Chief Librarian's Reads

Reading Challenge: I Can't Do It Without You

Leslie Fitch

As some of you already know, I've been completing a personal reading challenge each year for the past two years. It began in 2015 when I realized I wanted to reawaken my love for fiction, and so spent the year reading wonderful classic works of fiction, from Dumas, Dickens, Tolstoy, Woolf, Achebe, Marques, Hugo, Cather, and more. Doing so made me realize how many books I had in my house that somehow I had bought but not yet read, so the 2016 project was to read stuff that I already owned (with one proviso that I could also read items from MPL). I am a fast reader, and by watching a lot less TV, somehow I read 200 books, some of which I had owned since the early 1970's. The oldest book I read was A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe written in 1722, and one of the newest was Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last. Most of these 200 books have since left the house. Some fell apart as I read them, so they were recycled, others were passed along to family and friends, but the balance were popped into the bin at the Main Library for the Canadian Federation of University Women annual book sale the proceeds of which support local scholarships.

I've been so inspired by these challenges, and in thinking about 2017, I wasn't sure what direction to follow. Certainly I need to continue my project to read things I already own, and I'm going to so, but I wanted a new element to the challenge, and this is where you come in.

I want to read books that you admire and love, too. I'm happy to read as much as I can of the titles you recommend: children's books, teen titles, fiction, non-fiction, new or old. Reading in areas I may not be familiar with will be a wonderful experience and I'm looking forward to stretching my brain all year long.

Share with me by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I'll read at least one book a month from your recommendations, and will share my thoughts here on this page each month.

Thanks in advance for helping me make 2017 another wonderful year of reading.

Leslie in cursive


2017 / 2018 Reading Project

I was going to stop the 2017 Reading Challenge this month (January 2018) as a Baker’s Dozen. Now that I have announced my retirement, I think it would be a brilliant way to conclude my final six months with MPL.

My Final Thoughts About the Project

I am so glad that my final two reads in their separate ways had the heart and love at the centre of the story. Because not only did this project provide solace and distraction to me at a time of personal loss and sadness, but also I just loved doing it. It was a really neat way for me to connect that much more deeply with Milton as a community while I took the necessary steps as I began to wind my career down.

I know how lucky I am in reporting how much I’ve loved my job working for MPL for the past 28 years. Being your Chief Librarian has been an incredible privilege, and I was mindful every day of the awesome responsibility of holding a job with inherent public trust. A public library is a place where it is possible for everyone to learn something important every day.

For the past year and a half, I spent time learning a little bit more about what connects books with readers. There were times I worried I may not be able to continue. But month by month, title by title, you brought suggestions to me that engaged me on every level, and I’m so deeply grateful to have been given the opportunity to spend time with Miltonians in such a unique way.

Thank you, Milton, for connecting with me through the books you have read and loved. In the course of the last year and a half I read almost three dozen books you brought to my attention. I also shared with you three titles that were important to me as a child, which prompted me to think why that was so. Every day for the last year and a half, I’ve read and / or thought about what you wanted me to pick up. And what a list of titles! It is one I will continue to look back on with fondness. Save for perhaps one or two, I don’t think I would have picked up any of them, and what a loss that would have been. As a result of the gift of recommended reads you gave me, I laughed and cried, thought deeply, was thrilled, often surprised, scared, challenged and intrigued.

I urge anyone who has followed my CEO reads project to undertake something similar. Read stuff you don’t normally read. Ask friends, your bus driver, your waitress, your kids’ best friend’s grandad, or anyone you come across what they love to read, and read it, too. You’ll find yourself thinking about that other person as you read it, and somehow it deepens the experience, and makes it that much more enjoyable. Connect with each other through this kind of shared experience. It will broaden your mind – it must, since it certainly did so for me.

Thanks so much for making this reading journey such a wonderful experience. It was a perfect adjunct and amazing gift to the completion of my career.