As avid readers, we understand the joy and importance of books in our lives. To celebrate the World Book Day, we have invited our VP of Strategic Marketing, Tamara Smith, to share with us her top 10 favourite books, ranging from fiction to non-fiction. Reading has had a profound impact on her life, and she hopes that these books will inspire and captivate you as well. From heart-warming storytelling to influencing self-help books, her list has something for everyone. So, grab a cup of coffee and get ready to immerse yourself in the magical world of books.
World Book Day – April 23, 2023
World Book Day and Copyright Day was established in 1995 by UNESCO. The day’s purpose is to promote the power of books and their ability to impact knowledge and values to readers. It also acknowledges those authors and artists who created the works and vows to continue to protect their work through copyrights. World Book Day reinforces the idea that books serve as windows into different worlds, both fictional and non-fictional. Reading daily is one of the best ways to keep your brain engaged and active.
When I was asked by my team to write a blog for World Book Day highlighting my favourite books, it was like asking me to pick a favourite child. How could I choose a favourite from the incredible selection available in to us in the 21st century? Starting with Gutenberg invention of printing press in 1450, we have been spoiled by selection and can choose from different periods, genres and languages. We can also read a paper version or ebook or listen to audiobooks (my favourite when commuting or doing housework). As a result, the burden of choice is too great dear reader; I am putting on my rebel hat and highlighting several that have stood the test of time, and I repeatedly go back to time and time again.
There’s no doubt there are more non-fiction books than grains of sand, and you can look at any social media channel and find rankings of multiple books from business, to cook book, to candid celebrity memoirs to name a few. When I was doing my MBA, a professor told us the one thing we needed to do when we left school was to keep reading. Business practices go in and out of fashion, leadership changes and new ideas are constantly popping up. As business leaders, we needed to stay relevant and read voraciously. I do my best. Here are some great business books that influenced me:
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Data is used to influence almost every meaningful decision in the world today. Yet, when you read that there has not been a lot of data collected on women throughout history, you realize how little women are taken into account - whether it is the size of crash test dummies, or how to assess future computer programmers. This book was an eye-opener for me and I devoured it in a weekend.
Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo
We have the attention spans of goldfish, yet, we are still called upon to present complex ideas or report on actions. Learning how the Ted speakers are coached and develop their presentations is like pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz. The art of storytelling has never been more important to influence and to connect with people.
Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
This timeless classic should be required reading in universities. The importance and value of being open to new ideas and learning is quantified between the pages and examples in this book. Regardless of your role in the 4th industrial revolution, a growth mindset is essential to be successful and staying relevant.
The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
The author of Legend of Bagger Vance, Pressfield, wrote this book for any creative soul who has struggled to get that second sentence down, find the right note for a catchy verse or finish a painting. Recognizing that talent alone does not create a work of art, Pressfield offers a frank, no-holds-barred kick in the pants to remove the resistance in your life and finish that creative work. I read this book in whole, or parts, every few months to motivate me back in the chair and in front of my fledgling novel.
The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
What Michael does well is alchemy. He consolidates many ideas and creates a new simplified idea that is a common-sense approach anyone can apply.
The Coaching Habit, one of many books by Bungay-Stanier, delivers bite-sized advice on how to be a better coach. Whether you lead people, are part of a team or even part of a family, the practical advice offered in this book will change how you help people. In addition, there are seven questions that you can use to supercharge your coaching skills. And what else? Well, read the book.
According to HBR’s article ‘The Case for Reading’ by Christine Seifert, reading fiction can help build soft critical skills in employees:
“Some of the most valuable skills that managers look for in employees are often difficult to define, let alone evaluate or quantify: self-discipline, self-awareness, creative problem-solving, empathy, learning agility, adaptiveness, flexibility, positivity, rational judgment, generosity, and kindness, among others.”
Reading builds empathy in children and adults by allowing the reader to see through the eyes of the protagonist and experience a life outside of our own - an invaluable soft skill for professionals in today’s workforce.
Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay
Anything by Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay is a sure bet if you love historical fantasy. In 1974, Kay assisted Christopher Tolkien in editing his father’s (J.R.R. Tolkien) unpublished work, which became the Silmarillion. This sojourn to Oxford deeply impacted Kay, and although he was educated as a lawyer, the call to write was too strong.
Under Heaven is influenced by the 8th-century Tang Dynasty. Shen Tai spends two years burying the dead at a battle site to honour his father’s memory. As a result, he is given 250 Sardian horses in recognition of his courage and honour to the dead. This unprecedented and unfathomable gift earns Shen Tai many enemies as he navigates his new life. The story weaves themes of loss, chance, honour and friendship in a world still haunted by magic.
Fifteen Dogs - André Alexis
Winner of the Scotia Bank Giller Prize in 2015 and Canada Reads award in 2017, Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis is one of my favourites. Based on a bet between two Greek Gods, Apollo and Hermes, 15 dogs are given the same cognitive and speech abilities as humans to see if they could live one day of pure joy, unlike humans who, despite these amazing gifts, are rarely happy. The story follows these dogs as they miraculously and unknowingly receive these powers and how it impacts them.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue - VE Schwab
I’m not too fond of Schwab’s books, but this one stands out. In the spirit of Dorian Gray, the protagonist lashes out at her limited options as a woman in the middle ages, and makes a deal with the devil for immortality. Of course, we know making a deal with the devil never ends well, but this is a fresh reinvention of that story.
Book of M - by Peng Shepard
Set in the very near future, a mysterious plague spreads across the world, and the afflicted lose all their memories. The Book of M tells the captivating story of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe, risking everything to save the ones they love. Shepard expertly sets up her protagonists to deal with this strange affliction in a post-apocalyptic world and challenges the reader to question what is left of us when our memories are gone.
The Bone Marrow Thieves - Cherie Dimaline
My daughter read this book as an assignment for her grade 10 reading class, and I instantly fell in love with the story and Dimaline’s writing voice. Cherie Dimaline is a Canadian Indigenous author in the Georgian Bay Metis community. The Bone Marrow Thieves is her first Young Adult novel, and despite my dislike for apocalyptic dystopian novels, included two on my list.
Dimaline carefully weaves in current issues facing Indigenous Peoples while setting the story in a future Canada that has been destroyed by global warming. The entire population has lost the ability to dream except for Indigenous people. The government, which is looking for a cure, finds and captures Indigenous Peoples so that they can extract their bone marrow and potentially use it to find a cure and save the rest of humanity. It is a fast paced tale you won’t want to put down while simultaneously drawing parallels between this fictional story and current challenges facing Indigenous Peoples.
Reading for pleasure or work is a great past time. Paraphrasing American novelist, Walter Mosley, you can tell a lot about a person by their physical or virtual bookshelf and I would be remiss if I didn't tie this back to recruiting. Asking, “what are you reading?” is an excellent icebreaker whether you are a candidate or an employer. You can learn much about a candidate or future employer from what they read - whether they have a sense of humour or adventure, whether they are curious or ambitious, whether they are family-oriented or love to travel. All interesting bits of information to help inform whether this person is a great fit.