Category Archives: Seasonal

Spring fiction

Spring has sprung and the new fiction shelves are blooming with a heavy crop of new novels. Here are a few to get you started, or you can view the full list of New Titles for the last 3 months in our online catalogue.

In dog we trust
by Beth Kendrick
When Jocelyn Hilliard is named legal guardian for the late Mr. Allardyce’s pack of pedigreed Labrador retrievers, her world is flipped upside down. She’s spent her entire life toiling in the tourism industry and never expected to be living the pampered life in an ocean side mansion, complete with a generous stipend. But her new role isn’t without its challenges.

The bird king
by G. Willow Wilson
Fatima is a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain. Her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker, has a secret: he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as threatening sorcery. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

Queen Bee
by Dorothea Benton Frank
Beekeeper Holly McNee Kensen quietly lives in a world of her own on Sullivan’s Island. Her mother, The Queen Bee, is a demanding hypochondriac; to escape the drama, Holly’s sister Leslie married and moved away, wanting little to do with island life. Holly’s escape is to submerge herself in the lives of the two young boys next door and their widowed father. When Leslie returns to the island, their mother ups her game in an uproarious and theatrical downward spiral. A classic Lowcountry Tale–warm, wise, and hilarious.

Bunny
by Mona Awad
A darkly funny, seductively strange novel about a lonely graduate student drawn into a clique of rich girls who seem to move and speak as one. Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more different from the other members of her master’s program at an elite university. A self-conscious scholarship student, she is repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny.” But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation from the Bunnies and finds herself drawn as if by magic to their front door. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into Bunny world, the edges of reality begin to blur.

The snakes
by Sadie Jones
Driving through France, recently married Bea and Dan visit Bea’s brother at the hotel he runs in Burgundy. When her parents make a surprise visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea is so appalled, or why she’s never wanted him to meet them; Liv and Griff Adamson are charming and rich. Maybe Bea’s ashamed of him, or maybe she regrets the secrets she’s been keeping… Tragedy strikes suddenly, brutally, and in its aftermath even Bea with all her strength and goodness can’t escape.

The elephant of surprise
by Joe Lansdale
Hap and Leonard are an unlikely pair–Hap, a self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough-as-nails black gay Vietnam vet–but they’re the closest friend either of them has in the world. Amidst the worst flood East Texas has seen in years, they save a young woman from a mob hit, only to find themselves confronted by an adversary who challenges their friendship.

The paper wasp
by Lauren Acampora
Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, Abby Graven now works as a supermarket cashier. Each day she’s taunted by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet. When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she’s surprised and touched that Elise still considers her a friend. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.

Danielle

Hé ho!

As you may have heard, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Festival du voyageur! This annual winter celebration of Franco-manitobain language and culture starts today – Friday, February 15 – and this year, the Winnipeg Public Library is taking part for four days (February 16, 17, 18 and 23).

You’ll find our bibliothèque éphémère (pop-up library) in the Forest Tent at Voyageur Park complete with a station de bricolage (craft station), and heures du conte (story times).

Plus all the usual Festival fun will be going on, of course, from pancake breakfasts to fiddling contests, dogsled rides, and snow sculptures. Bon festival!

And if you can’t make it out to join us, here are a few titles appropriate for Festival and Louis Riel Day…

Canoeing the Churchill: a practical guide to the historic voyageur highway

Louis Riel and the creation of modern Canada

 

Louis Riel: a comic strip biography

Making the voyageur world / Les voyageurs et leur monde

My first Métis lobstick

My true and complete adventures as a wannabe voyageur

Festival du voyageur HEHO!

 

Our best of the year

‘Tis the season for lists: shopping lists, gift lists, and most of all–“best of the year” lists.

Librarians love lists as much as anyone, so in our own contribution to the madness, Winnipeg Public Library staff have put together our annual list of favourite reads. Many of these titles are brand new; some are a bit older; but all are available at WPL and well worth a look.

