Author Archives: winnipegpublibrary

Our gift to readers

In our annual contribution to the season, Winnipeg Public Library staff have put our heads together to come up with a list of our favourite reads of 2016. Some of these books were published this year, some are older titles that we discovered recently; all of them come highly recommended.

Want to see how our previous choices stack up? Check out WPL’s staff picks for 2015 and 2014. And if that’s not enough for you, here’s an ever-growing annual compilation of hundreds of 2016 “best of” lists.

Fiction we loved

Brian chose The Lamentations of Zeno by Ilija Trojanow, a “sparse but deeply affecting novel” that takes the reader to the Antarctic through the eyes of an aging glaciologist turned cruise ship guide.

Carolyn has read Dexter Palmer’s Version Control twice and will probably read it again, finding it enjoyable from multiple angles: “intriguing time-travel plot, satisfying existential questions, and some almost understandable hard science.”

revenantAccording to Chris, The Revenant by Michael Punke (inspiration for the recent movie of the same name) grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go until the final shot.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was Derek‘s favourite book–“a vivid, brilliant exploration of the devastating effects of war on the lives of two individuals.”

Jane says that Rules for a Knight (written in the form of a letter to his children by author and actor Ethan Hawke) provides a compass for living an upright and noble life and is “a perfect gem to slip into anyone’s stocking.”

Kim loves Zoe Whittall’s books and couldn’t put down her latest, The Best Kind of People, about a family’s experience of going from the “perfect family” to being ostracized by almost everyone in their hometown.

heartEvery Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire answered a question Melanie has had since she was a little girl: what happens to children who fall through portals to fantasy worlds after they return home?

Monica chose Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest for its dysfunctional, relatable family and New York setting.

breakMonique calls local writer Katherena Vermette’s first novel The Break “a story of family and community connections, trauma, and so much love… will leave anyone who reads it wanting more.”

 

Non-fiction of all kinds

Christian Bök’s poetry collection The Xenotext is “Ovid neo-structuralist hard-science futurism with bees” or, as Aaron puts it, “kinda weird.”

Elke considered Animal Factory by David Kirby “non fiction that reads like a thriller–a story about how the hunger for cheap meat and dairy has become a threat to the environment and public health.”

Franca enjoyed the wry sense of humour in Allen Kurzweil’s Whipping Boy, and how Kurzweil’s initial curiosity about what became of the schoolmate who bullied him turned into a decades-long search bordering on obsession.

According to Hugh, Capturing Hill 70: Canada’s Forgotten Battle is “a must for anyone with the slightest interest in Canada’s role in the First World War”, covering the key details of this lesser-known battle in which thousands of Manitoban soldiers fought.

lonelyJacqui says The Lonely City by Olivia Laing is “a thought-provoking blend of art history and memoir” that looks at loneliness in visual art, and how that feeling can be exposed by art as well as eased.

Julianna was inspired to reread the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic memoir Maus by Art Spiegelman after the recent Anne Frank exhibit at Millennium Library, calling it “especially potent given today’s hyperbolic and fearful rhetoric.”

Although The Book of Tea was written in 1906, Larisa found that Kakuzo Okakura’s thoughts on serious social issues associated with modernization, globalization, and the preservation of culture remain extremely topical today.

Melissa remembers Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley as “a hilarious delusional read… a beautiful fairy tale that inspires hope.” (Sarcasm, perhaps?)

twoNadine appreciated The House with the Broken Two by Myrl Coulter, a very personal story of giving up her child by a woman who grew up in Winnipeg and became pregnant in 1967 out of wedlock.

 

 

For young(ish) readers

Brianna R. Shrum’s YA novel Never Never was Katherine‘s choice: a retelling of the story of Peter Pan in which James Hook follows Pan to Neverland, only to realize there’s no way back to London…

Lauren picked the YA graphic novel series Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson (and a host of talented artists) as “a sassy, clever, girl-powered adventure that can genuinely be enjoyed by all ages.”

applesApples and Robins by Lucie Felix is a charming and magical picture book using shapes to show an apple tree through the four seasons of the year. Lori says it will “make you smile and think of spring even in the midst of winter.”

Madeleine‘s favourite book this year was Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, a YA title set during WWII which tells the amazing and heart-wrenching story of a friendship between two young women, a spy and a transport pilot.

