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Council Reads

March 2024

Mayor Nic Milligan: The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant

Really does read like the best gripping thriller. The book’s deeply detailed setting and cast of characters draw you into the world and precarious future of the Amur Tiger. Highly recommended.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: The Defector by Chris Hadfield

Following the excellent “The Apollo Murders”, Canada’s favourite astronaut brings us another Kaz Zemeckis mystery! Taking place at the height of the Cold War it’s political intrigue at its best! Hadfield teases its possibly based on some real events!

Councillor Kyle Hamilton: Berserker! by Adrian Edmondson

Autobiography of Adrian Edmondson, 1/2 of the British comedy duo that shaped many young lives in England from the late 80’s through to the early 2000’s, including my wife’s. An insightful read into how Rik and Ade shaped their acts and built their legend.

Councillor Kevin McIsaac: The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost (can be brought in via InterLibrary Loan – ask us how)

The book is in two parts. The first is the history of golf as it was played at the turn of the last century and the introduction of the main characters: Francis Ouimet and Harry Vardon. They are not Dickensian, but neither are they people of means. Their lives entwine in and out until the second part, their meeting at the US Open in 1913. The lead-up is interesting. The game, arguably the birth of modern golf, is thrilling.

Councillor Troy Nixon: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora navigates the complexities of interstellar colonization with interesting scientific detail, exploring the human condition, ecological consequences, and the delicate balance between ambition and sustainability. A masterful blend of science and humanity, captivating and thought-provoking for the discerning science fiction fan. This novel really takes some unexpected twists, adding layers of intrigue and a tinge of disappointment.

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: Number Go Up by Zeke Faux

Heady mix of scam, multi-level marketing and cultist vibes. Many people’s lives ruined; lifesaving lost. Scams have existed since time immemorial. This is just the 2020 iteration. More to come in the age of AI. As of my review (Jan ‘24) bitcoin is up to 45k a pop. It should be worth zero. Bad ideas don’t easily die.

Councillor Ted Shoesmith: Neuromancer by William Gibson

This book hits the same for me as a lot of the science fiction greats did. Tons of new thoughts and questions arise. It’s a good little sci-fi romp if you’re into the whole cyberpunk thing.

Youth Councillor Dylan Annis: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This fast-paced book is a perfect demonstration of time fleeting in the blink of an eye. It makes the reader reflect on how to find meaning and acceptance in their life.

February 2024

Mayor Nic Milligan: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

This is my second reading of this unsettling collection of the Vietnam veteran’s war stories. It’s honest and devastatingly close-to-the-bone fiction and it immerses you in the lives of the bewildered young men serving in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: How Big Things Get Done by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner

Essential reading for anyone planning a project of any kind! Renoing your bathroom? Building a skyscraper? Read this book! Think slow, act fast! The really surprising factors that will determine success or failure!

Councillor Kevin McIsaac: The Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman

Now a series of four novels, they are hilarious, personable, and occasionally poignant. The author presents an eclectic cast, poking fun at their differences, whilst ever tightening their bonds of friendship through a series of hijinks. The murders are MacGuffins that allow us to peer into the rollercoaster ups and downs of the lives, loves, loss, and friendships of people most of us assume have reached a welcome plateau befitting their age. They are easy to read and enjoyable for anyone with a little life experience.

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: The Fund: Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates, and the Unraveling of a Wall Street Legend by Rob Copeland (can be brought in via InterLibrary Loan – ask us how)

A deep view into a cringe inducing, dystopian, police mini state, a living hell called Bridgewater. Its cultish leader is the famed billionaire Ray Dalio, a fragile egotistical, small man. Also, a commentary on how much humans can debase themselves to earn money or be in the good books of a cult leader. How did the hedge fund become the largest in the world despite the putrid work culture? Nobody knows.

There are hints that Ray Dalio’s trading strategy involves nothing more than basic “if-then” statements that trigger trades based on macroeconomics factors

January 2024

Mayor Nic Milligan: Eden by Jim Crace

I’ve read two other Jim Crace novels, the dark and lyrical The Pesthouse and the grimly tense Harvest. He’s a skilled storyteller and stylist. I bought Eden to see if he could pull off this ambitious parable about the Garden post-Adam and Eve. Happy to report its great read that explores the ideas of love, mortality, and the unknowable divine.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman

Brilliant, witty and a reminder that seniors don’t just sit in rocking chairs! Loved reading and listening to them.

