Tag Archives: summer

Summer Slump


“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” — Dr. Seuss

    Summertime – check. More daylight and time to read-check. Comfy reading spaces indoors and out – check. Variety of refreshing beverages – check. Stacks and stacks of reading material as per Dr. Seuss – check. Me actually reading anything? Not so much.

     I’ve got all of the boxes checked to immerse myself in reading, and in listening to audio books, but somehow I’m not finding anything that’s catching my attention. Maybe it’s having too many choices, or having my expectations set too high. Whatever the reason, I’m smack dab in the middle of a summer reading slump. All is hope is not lost, though. I’ve been reaching out for suggestions in an effort to find something that will re-kindle the  diminished spark in what used to be a burning passion, my relationship with reading. In an effort to embrace everything and dismiss nothing I’ve made a list (I’m still passionate about that) of the titles that have been suggested to me, and I’ve requested them from Winnipeg Public Library. No descriptions from the people who recommended them, no checking out reviews in advance, I’m not even looking at the summary on the book itself. Just clicking on a cover and and requesting, that’s it. I’ve included a partial list of my overall list here. I’ll check back in my next post to let you know which title makes me into a blazing bibliophile once again.


If any of these covers look like they’d be worth a second look, do what I did and just click it. You never know where or when a reading slump will strike, so it’s best to be prepared.


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!


Long summer days, hot summer nights

There’s a reason summer is constantly immortalized in books, songs, movies and memories. With the sun shining through the branches of trees swaying in the wind while happy little clouds a la Bob Ross float on by overhead, every magical moment seems full of possibility. Being able to walk out the door without being weighed down by winter woolens doesn’t hurt either. However, summer is a limited time offer, so here are some ideas to help you make the most of it!

Get Outside and Explore

It isn’t always easy to get in touch with your wild side, but if you’re thinking about getting lost while finding yourself in the great outdoors, check out the titles below for places to go, things to do, and tasty treats to keep you fueled up for the adventures ahead.


The down and dirty guide to camping with kids : how to plan memorable family adventures & connect kids to nature

Manitoba wild : scenic secrets of Manitoba

Camping activity book for families : the kid-tested guide to fun in the outdoors

Handy dad in the great outdoors : more than 30 super-cool projects and activities for dads and kids

The new trailside cookbook : 100 delicious recipes for the camp chef

The great outdoors cookbook : adventures in cooking under the open sky

Don’t you worry if the forecast is looking a little gloomy. We’ve got you covered on rainy days as well! Stay inside and get cozy watching one of our streaming movies or TV shows on hoopla, or catch up on your TBR (To Be Read) pile (check out our newest titles here). Rainy days are also a great time to try a DIY!


Sticky fingers : DIY duct tape projects

The quick & easy home DIY manual

I spy DIY style : find fashion you love and do it yourself

Mason jar crafts : DIY projects for adorable and rustic decor, clever storage, inventive lighting and much, much more

High-tech DIY projects with 3D printing tree

Tree craft : 35 rustic wood projects that bring the outdoors in


Whatever you decide to do with your summer, have fun and stay safe! Remember your sunscreen and your water bottle, and when you’re really feeling the heat, don’t forget that you can come to any of Winnipeg Public Library’s twenty branches to cool off in our air conditioned buildings and find a few inspirational books of your own!


The 7 Books in My Beach Bag

beach bag

With a surfeit of titles but never enough time, I am on the hunt for the crème de la crème books to accompany me on my all too brief vacation at the beach.

The Guardian recently examined the term  “beach read” which connotes escapist frothy fare primarily attached to books that lack any “really weighty themes or social significance”  but rather should be “enjoyable and easy with brisk pace and simple diction.” Beach reads usually include best sellers of the James Patterson/Nora Roberts ilk which are readily found in the mass market paperback spinner at your local supermarket. Serious writers don’t usually fall into this genre but literary blogs and magazines have included many novelists of note in their 2016 “must read” summer lists.

