A Book By or About Someone You'd Like to Meet: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2021

April 26, 2021 | Christie

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TPL Reading Challenge 2021

For this category, we delve into people we’d like to meet. The beauty of this topic is that the person you’d like to meet doesn’t have to be attainable. It can be someone who is fictional, currently alive or who has passed on. Whether it be a historical figure, pop culture celebrity, politician, advocate or someone else entirely, the choice is up to you!

Join us this Wednesday, April 28 from 5-6pm for a Reading Challenge Online Discussion on this category. Our hosts Nalini, Jennifer and Winona will also be discussing recommendations for "a debut book" and "a true story written by an author with a disability". We're thrilled to announce that this event will have live captions. If you miss the live event, you can also watch the replay on CrowdCast.


Here are my selections.

The answer is

The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek

Have you ever had that feeling that you’ve met someone, without ever having met them? For as long as I can remember, Alex Trebek felt like a part of my family. Every weeknight at 7:30 pm, he’d be in our home, quizzing us on general knowledge that we either triumphantly answered correctly or hilariously wrong. The next evening, we’d gather again for another round of trivia.

His memoir gives readers more depth to his personal life, his childhood and early career. His dedication to Jeopardy! particularly in researching many of the questions on the trivia show over the course of the 37 years he hosted the show, was particularly admirable to me, and made him someone I would have loved to have met in person.


Becoming by Michelle Obama

After having met a few in the past with rather disappointing results, I’ve never been particularly keen on meeting anymore politicians or former politicians. However, if I were to make an exception, it would be with Michelle Obama. Intelligent, empathetic, diplomatic, well-spoken and passionate about family, and issues close to her heart, I believe she would be an intriguing person to sit down with for a coffee, conversation, and to set the world to rights.

– Christie, Branch Head


Staff Recommendations

We asked our staff what books they recommend or are planning to read for "a book by or about someone you'd like to meet". Here are their picks!

Captain america

Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I'd like to meet Coates so I can shake his hand (post-Covid, that is). For two years now, he's been injecting sly and timely political commentary into a story arc about the Nazi-fighting American hero. The books are both action-packed and thought-provoking, with moments of sheer satirical glee. Can't wait to see what he does with Superman!

Could also work for:

  • A book about someone unlike yourself
  • A book of speculative fiction by a BIPOC author
  • A book that's the first in a series (if you read the first one, natch)
  • A book published this year (if you read the latest one)

– Wendy, Digital Content Lead


Olive Again

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

It might sound odd, but I kind of feel like I would enjoy an afternoon with the main character Olive Kitteridge, eating plain donuts, drinking coffee and looking out at the bay in small town Maine – all while grumbling about everyone and everything. Strout does a good job of capturing the mundane, everyday life and creating wonderful character-driven books that span years.

Could also work for:

  • a book about growing older
  • someone else's favourite
  • a book about someone unlike yourself (if you're not a grouchy older lady who keeps to herself)
  • it might seem odd but I also found this book deeply comforting (maybe because I got so lost in the narrative I forgot about the real world)
  • it could also count as a book about love?

The book is a follow-up to Olive Kitteridge, which counts for first in a series. And reading the two back to back just makes for an awesome time reading.

– Pauline, Librarian


The Reason You Walk

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

I have never had that much exposure to our Indigenous people except through the news, Canadian literature and Canadian history courses. I know so much about them but I have never had much conversation or experiences with them. That's why when I would fall upon Wab Kinew on TV as a journalist, or as a speaker. I admired that he and his family somehow got through the prejudice and racism and contributed to enlightening and educating us on their experiences. Wab Kinew hosted Canada Reads on CBC, he is now an NDP MPP in Manitoba and from what I read he aspires to be be premier of that province. As the leader of my branch book club I thought we would read his book The Reason You Walk. Having read reviews it's been described as "a book every Canadian should read." That's how I felt about Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese.

Wab's book is filled with what most of us know of what has happened to most of our Indigenous people, in his own words, way back to his grandfather's time. It is a moving autobiography of father-son reconciliation. With our book club meetings being virtual this year I took the chance and invited him to our discussion. He responded that he would. And with that, I am meeting one person that I have always wanted to meet, even if it has to be virtually.

– Despina, Branch Head


Funny you don't look autistic

Funny, You Don't Look Autistic: A Comedian's Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary

I found this memoir to be hilarious and, for me, completely relatable. A few parts of it made me sad. But mostly it was hilarious, since Michael McCreary is a stand-up comedian. I would love to go to one of his shows and give him an elbow bump, when it's safe to do so. Officially this book is aimed at younger adults, but I recommend it for anyone age 14 and up. It's a good way to hear a personal account of being an "aspie" / being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Note that if you're handing this book to a younger reader, it includes quite a bit of swearing.

