Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 28, 2016


Barista pic

READER OF THE DAY #63 Melissa Barista (okay, not really her last name)

Melissa served cousin Patrick and I at the new Chill Out Cafe on Ross Street. The breakfast was great coffee, egg and cheese croissant and a ‘to-die-for-fresh-out-of-the-oven’ cinnamon bun.

As part of the READER OF THE DAY project, I am trying to randomly ask people if they like reading. Melissa’s response was an immediate, “Oh, yes. I love to read. I wish I had more time.” She said her favourites are biographies and that she was waiting for a book at the public library – Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. When I asked for another example, Melissa said, “The Help (by Kathryn Stockett) is a book that everyone should read.”

Melissa went on to say that she also listens to a lot of books. I told her I had used but was now using Hoopla. Her source is the free or sometimes inexpensive audiobooks available on YouTube. When I checked out her source, I found lots of older books that are now beyond copyright; it’s definitely a site that will taking some searching.

Chill Out Cafe IMG_1055

Into the Wild

The Help

YouTube books online

Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 27, 2016


Jill & Maryview tour

READER OF THE DAY #62 Jill Griffith

I first came to know Jill during my Reading College days, the summer program for 60 Grade Two students who struggle with reading. Jill was consistently helpful with all aspects of the program but one memory stands out – the time she came to Special Reader Day. Jill read with such enthusiasm and was extremely good with the kids; it was  awesome. Since then, I have come to see that reading plays a major role in her life.

(She also mentioned during one of our chats the other day that it wasn’t Roald Dahl who wrote Nate the Great, it was Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.)

When I asked her to share her thoughts, she wrote:

Jill Griffith is the Youth Services Manager at the Downtown Branch of Red Deer Public Library, but she prefers to call herself a children’s librarian, because it’s the best job in the whole wide world. She believes that children who don’t read or claim that they don’t like to read, just haven’t found the right book yet, and that there is at least one special book, if not a thousand, for every child out there.

She herself began to read when she was four years old and the first story she remembers reading to herself was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She has been reading non-stop ever since. In fact her parents always described her as that girl who always has her nose in a book. Jill tells every child who will listen that reading is the most important thing you will ever learn in your lifetime, and she spreads the gospel of literacy everywhere she goes.

Her favourite books to read out loud are funny books that engage even the most serious child in reading. She counts Mo Willems, Roald Dahl, Melanie Watt, Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen among her favourite current children’s authors but they change daily because there are soooo many good ones out there!

When not at work she can usually be found with a cat on her lap and her nose buried in a great mystery or Canadian work of fiction. Not that she doesn’t enjoy some good chick lit every once in a while. Which brings me to another important tenant that Jill lives her book life by – always encourage children to read whatever they are interested in. As long as they’re reading – graphic novels, comics, gaming guides, Captain Underpants, whatever – let them read without judgement.

That’s the single most important advice she can give to any grownup that guides children in reading. Oh, and that reading is FUN!

*** Here’s a cool project Jill just finished (look closely).

Jill's book art


Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 26, 2016


Sharon Williamson

READER OF THE DAY #61 Sharon Williamson

Sharon is another of my friends who loves to read, who is a reader’s reader, who reads constantly, and who reads fiction and non-fiction and, well . . . you get the picture. She’s also in a BOOK CLUB. I’m capitalizing BOOK CLUB, because I haven’t yet discussed that phenomenon.

Here’s a bit of what Sharon told me:

  • Our book club has between 7 and 10 members depending on who is around. (Sharon missed last month’s meeting while she vacationed in Mexico and when the group decided to read Ru by Kim Thuy)
  • the hostess usually decides what book should be read for the next meeting
  • the group enjoys diverse literature so all genres are covered
  • members aren’t required to finish every book (and on the “finishing” note, Sharon doesn’t finish all the books she starts . . . if after the first 1/4 to 1/3 they aren’t working, it’s adios)
  • the book club has both a social aspect and a discussion aspect so we discussed the latter. Making one a more observant reader is one of the perks of knowing that you will be taking your turn to give your opinion on chosen book in the near future.

