Hey, Dummy!

You’d think a book that appears to insult its readers would not be very successful. That’s what most book stores figured in 1991 when they were initially asked to stock DOS for Dummies. It took plenty of convincing on the publisher’s part to persuade retailers that the book was not belittling readers, but rather identifying with them. The point was to reassure readers that this was a book designed specifically for the unsure, the unfamiliar, and the anxious. Since then, the original has spawned more than 1800 titles with over 250 million copies in print (of which over 1200 can be found here at WPL, in multiple formats).

Picture of For Dummies books on display shelf.

Look at all the Dummies!

Many of the For Dummies books still relate to computers and technology, like PCs for Dummies, iPhone for Dummies, and SQL for Dummies. Others offer introductory guides to hobbies (Knitting for Dummies), lifestyles (Living Vegetarian for Dummies), and numerous life skills (Resumes for Dummies). The series can even help people with medical questions who look at the sheer volume of information available and ask themselves, “Where do I even start?” Everything from Pregnancy for Dummies to Diabetes for Dummies is available to simplify the overwhelming. You’d be hard pressed to find a topic that For Dummies hasn’t tackled. In fact, sometimes you might think they ran out of topics and kept on writing, when things get just a little weird …

Cover of "Dating for Dummies".

The “for” in the title makes a very important distinction.

If you saw someone pick up Ethics for Dummies, you’d probably watch them a little warily (until you realized the book is a philosophical discussion of ethics, not a how-to guide). And you certainly wouldn’t want to go out with someone who read Dating for Dummies, would you? Although let’s be honest, dating someone new is often nerve-wracking, and don’t we all secretly wish there were a guidebook on how these things are supposed to work? (And hey, if it does go well, Relationships for Dummies is also available.)

Cover of "Dog Photography for Dummies".

Do dogs not appear in photographs? Or is that just vampires?

Okay, so maybe what we’ve learned here is that we really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. There are some titles, though, that just seem oddly specific. If we already have Photography for Dummies, is Dog Photography for Dummies really necessary? How about Mom Blogging? Maybe Knitting a Scarf In a Day?

There are also titles covering topics you’d hope are not being approached by dummies. If you’re picking up Forensics for Dummies, chances are your ability to break down a crime scene will be doubted. And if Life Coaching for Dummies is on your desk, don’t be surprised if people roll their eyes when you offer advice. (Which is too bad, because by all accounts, the critically acclaimed series ought to make you quite well-informed on a given topic.)

Cover of "Firefighter Exam for Dummies".

Somehow the words “firefighter” and “dummies” in the same sentence don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

There is certainly no shortage of available topics for dummies to study, even if they don’t always seem obvious to the rest of us. A few more of my favourites that I came across while researching this blog post:

Cover of "Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies".

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies: Every D&D player I’ve ever met hates 4th Edition. They would probably tell you this book should be one sentence: “Just switch to 3.5 Edition.”

Freemasons for Dummies: The society can’t be all that secret if even dummies know about it now.

 

 

Cover of "Wine for Dummies".

 

Wine for Dummies: I imagine this appeals to people who are far from being wine snobs, but want to be able to place orders more sophisticated than, “I like the red ones.”

Existentialism for Dummies: Do we choose to be dummies? How do we understand what it is to be a dummy?

 

 

What about you, dear reader? Do you have a favourite For Dummies title? Or is there one you haven’t seen but wish were available? Try playing with the official For Dummies cover generator and share with us!

Lauren

Make it a Wicked Summer

118188_WIC_240x208_1(1)On Broadway and around the world, Wicked has worked its magic on critics and audiences alike. Winner of over 50 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards, Wicked is “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” (The New York Times).  Wicked is set to return to Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall August 20-30… but before you go, you’ll want to do some reading first!

Many have heard of the musical Wicked, but did you know that it started life as aWicked Munchkinland Tour book? Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire is the author’s revisiting of the familiar Wizard of Oz story. In it, he steps away from the childhood tale and adds darker twists to his spin. The story centres on Elphaba, the girl who grew up to be the Wicked Witch of the West, and develops through three sequels. Son of a Witch follows Elphaba’s son Liir. A Lion Among Men picks up the plot several years later, and is told through the perspective of the Cowardly Lion. Out of Oz closes the series with the story as seen by Rain, Elphaba’s granddaughter. This long, dark tale is available on CD and in print, perfect to while away the hours on a long road trip. Musical fans may want to check out the Broadway cast recording, or flip through Wicked: the Grimmerie by David Cote, a companion to the Broadway musical.

wicked           son          lion          out

Those looking for more family-friendly entertainment can head to the original inspiration. L. Frank Baum wrote the well-known classic Wizard of Oz on which Maguire’s books are based. The original is available at the library in many formats—book, graphic novel, CD, movie score, DVD, and streaming video. But did you know he wrote at least a dozen other titles in the series? WPL has many of them, including Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, and Glinda of Oz. Go back to the source and find out where all the popular characters originated and what happened to them!

