Summer Reading

Google “benefits of reading.” Pages and pages of results turn up with science-backed reasons why reading a REAL book can improve your mind, body and life.

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase intelligence
  • Boost brain power
  • Expand empathy
  • Improve sleep
  • Save money
  • Fight Alzheimer’s
  • Inspire children

On top of that, many articles report that many of the most successful people regularly dedicate time for reading books. It’s a daily habit that links together people like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk.

During the year, reading habits can get away from us, with busy schedules and shorter days. But that’s what makes the summer so incredible—whether you’re taking some time off or not, this season lets you take advantage of slower schedules, fewer emails (collage of out-of-office auto-responses, anyone?) and more daylight hours. Use that extra time to your benefit! Pick up a book for professional/personal development or simply an escape.

Here are a few on our summer reading list:

If you need a break from Trump politics and want to read about a woman who, nevertheless, persisted…

A Fighting Chance
by Elizabeth Warren

An unlikely political star tells the inspiring story of the two-decade journey that taught her how Washington really works―and really doesn’t.

As a child in small-town Oklahoma, Elizabeth Warren yearned to go to college and then become an elementary school teacher―an ambitious goal, given her family’s modest means. Early marriage and motherhood seemed to put even that dream out of reach, but fifteen years later she was a distinguished law professor with a deep understanding of why people go bankrupt. Then came the phone call that changed her life: could she come to Washington DC to help advise Congress on rewriting the bankruptcy laws? Thus began an impolite education into the bare-knuckled, often dysfunctional ways of Washington. In this passionate, funny, rabble-rousing book, Warren shows why she has chosen to fight tooth and nail for the middle class―and why she has become a hero to all those who believe that America’s government can and must do better for working families.

If you’re looking for ways to find optimism in the darkest hour…

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build. Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity.

If you need to find ways to remove and recharge…

Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World

by Michael Harris

Governor General’s Award-winner Michael Harris explores the profound emotional and intellectual benefits of solitude, and how we may achieve it in our fast-paced world.

The capacity to be alone—properly alone—is one of life’s subtlest skills. Real solitude is a contented and productive state that garners tangible rewards: it allows us to reflect and recharge, improving our relationships with ourselves and, paradoxically, with others. Today, the zeitgeist embraces sharing like never before. Fueled by our dependence on online and social media, we have created an ecosystem of obsessive distraction that dangerously undervalues solitude. Many of us now lead lives of strangely crowded loneliness—we are ever-connected, but only shallowly so. Award-winning author Michael Harris examines why our experience of solitude has become so impoverished, and how we may grow to love it again in the frenzy of our digital landscape

If you like reading about real-life stories of true grit and triumph over circumstances…

The Glass Castle

by Jeanette Walls

The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered. The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

Read the book before the movie, starring Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, premieres this August.

If you want to discover rich Canadian fiction about love and loss…


by Catherine Graham

Set in southern Ontario during the 1980’s, acclaimed poet Catherine Graham’s debut novel is layered like the open-pit mine for which it is named. Caitlin Maharg, an only child, lives in a house by a water-filled limestone quarry whose gothic presence is elemental to the story.

With loving parents and what appears to be an idyllic upbringing, much has been kept from her and she learns that her mother is dying. But there are things Caitlin knows in a wordless way, the way she knows every inch of the quarry. By the time she’s in her last year of university, her losses multiply. And when a series of family secrets emerges, Caitlin learns to rely on her inner strength. She gains the confidence she needs to confront her maternal grandmother and carry out her father’s last wish.

If you’re looking for professional development but in a shorter form…

Mentorship Fundamentals – Boost Your Career, Enhance Your Future

WXN and American Express Canada.

Mentorship can pave the way for personal growth and open doors for career opportunities. It’s beneficial for everyone, from the high-powered executive, who is looking to make a sustainable impact; to the junior sales person, who is fresh out of school and looking to make her mark. In a recent survey completed by WXN, 92% of women said they felt mentorship or sponsorship was critical to their career advancement. So how do you start? And how do you find a mentor that aligns with your professional goals?