If you’re interested in catching up on previous years, here are our picks for 2017 and 2016. Need more lists? Be sure to check out Largehearted Boy’s ongoing compilation list of lists.

Fiction

Aaron‘s top book of the year was The Mount by Carol Emshwiller, the story of a budding friendship between a boy and an alien during a time of revolution – “think The Horse and his Boy meets The Fox and the Hound.”

Aileen was truly scared “in the best way possible” by The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp, which is a nail-biter and even a comedy at times thanks to the unreliable narrator.

Brian chose Sinclair Lewis’ semi-satirical polemic It Can’t Happen Here, written during the Great Depression and the rise of populist Louisiana politician Huey Long, which has been called the novel that predicted Donald Trump.

Cyrus picked The Man of Steel for Brian Michael Bendis’ story, great for people new to Superman but with plenty of fresh elements for long time fans, and its beautiful visuals from some of the best artists in superhero comics.

David recommends the Christmas-themed Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox: it’s quirky, it’s romantic, and most importantly it’s set in a Devonshire dog kennel with lots of adorable pups.

Derek says that Miriam Toews’ new novel, Women Talking, is masterfully told, with deft humour and keen insight.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman was Jennifer‘s “absolute favourite” of the year.

Kira became slightly obsessed with Octavia E. Butler this year, and chose her duology Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.

Like Circe herself, Madeline Miller’s novel enchanted Rémi with its poetic style and absorbing story drawn from Greek mythology.

Toby enjoyed The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, an ambitious, exceptionally written novel that deals with the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 1980s and its present-day repercussions.

Non-fiction

Elke says that Why We Sleep by Matthew P. Walker tells you everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about sleep, packing two decades of sleep research results into one book.

Ian picked At Home in the World, a collection of reminiscences from the Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh which is inspirational, fun, thought-provoking, and timeless.

Josie Appleton’s Officious: Rise of the Busybody State made Jacob re-think the existing purpose behind state regulations.

For Kelly, reading Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming was time well spent. An honest take on striving for work/family balance and finding her own voice while still supporting her husband’s vision.

Kim‘s selection I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya is a short book full of stories of Shraya’s experience as someone who doesn’t fit into society’s gender norms.

Larisa suggests comparing your own understanding of happiness with all those smart minds’ views which Frédéric Lenoir has collected in Happiness: a Philosopher’s Guide.

Laura found She Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer a completely fascinating study of genetics and inheritance, from the extraordinarily problematic history of eugenics to modern biotech advances like CRISPR and much more.

Melissa chose Ceremonial Magic, a book on magical traditions by Israel Regardie, a brilliant occultist who was once Aleister Crowley’s private secretary.

For young readers

Andrea recommends The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress for Lemony Snicket fans. A light read full of twists and turns, it all starts with a pig in a teeny hat…

Colette selected Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (a companion book to the Seraphina series) for its great female character, beautiful language, and strong world-building.

Jordan enjoyed the whole Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, especially the first book Cinder, which features a handsome prince, evil step mother and two step-sisters… oh, and Cinderella is a cyborg.

Katherine picked Tara Sim’s Timekeeper, in which Danny is meant to fix the clocks that control time around London, not help the spirits within them–even when one of them falls in love with him.

Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones cracked Lori’s heart by illuminating the soul crushing choices so many Indigenous youth have to make… but it also mended it with beautiful and touching love scenes.

Madeleine loved the incorporation of a podcast into the narrative of Sadie by Courtney Summers, which made her think critically about our desire to hear true crime stories that are often about violence being done to women.

Sydney thinks that Dragons Love Tacos will entertain adults as well as children with its beautiful illustrations, absurdity, and attention to detail. Plus it’s also available in French translation!

