Tag Archives: non-fiction

January: Looking forward with….

It is a new year!  Decorations have been stowed away, stray needles tidied up, empty chocolate boxes have been thrown in the blue box, and New Year’s Resolutions are still fresh in our minds.

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions (in our family, my brother always made the resolution to not eat haggis that year- it was an easily kept one!)It may be because they often feel sort of empty or overwhelming (lose weight, work out more, be more organised).  But what if we focused on resolutions that helped those around us, either directly, or by helping us to be healthier and kinder people and therefore making our communities healthier places to be?

Thanks a Thousand

It is pretty well understood that grateful people are often healthier people. In Thanks a Thousand, New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs takes on a journey in which he endeavors to thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. The resulting journey takes him across the globe, transforms his life, and reveals secrets about how gratitude can make us all happier, more generous, and more connected. And by the end, it’s clear to him that scientific research on gratitude is true. Gratitude’s benefits are legion: it improves compassion, heals your body, and helps battle depression. Along the way, Jacobs provides wonderful insights and useful tips, from how to focus on the hundreds of things that go right every day instead of the few that go wrong. And how our culture overemphasizes the individual over the team. And how to practice the art of “savoring meditation” and fall asleep at night. Thanks a Thousand is a reminder of the amazing interconnectedness of our world. It shows us how much we take for granted. It teaches us how gratitude can make our lives happier, kinder, and more impactful.

Books for Living

For a book lover, starting the year off with some book lists/challenges is pretty common (and exciting!).  In Books for Living, Will Schwalbe presents us with a book about books. “I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book,” writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heart-felt, and often inspiring new book about books. In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book–or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to the power of connecting with people face to face; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to finding friends; Elie Wiesel’s Night to choosing to do something in the face of injustice; Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train to trusting. Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne Du Maurier, Murakami, Edna Lewis, E.B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What have you been reading lately?”

The Hidden Door: Mindful Sufficiency as an Alternative to Extinction

Thinking about consumerism seems like a pretty natural thing coming out of the holiday season. We are bombarded on all sides by ‘holiday shopping’- in our inboxes, on the radio, tv etc. Giving gifts to the ones we love can be a natural outpouring of that love, but most of us will feel that tug, or bad aftertaste of  consumer culture at some point. And it is a complex topic that can feel overwhelming at times.

In The Hidden Door : Mindful Sufficiency as an Alternative to Extinction, author Mark Burch gives us hope that what we do matters to our communities and to our collective future. Many people sense that consumer culture is dragging us toward extinction. We feel trapped in a cell of our own making. If humanity is to have any sort of future worth living in, we must discover an exit from our confinement. There is a door, hidden in plain sight. What sort of culture might appear if we took seriously the essential values and principles that form the deep structure of voluntary simplicity and used them to inform a new perspective of the good life? Might we discover an exit from the confining cell of consumer culture? Can we find the passage leading beyond individual lifestyle choice to cultural renaissance? This book aims to help seed this renaissance by widening the conversation about how we transition from the road to extinction to a path with heart that has a future.

Factfulness : Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things are Better Than You Think

When asked simple questions about global trends–what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school–we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens . They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective–from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.

Counting on Community

I was tidying in the picture book room at our branch when I happened upon this gem of a board book.  Counting on Community is author Innosanto Nagara’s follow-up to his ABC book, A is for Activist.  It is never too early to begin reading to your child, and in that vein, I think we can say that it is never too early to teach them the value of community.  Counting up from one stuffed piñata to ten hefty hens–and always counting on each other–children are encouraged to recognize the value of their community, the joys inherent in healthy eco-friendly activities, and the agency they posses to make change.

What books are inspiring you on these long, thoughtful winter days?


Powerful women, parenting and a plate of chop suey

Time for another sample of the latest adult non-fiction titles to hit our shelves (825 new ones arrived in November and December!). Browse them all here and here.