And Wendy chose Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier, “a thrilling adventure story complete with unlikely heroes, duplicitous villains, and magical tomes that can tell you things about yourself that even you didn’t know.”

Here’s to many more great new reads in the New Year!

Danielle

Truth in (Dewey Decimal) Numbers

Every once in a while I get asked the following question:  Why is x shelved in the non-fiction section?  With x being some poem or some play or some book on astrology.  The questioner usually has a glint in their eye and a smirk on their lips when they say:  “You know the events in Hamlet didn’t really happen?”

Melvil Dewey

So I tell them:  Melvil Dewey, the man who invented that silly string of digits that libraries like to put on the spine of books, was so incredibly smart that he knew that plays of one Bill Shakespeare so deeply explored the human condition that, if not empirically true, spoke to the soul in such a way that his plays NEEDED to be shelved in the non-fiction section.  Achieving the same through literature, he thought, was a fool’s errand.  Thus, fiction and non-fiction.

Of course, the previous paragraph is almost completely fiction. Melvil Dewy…yadda yadda… invented silly string… yadda yadda…–that part is true.  The rest, not so much.  The truth is a little inside baseball and kind of boring.  But since you asked… the Dewey Decimal System is actually capable of cataloguing fiction. Meaning, if we wanted to, we could attach silly strings of numbers to the spines of all your favourite novels.  Unfortunately, and you’ll have to trust me on this, the way Dewey works and because our fiction collections are so large, this would make it much harder for you to find the books you’re looking for.

Since the great librarian revolt of 1815 [not true], most public libraries have opted forsake Dewey for their fiction collections and sort them alphabetically by author [true].  The reason poetry and plays remain under Dewey rule, and again you’ll have to trust me on this, is that their collections are so small having Dewey numbers makes them easier to find.  In short, when libraries divide their collections into fiction and non-fiction they aren’t really making a judgement call on the veracity of the content of the books, they are really just trying to make books easier to find [also true].

While you’re pondering the meaning of fiction and non-fiction, here are a pair of books that skirt the line:

A Million Little PiecesA Million Little Pieces by James Frey

In terms of popular culture, this is probably the quintessential example of the conundrum faced in categorizing something as fact or fiction.  Originally billed as the memoir of a 23-year-old drug addict, it came to light that a number of the scenes represented in the book were fabrications.  This, of course, raises the question:  Does the liberal way in which the author tells his story affect the overall ‘truth’ of the book?  After all, it is a common societal practice for people to alter and exaggerate the way they narrate their lives to tell better stories.

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe GloecknerThe Diary of a Teenage Girl

I view this as kind of the opposite scenario as A Million Little Pieces.  The Diary of a Teenage Girl is categorized as a Fictional Graphic Novel, but has been described as autobiography or biography.  This book is a coming of age story told from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl and deals with heavy topics such as sex and drug use.  In being categorized as Fiction I wonder if it lessens the impact of the novel.  In the book we follow the main character Minnie as she faces many difficult and confusing situations.  I worry that being ‘fiction’ allows the reader to avoid grappling with many of the questions the book by dismissing uncomfortable situations as fictitious and thus not something 15-year-old girls might have to face in real life.

~Alan

“Fifty Shades of Tartan”

“I’ve seen the second episode, too. And then I had to be supine with a cold cloth on my head. That powerful, yes.” John Doyle, film critic for Globe and Mail

Feeling world weary and need some escapist entertainment?

The cover of Outlander Season One Volume Two

Look no further than the Outlander series on DVD  based on the best selling books by Diana Gabaldon. Part swashbuckler adventure, bodice ripping romance and time travelling fantasy, it features a resourceful and gutsy  20th century  heroine  who meets a handsome highland warrior in the 18h century. Claire Randall is a British Army nurse enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband following World War ll. She time travels back to 1743 where she meets Jamie Fraser  a “braw” laddie fighting against English rule and she must attune her modern woman’s mindset with his 18th Century world view. The period costumes look authentic; the photography of the rugged landscape, castles, and crofts are lush; and the writing and acting are strong. Warning : scenes of  gruesome violence along with explicit eroticism may offend some viewers.

Hungry to know more about the Outlander world while waiting for the next season? Here are some spin off titles:

Cover of the Outlandish CompanionSynopses, commentary, controversies and more are covered in The Outlandish Companion . “The Methadone List” provides read alikes for readers “jonesing” for the next Gabaldon sequel.

