, Contributor
I’m addicted to reading travel books in preparation for my family’s road trip to the East coast this summer. I love using paper guides and maps because I can jot down notes and ideas as I go along. This helps me map out interesting stops along the highway, lesser known historic museums, parks, coffee shops and bookstores—the little details that make a trip memorable and help pass the time in the car. I am partial to vintage travel books, and I’m currently immersed in the 1991 edition of the Reader’s Digest Canadian Book of the Road, “a complete motorists’ guide to virtually every part of Canada you can reach by car.” Not only does it celebrate the Great Canadian Road Trip, but it gives fascinating tidbits about the history (ghost stories included), culture, flora and fauna, people and places that we will encounter on our journey. I guess I’m carrying on my dad’s legacy of “it’s the journey, not the destination.”

Tanya Connolly-Holmes, Art Director
Two books that I have on my ‘next to read’ pile and so looking forward to them: Sunday Sketching by Christoph Niemann and Scandinavian Design by Charlotte & Peter Fiell.

Eric Dupuis, Sales and Marketing
As an avid year-round fisherman, I subscribe to both Outdoor Canada and Ontario Out Of Doors magazines. The techniques, tackle, and hot spots in fishing are always changing and reading these every month helps me to stay at the top of my game and know the latest trends in fishing and camping. I have been a longtime subscriber to both for a year and have been reading them on a regular basis since I was a teenager. I have used much of the info I have picked up from these directly onto the lake with great success. I also get great ideas for vacation spots from them as well.

Regan Van Dusen
I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’m not sure what to say about it, other than the fact it seemed far-fetched way back when it was written, however, it suddenly seems like real life, especially in the States. It was a really good, fast read.

Bhavana Gopinath, Contributor
This summer, I am rereading Annabel, by Kathleen Winter. This was one of the finalists for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It describes the journey of an intersex child born in remote Labrador. I’d borrowed Annabel from the library three or four years ago, and Kathleen Winter’s description of the raw beauty of Labrador stayed with me. Her prose is sparse, yet evocative, and the story and the protagonist are very compelling. When I saw this book on sale (for a dollar!) at the library, I grabbed it. Since I’ve read it before, it feels easy enough for a summer read. I’ve already started on it, and I’m looking forward to re-enjoying it.

Jacob Hoytema, Contributor
I recently finished reading Fifteen Dogs, by Canadian author André Alexis. I can attest that its numerous accolades – namely the Giller Prize in 2015 and Canada Reads in 2017 – are well-deserved. The premise sounds frivolous enough: the Greek deities Hermes and Apollo give human intelligence to a group of dogs as an experiment. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop turning the page and discovered a story that was funny, touching, and ended up teaching me as much about people and art as it did about canines.

Shaun Markey, Contributor
The book on my nightstand is Maud Lewis, The Heart on the Door by Lance Woolaver. As a collector of Maud Lewis’ paintings, I have a keen interest in this folk artist, the Canadian equivalent of America’s Grandma Moses. Most of what has been written about Lewis’ life to date, the bulk of it by Mr. Woolaver, has tended to focus on her artwork and the naive, colourful images she created amidst her stark, impoverished existence that included, at times, abusive behaviour from her husband. In this book, Woolaver has attempted, what has been missing to date, a detailed biography of Mrs. Lewis’ life. It is detailed, ambitious and definitely provides much more information on what was a troubled life but one, because of her art, still brimmed with hope, optimism and humble pride.

Andrea Prazmowski, Contributor
I’ve got two non-fiction books on the go. The Global Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger has been on my list and got promoted to the top because it’s recommended reading for my practicum to become a Forest Therapy Guide. Beresford-Kroeger writes with the voice of scientific authority and the passion of a poet, about ‘forty ways trees can save us.”The other book is Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage, by Kathleen Winter, about her 2010 trip on a ship across the Northwest passage. She discovers that “the first words I encountered in the North were made not through symbols but by rock, sky, and water…” and the book continues to explore that theme of how the land and the animals speak to and shape human lives.

Alyson Queen, Contributor
So one morning I’m driving on the highway and tune into a radio interview that’s underway.  It’s a soft-spoken woman who said she listened to Bach’s Goldberg Variations thousands of times while writing her book. Intrigued, I picked up the book and dusted off my CD collection to hear the inspiration while reading. Madeleine Thein’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing is as delicate and deep as the famous music itself, weaving a beautiful story of classical musicians before, during and after the Cultural Revolution in China. The book starts off with 10-year-old Marie (Li-Lang) who has emigrated to Vancouver with her mother; her father has died and she befriends Ai-Ming, a young woman who has fled the Tiananmen Square uprising and helps unravel their connected history. Pair this book with a complex Chardonnay (or matcha), stream the Bach that inspired the prose, and disappear for a while in the music, art, and emotion of families living, loving, suffering and surviving in one of the most politically explosive times of the 20th Century.