Queen Bey : 16 Writers Celebrate the Beauty, Power and Creativity of Beyonce Knowles-Carter
by Veronica Chambers
Her 2018 performance at Coachella wowed the world. The New York Times wrote: ‘There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year or any year soon.’ Artist, business woman, mother, daughter, sister, wife, black feminist, Queen Bey is endlessly fascinating. Queen Bey features a diverse range of voices, from star academics to outspoken cultural critics to Hollywood and music stars.

They Called Us George : A History of the Black Train Porters in Canada
by Cecil Foster

Subjected to grueling shifts and unreasonable standards–a passenger missing his stop was a dismissible offense–the so-called Pullmen of the country’s rail lines were denied secure positions and prohibited from bringing their families to Canada, and it was their struggle against the racist Dominion that laid the groundwork for the multicultural nation we know today. Drawing on the experiences of these influential Black Canadians, Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George demonstrates the power of individuals and minority groups in the fight for social justice and shows how a country can change for the better.

Act Natural : A Cultural History of Parenting
by Jennifer Traig
Moving from ancient Rome to Puritan New England to the Dr. Spock craze of mid-century America, Traig cheerfully explores historic and present-day parenting techniques ranging from the misguided, to the nonsensical, to the truly horrifying. Be it childbirth, breastfeeding, or the ways in which we teach children how to sleep, walk, eat, and talk, she leaves no stone unturned in her quest for answers: Have our techniques actually evolved into something better? Or are we still just scrambling in the dark?

Chop Suey Nation : The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants
by Ann Hui

Hui, who grew up in authenticity-obsessed Vancouver, begins her journey with a somewhat disparaging view of small-town “fake Chinese” food. But by the end, she comes to appreciate the essentially Chinese values that drive these restaurants–perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family. Using her own family’s story as a touchstone, she explores the importance of these restaurants in the country’s history and makes the case for why chop suey cuisine should be recognized as quintessentially Canadian.

Defying Hitler : The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule
by Gordon Thomas
Defying Hitler follows the underground network of Germans who believed standing against the Fuhrer to be more important than their own survival. Their bravery is astonishing–a schoolgirl beheaded by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi fliers; a German American teacher who smuggled military intel to Soviet agents, becoming the only American woman executed by the Nazis; a pacifist philosopher murdered for his role in a plot against Hitler; a young idealist who joined the SS to document their crimes, only to end up, to his horror, an accomplice to the Holocaust. This remarkable account illuminates their struggles, yielding an accessible narrative history with the pace and excitement of a thriller.

Agrippina : The Most Extraordinary Woman of the Roman World
by Emma Southon
Through senatorial political intrigue, assassination attempts, and exile to a small island, to the heights of imperial power, thrones, and golden cloaks and games and adoration, Agrippina scaled the absolute limits of female power in Rome. Her biography is also the story of the first Roman imperial family–the Julio-Claudians–and of the glory and corruption of the empire itself.

And lots of travel guides to plan a get-away!




Walk this Way

Before the last of the snow and ice melted from our sidewalks, my brother was in town for a short visit. We went out for dinner, then back to my apartment. I took off my shoes and plopped down on the couch, expecting him to do that same, but instead of sitting, he began to walk laps around my apartment. Turns out, he’s been trying to walk that magical 10,000 steps every day, and he hadn’t been able to hit his step count for the day yet.

This got me thinking about why we walk. Walking is a long-venerated tradition, especially amongst those with a creative bent. William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, Beethoven, Steve Jobs, many of Jane Austen’s characters… it seems as though walking not only gets the heart pumping, but also the creative juices flowing!

Some people walk for their health (physical and mental!), and others love walking as a cost-effective and eco-friendly form of locomotion. Whatever your reason for walking might be (destroying the One Ring, maybe?) Winnipeg Public Library has many books to get you moving and inspire your own epic journey this summer!

walking Walking by Henry David Thoreau

A meandering ode to the simple act and accomplished art of taking a walk. Profound and humorous, companionable and curmudgeonly, Walking, by America’s first nature writer, is your personal and portable guide to the activity that, like no other, awakens the senses and the soul to the “absolute freedom and wildness” of nature.


