Skip to main content

Holiday book list: 19 great reads

Concordia students, staff and faculty members share their favourites
December 8, 2016
By Tom Peacock

The holiday season is finally here! What’s better than curling up in a cozy chair with a great book as the snow falls softly outside your window?

We asked a selection of Concordia students, staff and faculty to tell us about the best books they read in 2016. From a gripping memoir to a page-turning mystery, there’s something for everyone in this edition of our bi-annual book list.

Happy reading!

Giuseppe Di Labbio

Vanier scholar
PhD student
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character
W. W. Norton & Company, 1997
By Richard P. Feynman

There is no question that many people view science and scientists as boring. Yet here we have the story of a great scientist and Nobel Prize winner challenging this very stereotype with his crazy life adventures that will make you burst out laughing. At the same time, his passion for science, learning and truth are unrivaled and inspiring. This is the source of much of my own personal character and motivation.

Elizabeth Fast

Assistant professor
Department of Applied Human Sciences

Islands of Decolonial Love
ARP Books, 2013
By Leanne Simpson

Beautifully written, this book provides wonderful insights into the lives and experiences of contemporary Indigenous peoples.

James Grant

Department of Biology

Case Histories
Little, Brown and Company, 2004
By Kate Atkinson

Pull a chair up to the fire and enjoy this cracking good read. This is not your typical mystery. Kate Atkinson has created an atmospheric, funny series of books. Set aside your grading (for a few hours) and enjoy!

Nicholas Noble

Member of the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team
Undergraduate student, Economics

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Free Press, 1989
By Stephen R. Covey 

This is a good read for athletes because it teaches you fundamental rules to be successful in life and obtain your goals.

This book relates back to being the best student athlete.


Rachel Rammal

Vice-President of Academic and Loyola Affairs, Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA)
B.A. Honours student, Psychology

Go Set a Watchman
Harper, 2015
By Harper Lee

Fast-forward 20 years: our favourite characters from To Kill a Mockingbird make a comeback in Harper Lee’s highly anticipated novel. In Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise (aka Scout) returns home to the fictional town of Maycomb and once more, we fall in love with her charming, daredevil nature.

However, Scout discovers some truths about the past that leave her disappointed, even in her father, Atticus. Yet again, Harper Lee allows the reader to critically think about the topics of race, society, self-exploration, identity and the predominant theme of disillusionment.  

Sara Ayoubi

Fall 2016 valedictorian
PhD 16, Information and Systems Engineering

A Short History of Nearly Everything
Broadway Books, 2004
By Bill Bryson

This book gives a crash course on the history of everything, from the Big Bang Theory to the evolution of humankind. It aims to explain the world around us and how humans came into existence.

It explains meticulous scientific facts in a storytelling fashion with a lot of humour, leaving no room for boredom! Truly educational, fascinating and entertaining.


Charlotte Roddick

Governor General’s Academic Medal (Silver)
BA 16, Psychology

The Buried Giant
Faber and Faber, 2015
By Kazuo Ishiguro

Set in post-Roman Britain, The Buried Giant is a deceptively simple tale about an elderly couple who set off on a journey in search of their son. A strange mist covering the land has brought amnesia to the populace, so the old couple cannot remember how or why their son left their village. It’s a profound book, and I was deeply moved by the ending. It stayed with me long after the final page.


Hannah Liu

Student recruitment information officer

A Little History of the World
Yale University Press, 2008
By E.H. Gombrich

A review of world (mostly European) history through simple storytelling of all the things we heard and learned in history class. This a great book for when you’re waiting for the bus, between classes and before bedtime. No pop quiz here, guaranteed.

Lucian Turcescu

Professor and graduate program director
Department of Theological Studies


The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy
University of Toronto Press, 2016
By Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber

Having just finished two terms as chair of my department last May, I was still feeling like the anthropomorphic figure with drawers in Salvador Dali’s paintings. My life felt very fragmented. Well, this book helped me push back the drawers in my life and I am starting to recover from that fragmentation.

Kalai Munisami

Associate VP Finance, Commerce and Administration Students' Association (CASA)
Undergraduate student, Commerce

The God of Small Things
Random House, 1997
By Arundhati Roy

Set in the beautiful state of Kerala in the southern part of India, the book is filled with rich imagery, cultural reflections and a compelling discussion of Indian societal issues. The God of Small Things is a poignant story about heart-wrenching pain, the loss of innocence and forbidden love. It's about how the small things in life lead to much bigger things. To even begin to summarize the plot would take everything from the story. This book is riveting from beginning to end and is definitely a must read.

Kelly Norah Drukker

PhD student, Humanities
Winner of two QWF Writing Awards

The Outrun
Canongate, 2016
By Amy Liptrot

This memoir details Liptrot's return to the Orkney islands, where she grew up, following her decision to become sober after a decade of alcoholism.