Herewith is my curated list of the best of the best books to pack along with my sun screen and thermos of G&T.

modernlovers Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. This is the book that “everyone will be reading” and appears on almost all summer reading lists including CBCbooks.ca. Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

sweetbitterSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.  Vogue calls it a coming of age story that follows Tass, a transplant from the middle-of-nowhere who finds work at a fancy French restaurant. The New Yorker magazine pays it homage in its “Briefly Noted” column. Danler deftly  captures the unique power of hierarchy in the restaurant world, the role of drug and alcohol abuse and the sense of borrowed grandeur that pervades the serving scene.

Barkskins Barkskins by Annie Proulx caught the attention of Publishers Weekly. Richly evocative and at times brutally stark, Proulx’s epic novel spans 300 years beginning in New France in 1693.




girlsclineEW’s list of “best fiction of 2016 so far” includes The Girls by Emma Cline.  The summer of 1969 comes electrically alive in Cline’s tale of an impressionable California teen drawn into a Manson-like cult—though the setting is ultimately secondary to her story’s searing emotional intelligence.



summerbeforeThe Summer before the War by Helen Simonsen. The Washington Post recommends this novel that begins in pre-World War 1 England for Anglophiles mourning the end of Downton Abbey.




nestThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is one of Oprah-endorsed “beach reads that sizzle.” A reckless eldest brother drains the trust fund meant for himself and his three adult siblings, forcing them, with the prospect of a midlife bailout gone, to finally confront hard truths in this closely observed, charming novel.



homegoingAccording to the Huffington PostHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a “Summer 2016 Book you won’t want to miss.” Gyasi maps out the wide-reaching aftermath of the African slave trade, following two branches of a family tree — one daughter married to a British colonizer in Ghana, the other, unbeknownst to her sister, sold into slavery in America — over the course of several generations.


What are you reading on your vacation or, sigh, commute to work ?



Summertime Pairings

Summer is upon us and with warmer weather my thoughts turn to good food and reading on the patio. There is nothing more exquisite than relaxing in the sun with a crisp, cool glass of Riesling or a chilled lager and reading a book while your dinner cooks slowly on the barbecue. With this in mind, I offer up some pairings for your literary and gastronomic enjoyment.

Julia Child is one of the best known television chefs and one of the first to bring French cooking into the homes of everyday North Americans. Mastering the Art of French CookingIn 1961, she published, along with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and volume two in 1970. These marvelous books provide detailed instruction on how to prepare classic French dishes from beginning to end. The book also offers instruction on kitchen equipment and knowledge of ingredients. Julia also had a long running (1962-1973) TV series called The French Chef in which she prepared many of the recipes from her books.

To accompany your French dining experience I suggest pairing with the novel The Two-Penny Bar by Georges Simenon.

TwoPennyInspector Jules Maigret is a fictional French Inspector with the Paris Constabulary. Always with a pipe in mouth and hat on head, he roams Paris, France and sometimes Holland solving various crimes. While on his sojourns he takes time to sit down for a meal or drink whether it is oysters and white wine or a beer from a local pub.

Just before leaving for his holiday, Maigret visits a condemned man who tells him of a murder he witnessed six years before. He also tells Maigret of a bar the murderer liked to visit. This sets Maigret off on a chase that will have him meet an Englishman, haberdasher and coal merchant.

BeerliciousTraveling back across the Atlantic to our own yards, the barbecue is a versatile and fun way to prepare a summer meal.

For those carnivores among you, I offer Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ & Chillin’ by Ted Reader. GQ magazine calls Reader the “Crazy Canuck BBQ Kingpin”. Each dish in his book is either paired or prepared with a good quality beer that adds flavour to or accentuates the dish as you eat.  Try the Brooklyn Lager BBQ smoked pulled pork with green apple slaw.

Canadian Living Barbecue CollectionIf essential roughage is more to your liking, Canadian Living’s The Barbecue Collection: The Best Barbecue Recipes from our Kitchen to your Backyard and The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appétit both provide an excellent selection of tasty veggie recipes. From The Barbecue Collection comes barbecued stuffed tomatoes, a delicious mixture of diced tomato, croutons, Parmesan cheese and parsley all stuffed into a hollowed out tomato. The Grilling Book will wow your taste buds with dishes like onion steaks. Thick juicy slices of Walla Walla, Vidalia or Maui onions brushed with a mixture of olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, thyme and Worcestershire sauce.

