The Big Book Sale is back from May 12-22 at the Calgary Curling Club!

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, now is the perfect time to dive into a good book. Lucky for us, the annual Big Book Sale is back, and makes it even better is that the proceeds go towards early childhood literacy programs throughout our city.

Reading is an essential part of early childhood development and can significantly impact a child’s success in life. According to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, reading at a young age creates a foundation for stability and success. Reading with a little one can create healthier, more productive, and socially engaged adults. Early literacy now makes for a more prosperous community later.

At United Way of Calgary and Area, we strive to create a better tomorrow for everyone, and for our children, a better tomorrow starts with reading skills.

By shopping at the Big Book Sale, you’re supporting important literacy work in our community and giving youth the opportunity for a stronger future where they can flourish.

At United Way, we’re a group of voracious readers. To help you shop the sale and find your next favourite read, we polled our colleagues and compiled recommendations for some of our most memorable, life-changing books.

Anne of Green Gables

1. Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery

This classic series is an excellent choice for early readers. Lucy Maude Montgomery’s stories are about a young orphan girl adopted by an elderly brother and sister, and her adventures on Prince Edward Island. The series encourages a love of imagination and adventure in young readers.

“My mom had kept her Anne of Green Gables series of books from when she was young and passed them down to me when I was in elementary school. I loved them so much and shared them with my friends, who loved them too. We would each take on a character’s name and only call each other by that name and rotate them amongst our group weekly so everyone had a chance to be Anne.” – Susan, Design Lead

The Building Blocks of Meditation

2. The Building Blocks of Meditation by Nick Keomahavong and Michael Viradhammo

Gain a clear understanding of meditation and the mind. Find out how taking just five minutes each day to “shower your mind” can shift your entire life.

“Meditation has been a helpful tool to gain a new perspective on complex or difficult situations. The Building Blocks of Mediation provides insight and practical guidance on mediation in a fun and easy-to-read format” – Ray, Transformation team

Hitching Rides With Buddha

3. Hitching Rides with Buddha by Will Ferguson

A hilarious and illuminating travelogue about one man’s hitchhiking journey from one end of Japan to the other.

“Hitching Rides with Buddha is the type of book I can read over and over again without ever getting bored. It’s a reminder that life is a journey, and that you must embrace the adventure and unknown to enjoy it to the fullest. It is also written by local author Will Ferguson, which makes me very appreciative of all the talent we have in the local community!”  - Lamia, Strategic Giving Specialist

Harriet the Spy

4. Harriet the Spy series by Louise Fitzhugh

This classic series is about a young girl who wants to be a writer and starts spying on her neighbours to gather material for her notebook. Later made into a film in the 90s, this series encourages a love of writing and storytelling in young readers.

“I LOVED Harriet! I got a notepad and pen and used to hide around in neighbour’s backyards, ‘spying’ on them. I would hide in bushes, behind sheds and take notes and make up back stories based on things they said or did. Kind of creepy, as I look back on it now! Of course, they often saw me – must have been the beginning of my (accurate) image as a “nerd-ish, weird kid.” – Vanda, Communications Lead

5. 4,000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

4,000 Weeks looks at the extremely short lifespan that humans have on Earth and encourages the reader to make the most of the time they have.

“Despite the title, the book isn’t what you think it’s about. It taught me that society’s obsession with the ‘grind’ or the ‘5-9 before your 9-5’ is not something that should be celebrated. I learned to embrace the inevitability of my own mortality, and that there is peace in embracing the lack of control we have in our lives. It also taught me about the ‘Joy of Missing Out’ which is something I remind myself of when I make decisions!” – Ben, Digital Content Coordinator

The Big Race

6. The Big Race by David Barrow

A retelling of the classic tortoise and hare parable, only this time with an aardvark being told she can’t participate in the biggest race. A lesson for young readers about challenging yourself.

“I loved reading ‘The Big Race’ with my daughter when she was just learning to read. She would memorize the words on each page and if I tried to cut any corners before bedtime she always corrected me. It was good fun watching her learn to read!” – Craig, Community Impact Strategist

Where the Sidewalk Ends

7. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

This classic collection of poems by Shel Silverstein is perfect for young readers. The poems are whimsical and fun, encouraging a love of language and the power of words.

“I remember discovering Shel Silverstein’s poetry books as a kid (Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic…) and absolutely falling in love with them. Reading them, I realized my love of language and the powerful feelings and emotions that words can evoke.” – Kendra, Communications Lead

Arty the Smarty

8. Arty the Smarty by Faith McNulty

A book for early readers, this story is about a little fish named Arty who marches to the beat of a different drum, doing things differently from the other fish in his school.

“I was born into a family where work was for survival and education was for people of privilege, so enrichment opportunities were limited. Arty the Smarty was my one and only book, and at age 4 it opened the door to the magical and captivating world of reading. I read it forward, backward, and used the words contained in those pages to create my own stories.” – Emilie, Operations Manager

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This book is excellent for introverted children or parents of introverted children intending to help introverted children feel valued and understood.

“A book that changed my life is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It helped me understand that introversion can be a strength and helped me reframe my thinking to see myself as a valuable contributor to a team and community.” – Kelsey, Project Designer

Angela’s Ashes

10. Angela’s Ashes and Tis by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes and Tis are memoirs from Frank McCourt’s childhood experiences of poverty in Ireland. The themes often highlight the importance of gratitude and resilience in the face of adversity.

“I read these years ago and just re-read them last year. They forever changed my perspective on how privileged my days are, and how to find joy. It was very grounding to learn how, just two generations ago, what we take for granted was so out of reach for many people on earth. The humour and personal narrative McCourt shares alongside the Irish immigrant experience is captivating.” – Laura, Business Development Manager

Nancy Drew

11. The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene

Tales of the brave teenage detective have captivated young readers for over 90 years. The headstrong Nancy Drew outsmarted adults, helped to catch the bad guys, and saved the day in over 175 novels.

“As I got into middle school, I discovered Nancy Drew and was sold! This ‘detective’ with many talents- and a great circle of friends piqued my curiosity and opened my mind to adventure and questioning things. It came as no surprise to my family when I ended up in journalism school and became a journalist!” – Onai, Internal Communications Specialist

On the Road

12. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

This classic novel about a man’s travels across the United States can encourage young readers to explore and experience the world around them.

“I read On the Road when I was 18 and it fuelled my imagination and soul. It hit me at the perfect time, when I needed to escape my small town, see the world, and experience life. I was never the same after I read it, and I’ve read it many times since.” – Greg, Content Lead

Chronicles Volume One

13. Chronicles Volume One by Bob Dylan

The legendary singer songwriter’s rambling yet prosaic look at several periods of his life is a rich but entertaining read.

“Although it is an autobiography, this book also is a doorway to worlds of literature and music that shaped the landscape of our modern times. This is a story of one grasping their destiny and it’s a discovery of obscure influential folk giants like Reverend Gary Davis, Dave Van Ronk and writers from the cannon of literature like Albert Camus, Jack Kerouac and Thucydides.” – Cort, Corporate Account Manager