 

Remembering Canada’s Hundred Days and the End of the First World War

Cover image for The greatest victory : Canada's one hundred days, 1918A hundred years ago, the First World War was coming to an end, after four years of carnage never witnessed before in history. The year 1918 had begun with the Allied armies (also known as the Entente Powers) still locked in stalemate with Germany on the western front with no clear end in sight. Then in the spring, the German army launched its final offensive and although it succeeded in pushing back the British army, it failed to create a decisive breakthrough. This was followed in August by a general counter-attack (now known as the Hundred Days Offensive) by the Allies that would finally break the deadlock of the trenches and force Germany and the rest of the Central Powers to sue for peace by November. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps played a central role in breaking the back of the German army in a series of victorious battles that ended in the French city of Mons on November 11, 1918. The prestige earned on the battlefield helped create a new sense of national identity and Canada had separate representation at the peace conference at Versailles, moving away from its former colonial status toward independence from Great Britain.

Despite involving more men (and more casualties) than the Normandy Campaign of 1944, and despite being the pivotal battle of the First World War, the Hundred Days Offensive has been largely forgotten until recently with the centennial of the First World War bringing renewed interest in its history. For readers who are not familiar with this topic but are interested in learning more, historian Jack Granatstein’s book The Greatest Victory: Canada’s Hundred Days, 1918 is a recommended introduction that is accessible to everyone. It chronicles the march and bloody struggles of the Canadian Corp out of the trenches from Amiens through Valenciennes, the Hindenburg Line, the Canal du Nord, and Cambrai, toward Mons and final victory. Granatstein describes the historical context of the offensive, how Canadians trained constantly beforehand in the use of new tactics and weapons, and were led by General Arthur Currie, likely the best General of the War. Despite being overshadowed by the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the minds of most Canadians, the author convincingly argues that the Hundred Day’s Offensive was Canada’s greatest feat of arms of the First World War.

Cover image for They Fought in Colour / la Guerre en Couleur : A New Look at Canada's First World War Effort / Nouveau Regard Sur le Canada Dans la Premi?re Guerre Mondiale.

Remembering the First World War can be challenging due to the memory of it having faded over the decades, and having been overshadowed by the second global conflict that followed its uneasy peace. Since we no longer have living veterans to relate their stories, our vision of the First World War exist almost exclusively in black and white, whether they be written books or historical footage. The book They Fought in Colourpublished by the Vimy Foundation, attempts to offer a new look at Canada’s experience during the Great War by presenting the reader with colorized pictures, as the people experienced it, with commentary from some of well-known Canadian personalities, including Paul Gross, Peter Mansbridge, Margaret Atwood, and many others.

Cover image for The secret history of soldiers : how Canadians survived the Great War

Historian Tim Cook is a prolific author of Canadian military history who has just released his latest title: The Secret History of Soldiers: How Canadians Survived the Great War This is a welcome addition, providing an intimate look at the daily lives of the men and women who experienced the conflict, as opposed to the more conventional reviews of the war from official records and the distant point of views of politicians and military leaders focused on strategies and tactics. These first-hand stories were mined from the letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral accounts of more than five hundred combatants. They reveal aspects of the life behind the front-lines, a “hidden society” that coped with the extreme hardships of war by creating their own satirical songs, trench art from battlefield debris, newspapers that criticized army life and all kinds of entertainment that took their mind off the war. You learn how camaraderie was built on shared experiences and goals, what motivated Canadians of all walks of life to keep going, and how they kept informed about the war and their families back home.

Cover image for 1918 : winning the war, losing the war

For readers who are interested in an in-depth study of the Western Front in the last year of the war, another new arrival at the library, 1918 : winning the war, losing the war is an informative review of the armies that were facing each other (the inexperienced but vast American army joining the battle-weary but experienced French and British forces against the German). This multi-author work contains ten chapters by some of the best historians of the First World War. It analyzes how armies built from a 19th century model evolved and adapted the lessons learned from past failures and used new technologies and weapons to fight a twentieth century war. The book also covers neglected fronts like Italy and the Middle East where the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires were fighting for their continuing survival. It also looks in detail at the war at sea and in the air, and considers the aftermath and legacy of the First World War.