So read up, then check out the musical Wicked this summer!  You won’t regret it!

Wicked Horizontal Title treatment

Summer is a time for mystery

The mystery book columnist for the Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon, recently said, “Nothing goes better with warm, sunny, summer days than gory, urban mystery novels.”  If you agree with that fine sentiment you may like some of these new or seems-like-new mysteries, perfect for reading at the lake or mosquito-free sun room, for when your regular work can wait:

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnGone-Girl-Gillian-Flynn

This 2012 mystery thriller, to be released as a movie this October, is the one I’m tackling the first part of the summer. Recently married Nick and Amy, having both lost their jobs in the literary world in New York, move back to his hometown in Missouri to start a new life. Cracks in their relationship are revealed before she goes missing one unassuming day, after which their worlds go completely topsy-turvy. Because the story is told from both his and her points of view – and they are not the same – readers have the freedom to make interesting observations that are only implied in the text. Please don’t tell me how it ends!

silkworm

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike is a likeable misfit of a London private detective created by J.K. Rowling, I mean ‘Robert Galbraith’, her pseudonym. ‘His’ first novel The Cuckoo’s Calling was quite the page-turner so I’m looking forward to the second. Strike, by the way, lives with several strikes against him, including few clients, a large debt, no home due to a break-up, and he has lost a leg in the Afghan war.

“When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives–meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced. When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before… A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn….” (Goodreads)

p.txtThe Son by Jo Nesbo

“A serial killer is at work in Oslo, and a maverick cop with his share of personal demons is on his trail. But beneath that surface, there is a complex psychological thriller churning its way into the reader’s nightmares. Sonny Lofthus is in prison for crimes he didn’t commit but for which he has agreed to take the fall in exchange for an unending supply of heroin. The drugs are Sonny’s way of dealing with the knowledge that his father, an apparent suicide, was a dirty cop. As the novel begins, however, Sonny has new information about his father’s death and has engineered a daring escape from prison. His revenge-fueled plan is to kill those responsible for the crimes he was convicted of by re-creating the murders with the real killers now the victims. A terrific thriller but also a tragic, very moving story of intertwined characters swerving desperately to avoid the dead ends in their paths.” (Discover)

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Body Count by Barbara Nadel

“Any bloody death will lead Inspectors Ikmen and Skuleyman out onto the dark streets of Istanbul. On 21 January, a half-decapitated corpse in the poor multicultural district of Tarlabasi poses a particularly frustrating and gruesome mystery. But as the months pass and the violence increases, it turns into a hunt for that rare phenomenon in the golden city on the Bosphorus: a serial killer. Desperate to uncover the killer’s twisted logic as the body count rises, Ikmen and Skuleyman find only more questions. How are the victims connected? What is the significance of the number 21? And how many people must die before they find the answers?” (Discover)

death of a nightingaleDeath of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnet Friis

Protecting the young daughter of an illegal immigrant who has escaped police custody in the aftermath of a brutal murder, Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg struggles with a belief in the woman’s innocence as she learns about her violent past. (publisher)

18775152Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

“In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the perp; and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Mr. Mercedes is Stephen’s first ‘hard-boiled detective tale.’ It will transport you into a vibrant and dangerous world filled with gritty characters living on the bleeding edge of reason. Be prepared.” (GoodReads) 

 The Farm by Tom Rob Smithindex-1.aspx

“Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.” (publisher)

imageloaderVertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

“At Vertigo 42, a bar high above London’s financial district, Richard Jury meets Tom Williamson – a friend of a friend who is convinced his wife, Tess, was murdered 17 years ago. Tess’s death was ruled accidental – a fall caused by vertigo – but Jury agrees to re-examine the case. A young girl’s fatal fall at a children’s party 22 years ago at Tom and Tess’s home may be connected. After an elegantly dressed woman falls from a tower near a pub that Jury and his cronies frequent, and her estranged husband is later found dead, Jury begins to suspect that the now grown ‘children’ from Tess’s ill-fated party are the key to solving these interwoven mysteries.” (publisher)

Enjoy your reading this summer.

