Toronto Public Library Foundation vice president Jennifer Jones can't wait to read 'Braiding Sweetgrass,' a non-fiction book about Indigenous knowledge of plants. Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Jones
Jennifer Jones on the novel she read so much the cover fell off and the book she’s given to 20 people
The Toronto Public Library fundraising executive, who was obsessed with dinosaur books as a child, is a die-hard Jack Reacher fan / BY Shinan Govani / October 13th, 2021
“I felt the weight of it,” Jennifer Jones says about her job as president of the Toronto Public Library Foundation, a charity that raised $5.4 million in 2019 for programs, services, collections and community spaces for one of the busiest urban public library systems in the world. Jones, the former vice president of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, believes libraries are “great equalizers,” and traces her love of reading to her childhood in Vancouver, where, at nine, she was obsessed with dinosaurs and would devour books about them. The 51-year-old is a competitive swimmer who finds running is “a nice complement” to her pool training.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
It’s been a struggle the past few years to find a book that makes me say, “you have to read this.” As I largely read Toronto Public Library e-books on my Kobo, I can easily return them when they don’t grab me, and this year I’ve returned most books well before they’re finished! Thankfully, I recently found You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy. It’s about the value of active listening and how to weave it into your daily life. It’s a good reminder of why paying attention to the words, body language and subtext is so important to building strong relationships and best outcomes. I read that back to back with Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss, and the two made each one more powerful. They’re both now on my annual must-read list.
What book can’t you wait to dive into?
I’m desperate for a book I can’t wait to dive into! There isn’t one at the moment that falls into that category but I am looking forward to Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (I’m on the TPL wait list), which I’ve heard good things about, and of course my Jack Reacher addiction will get its annual hit when the newest book, Better off Dead, is released this fall. The last few books have been weaker, but Jack can’t do much wrong in my eyes.
What’s your favourite book of all time?
I play a game with friends – Top 10 books you’d bring if you were stranded on an island. So asking me for my favourite is impossible! It changes with age and life experience. Forced to choose, I’d put Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell on the list thanks to Scarlett’s incredible character arc and resilience (I read it so much the cover fell off). The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is an absolute must; I was so inspired by Howard Roark’s commitment to his values. The entire Harry Potter series was delicious escapism (read ‘em all at least three times). Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson is magical, mysterious and soothing. It swept me away at a time when my life was in great turmoil. Likewise, when I was a teenager, Love Story by Erich Segal gave me an outlet to cry about my own fears, failures and insecurities.
What book completely changed your perspective?
I love books that challenge my paradigm, which is what Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall did. It completely flipped my understanding and respect for why humans are built for long distance running and it’s fully of zany, quirky far-flung characters that come together to share a beautiful experience through their love of running. I love it so much I’ve bought it upwards of 20 times as a gift for people who are starting to run or who have a lifelong love of the sport.
If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
Dr. Seuss! To understand how he created his stories would be fascinating.