Walking: A Complete Guide to Walking for Fitness, Health and Weight Loss by John Stanton

As the founder and president of Walking/Running Room, North America’s largest chain of special stores for walkers and runners, John Stanton has inspired people across the nation to develop healthier lifestyles one step at a time. In this book, you’ll learn how to set realistic goals, design your own training program, find the level of walking that’s right for you, choose the best shoes and walking wear for your needs, prevent and treat common injuries, and enhance your walking with optimum nutrition!

philosophy A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros

Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us. Gros draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as something central to their practice. On his travels he ponders Thoreau’s eager seclusion in Walden Woods; the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury, while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. He shows us how Rousseau walked in order to think, while Nietzsche wandered the mountainside to write. In contrast, Kant marched through his hometown every day, exactly at the same hour, to escape the compulsion of thought. Brilliant and erudite, A Philosophy of Walking is an entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other.

howtowalk How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh introduces beginners and reminds seasoned practitioners of the essentials of mindfulness practice. Slow, concentrated walking while focusing on in- and out-breaths allows for a unique opportunity to be in the present. There is no need to arrive somewhere—each step is the arrival to concentration, joy, insight, and the momentary enlightenment of aliveness. When your foot touches the Earth with awareness, you make yourself alive and the Earth real, and you forget for one minute the searching, rushing, and longing that rob our daily lives of awareness and cause us to “sleepwalk” through life.

The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Times: A Memoir by Peter Kavanagh

Throughout his life, as he developed a very successful career in public broadcasting, built a family, and indulged in his love of music and travel, Kavanagh underwent various surgeries and rehabilitation to give him “normal” mobility after being diagnosed with paralytic polio as an infant. The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Times is a moving memoir of a full life, and of learning the same lesson over and over.

And here’s a walking pro-tip from one walker to another: downloaded audiobooks from Overdrive are a fabulous way to get through your summer reads list while getting that step count up! Grab your headphones, slip on the sneakers, and enjoy that sunshine! Just don’t forget the sunscreen.

Happy reading,


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Long Live the King

Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King

If you were to walk into almost any library or bookstore, odds are you’ll find most of the shelf space for the K authors is given over to books written by Stephen King. Not only does he tend to write long books, he has written a lot of books. For better or worse, Stephen King has ruled the realm of popular fiction for decades, and he shows no signs of stepping down from his throne anytime soon.

Stephen Kingcarrie officially started his writing career in the late 1960’s, submitting short stories to magazines to supplement his salary as a worker in an industrial laundry. His first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974. It was a runaway success, so much so that Stephen was able to write full time for a living, and he hasn’t looked back since. Although a lot about his life has changed since his first book was published, King still lives in Maine most of the year, he’s still an avid baseball fan, and he’s still giving a lot of people nightmares.

standOne of my favourite bits of King trivia is that he met his wife while they were both working in a university library. Coincidentally, I too first encountered him in a library, although in my case it was my school library, while I was skipping out on an inter-mural floor hockey tournament. Up until then, my only exposure to Stephen King was through the television ad for the movie version of The Shining, which scared the pants off me. To this day I don’t know why I picked up that copy of The Stand, but I did, and I’ve been hooked every since.

itI’m the first to admit that his books aren’t the greatest literature, and I don’t enjoy everything he’s written. But there’s something about the vast stories he’s able to create, and the basic humanity of his characters, that keeps me coming back for more. I prefer his ridiculously long books – It, Under the Dome, and my all-time favourite, The Talisman, to his short story collections.