Councillor Kyle Hamilton: Not Wanted On The Voyage by Timothy Findlay

I keep coming back to this novel as reminder to think about the voices that aren’t always heard, and to remember that the version of history we hear is not the entire story.

Councillor Troy Nixon: Making It So: A Memoir by Patrick Stewart

This is a candid exploration of the actor’s life, revealing his humanity and detailing the journey from stage actor to global acclaim. The memoir offers personal insights and reflections on Stewart’s diverse career beyond his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard.

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: White Holes by Carlo Rovelli

I don’t know what’s more impressive, the fact that humans have determined how things work at the edge of blackhole and beyond, or the fact that someone can write in a way that a layperson can understand this. Also, there no math involved anywhere. The book is 150 pages of pure, thrilling genius, all written in plain English.

BONUS READ: The End of Reality by Jonathan Taplin

Brisk, entertaining read, with some great points made that cynically put down the four Techbros. The author sure has some unresolved issues with one or more of the bros. However, this is the fastest non-fiction I’ve read this year, the book is that engaging.

October 2023

Mayor Nic Milligan: The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham (can be brought in via InterLibrary Loan – ask us how)

This memoir is a devastating and important book. The author takes on her journey trying to make sense of her father’s suicide. Beautifully written it is an intimate, honest, and difficult voyage through the fragments of his life and into the—ultimately unknowable—mind of another.

BONUS READ: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

This second novel by the front man of the Mountain Goats is an exploration of loss and the ways we try to reconnect, both with those we’ve lost, and the people around us. His style is both unusual and compelling and always courageously defies expectation.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

“This fascinating nonfiction account of the shocking conspiracy to murder members of the Osage Nation in the 1920’s is both enthralling and appalling. David Grann meticulously researched and recounts this gripping story about deep seated corruption and racism which takes place in the USA but has many parallels in Canada.  Education is a step on the path to true reconciliation.”

Councillor Kyle Hamilton: The One Thing by Gary Keller

“Think multitasking is helping you get more done? Or that you have the willpower to resist distraction and temptation? It’s not, and you don’t. This book has helped me focus on getting the One Thing done that I need to accomplish, daily, weekly, monthly, and over the course of many years.”

Councillor Kevin McIsaac: Agent Running in the Field by John Le Carre

This is Le Carre at his most introspective. Much of the book happens in the protagonist’s head. And it’s a head filled with decades of experience in the spy trade.

I was delighted at the mid-book plot twist and pleased by the choices in the grand tradition of Le Carrie’s protagonists of being rule-breakers with a higher purpose.

It is a perfect length for a YYC -> FRA flight.

Councillor Troy Nixon: The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘The Ministry for the Future’ paints a vivid picture of a world deeply impacted by climate change. Set in the near future, it chronicles the endeavors of an international organization dedicated to devising solutions for the climate crisis. The narrative intricately weaves together the complex dynamics of politics, economics, and environmentalism, offering a profound glimpse into a planet grappling with escalating environmental challenges.

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson

Conclusion: don’t try to be this guy if you want to lead a good life, but world needs hardy people to push innovations as close to the edge of laws of physics. Musk, and other fellow tech bros – for good or bad – are truly a rarefied group of people. They provide no template for any endeavor whatsoever, which make them historical and terrifying in equal measures. Also, Walter Isaacson is a master biographer.

September 2023

Mayor Nic Milligan: I am Homeless if this is not My Home by Lorrie Moore

A lyric and layered novel of love and inevitable loss. With notes of George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo. For readers who prefer the more concrete try Moore’s ‘A Gate at the Stairs’.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

An incredible memoir of resilience in the face of generational trauma. Helen explores her experiences with addiction, the impact of colonization and her journey to cultural reconnection. She is amazing, blazingly honest and her story is eye opening and thought provoking. A small step on the path to reconciliation is listening and learning.

