Books that Aren’t Textbooks


The power of minimalism

Perhaps you were one of the fortunate people who had too much time during the break to relax. If you were, maybe you picked up a book that wasn’t a textbook. 

If you did, I’m happy for you. It can be challenging to make time to read for pleasure, especially while studying. A lot of times we don’t turn to reading as a downtime activity or as something to do to unwind. Maybe one of your new year’s goals is to finish that book you picked up in the summer that’s been hiding underneath last semester’s study notes. Or maybe you’ve promised yourself just to read more in general. 

Many of us read more than we think: there’s an infinite amount to read as we scroll through our newsfeeds, the blackholes of forums and posts to catch up on in Instagram. If you don’t like reading, maybe it’s because you haven’t found something of interest to read. But there is something about picking up a book, even just for a few minutes every day, that is enjoyable. 

We also sometimes forget about how much is out there. Here is a short list of suggestions for readings this year.

Cal Newport - Digital Minimalism 

For the past year or so, there has been a lot of talk about the practice of minimalism. There are several books about getting rid of your junk, packing your little backpack and going on a wild expedition. There are Youtube channels and TV shows about experts going into peoples’ lives to coach them in the art of being a minimalist. In Digital Minimalist, Newport speaks to how minimalism is about more than just throwing out all of your stuff. In short, minimalism is about knowing how much is enough. This goes for our physical belongings as well as our personal technology. In our tech-savvy and digital world, we are losing out on the many other real-time satisfactions in our lives. 

Tanya Talaga - All Our Relations

Given the recent arrests in Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia, it is no surprise that the new year posesses the same conflicts and injustices. Resistance, resilience and reconciliation. These are a few buzzwords, important ones at that, that we all have the responsibility to understand. Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers, a novel that highlights the silencing of the missing and murdered indigenous children of Thunder Bay, speaks to the national and international crises that is the continuing oppression of Indigenous peoples and their families. This is a non-fiction read with personal accounts and a lengthy list of cited academic works regarding justice and power – just a start to learning more about this local and global issue.

Michael Lewis - The Fifth Risk 

There is quite a bit of noise surrounding American politics. Having trouble following it all? Maybe it is not beneficial to listen and read the headlines. Quite frankly, it is a lot of words (or the same words over and over from President Trump). Underneath all of the mess and confusion are many other individuals, some destructive and others heroes, who are lost in the mayhem. Lewis brings these folks’ voices to the forefront to examine everyone’s question: What is going on? Read it, my dad said so.

Mira Jacob - Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations 

If you like graphic novels, this visually-appealing read is coming out in March. In this compilation of works, Jacob touches on the subjects of colour, race, religion, sexuality and love. Her writing stems from her own conversations with her son. This book is a collection of how she has gone about these “tough subjects.” All the while, she uses artful humour to convey her messages – something perhaps we can learn from in these times of noise, powerful opinions and ongoing social unrest.

Richard Louv - Last Child in the Woods

This book is not a recent release but it is an important one. Louv speaks to the modern-day problem in children: nature-deficit disorder. As the digital world continues to develop, children are missing out on what perhaps a lot of us are learning is very important to our wellness as adults. Going outside. 

The outdoors has an unequivocal effect on our brains and it is, as Louv puts it, our responsibility to preserve it, relish its beauty and educate each other on its importance for our upcoming generations and ourselves.

Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah

You’ve likely heard of this author before. She is the face of a memorable TedTalk, “The danger of a single story.” Her voice, ever-captivating, provides a clear picture of the differences that exist in our world. Americanah is a fictional novel about a young girl named Ifemelu and her boyfriend, Obinze. As the setting in the book shifts, the subjects of race and identity are unpacked in an interwoven and complex story. This book is  available for purchase in the bookstore on campus conveniently enough.