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summer reading

I LOVE to read — adult fiction, non-fiction, young people’s novels, even the newspaper!  With a full time job and two kids, there’s never enough time, so sometimes a movie is a bit quicker.  Do try to find an hour here and there to enjoy the following personal favourites of mine…


Memoirs of a Geisha

I watched the movie first, as I knew nothing about and had little interest in Japanese culture and history.  The movie definitely helped me “access” the story, but, as is so often the case, the book was waaaaay better!  Both my husband and I read the book and spent countless hours discussing the plot and how it compared to the movie.

The Kite Runner

This troubling story is particularly relevant to those of us who teach in a multicultural environment.  Each child who comes to us has a story to tell, and those who come from elsewhere often have a profound and complicated history we cannot even imagine.  This story speaks to the complexity in each of us, wherever we are born and live.  I couldn’t put this one down!

Harry Potter

In case you haven’t immersed yourself in the world of Hogwarts, here’s the whole set, books 1-6. Especially if you are a teacher, it’s important to read what “they” are reading, so that you can draw on the culture and incorporate it into your classroom, as it will make your teaching more powerful.

The Lottery Rose

I read this book three times when I was young, and I cried relentlessly each and every time.  The story is one of child abuse and spiritual/emotional awakening.  The author provides an outstanding view into the mind of the main character, and builds articulate secondary characters as well.  Read it yourself, then use it as a novel study with your intermediate students.

Life of Pi

If you haven’t yet read this allegory (or is it?!), now is the time.  The whole animals in the boat thing starts to drive you a bit nuts, but the ending is worth it, I promise!


Another novel meant for young people, “Elsewhere” presents an interesting idea for how things might work after we die!  Definitely an entertaining and though-provoking read, even for adults. (BTW, if you’re interested in thanatology, check out my recently-completed Master’s Thesis!)

A Thousand Splendid Suns

By the author of The Kite Runner, this latest masterpiece also takes place in Afganistan, and features female protagonists.

The Count of Monte Christo

My mother gave me the unabridged version as a teen—it sat on my shelf for several months before I finally delved in, and then I devoured it—definitely one of my favourites.  But be forewarned:  There are PILES of characters, and the plot is irritatingly fatalistic!!!



Phineas Gage:  A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

Anyone interested in the workings of the human brain will enjoy this incredible story of the railroad worker who, in 1848, survived the piercing blast of a 13-pound iron rod as it entered below his cheekbone and exited the front of his skull.  Phin’s story launched the study of neurology in full force.

Ghost Rider

I’m not big into travelogues, but I do love the band Rush,  so I embarked on Neil Peart’s diary of life after the tragic death of his only daughter, followed by that of his wife.  And I must say, I really was drawn into the narrative of his travels.  He’s quite a remarkable person.

Perfect Soldiers

Because I have many Muslim friends and acquaintances, I was interested to read this authoritative view on the 9-11 terror team, and see how Muslims are portrayed.  At time of publication of this site, I am only about a third of the way through, but thus far, Terry McDermott paints a very honest picture of the players’ lifestyles and background.  This report is certainly an interesting study in humanity.

Make the Connection

This book was given to me by my first principal, Thelma Jarvis, during my second year of teaching, when I was “spiraling out of control” in my personal life—it really opened my eyes to the mind-body health connection.  Very readable and totally appealing to women!!!  Co-authored by Oprah and her personal trainer, Bob Green.

The Prizewinner

The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio is a period piece that chronicles the tale of a 1950s “stay-at-home-mom” who enters contests to support her family.  Based on the true story written by one of her children “How My Mom Raised Ten Kids in 23 Words or Less.”

Les Choristes

A great “teacher movie”, this tale follows the arrival of Monsieur Mathieu at a remote boys’ school in 1949 France. With disciplinary problems rampant and the policies of an old-fashioned headmaster not helping, the new teacher decides to introduce choral singing as a way to bridge the gap with his students.

Pay It Forward

Another great teacher flick, this one will really make you think.  I like the fact that it is so “real”, without any kind of miraculous “happy ending”.  After you watch the  movie, teachers, email me and tell me this:  Knowing what you know at the end, is it still a worthwhile project?


A quirky movie starring Orlando Bloom as a failed businessman surrounded by death (you really have to see it to get it!) and Kirstin Dunst as an arline stewardess. I’m not a big fan of Kirstin Dunst, but I must confess, by the end of the movie, I was able to tolerate her.  For a whole host of reasons, this odd little flick has become one of my favourite films.

Motorcycle Diaries

If your only understanding of Che is “the guy on the shirt everyone wears”, you NEED to watch this movie!!!  It chronicles the pre-revolutionary road trip that changed his life.

Paradise Road

In my naiveté, When I first watched this story about the Japanese imprisonment and mistreatment of an international group of women (including Glenn Close and Frances McDormand), I was convinced that this would win all kinds of awards.  Alas, a movie starring mainly women would never win, now would it?!  I was so moved by how these women of different social and ethnic backgrounds achieve a sense of solidarity in the face of potentially deadly abuse.  Hard to watch, but necessary, I think.

Pretty Woman

What can I say?  I love this movie!  I saw it so many times in the early nineties, even dragging my mother to a subtitled version in Montreal! (She was not as enthralled as I was with this cheesy Richard Gere/Julia Roberts Classic.)


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