Councillor Kyle Hamilton: Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

Insight into the personal and emotional toll of life altering medical diagnosis, and coming out the other side.

Councillor Kevin McIsaac: The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

I first read this book 45 years ago, and I occasionally pick it up and reread it as it is so inspiring. While the story is fictional, it reads as a genuine first-person memory. The story of a series of encounters with a simple man with a singular purpose is uplifting and daunting. This book is for every age and may be one of the principal influences on my choosing to go into politics. I believe that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in one year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten. This book is heartwarmingly about that.

Councillor Troy Nixon: Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

I read this book so many years ago but think about it often because of the fascinating blend of history and time travel. Like a Marvel ‘What if’ comic book it makes you think about colonialism and the destructiveness of Europeans arriving in the ’New World’. Future researchers make a one way trip to alter crucial historical events, aiming to redeem Christopher Columbus. Card’s masterful storytelling and thought-provoking themes create a page turner that appeals to history enthusiasts and science fiction fans alike.

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: Strong Towns: A bottom-up revolution to rebuild American prosperity by Charles L. Marohn Jr.

Brilliant. Gave me a lot to think about while I will be in the office for next three years. While thankfully in Canada, Municipalities can’t run deficits, we have some of the same- notion of more new infrastructure spending is good and development is good – mentality. Most powerful insight is that inner, older neighborhoods would have accumulated wealth by the way of small bets over many generations by its citizens. Example: houses with common wall to save on heating, facing door to the street to ensure security, flexible layout that could provide multiple income streams to the owners, features that the author laments, modern America has forgot.

Summer Reads 2023

Mayor Nic Milligan: Devil House by John Darnielle

A courageous fictional take on the true crime genre by the frontman of indie rock darlings the Mountain Goats. He trusts his reader in a way most authors would not but, if you stay with him, the payoff is very satisfying.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

A homage to Little Women, Hello Beautiful is a complex story about family, love and loss. The story will leave you contemplating your own familial connections. You may need to put your shades on to hide your tears.

Councillor Kyle Hamilton: Clive Cussler

When you’re on the beach, nothing beats his underwater adventure stories.

Councillor Kevin McIsaac: The Anomaly by Herve Le Tellier

This is a mainstream sci-fi novel with excellent characterizations and a fascinating premise. The author takes their time immersing the reader in the lives of a number of disparate people who share nothing but a run-of-the-mill flight. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of wondering why I was reading this before the story finally took shape. I found the response to the described event vivid and believable. A good airplane or beach book.

Councillor Troy Nixon: Extraordinary Canadians: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation by Peter Mansbridge and Mark Bulgutch

Peter Mansbridge and Mark Bulgutch have curated a heartwarming collection of first-person stories that evokes both laughter and a few tears.  Advocates, politicians, doctors, veterans, immigrants, business leaders, and more—these stories delve into the essence of being Canadian, celebrating the beauty of our nation’s diversity and shared experiences. This book beautifully captures the spirit of Canada, a country that embraces countless perspectives and stories, making it a truly unique and remarkable place that we are so lucky to call home.

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: Democracy and Political Ignorance by Ilya Somin

Important takeaway here is the concept of rational irrationality, wherein the net benefit of acquiring knowledge about something is so small that you’d rather not acquire at all. It affects many human experiences like following your favourite sports teams, Politics is no different. Perfectly intelligent people with access to vast amounts of information will choose to ignore and vote whoever is perceived to align with their interests. You can’t cure human nature but what you can do is allow citizens to vote with their feet, ie move to a place that serves their interests instead of ‘ballot voting’ where citizens vote after the fact and are stuck with government they don’t like, or care for. A smaller government that does few things well would help citizens simplify their decision making.

BONUS READ: Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up by Dave Meslin

Compelling arguments especially with municipal govt. The ideas around public hearings, communication, city halls being open to public engagement made for sensible suggestions. To what extent can we implement is anybody’s guess. Our own experience moving city hall meetings to a public space has taken longer than we expected. Because staff is busy, the resources limited. You’re always working against omissions and commissions of several decades and fixing stuff also costs real money. I felt some suggestions were over the top as I’m a type of guy who is always skeptical of people who say things in absolutes.