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Finally, if you come by the Local History Room at the Millennium branch, you can view a display called The World Remembers 1918 that the library is hosting to commemorate the centennial of the 1918 Armistice. Until November 11, a video monitor will display the names of over 800,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the final year of the war from Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, the US, Turkey, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia, China and the former British Indian Army. The World Remembers website has more information about this project and this is the page where names can be searched to learn when they will appear on-screen.

Louis-Philippe

Scary stories to read in the dark

It’s October and cold, dark days with dreary skies have arrived…  you know what that means—the countdown to Hallowe’en has officially begun.

Short stories are one of the best ways to experience the thrill of horror fiction. Like the bite-size chocolate bars in our trick or treat bags, they deliver just the right amount of delightfully tasty fright.

If you’re new to short, terrifying fiction, start with the classics: Edwardian Englishman M.R. James and mid-century American Shirley Jackson couldn’t be more different in style or tone, but they’re both experts at grounding uncanny weirdness in the ordinary and mundane world.

 

If you like Shirley Jackson but haven’t tried Kelly Link yet, what are you waiting for? Magic for Beginners is a great place to start if you haven’t gotten the chance to sample her whimsical but deeply unsettling prose before.

 

Everyone knows Stephen King for his doorstopper-thick horror novels like The Shining and It. But I find his short stories even more frightening as they leave more unspoken, like shadows hovering in the corner of your eye. Whether you choose one of his more recent collections, like Everything’s Eventual and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, or an earlier selection like Skeleton Crew, you’re sure to sleep with a light on that night.

Not surprisingly, King’s son Joe Hill is a master storyteller as well; check out 20th Century Ghosts for a selection of his early work.

Editor Ellen Datlow discovers and collects some of the best short horror. You won’t go wrong checking out any of the anthologies she’s put together, but my favourites are two excellent collections of modern ghost stories: The Dark and Hauntings.

Are you looking over your shoulder yet?

Danielle

Start with astronomy

I can think of no better way to start a blog post about the night sky than to quote The Friendly Giant: “look up, look wayyyyy up”. Stars, planets, moons, constellations and galaxies are all things to search for and observe in the night sky.

The warmth of summer is a great time to start learning and you don’t need a massive telescope. A good pair of binoculars will reveal a number of objects that your unaided eye can’t see and they are a great way to learn how to navigate the night sky.

The Winnipeg Public Library has a great selection of resources to help you. I’ve selected a variety of books and television shows from our print and online streaming collections to get you started.  Just for fun, I’ve thrown in some stuff by Neil de Grasse Tyson and the potential for life in the Universe.  Excelsior!

SETI: Astronomy as a Contact Sport with Jill Tarter
This is a documentary about the organisation SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Among many goals, SETI wants to try to answer the question “are we alone?” SETI does this by listening for signals that could originate from extraterrestrial civilizations in other parts of the universe.

These four videos are part of a 12 episode series called Our Night Sky which examines different objects in the sky such as planets, stars, constellations and where they can be found in different seasons:

Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Join Neil deGrasse Tyson as he discusses what we know and don’t know about the universe. Explore new areas of research and knowledge.

Season One of Life in Our Universe with Laird Close
This 24 episode series discusses a variety of topics such as astrobiology (the study of biology beyond earth), extraterrestrial intelligence, does life exist beyond earth, different environments life could evolve in and how to terraform a planet.

The Astronomy Book by David Hughes offers a concise history of the some of the most important events in astronomy, cosmology and physics. Each topic covered is easy to read and each section uses flowcharts and graphics to help present a clear picture of new discoveries and important developments.

Wonders of the Night Sky you Must See before you Die: the Guide to the Most extraordinary Curiosities of our Solar System by Bob King
You’ve read the 1000 places you must see before you die or 1000 songs you must listen to before you die. Now there’s a list for astronomy.  Bob King introduces you to 57 sights in the night sky and provides information on how to see these objects using your eyes, binoculars and telescopes.

