Book picks from soldiers featured in documentary March to the Top

Ernest Hemingway once said, "There is no friend as loyal as a book." Good friends stand by you in hard times. So it makes sense that a book can also serve as a support when the going gets rough.

Rosanna Mandy is living proof of that. She's a Canadian soldier who was injured on duty, and she says that reading helped her immensely on her road to recovery. Rosanna is one of 12 wounded Canadian soldiers featured in the documentary March to the Top, which follows their expedition to the top of Island Peak, a sister mountain to Mount Everest in the Himalayas. (CBC's documentary presents the world premiere of March to the Top at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 17. A one-hour version airs Monday Feb. 18 at 8 p.m./8:30 NT on CBC-TV.)

In the course of her recovery, Rosanna read 73 books, but she told CBC Books that there were three in particular that stood out for her. Here are the books, and her comments:


"I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish reinforced my great fortune of having been born in the western world -- with heat, shelter, food, education, healthcare, peace and an opportunity to easily bring about positive change. Our sheltered lives rarely if ever see the amount of devastation the rest of the world faces on a daily basis. Do we strive to walk beyond our hardships with grace, peace and love? For me, this book was a significant driving force in my recovery. It motivated me to do everything within my power to heal myself so I could continue to serve in the Canadian Forces, and continue making a positive peace-keeping contribution."

"The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom was brought to me by my older friend Angie the first week I was in hospital (following my accident and first related surgery). The volume Angie brought me was a dog-eared, obviously well loved hardcover. This particular edition of the book was smaller in size and almost seemed to seat itself in my hand...If I fell asleep while reading/holding it, it didn't do much damage. On occasion when I couldn't string my thoughts together or was feeling sorry for myself, this book could hide easily under covers or a pillow -- this helped me avoid discussing its contents with visitors when I was unable to string my thoughts together. The chapters were very short: I often read the same chapters multiple times by accident or because I didn't feel that I took all I needed to away from them when my head was cloudy. Even to a foggy mind, this book reinforced that ordinary people regularly do extraordinary things. On a personal note, this book changed the way that I think about and interact with people. The Five People You Meet in Heaven brings to light the impact that people have on one another. The book likens youth to panes of glass that absorb the prints of their handlers: 'Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.' Over the last three years, I have shared this analogy at every opportunity and 'polish' as many panes of glass as possible.

art-of-happiness-200.jpg"The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler (an American psychiatrist). The second book I read following my injury in 2010 and have re-read many, many times since. This book helped me to begin living in the moment following my accident and reconcile myself to what I was going through. A very good friend of mine helped me surprise my family by bringing me home for an unplanned afternoon trip. We arrived a few minutes before my boys got off the school bus and I wanted to see how many of my old barn chores I could do from my wheelchair. There was a small hill just in front of the barn and gravel leading up the driveway to it. Sarah offered help but I stubbornly refused. About two-thirds of the way up this tiny hill, my wheelchair tipped over backwards. I was stuck on my back in a sitting position, feet in the air. Staring up into the most beautiful, sunny blue sky, I realized that at that moment I was happy. Sarah and I choked with laughter while she tried to get my wheelchair up off the ground. That was the first time I had laughed and been happy since my accident. The Art of Happiness helped me to thoughtfully classify the things that I had control over against the things that I did not and focus my energies accordingly. I started training my mind towards happiness and positive being. I forced myself to stop vacillating and worrying over all of the things that I couldn't do from my wheelchair and began to celebrate the things that I could -- to pursue happiness in my own new way. This was around the time that my husband Spencer started lifting me in and out of our pool multiple times each day. Spencer, Sarah, family, friends -- and of course the Dalai Lama -- provided me with the tools and inspiration I needed to pave my way forward, towards future happiness and contentment. 'Are you happy?'"

CBC Books also heard from some of the other soldiers featured in March to the Top about books they'd recommend.

Carl Keenan mentioned several titles that he said "helped me appreciate the way I look at my family and job," including No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton. "While climbing I missed family and wanted to get back to work to feel sort of normalcy again and re-acquaint myself with my semi-routine," he said. "But reading this book made me feel sorry for this guy for neglecting his family."

Brian Hyland recommended High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas, which he described as "inspirational, as it described the Everest rush and what people would do to get there and what corners and people they could cut."

Corey Hatt praised Learning in Thin Air by Scott Kress for its life lessons, and added that one of his favourite reads is David Chilton's The Wealthy Barber Returns. "I've re-read it twice because it's so pertinent to Canadians today."

Is there a book that helped get you through a tough period in your life? Let us know in the comments below.

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