McGill Reads: 2013 holiday edition

We already know that McGillians read. A lot. Papers, studies, textbooks, reports… But when time permits, what do they read for fun? So we asked some members of the McGill community what they wanted to read over the coming weeks. Not surprisingly, the list is long and eclectic.
Miss Auras, Red Book (c. 1900) by Sir John Lavery.
Miss Auras, Red Book by Sir John Lavery (c. 1900).

By Neale McDevitt

Earlier this month the people at Public Policy Forum (PPF) asked prominent Canadians – including Principal Suzanne Fortier – what books were on their holiday reading lists.

Fortier told PPF that she has two books on her holiday night table: Les Clefs du Paradise, by Michel Tremblay, and Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate and Circumstances, by Denise Chong. “Denise launched her new book at McGill this fall,” Fortier told PPF. “Hearing her read excerpts got me hooked.”

This got us thinking. We already know that McGillians read. A lot. Papers, studies, textbooks, reports… But when time permits, what do they read for fun? So we asked some members of the McGill community what they wanted to read over the coming weeks. Not surprisingly, the list is long and eclectic.

Colleen Cook, the Trenholme Dean of Libraries

“I am going to indulge my interest in fantasy and my obsessive compulsive disorder by reading The Gathering Storm, book 11 of Robert Jordan’s series, The Wheel of Time,” says Cook, no stranger to books. “All books in the series have between 800 and 1,000 pages. This one has a mere 825 pages!

“I will also keep up with my French by listening to a couple of intermediate level audiobooks following along with the book – because I am very print and visually oriented (surprise!),” she continues.


David Harpp, Tomlinson Chair in University Science Teaching

“I hope to take a read of The Half Life of Facts by Samuel Arbesman, which is about how fast our facts, in fact, change or at least the interpretation changes over time as new ‘facts’ come to light,” says Harpp. “Maybe one old novel by John Grisholm and if time, David and Goliath by our recent visitor to McGill, Malcolm Gladwell.”


Nigel Roulet, James McGill Professor of Biogeoscience in the Department of Geography

“I always have far too many books to read sitting on my bedside table. Over Christmas I plan to finish Edward Rutherford’s historical novel Paris and I have just started Margaret McMillan’s Paris 1919,” says Roulet. “Of course for the flights I am taking, I have a couple Jo Nesbo mysteries lined up.”


Carole Graveline, Director, Media Relations Office

“Juste un sur ma liste,” says Graveline, “Au revoir là-haut, une brique de 500 pages sur les lendemains de la première guerre mondiale. Un roman de Pierre Lemaître.”


Victor Chisholm, Undergraduate Research Officer, Faculty of Science

“I like to read bilingual books, where one page is in one English or French and the mirror page is in Hungarian. On the left-hand page, I get the pleasure of fine literature; on the right-hand page, where I recognize perhaps one word in three, I get a refresher of my very basic Hungarian,” says Chisholm. “There aren’t many such books available, so right now I am reading Hamlet. What a joy to rediscover Shakespeare, whose pen is truly mightier than the sword.”


Jana Luker, Executive Director of Student Services

“First, I want to finish Heavy Peace, Neil Young’s autobiography – written in quite a bizarre fashion – but I’m still a fan. Then I plan on tackling (in this order) Amanda Lindout’s A House in the Sky (I saw her at a conference last year and found her quite inspiring speaking about understanding and compassion when faced with her horrible kidnapping and subsequent torture),” says Luker. “And then I’ll try to balance that with Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Hopefully I’ll get to Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, While the Sun is Above Us by Melanie Schnell, The Fault in our Stars by John Green and anything else my friends’ various book clubs recommend.”


Chris Buddle, Professor of Forest Insect Ecology, Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences

“Holiday time is the very best because I can get caught up on reading. On my list this season: The Snoring Bird (it’s been highly recommended to me, and will speak to the biologist in me); any of the Lee Childs novels (the Jack Reacher series). They are so bad they are good! Perfect light reading over the holidays (don’t judge me too harshly),” says Buddle. “Also, Margaret Atwood’s latest in her dystopic, futuristic and terrifying trilogy: MaddAddam.

