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Holiday book list: 16 great reads

Concordia students, staff and faculty members share their favourites
December 11, 2013
By Tom Peacock



On a wintry day off, there's nothing better than curling up on the couch with a good book and mug of something steaming hot.

We asked 16 Concordia students, staff and faculty to tell us about the best books they read in 2013. From a le Carré spy novel to an intricate study of capitalism, there's something for everyone on this holiday list.

Happy reading!

Zachary Patterson
Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Land Use Linkages
Assistant professor, Department of Geography, Planning and Environment

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
By John Le Carré (1963)

“This book is a fascinating look into espionage in the early Cold War era. It’s a spy novel mixed with film noir with suspense until the last page.”


Mohit Sharma
President, Graduate Students Association

Five Point Someone
By Chetan Bhagat (2004)

“The story revolves around the lives of three wildly different engineering students who become friends in spite of their differences. Through good times and bad, academic successes and the trials of finding love, they stick together as their future unfolds. The book was so wildly popular that a movie titled 3 Idiots was released to great acclaim as well.”

Guylaine Beaudry
Interim university librarian, Concordia Libraries

Riña de gatos (An Englishman in Madrid)
By Eduardo Mendoza (2010) (English translation by Nick Caistor)

“Spring 1936: Art historian Whitelands arrives in Madrid to authenticate an unknown Vélazquez. He finds himself in the midst of a political imbroglio implicating policemen, diplomats, ministers, members of the Spanish nobility, all in a conspiratorial atmosphere. I always very much enjoy reading Mendoza for his talent to depict the Spanish culture.”

Andrew Barlett
Defensive end, Concordia Stingers Football

The Secret
By Rhonda Byrne (2006)

“From reading The Secret and living my life through the law of attraction, I have been able to eliminate negative thoughts and focus my energy on positivity. This in turn attracts more positivity, leading to a better overall life as a student and as an athlete. I would recommend The Secret to anyone who is looking for a feel-good read, both for themselves and as a gift.”

Benoit-Antoine Bacon
Provost and vice-president, Academic Affairs

By Dante Alighieri (circa 1308-1321)

“After much mulling I would say that my book of the year has been Dante's Inferno. In the middle of his years, Dante wakes up in a dark wood and finds himself attacked by beasts. He is rescued by the poet Virgil who then takes him on a grand tour of the circles of hell. 2014 marks the 700th anniversary of the tale, but his journey through sins and darkness still strongly resounds. To be read really slowly, at about one canto per week.”

Caroline Bourbonnière
Vice-president, External Affairs, Concordia Student Union

The Visitor (Le visiteur)
By Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt (1993) (English translation by Jeremy Sams and John Clifford)

“Set in 1939 Nazi-occupied Vienna, this beautifully written play touches upon some timeless philosophical questions through the vessel of a witty dialogue between Sigmund Freud and God (disguised as a dandy). This work is highly contemplative and filled with pearls of wisdom. I highly recommend it to all Concordians.”

Ketra Schmitt

Director, Individualized Program (INDI)
Assistant professor, Centre for Engineering in Society

A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens (1843)

“Dickens has it all figured out. I could read it, watch a live show and the Albert Finney musical version every year. And I hear that some people even like Scrooged.

Steven High
Canada Research Chair in Public History
Professor and co-director, Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling

Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice
Edited by Anna Sheftel and Stacey Zembrzycki (2013)

“Anna and Stacey did their post-docs at Concordia and used their time here to organize a workshop with a who's who of global oral history. This strikingly original book breaks new methodological ground: the contributors take risks in revealing their vulnerabilities, shortcomings, and even failures.”

Andy Fidel
Senior online editor, Soliloquies

By Gregory David Roberts (2003)

“It may have taken a year to read, but it's still my favourite. This is my go-to book as an avid writer and reader. Roberts takes you into the slums of India where characters must do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Each chapter could be a novel in itself.”

Krista Geneviève Lynes
Canada Research Chair in Feminist Media Studies
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies

The World is Round
By Gertrude Stein (1939)

“Read aloud among kin and kind, accompanied with great steaming dinners and fanciful social exchanges. The book instructs readers as follows: Don't bother about the commas which aren't there, read the words. Don't worry about the sense that is there, read the words faster. If you have any trouble, read faster and faster until you don't. This book was written to be enjoyed.

Andrew Woodall
Dean of Students

Making Hope Happen
By Shane J. Lopez (2013)

“This book discusses hope — a fundamental characteristic of a life worth living — as a process anyone can follow. Lopez explains that there is an actual science to hope, which I find kind of hopeful.”


Roula Athanasatos
Payroll clerk, Human Resources

By Tina Fey (2011)

“Tina Fey writes about her family, career and celebrity status with the witty sense of humor that has become her trademark. Her stories are hilarious: I had a smile on my face the whole time and even laughed out loud on several occasions. The book chronologically follows Fey from her awkward girlhood to her rise to the top of what is usually a man’s profession. It is an honest look into her struggle to balance her roles of daughter, wife, mom and comedienne.”

Louisa Sage
BFA (film animation) 03
Winner of the 2013 Quebec Writing Competition Reader’s Choice Prize

Disassembly Required: A Field Guide to Actually Existing Capitalism
By Geoff Mann (2013)

“It presents a lucid description and analysis of ‘actually existing capitalism’ — the complex and pervasive structure that affects and prescribes many aspects of our lives. The book is deliberately lacking rhetoric, although descriptions of the existing system often expose its inherent (or what most people would consider to be) problems. The book underlines that economic systems are highly contextual, which is why I think it's helpful to read a current book on the subject — perhaps in addition to the older, foundational texts. I recommend this book for that reason, and because it is engaging and accessible.”

Bruce Gaudreau
Property manager, Facilities Management

A Fine Balance
By Rohinton Mistry (1995)

“This book covers the stories of four characters living in India during the mid-1970s. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency and in its name, countless human rights violations were committed. I’m not sure I can say much that would do this book justice but words like ‘beautiful,’ ‘haunting,’ ‘heart-wrenching’ and ‘compelling’ will have to do for now until you read this amazing novel.”

Kit Brennan
Associate professor, Department of Theatre

City of Shadows
By Ariana Franklin (2006)

“It's a terrific thriller about Berlin during the rise of Hitler, with a cast of endearingly flawed characters who struggle against a city and a time that is turning feral. There's a determined policeman, a scarred woman fleeing a haunted past, and a seeming madwoman who claims she's the Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of the Russian czar and (she says) the only member of her family to escape assassination by the Bolsheviks. A great page-turner, full of heart.”

Michael Kenneally
Chair in Canadian Irish Studies
Principal, School of Canadian Irish Studies

There Are Little Kingdoms
By Kevin Barry (2007)

“Kevin Barry is one of the most exciting writers to emerge from Ireland in recent years. In his two short short collections, There Are Little Kingdoms and Dark Lies the Island, as well as his novel City of Bohane (winner of the 2013 IMPAC Award), Barry creates extraordinary characters by stretching and inventing language in ways that no Irish writer has done since James Joyce. As an added bonus, Barry is a superb reader and will be visiting Concordia in the winter term.”

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