Author Archives: winnipegpublibrary

Never Too Soon

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

Jacqueline Kennedy

I’ve been called by many names over the years, some of them more pleasant than others, but I think the one I cherish the most is Auntie Book. When my family and friends started having children, I showed up at every baby shower with a gift of a hand-knit blanket wrapped around a bundle of books. As time went on, I continued to give books as gifts on every possible occasion. I also kept a stash of reading materials in a huge tote bag, which I brought out whenever I had the chance to look after my nieces and nephews. Time has marched on at a rapid pace, and those little ones have now grown up and in some cases have little ones of their own. I stopped being Auntie Book to those kids some years ago, but I still believe that the best gift you can give a child of any age is a book – and your time.

It’s never too soon to start sharing the joy of books with a child, and the  Winnipeg Public Library has a plethora of programs to suit any preschooler in your life. For those who are quite literally new to the world, and thus to reading in general, we have the Baby Rhyme Time program, which is aimed at infants aged 0 – 24 months and their caregivers.  This program offers songs, rhymes, and stories that will get the little ones in your life off to a great start.

For this age group, one of my go-to book recommendations is Read Me a Book by Barbara Reid. The words celebrate the many ways you can read with a child, and the illustrations of familiar locations are great for a developing mind.

Once a child has reached the age of 2, we have another program that suits the needs of busy, inquisitive minds and bodies. Time for Twos is designed with the toddler in mind, with loads of interactive activities and age-appropriate stories.


For this stage in life, my book gift list would invariably include a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It’s a perfect choice to catch a child’s interest, with loads of fun pictures and a highly satisfying ending.

Pre-School Story Time is the next step in enhancing a child’s love of literacy. This program is for children aged 3 – 5 who are ready to be part of a group without their caregivers in the same room. Longer stories and more fun songs and stretches ensure that everyone has a good time.

The first time I read Bark, George by Jules Feiffer I knew that I had found a true gem. Between the ridiculous story and riotous illustrations, I defy anyone to read this and not end up with a roaring case of the giggles.

If everyone in the family is into books, why not check out a Family Story Time? The content is aimed primarily at children aged 3 – 5, but everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

And, on Monday evenings, the St. James Library is offering a Sensory Story Time.  Featuring books, stretches, and movement activities in an input-sensitive environment. Sensory Story Time is an interactive program geared toward children ages 3-5, including children on the Autism spectrum, and their parents/caregivers and siblings.

One of our favorite books to read at Sensory Story Time is The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood. Everyone has fun trying to spot that big hungry bear before he gets to that red ripe strawberry.

I still treasure the memories of the kids I read with back in the day, and fortunately for me so do they. I’m almost finished knitting the blanket for the latest little one to become part of my life, and, of course, I’ve already picked up the rest of the present. Long live Auntie Book!



It’s Time to Read: Middlesex


time_to_read_logo_v7c[1]The Time to Read Podcast – Join us anytime

Today (Friday March 2) we release our second podcast episode! Time to Read is our newest endeavor to bring our services to you, wherever you are. It’s a distance book club that you can participate in at your convenience. In your pajamas, on your commute, while working out…

We’d like to thank all of you who have listened and participated so far, through Twitter, the website, and through email. We loved hearing your thoughts and getting your questions to spark our the recorded discussion. I hope you are excited to hear it!

middlesexIn this episode we talk about Forrest Gump, rune stones, Jeff Goldblum, oh yeah, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. This Pulitzer Prize-winner is the story of a Greek American family and the way their secrets result in a special individual named Cal (an intersex man who had been raised as a girl named Callie. It’s complicated). Expect humor, dysfunction, silkworms, and the American Dream.

We know this is a big book (over 500 pages) to have chosen for our second month, so if you read along, many, many thanks to you!! If not, feel free to wait to listen until you are done reading – because we definitely talk about all of the spoilers.

But in the meantime, pick up the next book we’re reading, The Underground Railroad, and be sure to send us your thoughts so we can talk about them in the next recording, the last week of March. Don’t worry it’s much smaller.

undergroundAgain, March’s book is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I just finished it and it is amazing. The discussion pages for this and our previous books are open now, or email us at

See all the details about this endeavor at


  • Erica and the Time to Read Team


February Has Gone to the Dogs

A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.