There’s something about his writing that reminds me of the really gruesome original versions of classic fairy tales, where the world is a dark and scary place filled with wolves that eat grandmothers alive, and wicked queens that demand the hearts of children. In those stories, even though terrible things happened, the characters who were clever, strong and brave came through in the end. These stories were originally told as morality tales, to introduce children to the concept of good and evil. talismanIn that regard, there are a lot of similarities between the stories told by the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Stephen King. The monsters in Stephen King’s books are sometimes supernatural, sometimes human, and horrible things happen to good people, but at the end of the day evil is defeated by the powers of good. Ultimately, I have to turn to Stephen King’s own words to explain why his books appeal to me and to so many other readers: “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”





No Place for a Lady

School’s out and summer is in full swing. Some of you will be planning a trip to the lake, or perhaps to someplace even farther away. Others, like me, will be settling in for a staycation full of day trips to the beach and all the great summer festivals Winnipeg has to offer. Those of us who aren’t quite so lucky with our travel plans this year can still read about the adventures of those who’ve travelled far and wide. Popular travel memoirs, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Tracks by Robyn Davidson, tell the stories of women setting out alone in challenging environments. But many women of past eras also found a unique freedom on their own in unfamiliar places. Personally, I enjoy reading about other people’s explorations while relaxing on a patio with a cold drink!

Tracks and Wild

In her beautifully illustrated books No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers and Dreaming of East: Western Women and the Exotic Allure of the Orient, Barbara Hodgson tells the stories of several women who defied the restrictive Victorian social conventions to become adventurers and explorers in their own right.

No Place Lady and Dreaming East

The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt is the fascinating journal of Isabelle Eberhardt, a 19th century Swiss writer who travelled widely in north Africa and through the Sahara desert. She scandalized her peers when she started dressing in men’s clothing and converted to Islam.

Englishwoman Isabella Bird wrote many memoirs of her time in America, Korea, Tibet, China, and elsewhere. Her stay in Japan is chronicled in her book Unbeaten Tracks in Japan.

Nomad and Unbeaten Tracks

In 1889, reporter Nellie Bly began a race around the world. Travelling in the opposite direction was another journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, sponsored by a rival newspaper. Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman tells of their competition to circle the globe faster than the character in Jules Verne’s novel.

Freya Stark began her extensive travels in the Middle East after World War I. She wrote more than two dozen books about her experiences. The first, The Valleys of the Assassins and other Persian Travels, describes her journeys through western Iran.

Eighty Days Valley Assassins

So if you’re stuck in the city this summer, pick up a good book and let one these interesting ladies show you the world!

  • Melanie


Colour Me Happy

This month Westwood Library is on trend with the latest craze: adult colouring! That’s right, colouring books with intricate detailed designs, aimed at adults, are the hottest thing going right now. The idea is to disengage from the stressful adult world by revisiting childhood, and focusing on the simple joy of colouring instead of the many worries competing for your attention. Adherents say it’s a great tool for easing anxiety and dealing with pressure; women in France, where colouring books now outsell cookbooks, say the practice is more effective than antidepressants.

Colouring page with intricate designs.

Find out for yourself on Saturdays, November 14 and 21 at Westwood Library’s colouring for grown-ups drop-in. We’ll be providing pencil crayons and colouring sheets in a range of designs – including geometric patterns, animals, garden scenes, and more! – from 1-3pm. Stop by for as long or as little as you like, and see what it’s all about!

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in more serious mindfulness practices, or true art therapy (in which you develop skills and create your own original works), the library offers all kinds of great reads to help you get started.

Cover image of Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of MindfulnessFully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness introduces the concept of mindfulness – that is, “the art of paying attention with an open and curious mind to present-moment experiences” – along with scientific explanations of how the practice positively affects the body, and guidance for introducing mindfulness to your everyday life. For more information on mindfulness techniques and how to integrate them into your daily routine, try The Rough Guide to Mindfulness or The Mindfulness Workbook.

Cover image of Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

If you’re interested in a more detailed exploration of mindfulness, check out the 
classic bestseller Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. The 10th anniversary edition linked to here includes a new afterword by the author. Also of interest is Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health, which explores encounters between Buddhist traditions of believing the mind can heal the body, and Western medicine, which is uncovering evidence to support those beliefs.

