June Reading Challenge: Read a biography or book of essays by an Indigenous author.
It is hard to believe that it is almost halfway through the challenge but as the year continues, so must our reading list! This month’s challenge is focused on biographies and essay collections written by Indigenous authors. June is National Indigenous History Month and during this month, we recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples across Canada. As such, we also believe that reading about their experiences from a first hand perspective is paramount, which is why we are focusing on biographies and essays. For more resources, please check the bottom of this blog post.
As usual, all of the titles mentioned in this post are available at Vaughan Public Libraries where you can request these titles for yourself. If you would like some more recommendations, please check out this staff list of recommendations. If biographies are not your thing, we also recommend checking out this list of teen novels, graphic novels and non-fiction.
Braiding Sweetgrass byRobin Wall Kimmerer: this collection of essays explores the natural world using scientific knowledge and Indigenous teachings, from the author’s point of view as a professor of environmental biology and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This book is frequently seen on must-read lists and for good reason! Elizabeth Gilbert proclaims that the book takes readers on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise”.
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine:If you are looking for something on the fiction side, this short story collection is perfect for you. This debut collection of short stories focuses on Indigenous Latina women set primarly in Denver, Colarado. It is character-driven and written in a unique way that is sure to appeal to anyone. The novel has been nominated for several awards, like the National Book Award and it has even won The American Book Award. For more information about the short story collection and about the author, I highly recommend this interview the author participated in with Longreads in which the author discusses her upbringing and her desire to show that Denver has a long and cultured history that is often dismissed.
Unreconciled by Jesse Wente: Jesse Wente, an Ojibwe member of Serpent River First Nation, is an extremely accomplished arts journalist. He was on CBC Radio One’s Metro Morning for 20 years and is also chairperson of the Canada Council for the Arts. Unreconciled is part manifesto, part memoir about how reconciliation is a flawed concept, Indigenous identity, and the importance of storytelling to Indigenous peoples. Wente expresses his feelings of exploring his Indigenous identity when he was younger – having grown up with certain privileges, he once felt that made him not Indigenous ‘enough’. He then skillfully links the concept of Indigenous identity with colonial practices and government policies like the Indian Act, and how the government sought to regulate identity. But if this description doesn’t do the book justice, maybe Thomas King‘s endorsement will – calling it simply “One hell of a good book.”
One of my goals for this year was to become more financially literate and I decided to use a resource that I often turn to: books! As more of a words person, I typically find any discussion of math and numbers completely boring and hard to grasp. Nevertheless, I endured to find books that would at least grab my attention and keep me focused as I wanted to feel more knowledgeable about my finances. With this list, I hope that at least one of these books will be useful no matter where you are in your own journey with finance and money. This list is not exhaustive by any means (nor do I think it is the best one out there!) but if any of these titles pique your interest, you can follow the links in this post to the VPL catalogue where you can request it for yourself. If there are any books that you especially recommend on the subject of personal finance, please feel free to comment below and let me know what I should read next!
A Canadian’s Guide to Money-Smart Living by Kelley Keehn and Alex Fisher: This book was created between the partnership of a financial educator and CPA Canada. A lot of finance books are written for an American audience so it’s always nice to find something specifically targeting Canadians. This book walks you through all of the basic information you need to learn more about your finances and how personal finances work. Though I read this book more recently than other books on this list, I still learned a lot and I found that the book really explains basic concepts in a succinct and understandable way. It doesn’t necessarily teach you how to budget or the best stocks to invest in but it does teach you all the basic financial concepts so you can get an understanding of where to start and what you need. For example, it covers credit scores, mortgages, insurance (did you know house fraud is a thing?!) and even talks about how to have money conversations with family members. I would recommend it for people who have always felt that they don’t know or understand financial concepts as well as they should.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig:Voted one of the best books of 2020 by Goodreads users, you have probably heard about this book. The concept of this book lends itself to being more on the speculative or literary side but it definitely falls into the realm of fantasy. In this book, Nora Seed finds herself at The Midnight Library, a place where all the books pertain to her. One book tells the story of her life as it is while the other books all contain a life she could have lived. This book ultimately becomes philosophical as readers contend with what choices they would make if they were presented a similar book and what it means to have a fulfilling life. The author’s other fiction novels are also quite philosophical and the author has also written a memoir titled Reasons to Stay Alive, which details his experiences with depression.