-John Grogan

I am, for the next two weeks, the caretaker of my furry nephew, all 130 some pounds of him. Did I mention that he is only 7 months old?  Being from a family who love dogs, it’s nice to have an animal in the house again, and to be greeted with a wagging tail when I come home. We had to put our family dog to sleep many years ago, yet I still catch myself thinking of her and missing her every once in a while. Animals can do that to you, especially dogs. What other animal can put a smile on your face (even if you had a terrible day at work), can be so excited to see you return home every day and can help brighten those cold winter months? It is called Februweary for a reason. While the month is drawing to a close, and spring is just on the horizon, I thought in this blog post I would offer up some animal-loving happiness to hopefully put a smile on your face, a bounce in your step, and perhaps a tear in your eye as animal stories often do (Where the Red Fern Grows had me blubbering like a baby, but in a cathartic way). Enjoy!

 marley  Marley and Me by John Grogan

Anyone who has ever had a pet all know they misbehave at some point, but Marley the dog just happens to do so more than other animals. Marley is labeled as the world’s worst dog by his owners, and from these stories I can understand why. However, despite his destructive behaviour they love him just the same and the love he has for them all makes this story truly beautiful and heartwarming (and tear-inducing). I’m sure many of us can attest to misbehaving animals, for what dog doesn’t have their issues, yet they are loved by their family despite their quirks (our dog had plenty, including the time she ate my hemp necklace). The film is just as good!

Training People: how to bring out the best in your human by Tess of Helena

Let’s face it; we humans need plenty of training when it comes to having a dog, and who better to offer this insight than Tess of Helena. Tess of Helena, I should note, is a Labrador retriever, and has written this informative book with the help of Brian Kahn, for dogs looking for a human companion. Tess helps dogs understand training and what is expected of them (strange as it may be), and how to navigate the world of humans and the odd things they do (though men are often stronger than women they can still easily be tripped up with the leash). Funny and insightful, this book will have dog owners nodding their heads at the strange things their pet does. The Dogma of Rufus: A canine guide to eating, sleeping, digging, slobbering, scratching, and surviving with humans a book written by Rufus, an old dog, offers similar advice, such as informing dogs that human beds are much more comfier than dog beds, therefore even if your owner tells you not to climb on the bed with them you just have to wait until they are asleep.

 art The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Told entirely from the perspective of Enzo the dog, “a philosopher with a nearly human soul”, the book follows Enzo as he looks back on his life with his owner, a race car driver. Through his flashbacks we understand what it means to be human and the special bond dogs and humans have, a perspective which only a dog can possess.


Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

Alexis’ novel was the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner, the winner of 2017’s Canada Reads and bears an interesting premise: Gods Hermes and Apollo gift dogs at an animal clinic with human reasoning and language, naturally the dogs escape the clinic and set up their own society in Toronto’s Hyde Park. How will the dogs react to their new knowledge and abilities, will some change and become more “human” and “corrupt”, or will some still retain the undeniable exuberance which dogs seem to naturally emit? A mixture of Greek mythology with a modern-day twist Alexis’ novel will certainly have people pondering the bet the gods make, “would animals be happier with human reasoning and language?”

 dog A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

This book was recently made into a film (and filmed around Winnipeg!). It follows a dog who is reincarnated over and over again, sometimes he has excellent owners, other times he is abused and neglected yet he continually searches for his purpose and remembers the love he felt from his owner Ethan. It is a beautiful, funny and touching story, and if you enjoy this one Cameron has written a sequel titled A Dog’s Journey focusing on another dog Buddy finding his/her purpose.

The library offers plenty of insightful dog books for those wishing to learn more about particular breeds, tips on training, on purchasing your dog or true heartwarming stories of dogs that battled the odds and their special bonds with humans; you can find them all in our 636.7 section.



All The Feels

When I think about agility, I think about Michael Jordan, cruisin’ down the court, dodging defenders as if they’re standing still, bringin’ it home with a sweet tongue-out slam dunk.

I think about Roger Federer racing to the front of the net to catch a short lob, tipping his racquet at just the right angle, sending the ball careening to the back end of his opponent’s court…..all the while, making a sweat band look like the coolest piece of clothing ever.

I think about those crazy agility competitions for dogs.  Seriously! Man’s best friend, just givin’ ‘er, weaving between poles and barreling through tunnels like nobody’s bid’niss!  Mad skillz!

But what about the concept of emotional agility?

What if we were just as responsive and alert with our thoughts and feelings, as we are with our feet?

Susan David, a psychologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, recently came out with a fascinating book entitled Emotional Agility.

Susan argues that we live in a world that values “getting on with it,” and that all too often, we try to jump to a solution, without feeling the feels.

