By: Nathan Maharaj, Director of Merchandising, Kobo
It's not all self-help and business. There are some great stories out there that just happen to be true, as well as explorations of real curiosities. Here are some of my favourites.
Jon Krakauer's account of the life and death of Chris McCandless is so different from the movie. Krakauer works hard to figure this strange kid out, and thinks he's pretty well positioned to do so because of his own history as a thrill-addict mountain climber. This is a fast-moving little book.
This is a huge book, and I recommend reading it the same way I did: 1 chapter (each takes 1-2 hours) per month. It was the best book I read in 2013 and I was really happy that I took my time with it. The premise is that we all inhabit a culture that our parents bring us into, as well as the one we occupy by our own choices or predisposition. Solomon's writing is really spare and direct, with a strong emphasis on the voice of the people he's interviewing. Each chapter deals with a different type of cultural gap between parents and kids. There's a chapter about deaf kids born to hearing parents (and vice versa), the parents of criminal children, parents of little people (and little people parents), etc. If it's possible for a book to make you a more open-minded and compassionate person, I'd put this one forward as proof.
This is the chronicle of the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina as experienced at a New Orleans hospital. It's thrilling and heartbreaking, and kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through. I kept asking myself, "are these the choices I would make?"
I can't stop recommending this book to people who are going on trips. It's kind of two books woven together. One is all about the epidemic of hijackings (really! it was a thing!) that happened through the 60s in the US. It got so bad that the state department had a set routine for buying planes back from Cuba. The FBI even considered building a replica of Havana airport in Miami! So, why the hijackings? Lots of reasons, one of which being that this was the era before the layers of airport security that we all take for granted now. Imagine walking onto a plane and buying your ticket from the flight attendant -- there was a time that this was how we thought we'd always fly.
The other part of it is about one hijacking in particular, which is the longest distance hijacking in history.
Bill Bryson books are like warm baths for me. So comfortable and enjoyable and I wish they'd never end. This one is full of tasty nuggets about how our homes came to be as they are. I remember reading most of it on a very cold day several winters ago, glad for the walls around me and happily chirping out the most fascinating bits to whichever members of my family were in earshot.