Recommended Reading for the Holiday Season

When my son asked my advice on what courses to enrol in during his first year of University I didn’t even have to think. “Take some courses you think will be interesting, if you are lucky there will be a course that will blow the top of your head off, something that will leave you astounded and amazed at the way people think, or angry at the injustices of the world, or inspired by people’s courage. This is how I felt about philosophy and women’s studies during my first two years of university; I would leave class almost shaking with excitement at what I had just been exposed to. It was a whole new world. I didn’t end up majoring in either subjects, but the courses, and especially the books, expanded my thinking and hooked me on reading for learning. I would be thrilled for my son, if he found one course that excited him this much.

My experiences at University hooked me on the idea of reading to expand my mind, reading as a way of understanding the world, and reading as an intellectual adventure. Sometimes my reading comes in the form of fiction. One Hundred Years of Solitude certainly blew the top of my head off, I loved the fact I couldn’t easily discern the real events from the magical ones. Maybe it didn’t matter. Timothy Findlay’s, The Wars was the first novel I read about the madness of war, a story of irrational acts, cruelty and uneven compassion. Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tales was dystopia both impossible and entirely possible. It made me really, really angry. All of this from books.

Before I wrote my own memoir Unsinkable I read a lot of other people’s memoirs. Among my favorites was Open by Andre Agassi, and Keith Richards’ landslide bestseller and Pulitzer prize winner Life. I was inspired by the candor of Margaret Trudeau in Changing My Mind, her struggles with mental illness have been at times severe and are ongoing, her openness encouraged me. Although these books are not brand new, they are certainly worth the read.

I enjoy a great science read, especially in the area of brain science and psychology. Five years ago I couldn’t put down, The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, this year I can’t put down his next book The Brain that Heals Itself. This book is about the magical power of visualization for lessoning chronic pain, his story of a man with severe MS who taught himself to walk again through Intentional Walking, his exploration of laser therapy as a way of reorganizing the brain, all of them have me absolutely captivated. Every time my injured right leg hurts, I visualize a healing white light and a healthy ankle. After two weeks of this, I have virtually no pain in my badly damaged right leg. I love books that inspire me to be better in some area of my life. As a Life Coach and speaker, I am always exploring new ways of helping people, so it’s no surprise that a lot of what interests me has to do with bettering ourselves. The First Twenty Minutes, is a small book about health and exercise which largely debunks a lot of widely held knowledge of what works in the area of fitness and health. It turns out that stretching doesn’t really help us before an athletic event, and in fact, it can hurt our performance. On the other hand, yoga does help by using intention and disciplined breathing, something that those of us who practice yoga know, but have a hard time explaining to people who have never practiced it. Other known facts: more people have died in marathons by drinking too much than by drinking too little. Weird.

I am looking forward to reading Clara Hughes book Open Heart, Open Mind. Clara is one of the most confident and single-minded women I know, she has a huge heart and an audacious vision for her life. In short, there isn’t anything about this woman I don’t respect and admire, I will definitely ask for a copy for Christmas (and I know I can get it signed ☺).

Joseph Boyden’s book The Orenda, has been on my book shelf for several months. I heard him speak at We Day in Vancouver and he was so beautiful, poetic and honest I bought his book immediately. I am in good company, it was selected the winner of Canada Read’s, a Giller prize finalist and is considered a must-read for Canadians. I am definitely tucking it into my ski bag post Christmas. While I am at it, I will read this years Giller Prize winner Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. A book about human consciousness and the elusive nature of happiness, it’s really about dogs, and I love dogs.

Lastly, on the chance of sounding self-serving, I am rereading my own book Unsinkable. I spent five years of my life with this book in one way or another, and I think it deserves another read with the perspective of a little bit of time. Secondly, I am thinking of adapting this book to the Young Adult reader and would like to view it from this perspective, so it too is going into the ski bag.

Whatever book you decide to delve into this holiday season, spend at least a little time with the written word, you just might find a book that blows your head off!