Emotions exist so that we can communicate with ourselves, and when we try to push negative feelings aside, they actually get amplified.

How many times have you ever gotten some bad news, only to bury it, “numb” the pain, and distract yourself with a shopping spree, an entire pizza, or just “keeping yourself busy”?

The end result? Negativity either boils over at the most inopportune moment, with the most unsuspecting of people…..or it eats away at you from the inside, affecting your outlook, attitude, mood, and health.

The best thing we can do for ourselves?  Sit with our emotions.  Sort them out.  Do some journaling. Talk with a friend who will listen without judgment, and without offering a quick fix. Reflect on your feelings with presence and awareness.

Susan David emphasizes the importance of simply “seeing” our emotions for what they are, and she brings to light a beautiful South African greeting, “Sawubona,” which means: “I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being.”

And so it is only when we “see” our negative emotions that we can truly bring them into being, deal with them, process them, and learn from them in a way that actually enriches our lives. Through self-reflection, we are provided with the opportunity to see how our values might be slightly out of line, or we can witness a way in which we can simply alter our perspective.  None of which can be done when we shove our negative feelings under the rug.

We as human beings experience a spectrum of emotions, none of which are either “bad” or “good,” and the more we come to terms with facing those emotions head on, the healthier and more fulfilled we will be.

And so how do we teach our kids to be emotionally agile?  We lead by example, and teach them as best we can through words, actions, and books!  Here are a few great books to get you started!

Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley
Glad, sad, silly, mad – monsters have all kinds of different feelings! In this innovative die-cut book, featuring a snazzy foil cover, you’ll try on funny masks as you walk through the wide range of moods all little monsters (and kids!) experience.  A fun, interactive way to explore the many different ways we feel!

Millie Fierce by Jane Manning
Millie is quiet. Millie is sweet. Millie is mild. But the kids at school don’t listen to her. And she never gets a piece of birthday cake with a flower on it. And some girls from her class walk right on top of her chalk drawing and smudge it. And they don’t even say they’re sorry!  So that’s when Millie decides she wants to be fierce! She frizzes out her hair, sharpens her nails and runs around like a wild thing. But she soon realizes that being fierce isn’t the best way to get noticed either, especially when it makes you turn mean. So Millie decides to be nice–but to keep a little of that fierce backbone hidden inside her. In case she ever needs it again.

The Great Big Book of Feelings by Mary Hoffman
The book opens with the question: “How are you feeling today?” And this leads on to a spread by spread presentation of a wide range of feelings, including: *Happy * Sad * Excited * Bored * Interested * Angry * Upset * Calm * Silly * Lonely * Scared * Safe *Embarrassed * Shy * Confident * Worried * Jealous * Satisfied. The final spread is about Feeling Better because sharing and talking about feelings helps us to feel better.

There Are No Animals In This Book (Only Feelings) by Chani Sanchez
In this gorgeous, ground-breaking book, masterworks of contemporary art teach children about their feelings and how they can be expressed through art. The bold work of contemporary artists is totally accessible to small children. In these images children will recognise love, surprise, hurt, and other powerful feelings. Images are accompanied by a fun-to-read aloud narrative with a silly twist at the end that is sure to delight younger readers. Parents can enjoy the art as well as the opportunity to engage their children in a light-hearted discussion of feelings.

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
All quiet is not created equal. In this irresistibly charming picture book, many different quiet moments are captured, from the anticipation-heavy “Top of the roller coaster quiet” to the shocked-into-silence “First look at your new hairstyle quiet.” The impossibly sweet bears, rabbits, fish, birds, and iguanas are all rendered in soft pencils and coloured digitally, and, as in all of the best picture books, the illustrations propel the story far beyond the words.

— Lindsay Schluter

A Collection of Love-ly Books

Well, here we are, mid-February already! I know it’s been cold and windy, but every day we are just a bit closer to spring. Spring means sunshine, flowers, and the start of wedding season! Cue the bells!

Holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day are all big moments for wedding proposals, so there is a good chance that you might be receiving a save the date sometime in the near future (or maybe you’re the one sending them out… in which case, congrats!)

Now, the library loves love (have you seen our romance collection?), so don’t you worry, we have your back when it comes to all things weddings! Here are just a few of our newer titles to get you started:

knot  The Knot Yours Truly: Inspiration and Ideas to Personalize Your Wedding by Carley Roney

A great choice for those who want every detail and aspect of the wedding to be just as special and unique as the couple tying the knot! You’ll find lots of inspiration in these pages.



stonefox Stone fox bride : love, lust, and wedding planning for the wild at heart by Molly Guy

If you’re a fan of non-traditional, uber-personalized weddings, this book is a great place to look for advice and reassurance when the planning gets to be too much!  Less focused on how to actually plan a wedding, the author shares some personal stories and rounds it out with some beautiful images that are sure to get your imagination and creativity flowing.


