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Holiday book list: 17 great reads

Concordia students, staff, faculty members and alumni share their favourites
December 10, 2019
By Daniel Bartlett

The year is drawing to a close and the holidays are just around the corner. Now’s the time to escape the cold weather with a mug of hot chocolate and a great book.   

We asked a selection of Concordia students, staff and faculty to tell us about the best things they read in 2019. From a haunting science fantasy novel to a fictitious conversation with Nietzsche, there’s plenty to choose from in this edition of our bi-annual book list.

Happy reading, and happy holidays!

Rob Nason

Associate professor
Department of Management

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt
Bantam Books, 1982
By Byron Preiss, Ted Mann and Sean Kelly

In 1981, Byron Preiss buried a dozen ceramic casks in parks across North America and embedded clues on how to find them in this book. Only three of 12 casks, which can be redeemed for a jewel, have been found. I'm hesitant to mention this because I don't want any more competition, but rumour has it there is one in Montreal that remains undiscovered. The book is a great way to unleash your inner treasure-hunting nerd this holiday season.

Parnian Afshar

PhD candidate
Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering

Interpreter of Maladies
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999
By Jhumpa Lahiri

These stories are about immigrants' lives in societies that do not have any understanding of, and do not care about, their customs and traditions. As an immigrant, I like to know about difficulties people like me are experiencing and how they manage them.

Roksana Sheikholmolouki

Welcome Crew mentor, Student Success Centre
Undergraduate student, biology

Dear Sonali, letters to the daughter I never had
Lynn Toler, 2019
By Lynn Toler

Full of motherly advice from Toler, the judge on the television series Divorce Court, this book teaches you how to figure life out and answers all your doubts. It is emotional, motivational, eye-opening and empowering.

Tim Walsh

Digital preservation librarian
Concordia Library

The Fifth Season
Orbit Books, 2015
By N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season and the following two novels that together comprise the Broken Earth series are beautiful, haunting meditations on power, oppression, climate change and the end of the world. Each novel in this series won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for good reason.

Amber Berson

MA 10

Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons
Between the Lines, 2018
By Silvia Federici

I'm a huge fan of Federici, and this book is a thoughtful and nuanced addition to scholarship around the commons from a Marxist-feminist perspective.

Rhona Richman Kenneally

Department of Design and Computation Arts

Ducks, Newburyport
Galley Beggar Press, 2019
By Lucy Ellmann

This vigorous and indeed rigorous literary exercise is a deep dive into the stream-of-consciousness musings of a central character contemplating life in Trump-era U.S.A.

That this book calls to mind the irrevocably earth-shattering novel Ulysses of the early 20th century further enhances the richness of the experience. It may also be attributable to a circumstance of literary proximity, namely the fact that Richard Ellmann — father of Lucy — wrote a substantial biography of James Joyce. Start soon if you would like to have it completed by the end of the holidays!

Ali Nazemi

Assistant professor
Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century
W. W. Norton & Company, 2000
By J. R. McNeill

McNeill documents the major 20th-century activities of the human species and interprets their environmental impact within the broader contexts of human and earth history. Despite being a remarkable work of interdisciplinary scholarship, the book remains accessible to anyone interested in the relationship between our species and the planet that supports us.

Yamin Ben Mireault-Dibanda

Member of the Concordia Stingers basketball team
Undergraduate student, political science

Le Passager
Guy St-Jean Éditeur, 1995
By Patrick Senécal

Le Passager is a semi-horror/thriller story that takes place mainly in Quebec, between Drummondville and Montreal.

It is a well-written book, exposing the details and obstacles that an amnesiac young adult can face throughout a very particular context and environment that shapes the plot of the novel.

Emanuelle Dufour

PhD candidate
Department of Art Education

This Place: 150 Years Retold
Portage & Main Press, 2019
By various authors

This collective publication provides a beautiful entry to contemporary Indigenous graphic storytelling and artists, while allowing readers to encounter some narratives retrieved from Canada's colonial history.

Amir Molaei

PhD candidate and Public Scholar
Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering

When Nietzsche Wept
Basic Books, 1992
By Irvin D. Yalom

This is an amazing novel by Yalom, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Stanford University, that blends philosophy, psychoanalysis and history. The book is based on a fictitious conversation between two real people — Josef Breuer, a physician and mentor to Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

The two end up discovering so many things about one another, themselves and their life choices. What was most fascinating for me is how the book guides the reader on a route of self-exploration.

Eunice Bélidor

Director of the FOFA Gallery
BFA 12

The Fran Lebowitz Reader
Vintage Books, 1994
By Fran Lebowitz

I recommend this collection, which takes place in 1960s and ‘70s New York City, to anyone who is looking for a good laugh.

The author is funny, witty and sarcastic. And it’s a plus for chain smokers, who will relate to the author.

Aryana Soliz

PhD candidate and Public Scholar
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

The Murmur of Bees
Amazon Crossing, 2019
By Sofía Segovia

We may be entering the darkest part of the year, but it's also a nice time for a touch of magical realism. Segovia's The Murmur of Bees is vivid historical fiction set before the Mexican Revolution.

I found the book intriguing for thinking through how small chance events can change lives, for considering the power of small critters like bees and for rethinking history in more-than-human terms. In the protagonist's words, this book encourages us "to listen to what life sometimes murmurs into your ear, heart or gut."

Paul Bugnon

MBA student
John Molson School of Business

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
Currency, 2011
By Eric Ries

As I founded my first startup last year — and as an MBA student — I found this book extremely interesting. It gives a new perspective for managers that deal with technology and innovation. It is a read for anyone interested in starting their own business.

Jennifer McGrath

Associate professor
Department of Psychology

How to Be a Happy Academic
Sage Publications, 2018
By Alexander Clark and Bailey Sousa

Clark and Sousa shine a light through the daily chaos of academia and offer resounding clarity about how to focus on what matters most. This book is intended for grad students, postdocs, faculty and administration.

Jeremy Clark

Associate professor
Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering

Nothing Good Can Come from This: Essays
MCD Books x FSG Originals, 2018
By Kristi Coulter

This is a set of personal essays that are very funny and occasionally heartbreaking. While the pieces orbit the author's newfound sobriety (a nice counterbalance to a booze-soaked holiday season), they also meander through hobby farming, ultramarathons, marital fidelity, the election of Donald Trump and being the “only woman at the table.” The writing is acerbic and unruly in a charming way.

Bonus pick!

Through Shadows Slow
8th House Publishing, 2019
By Abraham Boyarsky

In his latest novel, Through Shadows Slow, Boyarsky, professor in Concordia’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, tells the story of Daniel, a miraculous childhood survivor of the Nazi prison camps who lands in Canada after the Second World War as a refugee and orphan.

Processed in Montreal and diagnosed with tuberculosis, Daniel goes to a renowned hospital in the Laurentians where the clear air could benefit his health. During his recovery, Daniel meets his future wife, Gilla, and must deal with memories of the war, the promises he's made to dead relatives and how to fit the happiness and love he finds in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts amidst all the horror he's suffered.

Bonus pick 2!

The Girl Who Stole Everything
Linda Leith Publishing, 2019
By Norman Ravvin

Norman Ravvin is a professor in Concordia's Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture. His latest book, The Girl Who Stole Everything, was included in The Globe and Mail's Best Reads from Independent publishers in 2019.

Ravvin's novel is a fresh and telling portrait of the relationship between prewar Polish shtetl life and Jewish lives today. Set in Poland and Vancouver respectively, these old and new worlds hide a mystery, and Ravvin lovingly recovers the past of both.

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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