- Lyle

Release 2.0: a metaphor gone wild

Metaphor is the life-blood of literary expression, and when properly applied has the capacity to make complicated ideas completely clear and intelligible. The spot-on metaphor sears the image onto your brain, it sticks with you (if you can allow my own poor metaphors). Technology in general and computer concepts in particular also use metaphors as a life-blood: we have files and folders, we burn files, we run programs and have desktops, etc. Now there is a trend to use the technology and computer software metaphor of the ‘updated release version’ of say release 2.0 and apply it to books. In a previous century we would have called it a revised or expanded edition but the provision of the moniker ‘release/version 2.0′ seems to give the topic a certain hipness to it. My most recent exposure was a new book by Joseph Heath “Enlightenment 2.0: restoring sanity to our politics, our economy, and our lives”.   This is not a criticism to the content of the book, in fact the ideas discussed are so important that is worth its own blog (potential foreshadowing), but applying the concept of 2.0 irked me as kitschy and cliché. And so with my irksome curiosity peaked here is a sampling of some 2.0 releases. To be fair, the reviews for the vast majority of these titles were stellar; hey, there may be something to release 2.0?

‘Quantum-touch 2.0′ by Richard Gordon (2013 edition updating 2006 edition)

‘Man 2.0: engineering the alpha’ by John Romaniello (the note on the book cover says it all: “Balance your hormones, build more muscle, burn more fat, have more sex”…now that is upgrade!) Love 2.0 ‘Love 2.0: how our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do and become’ by Barbara Fredrickson

‘Giving 2.0: transform your giving and our world’ by Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen

‘Post-American world: release 2.0′ by Fareed Zakaria (2011 update of the 2008 bestseller by political scientist and CNN host) Wild West 2.0 ‘Wild West 2.0: how to protect and restore your online reputation on the untamed social frontier’ by Michael Fertik

‘Global Development 2.0′ by Lael Brainard

‘Food 2.0′ by Charlie Ayers

‘Strengths Finder 2.0′ by Tom Rath Plan B 2.0 ‘Plan B 2.0′ Lester R. Brown (updated edition from the author the State of the World series and is considered in some circles to be the father of the environmental movement)

Phil D.

TeenSRC 2014 – Time For Some Summer Fun!

teensrcwordart

The end of June always means big things for Winnipeg Public Library’s Teen services, because it marks the start of our Teen Summer Reading Club (TeenSRC) and the start of our busiest time of the year. From now until the end of August, we’ve got 20 teen programs, 8 weekly trivia contests, six summer-long creative contests and a whole bunch of prizes to give away.

noarrows

The mainstay of the Teen Summer Reading club is our 8 weekly newsletters. Each Monday, we send out an email to all of our TeenSRC members with book picks, upcoming events and of course, that week’s trivia question. Everyone who answers our trivia question correctly (assuming they meet the eligibility requirements – must be a teen ages 13-17 and must be able to pick up the prize at one of our WPL locations) is entered in our random draw for that week’s prize. If you know of any teens who are big musical theatre fans, tell them to register NOW because next week’s prize includes tickets to the Broadway Across Canada production of Wicked at the Centennial Concert Hall!

For teens who want to spend the summer reading, we’ve got 17  hand-picked booklists full of fresh new titles in every reading category imaginable. Browse the lists on the SRC website or pin & save your favorites from our Pinterest page.

dystopia-pinterest

Of course, the crowing star of each SRC year (in our opinion, at least) is the summer-long creative contests.

mashupheader

Each year, we ask teens to submit stories, poetry, artwork, photography and book reviews and then pick a winner and honourable mention (chosen by a panel of judges). Each year the quality of work that we see just astounds us. Head over to the teen Mash Up page to see what our SRC members have come up with so far!

Looking forward to another great year of TeenSRC!

-Sophie

 

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Come on and Slam

One of the most interesting non-fiction titles I have come across recently is the book I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales of a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing by Kyria Abrahams.

I'm Perfect, You're Doomed

As you can probably tell from the title, Kyria Abrahams grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness. She was taught to believe that her and everyone she knew was in danger of dying in an apocalypse at any time so she grew up thinking that nothing really mattered. Abrahams attended a public school and found it difficult as she was not allowed to participate in holiday celebrations with her classmates. Smurfs were forbidden so she would get merchandise of knock-off characters called the Snorks and convince herself that they were a lot cooler. There is a lot of humour in this memoir with an undercurrent of deep emotional pain. Abrahams found it difficult to adhere to such strict rules and ended up in an unhappy marriage to escape her grey, oppressive home life. She suffered with OCD, turned to self-harm and alcoholism, eventually leading to her suicide attempt. She finally decided that she would have an affair to get purposefully “disfellowshipped” from the Jehovah’s Witness community. Even after she left the community she found it difficult to find her place in the world as she had not been given simple skills to operate in a world outside of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She explains that for most of her life, she was led to believe that “leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be like leaving the haunted cabin in the woods to ‘go check on that strange noise.’ Never again would a disfellowshipped person find caring friends or experience true love, as these things did not exist in Satan’s world.”

