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Holiday book list: 16 great reads

Concordia students, staff, faculty and alumni share their favourites
December 14, 2021
By Julia Scandella

A collection of book covers.

With the holidays around the corner, it’s time to slow down and retreat from the cold weather. Set yourself up on the couch under a warm blanket and hot beverage in hand — and trade in your Netflix recommendation for a book picked by a fellow Concordian.

From a page-turner about capitalism and corruption in Eastern Europe to a novel about the lived experiences of Indigenous people on Turtle Island, this year’s roundup is sure to leave an impression.

Cover of a book with the title, "Let my people go surfing"

Anie Rouleau

Entrepreneur-in-residence, founder of the Unscented Company

Let my people go surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

Penguin Books, 2016
By Yvon Chouinard

I have to suggest this book by the CEO of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. It offered me the insights and confidence to build and grow a sustainable business. Mr. Chouinard is a true visionary. He defines and embraces the power of using our business as a force for good.

Chanel Sutherland

Alumna, BA 10

The Son of the House

Penguin Random House, 2019
By Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia

The Son of the House is a stunning debut novel by Nigerian-Canadian author Onyemelukwe-Onuobia. The story is about two women, Nwabulu and Julie, strangers whose lives collide when they’re kidnapped and held for ransom. By sharing their stories, the women begin to realize that they’re connected in more ways than they realize, and the truth might have irreversible consequences for them both. The story is set against the vibrant backdrop of Nigeria and is in equal parts delicate, devastating and empowering. 

Sabine Plummer

Undergraduate student
Department of Chemistry

A History of my Brief Body

Penguin Canada, 2020
By Billy-Ray Belcourt

I read this book as the November pick for the Garnet Key Society Book Club and was blown away by the power of Belcourt’s prose. In this collection of essays, he explores the intersectionality of Indigeneity and queerness in themes of grief, colonial violence, love and joy. The closeness he holds to the reader feels like an intimate retelling, the stories private but vibrant. His words sing and make you feel terribly, terribly human. I cannot recommend anything by Belcourt enough.

Ching Yee Suen

Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering

Frontiers in Pattern Recognition and Artificial Intelligence

World Scientific, 2019
Edited by Marleah Blom, et al

I really enjoyed reading this book, which contains some lectures on trendy technologies in our digital world. Pattern recognition (PR) is the backbone of artificial intelligence (AI), and this book contains overviews of AI and PR written for the general public. Numerous applications related to computer vision and medical imaging are covered. This volume is from a book series I co-edited.

Manon Tremblay

Senior director, Indigenous Directions

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Little, Brown and Company, 2007
By Sherman Alexie

The controversy that continues to surround this book and the various attempts to ban it from numerous schools in the United States demonstrates that it hit a raw nerve of national proportions when it comes to the lived experiences of First Nations people on Turtle Island.  In this semi-autobiographical account, Alexie gives a no-holds-barred view of what it’s like to grow up different than your peers and end up living in two worlds — without feeling like you belong to either. 

Muthukumaran Packirisamy

Professor, Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering
Director, Concordia’s Optical-Bio Microsystems Laboratory

Freedom From the Known

Harper & Row, 1969
By Jiddu Krishnamurti

It is very hard to frame Krishnamurti into any section or specialization or group. His message of setting humans unconditionally free will influence the very existence of humankind from education to neuroscience to everyday life. He beautifully blossoms into the interplay between the observer and the observed or between the description and the described. This is the common paradoxical dilemma challenging quantum mechanics to day-to-day survival.

Lise Gaston

Alumna, MA 12

How to Lose Everything: A Memoir

Douglas McIntyre, 2020
By Christa Couture 

Perhaps this is an odd pick for a holiday read, but this memoir of devastating personal losses is nonetheless replete with joy and written with clarity and compassion. In all the reading I have done around my own experience of loss, Couture’s work has resonated most, with her ability to articulate and honour the grief that leaves most of us speechless.

Alex Rousseau

Business operations coordinator, Hospitality Concordia

Red Notice

Simon Schuster, 2014
By Bill Browder

This is a fascinating book about capitalism and corruption in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. You follow the early career of a financier, Bill Browder, and how he navigates the crime and politics that existed in the region after the fall of communism. It’s a great thriller that is easy to read and hard to put down!   

Donya Meshgin

Undergraduate student
Real-time, Embedded and Avionics Software program

The Way of Kings – Book One of the Stormlight Archive series

Tor Books, 2010
By Brandon Sanderson

If you loved the Mistborn trilogy, you must start reading The Stormlight Archive series and that begins with The Way of Kings.

It’s a masterfully told epic fantasy story, with very intriguing magic systems and amazing world-building. Not to mention, it elegantly brings everything together in a very strong and satisfying ending, or, should I say, “Sanderlanche.” I cannot recommend it enough!

Nabeel Chaumun

Undergraduate student
Health, kinesiology and applied physiology

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Grove Press, 1965
By Malcolm X with Alex Haley

This will be one of the most influential and meaningful pieces of literature you’ll ever find. It’s truly a must-read for anyone looking to understand the issue of racism in North America and other challenges we face today in the 21st century. Though Malcolm X has passed away, his work and legacy live on in this book, and it is sure to leave an impact on anyone who reads it.

Hamid Ebrahimi Orimi

PhD candidate
Mechanical Engineering

The Blind Owl

Grove Press, 1936
By Sadegh Hedayat
Translated by D.P. Costello (1957) and Iraj Bashiri (1974)

It is a masterpiece; it absorbed my attention from the first paragraph itself. You will live with the characters for a while.

“There are certain sores in life that, like a canker, gnaw at the soul in solitude and diminish it. Since generally it is the custom to attribute these incredible sufferings to the realm of rare and singular accidents and happenings, it is not possible to speak about them to others…”

Zhengchen Cai

Alumnus, PhD 21

The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data

Viking, 2019
By David Spiegelhalter

This lovely book written by the greatest living statistician, Spiegelhalter, encapsulates the history and philosophy of statistics into a joyful journey. It is the red pill Morpheus holds in his hand, showing us how deep the rabbit hole goes in this era of “big data and artificial intelligence madness.” A must-read for people who work on data analysis. 

Twinkal Patel

PhD candidate
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

HarperCollins, 2016
By Mark Manson

This book will have you change your perspective on many things in life, and will help you to see what is important and what is not. It was an amazing read!

Désirée Rochat

Researcher-in-residence, Concordia Library
BA 09

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

Princeton University Press, 2010
By Edwidge Danticat

In this beautifully woven collection of essays, Haitian-American author Danticat reflects on the politics and ethics of creating about one’s home country while away from it. She explores the conundrums of drawing inspiration from a place one has had to leave, whether because of exile or migration, and the ways various Haitians artists and writers have maintained their relationship to Haiti through their art.

Angélique Willkie

Associate professor, Department of Contemporary Dance
Chair, President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism
Special Advisor to the Provost, Black Integration and Knowledges

Dear Science and Other Stories

Duke University Press, 2021
By Katherine McKittrick

I recommend this book because it’s a small, easy-reading, non-academic essay about academic writing from an anti-colonial and Black Studies perspective. It’s like reading jazz!

Taylor Kann

PhD student, Individualized Program
MA 20

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Doubleday, 2017
By David Grann

A non-fiction must-read about the beginnings of the FBI and the horrific crimes against the people of the Osage Nation in the 1920s. Grann’s literary style effortlessly draws readers into this journalistic account of a dark part of American history.

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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