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Holiday book list: 18 great reads

Concordia students, staff, faculty members and alumni share their favourites
December 11, 2018
By Daniel Bartlett

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

We asked a selection of Concordia students, staff and faculty to tell us about the best books they read in 2018. From studies on rational thought processes to thrilling tales of mystery and suspense, there’s something for everyone in this edition of our bi-annual book list.

Happy reading, and happy holidays!

Jack Araz

PhD candidate, Department of Physics
Member of the Mariana Frank Research Group

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Signal, 2014
By Yuval Noah Harari

Harari provides a broad overview of human history from an evolutionary perspective. He starts with the very beginning of the evolutionary chain and flashes forward to the present day, where he offers reasons for why and how humans ended up in today’s situation.

The book also includes the entire scientific reference list that support Harari’s claims.

Brad Collinson

Head coach of the Concordia Stingers football team

The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership
Portfolio, 2010
By Bill Walsh, Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh

I am always looking for new ideas on how to lead a group and get the most out of everyone — whether it be our star quarterback or our equipment manager. This book showed me that you need to treat everyone with respect from top to bottom.

The authors will open your eyes on how leadership in sports can correlate to business or even working in group projects while in school.

Samie Li Shang Ly

PhD 18
Valedictorian, John Molson School of Business

Little, Brown and Company, 2011
By Tina Fey

This book is hilarious! Fey’s dry humour and subtle sarcasm will make you look back on 2018 and wonder, “Have I taken things too seriously?”

Bossypants won’t address issues like world peace — it is simply her stories. Fey gives us a break from everyday life and may even get you crying.

Of course, you’re also going to laugh — then laugh out loud! If you need a break from heavy-handed topics, enjoy Fey’s silliness and have some fun!

Leanne Keddie

PhD candidate and 2017 Public scholar
John Molson School of Business

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
HarperCollins, 2008
By Dan Ariely

This is a great book that provides a lot of research on people’s behaviours. Ariely argues that we are not rational at all and intersperses his writings with humour.

Predictably Irrational is not only an enjoyable read but an interesting one as well.

Hesham Abdelrahman

Master’s student
Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Welcome Crew mentor
Student Success Centre

The Girl on the Train
Riverhead Books, 2015
By Paula Hawkins

This is one of the most popular and bestselling books from the past few years. The plot revolves around a woman who has lost her husband, her home and even her job. Despite this, she continues to ride the commuter train to London every day and passes her old house, where her ex-husband lives with his wife and daughter.

It can take you a while to get into this book and familiarize yourself with its story, but once you do, you won't put it down. Hawkins wrote this novel in a very interesting and thrilling way that makes you feel like you are there with the characters.

If you are a fan of suspense and mystery stories, this novel would be a great fit for you.

Leander Zemke

BEng 18
Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
Random House, 2018
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This book takes a critical view on the hierarchical way we run the world. Taleb argues how most of the world’s current problems can be attributed to the fact that those with the most power generally have the least amount of skin in the game — the benefits and drawbacks bare little consequence to them.

I recommend this book as it is both captivating and enlightening.

Bernard Pomerleau

Coordinator of Special Projects

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
Pantheon Books, 1988
By Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman

In the wake of the Facebook-Analytica data scandal, I remembered reading this book years ago and decided to pick it up once more. Both the book and the data scandal recall that advertising and public relations can have a big influence on the general population, which many people are not aware of.

For me, it was not difficult to make a link between the two. With the advent of social media, the potential to influence public opinion is even stronger.

Véronique Hamel

BA 18, anthropology
Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal winner

Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities
University of Minnesota Press, 2013
By J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy

We often talk about paradigm shifts in social economy and environmental sciences, but we seldom discuss how we can change our own perception of the economic system to make these changes happen.

This book is all about reframing. After reading it, you no longer feel as if you are a powerless spectator of the economy’s mechanisms. Rather, you feel like you have the power, the impact and the comprehension to make a difference and to actually take back the economy.

Alexandra Ibaceta

Member of the Concordia Stingers soccer team
Undergraduate student, philosophy

The Alchemist
HarperTorch, 1993
By Paulo Coelho

This novel puts a lot of things that are important in our lives into perspective, but ones that we never necessarily think about.

Coelho does not teach you any rules or tell you to live your life in a certain way, but he makes you think, consider and appreciate your journey.