“In the spirit of honesty and being candid: I’ll finish up the latest in the Game of Thrones series [by George R.R. Martin],” continues Buddle with a smile. “I can’t even remember the title, probably something about dragons and swords. I think it’s probably about 3,000 pages long and I’m about 200 pages in.”


Jonathan Mooney, PGSS Secretary-General

“I just started reading Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, which my dad had read and recommended to me,” says Mooney. “I also brought three books from the McGill library: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, L’Étranger by Albert Camus, and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation (which would be a re-read).

“I’m looking forward to see what everyone else is reading!” says Mooney.


Saleema Nawaz, Administrative Coordinator, Dept. of Philosophy

“I’m going to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt,” says Nawaz, whose debut novel, Bread and Bone, recently won the Quebec Writers Federation’s top prize in fiction. “It’s so huge I’ve been saving it for the holidays when I won’t have to lug it back and forth from work.”


Christopher Manfredi, Dean of the Faculty of Arts 

“Having nearly completed Anne Applebaum’s Cundill Prize-winning Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956, I hope to read the two Cundill Prize runners up over the holidays; Fredrik Logevall’s Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam and Cristopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914,” says Manfredi.


Will Straw, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Straw’s long list includes 2666 by Roberto Bolano (“Because I discovered this author too late and am trying to catch up.”); Derek Sayer’s Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History. (“Because I love books on cities.”); Denis Vaugeois’s The First Jews in North America: The Extraordinary History of the Hart Family. (“Written by a former Quebec cabinet minister, and on an overlooked aspect of Quebec history.”); Eric Drott’s Music and the Elusive Revolution: Cultural Politics and Political Culture in France, 1968-1981. (“Because I’m interested in music, politics and France!”); La civilisation du journal. Une histoire de la presse française au XIXe siècle edited by Dominique Kalifa, Philippe Régnier, Marie-Ève Thérenty et Alain Vaillant. (“Because nobody does the history of newspapers better than the French.”); and Georges Simenon’s Le train (“The greatest thriller writer of all time, and he wrote so many I’ll never run out.”)


Kimberley Stephenson, Trade Buyer, McGill Bookstore

At the top of Stephenson’s list is the literary classic Moby Dick by Herman Melville. “Finally!” she says. Other books include Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill, Boy Detective by Roger Rosenblatt, Just Babies by Paul Bloom, and, time permitting the Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart.


Isabelle Carreau, Analyst, Planning and Institutional Analysis 

“Je suis présentement en train de lire le magnifique roman La fiancée américaine écrit par Eric Dupont, chargé de cours à l’Université McGill en traduction,” says Carreau. “Je suis bien accrochée à l’histoire très sympathique et très détaillée de plusieurs familles de Rivière-du-Loup. Plein de rebondissements et une superbe écriture! Je crois que la lecture se poursuivra pendant les fêtes, parce qu’il s’agit d’une grosse brique!”


Jessica Berger, Stewardship and Alumni Communications Officer, Desautels Faculty of Management

“I’m off to Mexico with my fiancé, and have two books lined up,” says Berger. “Wool by Hugh Howey and The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s picks.”


Dorothy Spindelmann-Redhead, Secretary at the Ingram School of Nursing

Spindelmann-Redhead has three books on her holiday list; Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz [a McGill employee who also submitted her pick, above); David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell [the only book that appears on this list twice, having been a selection of David Harpp as well]; and Waldon by Henry David Thoreau.


Ria Rombough, Senior Advisor, Residence Life Programs

“Well, I couldn’t resist this,” says Rombough, whose list includes Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (“I just started Monday night, and am already hooked”); Original Yoga by Richard Rosen; Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan; … “and probably many, many re-readings of Twas the Night Before Christmas in the lead-up to the 25th.”


Kathy MacLean, Manager, Planning and Communications, Macdonald Campus

“Books are such an important part of our holiday tradition and this year is no exception,” says MacLean. “We’ve covered all the bases from audiobooks, through e-books to that very still dear traditional volume wrapped and waiting under the Christmas tree. So what’s in the pile this year?  I am Malala,  Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café Stories which will include our absolute favourite story “Dave Cooks the Turkey,” Amy Tan’s Valley of Amazement and well since we need to eat, but would rather spend the day reading than cooking,  Riccardo’s Slow Cooker Favorites.


Happy Holidays!