Cover image of Uncovering happiness : overcoming depression with mindfulness and self-compassion.You can also explore mindfulness techniques as they relate to specific life situations. There are guide books for people who are managing shyness, anxiety, addiction, or depression. Some mindfulness techniques aim to help people with illnesses ranging from cancer to chronic pain. There are even mindfulness guides for parenting, quitting smoking, and working in public service. It just goes to show that mindfulness can be a part of anyone’s life.

Cover image of Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul.
If you’re looking to go deeper than simple relaxation through colouring and mindfulness, try delving into the world of art therapy. In Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul, expert Shaun McNiff explains how a variety of forms of creative expression – from painting to performing – allow individuals to share, interpret, and heal their emotions.

cover image of Art Journals & Creative Healing: Restoring the Spirit Through Self-Expression.To engage in art therapy yourself, check out The Art Therapy Sourcebook and Art Journals & Creative Healing: Restoring the Spirit Through Self-Expression for techniques and other advice on using art to overcome life’s challenges and experience personal growth. The Magic of Mess Painting: The Creativity Mobilization Technique and Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony both examine specific forms of art therapy. Art therapy can even help us connect with other people in our lives, as described in Creative Therapy for Children With Autism, ADD, And Asperger’s: Using Artistic Creativity To Reach, Teach, and Touch Our Children.

So take a deep breath, relax … and express yourself!

— Lauren

Have a Laugh!

You know, it’s okay if you just want to laugh out loud, sometimes, when you sit down to read, right? Sure, you may feel compelled to read the latest “important” book by Malcolm Gladwell, or the latest gut-wrenching tale from Joseph Boyden, or maybe your book club is all about this year’s version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” or “Gone Girl,” or “The Girl from the Train”. And speaking of that, what’s up with all these disturbing thrillers with “Girl” in the title? When I write my great Canadian thriller, it’s going to be called “The Girl in the Library.” Look for it!

Anyway, yeah – I enjoy those kinds of books too, but sometimes you want a good laugh, and if you’re in one of those moods, then why not try one of the following?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

why not me

For those who don’t know who she is, Mindy Kaling got her start as a writer and minor cast member on the American version of The Office. She has gone on to write and star in her own series, the hilarious “Mindy Project” and is active on Twitter and other social media platforms. This is actually her second memoir so, if you want to start at the beginning, I highly recommend Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? which covers her childhood, her time working the Fringe Festival circuit, and getting her big break in television. The second memoir carries on where she left off in the first and talks about the struggles she’s had keeping her show on the air, all the work that goes into making something great, as well as the ups and downs of being a minor celebrity. As she says: she’s well enough known that she can have lunch with Reese Witherspoon, but not well enough known to have people go through her garbage. Ms. Kaling is a wonderful writer and has excellent comedic sensibilities. I strongly recommend both of her books and look forward to what she has planned next.

Food, A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Food a Love Story

Jim Gaffigan is one of those guys who pops up in supporting roles on TV and in movies, and you’d recognize his face but maybe not remember his name. I first saw him a few years ago doing stand up on Dave Letterman and took an instant shine to him. His latest book, Food, A Love Story is really just an expansion of his recent comedy tour, transcribed to print, about the weird food traditions he’s experienced all over America and around the world. It’s funny, but it would probably be even funnier to see him perform the material in person. His first book is much better. It is called Dad is Fat, and it is about becoming a father. Not just a father, actually, but a father to five children who all live (with Mr. Gaffigan and his long-suffering wife) in a two bedroom apartment in New York City. It’s a great mixture of humorous parenting stories.

I Must Say: The Life of a Humble Comedian by Martin Short

i must say

Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts

lady parts

I’ll finish off with these two books together. By the Martins. Anyone of a certain age (let’s say over 30), who had access to TV, and who grew up in Canada will remember the wacky wonderfulness of Second City Television (SCTV). For all you too young to remember, it was a sketch comedy show based around a fictional TV network. The humour was often absurd, but distinctly Canadian, and I must have seen every episode multiple times. In addition to Andrea Martin and Martin Short, the show launched the careers of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, and Harold Ramis.

