The books I’m currently reading

Catherine Coles
Coles Notes

Like a lot of readers I usually have more than one (or two or three) books on the go at any given time. Usually this means a novel, a non-fiction title, and an audiobook or two. Take a metaphorical peek over my shoulder and read further to learn what books I’m enjoying now.

The audiobook I’m currently listening to during my commute is Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. This tome of investigative journalism was released all the way back in 2013 but at nearly 600 pages I had been too intimidated to give it a go until recently. I’m so glad I did!

Fink reconstructs the five harrowing days faced by staff at the Memorial Medical Centre in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The hospital flooded and lost power, stranding staff (including some family members and pets of staff) and hundreds of patients, many of whom were critically ill and in need of oxygen and ventilators. Communication breakdown, an apparent lack of emergency preparedness, and massive failures on the part of the hospital’s ownership and the government, lead to stalled rescue operations.

This, in turn, forced doctors and hospital administrators to make tough decisions on how to prioritize the evacuation of patients. Their system of triage did not favor those most in need of care, assuming they would not survive the rescue anyway.

The real issue of contention, though, came about as Dr. Anna Pou, an accomplished ear, nose and throat cancer surgeon and savior of countless lives prior, allegedly chose to euthanize several of the remaining critically ill patients.

This chain of events sparked a multitude of legal battles, including the criminal prosecution of Pou. What really happened amid the chaos and devastation of those days following the Hurricane? What are the bioethical implications of this case? When is euthanasia justified? What are the moral dilemmas that surround triage? Balanced and well-researched, Five Days at Memorial asks some loaded, compelling questions. It is still relevant over five years later and would be an excellent book club read assuming those participating are prepared for a long, emotionally-draining journey!

Chicken Girl by Heather Smith is a brand-new Canadian young adult novel that follows a teenage girl whose confidence is shattered after becoming a victim of online bullying. She retreats into a chicken costume (literally), which is part and parcel with her part-time job as a promoter of a local restaurant. Filled with all sorts of diverse, quirky characters and topical, hot-button themes, this small novel packs a punch.

I’ve only just started it, and I’m not sure I’m the correct audience for it, but I think it will resonate with a lot of young readers, particularly those dealing with some degree of social isolation.

Each year around this time, Sophie Kinsella comes out with a new novel. I always read them and am rarely disappointed, even though she offers more or less the same story retold. Her latest, I Owe You One, which I just finished, follows a plucky woman nicknamed Fixie. She’s a bit of a doormat and takes her late father’s motto “Family First” to heart, even when it is not in her best interests. When her overstressed mother takes a prolonged trip abroad following some health concerns, the family shop is left in the capable hands of Fixie and her not-so-capable siblings. Can she overcome her deferential nature in order to save the shop from her greedy brother and out of touch sister? There is a romance story line here too, of course, but it is secondary to Fixie’s personal transformation, as is typically the case with novels belonging to the chick-lit genre. While this wasn’t my favorite Kinsella novel to date, it did the trick.

Talk to a library staff member about borrowing any of the books mentioned above, or check them out online at

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