During our chat, Sharon mentioned a number of books she enjoyed:

A Wake for the Dreamland by Laurel Deedrick-Mayne (Lacombe author)

The Golden Son by Silpi Samaya Gowda

Asylum, A Mystery by Jeanette de Beauvoir (about the Duplesis orphans)

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay


Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 25, 2016


LeeAnne Shinski

READER OF THE DAY #60 LeeAnne Shinski is the Executive Director of the Lifelong Learning Council of Red Deer. She also heads the Literacy Sub-committee of CAPRA, the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance. At our monthly meetings, along with a variety of others who work to improve literacy, we work to find ways reduce poverty by increasing the literacy rate of Central Albertans. And on the side, we share our love of reading. LeeAnne says:

As a Mom of four boys, I have had the pleasure of sharing my love of reading with each one of them. Whether I’m using a (really poor) Spanish accent to read Skippy Jon Jones or trying to pronounce dinosaur names as best I can, I try to add a little fun! My sons read the books I have from my childhood (before Scholastic there was Grolier) and love to add to their library at school book fairs.

My eldest son is now 21 years old and we share our favorite novels with each other. Time spent reading with my children has been the most precious for me. I still can’t get through Love You Forever by Robert Munsch but I hope one day I’ll get the opportunity share my love of reading with my grandchildren.

Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 23, 2016


Jeff reading

READER OF THE DAY # 59 Jeff Falls

Jeff is another late entry to the world of reading. It’s only since becoming a driver for Red Deer Transit that he has taken to reading on a regular basis. There are short breaks and longer ones on his daily schedule and Jeff takes advantage of them all.

Jeff’s first favourites were sports biographies like Playing With Fire by Theron Fleury. Later, he discovered John Grisham. On a road trip to Vancouver, he and Kim listened to Grisham’s The Client and enjoyed it so much they grabbed coffees quickly along the way so they could get back to the story.

Books on the Bus bus

Where Men Win Glory



Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 22, 2016


Janet reading

READER OF THE DAY #50 Janet Mackenzie (my bride)

Janet’s daily routine is to start and end the day reading. When time allows, she also reads at other times and she loves it. Some of the time, we read the same books but often she chooses ones recommended by friends and sometimes Kindle suggestions or by perusing the library or . . . When she’s done, she summarizes each book in her journal.

This is what she said about reading:

“Reading – what it means to me:

  • quiet time
  • learning time
  • renewing energy
  • relaxation
  • learning about history
  • something to talk about with other people
  • escaping from the mundane into another world

I have been reading from a very young age. Walking to the downtown library when I was 10, feeling safe and stimulated at the same time by what was available. My mom (a middle school teacher) tried to kick me out of my room to socialize other kids my age but I preferred reading a book.

I’m a little obsessive in that when I find an author I like, I read just about everything they write. Leon Uris, back in the day, comes to mind.

My favourite book? Lots of them, I think, “I don’t want this to end.” One that stands out is Gone With The Wind.

Jan’s last ten reads:

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Revenant by Michael Punke

Fever Dream & Cold Vengeance & Two Graves by Preston and Child

North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout


Jan's journal

Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 21, 2016


Laurie TaitIMG_1019

READER OF THE DAY # 57 Laurie Tait

Laurie Tait is the librarian at Normandeau School in Red Deer. On a recent visit there to give out book to all of the Reading College kids from the past four years, I was amazed at her enthusiasm for reading. And it was just that she wants others to read, she actually glowed when she described the weekly visits she and her husband take to the Red Deer Public Library.

I had the privilege of listening in as she read to a class of Grade Threes – see her smiling picture below. Laurie said that after each book reading, many of the kids are anxious to sign out the book she’s just read. (and read with oomph) Wise lady that she is, she often reads from the ‘oldies but goodies’ because kids just don’t know that books like Roald Dahl’s Nate the Great are . . . well, great.

 Laurie says, “My love of reading has always been a part of me. It has taken me to places I will never see and to periods of time that are both frightening and intriguing. My favorite books are historical fiction but with so many wonderful books in the world who knows what I have yet to discover!