The Night Sky Atlas: the Moon, Planets, Stars and Deep Sky Objects by Robin Scagell
The Night Sky Atlas offers excellent maps of the sky to help you locate constellations, stars, planets and more. Clearly laid out, it is quick and easy to use. This book is a great addition for anyone starting out in astronomy.

Astronomy: a Self-Teaching Guide by Dinah Moche
Essentially an introductory course in astronomy, this is a terrific and thorough book to grab if you want to learn more than just the locations of different sights in the sky. The eighth edition has links to online resources such as fantastic color images. The book also features tests at the end of each section to help reinforce what you’ve learned.

Learning about and navigating the night sky can be an enjoyable and fulfilling pastime; I hope you find these suggestions helpful and take a look. If you’re looking for an upcoming astronomical event that is easy to see, try the Perseid meteor shower in August. The shower peaks on the nights and early mornings of August 11-12 and 12-13. You don’t need anything but your eyes!

Andrew

Inch by inch. Row by row. Gonna make this garden grow.

 

MUD. I’ve been playing in that stuff since I was a kid. Each year, during May long weekend (or shortly thereafter) the doors were wide open to have fun with mud! Out came the shovels, the garden beds were dug up, and on hands and knees my Mom would carve small paths in the newly broken soil. She’d pour small piles of seeds from seed packages into the palm of my hand. My job was to sprinkle them in the paths she’d created, giving space between each seed, and gently cover them with a blanket of mud. Then came the water.

In those early years I remember my young self worrying that the huge waterfall coming out of the garden hose would destroy those precious seeds, but within a week or so I saw little green shoots pop up from the ground. Seeing this I learned that seeds were incredibly strong and also that they were different from each other. I was in awe of the new shapes that formed in front of me. Some of the plants had wispy, soft leaves and others had prickly leaves. Some of their stalks stood tall and others swirled and wound their way around things. Several decades later, I’m still in awe.

Gardening can be a little intimidating. After you understand that the water from the garden hose isn’t going to kill the seeds (comes with age apparently), then you wonder: What’s a gardening zone? What type of soil do I have? How much sun is needed when a plant label says “part shade”? I won’t deny that these are important things to know, but I’ve never let my lack of knowledge get in the way. What I witnessed with my Mom was simple, tried, and true, and it’s what stuck with me: put a seed in mud, water it regularly, make sure it gets sun, and enjoy watching it grow. With that basic knowledge, you can garden with one container full of mud and one seed or you can dig up an entire lawn and create a food and flower paradise. Anything goes.

Whether you’re new to gardening or have been playing in the mud for years, here are some things to check out from us:

Gardening eMagazines

Manitoba Gardener 2

Eye candy. Tons of tips and visual inspiration are available in the gardening eMagazines that we offer through RBdigital and PressReader. If you have a mobile device and haven’t yet set it up to access these free goodies, check out our eMedia Guide for how to get set up or sign up for a 1-on-1 eMedia session and we’ll help you get set up. You don’t want to to miss out on this stuff!

 

Gardening Books

WE HAVE SO MANY GREAT GARDENING RESOURCES!!! I can’t even curb my excitement. Here are some that I’ve recently borrowed:

100 Plants that won’t die in your Garden by Geoff Tibballs

When new to gardening, sometimes the goal is to build confidence! With that in mind, this book will help you do that. Tibballs describes many perennials, shrubs, vines and more that you most likely won’t be able to kill. Yay!

 

 

The Urban Wildlife Gardener by Emma Hardy

I love the thought of having more birds, butterflies, and bees in our yard, so we plant things that’ll attract them. This book shares a variety of ways to attract them through plants, birdbaths, and bee houses. It lists plant varieties too – very useful!