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: Similar to the book above, The Starless Sea starts off with the premise of the main character finding a book about his own childhood. In this book, Zachary also discovers a series of clues (a bee, a key, and a sword) that lead him into a secret underworld filled with wonder– a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea. With nonlinear writing, the novel also includes lots of stories embedded within the book that feature different mysteries and places. For those who prefer audiobooks, the audiobook of the novel (which is available either via stream or via CD) features a few different cast members which always makes the audiobook experience quite interesting.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: Jojo Moyes is known for writing characters that just stick with you and the protagonists of The Giver of Stars are no different. The novel focuses on 1930s Kentucky where a group of five women are on a mission to provide books to their community through a new travelling library program. These women become known as the Horseback Librarians and the novel is inspired by the very impressive true story of the librarians of Kentucky who hand delivered books to those in remote areas at impressive rates (e.g. in 1936, the packhorse librarians served a total of 50,000 families and in 1937, 155 public schools). Fans of history, character-driven readers, and stories of remarkable women will definitely enjoy this read. The novel is also available in electronic book or listening formats.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager: This novel fills the prompt of the challenge in a unique way as the novel does not take place in a bookstore or library but rather it is set in a haunted house that was the inspiration for a novel that exists inside the book’s plot. The novel follows a young woman, Maggie, who inherits an estate in Vermont that her family lived in when she was a child for a few weeks before her family fled from the terrors within. Maggie doesn’t remember anything about her time there but the horrors are all laid out in a best-selling book written by her father. When her father passes away and she returns to the house of her childhood, she is skeptical about what she will find there. Home Before Darkis a book of the supernatural thriller variety, making it fulfill the reading challenge prompt in a very unique way as the book is about a literary setting, but not in the way you expect it. As with most books on this list, you can borrow it as an ebook.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris: This novel is pitched as The Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out which almost feels like the only thing I need to say about why you should read it. The novel focuses on 26-year-old Nella Rogers, editorial assistant at Wagner Books and the only Black employee in the office. She is delighted to be joined by another Black woman, Hazel, at the office but Nella soon finds herself to be the office outskirts after a few incidents make Hazel the golden employee. Just as quickly, Nella also begins to receive notes at her desk that warn her to leave the office. This book is perfect for fans of suspense and for those who want a look at the book publishing world. The novel became an instant New York Times bestseller upon release and was hailed as one of the best books of 2021 so it is also the perfect pick for book clubs if you want to accomplish the challenge with a group.
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson: for those who are fans of mystery novels in the classic whodunit style are in for a treat with this book. The novel starts with bookstore owner Malcom who has to meet with the FBI after an agent thinks that a cold-blooded killer is choosing victims based off a blog post that Malcom wrote years ago, in which he listed “eight perfect murders” that are found in crime fiction. The connection between the post, the books & Malcom will keep readers very engaged as the narration in the novel also starts to become unreliable. If you are looking for a classic mystery, Eight Perfect Murders is available from VPL as an e-book, streaming audiobook and in large print.
Much Ado About You by Samantha Young:Needing a break from her day-to-day life, 33 year old Evie books a holiday in England to flee her Chicago letdowns, such as losing a promotion and being stood up on a date after a month of online flirting. She is obsessed with Shakespeare and she jumps at the chance to take a holiday that comes with a temporary position at the bookstore beneath the rental apartment called Much Ado About Books. Evie is soon enamored with the town and the bookstore but she is doing her best to resist the charms of the farmer next door as she is determined to save herself from heartbreak. Rom-com fans who have already read the most popular books (like the novels of Emily Henry) and those who are similarly obsessed with literature like Evie are in for a great romance read.
Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams: this is another book that fills the challenge prompt in an interesting way! While there is no bookstore or library setting, there is a book club, which is a library staple. This is the first book in a romance series that stars the men of Nashville, local business owners and sports players, that turn to romance novels for advice in their love lives. In this novel, a hockey player attempts to win back his wife’s affections. Interestingly, the popularity of this book series has also inspired the author to create a book subscription service called Men Read Romance for men who enjoy romance novels just as much as the characters in these novels & the series has been optioned for film/television by Netflix.
If none of these books catch your eye and you want some creative interpretation of the challenge, you can always turn to children’s novels like Inkheart which is a novel in which fictional characters come to life or even non-fiction like The End of Your Life Book Club. One of the best parts of this prompt is that you can interpret it loosely, as long as it’s a literary setting in some way– the book counts! For more information about the challenge, visit our Reading Challenges 2022 home page and to keep track of the books you read, download this fillable .pdf!