Equally wed : the ultimate guide to planning your LGBTQ+ wedding by Kristen Ott equallyPaladino

Looking for some help with the step-by-steps of wedding planning? Palladino has you covered, walking you through the latest wedding trends and providing some sample budgets (US prices) to help you get a sense of how much your dream wedding could cost!



The wedding book : an expert’s guide to planning your perfect day–your way by Mindy weddingWeiss

Weiss walks you through just about everything in this multi-tasking title, from announcing the engagement–including whom to tell first and what to do when someone isn’t happy about the news–to getting to the altar, from planning a honeymoon to preserving the bouquet when you return. It includes lists, schedules, budgeting tools, and timelines.


newlywed The newlywed cookbook : cooking happily ever after by Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore

Who amongst us doesn’t like the sound of no-fail recipes? This book aims to help you get the most out of those wedding registry appliances, and comes filled with lovely pictures and tasty recipes, just for two. It also includes a helpful “Kitchen and Pantry Basics” section towards the back, so it’s easy to make sure your kitchen is well-stocked and ready to go.


marthastewart Martha Stewart’s newlywed kitchen : recipes for weeknight dinners & easy, casual gatherings

Looking for more cooking inspo? You can’t go wrong with a little help from Martha Stewart herself. She’s got you covered from quick dinners to brunches to parties of all kinds!


So there you are, just a few places to get your walk down the aisle started! Of course, this just barely scratches the surface of what we have available, so make sure to come in and have a look or scan through our online catalogue!

Wishing you a happily ever after,


I Think I Can: Books for Lion-Hearted Kids


The mind is a powerful thing. It can convince us to indulge in that salted caramel chocolate cake “just this once.” It can persuade us to splurge on that killer pair of Manolo Blahnik’s. It can even coax us into jumping out of an airplane with little more than an oversized umbrella to help us land safely on the ground.

And so why not harness that power, and use it to our advantage? Why not take the reins, and as Beyonce says, “run this motha.”

I recently listened to an episode of Lewis Howes’ incredible podcast, School of Greatness, in which he interviewed Danica Patrick, the first woman on record to win the IndyCar circuit. This woman is an absolute beast. She is a trailblazer for women in motorsports, with much of her success being credited to her mindset and mental focus.

“You are creating your life day by day with your thoughts. Think positive things. Believe in yourself. Have great reasons for why you’re doing what you’re doing,”

And so our attitudes and beliefs are incredibly important. Not only do they influence how we see the world, so too do they influence the outcomes we experience.

I can totally relate to this in terms of my health. Before I had my two kidlets, I was big into running, dancing, ultimate frisbee, and swimming. And then I became a parent, and my free time….wasn’t so free anymore. I had to get creative with my workouts, and I resisted the temptation to play the “I’m too busy to workout” card. In fact, I started to think about my fitness in relation to my kids. I thought, you know what? I want my kids to witness me prioritizing my health, pushing myself hard, fueling my body with healthy food, and overall, being a strong, passionate, and fierce woman! I want to inspire them. And I want to influence them to be as courageous as they can be!

And so when I’m not lacing up my runners, I take as many opportunities as I can to read books with my kids that encourage them to be bold, to believe in themselves, and to have hearts like lions!  Here are just a few of the gems that we’ve enjoyed lately:

Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes
Sheila Rae is very brave when it comes to thunder, dogs and stepping on cracks. She thinks her little sister, Louise is a scaredy-cat. But Sheila Rae has to face fears she didn’t know she had when she gets lost and it is up to Louise to save the day.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket
Laszlo is afraid of the dark. It usually lives in the basement, although it also lurks in closets and behind the shower curtain. Every morning Laszlo says hello to the dark, hoping that the dark would stop visiting his bedroom at night. One night the dark speaks to Laszlo and leads him to the cure for his fear.

Flight School by Lita Judge
A young penguin may not have exactly the right body for flight, but he has the “soul of an eagle.” Eager to enroll in flight school and learn what it takes to soar, he is not discouraged. Fortunately, the other birds are so taken with his determination they do what it takes to make his dreams come true.

