Category Archives: Books I've Read

Ten (okay 14) books that had an impact.

My cousin Dianne posted a request on FaceBook – name 10 books that had an impact on you. Well because my memory is poor, I had to check my GoodReads site to look for some of those books. It was hard to wittle down to 10 – actually I had 14 that came to mind. Here’s my list: Johnathan Livingston Seagull; A Prayer for Owen Meany; Eat, Pray Love; Bel Canto; The Hobbit; A Spanish Lover; The Old Man and the Sea; A Year by the Sea; The Edible Woman; Tuesdays With Morrie; Paprika, A Spicy Memoir; Through Black Spruce; Mr. G, A Novel About Creation; The Golden Compass.

Most of these books were from long time ago. Were those books more memorable? Am I still reading books that are inspiring? Yes and No. Books were like an open window to me and I learned about the outside world. I grew up on a farm and even went to a one room school for grades 2 and 3. But despite that, I knew there was more out there.

Some of that world even came to me. In the summer time, we had workers to help with the tobacco harvest. They mostly came from Quebec and several from the East Coast. And I was first generation Canadian – my father and his family came from Hungary as well as my grandmother and uncle on my mother’s side – my Mom was born in Alberta.

Books were a way for me to learn about people, relationships and other places. I learned about about myself and others.

Here’s what I’ve been reading

I’ve never kept a book journal, but always thought it would be a good idea.  I like to share titles with friends, and I secretly wish that they will like the book as much as I do.  I know this is unrealistic, but I still keep this hope.  I’d like to think that to know me and to like me, means that they will like, and maybe even love the same books.   I’m going to keep adding books at the top of the list — I’ll see how this works for the time-being.

I found a fantastic site called Good Reads and amazingly it does what I wanted to do here, that is keep track of the books I’m reading.  It’s a great site where you can keep track of what you are currently reading, what you’ve read and what you would like to read.  The last one is really great because I am always hearing about books that I’d like to read but never had a good system for keeping track.  You can also join virtual book clubs, find out if any of your friends are members and once you invite them you can take a look at each other’s book shelves.  It’s a great way to be able to share books with others.  I highly recommend you check it out.  I probably won’t add anymore to this particular post because I find that Good Reads is an excellent way to keep track of books.  Maybe I’ll see you in the book aisles!

  1. I just finished reading “The View from Saturday” by E.L. Konisburg. It’s written for young readers and is a story about four Grade 6 students whose lives come together in rather unusuals ways. They get chosen for the Academic Bowl team. It’s a lovely story about friendship and diversity. [Read January 2010]
  2. Another group of books I enjoyed were a trilogy by Philip Pullman: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. These books are fantasy about alternate worlds and are a bit more complex with many more characters and the creation of other worlds. There is also a movie based on these books which I believe is call The Golden Compass. All of these books have both strong male and female characters. [Read Fall 2009]
  3. “The Reader”, by Bernhard Schlink, is the book that I just finished.  This book is a German translation written in 1995.  The reviewers say it best:  “an unforgetable short tale about love, horror and mercy”, Neil Ascherson; “arresting, philosophically elegant, morally complex.  …Mr. Schlink tells this story with marvelous directness and simplicity, his writing stripped bare of any of the standard gimmicks of dramatization”, The New York Times; “…a novel that sucks you in with its power, so that once you start to read, you cannot put it down.”, Focus Munich.  The main character, Michael, writes a poem to his lover Hanna that will stay with me — When we open ourselves / you yourself to me and I myself to you, / when we submerge / you into me and I into you / when we vanish / into me you and into you I / Then / am I me / and you are you.  I’m curious to see how the movie holds up to the book.  It stars Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, two very fine actors.   [book read January 2010]
  4. “My Two Polish Grandfathers” by Witold Rybcynski was a very fascinating read.  Rybcynski is an architect who studied and worked in Canada.  He led a gypsy life, so although Polish by birth, he didn’t feel Polish since he spent his early years in Scotland and other countries.  His parents escaped Poland separately, at the start of World War II,  and amazingly found each other again.  Witold tells us about his years at university studying architecture, his travels and about some of the projects he worked on with other Canadian architects such as the project at Habitat 67 in Montreal.    My take-away from that book was the description and reflection on a life — “His was a happy unhappy life which as John Lukacs has pointed out, is preferable to an unhappy happy one.”  I think that is an apt description for my life too — a happy, unhappy one.   Alternatively one could have a “happy, happy life”, but perhaps that would be uttterly boring if not nearly impossible.  Appropriately enough, there is a new exhibit called Vancouverism:  Architecture Builds the City featuring architecture by Arthur Erickson, Bing Thom and Peter Busby.  This show has already been to London and Paris under rave reviews and will be here in Vancouver until February 27, 2010 at the new SFU Woodward’s space.

Now I keep track of my books in Good Reads, a great app to keep track of books read or ones you want to read. You can find me there under Cathy Barzo. Happy Reading.