The Book Salon

kathy toogood at london bookstore

What I’m reading. . . and Virtual Book Salons (VBS)

I love to read. Books have been an ongoing source of insight and inspiration for me throughout my life, and I always get more out of a book by discussing it with others. These are all books with rich characters and meaningful themes to enrich your life-worth reading twice! Kick start your learning by checking out my book list and voting for ones that interest you. This year, you will find the books relate to women’s narratives, caring for the environment, cultivating community, and deepening our appreciation of Indigenous ways of knowing

Here’s how it works . . .

The Virtual Book Salon, is like a book club, with three main differences:

-you can opt in, one book at a time

-you know it will be well facilitated

-it’s hosted on Zoom to include folks from all over.

I post reviews of the books I have read and loved, highlighting key themes and the value it is adding to my life. Some of these books I have already scheduled for discussion, and others I offer for your consideration in the coming year. You can vote for the books on my reading list. Salons will be scheduled at least six weeks in advance. This gives you time to order and read the book. Register for the salon, and pay the $25 by e-transfer or Paypal. I will send some reflective questions ahead of time, and the Zoom link the week before. Our first two salons, discussing The Book of Longings and Composing a Life stimulated rich discussion and learning. I look forward to learning with you around great literature.

Let’s Vote

The Overstory by Richard Powers (2018)

This novel is a sweeping story of trees and people, and of the ways in which we are all connected. Powers introduces us to nine characters, each of whom have a connection to trees, and then weaves their lives together in a story of resistance and activism. It made me think of a grander narrative that happens above us, connecting our lives, and our role in listening to our life, and following its’ call. So many interesting themes and people to discuss. September 29 & October 3, 2021.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2009)

This novel is a laugh-out-loud tribute to the days when people wrote letters. The narrative is spun entirely from letters written to and from Juliet Ashton, a writer and journalist during the second world war. One of her books finds its way to a man who lives on Guernsey Island in the English channel, and so the story begins. Weaving together the lives of ordinary and extra-ordinary people, I found it a fascinating look at how people created a community during the war. Spoiler alert-reading and discussing books figures prominently! I thought of this book often during covid, as we navigated a strange new world with restrictions and uncertainty.

November 3.

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish (2006)

I think of Kris’s books as “middle-age woman power books”. Her novels revolve around women in mid-life who face some unexpected crisis that gets them re-evaluating everything. Annie Freeman is a woman we would all wish was our friend. She died too young, but planned a remarkable journey through the places that shaped her for her friends, women who hardy knew each other. This fabulous journey binds them together while helping them re-discover themselves. This book is deep, funny and inspiring all at once. December 11, 2021.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)

This is a book that many friends mentioned and recommended over the past few years. This summer was the perfect time to read it, as I traveled across the country, and bore witness to so many diverse and beautiful landscapes. Weaving her personal stories with Indigenous ways of knowing and her study of botany, she introduces the reader to the bountiful gifts of nature, to the concept of an honourable harvest, and shares her journey to be a good enough mother to her children, her students, and the land. In this time of climate crisis, her writing uncovers what it means to live on the earth in sustainable ways-so that all may flourish. How might we live in reciprocity with the earth and each other? This beautiful book invites you on that journey. We will discussing this book on January 19 6:30 pm or January 22 @ 4:30 pm.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie (2012)

A delightful look into the life of the Dalai Lama, through a cat’s eyes. We get to eavesdrop on fascinating conversations and explore a beautiful sanctuary in the Himalayas. This book shares the wisdom to be learned at the feet of the Dalai Lama in such a gentle and warm hearted way. This book got passed around my workplace to many who were grateful to learn and laugh with this insightful feline. I am considering this for the new year. Vote if you’re interested!

Homes by Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung (2018)


This is an intimate view of living through the Syrian civil war and traveling to Edmonton, Alberta as a refugee, told through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy. It is a compelling true story of one family’s journey, growing up in a war zone and ultimately finding safety in Canada. It is at once eye opening and heart-breaking. A wonderful read for anyone who wants to understand what refugee families have experienced, and develop compassion and empathy for newcomers. Especially helpful for educators who want to create safe learning spaces for all children. Vote if you’re interested!

What’s Your pick?

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