When Lions Roar by Robie Harris
A young child is overwhelmed by frightening sensory experiences: roaring lions, cracking thunder and more. He sits down and tells them, “go away!” and when he opens his eyes he sees calm and beautiful images: mommies and daddies, flowers.

Max the Brave
by Ed Vere
Max is a fierce kitten. Unfortunately not everyone knows this and they dress him up in pink bows! What are they thinking? Max, however, is on a mission. He will catch a mouse and then everyone will know how brave he is!


— Lindsay Schluter

Tiny Windows

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams.  They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”

-Neil Gaiman

When I first started creating book displays at our branch I decided to start with a Shakespeare display. It didn’t take long to figure out that  Shakespeare might not be a popular choice.   I checked with more experienced staff to find out which displays had been successful (or not) in the past, and learned that the display that stood out as being the most memorable failure was a short story display – the books in the display just languished on the shelf.  Interestingly, that had been my next choice!

As an avid reader of short stories, I couldn’t quite understand how they could be that unpopular. I started poking around online and realized this wasn’t a local thing, as the short story has had peaks and valleys, never seeming to be able to stay in the limelight.

Concise, with an economy of words, the short story presents a unified, decisive moment. In an increasingly frantic, plugged in world, where people don’t have the time to commit to a novel at the end of a busy day, the short story seems to fit the bill perfectly.  Short stories also provide an easy avenue to try out a new genre.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, or if you are already sold and just need some new recommendations, here are some titles from the Winnipeg Public Library to get you started:

“And then there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave.”

– from “The Pit and the Pendulum”                                                        


Best known for his short stories and poetry, Edgar Allen Poe was one of the earliest American short story writers. Full of thrilling psychological suspense, and no small dose of the macabre, once you have read one of Poe’s stories you are not likely to forget it. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Great Tales and Poems, and Poe: Poems and Prose contain Poe’s most popular tales such as “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Tell Tale Heart”, and “The Cask of the Amontillado”, to name a few.  The Raven and Other Poems is also available as a graphic novel.

MunroA Canadian favourite, Alice Munro’s stories centre on the ordinary lives of men and women in the towns and countryside around Lake Huron. Her first work, Dance of the Happy Shades, won the Governor General’s Award.  Runaway, her bestselling collection,  “is a book of extraordinary stories about love and its infinite betrayals and surprises”.  In her more recent collection, Dear Life, the last four stories of the collection are autobiographical, written about Munro’s childhood; in her own words “autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact.”

Illustrated ManIf you are not generally a science fiction fan, here is your chance to delve into the genre with one of it’s finest authors. Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a family favourite at my house, the stories so vivid they can have you thinking for hours afterwards – read “The Velde” and tell me you aren’t getting the shivers! In The Martian Chronicles, man has ventured to Mars, but all of the problems on earth seem to have followed him. Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales is a fantastic collection of Bradbury’s best stories.

BerryWendell Berry is my personal favourite short story author, so I couldn’t leave him off this brief list. Drawing from his first-hand experience as a farmer and small farms advocate, Berry writes eloquently about community as well as our relationships with one another and with the land. Fidelity, a collection of five stories, brings us to the community of Port William, and into the lives of the people there.  Hannah Coulter is a beautiful short novel, which centers on our heroine Hannah, who, while growing old, gives the gift of recounting her life in all its fullness.

Eden Robinson is an acclaimed novelist and short story writer from the Haisla First Nation. Her novel Son of a Trickster was a finalist for this year’s Giller Prize.  Traplines, her debut collection, contains three short stories and one novella, “four unforgettable stories told with icy clarity and great heart”.

O'ConnorGuy De Maupassant and Flannery O’Conner are short story greats that shouldn’t be missed. The Necklace, Guy du Maupassant’s most famous tale, tells the story of the middle-class woman whose desire for wealth ends in disaster. Flannery O’Connor’s Everything that Rises Must Converge is a collection of stories that “encompass the comic and the tragic, the beautiful and the grotesque”.

If you would like to share short stories in a group setting, the West Kildonan Library has a 55+ Short Story Book Club where you can listen to short stories and discuss them (find the details here).



Anywhere But Here: Your Grab-and-Go Guide to Not Going Anywhere At All


Living in Winnipeg, particularly during the month of January, you may have experienced that intensely sobering moment when you look up and realize that you’re a really long way from everywhere. One good shake of the head and you can begin to rationalize our cold climate by living with a thought like, “well, I guess there’s no risk of tsunami”. Or maybe you’ve straightened yourself out with an “at least we don’t get terrifying earthquakes”. Perhaps even a very sensible “there are 520 crazy spiders in Australia and most of them can and will kill you”. These are all definite perks to our geographical location and, don’t get me wrong, I’ve (rather courteously) laughed at my share of “at least there’s no mosquitos in winter” jokes.