BadMonkeyTo accompany the flair of a BBQ dish, I am going to suggest a novel by Carl Hiaasen. Many of his novels usually involve the seedier underside of Floridian life and, to me, are never boring. I discovered Bad Monkey by browsing the shelves looking for interesting book covers. Nothing says “read me like a monkey wearing a pirate hat on the front cover. I soon learned of a voodoo lady, really bad monkey, severed arm and former detective on roach patrol (health inspector).

HogfatherFor the last course I have a seasonal selection that comes a little early. I recently reread Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. I think this is one of his best and funniest novels. The story takes place in Pratchett’s Discworld universe and centres on the Hogfather, Ank Morpork’s version of Father Christmas. A group of beings, called the auditors, have hired an assassin, Mr. TeaTime, to inhume the Hogfather. Death, his granddaughter, and Death’s assistant, Albert, join forces to keep the Hogfather safe.

Nigella ChristmasTo help you with your seasonal table, Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities provides a wonderful array of easy and sinfully good recipes to make the season festive. Offering traditional choices such as puddings, roast turkey (my favourite), and plenty of vegetarian options, Nigella also gives advice on cooking ahead to make the holiday season a little easier. Like Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the recipes are straightforward, easy to follow, and (did I already mention?) sinfully delicious.


TeenSRC 2014 – Time For Some Summer Fun!


The end of June always means big things for Winnipeg Public Library’s Teen services, because it marks the start of our Teen Summer Reading Club (TeenSRC) and the start of our busiest time of the year. From now until the end of August, we’ve got 20 teen programs, 8 weekly trivia contests, six summer-long creative contests and a whole bunch of prizes to give away.


The mainstay of the Teen Summer Reading club is our 8 weekly newsletters. Each Monday, we send out an email to all of our TeenSRC members with book picks, upcoming events and of course, that week’s trivia question. Everyone who answers our trivia question correctly (assuming they meet the eligibility requirements – must be a teen ages 13-17 and must be able to pick up the prize at one of our WPL locations) is entered in our random draw for that week’s prize. If you know of any teens who are big musical theatre fans, tell them to register NOW because next week’s prize includes tickets to the Broadway Across Canada production of Wicked at the Centennial Concert Hall!

For teens who want to spend the summer reading, we’ve got 17  hand-picked booklists full of fresh new titles in every reading category imaginable. Browse the lists on the SRC website or pin & save your favorites from our Pinterest page.


Of course, the crowing star of each SRC year (in our opinion, at least) is the summer-long creative contests.


Each year, we ask teens to submit stories, poetry, artwork, photography and book reviews and then pick a winner and honourable mention (chosen by a panel of judges). Each year the quality of work that we see just astounds us. Head over to the teen Mash Up page to see what our SRC members have come up with so far!

Looking forward to another great year of TeenSRC!




10 Weeks of Summer Reading Fun for You and Your Kids

sunflowersFor a lot of parents, it can be a real challenge to keep kids reading and writing all summer long. Suddenly 10 weeks can feel like a very long time. Check out these fun ideas to keep literacy skills sharp. Pick one activity to do each week, or choose a few of your favourite activities to focus on over the summer.

TDSRC_2014_teaser_vertical_english_1_Join Winnipeg Public Library’s TD Summer Reading Club. Kids get a free reading activity kit and the chance to win some great prizes including swim passes, Goldeyes tickets, books and more! Registration begins Monday June 23rd.

Point, shoot, and write. Using a digital camera, iPad or camera phone, snap some photos and then encourage your child to write a silly caption for each photo, or make your own comic strip.

Listen up. Audiobooks are a great way to engage readers, and they are the perfect thing to bring along on a road trip. Anyone with a library card has access to thousands of audiobooks for free.

harrypotter    charlotte     tale   39clues

Make your own audiobook. Most phones and computers have simple voice recording features. Have your child make up a story, and then record him/her reading it aloud. Your child’s home-made audiobook will be a priceless keepsake.

Write it down. Encourage your child to keep a simple journal or summer diary. Summer is such a magical time for kids, and recording the memories Little girl reading book sitting in wicker chair outdoor in summthey’re making, from their perspective and in their own words, is such a rewarding experience. Help them out with a few prompts: What was the funniest thing that happened to you this week? What is your favourite summer food?

