Winner of the 2012 Canada-Japan Literary Award

"An engrossing and charming memoir about getting back to basics: home truths, family, and the life-altering, life-saving power of books."
                                                                                   -Emma Donoghue, author of Room

Leslie Shimotakahara is a young, disenchanted English professor struggling to revive her childhood love of reading. Her father Jack, recently retired from a high-powered corporate job, finally has time to take up reading books for pleasure. The Reading List tells the story of Leslie’s return home to Toronto to rethink her life and decide what to do next. At the same time, she bonds with her dad over discussions about the lives, loves and works of the novelists on their reading list – Wharton, Joyce, Woolf and Atwood, to name a few. But when their conversations about literature unearth some heartbreaking, deeply buried family secrets surrounding Jack’s own childhood – growing up Japanese-Canadian in the aftermath of World War II – Leslie’s world is changed forever. Could discovering the truth about her father’s past hold the key to her finally being happy in love, life and career?

As captivating as The Jane Austen Book Club, and as inspiring as The Film Club, The Reading List reveals how literature can sometimes help us expose our past, understand our loved ones and point us toward our future.

Winner of the 2012 Canada-Japan Literary Award.  For more information, click here.

Released by Variety Crossing Press in February 2012.  Photos of the book launch here.

To read an excerpt, click here.

The Reading List is now available as an e-book!  To access the book as an e-book, click here (kindle) or here (kobo).
"I’ve read a lot of good memoirs, but it’s a rare talent that can weave together so many threads – family, love, literature, career angst – so effortlessly as Leslie does in The Reading List. She guided me through her life via the mirror of her favourite books and as I came to the end of The Reading List, I found that her own book had become just such a mirror for this reader."
                                                                                         -Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung

"The Reading List brims with frankness, provocative wit and acute insights into our hearts and psyches. A journey into the dark night of the soul and into the light of love and reconciliation, it proclaims its relevance in myriad ways. It is the story of a young woman finding her footing in the present by exploring a painful past, accompanied by her father and guided by the literature she loves. It celebrates the power of that literature to illuminate our inner lives and crystallize our desires."       
                      -Kerri Sakamoto, author of The Electrical Field and One Hundred Million Hearts

Priscila Uppal's review of my book on CBC can be listened to here.

Open Book Toronto's profile on my book can be read here.

An article in Hazlitt on what's on my bookshelf can be read here

My piece in 49th Shelf on becoming a writer can be read here.


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About Me

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Toronto, ON, Canada
Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Leslie's writing has been published in WRITE, TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.