 

 

 

 The Making of OutlanderCover of the Making of Outlander is a “fully illustrated companion that offers exclusive access to the behind the scenes world of The Outlander. Includes hundreds of set photos, production and costume designs, storyboards and insider stories.”

 

 

 

Cover of Highland Knits   Inspired by the romantic tale, Highland Knits is a rustic yet sophisticated collection of quick to knit projects from “Claire’s Rent Collection Shawl “ to the “Sassenach Cowl”. “All your favourite pieces worn by the beloved heroine are here waiting to be knit.”

 

 

Cover of Outlander Kitchen   “Take a bite out of Outlander with  Outlander Kitchen the  official cookbook from OutlanderKitchen.com. It retells Claire and Jamie’s story through the flavours of the Scottish Highlands and beyond.”  As the Scottish say ith do leor! Enjoy your meal!

 

So wrap yourself in a tartan shawl, mix yourself a Rusty Nail and be transported to a world that  “threatens life, limb, loyalty , heart and soul” * and is perhaps a wee bit more dangerous than life post November 8, 2016.

Slainte,

Jane

*credit to Doubleday

 

What’s in a Word?

 

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity.
Yehuda Berg

Words and language are fascinating to me. I remember as a child feeling very smug about the British slang words I learned from reading Enid Blyton books, and how funny it was to me that my name sounded the same as the word for truck in the “Famous Five” books. That fascination has stayed with me as an adult, as I’ve seen the way we communicate evolve from rotary phones to Facetime. Some things haven’t changed all that much, though. Words still have the power to transform the world.

Humans on an individual level experience changes in language as a part of growing up, as we can see by the way babies  start out using babble and nonsense sounds as all-purpose tools to convey their needs and wants. Reading, talking and singing to babies is an integral part of developing language skills that will eventually lead to the use of words.

 

Chalk

 

Wordless picture books are a wonderful means to assist in language learning, as the story is told literally in the words of whoever is looking at the book.

 

 

book

 

 

A fun twist on this format is the picture-less picture book, where the story strings together silly sentences to create a series of visual images that will be different for everyone who reads or listens to the book.

 

 

The effect that comic books and graphic novels have had on language is also interesting. While these formats primarily use images to tell a story, they have also  introduced some of the most enduring catchphrases in recent history.

index1

It’s a bird, it’s a plane….

index-2

With great power comes great…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Shakespeare gave the world timeless images in his plays and poetry still influencing us today, but he also created many new words that are still in use. Where would we be without words like amazement, luggage and puking? I wonder what the audience thought upon first encountering these words, and if the reaction was much the same as we’re experiencing with the widespread use of abbreviations in text messages.

 

indexyl1lkn2t

 

Using abbreviations in texts has created a new form of language, one that requires a certain skill set to negotiate successfully. At first glance it would seem that this style of communication is purely utilitarian and very basic, but like any language there is nuance and a certain set of rules to follow in order to get your meaning across.

 

 

The widespread use of emojis and emoticons has also influenced our language. Some see this as evidence that people are losing the ability to use language, or that people are lazy and in too much of a hurry to write things out properly. However, just as new words are being continously added to language, other words drop out of use. When was the last time you asked for a “firkin” of something?

 

It’s something of a chicken or egg question as to whether transformations in language lead to changes in society or that changes in society lead to changes in language. In the end, it’s all about communication, whether you use archaic English on parchment, a microprocessor, or a string of emoticons on your smartphone. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard.

-Lori

 

 

 

 

BookFest! The Bookiest of Days!

[Yes, we know ‘bookiest’ isn’t a word – but we couldn’t find the perfect one, so we made one up.]

We are super excited to have put together a really special event – our first ever BookFest is just two weeks away on Saturday, November 19! What is a book fest? Well I’m glad you asked. It’s a smorgasbord of prairie book goodness taking over the second floor of Millennium Library, brought to you by Winnipeg Public Library as well as the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers, and generously funded by the Winnipeg Public Library Board. There are tons of things planned:

1-handwrittenBook Tastings

Like a wine tasting — but with books! We will provide small yummy samples of new and top titles in prairie fiction and non-fiction. A sure way to find new favourites, with one of the showcased books up for grabs at every ‘tasting’.
Running time is 11 am – 4 pm in the Anne Smigel Room (second floor, west side of the library).