Plan a family “booknic.” Visit your favorite outdoor spot, such as the beach, or a park. Pack lunch and plenty of books. Keep the baggage light by checking out a few ebooks from the library’s Kids eReading Room.

Create your own board game. Have your kids think about a story for their game. Who are the characters — what is their goal, and what are their obstacles? Is this a game of luck (with dice), or is it going to be an adventure game? Make your game board, pawns, cards, etc. using recyclable materials like, cardboard boxes, egg cartons, jars and tins. Be creative and inventive.

Make your own joke book. Collect jokes from family and friends, and then record them in a home-made book, and laugh yourselves silly. Don’t forget to include illustrations.

Write a letter to your favourite author. Most authors have either a mailing address or e-mail address posted online. Have your kids tell them about which books they’ve read, and why they enjoy them.

Chill out at the library. Take a break from the heat, and check out some of westendthe library’s fun summer programs. Build your own marble run, participate in a spaghetti bridge building competition, tap your toes to the amazing music of Seanster and the Monsters, or learn a trick or two from magician Ryan Price.

Summer is an ideal time for young readers to strengthen literacy skills and enjoy the fun of reading. Reading every day, independently or together, can help reduce summer learning loss and prepare children to return to school ready to learn.  Visit Winnipeg Public Library and introduce your child to a world of places, people and ideas in books that are free to take home and share.




Beach Books


I spend my summer vacation at Victoria Beach, an idyllic resort on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Its beaches are named after British royalty — Alexandra, King Edward and Connaught — and its leafy lanes are reminiscent of the English countryside. The pace is slow, as cars are restricted, so it is a biker’s and walker’s paradise. The biggest decision of the day is what cookie to buy at the bakery – the legendary “Dream” or “Happy  Face”.  A charming little library on the  “village green” hosts an annual sale of cheap but excellent books. Yoga classes are held at the lakefront clubhouse, where the breeze caresses your face as you sink into corpse pose on the ancient wooden floor.

The local newsletter, the  Victoria Beach Herald,  has published a weekly summer issues since 1925. It features  a local gossip column, “Beach Banter,” yacht club and tennis news, recipes for cocktails and book reviews.

Although not a fan of frothy beach reading, I make exception for the suggestions by the brainy and well read  Jeff Swystun who is also a top reviewer for Amazon Canada. This summer he has stuck to a theme. All books reviewed involve “lakes, cottages, beaches and some randiness” with some astute parallels to Victoria Beach thrown in. With thanks to Mr. Swystun, here are excerpts from a couple of his  “VB Summer Reads” reviews, borrowed from The Herald:

100summers   A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

“The story of deception and unrequited love toggles back and forth between 1931 and 1938 … at a very tony summer community in Rhode Island. (P)arallels with Victoria Beach abound… husbands only appear on weekends…cottages have been in the family for generations and a clubhouse offer(s) bridge, dances, dinners and boatloads of gin.   A Hundred Summers is a surprising pleasure like an MLCC sale on Tanqueray. ”

Summerland   Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand

“Lies and secrets lead to a horrible incident impacting the sensitive balance within and between three families…. The characters start out as stereotypes but these damaged parents and their troubled teens are revealed to be much deeper indeed. Nantucket is a ‘fantasy of American summertime’ a place of lunches, parties, tournaments and fundraisers based on social currency. … This is not your average beach read so perhaps save it for the fall (to) consume along with several scotches.”

And here are my own beach reads:

Beautifulruins  Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

A Hollywood starlet visits an Italian coastal resort town and the ramifications of her clandestine encounter with Richard Burton are not resolved for decades. This novel tranported me to a Portofino-like hotel, where I sipped iced limoncello while sunning on the cliffs above the Adriatic.

interestigns  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Five kids meet at a summer camp for artsy teenagers in 1974. A coming of age tale that follows the characters through early adulthood to late middle age and contemplates how fame and  fortune affect friendship.

Make summer last into September with a sizzling beach read. Surf’s up!


Millennium Library Park is a Busy Place

Yoga in Millennium ParkA lot has happened in the year since this  post was written, about what was then our newly-renovated and newly-planted park, so I thought this would be a perfect time to update you.