It was fun to read these memoirs within a few weeks of each other, to hear different stories about the same time period, and different perspectives of the same events. While I read and enjoyed Andrea Martin’s memoir very much, I may have enjoyed Martin Short’s even more. This was probably because I borrowed the audiobook from the library and listened to it on a road trip. Martin Short reads it himself, and is able to slip into various characters and voices as he tells the stories, which really enhanced my enjoyment.

The old gang.

The old gang.

  • Trevor

Get Informed! Get Political!

election“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all”
– John F. Kennedy

On Sunday, 2 August, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, asked the Governor General to dissolve parliament and start what will be the longest election in Canada since 1870. Many were quick to point out how much this will cost the Canadian public, or the advantages the Conservative Party of Canada may have with its larger funding base, but there is one other thing to consider: more time to make an informed decision.

As the quotation above by JFK insinuates, informed voters are key to a functioning democracy. And the library is an obvious place to help you make that informed decision on poll day. As we showcase every February during Freedom to Read Week, the library is a staunch defendant of freedom of speech, which means we make sure to have every side of the discussion as long as books and articles are written on it. Libraries have a central role in the democratic process and it all has to do with providing that information to anyone who requests it. So I am going to list some books that may help you be more informed about some major topics that are being discussed this election.

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” – Andrew Carnegie

Leader Biographies

Publishing a biography before an election was something that was more common in the United States with Jimmy Carter starting the trend, while Canadian politicians usually published their memoirs after their term in office: e.g. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Brian MulroneyKim Campbell, Paul Martin. The first to launch a book before a campaign was Jean Chrétien with his title Straight from the Heart, and many candidates have since followed suit: Michael Ignatieff, Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton (though his book was not a memoir but rather a manifesto) .

Here is a list of the most recent books on the leaders vying for the position of prime minister.

Justin Trudeau published his autobiography Common Ground last year, just five months after becoming the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and one full year before the fixed election date of 19 October. This memoir outlines the major moments in Mr. Trudeau’s life that have prepared him for his political career.

Next we have Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, who published her book around the same: Who we Are: Reflections on my life and Canada. This is described as a cross between an autobiography and a manifesto as it details her life but also her vision for Canada.

Just recently Tom Mulcair published his own autobiography, Strength of Conviction, which discusses his upbringing and political career, and more specifically how his experiences have shaped his vision and beliefs for Canada.

Finally, Globe and Mail journalist and award winning author John Ibbitson took a one year leave of absence from the paper to write Stephen Harper’s biography. The new book simply titled, Stephen Harper, was set to be released in September but the early start date of the election pushed its publication up to 12 August. While many books talk about Stephen Harper’s policies and rise to prime minister (e.g. published in the last two years: The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells, Dismantling Canada: Stephen Harper’s new conservative agenda by Brooke Jeffery, Harperism : how Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada by Donald Gutstein, and Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s radical makeover by Michael Harris) this biography takes a deeper look into his private life, and his relationships with Reform Leader Preston Manning, his family, and even his cats. 

Election Issues

In order to properly assess the leaders’ promises, it is important to get a good understanding of the situation they’re talking about. I will present three major issues that have been hitting the headlines recently and give a few books that have been recently published on those issues.