Here are the 30-minute seatings:

11-11:30 am Life and Death: notable new memoirs & mysteries

12-12:30 pm Past and Present: compelling local history and military must-reads

1-1:30 pm Fact and Fiction: hot (and hidden gems) in non-fiction and fiction

3-3:30 pm Turtle Island Reads: new and classic Indigenous titles

2How to Judge a Book by Its Cover

I’ve started to notice a trend in what books pique my interest enough to pick them up (bold colours, retro photographs). What kind of cover makes you reach for a particular book? How does a publisher choose which cover to use? Why do so many book covers feature headless people, anyway? Charlene Diehl of the Winnipeg International Writers Festival will lead a discussion 2-3 pm in the Carol Shields Auditorium featuring cover designers from Doowah Design and Mel Matheson, Librarian Barbara Bourrier-Lacroix, and Jamis Paulson of Turnstone Press.

See what I mean by a headless cover?

matchmaker

3-2Book Fair

Tables and tables and tables of local authors and publishers scattered around the second floor, with prize draws every hour! From 11 am to 4 pm.

number-4   Colour & Create

Anishinaabe artist Jackie Traverse will be showcasing her brand new Indigenous colouring book, Sacred Feminine. Colouring sheets will be available to try out. From 11 am to 4 pm in Wii ghoss.

sacred

number-5-handwritten     Book Club Corner

We know you’re always searching for good book club picks and we’ve got titles your group will love (or love to discuss, at any rate)! Plus, enter to win a set of 10 copies of The Opening Sky and an appearance by its author Joan Thomas at your book club!

opening

 And Even More Books!

Just in case you weren’t already staggering under armloads and lists of to-read books, there’s still more! Displays of recommended reads on different themes will be stashed throughout the second floor, including a selection of titles personally curated (so fancy) by our Writers-in-Residence, Christine Fellows and John K. Samson!

wir2016image.jpg

See you Saturday, November 19 all over the second floor, Millennium Library, 251 Donald Street!!

 

 

 

Charleswood Staff Picks

banner-staffpicks

Fiction and memoirs, movies and music. Whatever it is, there’s a library staff member who loves it. Many WPL branches have displays of the top choices of the folks who work there, and Charleswood Library is one of them. Now that it’s getting chilly, and thoughts are turning to taking some inside time with a good book, we thought we’d share our number one, top-of-the-top choices with you all in cyberland. But there’s lots more to share, so if you’re in the neighborhood, please come by to browse the rest of our display.

Candice’s top pick:

My recommendation is The Fireman by Joe Hill. I really enjoy this author, because his style is reminiscent of his father’s (Stephen King), but still clearly his own.

Ian’s top pick:

My staff pick would be an upcoming book club selection, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.  I like all of Larson’s books, but this one especially.  He’s a master of suspense, yet solely writes non-fiction literature – if that’s a thing.  His books read more like thrillers than histories.  As in all his books, he carefully follows two seemingly separate stories (in this case it’s life on an early 20th century luxury liner and life on a WWI German U-Boat – hugely and starkly different realities – one can practically smell the lavender soap on the Lusitania, and the watery grease in the submarine), whose narratives eventually collide in the most earth-shattering of ways.

Danielle’s top pick:

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

Any Louise Penny book is great! Her novels are set in “Three Pines” Quebec with a slew of interesting characters and the protagonist, an Inspector Gamache, is a detective who solves murders.

Michael’s top pick:

Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin

If you’re curious about small farms and the push towards sustainability, this broad ranging book brings the cumulative wit and wisdom of Salatin, and details the life of his multigenerational farm in Virginia. He goes deep to explain his can’t-hold-back antipathy toward the way modern agriculture has impacted our way of life.

Sarah’s top pick:

Prairie Ostrich by Tamai Kobayashi

Kobayashi has a sharp eye for the poetic in the everyday, and for the small resonant truths that gleam amidst the seemingly mundane.” [From Goose Lane Edition’s website].

Ingrid’s top pick:

A book that I have recommended many times is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I also just finished The Lake House by Kate Morton, and would highly recommend both titles.  If you enjoy reading books with beautiful settings, where the past and present intertwine, and that have an element of mystery thrown in, then you will thoroughly enjoy books by Kate Morton.  Her stories are captivating and the author keeps you guessing as the story slowly unravels.  In The Forgotten Garden a young women named Cassandra searches for her true identity and discovers her family’s history and secrets that have been hidden for generations.

