Books·My Life in Books

Frankie Drake star Lauren Lee Smith shares 6 books she loves

The second season of the 1920s detective series Frankie Drake begins on Sept. 24.
Actor Lauren Lee Smith stars as Frankie Drake in CBC's Frankie Drake Mysteries. (Christos/Kalohoridis)

A new season of Frankie Drake Mysteries begins on Sept. 24 on CBC. Set in the 1920s, the series stars Lauren Lee Smith as the fearless Frankie Drake, Toronto's only female private detective who takes on the city's toughest cases. 

In honour of the second season premiere, Smith shares some of the books that have shaped her life.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Ken Follett is a bestselling author. (Oliver Favre, kenfollett.com/Prnguin Random House)

"The book that I have read more times than any other book would be The Pillars of the Earth. I read it for the first time when I was 14 and it changed my way of reading. It opened my eyes to history and architecture and cathedrals and this immense, vast world that was so far beyond my 14-year-old brain. It transported me and I loved the world that it created for me.

"I continue to read that book again whenever I don't know what to read or if I'm in between books. I still love the characters as much now as I did then."

Jelly Belly by Dennis Lee, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard

Jelly Belly is a children's book by Dennis Lee. (The Canadian Press/Macmillan of Canada)

"My mom's friend Sue is an English professor. Every birthday, she always gave me books, which are the most incredible present. I still have the book from my first birthday — which I recently gave it to my two-year-old daughter  — it's called Jelly Belly. It's short stories and little poems, and it's kind of dark. I still think it's a pretty incredible book. It was cool to pass on to my daughter the very first book I was ever given."

Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Z is a novel by Therese Anne Fowler. (John Kessel/St. Martin's Press)

"Because I'm doing a show in the 1920s, I've been trying to find books that take place in that era. Z goes through the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, but it's told through her perspective. Their life was absolutely heartbreaking, especially from her perspective as a woman in the 1920s, trying to to do something other than be a wife or be a mother. She tried and tried and tried and tried to have an outlet for herself and ultimately she was put into mental institution because she was told she was schizophrenic. This book had me in tears by the end because I was so invested in this character."

Room by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue won the Rogers Writers Trust Friction prize in 2010 for Room. (Punch Photographic/HarperCollins Publishers)

"In 2010, I read Room by Emma Donoghue. It was before the movie had been made. I wanted to play the character of Ma so bad that I wrote Emma Donoghue several letters. She probably thinks I am absolutely insane, which I guess I was. I tried to create little scenes so I could act them out and send in tapes. Obviously, it didn't go my way, but I loved the book and I thought the film was beautiful."

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

White Oleander is a novel by Janet Fitch. (Cat Gwynn/Back Bay Book)

"I've always had a fascination with mother-daughter relationships. I think it's one of the most complex, interesting relationships we have on this planet. I don't have a single girlfriend who doesn't have some sort of story about her and her mother — whether their relationship was good, bad, tumultuous or complicated. I think, in a sense, your mother is the one person you will, no matter what, always be yourself with. So, for that reason, White Oleander was interesting to me."

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

The Tortilla Curtain is a novel by T.C. Boyle. (Penguin Random House)

"It's a fascinating book and a very interesting look at immigration. This book was written several years ago about  immigrants who come from Mexico and sneak into this part of California that I lived in as a child. They live in the forested area of the main road and [the book shows] how they survive and deal with people in society. It's very heartbreaking. It's a tough read, but I think it's am important book and it's a beautiful book."

Lauren Lee Smith's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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