Other categories you could use it for:

  • A book that made you feel comforted or hopeful
  • A debut book
  • A book written before the author turned 21 (for 2021!)

I'm not including "a true story written by an author with a disability" because many people with ASD do not identify it as a disability.

– Ames, Communications Officer


Heavier than heaven

Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain by Charles Cross

This book chronicles the life of Kurt Cobain from his early childhood to the height of his success with the Grunge Rock Band known worldwide as Nirvana. It particularly came of interest to me in my teen/young adult years. Considering that Kurt Cobain passed away when I was still a toddler, it wouldn't be for another decade or so until I would resonate with his music and hunger for the chance to know more about his life and who he was that went beyond just the lyrics of "smells like teen spirit" and "heart-shaped box.

I would recommend this title to anyone who enjoys biographies about famous musicians and is looking for a deeper human connection into the mind of an artist. Obviously I can't meet him, but I would have liked to.

– Tom, Senior Library Assistant


The art of happiness

The Art of Happiness by Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho, Dalai Lama XIV

I've had the immense privilege of hearing the Dalai Lama speak in person when he came to Toronto in 2007 and gave a lecture at the University of Toronto. I entered a lottery to get one of two seats allocated to students at my faculty, and won! My seat was up in the nosebleeds, but I felt like I was sitting in the front row. The Dalai Lama is full of heart, wisdom and so much laughter! It's a day I'll never forget. I doubt I will ever have this opportunity again, but I can hope. He has written more than a few books, and my favourite is The Art of Happiness. It talks about how happiness is determined by one's state of mind and not by external forces.

Other categories:

  • a book about someone unlike yourself (which should work for everyone!)
  • a book that made you feel comforted or hopeful

– Nalini, Senior Branch Head

David and goliath

I would love to have a conversation with Malcolm Gladwell. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants was my intro to his refreshing writing style of analyzing issues based on extensive studies in the social sciences. The research he refers to in his books often has surprising conclusions and thankfully he does a great service to the thinking individuals – who are increasingly becoming a minority in our present divisive culture - by not falling into the pitfall of political correctness. His podcasts "Revisionist History" are equally thought provoking.

Truth often has many layers and it can easily be twisted, warped and misrepresented to suit one’s ideology. Fortunately, Malcolm is one of the rare writers who does not succumb to the shifting sands of society’s thinking. Not surprisingly, his writings have often been criticized for the above same reasons. His latest book, Talking to Strangers makes an attention-grabbing study of "misunderstandings" in some of history’s most important moments.

There is so much "talking-over-each-other" going on in our society with one side demonizing the other without an attempt or desire to understand one other. I would say that Malcolm’s books would loosely fit into the category of "a book about someone unlike yourself." Honestly, this author’s books are for anyone who wish to have an unbiased understanding of human nature.

– Radha, Assistant Branch Head


I want to be where the normal people are

I Want to be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom.

I was so excited this book was coming out because I absolutely loved Rachel Bloom's show Crazy Ex Girlfriend. You don't have to have seen the show to enjoy the book, but it adds context. Bloom's book is very funny in an exactly-my-sense-of-humour kind of way, and includes an interactive musical element, where she writes a portion of the book as if it were a musical and you can listen to her singing it online.

I admire Rachel Bloom's ability to write hilariously funny music that is also smart and meaningful. I think the best way to get people to listen is by making them laugh, and Bloom does this expertly.

Could also be used for:

  • a book about music
  • a book about a fame
  • a debut book

– Kate, Librarian


Broken horses

I'm really excited to read Brandi Carlile's new memoir, Broken Horses. She's such an incredible talent and seems like a genuinely terrific person. Place your holds on this one now! 

- Jennifer, Librarian


Jonthathan strange and Mr Norrell

I would love to meet author Susanna Clarke, the author of Hugo Award winning Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a stellar fantasy novel. Truly one of the best I have ever read. Clarke reeled me into the world of England during the Napoleonic wars, where magic is a subject for academic study by fusty men who wouldn’t dare to practice it... that is, until the two title characters come along. Strange and Norrell are polar opposites in their approach to the practice of magic, and both have to reckon with the unpredictable realm of faerie. As I read this brilliant novel I marvelled at the power of Clarke's imagination, and at her mastery of the language. I would also like to meet her character, the intuitive magician, Jonathan Strange. Dour and by-the-book Mr. Norrell? Not so much...

Other categories:

  • A debut book

– Maureen, Librarian


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2021 discussion group. There are dozens more in the Facebook thread. You do not need a Facebook account to read the thread.


We hope you'll join us on Wednesday, April 28 from 5-6pm for a Reading Challenge Online Discussion on "a book by or someone you'd like to meet", "a debut book" and "a true story written by an author with a disability". This event will have live captions available.


What book do you want to read or recommend for "a book by or about someone you'd like to meet"? Tell us at the event or share below in the comments!