Catherine Graham’s Ten Reasons to Join the TIFA Book Club

TIFA's official Book Club runs twice per year. If you're deciding whether to join us, we're here to help. Award-winning author, poet and our book club facilitator, Catherine Graham, has a few reasons why you should join the club.

By Catherine Graham
Published spring, 2019

It has been an honour to lead the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) Book Club these past few years. I’m even more excited as we reconvene this fall to focus on books by authors attending this year’s Festival as it celebrates 40 years of great reads by awe-inspiring authors. Come join us!

Throughout her powerful memoir Projection: Encounters with my Runaway Mother, the late Pricila Uppal made use of lists as a tool for coping with life’s challenges. Our book club thoroughly enjoyed discussing Uppal’s book in May and as a tribute to her work, I’ve compiled this list:

Ten Reasons to Join the TIFA Book Club:

  1. For the love of books. We discuss novels, non-fiction books, memoirs, translations, poetry books and short story collections by local and international authors.
  2. To share insights and thoughts about books in a safe, spirited and respectful environment. Character, motivation, scene, plot, favourite passages, beginnings and endings—there is much to talk about when it comes to books.
  3. To challenge you as a reader. Sometimes it’s good to be pushed out of familiar reading habits and comfort zones.
  4. For the love of learning and gaining new perspectives. Part of the joy each month is witnessing different reactions to the same text, enriching the book club experience for everyone.
  5. To make time in your life for reading. Deadlines do help. And even if participants haven’t finished the book, they are always welcome.
  6. To support authors. Some authors whose books we’ve read have generously answered questions for us. Readers are a curious bunch, after all.
  7. Reading is good for you! As studies have shown, reading provides numerous health benefits, including stress reduction.
  8. For a break from everyday life. At Harbourfront Centre, a popular tourist area and key cultural organization, members can take time before the monthly meeting to gaze out at Lake Ontario, watch glassblowers at work, visit the gift shop, browse through the art gallery or perhaps have a bite to eat at Boxcar Social.
  9. For the special benefits. Book Club members receive one free ticket to a Festival event and also enjoy a 15% discount on books purchased at U of T Bookstore.
  10. For the love of community and meeting interesting people (like our wonderful organizer, Ardo Omer!).

If that list doesn’t convince you, here are some comments from participants:

Everyone brings their own unique take on each book. My experience of reading is enriched by the perspectives people share.

I've been familiar with some books and not others. Some are "stretch" books for me - books in genres or on subjects that I wouldn't otherwise have read. I'm glad to have read each one. The sessions are so well-facilitated that I can participate in the discussions no matter the extent of my familiarity with the month's book.

Catherine is an awesome facilitator who easily invites discussion. Conversations are well-balanced among all participants. Additional background information about the month's book is appreciated and seamlessly integrated within the discussions.

Emily Z

I love the fact that our book gatherings are a meeting of various minds and perspectives. I always look forward to learning from the others in the club and sharing my own insights. Critical to the discussions has been the preparation by Catherine Graham and her gracious approach to the joys of literature.

David R.

To save your spot for TIFA's next book club and to learn more, click here. See you there!

Catherine Graham is a Toronto-based writer. The Celery Forest, Graham’s sixth poetry collection, was named a CBC Best Book of the Year, appears on the CBC Books Ultimate Canadian Poetry List and was shortlisted for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Her debut novel Quarry won an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal for fiction, “The Very Best!” Book Awards for Best Fiction and was a finalist for the Sarton Women’s Book Award for Contemporary Fiction and the Fred Kerner Book Award. She teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award and is a previous winner of TIFA’s Poetry NOW competition. Visit her at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @catgrahampoet