Being a short jaunt from the longitudinal center of the 2nd largest country in the world is a very fine thing but it also means we’re a rather punishing road trip away from just about anywhere else. Granted, we do live in a city that embraces it’s never-ending winters with similarly never-ending skating trails, snow sculptures, ice palaces, twinkly lights galore, and frozen maple syrup on a stick. But there’s a limit to how much ice-cold sugar a person can stomach – literally. As well, one can only stand so many family, friends, and coworkers regaling us with heady accounts of warm places with sandy beaches, turquoise waters, non-stop mojitos, and green plants. Green, they say. When you take all those varied, idyllic, and far flung locations coupled with our very snowy and very cold winters (so long, Polar Vortex, please never come back), you’ve got a recipe for daydreaming and wanderlust. So what’s a library worker to do when marooned in the inhospitable middle of wind-chill warnings, ever-growing snowbanks, and a weather forecast that simply reads “ice crystals”? Escape into a book, that’s what. Here are a handful of excellent trips to take somewhere else without spending a single hot cent!

Literary Fiction – when conventional fiction genres just don’t cut the mustard.

Looking to immerse yourself into a world kind of like yours but actually not yours at all? Try a trip into Literary Fiction, where it could be real but it’s really not. If you want something that allows you to sit back and fully immerse yourself in a book look no further. As an introductory trip into literary fiction try a stopover in Naples (circa 1950) with Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, the first title in The Neapolitan Novels series. The novel follows Elena and Lila, two young girls with a complicated friendship and the transformation of their postwar city, which shapes them both in turn.

I’m not going too far in theme or geographic location when I next recommend a title that is not at all new to our shelves but entirely underappreciated. We’ll travel slightly north-east from Italy to gallivant around the rural countryside of Ukraine (NB not “the Ukraine”, just “Ukraine”). Everything is Illuminated is the first novel by Jonathan Safran Foer in which two stories unfold.  One story focuses on Jonathan’s travels to Eastern Europe to track down the woman who saved his Jewish father from the Nazis during Word War II, while the other follows the history of a family living in Trachimbrod, a small Ukrainian shtetl. While devastatingly sad, it also has a distinct element of magical realism and a healthy dose of humour from Jonathan’s Ukrainian translator, guide, and enthusiastic consumer of American culture, Alexi Perchov (who also serves as narrator for much of the book in exquisite, hilarious, perfectly broken English).

This is all without even mentioning Alexi’s depressive grandfather or their family dog, along for the ride, named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior. For those who enjoy the book and, really, for everyone else, too, the 2005 film adaptation of the same title is perfectly cast with Elijah Wood as Jonathan, and Eugene Hutz, famed gypsy-punk front man of band Gogol Bordello, as Alexi.

Science Fiction – When reality is just too bleak, jazz it up with some science!

If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams (anyone else heartbroken that BBC America unceremoniously canceled Dirk Gently after a mere two seasons?) and want something similarly witty and dry and sci-fi-ish then Matt Haig’s Humans is a good place to start. An alien sent to earth using the body of a human scientist (who has recently discovered a little too much) gets a crash course in being human and all that entails. The tone is hilarious and watching the alien learn more about humans, a seemingly crude and grotesque species with curiously undeveloped technology, is a completely engaging read. For those of you who are already fans of Haig, get on the list for his newest novel, How to Stop Time, about a centuries-old, time-travelling history teacher.

Most of my favourite books have an element of absurdity to them and the next science fiction pick doesn’t stray too far from the theme. Borne by Jeff Vandermeer starts you out right in the thick of it with a giant flying despotic bear named Mord who has been driven insane by the biotech organization that created him. Why create a flying bear? Why make it a giant? These are all questions that, sure, one would like answered but the real focus of the story is on Rachel, a scavenger who finds a creature (stuck to Mord’s fur) with a fantastic ability to grow and learn. Might not make your Dystopia-to-Visit list in the real world but it’s certainly a fascinating escapist read.

Non-Fiction – Longing for an adventure to brighten up those evenings that begin around 4pm?

 Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton is a fantastically heavy tome that compiles a wealth of information about places you never knew existed, things you didn’t know happened, and weird parks that you’d sell your first born child to visit. Okay, so maybe it’s not quite all that radically persuasive but it’s a definite winner if you’re looking to waste some time on a long, snowy, bitter-cold afternoon. Caveat lector –  it’s one of those books that’ll have you interrupting everyone around you mid-sentence with a “Yes, right, your retirement/baby/world domination plan/engagement announcement is very important- but did you know this…”

For a book that will convince you that your home is probably the safest place around, try any book ever written that recounts a trek through the tropical rainforests of the Amazon. Nothing has made me want to stay put exactly where I am more than reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Following in the (highly questionable) footsteps of literally hundreds of people who died in a plethora of differing ways while attempting the exact same journey, David Grann traces the journey of the famed explorer/adventurer Percy Harrison Fawcett (aka PHF – essentially the Lebron James of Victorian exploration). Fawcett famously disappeared in the Amazonian rainforests, along with his son and son’s unfortunate best friend, in the early half of the 20th century after an intense amount of media fanfare leading up to and during the expedition. There are creepy crawlies, and horrible history, and all sorts of sleuthing going on in this one.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan takes us to another place that you wouldn’t really want to be – in the grips of a perplexingly terrifying and unnamed illness. Okay, so maybe a trip to the epilepsy ward of a New York hospital isn’t quite what you had in mind when escaping from winter into a good book but this read is a real rollercoaster. It follows the true account of Susannah, from New York Post reporter, breaking stories, conducting interviews, enjoying life in her 20s in New York, through the onslaught of a completely unpredictable illness that plagues her with seizures, psychosis, and renders her essentially catatonic. While you can grab a copy of this book at your local library, I would also recommend looking into the eBook version – as I did – and listen to it via Overdrive.

So if you’re pinching your pennies nickels (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?), deathly afraid of air travel, or just wistfully staring off as far into the distance as the current blizzard-like condition will allow, there’s a book at the library waiting for you. Even if you’re not looking for greener pastures, there are countless adventures you can wade into. What have you been reading to escape winter? Share your favourites with me in the comments.


Planning to be Spontaneous


“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are…”

J.K. Rowling

These days, even though our entertainment choices are so diverse, it seems as though we’re constantly being steered towards a minor variation on the same old thing. Once you look up a book on Amazon, view something on YouTube or stream a movie on Netflix, you’re given a list of recommendations based on that choice, whether you want it or not. This is fine, sometimes, but can get pretty dull.  It also makes being impulsive and spontaneous a bit of a challenge.

Conversely, being faced with the overwhelming selections coming at us thick and fast can mean that we retreat to the comfort zone of what’s familiar. It’s difficult to break away from the tried and true, and as someone whose comfort zone begins in the tried and ends in the true I know whereof I speak. But the new year brings new resolutions, and one of mine is to start making different choices. Notice I didn’t say better choices, just different ones. When making a change experts sometime say to take baby steps. Just one small shift can make a huge difference down the road. With that in mind, why not start making new choices at the library?

Here’s something easy to do: think of any 3 digit number. Let’s say 814. Thanks to Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey decimal system, that number could take you to something like Roxanne Gay’s book, Bad Feminist, which contains fascinating essays written on a wide variety of topics. This technique will work on any 3 digit number combination, and if you want to get fancy you can add a decimal point and more numbers.

If you’re like me and you like structure in your spontaneity, you could choose to do what Phyllis Rose did, and read every book on a library shelf. In her book The Shelf: from LEQ to LES Phyllis relates her reading adventures, and what she discovered along the way, about translations, authors who stop writing and herself as a reader.


Another way to free your mind from the usual is to deliberately look at something you don’t like. Take Shakespeare, for example. Not a writer that everyone loves, but his works have endured for hundreds of years for a reason. Try something from the No Fear Shakespeare collection, which includes character summaries, modern English translations and explanations throughout the text.


Or  the next time you reach for something to read or to listen to, try something by an author whose name falls alphabetically just before or just after your usual choice. Or you could take the first book off of each shelf in a bay of shelves, or books by authors whose names start with vowels or double consonants, or books that have been translated from another language, or books with red covers. There’s really no wrong way to open your mind to new possibilities, the hardest part is deciding where to begin. Join me in my plans to be spontaneous, and see where your choices take you.