Shelley’s top pick:

Under One Roof : Lessons I Learned From A Tough Old Woman In A Little Old House by Barry Martin

A heartwarming true story about a feisty octogenarian, that refuses to leave her tiny home as a Super Mall is constructed around her. Despite the offer of millions of dollars, Edith Macefield, stubbornly stands her ground as construction foreman Barry Martin, helps her maintain her dignity and respect in the true spirit of human kindness.

Erica’s top pick:

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

A seemingly simple story of an lovable ragtag crew  and their patchwork ship (think Firefly), trying to make an honest living building wormholes while facing questions of what it means to be human in a universe filled with other species; invoking questions of sameness and difference, aggression and peace, friendship and family.

Tegan’s top pick:

My pick is Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. This book is the perfect fall read, twins Julia and Valentina inherit their Aunt Elspeth’s London apartment and find their lives intertwining with the peculiar residents of the apartment block. I love to recommend it because it has classic ghost story elements coupled with modern characters, and is set in the spooky Highgate Cemetery in London. Niffenegger does an amazing job of bringing the characters to life, and making you feel like you’re there in the cemetery as well.

 

Happy reading!

– Charleswood Library staff (pictured below)

The Scotiabank Giller Prize’s 2016 Shortlist!

The Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Canadian literary award announced each November, is a great way to compile a Christmas gift wish list – for friends or yourself. If you are interested in reading or promoting new Canadian literature this is a great place to start. This shortlist of 6 titles was chosen from a longlist of 12 books announced in September. (The 12, in turn, came from a list of 161 titles submitted by publishers from every region of the country.) And the 2016 winner will be announced at a televised ceremony hosted by CBC’s Steve Patterson on November 7. Which one would you nominate to receive the Prize this year? And which one will you consider giving to a loved one this Xmas? I have my eye on the Gary Barwin novel about the wise, satirical parrot!

awad-13-ways-of-looking-at-a-fat-girl.jpg 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

“Everyone loves Lizzie. She is the confidant, the late night go-to, and she is always there and hungry for attention. Lizzie becomes even more obsessed and needy when she no longer feels insecure about being overweight and it becomes painfully obvious that she will always feel bad about herself. A candid and sad look at how we mistreat people with different body types.”

barwin-yiddish-for-pirates.jpg Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin

“Yiddish for Pirates is a hilarious, swashbuckling yet powerful tale of pirates, buried treasure and a search for the Fountain of Youth, told in the ribald, philosophical voice of a 500-year-old Jewish parrot. Set in the years around 1492, the book recounts the compelling story of Moishe, a Bar Mitzvah boy who leaves home to join a ship’s crew, where he meets Aaron, the polyglot parrot who becomes his near-constant companion… Rich with puns, colourful language, post-colonial satire and Kabbalistic hijinks, Yiddish for Pirates is also a compelling examination of morality, memory, identity and persecution from one of this country’s most talented writers.”

donoghue-the-wonder.jpg

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

“A village in 1850s Ireland is baffled by Anna O’Donnell’s fast. A little girl appears to be thriving after months without food, and the story of this ‘wonder’ has reached fever pitch. Tourists flock in droves to the O’Donnell family’s modest cabin, and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not Anna is a fraud. As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.”

whittall-the-best-kind-of-people.jpg The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

“George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?”

thien-do-not-say-we-have-nothing.jpg Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien

“An extraordinary novel set in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Madeleine Thien’s new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise…With maturity and sophistication, humour and beauty, a huge heart and impressive understanding, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once beautifully intimate and grandly political.”

 

leroux-the-party-wall.jpg The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux

“Catherine Leroux’s first novel, translated into English brilliantly by Lazer Lederhendler, ties together stories about siblings joined in surprising ways. A woman learns that she absorbed her twin sister’s body in the womb and that she has two sets of DNA; a girl in the deep South pushes her sister out of the way of a speeding train, losing her legs; and a political couple learn that they are non-identical twins separated at birth. The Party Wall establishes Leroux as one of North America’s most intelligent and innovative young authors.”

Enjoy!

