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Summer book list: 13 great reads

Concordia students, staff and faculty share their poolside favourites
July 6, 2016
By Tom Peacock


Summer’s finally here! What’s better than finding a quiet spot by the water, in the shade of a giant tree, and diving into a great book?

We asked a selection of Concordia students, staff and faculty to tell us about the best books they read in 2016 so far. From a harrowing true story of surviving the slave trade, to a novel about the unlikely bond between a French girl and a German boy during World War II, there’s something for everyone in this edition of our biannual holiday list.

Happy reading!


Daniel Douek

Lecturer / part-timer professor
Department of Political Science

A Just Defiance: Bombmakers, Insurgents, and the Treason Trial of the Delmas Four
University of California Press, 2012
By Peter Harris

This is the true story of four African National Congress guerrillas captured in South Africa and put on trial for treason during the final years of apartheid.

Written by the lawyer who defended them, it chronicles the guerrillas' individual decisions to join the armed struggle against white minority rule, their infiltration into South Africa and the trial that shook South Africa and reverberated worldwide. It is the single best book I've ever read on South Africa.   


Stéphane Brutus

Interim dean
John Molson School of Business

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World
Random House, 2003
By Tracy Kidder

The book is about Dr. Farmer’s work to fight infectious diseases in poor countries.

It’s about a brilliant man’s quest to literally change the world.

I had the privilege of meeting this modern-day Robin Hood a few years ago, right here, when he gave a talk at Concordia.


Jana Ghalayini

Student, Mechanical Engineering
Winner of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Bronze Youth Medal

All the Light We Cannot See
Scribner, 2014
By Anthony Doerr

This novel shows how a disabled girl actually has more abilities than what is perceived as a “normal” person.

The writer has a very energetic imagination whereby he tackles the parallel lives of a blind girl born in Paris and a genius boy born in Germany.


Cherry Smiley

PhD student, Communication Studies
Trudeau scholar

Capturing Women: The Manipulation of Cultural Imagery in Canada's Prairie West
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997
By Sarah Carter

As I've been reading for my comprehensive exams the last few months, my book choice is related to my research.

I really enjoyed Carter's book. It continues to be a very relevant read and deepened my understanding of past and current representations of both indigenous and non-indigenous women in Canada. 


Éthel Gamache

Religion, theological studies and philosophy subject and reference librarian
Concordia Libraries

La femme qui fuit
Marchand de feuilles (2015)
by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette

This is an incredibly powerful novel. Through the tales of a family life, from grandmother to granddaughter, we learn about one of Quebec’s most powerful poets of the 20th century, Suzanne Meloche.

The text, fed by impressive research led by a private detective, gives an intimate view of the Refus global, of the automatic art movement, of common wins and fails, of civil rights in the United States and even more.

We walk through recent local history to the rhythm of a life bigger than itself. We follow abandon and loss, and infinite hope. The writing is of great finesse and impactful. A must-read.



The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

Crown Business, 2010
By Shawn Achor

This book is a delight. The discussions are sound, but the tone is friendly. One gets to learn about research and practice enabling happiness, such as scanning our day for positive events and gratitude. Positive psychology is made accessible.

The author also cares about showing the advantages of happiness at work. You will learn how to appreciate more of what you already have, how to add satisfaction in your daily life and how to deal more successfully and efficiently with the negative. The book is available at the Vanier Library.


Arpi Hamalian

Associate professor
Department of Education

White Elephant
Freehand Books, 2016
By Catherine Cooper (MA, 10)

I bought the novel while attending Congress 2016 in Calgary at a beautiful bookstore, Shelf Life Books, where it was being promoted that week.

The author is a Nova Scotian writer with a Master’s in English Literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University.

She acknowledges her professor Terence Byrnes and mentors Nino Ricci (MFA, 87), Mikhail Iossel and Josip Novakovich, the last of whom endorses the book: “A thrilling and soulful journey … Catherine Cooper springs to literary life bravely, with a huge novel, sure to become a classic.”

Set between Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, it is a dark novel that sheds light on our personal battles, family relationships and search for an imagined ideal home and homeland. It’s heavy content for summer reading but you’ll turn the pages compulsively. 


Gary Johns

Professor Emeritus of Management
Honorary Concordia University Research Chair in Management
John Molson School of Business

Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe is Just Right for Life
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007
By Paul Davies

I do research on the impact of context on organizational behaviour, and this book shows that context is of interest to all disciplines.

Davies says “the laws of physics might be just local by-laws.” By this he means that the laws of physics might vary over the universe or over time rather than applying universally.


Melissa Clidaras

Administrative assistant
Institute for Co-operative Education

Twelve Years a Slave
Derby and Miller, 1853
Solomon Northup

This book was suggested to me by a friend. It’s about real life and what people went through during the time of the slave trade.

It amazes me a lot of the time, when I read these sorts of books, to realize that people lived like this. It’s really sad, but it puts things in perspective and makes me grateful for what we have in life today. It was something that touched me, while opening my eyes to a lot of things.


Darby Guise

Le Gym

Éditions Gallimard, 1969
By Louis-Ferdinand Céline

It’s strange, but it’s a great book.

Set at the end of World War II, the story follows a protagonist who is trying to escape France with his family and his cat after the invasion of Normandy. He gets hit in the head and starts hallucinating. Céline was a doctor, and the story is based on his own experiences. It’s the last book that he wrote, and he died on the day he finished it. Céline is a writer I really like, who’s got a weird style. I’ve never read anything like it, but it’s an easy read. It’s one of my favourites, though not many people who have read Céline have read this one.


IN BRIEF: 3 extra books picks from Concordians


Linda Morais

Undergraduate student
Exercise Science
Member of Concordia's wrestling team

Random House, 2014
By Laura Hillenbrand


Andrew Barlett

Undergraduate student
Human Relations
Defensive end on Concordia's football team


The Power of Why
Collins Canada, 2012
By Amanda Lang


Patrick Donovan

Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for Concordia's football team

BBC Books, 1996
By Neil Gaiman





Do you have a favourite book you want your fellow Concordians to read? Share it via Twitter or Facebook. Be sure to add @concordia and #CUReads.


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