> Zed Book Club / Adrienne Batra on Judy Blume, ‘The Fountainhead’ and her fascination with Jane Austen

Photo: Courtesy of Adrienne Batra

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Adrienne Batra on Judy Blume, ‘The Fountainhead’ and her fascination with Jane Austen

The editor-in-chief of The Toronto Sun can't wait to read Barbara Amiel's memoir 'Friends and Enemies,' for its inside look at Canadian media, politics and celebrity / BY Shinan Govani / December 2nd, 2021

Her day job involves leading The Toronto Sun, a newspaper known for its colourful, and often bombastic, headlines, but she is a Janeite – as in Jane Austen – at heart.

When Adrienne Batra was named editor-in-chief of the Sun in 2015, she was the first, and only, person of colour to helm a major metropolitan paper in Canada ­– not to mention the second female, ever – but she doesn’t just consume news, she reads widely.

Raised in Saskatchewan, and brought up in a Punjabi household, Batra – who is also an in-demand TV pundit – famously had a stint in politics when she served as press secretary to the one-and-only late Toronto mayor, Rob Ford. File it under: Truth is stranger than fiction!

The editor-in-chief updated us recently on her reading diet.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Don’t Call it a Cult by Sarah Berman. The NXIVM cult was hitting the news again earlier in 2021 with sentencing hearings for some of Keith Raniere’s enablers and we had covered a number of the stories at The Toronto Sun. But I wanted to understand how this nefarious group hypnotized so many women. Berman’s account of what happened is chilling.

What book can’t you wait to dive into?

Friends and Enemies : A Memoir by Barbara Amiel.  Even though it was released in 2020, like so many, I feel like I’ve lost a year since COVID-19, therefore the book is still new to me. For anyone fascinated by who’s who in Canadian media and politics and celebrity, Amiel has a story for and about all of them. Who could resist?

What’s your favourite book of all time?

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I suspect many women around my age would agree this book was well ahead of its time. Growing up in an East Indian family in Saskatchewan, the topics that Blume dives into about a typical adolescent girl were not things we discussed around the dinner table. There was a sense of comfort and familiarity reading about Margaret’s life in that moment.

What book completely changed your perspective?

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I first encountered Rand’s writing at the end of high school, before university. I started with Atlas Shrugged, but it was The Fountainhead that crystallized what I believed, and spoke deeply to me in a philosophical manner about my own perspective on freedom, humanity‘s responsibility to one another and the limited role the state should have in our lives.

If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be?

Jane Austen. So much of what she wrote was more than just matchmaking and marriage. She had such a charming way of letting her characters live with their own uncomfortable quirks, and her wit and candour was a breath of fresh air.  Her take on modern day culture would be fascinating. But mostly what I would love to share with her is the amount of wealth she created. Most people don’t know that Austen was underpaid for her work and died poor.


Adrienne Batra
Photos: Blume (Rachel Murray / Getty Images); Amiel (Globe and Mail / The Canadian Press); Rand (Oscar White / Getty Images)




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