Lyle

Enough Clowning Around

I was inspired to write a blog about the recent clown sightings. That is, until the weird clowns started popping up in Winnipeg. What started off as a prank in the U.S. has sadly escalated into a continent-wide-frenzy.

Even Stephen King himself, creator of one of the scariest clowns ever, has taken to Twitter, telling people it’s ‘time to cool the clown hysteria’.

I agree. Why are we so afraid of clowns? Is it the makeup that hides their emotions? Is it the unnaturally bright orange hair? Is it because a slew of famous fictional clowns  have been scaring people for years?

Let me be clear: Dressing up as a clown to scare people is NOT COOL, especially if weapons are involved. Instead of dressing up as a scary copycat clown this Halloween, why not introduce yourself to some of the scariest clowns around, at the library? We house some of the creepiest clown characters in history and they’re much more frightening than any costume someone might be cooking up in their basement.

It by Stephen King

As I mentioned before, likely the most famous clown-horror-story around is Stephen King’s It. The story follows seven children who are terrorized by the creature.  Usually appearing in the form of the clown Pennywise (in order to attract young kids), “It” exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. You might want to leave the lights on after reading this one…

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore & Brian Bolland

The Joker is one of the most memorable villains not only in the Batman series, but possibly of all time. In his comic book appearances, he is shown as a psychotic criminal mastermind with a twisted, sadistic sense of humor. Although he does not possess any superpowers, he uses his expertise in chemical engineering to develop weapons like razor-tipped playing cards, or acid-spraying lapel flowers and play deadly pranks on his enemies. Come check out our graphic novel section and read one that features him, such as The Killing Joke.

polterPoltergeist

Nothing says creepy like a ghost talking to a little girl through a TV set. At first playful and friendly, Carol Anne’s ghost friends become unexpectedly menacing, and an exorcist must be called in once she goes missing. Starring Craig T. Nelson and written by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist is a 1980s horror classic. And who can forget that clown scene?

Clown Girl by Monica Drake

‘Sniffles the Clown’ isn’t a scary clown, but she’s certainly an endearing one. She struggles to live out her dreams in Baloneytown, surrounded by petty crime, balloon animals and rubber chickens. In an effort to support herself and her lazy boyfriend, she finds herself turning into a ‘corporate clown’, trapped in a cycle of meaningless, high-paid gigs. Monica Drake manages to raise questions of gender, class and prejudice while incorporating the bizarre, humorous and gritty.

For more scary fiction, check out our “On a Dark and Stormy Night” display at Millennium!

Brittany

The Importance of Harry Potter

Earlier this year I found myself watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time since its cinematic debut back in 2001. It was a fun, light hearted adventure that featured Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger as the main protagonists. Soon afterwards my fiancé and I sat down to watch The Chamber of Secrets and it was at that moment that I decided I wanted to read the books.

Harry Potter, an orphan, is raised by his emotionally abusive relatives until he discovers that he’s a wizard. This is a startling revelation, but then he also learns that he’s famous – in fact, he’s the most famous wizard in the world because he survived an attack by Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who’s responsible for killing his parents. Interesting? Absolutely! Of course, nineteen years after the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published, Harry’s origin story is well known. Everyone knows it. Just like everyone knows that Frodo Baggins was destined to be the ring keeper and travel to Mount Doom in order to destroy the ring of power. These characters and their exploits are part of pop culture and will therefore continue to be referenced for years to come.

So why does Harry Potter still matter?

We all know that the series follows the adventures of Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione, as they learn the art of wizardry and the world that surrounds them. Throughout the series we see the progression of these characters as they mature from children into young adults. As their relationships blossom into something more, we see the difficulties that arise when friendships changes into romantic relationships. J.K. Rowling excels at describing these painful experiences. I find that when discussing the series it’s seldom mentioned but never forgotten. When Harry and Cho kiss for the first time? It was awkward, to say the least. But I’m convinced that this awkward kiss makes it relatable to many of us.

Hermione, as portrayed by Emma Watson.

Hermione, as portrayed by Emma Watson.

Hermione Granger is a powerful protagonist who deserves to be mentioned. When Harry and Ron often struggle to complete their homework or work out their own problems, it’s often Hermione that has the solution. Although she’s mocked, sometimes by her own friends, Hermione’s dedication to her studies gives her an advantage over the rest of her classmates. Despite Professor Snape’s dislike of her, she always raises her hand, waiting patiently (mostly), to answer his questions.

