BOOK TALK WITH GSPL: DEB MCINTOSH
Deb McIntosh was the Executive Director for local trails group Rainbow Routes Association for 11 years before recently becoming City Councillor for Ward 9 of the City of Greater Sudbury. Deb always has some kind of reading material with her in case an opportunity comes up to read while waiting somewhere, but nowadays it is more often something work-related than reading for pleasure. She has been inspired by books many times in her life and usually by a book suggested by someone else. Here are five books, and the story of who suggested them to her, that helped shape her life.
Book Talk is a new monthly discussion on books with local Sudburians brought to you by Greater Sudbury Public Library. This on-going series will highlight conversations about the books that changed the lives of readers right here in Our Crater. The Greater Sudbury Public Library offers programs and events each month at various locations across the community. This month, visit the Living Library at the South End Library on Saturday, October 14 at 10:30 AM. Learn about amazing community members who have made Sudbury their new home by checking out ‘human books’ for a conversation and a good story. For more information about this program and many more, please visit SudburyLibraries.ca or call 705-673-1155.
Were you always a reader?
I was read to as a child, and I read to my children as they were growing up; I am a part of a family of readers. You really can’t underestimate the power of the written word and the impact reading can have on your internal thinking. I have always loved to be surrounded by books even if I am not reading them at the moment; as long as they are within reach I am happy. Thinking back to the books that I really loved, I can’t always remember the details of the story or the plot, but I can tell you how they made me feel – that stays with you.
What kind of books do you love?
I find that certain authors speak to you at certain times of your life. There are many books that have changed me along the way. For the most part, the books that have changed me the most have been recommended to me by someone else or have come to me through someone else. With fiction I need characters that grow; I may not finish books if I don’t feel a connection to the characters – we only have so much time and why read a book that you don’t really connect with! When I was young I loved Trixie Belden books. My mom started to read them to me until I couldn’t wait for her to move to the next chapter and I started reading alone, and I loved (what I thought was) a strong female character. Funny thing is, I started to read one of these books later in life to my daughter and it wasn’t quite the same messaging that I wanted to share with her. I was looking to share with her strong female characters that she could relate to; Trixie was great in the 1960’s, not so much in the 1990’s.
What was the first book you remember really having an impact in your life?
The first book that really jumps out at me from my childhood was my grandmother’s favourite book of all time. She was an immigrant from England and she loved Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. This was the first book I think I read on my own and I remember reading it as a child. Recently when my grandmother was in a nursing home and had lost her vision, I took this book to her and would read it to her out loud. I left the book there and others who would visit would continue to read it out loud to her – Anne bookended my relationship with my grandmother.
What is one book that changed you?
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart came to me from a friend after I told her I was going to visit Vimy Ridge. She told me I had to read it before I went there and she was right. This book added a layer to the visit that I hadn’t anticipated. It’s about the First World War and the building of the Vimy Ridge Memorial. It is a fictional book based on historical facts and tells the story of the stone carvers who were hired to build the monument and hand-carve all the names in the base. When you are there and walk around this huge monument it makes it that much more emotional when you have read this story and know the history. If anyone is visiting Vimy Ridge, they need to read this book first.
Was there a book that influenced your work with Rainbow Routes Association?
There is a book that came to me after I attended a symposium about health and obesity with Dr. William Crumplin from Laurentian University. He spoke about urban planning and introduced me to the writing of Jane Jacobs (an American-Canadian journalist and activist who is best known for her influence on urban studies, sociology, and economics). His talk really connected with me, providing me with an “ah-ha!” moment. Afterwards I introduced myself and asked him which Jane Jacobs book I should start with. He suggested The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This book informed so much of my thinking when I was working at the Rainbow Routes Association. It looks at urban planning through the lens of people; not buildings and cars. It helped me better understand transportation in particular and how we move about in our city.
Is there a book that relates to your work on City Council?
This book came to me via my husband Ralph who borrowed it from former director for the Rainbow District School Board, the late Jean Hanson. Ralph read it and told me I should read it too. It is called Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. I love reading books with someone else’s thoughts in the margins; this copy had been marked up by Jean and provided a window into her thinking and vision. This is a research-based book about the things that make great companies/organizations stand out from just good ones. There is also a compendium to this book called Good to Great and the Social Sectors. Together they help inform my thinking and decision making when sitting at the City Council table. “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline” (Jim Collins).
What is a book you think others should read?
This is a more personal book that came to me through my daughter, Erin. She was in a bookstore looking for a new read. My mom had recently been diagnosed with dementia at the time and it was on her mind so the store owner suggested Still Alice by Lisa Genova. My daughter read it and then said I should read it too. It is really well written and speaks to the struggles of dementia for the individual sufferer as well as the family and friends. Near the end of the book, the mother who is suffering with dementia/early onset Alzheimer’s kept asking her kids “What time does it start?” and each one answered differently: the one child says “Don’t worry about it”, the next one said “What does it matter – she will forget anyway” while the third one kept patiently answering her mother, over and over. This book helped me understand the need to have patience. You can’t change the situation and so far there is no cure, but you can manage how you deal with it. This is a valuable book – as we move forward as a community with aging demographics we will need to know and understand how to deal with this change; how can we help those who are suffering and those helping those who suffer?
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