Posted in Paper Chase

Q1 + Q2 Read It 2022

Reading this book in early 2022 while the trucker’s “Freedom Convoy” worked its way across Canada to then occupy downtown Ottawa was a stark contrast in realities. Colson Whitehead’s book, The Underground Railroad, from 2016 was hugely popular – it won a Pulitzer Prize before eventually being turned into a TV show.  The book follows Cora as she escapes the plantation she is enslaved on in order to find a better life. In the book, the underground railroad is an actual railroad that takes ex slaves around America through secret tunnels. Even as Cora runs further and further away from the plantation, her past is never far behind. It’s a powerful book that should be widely read.  

9/10

The first book in a series that will follow the songs of the Bee Gees decade by decade. Starting off in the 60s, this volume is split between the group’s Australian beginnings and it’s first brush of international fame with their first UK albums. The book written by several authors including Winnipegger (and friend) Grant Walters is expertly written with many in-depth anecdotes about the Gibbs’ brothers writing and recording history. It is a book that will keep both the hardcore and casual fans entertained throughout.

8/10

On top of work, working towards a Business Analyst certificate occupied a lot of my time in early 2022. This book taken for the Business Re-Engineering course was a companion for a few months.  Workflow Modeling is a way of looking at the design of work/process mapping to gain more insights into where process improvements can be made. Certainly, dense with a lot of information, the second edition by Alec Sharp and Patrick McDermott has several interesting business stories and is swimming with swim lane diagrams.

7/10

Prairiefire Magazine – Summer 2021, Volume 42 No. 2

Posted in Paper Chase

Q4 Read It 2021

A bit late with this posting, but here it goes:

A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2

A Clash of Kings is the second novel in George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Like it’s predecessor, there is a lot plot covered in its many pages. A few highlights include the struggle between Stannis and Renly Baratheon to take the crown, Arya Stark’s journey, Theon Greyjoy’s heel turn, Tyrion Lannister becoming the king’s hand and Jon Snow travelling well behind the wall.  With so many characters and plot points, it would be easy to get lost but Martin does a masterful job of keeping everything together.  While it doesn’t pack as much of a punch as the first novel, it is still a terrific read and the description of the war at King’s Landing is a thrill.

9/10

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

The first of Ryan Holiday’s big three stoicism books is The Obstacle Is The Way.  Released in 2014, the book is broken into three main sections – perception, action and will. The format is familiar to some of his other books of short stories taken from history.  While summarizing some of those historic lessons, Holiday can make it all very simplistic to prove his point. After several years of reading his writing, some of the stories and lessons may be blunted by being familiar but Holiday does have a unique ability to make the reader want to learn more about the many stories he shares.

7/10

Sponsored Ad – British Classics. Great Expectations

Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’ 13th novel and one of his most beloved. The story follows Pip, starting as a young lad who lives with his sister and her husband in the country with dreams of becoming a gentleman in the city. His dreams come true through a secret benefactor that pays his many bills.  Along the way, Pip falls for the beautiful Estella who he meets through the mysterious Miss Havisham.  Great Expectations is a very good story with many memorable characters and a few twists and turns to keep the reader engaged.

8/10

Posted in Paper Chase

Q3 Read It 2021

Among all the self-improvement books out there, one that appears every now and again is Cal Newport’s 2016 book, Deep Work. At the beginning, the book is more scholarly but then it starts to settle in to rules to follow.  Much of today’s work life involves reading emails, answering instant messages, and being tugged in 20 different directions. What Newport gets into is the importance of going deep on a project without distractions for a few hours a day.  He also preaches such ideas as getting off social media, think about problems when doing other activities, focus on important tasks, and not working so late that you burn yourself out. All of these items while simple in theory can be hard to do in the office so one must find ways to incorporate deep work into their routine. A fine book about an important topic.

8.5/10

Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005. The novel tells of Irishman Willie Dunne who signs up with the allies to fight in WWI. The war conflict also causes much conflict for those left behind in Ireland who are under British rule.  Willie has a hard time connecting with his policeman father and the love of his life who he meets just before joining. The novel is wonderfully written as it speaks of the horrors of war on both the front and home lines.

7.5/10

Posted in Paper Chase

Q2 Read It 2021

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park is the third published Jane Austen novel that came out in 1814 but did receive any public reviews for several more years.  As a child, Fanny Price is sent to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle and their four children. From there it follows the typical novel of this time of trying to find love and get married.  Slowly Fanny wins everyone over but it takes several years before she becomes the most beloved. Lesser of the first three Austen novels, Mansfield Park is still widely published and has been turned in radio broadcasts, TV specials, stage presentations and movies.

7/10

A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths

A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths takes it’s title from one of the band’s most loved songs.  The book starts out with extensive research into Irish immigrant life in Manchester, England before it finally lands on Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey.  The band starts when Marr knocks on the future singer’s door and asks to start a band.  Adding bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, the band take the nation’s indie rock fans on a nonstop ride until it all crashes down just a few years later. Fletcher’s account is very well researched and creates a vivid picture of life within the group.  It can more than hold its own on The Smith’s bookshelf alongside acclaimed books by Simon Goddard and Johnny Rogan.

9/10

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

Jeanine Cummin’s American Dirt novel is about Lydia and her son Luca as they make the harrowing journey across Mexico to the United States.  Lydia is on the run from a Mexican cartel who brutally murdered her husband and the rest of her family. Upon release, the book met with both widespread acclaim and derision for the depiction of Mexican life. Hard to comment on that aspect of the book from Canada, however, the tale is a gripping one that is hard to put down as you root for them to make it across the border to “freedom”.

9/10

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Noted authors John Green & David Levithan team up for this YA novel about teens Will Grayson and his fabulous best friend Tiny who is working diligently to put on a high school play about his young gay life. Will is the more subdued, loner type vs larger than life Tiny who is constantly hooking up and trying to get Will hooked up.  There are plenty of laughs and a few poignant moments as they try to get through high school life.  

7.5/10

Posted in Paper Chase

Q1 Read It 2021

Power of Habit, The: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business

Self-improvement books are all the rage on Instagram with most pages holding up the same handful of books.  One that doesn’t appear on those lists as often is 2012’s The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The book centres around the habit loop of Cue-Routine-Reward.  In order to change the loop, change the routine. The book has several interesting anecdotes, with two of the better ones being how Rosa Parks started a revolution through her social connections and Paul O’Neill’s time at the aluminum manufacturer, Alcoa.

7/10

Normal People

Normal People is Sally Rooney’s critically acclaimed second novel which then went on to be a TV series on BBC 3.  The book is about two Irish teenagers, Connell and Marianne, who start a secret relationship in high school that carries on into young adulthood. Every time they move on with someone else, they keep coming back to each other.  Where the book stands out is for its realism as the two lovers find it hard to fully break free from one another. The characters are both likable, yet frustrating, as they try to figure out their lives.

9/10

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

Canadian author, Ross King first wrote of French Impressionism in his book The Judgement of Paris. Ten years later he returns to the subject with Mad Enchantment, a biography of Claude Monet which focuses on his later years as he paints his world-famous water lilies. Like his previous books, Mad Enchantment is very well researched and depicts a country at war with Germany while Monet works on in his studio/garden in Giverny, France. His masterworks came later in life, as Monet continued to learn even while his eyesight deteriorated. His ego flashes with his vulnerability while fellow artists, politicians and art collectors pay homage to his genius.

7.5/10