When Harry and Ron struggle to discover who’s attacking their fellow classmates (in Chamber of Secrets), it’s Hermione who figures it out. After her encounter with the monstrous creature results in her being petrified, it’s up to the boys to connect the dots and save the day. While Hermione often takes the high road she is not a pushover, which we learn in Prisoner of Azkaban. After mocking his Gryffindor rivals, Draco Malfoy learns that he has pushed his luck too far, when Hermione punches him in the nose.

The importance of Harry Potter isn’t the main character, it’s the journey he undertakes with his friends, notably Hermione. Throughout the series we see the characters mature as they embark upon adventures and battle dangerous adversaries. Although we encounter many characters, it’s my opinion that Hermione is the most important. With the upcoming release of the new movie, it’s a great time to re-read the whole series.

Dan

I Love the Smell of Rich Mahogany in the Morning! or Why eBooks are Okay Too.

Books! Good old fashioned physical books! Nothing beats them and it hurts to be beat by them. If you’re like me and I know a lot of you are, then you love books too. Books are made of trees. Wood is made of trees. Mahogany is a type of wood. Therefore, books, or at least the best books, smell of rich mahogany. Some people may try to tell you that you can’t smell what type of wood a book is made of. Those people are not discerning readers.

Now, you may have heard of these so-called ‘eBooks.’ These eBooks are not made of wood. They are made of wires. I know what you’re thinking; I was the same way—skeptical. After all, when you’re sitting next to the fireplace, in your leather arm chair, a snifter of cognac in one hand and a bubble pipe in your mouth, and you look down in your lap and see A PILE OF WIRES, you’ll know something is missing. The smell of rich mahogany.

 

carrieBut say you want to read a good horror novel. I recommend Carrie by Stephen King, mostly because it rhymes with scary, which it is. You don’t want to read this book next to a fireplace. You want to read this book in a house with creaky floors and tree branches tap-tap-tapping at the window. You’ll also want to be in bed so that when things are at their absolute most terrifying you can pull the blankets over your head. Now think about it, with the blankets over your head and a regular old physical book you’re missing something. Light! And without light you’re approaching heart attack levels of scary, compounded by the fact that you can’t read in the dark. It turns out most eBooks have a nifty feature called a backlight which provides just enough light to read under the covers but not enough to ruin the ambiance.

 

count-of-monte-cristoeBooks, I’ve discovered, are also fantastic if you lift weights. Now leg days will never be an issue. But if you’re like me, and I feel a lot of you are, on those days when you’ve finished a set of arm curls with 500lb.* dumbbells picking up a book can be jello-arm inducing. Especially when you’re reading a tome such as The Count of Monte Cristo which is over 1000 pages of dead wood. Now with an eBook you can bend the laws of physics and that 1000 page tome is going to weigh about as much as a paperback.

 

infinite-jest

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I’m smart. Smart enough to know that it’s spelled ‘smrt’ but when you write it out the ‘a’ is silent. That being said, I’m a humble man. So, when it’s time for my weekly read of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest I use a dictionary because that guy is mad smart and I need it. Every. Single. Page. Before eBooks it used to be a physical dictionary and that was kinda bad because the dictionary is like 1000 pages and Infinite Jest is like 1000 pages because it uses pretty much every word in the dictionary—so yeah, arm days. So I know what you’re thinking, bending the laws of physics. And yes, there’s that. But they’ve also managed a feat of alchemy and put a dictionary into every single eBook so that all you have to do is tap the word and BOOM the definition comes up on the screen!

 

masteredLastly, and this one is important because it involves safety, sometimes I like my books hot. This is a problem because as we’ve discussed books are made of wood. And I’m smrt so hot and wood make fire. So when I’m reading Maya Banks’ Mastered on the bus and it bursts into flames on my lap I can get some weird looks. eBooks don’t catch on fire so much so people on the bus just can’t tell how hot my book is getting.

 

So, yeah, I don’t often stray from that rustic mahogany smell (pine is nice too!) but when I do, I always choose eBooks. Let me know why you choose eBooks in the comments below.

~ Alan

*Editor’s note: We had a lengthy discussion about whether or not there was one too many zeros in this number. The discussion ended with the author effortlessly carrying a set of said dumbbells into my office. I’m currently in the process of fixing the hole in my floor.