> Zed Book Club / Tim Murphy Loves Detective Fiction, But His Bookshelves Hold Some Classics

Photo: Courtesy of Tim Murphy

> Buzz

Tim Murphy Loves Detective Fiction, But His Bookshelves Hold Some Classics

The CEO of the Toronto business law firm McMillan LLP also likes non-fiction that challenges conventional thinking / BY Shinan Govani / January 28th, 2022


Tim Murphy may be a grandee in the world of blue-chip Canadian law firms – he is currently the CEO and Managing Partner of McMillan LLP – but he is not resigned to reading legal briefs. A one-time chief of staff to former Prime Minister Paul Martin, as well as a member of the provincial parliament in Ontario, Murphy is drawn to explorations of the human condition, sociological deep dives, and often just a good yarn.

When he is not juggling his other responsibilities – he is on the board of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and the Soulpepper Theatre Company, and an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law – he can often be found with his nose in a good book.

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

Humankind by Rutger Bregman. It’s a refreshing voice for optimism about human nature grounded in the hard facts of real events. It pushes hard against the notion that life is nasty, brutish and short played out in a Lord of the Flies world. He works hard to show we are ultimately social animals who thrive on cooperation. He does a great job, for example, debunking the famous Stanford prisoner experiment, which purported to show that normal university students acting as guards in a pretend prison could turn into cruel brutes. Turns out, not so much.

What book can’t you wait to dive into?

I have to pick two. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. I loved A Gentleman in Moscow and his characters are believable and entertaining; I expect this to be another literary gem.

The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato, is another debunking book. The increasing intervention of “policy” into the balance sheets of business (climate change, equity, diversity and inclusion, government regulation, pandemic spending, corporate purpose demands by employees and others) means we need to rethink our traditional views of the public and private domains. Mazzucato, a professor at University College London, advances the seemingly heretical thesis that we need to stop socializing risk and privatizing the benefits. It argues that many important innovations in our economy started in government or through government support and leadership.

What’s your favourite book of all time?

An impossible question but if I measure it by a book I have read multiple times, it is The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. This book, first read in the basement of my parent’s house in Barrie, Ont., as a teenager, kick-started my love of the detective fiction genre. It’s something I still read, having just finished a great Canadian example: Sam Wiebe’s Hell and Gone, with his Vancouver private detective duo, Wakeland and Chen.

What book completely changed your perspective?

Jürgen Habermas’ The Theory of Communicative Action. A philosophy book I read in university, it helped solidify my political perspective that human interaction is not ultimately centred on self-interest as a primary driver, but on using communication to find mutual agreement. It updates the golden rule and places it in a political context: never sacrifice common ground to an abstract idea.

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

Again two options. Shakespeare, mostly to settle the debate as to who he really was. But probably T.S. Eliot, whose poetry I have always admired and whose life and work spreads across a broad swath of current western literary culture. Ultimately, it is difficult to believe that the poet who wrote “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” would be a boring dinner companion.

 

Tim Murphy
Photos: Towles (David Levenson/Getty); Eliot (Bettmann/Getty); Bregman (Simone Padovani/Awakening /Getty)

THE SCROLL

American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


> STAY UP TO DATE

Sign Up for the Weekly Book Club Newsletter