Community Reader Profile: Maureen Johnston



Name: Maureen Johnston

Job Title: Retired/Community Volunteer President for the Friends of the North Vancouver City Library

Best book I have read this year: Section 132 by Helga Zeiner. Helga is a personal friend, but that is not the reason I have selected her book as my best read of the year. I am co-chair of an ad hoc committee called the Bountiful Roundtable, which operates out of the University Women’s Club of Vancouver and includes representatives from many major organizations. For six years we have been actively involved in supporting the enforcement of Section 153 of the Canadian Criminal Code regarding the sexual exploitation of girls in polygamous communities. Helga has been studying and researching Bountiful for the past 12 years and has just published this fiction-based-on-fact novel. The subject matter has been meticulously researched and starkly presented by this new and gifted Canadian author. Fast-paced and frightening, I recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t know what’s happening in the backwoods of our freedom-loving Canada.

I will read any book by: Helen Simonson. Just finished her charming debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and loved it!

Best place to curl up with a book on a rainy day: The usual scenario – fireplace, a cup of herbal tea, and some soft jazz in the background.

Best place to lounge with a book in the sun: My favourite spot is my balcony overlooking The Lions to the North and the City to the South. An alternative is a little bench on the West Van Seawall.

A book I know I should read (but have never completed): Ulysses, by James Joyce. I still have a dog-eared Modern Library edition that I pick up, with the best of intentions, about once every five years.

A guilty pleasure favourite: A novel by Jodi Picoult. I’m always hoping she will come up with something as good as her excellent  My Sister’s Keeper.  Or the latest Anita Shreve, ditto The Pilot’s Wife.

The book I push on all my (girl)friends because it is soooooooo good: Lately, it’s Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. A beautifully-written, heart-breaking novel about a brilliant women in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Thoughts on reading: My introduction to books began when I was too young to remember. My father, a lover of the classics, would lull me to sleep with Shakespeare’s soliloquies and Shelley’s sonnets.

I chose English and Journalism as my major in university and graduated with a BA in Honors English.  I love words and couldn’t have chosen a better career. You could say I’ve been “hooked on books” all my life.

I’m thrilled that some of today’s best writers hail from Vancouver: Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants  and Ape House.  And Steven Galloway, The Cellist of Sarajevo.

My reading tastes are very eclectic – ranging from thrillers (Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy) to experimentals (Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad).  I particularly enjoy fiction-based-on-fact (Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank) and social issues (Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin).

Since I read two or three books at the same time, I usually stick to one factual (generally political) and two fictional (one heavy and one light). If I find an author I enjoy, I seek out everything written by that person until I tire of him/her. In my young days I pursued Ian Fleming, John Grisham, John Updike, and John Le Carre. Now, in my older years and more interested in social issues, I tend to read women authors such as Annie Proulx,  Jane Smiley, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Isabel Allende, Lisa See, and Jeanette Walls (her The Glass Castle was excellent).  

Where you can find me:

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