Books·My Life In Books

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Eight books that I love

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares eight books that shaped her life and work.
Buffy Sainte-Marie, blacklisted, alienated, yet persevered.

Canadian music legend Buffy Sainte-Marie is a proud bibliophile, whether she's reading at home in Hawaii with her cat Fifi at her side or listening to an audiobook with her bandmates on tour. She's the subject of a biography by CBC Music producer Andrea Warner, fittingly titled Buffy Sainte-Marie. The iconic musician, who received the 2017 Allan Waters Humanitarian Award at the JUNO Awards, has eight books to add to your reading list.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie won the 2007 National Book Award, Young People's Literature, for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

"Sherman Alexie is so funny and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a really, really true account of life on a reserve. I've listened to it over and over again as an audiobook while I'm touring around with my band. I think the reason that it appeals to me is that it's such a true and funny reflection on how things really are for contemporary Native American people."

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain is an author, chef and television personality.

"Anthony Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential before he became a television celebrity. I just had no idea about the real life of a chef. It really is an exposé of restaurant kitchens and his own personal life. I think a lot of the books that I really like tend to have some nonfiction in them. I love to cook. I've got a garden. It's heaven."

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine

Louann Brizendine is an American scientist and neuropsychiatrist.

"Dr. Louann Brizendine realized at a certain point that the female brain had never been studied. All of the cadavers that had been studied in the history of neuropsychiatry had been male because we didn't want those pesky female cycles to skew the results. Even though she was a neuropsychiatry professor, she was astounded by the differences in the ways the male and female brains worked. A lot of married men will think women are crazy and a lot of married women will think men are crazy. Nobody's crazy. We're really, really different and if you realize that ahead of time, I think it can make a huge contribution to the relationship between men and women."

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

John Irving is an author and Academy Award winning screenwriter. (Elisa Cabot/HarperCollins)

"I've been listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany as an audiobook. I love John Irving. He's definitely one of my favourite writers. He seems to get at something original in the human spirit. He's a hugely popular author, but he's still one of a kind. His characters - I wish I had thought them up myself."

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins was an English novelist, playwright, and short story writer and wrote the first English detective novel. (Penguin Classics)

"The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins has been described by many as the best in the mystery genre. I would agree. I just couldn't figure it out. I like stories that intrigue me and that go somewhere. I really am informed by some of the lace and ruffles on a book that might not impact somebody else who was just reading it for pleasure. I tend to have a historical appreciation. I like period novels and this is one."

Hit Men by ​Fredric Dannen

Fredric Dannen is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. (Vintage)

"Fredric Dannen's Hit Men is an exposé of the way the music business really is and how artists are so, so terribly cheated and sometimes abused. Poor Tommy James: when Morris Levy - who was the racketeer running his career — finally died, he owed Tommy James $15 million. They just don't give you the money. It's a terrible business."

Indian Givers by Jack Weatherford

Jack Weatherford is best known for his 2004 book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. (William Struhs/Broadway Books)

"Indian Givers is kind of like Indian 101 for people who have never had the pleasure of knowing Native American people and all the contributions that we've given the world. Most people would be unaware of pre-Columbian brain surgery being done in the Americas; they wouldn't know about optics and acoustics that Native American people were using in the building of pyramids in Mexico in the 1400s. Jack Weatherford's Indian Givers is very exciting, showing how cool people of the world can be, even though we're not talking about them in our education."

Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg

Natalie Goldberg best known for her series of books on writing Zen practice. (Bantam Books)

"Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind teaches you some handy tricks and excellent skills. She's the first person I came across who uses my favourite writing tricks. When you're inspired and you're having ideas, you lock the editor out. The editor is like your grade 6 English teacher standing behind you saying, 'Oh, you spelled it wrong. Oh it doesn't rhyme.' Blah, blah, blah. Later on, when the inspiration has passed, you read what you have and then you can edit. Gradually the editor learns, 'Okay, I'll get my turn later on.' It's a handy discipline trick to not let the editor slow down the inspiration." 

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