 

 

One Magic Square Vegetable Gardening by Lolo Houbein

This book gives all the tips and tricks to creating and maintaining a small garden plot. What’s really neat about it is that it includes ideas for theme plots. Enjoy making stir-fries? Grow a Stir-Fry plot. Love pasta and pizza? Grow the Pasta/Pizza plot. Want to make hearty soups in the fall? Grow a Soup Plot and Essential Herb Plot. So many plots, so little time!

 

Pot it, Grow it, Eat it by Kathryn Hawkins

From aubergines to zucchinis, you might be amazed at how many vegetables and fruits can be grown in a pot. If you’re looking for easy, grow your veggies in a pot. Hawkins shares how to do it, including how to harvest, store and freeze what you grow.

 

No Dig Organic Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty

Who loves the back-breaking work of digging or has a back that can actually handle the back-breaking work of digging? Well if you do, I’m jealous and you’re lucky. We have a combination of in-ground and raised garden beds in our yard and the raised ones are very kind to me. This book gives the basics about raised beds, composting, and includes an important section on seed saving. You really get the full circle experience if you save seeds from the plants that you’ve grown and it’s surprisingly easy to do. Plus, you can save a lot of money!

 

Get Social (if you want)

Gardeners love to share: tips and tricks, seedlings, seeds, and in-progress pictures of their gardens of plenty. Gardening doesn’t need to be a solitary effort, although if you’re craving some “me” time it’s so awesome for that. If you want to get social there are some great Winnipeg groups to tap into on Facebook: Winnipeg Gardeners, Winnipeg Garden Trading, and Winnipeg Urban Container Gardening. The people on these groups are friendly and helpful. Check them out. Plus, keep an eye out for gardening programs in the At the Library Guide. As an example, we have a couple coming up on tree care on June 18th and June 21st.

And with that, I’ll end this off with how I started it: “Inch by inch. Row by row. Gonna make this garden grow.” A beautiful line from Garden Song, written by Dave Mallett, and sung by many, including Pete Seeger and one of my favourites, John Denver. (I admit to serenading my family as a child with one particular John Denver song.) Here’s John Denver singing it with The Muppets as his back-up singers. The Muppets. Come on. So cute.

 

 

May your garden bring you much happiness and mud under your fingernails.

~ Reegan (A kid from the 70s who still loves to play in the mud. Love you, Mom.)

Snow on Snow

“Snow had fallen, snow on snow”. In the Bleak Midwinter, Christina Rosetti

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One of the more insidious and effective ways that “the holiday spirit” gets to us is through seasonal music. You can’t escape it. There’s no agreement as to when the “season” begins. After Halloween, surely. PROBABLY after Remembrance Day, right? But when? December 1st? The first Sunday in Advent? Grey Cup? Whatever you use to define the beginning of the holiday season, there’s no doubt that we are reaching the “peak cheer” zone this week.

The holiday season for me is all about traditions, and I like to listen to the same handful of albums year in and year out. They connect me to Christmases past and fill me with warmth and good feelings. Are any of these on your favourites list?

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi

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I remember watching this tv special even back before you could record it on VCRs, so you had to plan ahead to make sure you didn’t miss it. I still try to watch it at least once a year with my daughter, although it’s clear that it doesn’t hold the same meaning for her. Maybe that will change once she sees the live action version of it, currently playing at Manitoba Theatre for Young People.

The Bells of Dublin by The Chieftains

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I often think of this album as the Christmas album for people who hate Christmas albums. It shies away from the more well known carols, and opts instead for songs like The Rebel Jesus, The St. Stephen’s Day Murders and Past Three O’clock. At various points during the album you can hear long medleys of various carols played in a live setting, and it really creates the impression that you are eavesdropping on a bunch of talented musicians jamming and having a great time, in the tradition of a Celtic kitchen party.

Christmas by Bruce Cockburn

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I would include this album EVEN IF I didn’t feel a certain obligation to have some Canadian content in this list. Even though this album came out in 1993, it is the most recent addition to my regular rotation, joining the others just a few Christmases ago. I like the folksy, upbeat treatment most of the songs on this album get, especially Mary Had A Baby, I saw Three Ships and that most Canadian of Christmas Carols (No, not River by Joni Mitchell, you guys), The Huron Carol.