I am allowed to share my love of reading with students as I am the school librarian in a K-8 school. I love to read to the students and our favorites right now are the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems. I continue to try to spark the interests of our older students and am encouraged when I am able to match a student to a book that they enjoy.”

Mo Willems' books IMG_1021

Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 20, 2016


Jerry Williamson IMG_0979

READER OF THE DAY # Jerry Williamson

I don’t know anyone who reads more than Jerry. His old school method of recording his reading is the yellow pad shown in the picture. It lists over 750 books – a variety of genres.

His real reading began when he retired and it has continued unabated. He has a stack of books beside his living room chair, many of them are from the Red Deer Public Library while others are borrowed from friends. How does he choose his books? A circle of book reading friends and the Toronto Globe and Mail are two main sources.

But not everyone likes the same thing. Despite narrowing his choices through recommendations, Jerry still finds that he doesn’t love everything that he reads. When I asked him about his last ten books, he said, “How about my last ten good ones.” (and then he couldn’t stop at 10). They are:

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

This is Mexico by Carol Merchasin

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

Everything (meaning Plainsong, Eventide, Benediction, etc.) by Kent Haruf

Being Mortal by Arun Gawande

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

Punishment by Linden MacIntyre

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Stoner by John Williamson

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry


Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 19, 2016


Karen Vanderwater

READER OF THE DAY #55 Karen Vanderwater

Karen is a HUGE supporter of YIMBY Reads and just an all-round great human being. About reading, she says:

I love to read. I read everything: comic books, novels, newspapers signs, brochures, magazines, price tags etc. I remember as a kid waiting for the newspaper every day. I also loved comics. I still have 200 comics from my younger days.

Lately I read sometimes on my iphone but my favourite thing to read is a real paper book. I love historical fiction, mystery and fantasy. I have many favourites. One of my favourite books is The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. I also read lots of books for ages 6-12. I am always reading to find books for the library at school.

The thing I love the most about reading is sharing books with my grandsons. I love reading with them. My life would not be as rich as it is without reading.

Jock’s note: The Crystal Cave is the first of a quintet of novels; who doesn’t love a series!

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 5.30.18 AM

Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 18, 2016


Rob Mackenzie

READER OF THE DAY #54 Rob Mackenzie (my brother)

I was born into a family that loved words… we used to have both Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford English Usage on the kitchen table between the salt and pepper, simply to settle any word arguments. Our Mother was a proponent of finding the right word with the exact shade of meaning whenever possible (e,g, lackadaisical has a different shade of meaning from the word lazy)

We also had a home full of books. The ones that reached out to me first were the “Readers’ Digest Condensed Books” series (we must have had 40 of those and each probably had 5-6 condensed books in each) and then the Encyclopedia Brittanica (a full set in glorious white leather with gold embossing, complete with Gazetteer and many annual updates). The former (the Digests) gave me a very early exposure to some excellent literature (and the concomitant vocabulary that you develop by reading good literature) while the latter fed my congenital curiosity. The three-level writing style of Brittanica (a simplified introduction followed by an increasingly detailed précis and then the full-on detail which often went on for pages) worked for many years and allowed me to delve as deeply into a subject as my curiosity demanded.

The Digests are a thing of the past and the Brittanica have been replaced by the World Wide Web. Smart-phones, iPads and ubiquitous WIFI have meant information is portable and almost constantly available. As the Web developed, I learned to separate the wheat from the chaff in on-line information and even came to financially support the better sources like Wikipedia. A busy business career reduced my “book reading” to technical literature, learning materials and inter-office memos.

In retirement, I still read newspapers but less so than before. My dependence on electronic media has exploded and if you separate me from either my smartphone or iPad for mare than an hour I start to shake uncontrollably. YouTube and Wikipedia are pretty much daily companions simply because they serve the purpose so well. My good wife regularly says “ask your phone about…”. Many of you must play the same game I do whereby one question leads to another and to another and hours can pass before the daisy-chain of curiosity comes to an end. 

I think I understand why others get lost in fiction and non-fiction (for many of the same reasons I suspect) but maybe I should look that up!


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