With the trial of Mike Duffy and the scandal involving other disgraced Senators, there have been many discussions on the role and relevance of the Senate. Here are a few books that discuss the possibility of reform and the scandals that occurred:

A People’s Senate for Canada: not a pipe dream by Helen Forsey
Our Scandalous Senate by J. Patrick Boyer
Duffy: Stardom to Senate to Scandal by Dan Leger


The economy comes up in every election, and here are two books on this subject published this year:
The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen harper’s Takeover of Canada by Mel Hurtig
Stalled : Jump-starting the Canadian Economy by Michael Hlinka

Foreign Policy

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership going on during the election, and a constant shift in the international theatre, understanding Canada’s place in the world can be difficult. Here is one book that discusses Canada’s historic relations with China, and another that looks into Canada’s role in the world in the future:
Engaging China: Myth, Aspiration, and Strategy in Canadian Policy from Trudeau to Harper by Paul Evans
Brave New Canada: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World by Derek H. Burney and Fen Osler Hampson

Of course these are only a few of the topics that are important. Many more could be highlighted, and if any of these or any other topic interests you, make sure to check out your library for any election queries you may have. We’ll be glad to help!


The Hotel on Place Vendome

The Hotel on Place Vendôme by Tilar J. Mazzeo

The Hotel on Place Vendome

For centuries Paris has captured our imagination. The French capital is known for its art, fashion, fine dining as well as the passion it evokes in men and women. In The Hotel on Place Vendôme, we travel back through time when this luxury hotel was home to many of France’s most influential citizens.


The Hotel Ritz, located at 15 Place Vendôme, opened its door in June, 1898. From the moment of its inauguration, the Ritz was a place where the elite drank champagne with foreign nobles and battled wits with artists from the burgeoning Parisian art scene.

Meanwhile, a disgraced artillery officer is the subject of an inquiry. The government has launched this latest trial to establish the fact that Alfred Dreyfus supplied Germany with France’s military secrets. The Dreyfus Affair has split society into two camps; the upper class who believe he is guilty, and the Dreyfusards (many of whom were artists) who believe the young officer is innocent.

This is a moment when the upper class was beginning to lose its importance in French society, whereas the artists began to cultivate fame. While the wealthy would retain their fortunes it was the artists, actors, film directors, sculptors and writers who would rise to prominence.

The patrons and staff of the Ritz Hotel would witness the end of the Belle Époque and live through some of the most savage events that would inevitably shape the 20th century.


It is the summer of 1917. A blackout turns the French capital into a ghost town. German planes drop their bombs on the darkened city. The populace holds its breath, terrified. Yet in spite of the bombardment life continues. Marcel Proust attends yet another party at the Hôtel Ritz. As the guests drink their cocktails they attempt to discuss gossip, politics – anything except the horrors of the Great War. As conversations continue to flow the writer tries to seduce his hostess, Hélène Chrissoveloni Soutzo, a Romanian Princess.

It’s another night at the Ritz.


When the Germans begin their occupation of France in 1940, Paris takes on a new significance. As a tourist attraction it offers numerous pleasures to beleaguered soldiers. Furthermore, as the cultural capital of Europe, Paris is beyond value. Those who are willing to collaborate with the new rulers will be compensated; some are given material rewards while others are awarded prominent positions within the new government. Unfortunately for most Parisians, the occupation meant food shortages, incarceration for political prisoners, deportation and eventually extermination for its Jewish population.

Because of the occupation many of the other hotels closed; however, the Ritz remained open. Its manager Franz Elminger was Swiss, and like his homeland the hotel remained neutral through out the war. This was a calculated move. The staff would continue to offer comfort and fine dining to anyone who could afford it, regardless of their nationality.

Unlike other long term residents of the hotel, Coco Chanel managed to keep her suites. Throughout the war she was romantically involved with the German officer Hans von Dincklage. Given her status and wealth, Ms Chanel was able to ignore the harsh realities of the occupation and continue living in opulence.

Until its liberation, Paris became an illusion. The Third Reich did everything it could to maintain the city as it had been. But the veneer wouldn’t last forever. Like the rest of their European possessions, the Germans went to extraordinary lengths to exert their control over France and its populace. As the Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels famously stated, “The capital will be gay- or else.”


The Hotel on Place Vendome, written by Tilar J. Mazzeo, is a wonderful book that brings the past to life. Whether you’re a Francophile or a student of history this is a worthwhile read.