Books-to-Movies, 2018 Edition

The New Year has kicked off, and with it a new list of books being made into movies this year! I thought I would compile a list of the upcoming releases to give our readers a chance to read the book before the movie. (If you’ve already read the book, I hope you’re looking forward to seeing the movie on the big screen and comparing it to the book.) I’ve divided the list by genre so that there is something for everyone, but don’t be afraid to try something new. Enjoy!


 playerone   Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Set in a futuristic society where humanity’s only escape from the desolate, unfriendly world is a virtual utopia called OASIS, teenager Wade Watts has studied the puzzles and intricacies of the game and hopes to unlock the clues laid by the OASIS creator who promises power and fortune to those who can unlock them. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg and judging from the trailer features some fantastic special effects.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I have written about my love for Jeff VanderMeer’s writing in a previous blog post, so naturally I have to include the film adaptation in this list as well. I hope the film will do the book justice! A biologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and an anthropologist are sent out to explore an area known as Area X. We are not given much information regarding Area X, simply what the narrator, the biologist, tells us. VanderMeer ratchets up the suspense and dread throughout the novel to its shocking conclusion, which luckily to the readers isn’t a conclusion at all as there are two other books in the trilogy afterwards.


fiftyshades  Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James

The last book in the trilogy takes place after Christian Grey’s big announcement, and we see Christian and Anna living blissfully until someone from their past threatens their happily ever after. The movie promises to be romantic, steamy and passionate and is, naturally, being released on Valentine’s Day. If you haven’t read the first two of the trilogy, you’ll want to start with those before reading this one.


Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Though this could be considered a romance, as well as a comedy, I have opted to put it in general fiction, a place where you will find the novel in the library catalogue. Rachel Wu is meeting her boyfriend of two years’ family for the first time in Singapore, a family which her boyfriend has been very secretive about. Is he ashamed because they are not wealthy? Quite the opposite, he hails from one of the wealthiest families in Singapore where opulence and luxury are the norm. They’re not just rich, they are crazy rich.


peterrabbit   The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

The trailer for the movie has touted some controversy and groans from the audience for appearing to be nothing like the book. There is, however, still a protagonist called Peter Rabbit (voiced by Late Night host James Corden) and of course a Farmer McGregor chasing him out of his garden. Read the beloved picture book that began the series before you bring the kiddies to the remake, nostalgia abound!

Young Adult

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

This classic novel of one young girl’s journey to find her father who is trapped by “The Black Thing” is sure to bring in people of all ages, not only for nostalgia’s sake but also the A-List cast which includes Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling. Be sure to delve into the classic before you head to the cinema.

 everyday  Every Day by David Levithan

A fascinating concept for a book, the protagonist, known simply as “A”, wakes up in a different body every day. One such body is a boy named Justin and there A meets Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon and forms a connection with her. This connection leads them to find a way to be with Rhiannon every day no matter which body they find themselves in. It is a book and film which can explore many issues pertinent to the present day, and reminds us that love is love.

Graphic Novel

Black Panther

Yet another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther the film is naturally getting a lot of hype, and fingers crossed the film does the comics justice. If you’re unfamiliar with the character, the library has plenty of graphic novels to get you up to speed on who/what/where/when and how is Black Panther and his secretive nation of Wakanda.


spiderweb   The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

I find it interesting that they chose to make the most recent entry in the Lisbeth Salander series into a film when they have not continued with the English version of the other two in the series. Nevertheless, the book and movie continues with hacker Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist as they tackle yet another mystery together. Though not penned by the author of the original Millennium trilogy, Lagercrantz continues delving into the story and history of Lisbeth Salander. If you would like to watch the rest of the trilogy on film you can borrow the three films from the library with Noomi Rapace in the lead role, they are absolutely phenomenal.


Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

This upcoming spy/thriller stars Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton who play spies on opposite sides. Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a spy trained to seduce the enemy. Edgerton plays a Nate Nash, a CIA operative who handles Russian Intelligence. Their attraction to each other, and Dominika’s having been forced into becoming a “sparrow” leads her to choose a double life, working for the CIA and working for Russian Intelligence, a choice which has deadly consequences. A fast-paced thriller that is action-packed, and which stars the incredible Jennifer Lawrence is sure to bring people to the theatres, but I assure you, the book is just as good.

Historical Fiction

 guernsey The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A writer looking for inspiration learns of a book club in Guernsey created during the German occupation as a way for the townspeople to get together without arising suspicion. Written as an epistolary novel the book features the protagonist’s correspondence with a native of Guernsey as she learns of and speaks to those in the society. The movie stars Lily James in the lead role, along with Matthew Goode and Jessica Brown Findlay.

Are there any book-to-movies coming out you’re looking forward to seeing that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments below. Happy reading and viewing!