Abrahams , however, did manage to form relationships outside of her community. She became friends with a group of slam poets who did indeed offer her friendship, acceptance, and love as well as a place to stay and money to help her on her feet. Today she is a comedian and has performed sketch comedy and slam poetry. She ended up competing in the finals of a national slam poetry competition. She spent time at poetry readings in bookstore basements where “hippies sat cross-legged on milk crates and teenage goths gave each other backrubs.” She’d never interacted much with people so different from the people she grew up with and found that she wanted to belong. I would be interested to find out more about her process of creating a new life for herself, as this part of her life is only touched on in the last few chapters of the book.

Reading this book, you might find yourself interested in getting involved in the world of slam poetry. Here are a few titles the library carries that can help explain what it’s all about and how you can get started:

Stage A Poetry Slam: Creating Performance Poetry Events: Inside tips, Backstage Advice, and Lots of Examples by Mark Kelly Smith. Mark Kelly Smith is known as “the father of slam poetry itself.”

Take the Mic: The Art of Performance Poetry, Slam, and the Spoken Word, another title by Mark Kelly Smith.

Poetry Slam : The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry ed. By Gary Mex Glazner. This book has tips and examples of slam poetry as well as a history of slam poetry.

The Spoken Word Revolution (slam, hip hop & the poetry of a new generation) ed. by Mark Eleveld. This title actually comes with a CD so you can listen to examples of well-known slam poets.

Winnipeg has its own slam poetry community—you can find information about that on their website: http://winnipegpoetryslam.wordpress.com/.

-Madeleine

Short but not Necessarily Sweet

The short story is a study in compression. In 10-15 pages (typically) we are introduced to a situation and one or more characters. Something then happens (or doesn’t happen) and we are left alone by the author just as we are about to settle in. In a well written short story, there is nothing on the page that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. Every sentence, every word even, has been vetted and set aside and put back in and moved around before finding its final correct spot. In our fast-paced, 140 characters per idea, sound-byte laden society, one would think that short stories would be the premiere structure for our written entertainment, but that simply does not seem to be the case.

Kirsten Reach discusses whether this year will be the year of the short story in this article, and concludes that despite a seeming rise in interest for the short story, people still prefer long novels.

Despite this, why not check out a collection of short stories for a change of pace? Here are a few collections that you can borrow from WPL, (and taking a cue from the best short story writers out there, I’m not saying anything else. Enjoy!)

Alice Munro

Alice Munro

One of Canada’s premiere short story writers is Alice Munro. She is also the 2013 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature as is described by the Nobel committee as “the master of the contemporary short story”. You could choose any number of her collections to start with, one of the stories from “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” was made into the movie “Away from Her” by Sarah Polley in 2006, and more recently the title story was turned into a movie starring Kristin Wiig and Guy Pearce.

George Saunders

George Saunders

If you’re in the mood for the unexpected, you should really give George Saunders a try. His satirical stories are insightful studies of our own society’s shortfalls, but they are also really really funny. A favourite of mine is “Civilwarland in Bad Decline” which explores the sordid behind-the-scenes life of an American History inspired theme park. His most recent collection is “The Tenth of December“. His commencement address at Syracuse University, where he teaches English, made the rounds last year on the internet and you can read it here.

Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer is probably best known for his political thrillers and family dramas (not to mention that little stint in prison but we don’t like to talk about that). He’s also published a few delightful short story collections. “A Twist in the Tale” and “Twelve Red Herrings” are fun, but their conceit is given away in the titles. Each story ends with some sort of twist or surprise ending, so when you know that going into them, it gets a little “samey” after awhile.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Okay, I know I’ve talked about this author on this blog before, but you can’t talk about short stories without mentioning Ray Bradbury. To me, his stories are the perfect thing for a summer afternoon if you happen to find yourself with a few spare hours and a hammock somewhere. You can focus in on his haunting “Martian Chronicles” but for a “once over” you’d be better off checking out “Bradbury Stories: 100 of his most celebrated tales“.

Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan

I’d like to mention one last late addition to the list. “The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories” by Marina Keegan. Marina Keegan knew she wanted to be a writer from as long back as she could remember, and in May 2012 it looked like her career was about to take off. She had graduated from Yale, she had a play that was about to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and she had a job all lined up at the New Yorker magazine. Tragically, she was killed in car accident just five days after graduation at age 22. Her final essay for the Yale Daily News, titled “The Opposite of Loneliness”went viral and received over 1.4 million hits. This book, also called “The Opposite of Loneliness” is a mixture of some of her fictional short stories and non-fiction essays and has struck a chord with readers of all ages.

I’ve just touched the surface of short stories here, so if you have any favourite short stories or short story authors of your own, why not share them in the comments?

-Trevor