Paula Roy, Contributor
I’ve just started reading The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kierman. I chose this book because it meshes two of my passions: history and food. Set in France during the time of the Nazi occupation, the central character is Emmanuelle, a young woman who has taken over as the town’s breadmaker after her Jewish uncle (and mentor) was taken away by the Germans. She shrewdly and bravely finds a way to help the townsfolk while also demonstrating that resistance is not futile, thereby offering her frightened neighbours both sustenance and hope. While I enjoy historical fiction immensely, there is so much information about the art of breadmaking woven into the book that I am finding it doubly satisfying so far. It’s an easy read, but I feel like I am learning a lot plus getting to spend time with some fascinating characters.

Ted Simpson, Contributor
If you’ve been really into the new Twin Peaks series, (like me), but are kinda struggling to make sense of the whole thing, (also me), then you need to check out The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (Twin Peaks co-creator). I found the audio book version of this novel particularly amazing, but whichever format you choose, you get a fleshed out backstory on how Twin Peaks ended up getting so damn weird. Of course, this doesn’t answer every question, but that’s half the fun of the series. It’s got murder mystery, historical fiction, and conspiracy theory all rolled up into one surreal package.

Mark Sutcliffe, CEO of Great River Media/Kitchissippi Times
Born to Run is a marvellous and absorbing narrative of Bruce Springsteen’s unyielding passion for music and persistent battle with the demons of depression. “I was not a natural genius,” Springsteen writes. “I would have to use every ounce of what was in me – my cunning, my musical skills, my showmanship, my intellect, my heart, my willingness – night after night, to push myself harder, to work with more intensity than the next guy just to survive untended in the world I lived in.” Born to Run powerfully enumerates the lengths to which he pushes himself, the E Street Band and the rest of his team to meet his own almost impossibly high standards. And it relates his family’s long history with mental illness, including Springsteen’s complex relationship with his mercurial father and his own recent depression in his 60s – “It comes in darkness or in broad daylight, each time wearing a subtly different mask” – in a way that is both touching and heartbreaking.

Andrea Tomkins, Editor
I am in the position of having too many books on the go, and I’m racing against library deadlines this month! Generally speaking, fiction outweighs non-fiction on my nightstand but lately I’ve been drawn to biographies about strong women who hold a prominent place in history. Right now I’m reading a biography of Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. I knew very little about her until now. The author provides a very knowledgeable and vivid look at her life and her rise in a very male-dominated, Russian court and it’s been a really interesting book so far. On the flip side, I’m also reading the seventh book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon called An Echo in the Bone. The series is about a modern day woman who accidentally walks through an ancient stone circle in Scotland and goes back in time to the 1700s. It’s a very fun read – a bit of a bodice ripper at times – but it’s rich in historical detail and adventure that makes a perfect summer read for me. I love the main character – she’s gutsy, funny and smart – and I don’t want this series to end.  Also on my library loan list: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Life Sentence: Stories From Four Decades of Court Reporting, by Christie Blatchford.

Bradley Turcotte, contributor
Recent reads include Chuck Palahniuk’s Doomed, which is dark and delightful yet deeply disturbing in Palahniuk’s way, and Throwing Muses bandleader Kristin Hersh’s memoir Rat Girl, chronicling the band’s beginnings and the battle of living with mental illness. I’m currently commiserating with Laura Kightlinger’s essays Quick Shots of False Hope: A Rejection Collection. Written in the late ‘90s after her stint on SNL, it’s apparent Kightlinger’s wit has sharpened as she’s matured and gone on to star and create one of my favourite shows, The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman, and produce shows like Will & Grace and 2 Broke Girls. Kightlinger’s comical recollections are sardonically pointed, and range from finding a nude photo of her mother splayed in a dentist’s chair to ridding herself of a puritanical roommate with a teddy bear in a noose.

Jackie Whalen, Controller
I am currently reading The Whisky King, by Trevor Cole. It is the real life crime story of Rocco Perri, one of Canada’s most notorious criminals – King of the Bootleggers – and Frank Zaneth, Canada’s first under cover Mountie, in constant pursuit of Perri. It is a very detailed account of the two Italian men who came to Canada in the early 1900’s, on opposite ends of the moral (and legal) scale.

This post is part of our annual summer reads issue. Read all of our 2017 profiles right here.

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