James Taylor at Christmas by James Taylor

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You know, sometimes you just want to hear a schmaltzy Christmas album, and James Taylor doesn’t disappoint. He kicks things off with Winter Wonderland and gamely works his way through many contemporary classics, like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Jingle Bells, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and the problematic Baby It’s Cold Outside with Natalie Cole. It’s not all tinsel and marshmallows, though. We get a lovely rendition of In The Bleak Midwinter towards the end, one of my favourite traditional carols, and one that feels like it was written especially for our part of the world.

What are some of your perennial favourites, and have you found any interesting new ones this year? Let us know in the comments below.

-Trevor

The most wonderful time of the year (for readers)

The end of the year really is a wonderful time for people who love to read!

There are more annual “best of” lists than you can shake a (very large) stick at, but this one holds a special place in my heart. Each year, I ask Winnipeg Public Library staff to name the book which made the biggest impression on them in the last twelve months, and each year I’m enthralled by the variety of titles they send me.

If you’d like to see more staff picks, take a look at our previous lists from 2016 and 2015. Still not satisfied? Check out the Largehearted Boy blog’s list of many, many more year-end book lists.

Fiction of all genres

Derek chose The Wonder by Emma Donoghue because it’s richly told, exploring the moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding care and sickness.

Erica enjoyed Robin Sloan’s endearing books, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough for delving into seemingly small things that can nonetheless elicit great passion (aka geeking out), whether that be books, computers, baking, cheese, or riddles.

Joanne “raced” through The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker, the post-apocalyptic story of an unlikely hero who sets out on a 500 mile run through the devastated countryside, desperate to be reunited with his family before it’s too late.

Lori sums up the reasons Mira Grant’s Rolling in the Deep became a top read for her in two words: “Killer. Mermaids.”

Madeleine loved Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver for the heroine’s gradual realizations about the way she has treated other people as she relives one day in her life over and over.

Mauri says The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg is a “sweet (but not sappy) story about love, hope, second chances, and the small acts of kindness that can turn friends into family.”

Ann Patchett is one of Toby‘s favourite authors and her writing just seems to get better and better; Commonwealth, the story of two families over five decades, is insightful and beautiful and brilliant.

It took Rémi over 17 years to discover Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books, but this year he finally read Storm Front, the first in the series, which is “a great mix of a detective thriller and a fantasy that’s gritty, witty and just plain fun.”

All varieties of non-fiction

Aileen found that Michael de Adder’s You Might Be From Canada If… brought back memories from childhood as well as, surprisingly, tears to her eyes.

Although The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee can be difficult to read at times, Alan highly recommends it to anyone who has been touched by this pernicious disease.

Brittany found Susannah Cahalan’s memoir Brain on Fire does an excellent job of reconstructing the author’s ‘month of madness’ while suffering from a very rare disease in which the brain attacks itself.

Bryan chose The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen, a “disturbing but also entertaining” tour through the planet’s turbulent history of mass extinctions.

Chris enjoyed Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork, which shows the evolution of all of our cooking ‘gadgets’ and educates the reader in a fun way on how things have truly changed over the last 2000 years.

What struck Darragh about Kelle Hampton’s Bloom (a brutally honest and emotionally provoking memoir by a mother whose second daughter was born with Down Syndrome) was the power of perspective.

Elke picked Following Atticus by Tom Ryan: the story of a dog and a man who, as friends and equals, conquer both mountains and life’s challenges.

And We Go On [ebook only] by Will Bird was Hugh‘s choice – a memoir of trench warfare on the Western Front that is not for the faint of heart.

Lauren found the collected letters in Letters of Note (edited by Shaun Usher) hilarious to heartbreaking, but every one was a beautiful and authentic piece of writing.

