The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

When I was reading this Canadian classic, it seemed everyone I encountered wanted to talk about the book. They all had glowing things to say, and I have to agree, I loved this story. The story centers around three men and a woman living in a crumbling Italian villa at the end of the Second World War – a Canadian nurse, a Sikh bomb disposal expert, a Canadian thief-turned-spy, and a heavily burned man who is known only as “the English patient”. Part of the novel is centered around this mystery of the English patient’s identity, but also recounts the patient’s tumultuous love affair in the North African desert in the 1930s. Ondaatje’s writing is beautiful and poetic, and now I’m really looking forward to reading his newest novel, The Cat’s Table! (submitted by AA)

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Adventures in Solitude: what not to wear to a nude potluck, and other stories

From his early days as a awkward child in thick glasses meeting the local nudists, to a “he-man” wrestling a giant octopus out of his boat, Grant Lawrence writes stories of his life in Desolation Sound on the West Coast that are great to read.  Sometimes his humour reminded me of Jerry Lewis, sometimes of David Sedaris.  His historical portraits of the people who have lived there can be strange or unsettling, but always interesting.  Highly recommended. (submitted by AMW)

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Tiger: a true story of vengeance and survival

Why did a tiger, in the wilds of eastern Siberia, lie patiently on a mattress waiting for a man to return to his cabin, kill him, and drag his body miles across the snow; then return, weeks later to stalk and methodically kill the man’s friend?  John Vaillant, author of the Golden Spruce, traveled as a journalist to eastern Russia to uncover the truth.  This is the story of a remote part of the world that includes trappers, poachers, outcasts, and wide-spread deforestation of tiger habitat.  He also looks at the uncanny abilities of the tiger to understand environment and humans. Vaillant begins to weave together the discordant strands into a story that’s stranger than fiction.  His work provides a compelling argument for the ecological preservation of the endangered Siberian tiger and the immense forests where the tigers have lived for tens of thousands of years. (submitted by AMW)

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Dealing with Difficult People: 24 lessons for bringing out the best in everyone

This is more of a pop-psychology book, but I’d recommend it as a quick read for managers, or for anyone who wants to improve their relationships with difficult colleagues.  It’s simply written and concise, and author Rick Brinkman focuses on proactively engaging people, rather than just coping with or countering their behaviours.  I’ve been reading quite a lot about this topic lately, and this one is definitely worth checking out.  (submitted by JS)

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Difficult Personalities: a practical guide to managing the hurtful behavior of others (and maybe your own)

I really enjoyed this book by Helen McGrath – it is a very worthwhile read, especially for those who work with the public.  The first two sections of the book deal with basic personality traits we all have, and how, when and why they can cause conflict with others (i.e. extrovert and introvert, factors that make a person bossy or negative).  She describes the common abrasive personalities who can make our daily lives miserable if we let them: neurotics, control freaks, and bullies – and then outlines some strategies on how to manage our relationships with them.  Next, she gives a detailed (and correct, in my opinion) description of  the most destructive of these personalities, the sociopath, and then provides some coping strategies when we’re not able to walk away from these people.  I learned a lot!  (submitted by JS)

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Dawn – Elie Wiesel

This short book, translated from French, is part two of a trilogy: the first book is Night; the third book was published as either Day or “The Accident”. But read on its own, it makes you take a good hard look at yourself and your own moral self. It is about a Jewish man, who is a Holocaust survivor and an Israeli freedom fighter in Palestine.  I found it very satisfying and I highly recommend reading it. (submitted by NB)

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