Park November 2011
Even more has changed since this photo was taken in November 2011!August 1, 2013

We’ve got some fancy new furniture (hint: the blue lounge chairs are ridiculously comfortable), beautfiul new art, flourishing plants, and lots and lots of programming. Our visitors have been busy taking pictures and posting them on twitter and instagram. (the art piece emptyful has become something of a social media star, and featured in Thursday’s Metro). Photos  tagged “@wpglibrary”  can still be found on our twitter page.

Play and Learn in the Park

Play and Learn in the Park

The Downtown Biz hit the ground running this summer with free yoga at lunch on Mondays and zumba on Fridays. We added some more fun with giant games (giant Connect Four, giant chess…) and eBook assistance during our Play and Learn in the Park Wednesdays. We  also hosted hip hop performance artists PuConA and Nereo II for an inspiring spoken word event. The forecast had been threatening rain, but the weather was warm and sunny.

Birches 2012
Birches 2012

Birches 2013

Birches 2013

Probably the most striking change is the plants. The Kentucky Blue Grass lawn is thick. The trees, a mixture of trembling aspen, paper birch, and American elm, are starting to show growth. The Karl Foerster reed grass is now begining to grow to full height and the native perennials (coneflower, monarda, wild onions, rudbeckia, etc) have really begun to fill in their spots, and to flower.

My favourite component may be the water garden. It is something of a pleasant surprise to encounter such marshy plants (Blue Flag irises, cattails, bulrushes, and pond lilies) in an urban setting. Plus I love to see the windmills, that keep it all aerated, turn to catch the breeze.

Boardwalk 2012 and 2013

Boardwalk 2012 and 2013

Water Garden 2012 and 2013

Water Garden 2012 and 2013

I think this is all the more impressive when I remember that it is all actually a roof-top garden – built on top of our underground parkade!

ConeflowersIf you’d like to learn more about the native plants used, and maybe how to incorporate them into your own garden (rooftop or otherwise) check out our sizeable collection of prairie gardening and native plant books.

If you have visited the park this summer you would have noticed that work continues. We are renovating to allow for a three-season entrance off of our TD New and Noted room, so that you can check out your library materials and exit directly into the park.

It just keeps getting better!

– Erica

Are We There Yet? the Financial Crisis Recovery Summer Road Trip

With families deep into vacation season, setting off with the North American tradition of the grand road trip quest, somebody somewhere is probably asking: ‘Are We There Yet?’

That same tiresome question is being asked by economists and public policy experts in attempting to assess the health and future direction of the entire global economy, but more especially the North American economy. What makes this more fun is that the grown-ups (if we allow economists and public policy experts to be ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ for a moment) driving the car do not necessarily agree on which route take to get to our destination. Just like sitting in the back seat and pretending not to listen or taking sides in the argument going on in the front of the car, it does allow of some fascinating and at times entertaining ‘discussion.’

thistimeOne venue for these fascinating discussions is the Munk Debates, where four prominent speakers debating the merits and drawbacks of increase taxation for the most wealthy citizens. Another heated discussion is the debate on the merits and accuracy of the research and work of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff best reflected in their book ‘This Time is Different: eight centuries of financial folly’ (which was profiled in a April 2011 blog). Their work was challenged by a graduate student (it is always those pesky grad students) and found that some data points were missing which skewed the conclusion that excessive debt leads to slow economic growth.

As with all things involving human values and assigning social goals, the truth falls somewhere in the middle. The problem in our media-frenzied world of absolute truths and sound bites is the need to both overstate positions and refuse the more the open-minded debate style (which allows for the possibility that anyone of us could be wrong, or that essentially we have an important point to make but that there could parts of my statements or beliefs that could require correction or reassessment). Such a debate requires a society of trust, respect and tolerance of different points of view; I am not sure in this ‘gotcha’ world of hyper-politics that is possible. But at least we now know where we would like to go and ask the ever important question: ‘where is the next gas station?’

For your personal summer road trip:

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Alan Blinder, After the music stopped: the financial crisis, the response and the work ahead.

Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera,All the devils are here: the hidden history of the financial crisis.

Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, Reckless endangerment, how outsized ambition, greed and corruption led to economic armageddon.

Neil Irwin, The alchemists: three central bankers and a world on fire.