Tag Archives: lists

Love it and List it


The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.  H. Allen Smith

As I’ve said a time or two million before, I love lists. Long, short, alphabetical, chronological, or numerical, pro or con, to do or already completed. If it’s a series of words or concepts written in a column I’m all over it. The saying at my house is “If it’s not on the list it doesn’t exist.” This doesn’t just apply to shopping, packing and chores, it’s an all-encompassing motto that we use on a daily basis, often several times a day.

cd handmaids

handmaid's tale





Is it any wonder that I work in a place that’s built around lists? After all, what’s the library catalogue but a list of all of the items at the library? Take something like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. When you look up the title you’ll see a list of the print books, audio books, book club kits and critical essays. But the fun doesn’t stop there. You can place a hold on any or all of these items, adding them to your holds list. Or you can create a temporary list, so that you can come back to it after you’ve done some more searching. As if that wasn’t enough, you could also add the title to your list of items you want to read or place on hold at some time in the future. For a list lover, life doesn’t get any better than this.



Sometimes it’s good to have a look at someone’s else list, too. When that moment arises, you can always turn to the WPL website. With a quick click on the search catalogue option, you can see what’s at the top of the Globe and Mail and McNally Robinson Bestseller lists. If you’re looking for award winners there are lists for that too, from the Governor General to the Prix littéraire, all connected to that handy list known as the library catalogue.


WPL info guidesJust when you thought you’d run out of library lists, we’ve come up with more! Info Guides are lists (there’s that lovely word again) of links created by library staff to library content and websites on all sorts of topics, from Adult Literacy to Science and Technology. The fun thing about the list of Info Guides is that you can search it or rearrange it according to your wishes – alphabetically, by popularity or by the most recent addition. LGBTTQ+ is one of the newest Info Guides in the collection, with a wide range of information, including recommended reads, local support groups and organizations, and online resources. All of the Info Guides are constantly being updated, so there are new things to check out all the time, and, dare I say, add to a list.


And, of course, for the truly dedicated list lovers out there, there are entire books dedicated to lists. Where to go, where not to go, best of, worst of, trivia, the selection is almost limitless. If you can think of it, odds are there’s a book out there somewhere listing it.






Unleash the Kraken!

We all do it. Us book lovers.  But who would have thought it could be so dangerous?  We come across a book: be it the recommendation of a friend, a mention on a podcast, a gripping title, maybe even through a blog post.

“Ahhh, yes,” we say. “I’d like to read this book, but not right this second, I’ve already got three on the go.” So what do we do? We put it on a list. A little innocuous scrap of paper we tuck into our wallet.

And this list grows. And grows. And grows some more.  Every once in a while we’ll try to cross a book off the list, but when we do we find three more have taken its place!  Then one day, when we’re out for dinner, we pull out our wallet in a vain attempt to find our credit card a hundred little innocuous scraps of paper fly out like confetti. Our friend exclaims, rather loudly, for this isn’t the first time this has happened:  “Gee, maybe you should think about getting rid of some of those old receipts!”

We try to explain that these aren’t receipts. These are guideposts, reminders of our interests that we haven’t yet had time to pursue. But it’s too late; our friend is busy paying our bill, again.  So we fall to our knees, partially out of shame, partially to collect those little innocuous bits of paper.  It’s at this point we know we’ve created monster and as we hear the whir of our friend’s credit card receipt print out we realize this monster is not dissimilar to the ancient Greek Hydra with its ever expanding collection of heads.  This in turn reminds us we should probably brush up on our mythology, so we jump up and snatch the receipt out of the machine and quickly scrawl The Iliad on the back. The glare on our friends face as we shove the receipt into our wallet suggests that this particular piece of paper may not in fact be so innocuous.

And if you’re wondering about me, here is a (small) sample of the innocuous pieces of paper in my wallet:

hourThe Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
I have a friend who reads a lot a lot. When pressed for a favourite book she can’t choose just one, but hands down her favourite author is Wally Lamb.  So when I asked her where to start she sighed, “Really anywhere, but The Hour I First Believed is great.” I’m not convinced she didn’t just say the first title that popped into her head, but I’ll believe his entire body of work is worth reading.

Remainder by Tom McCarthy
I have no memory of why I added this book to my list, which is ironic because apparently the main character receives a substantial sum of money and, unsure what else to do with it, attempts to recreate half-remembered events from his life.

roboRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
I want to read this book based on the title alone. Robots are cool and I love apocalyptic literature.  It is also written by an actual robotics expert!  This book also seems more pertinent now than when I added it to my list as autonomous robots come ever closer to being a part of society’s day-to-day life.

The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winnipeg Campaigns by Sasha Issenberg
As the slow burn toward the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election continues I find myself more and more fascinated by the inner workings of the U.S. political system. The Victory Lab takes a look at how big-data can help to predict who an electorate will vote for and how politicians are using this information to aid their campaigns.

sellDo Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt For The World’s Rarest 78 RPM Records by Amanda Petrusich
I’m pretty sure I found out about this book on a podcast. While I have no particular interest in 78s (they were a little before my time) I find reading about people who have passions that border on obsession fascinating.


If you would like to share any of your innocuous pieces of paper, please do so!


Reading on the Island

Of all natural forms, there are few I enjoy more than islands. Islands seem to naturally convey our yearning for serenity and solitude, a world apart – although always linked – from the chaotic complications of modern life. In our cultural imagination, they are also linked with mystery and enchantment, harbouring stories just waiting to be told. Maybe it’s only because I’m hard-wired  (my own name means ‘little isle’)  but it’s sure hard to beat islands!

