Canada Reads·My Life in Books

6 books that Canada Reads panellist Roger Mooking loved reading

The chef, TV host and recording artist is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi on Canada Reads 2021.

The chef and TV host is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi on Canada Reads

Roger Mooking is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. (Submitted by Roger Mooking)

Roger Mooking is a chef, television host and recording artist. He has hosted Man Fire Food on the Food Network Canada and Cooking Channel, Greatest of America on Travel Channel and Everyday Exotic on Cooking Channel and co-hosted Heat Seekers on Food Network alongside chef Aarón Sanchez.

Mooking is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi on Canada Reads 2021.

Canada Reads will take place March 8-11. The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

Mooking is an avid reader and told CBC Books that he uses reading and books to get his regular information fix. "I take everything with a grain of salt and there's nuggets to be held in anything. So books are just information I use to load the brain with ammunition."

Here are the books Mooking has loved reading over the years.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

John Howard Griffin was an American journalist and author who wrote about racial equality. (Berkley)

"This book is about a controversial social and literary experiment, one where this white guy in 1959 deduces that the only way he can sympathize with the Black cause is to turn himself Black. Through a medical intervention, he took pills and actually stained his body with black stain — to the point where he was indistinguishable to even himself in the mirror and to everybody he encountered. 

It's a very interesting and well-documented book. It's in the U.S. Library of Congress as a testament to race and racism.

"He then manoeuvred through the American South, in the Mississippi and New Orleans, as a Black person. 

"It's a very interesting and well-documented book. It's in the U.S. Library of Congress as a testament to race and racism."

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

Daniel Clarence Quinn was an American author, cultural critic and publisher. (Bantam)

"It's a story of a seeker, seeking a guru. When he encounters the guru, he realizes that the guru is something that he totally did not expect. But he is nonetheless inspired by this guru. The guru teaches the seeker about 'leavers' and 'takers.' You can subdivide the planet into these two types.

It's a story of a seeker, seeking a guru.

"It's an explanation of how we got here, where we are now. Some of the things in that book are still very relevant and very poignant to today."

The Parable of The Sower by Octavia Butler

Octavia Estelle Butler was a California-based science fiction author. (Cheung Ching Ming, Grand Central Publishing)

"Butler is a Black woman who wrote this post-apocalyptic book. She is a very forward-thinking person. She's smart and maybe even clairvoyant. Interestingly enough, the book, although written back in 1993, is set in the early 2020s. She predicted that we would be facing climate change, economic and social crisis and the characters in the book are facing these issues.

It's a very interesting book and Butler was a genius.

"It is a truly post-apocalyptic story in that there's war in the streets. There's no water. People are killing each other for resources. They're walking on the highway trying to find their way to Canada, and they believe north is where there might be freedom or safety or open land. 

"It's a very interesting book and Butler was a genius."

Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

Writer Alex Haley is the co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. (Grove Press, Fred Mott/Getty Images)

"Malcolm X was a very polarizing figure in American civil rights movement. What I like about this book is it follows him from his early life to his adult life. This includes his joining and then leaving the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X was a very polarizing figure in American civil rights movement.

"What I love about this book is it shows that life is dynamic. You have to adapt and it's about survival. He shows a stubborn will and an intellect, but he has a willingness to change. He was a smart, funny and clever human being as well."

"But this is the pillar of storytelling about the life of Malcolm X, as written by Alex Haley, the author of Roots."

The Taoist Classics by Thomas Cleary

Thomas Cleary is an American author and translator of more than 80 books related to Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and Muslim classics. (Shambala)

"This is a comprehensive translation of Taoist philosophy. It includes a whole bunch of Taoist texts. Cleary, who is a scholar and academic, tries to decipher the deceptively simple but cryptic writings of Taoist philosophy. 

If you are not familiar with Taoist text, they're written very simply, but they're heavily coded

"When I read this book, I just open a page and see what's before me. If you are not familiar with Taoist text, they're written very simply, but they're heavily coded. 

"Academics and scholars for centuries have been trying to decode the actual meanings as people just can't do it. It's too much power."

The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran 

Khalil Gibran was a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist. (Castle Books)

"This book includes the writings of Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese American author. I recently discovered Gibran was also a prolific painter. He really is humanitarian at heart. The spirit of his humanitarianism is in all of his texts.

"He's most famously known for a book called The Prophet. Gibran has written a lot of incredible stuff over the years. This book compiles a bunch of his lesser known works into one body of work.

This man was born to write and pour out his soul.

"This is another book where I just open the page and read what's written — and there's always something incredible.

"This man was born to write and pour out his soul. You really sense that in every word, phrase and story."

Roger Mooking's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

The Canada Reads 2021 contenders

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