Émilie Martel

Senior lead of CEGEP Partnerships
Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs

My Favorite Thing is Monsters
Fantagraphics Books, 2017
By Emil Ferris

I recommend this book for the sheer tour de force of Emil Ferris, who is as interesting and resilient as her heroine Karen. You need to approach the incredible details of the art and the meandering story with a quiet mind and lots of time on your hands — perfect for the holiday season.

The bad part is having to wait another nine months before the release of volume two and finally learning who killed Anka!

Bonnie-Jean Campbell

Graduate program assistant
Department of English

City of Ice
Random House, 1999
By John Farrow (a.k.a Trevor Ferguson)

This is the first book in an ongoing series that really gives you a feel for the city of Montreal. 

You’ll want to continue reading the sequels to know what happens next for Emile Cinq-Mars.

Mariel Ouellette

Student recruitment officer

The Color of Our Sky
William Morrow and Company, 2017
By Amita Trasi

To escape her fate of becoming a temple prostitute, 10-year-old Mukta becomes a house girl for an upper-middle class family in Mumbai. She finds a friend in the daughter of the family, Tara, who introduces her to a world and a sisterhood she never thought possible.

One night, kidnappers take Mukta from the family home and she disappears. Shortly thereafter, Tara’s family moves to America but she cannot recover from the loss of her best friend.  

Eleven years later, adult Tara returns to India determined to find Mukta. This book is an engaging read from start to finish.

Gina Cody

MEng 81, PhD 89
Major donor

The Illegal
HarperCollins, 2015
By Lawrence Hill

This is the story of Keita Ali on the run. Running is all Keita has ever wanted to do.

To him, running means respect and riches. Then, because of his father's outspoken political views, Keita discovers he must run for survival!

Using Keita’s story, this moving, suspenseful and compelling book captures one of the most pressing issues of our time. The narrative casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees struggling to survive in a nation that does not want them.

Hill's depiction of life on the borderlands of society reveals the endurance of human spirit and urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us. A must read!

Gina Cody recently made a $15-million gift for Concordia's next generation.

Kenny Johnson

Member of the Concordia Stingers football team
Undergraduate student, Sociology

Think and Grow Rich
The Ralston Society, 1937
By Napoleon Hill

This is a great self-help book for the ambitious few who are looking where and how to start their great journey in life. Good luck!

Nikola Stepić

PhD student and Public scholar
Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture

Grove Press, 2016
By Tim Murphy

What’s better than finally diving into an ambitious, sprawling novel over the holidays after having worked hard all semester? One of my favorite recent reads is Tim Murphy’s Christodora, which follows the lives of a diverse group of characters over several decades, indexed through the gentrification of New York City.

Narrativizing the drama of the AIDS pandemic, Murphy’s novel is simultaneously heart-wrenching and hopeful. What I especially appreciated is how family, that central cultural script of empowerment and rejection, is reconfigured as a larger constellation of people that includes relatives, friends and lovers.

Christodora is unflinching in its depiction of the emotional labour associated with trauma and activism, and is one of the finest representations of the pandemic in recent memory. A modern queer classic.

Melanie Power

Master’s student
Department of English

Metatron Press, 2018
By Aja Moore

This volume of poetry is sparkling and self-aware. In one of my favourite poems from hotwheel, Moore writes: "Do you really / have somebody / you tell everything to?" Strewn with allusions to Rilke, Olds and Rimbaud, Moore's collection captivates with a voice that feels modern, gritty and compelling.

Matina Skalkogiannis

Assistant to the principal
School of Irish Studies

The Price of Illusion: A Memoir
Washington Square Press, 2017
By Joan Juliet Buck

I really enjoy reading memoirs and Buck’s adventurous life in the worlds of fashion, film and literature inspired me. The book is full of juicy anecdotes but the author also doesn’t shy away from bringing up her struggles and sorrows along the way.

Her quest for a meaningful life amid glamour and illusion gives this memoir substance and reading it was satisfying and enriching.

Laura Mitchell

Student Success Centre

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Macmillan Publishers Ltd, 1961
By Muriel Spark

For anyone interested in the very nature of education, history, psychology, art, romance and dangerous yet fascinating characters, this story of an unorthodox teacher in 1930s Edinburgh is told with unparalleled wit, insight and charm. Once you meet Miss Brodie, you will be hers for life.

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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