May 2023

Mayor Nic Milligan: The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan

This Booker Prize winner is a harrowing but satisfying read as it follows the protagonist from youth through his time as the ranking officer of hundreds of starving Australian POWs forced to build the Siam to Burma railway through near impossible conditions during WWII.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Not your average love story – this is a thought-provoking novel. We walk with our heroine through the sexism and misogyny she faces as a female and a scientist. We bear witness to her great loves and to the resilience and determination of a strong woman. Loved it!

Councillor Kyle Hamilton: Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley

A book I’ve read many times, because it’s such a stellar piece of fiction, but also because it provokes me to rethink the social narratives we repeatedly hear.

Councillor Kevin McIsaac: Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s book on his personal history of film influences is entertaining, opinionated, and in many cases downright speculative about alternative histories of filmmaking. His writing is full of cinema deep cuts and anecdotes of growing up in a half-white half-black family in a reluctantly integrated America. Like Mr. Tarantino’s movies, you’ll either love it or hate it, but you won’t find it boring.

Councillor Troy Nixon: Rez Rules by Chief Clarence Louie

This is an inspiring non-fiction book about the leadership and entrepreneurship of an Indigenous leader, offering valuable insights into economic development and Indigenous experiences in Canada. Read this book – it’s great.

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: A Wild Idea by Jonathan Franklin

This is the true story of Doug Tompkins, the co-founder of the North Face and Esprit brands. It’s a sketch of a conflicted person who made a fortune selling clothes to a consumerist society in the first part of his life, eschewed it all, to go protect the wilderness as an activist. He brought his innate entrepreneurial skills to find success in conserving vast areas of Patagonia.

Councillor Ted Shoesmith: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

This is an interesting and fun application of a different lens to all sorts of things. From falling crime rates, to how different names rise and fall with time, to corruption in Sumo wrestling. Definitely an eye opener, and a fun read to boot.

April 2023

Mayor Nic Milligan: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

A multi-award winning and highly inventive tragicomic detective tale set in an alternate history timeline in the Jewish protectorate of Sitka, Alaska. A great read.

Councillor Tracey Audia Kelly: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

A beautiful book about Indigenous ways of knowing, nature, science, plants and what we can learn from them. I truly love this book and I made myself read it as slowly as possible to savour its wisdom and help to heal the Windigo mind of our contemporary world. The act of reading this book is a tiny piece of reconciliation, something that is dear to my heart.

Councillor Kyle Hamilton: Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (can be brought in via InterLibrary Loan – ask us how)

These letters are a treasure trove of practical wisdom on how to live and enjoy life. The focus is on living a simple, stress-free life, through rationalizing and understanding the problems and suffering of humanity. Written almost 2000 years ago, the daily tribulations discussed might as well have been written yesterday.

Councillor Kevin McIsaac: Factfulness by Hans Rosling

There are a slew of reasons why what you think about the rest of the world is probably wrong including outdated information, the media’s tendency to focus on sensationalism, human instinct to pay more attention to the negative than the positive, etc. but in fact the world has been getting better in almost every measurable way for decades. Read it and you’ll sleep better at night and feel better about your fellow humans.

Councillor Troy Nixon: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

Gates acknowledges the urgent and serious nature of the climate crisis through a hopeful and optimistic lens. While the book acknowledges the challenges ahead, it presents a positive and solutions-oriented approach to addressing the climate crisis. Read this book!

Councillor Harsh Ramadass: The Narrow Corridor by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson

The underlying concept is that you can’t have a strong state and weak society, leads to autocracy; or weak state and strong society: leads to chaos. You need both institutions to keep a check on each other, the delicate balance between society and state happens far less frequently than we may think. Five stars doesn’t do justice to the enormous heft of scholarship involved here. Not an easy read, but well worth the trouble.

Councillor Ted Shoesmith: Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Surprisingly quite interesting, and not as dry as you’d think. It’s exactly what the title implies, but it’s truly amazing how big a player salt has been throughout history. Salt is vital to us, and the pursuit of it has driven trade and ingenuity for centuries.