Mary-Ann chose Will Ferguson’s Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw, a collection of fun, entertaining, and educational pieces about interesting places across Canada.

According to Melissa, Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina, a member of ‘Pussy Riot’ the Russian collective famous for their political activism, captures the emotional process of being jailed and successfully advocating for change in the Russian penal system.

Randy says of As a Man Thinketh by James Allen: “This little book is an inspirational powerhouse with its simple, but profound ideology.”

Waiting For First Light, Romeo Dallaire’s powerful first person narrative about dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brings the experience to life and helped Steve to understand what trauma can do to a person.

For younger readers

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi was Andrea‘s most memorable book of 2017. The tale of two boys who become connected by a line, it is a story of friendship, struggle and forgiveness–told without a single word.

Jacquie chose the beautiful picture book The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo, as a great book to share with a child to gently introduce topics of mindfulness and appreciation of silence and stillness in our busy, noisy lives.

Lori thought that she knew a fair amount about Van Gogh, but Deborah Heiligman’s YA biography Vincent and Theo: the Van Gogh Brothers provided some surprising and touching insights about his life, his art, and his premature death.

Terri couldn’t put down Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin – a funny, touching read that tells the story of Riley, a teenager who is coming to terms with what it means to be gender fluid.

And a special mention to Larisa, who published a book of her own this year! Since she had to read it more than 365 times, it definitely became her top read. Berries: 210 Thoughts and Photographs on Life, Love and Light is a book-meditation intended to be the reader’s silent friend, with laconic language and stunning black-and-white photographs.

Happy holidays, and may you never run out of great books to read in 2018!

– Danielle

Remembrance Day

November is a time to remember those who have lost their lives in service to their country and every year in November, at ceremonies across the country, we hear recitations of In Flanders Fields by Canadian John McCrae. Poetry, especially during the Great War, has been a way of expressing sadness and feelings for lost friends, loved ones and colleagues.

John McCrae penned some of the most familiar and powerful lines of war poetry that we Canadians know.  However, McCrae was not the only citizen or soldier to find expression in poetry during and after the Great War.  Other Canadians such as Marjorie Pickthall, Frederick George Scott and Robert Service also penned poems that evoke strong feelings in us today.  Besides Canadian poets, other powerful poetry was written by Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Isaac Rosenberg and Philip Larkin.

I do not have the skill and words to describe the horrors of war that the men and women of our armed forces faced during two catastrophic world wars.  Instead, I have chosen a selection of poems for you to read.

Andrew

Dolce et Decorum Est
Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Marching Men
By Marjorie Pickthall

Under the level winter sky
I saw a thousand Christs go by.
They sang an idle song and free
As they went up to calvary.

Careless of eye and coarse of lip,
They marched in holiest fellowship.
That heaven might heal the world, they gave
Their earth-born dreams to deck the grave.

With souls unpurged and steadfast breath
They supped the sacrament of death.
And for each one, far off, apart,
Seven swords have rent a woman’s heart.

Dreamers
Siegfried Sassoon

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

Two Fusiliers
Robert Graves

And have we done with War at last?
Well, we’ve been lucky devils both,
And there’s no need of pledge or oath
To bind our lovely friendship fast,
By firmer stuff
Close bound enough.

By wire and wood and stake we’re bound,
By Fricourt and by Festubert,
By whipping rain, by the sun’s glare,
By all the misery and loud sound,
By a Spring day,
By Picard clay.

Show me the two so closely bound
As we, by the red bond of blood,
By friendship, blossoming from mud,
By Death: we faced him, and we found
Beauty in Death,
In dead men breath.

To find more poems by any of these poets, please consider the following books:
The War Poets,  Robert Giddings

Selected Poems, Wilfred Owen

Selected Poems, Robert Graves

After Every War: Twentieth Century Women Poets, Eavan Boland

Anthem for Doomed Youth: Twelve Soldier Poets of the First World War, Jon Stallworthy

Poets of World War II, Harvey Shapiro