I love the coincidences that come from working in the library. A patron will return a book and then 30 minutes later another patron will come in and pick up the same book from the Holds shelf and remark about how much she is looking forward to reading that same book. The serendipity of working in an environment that is filled with people and books can be so pleasant. When I find that same kind of coincidence in the material I’ve been reading I can’t help but wonder whether there is a reason behind it.
Well, with my recent reading topic I certainly hope not! Two Dystopian novels with terrifying self-proclaimed prophets – what kind of message is behind that coincidence? Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Edan Lepucki’s California had been on the list of things I wanted to read for quite a while and their similarities just made the reading more interesting. I have always enjoyed books that try to illustrate how society will rebuild after catastrophe (remember Stephen King’s The Stand? – still one of my all-time favourites). It’s that whole idea of how it’s possible to safely think though scary thoughts in books because you know you aren’t really experiencing it – like how a roller coaster gives you that feeling of intense fear but you know you are safe within the car the whole time – that makes post-apocalyptic fiction so much fun. Really, musing about the end of the world has been popular for a very long time.
Reading two novels that have similar themes so closely together gave me a chance to compare the styles of writing, the way the two authors felt we might try to rebuild our world and consider whether their choices might match up with the ones I might make (all from the safety of my striped chair). California brings us into the lives of Cal and Frida a few years after they’ve adjusted to the destruction of the world they used to know and are firmly in the routine of hunting, farming and trading to try and keep themselves safe. In Station Eleven we have the chance to get to know the cast of characters a few weeks before their worldwide disaster strikes and then they try to find a way to survive without refrigeration and mass distribution of food and consumer goods. In both novels the main characters find objects or memories that they protect, helping to connect them with the homes and families that they have lost. These small coping mechanisms seemed so real to me and I felt like it built a stronger connection between the reader and the story. Maybe I would have chosen the same things in a way to feel closer to what I had lost?
I like a book that gives you a lot to think about. I like a book that gives you a lot to talk about also – with library patrons or at home with my family. It’s very easy to sit back and wonder how it would be possible to rebuild a community or how you would find enough to eat but to actually do that is another thing. I am amazed (and thrilled) that both authors took such different approaches to similar stories. The world their characters knew has ended but in each novel – despite creepily similar obstacles – there are distinctly different moments of beauty. Their imagination and ability to create a new and terrifying world on the pages was incredible. It all felt very real. It was a scary but gripping roller coaster ride to read both of these novels. True, there is much to fear in the new worlds these two young authors have created but you are left with a sense of something good to come. You really do get the feeling that it might be ‘the end of the world as we know it, (but I feel fine)’.
What do you think?
– – Penny M.
2015 Reading Challenge
Happy New Year! A new year makes it a great time to set up a reading challenge for ourselves. To stretch our ‘reading wings’. Some people, like myself, like to keep track of the numbers of books that they read in a year (a free GoodReads account is great for this) but this year I wanted to do something different. More challenging. I’m an avid reader already so why not make it a little harder and push myself to read books/genres that aren’t in my comfort zone? Hopefully this will open up a whole new world of reading for me.
Here’s a list of reading challenges. How many of them can you accomplish this year?
1. A book set in Canada. (eg. Still Life by Louise Penny)
2. A book with a non-human main character. (eg. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien)
3. A book with more than 500 pages (eg. Roots by Alex Haley)
4. Read an e-book (WPL staff can teach you all about our download library!)
5. A non-fiction read
6. A book written by a female author
7. A book from WPL’s ‘Featured Titles’
8. A book published during the year you were born
9. A fantasy novel
10. A book with a number in the title
11. A book written by a British author
12. An entire book trilogy
13. A book of short stories (eg. Alice Munro’s Family Furnishings
14. A book published this year
15. A Young Adult novel (eg. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers)
16. A book that you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t yet
17. Re-read a book that you have read in the past and didn’t love
18. A book that you read in high school
19. Listen to an audiobook or e-audiobook
20. Read a book that’s currently on the bestseller charts
21. A book set during a World War (eg. The Paris Architect by James Belfoure)
22. A book that was later made into a movie or mini-series
23. Read a classic novel
24. A memoir or biography
25. A book written when the author was older than 65 years of age
26. Re-read your favourite book as a child
27. A historical fiction read
28. A book with magic in it
29. A book set in a country that you’ve always wanted to visit
30. A thriller or suspense read
31. A book written by a Canadian author whom you haven’t read yet
32. A book set in the 1700’s
33. A memoir of a celebrity
34. A book that will make you cry (eg. Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer)
35. A humourous book (eg.Yes, Please by Amy Poehler)
36. A book that a friend recommends to you
37. A book originally written in another language
38. A graphic novel
39. A book written when the author was under 25 years of age
40. A guilty pleasure read
– – Laurie P.
One Day (DVD and book) by David Nicholls
Awhile back I borrowed the DVD One Day (starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess). But I found it a disappointment, dull and plodding in places and overly sentimental in other places.
Anyway, I recently discovered the DVD was based on a book (of the same name) and decided to give it a try. And I loved it! The book is smart/funny/sad and perfectly captures the angst/awkwardness of a new relationship.
One Day by David Nicholls tells the story of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew. They meet just after graduating from university and spend one day and one night together. Dexter is the guy with everything, he’s rich, handsome and popular– though maybe just a bit shallow. Emma is smart, hardworking and idealistic, and definitely not part of the popular crowd.
Anyway, their encounter is such that they decide to meet the same day—July 15—every year (hence the title). So we see the trajectory of their careers and lives over the years as they meet for that one day. Their friendship has its ups and downs (sometimes they can barely stand each other), and the burning question is, of course, are they going to get together for a long-term relationship?
