Most people have dreams. They want to climb Kilimanjaro, win a Nobel prize or have a family of six. They aspire to be all sorts of things. I’m no different, and I’ll tell anyone who will listen about my dream.
I want to be Heather Reisman.
That’s probably a little extreme, but what I really mean is that I want her job. I can’t imagine a better job than being CEO of Chapters Indigo. So I am, one step at a time, creating a similar dynasty… but through book club! (And the members can attest… I’m only half kidding when I say that.)
The first step? Emulating the famous “Heather’s Picks” with the equally selective but much less famous “Julia’s Picks”. I came up with the idea when endorsing our March book – Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat – and I knew there would be other books I’d want to endorse. Creating my “Julia’s Pick” stamp of approval (or sticker) was only logical.
So, here we are. “Julia’s Picks – books chosen and loved by our president.”
(Because, to quote former Indian president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, I am the “people’s president”. I am also the weirdest person ever, clearly. Right now I feel like Jenny Lawson, and I am sure all the girls will – affectionately? – roll their eyes as they read this).
Currently, only one book has been named a “Julia’s Pick”, so I need to fix that. I’ll be blogging as I come across worthy books, but in the meantime, I’ve dipped into our past book club picks for two more – both, coincidentally, from my home province of Nova Scotia.
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
If you’ve read this novel, you’ll know that my picking it needs no explanation. For those of you haven’t read it… well, get to it. I cannot express enough how badly you need to read this. I know, I know… there are a hundred novels you’d love to dedicate a year to reading, and everyone is always telling you to read things. But this book trumps ALL of those other suggestions. I made the mistake of putting The Book of Negroes off far too long. Once I’d read it, I knew exactly why so many people had harassed me into it – and you will too. Just do it. Now.
Kristy chose this novel for book club in September 2011. It follows the journey of a young slave from her capture in the depths of Africa, to the plantations of the deep south, to the black settlement in Shelburne, Nova Scotia to the courts of London, England. It is riveting, intense and consuming – exactly how an “unputdownable” novel should be. Although it is long, I flew through it in five days and could think of little else. It is undoubtedly one of my favourite novels of all time.
The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntrye
This is one of the most popular novels ever chosen by the UBC, although it was one of the earliest picks, way back in January 2011. I actually chose it, but I had not yet read it – it had been recommended to me by a friend. It generated some of the most honest, open and thought-provoking discussions our book club has ever had.
The protagonist, Duncan, is a Catholic priest who has become an expert at covering up church scandals. The local bishop recognizes this talent and bestows upon Duncan a parish in small town in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Duncan soon finds that his new community is also wrought with corruption and comes face-to-face with the consequences of secrecy.
The success of the novel can be attributed to two things: first, it was released in the midst of the Raymond Lahey scandal (click here for more on that). Secondly, MacIntyre proved masterful at developing real, engaging characters and handling sensitive subject matter with grace, tastefulness and tact. Personally, I found the story brilliantly and beautifully written. I am still in awe of MacIntyre’s originality as well as his skill.
Later, I discovered that is it actually the second book in a trilogy. This was news to me, as it was to the other members. I assure you, though, that it can easily stand on its own (I have not read the other two novels, although I plan to).