The Outrun beautifully charts the author's growing awareness of her ability to navigate her inner world without alcohol, as she allows her daily life to be shaped by the rhythms of the natural world on Orkney.

Debra Arbec

CBC Montreal news anchor
BA 89, Journalism

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

This is the beautifully told story of a French girl and a German boy during World War II. Both are essentially just trying to survive their own horrors. Marie-Laure flees Paris to Saint-Malo during the German occupation. Werner is a wizard at repairing radios, and that earns him a spot in a horrible academy for Hitler Youth. Their stories are told separately in short, brilliantly crafted chapters. This is not a short read, but it is a great one.

Serhiy Homonyuk

MA student,
Sociology and anthropology

The True Deceiver
Schildts Förlags Ab, 1982
By Tove Jansson

Jansson is well-known for her series of Moomin books for children, but few people realize that she wrote wonderful novels for adults as well. The True Deceiver is a suspenseful tale of an unlikely bond that develops between an elderly writer and a young grifter struggling to get through a harsh winter. It’s an unexpectedly sinister and clever book, and I especially love how Jansson conveys so much about the characters through their relationship to the pet dog that accompanies them through the narrative.

Emer O’Toole

Assistant professor
School of Irish Studies

Alfred Knopf (1987)
By Toni Morrison

Instead of keeping up with new writing in 2016, I decided to catch up on some classics. And Toni Morrison's Beloved is certainly a classic for a reason.

Having miraculously escaped from slavery, Sethe and her daughter live for 18 years with an angry phantom — a baby girl killed to spare her a fate worse than death. When we've learned never to love more than just a little, how can we heal from the pain of the past? If we let ourselves feel, will it kill us?

This beautifully crafted tale intertwines history, tragedy, magic and redemption. It does not pretend to have all the answers, yet it is so very wise. I wish I'd read it years ago.

Frederique Rajotte

Member of the Concordia Stingers women’s rugby team
Undergraduate student, Communications

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Ten Speed Press, 2014
By Marie Kondo.

I loved this book for the way it gives stress-free steps on how to keep clutter away for your life. It also gives tips on how to be organized and makes you realize that there are only two reasons why we hold onto things: an attachment to the past or a fear of the future. 

Lorraine Oades

Part-time faculty member
Department of Studio Arts

Liz Magor
The Musee d'arts contemporain de Montreal, Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst,
Zurich and Kunstverin in Hamburg, 2016

This hard-cover catalogue on Canadian artist Liz Magor was published in conjunction with her exhibition at the Musee d'arts contemporain de Montreal, which took place last summer.

It is a beautifully produced 259-page book that includes visual documentation of the exhibition, which is a non-chronological survey of her work, an interview with chief curator Leslie Johnston and six short essays by other significant Canadian artists including Ian Carr Harris, Trevor Mahovsky and Isabelle Pauwels, all of which are a delight to read.

This book is a wonderful introduction for anyone not yet familiar with Magor's work and a definite must have for those of us who have followed her since the mid-1970s. Liz Magor has also recently been featured on the popular PBS series Art 21, which can be checked out online.

Aline Sorel

Reference assistant
Concordia Library

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Harper and Row, 1971
by Barbara Robinson

This young adult book tells the story of the Herdman family; six scrawny children (Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys) who are the local delinquents.

They lie, steal, smoke cigars (even the girls!), swear and hit little kids. After they’re told that snacks are served in Sunday school, they show up the following Sunday and end up hijacking the main parts in the Christmas pageant.

What happens after is a funny, wonderful tale of transformation, and not just on the part of the Herdmans, but the rest of the community as well.

The old tired tableau of the Christmas pageant takes on a new meaning, Herdman style. This is one of my favourite books, and yes, I guess I’m writing about it as it’s “that time of the year.” The meaning I find in this book is that we are all worthy. 

François Langevin

Translation Services

L’odeur du café
Les Éditions de la Bagnole, 2014
by Dany Laferrière

The vivid, thematic account of a Haitian boy’s transition from childhood to adolescence. Set in the summer of 1963 in the seaside town of Petit-Goâve, this beautifully illustrated short novel crystallizes Dany Laferrière’s melodic prose, reminiscent of the breezy sound of cool jazz. It is meant for youth, but its rich layers make it a rewarding read for the child in everyone’s heart.


The Chassidic Trauma Unit
8th House Publishing (2016)
By Abraham Boyarsky

Abraham Boyarsky, professor of mathematics and statistics in Concordia's Faculty of Arts and Science, is the award-winning author of five novels and a collection of short stories

His most recent book tells the story of Sender Pleskin, a self-proclaimed trauma specialist dedicated to serving his community. Along the way, readers encounter kidnappings, espionage and fugitive war criminals. Read an excerpt from The Chassidic Trauma Unit.

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.


Back to top

© Concordia University