All in all a really good read, but I have to say I so DID NOT like the ending.
The author has out a brand new book, Us. I’ve got my hold placed for it, I’m near the top of the list and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. (He just better not write another bad ending.)
– – Penny D.
Alan Doyle is one of the frontmen of Great Big Sea; a band known for fabulous storytelling in their songs and in their live shows, so you had to know that his autobiography was going to have something good going on. This book is going to fit the bill for someone on your shopping list and, if you have that nagging feeling that you might have forgotten someone, just grab an extra one of these and keep it wrapped up, just in case. It’s so good that it’s almost a one size fits all book. Should you find it left over at the end of the gift giving season you can just keep it for yourself.
When I received the shiny copy of Where I Belong I was so very excited as it had been heavily promoted on his web site, in the newspaper and on the CBC. I had been quite keen to read the book because the song of the same name (found on the album Boy on Bridge through your local WPL branch) had captured my heart and I wondered how much of that same emotion would be in this book. It’s all there. I knew I had just 14 days to read it as the demand for this book was high but it only took two. It reads like a well-written magazine article and feels like a long chat with a friend. The stories are poignant or hilarious and it’s like you are right there in the kitchen with him while he tells you about his siblings, his friends or ruining his mother’s piano (oh my goodness). I’d give a lot to be able to meet his grandmother or have him get a chance to meet mine. It’s an odd way to feel after you read a book written by a singer from a musical group that can sell out multiple shows at Massey Hall. You’d expect the book to be fairly egotistical or at least a little bit ‘hey look at me’ but it didn’t read like that at all.
I’m touting this as a great gift (hope my brother Jeff doesn’t read this post before the holidays) because I think there is something to be gained from reading a book where the author reflects on their own good fortune. I think that looking back on where you came from, who your parents and grandparents were, what you learned from your siblings is a bonus part of the holiday season. Feeling lucky and reflecting on that is a little treat we can give to ourselves. And, should you find yourself with that wrapped copy of Where I Belong following the busy holiday season then just unwrap it and enjoy. If you did give that copy away you can drop by your WPL branch and we’ll help you track one down. Maybe take home an accompanying soundtrack as well? We have a few good ones we can suggest…you know, there is this really great band from Newfoundland you might have heard of…
– – Penny M.
Books have thousands upon thousands of sentences but none are as important as the first few lines to grab the reader’s attention. As a reader these first lines should entice you, give you a taste for the author’s voice, style and even humour.
Here are some of the books that have made an impression on me within the first few lines:
Two of my personal faves
To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor. — Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave (2012)
Short ‘n Sweet
You are going to die. -- Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (2006).
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. — J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937)
I’ve been locked up for 264 days. — Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me (2011)
“To be born again,” sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.” —Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (1988)
And you can’t forget the classics!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” — J.D Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Authors have a tall order when it comes to the lines they put on the first page of their books. But if it’s done well these lines can stay with their readers long after they close the book. What books have made their mark on you within their first few lines?
– – Laurie P.
Even though we don’t want to admit it the cold weather is upon us. As the leaves and temperature fall the stress levels concerning what to serve on those hectic weekday family suppers can climb.
Two kitchen items that this busy mom can’t do without are my slow cooker and bread machine. They are mighty powerful time saving tools in my culinary arsenal that are easy to use and have saved my sanity many a supper. With a little prep in the morning you can walk into your house after work with supper ready to serve! Score one for Mom!
But first things first. Finding the right cookbook is important. Unfortunately cookbooks can be quite costly (especially if you find that a certain cookbook isn’t to your family’s tastes after you’ve purchased it). This is why coming to WPL to ‘test drive’ various cookbooks is so worthwhile.
Here are some great slow cooker, bread machine and make-ahead meals cookbooks to make your evenings a little less chaotic so you have more time to enjoy the cool Fall weather.
Slow Cooker Cookbooks
The New Slow Cooker by Taste of Home – This cookbook is filled with beautiful colour pictures for the vast majority of recipes. With helpful tips and ‘tried and true’ recipes from either the ToH test kitchens or home cooks who sent in their favourite recipe this book has a lot to offer.
Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen, 30 Slow Cookers, 200 Amazing Recipes (America’s Test Kitchen) – Lots of recipes, many pictures and easy to find ingredients. What more could you ask for in a slow cooker recipe?
The Big Book of Slow Cooker, Casseroles & More (Betty Crocker) 2011
The Slow Cooker Collection (Elizabeth Baird & the Canadian Living Test Kitchen) 2009
Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Entertaining (Beth Hensperger) 2007
The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes (Judith Finlayson) 2010
Slow-Cooker Quick Fixes: Recipes for Everyday Cover ‘n’ Cook Convenience (editors of Southern Living) 2010
Bread Machine Cookbooks
Bread Machine Bible So many breads, so little time! This book has everything from the basics to dinner rolls, Greek Black Olive Bread to to Rosemary Ciabatta Rolls and Pesto Parmesan Pull-Apart bread and more. Beautiful pictures are provided to inspire you.
250 Best Canadian Bread Machine (Donna Washburn and Heather Butt) 2004
We also have recipe books to inspire you to get ahead of the game and stock your freezer with future meals.
Make Ahead Meals
Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook (Jessica Fisher) 2012
The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook: Mix and Match 100 Casseroles, Salads, Sides and Desserts (Crystal Cook & Sandy Pollock) 2013
We invite you to come visit us at WPL and get ahead of the meal planning game by checking out our vast selection of cookbooks!
– – Laurie P.