The greatest gift that someone can give a child is teaching them a love of reading. It's one of those life things you then take with youAnna Speedie
Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie admits she'll "pretty much read anything".
"I'll read trashy books just to turn my mind off," she said.
"But I love interesting tales and interesting novels, things that kind of step you outside of, I guess, your normal life."
She found that, and more, in Cutting for Stone, written by Ethiopian-born Indian-American doctor and author Abraham Verghese.
"I just loved it, the way it was written, the story, the complexity of the story," Cr Speedie said.
"It was one of those ones you just get to the end and it was like, 'Oh, wow!'."
Published in 2009, Cutting for Stone details the lives of twin brothers Marion and Shiva Stone born at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa.
Abandoned by their British surgeon father, the boys grow up amid changing politics, countries and a shared fascination with medicine.
Detailed descriptions of medical procedures are a feature of the book.
"The types of operations that they did underpin some of the tragedy that unfolds in the book because of the cultural elements," Cr Speedie said.
"Because of that, it helped you understand the nature of the two brothers, it helped you understand the place that they lived in, the culture that they lived in, how society viewed different things, so it was really a big centrepiece to it."
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Having backpacked through Africa for five months in her early 20s, the mayor could also picture some of the scenes.
"I remember having malaria in, well, it was called a hospital but was actually a shed with no walls, and lying on my roll-up mattress on a spring bed base because there was no mattress or anything else," she said.
Cutting for Stone became one of her picks for her book club, which has been meeting for about 10 years.
"We all put it in our diaries and almost nothing else moves it from our diaries," Cr Speedie said.
"We love getting together, it's a great bunch of people and we talk as much about life as we do about books."
For the past eight years or so electronic versions have been her choice, providing easy access to hundreds of books and also allowing her to sample a few pages at first.
"The end of the day is probably the only time I get, but I find if I do it, it helps me unwind, switch off and I'll sleep better," she said.
Her reading career started from Enid Blyton favourites when young and continued with Bryce Courtenay books among others as a teenager.
"The greatest gift that someone can give a child is teaching them a love of reading and even how to read, putting the time in as a parent," Cr Speedie said.
"It's one of those life things you then take with you."
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