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Jodi Picoult got me my first job in this industry. Not literally, but indirectly.

 

Let’s start at the beginning. I have always been a voracious reader. My parents used to tease me that I was born with a book in my hand, and I learned to read at an early age. I was also that person who would not only hang out in a bookstore for fun, but couldn’t resist recommending something to people who were in the store. I also have a compulsion to fix shelves, but that’s another story.

 

Many years ago, when I was not that long out of university and still wondering what I could do with a degree in English literature, I saw a posting for a job fair at Indigo. Seeing as my philosophy was to buy 5 new books for every book I finished, so I decided to take a chance. I mean, I had to do something for money, and being paid to be around books all day seemed like a really good idea.

 

Fast forward to interview day. While I was waiting, for the manager to come out, I was drawn to a display table near the front of the store. On the table was The Pact and the summary caught my attention. Without even thinking about what I was doing, I opened it up to the first page and started reading. I was hooked!

 

I was about one chapter in when I was interrupted by the manager. She asked me what I was reading, and when I showed her, she told me that she was also reading that same book. I’d never met her before and I certainly didn’t know that this was her current read. I took it as a sign that I was meant to get that job. I also bought the book before I left the store because now that I’d started it, I had to keep reading!

 

If you’ve never read the book, the story follows the impact of the apparent murder-suicide pact between two teens on their families. What was happening in their lives that they felt driven to do something so drastic? How do the families reconcile this act with the kids they thought they knew? Twenty-years after its original publication, it’s still as relevant as it was then.

 

That experience not only launched my career in books, but has also made me a loyal reader of this author.  What I like most about her is her ability to address contemporary issues in accessible and interesting manner, and to make you think. How do you define normal when your Asperger’s child is accused of murder? If you are the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and your neighbor turned out to be a former Nazi SS guard, could you forgive him? What would it feel like to be a nurse and be told not to treat a patient because of the colour of your skin?

 

Her new title, A Spark of Light  asks readers to consider why a man would enter a women’s reproductive health services clinic, open fire, and take hostages. It is as thought-provoking and relevant as her previous books andI couldn't put it down. 

 

In honor of her new book, and new mass-market editions of her older titles, I thought I’d recommend  three other backlist titles that I most enjoyed.

 

I don’t think you can properly discuss this author without referencing My Sister’s Keeper. Of all her books, this is the most well-known, and probably her most popular. The book was made into a movie back in 2009 and really put her on the map. The story follows two sisters- Anna and Kate, and the moral conflict that comes with Anna’s family’s expectation that she be a permanent bone marrow donor for Kate, and Anna’s desire to lead a normal teenage life- even if it means her sister could die. Picoult is careful to make sure the reader can understand all the points of view, and you come out of it realizing that there are no simple choices.

                                                                                         

Sadly, school-shootings continue to be in the news and Nineteen Minutes, published a decade ago,  looks at bullying in high school, mental health, school violence, and how we can prevent incidents like this from happening. While she never tries to justify the shooter’s actions, she does look at some of the reasons why he did what he did, and looks at the impact of those horrific 19 minutes on not only the teens, but everybody in the town. This is a popular title in high school classrooms as well, and it’s heart-wrenching and riveting.

 

Leaving Time is a book that made me want to immediately go to the library and learn more about elephants. Unlike some of her more issue based books, it’s a story of a daughter’s grief for the mother that seemingly abandoned her years ago, and her determination to find out what really happened to her all those years ago. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between elephants and humans (did you know elephant’s grieve?), and it explores loss, grief, and the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.

 

There are countless other books by Jodi Picoult that I could put on this list, and a corresponding selection list of in-print Jodi Picoult titles is available on our website if you need to replace or fill in missing titles in your library.

 

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Happy Reading!

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