To answer these questions and more, American Express Canada and WXN partnered to create “Mentorship Fundamentals,” a practical guide, showing how mentorship can pave the way for personal growth and tips on how to create and structure a successful relationship. We polled our members and surveyed our classrooms, interviewing top mentors and mentees. The results are clear: mentorship is important, and necessary for growth!

What Speed Do You Operate On?

Recently, my husband and I made a trip to the local garden centre. We sought out the tree and plant guru there, Kevin. This garden expert started out showing us a selection of six possible trees. As soon as he finished his explanation on each tree, I said, “We’ll take this one and that one.” Kevin looked a bit surprised and asked if I was sure I didn’t want to think about each of the options more. I looked at my husband, who really didn’t care about what trees we picked, and I quickly knew what I wanted. “No, thanks.” Then we proceeded to the cash register to pay for the trees when I saw some annuals just outside the far door. I proceeded to actually run through the garden centre to quickly grab these flowers as I didn’t want to hold up Kevin and my husband, Jeff (or myself!).

Later, Jeff told me what Kevin had said to him when I went dashing through the garden centre: “I think she only has one speed!” And let me tell you, I don’t think the speed he was referring to was mindful. When I heard this, my ego took over. At first, I felt a sense of pride for acting so quickly and decisively, packing it all in a short amount of time. And then my ego swung to the other end of the spectrum as I felt crestfallen that all of this work I have been doing over the past few years around mindfulness seemed to disappear and I was back to my “old self,” moving at a super-charged speed through this world. I watched the scene of me running through the garden centre like a video in my mind.

Then I stopped and thought about what I tell my clients: mindfulness is a practice. It is not something I will ever do perfectly, but perhaps the imperfections of it make it perfect for me in each moment. And the fact I noticed was important. I share this with you because I want you to know that it is okay to fail. Failure is part of the journey. And yes, even I, the preacher and teacher of mindfulness, sometimes go flying through my day on autopilot until the awareness comes in. I was thankful to Kevin as he served as a messenger showing me I was starting to lose my way in that moment of how I want to live and be. I was cramming in too much and unnecessarily driving up my adrenaline and cortisol levels. When I was able to stop and see that, I could go back to choose moving and thinking with more focus and purpose. Life is a journey, not a destination.

Interested in working and living in a more mindful way to reduce your stress levels? Here are some exercises to try.

  1. Slow down. For 10 minutes each day, pick an exercise you’d normally do on autopilot such as driving or typing out emails, and slow it down to half time. Really focus on the physical sensations of touching the keyboard and the thoughts that go through your mind.
  2. Deep breathing. For three minutes, three times a day, close your eyes and practice deep breathing. Breathing in through your nose and out through your nose is the best way to calm down your nervous system. This is a great way to recharge your batteries at intervals throughout the day.
  3. Connect with others. Reach out to one person each day in a completely selfless way. This might be an email to check in with someone on a personal level. Or, it could be dropping off a takeout dinner gift certificate for a busy friend. When you give away love, you receive more back.
  4. Nurture your body. focus on taking care of your body Several times a week. This could be a yoga class, spa appointment or even just lying out on a lounge chair to relax. Put down the book for a while and just feel your body.

Blogger Carey-Ann Oestreicher, MBA, BA (Hons.), Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited

Recipient of a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement award, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, owner of the career development firm for women, Potential Unlimited (, holds a MBA and has worked in a variety of senior positions including vice-president level. Her focus is her family and helping women in business find true peace and happiness in their lives while achieving new heights in their careers.

Carey-Ann has been featured in a variety of media because of the success she has experienced with her holistic approach to developing women leaders and entrepreneurs. Her appearances include: CTV’s Canada AM, TSN, CBC News, Global Television, City TV News, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press.