Earlier this month from our cottage’s deck in the Whiteshell, I often looked out onto a tiny isle on High Lake. For an entire hour one day a majestic male bald eagle was firmly perched atop one of the few evergreen growing on this beautiful spit of land, a beaming sentinel at home in his world. Gazing through binoculars didn’t seem satisfying enough. But by the time Lydia, my wife, and I got the canoe  on the lake to see it close-up, the eagle had flown away into the mist. Still, what a sight!

What books and movies offer interesting narratives on islands, you ask? Here’s a few tantalizing samples, perfect for summer reading/viewing:

Robert Zemeckis’ movie Castaway starring Tom Hanks is actually a fine example of island storytelling. After a plane crash, a compulsed FedEx employee, with a volleyball as his lone friend(!?), learns to slow down and reflect on the state of his life on a remote tropical island. Good stuff if you’re watching eating popcorn with a cool drink by your side.

Treasure Island‘ by Robert Louis Stevenson is an old classic, maybe the first in fiction to describe the unmistakable allure of islands in detail. But have you read the updated graphic novel version? The Library has it for you to borrow, conventional versions too, including audio. (Another historical classic: Jules Verne’s ‘The Mysterious Island‘.)

Shutter Island‘ by best-selling American author Dennis Lehane is a wonderful thriller about two U.S. marshals in 1954 investigating a shady psychological facility on a Boston harbour island. After reading the book, why not watch the compelling 2010 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo?

‘The Island of Doctor Moreau‘ by science-fiction great H.G. Wells (this edition introduced by Margaret Atwood!) plumbs the depth of the ‘abyss’ of what can be construed as human nature. It is a devilish tale about animal experimentation, moral responsibility, and human identity. You may want to read this one with all the lights on!

One of my favourite islands, which I would love to visit, is Sable Island, 300 km off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia. Known as the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’, this notorious sandbar is home to wild ponies, seals, birds, sand dunes, only a few residents, and at least 300 years of shipwrecks. Bruce Armstrong’s Sable Island is a great introduction to the myth and the reality that is Sable. The great news is that this 42-km long island, as of this year, is a National Park Reserve! An alternative title is: ‘Sable Island: The Strange Origins and Curious History of a Dune Adrift in the Atlantic‘ by Marq de Villiers and Sheila Hurtle.

Books and movies about islands have no end! A new mystery by Tracey Garvis-Graves, ‘On the Island’, released this summer, continues the long tradition. An English teacher and her student crash in the Indian Ocean. “Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an inhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return.” I think this might be another page-turner.

– Lyle

Makin’ a List…

The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.
H. Allen Smith

Yes, yes, I know, it’s the wrong time of year to start humming Christmas carols, but it’s always a great time to make lists! In my case, being a list-maker is what keeps me out of trouble, at least for the most part. I also firmly believe that someday research will prove that there is a link between being a list-maker and working in a library.

One of the best parts about working in a library are the titles people recommend to me as being great reads, that’s where the lists come in. I have lists of books I want to read, books I have read, books I think other people might want to read, lists of titles, authors, subjects, the possibilities are endless! At one time, I attempted to read every book that was suggested to me, a project I had to give up on;  it was either that, or quit my job to find enough time to keep up with all of the wonderful suggestions people gave to me. However, those items did make it onto a list.

One of the (many) lists I keep is of the non-fiction books I’ve read. I challenge myself to read a minimum of two non fiction books a month on any topic, which has led me from extreme budgeting: On a Dollar a Day: one couple’s unlikely adventures in eating in America by Christopher Greenslate, to extreme parenting:  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, to extreme knitting: Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously by Adrienne Martini.

Not all of the books I’ve read are on an extreme form of something, though. I’ll read anything and everything Bill Bryson writes, on general principle. The one I’ve read most recently is At Home: A Short History of Private Life.  The book does start off with an extreme structure, the Palace of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (also called the Crystal Palace), which was built in 1850. At that time, it was the largest structure in the world. Bill goes from there to his home in Norfolk, which was built in 1851, and recounts the history of the house, from paint to pipes to pillows, in fascinating detail.

Looking For Calvin and Hobbes: the unconventional story of Bill Watterson and his revolutionary comic strip is Nevin Martel’s account of his efforts to gain an interview with the elusive Bill Watterson. While Nevin was unsuccessful in that quest, he did uncover a great deal of interesting behind the scenes information. After reading this book, I returned to my tattered copies of Calvin and Hobbes with a new appreciation for how profound a simple comic strip can be.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is about Henrietta Lacks, a woman who died of cancer in 1951. However, she lives on, as a result of the actions of the doctor who took some of Henrietta’s cells, without the consent of Henrietta or her family. These cells are still alive in laboratories all over the world. This is a book that should be read for many reasons: as an exploration of science and ethics, as a social commentary, and for the ongoing saga of Henrietta’s children, as they struggle to come to grips with what really happened to their mother.

I just finished my latest personal challenge, an intriguing book of essays by various authors called The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, texting and the age of social networking , edited by Mark Bauerlein. I call it a challenge for a couple of reasons, one being that I find technology challenging on a personal basis, another in that I found several of the essays challenged my ideas regarding technology. Marc Prensky’s essay on digital immigrants and digital natives went a long way to helping me understand the differences between people when it comes to technology, and why I’ll probably always be a digital immigrant.

And of course, what is a list without a “to do” portion? The next couple of titles on my lists are Women from The Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us by Rachelle Bergstein, Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief by Gretta Vosper and The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer.

In between reading, editing and adding to my lists, you know what I’ll be doing – checking them twice!