Tag Archives: what to read next

The Right Book for the Right Time

three-body problemOver the last couple week, I’ve committed a librarian faux-pas. I recently read Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and have been telling everyone to read it because they’ll love it. It’s so good; I don’t understand how someone could not love it! It’s compelling, imaginative, and suspenseful. Covering topics as broad as theoretical physics, Chinese political history, aliens, video games, with a sprinkle of social commentary, the author still succeeds in telling an engaging story.

The faux-pas I committed isn’t from being so excited about a book that I can’t stop talking about it—I highly encourage everyone to do this!—but rather, telling people they should read it without taking into consideration their reading preferences and interests, and hyping up the series so much that I promise they’ll love it. I end up taking responsibility for that person’s enjoyment of the book, and that is something I definitely can’t control. I’m usually more careful, but when a book is this good, my judgment gets clouded.

But when you come to the library and ask for a book recommendation, we’ll be much more professional. We’ll ask you a few questions to get a sense of what you like:

  • Which books have you really enjoyed in the past?
  • What sort of book are you looking for today?
  • Do you prefer books that are focused on character, plot, setting, or language?

the dark forestIt may take us a few minutes to figure out what to suggest, but know that we’re basing those suggestions on your reading preferences. We’ll usually give a few suggestions so you can figure out what works for you. Reading a book is a very personal experience and so much more than its subject or genre. Language is more nuanced than that and so to get the perfect book for the perfect moment we have to take into account different factors such as your mood, your level of engagement, your openness to different experiences, and so on. If you can’t make it into a branch for your next suggestion, make sure to check out our new Info Guide: Your Next Great Read for ways to discover new titles.

death's endThe stars aligned for me with The Three-Body Problem. Just before the holidays, I was reading a mystery novel more focused on the sense of place and character (P.D. James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman), but I was looking for something different – something fast paced to contrast the slow days of winter. I wanted a story that was plot-oriented yet more stimulating than the usual action-thrillers I go for. I overheard a friend losing his mind over this book called Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, recently translated into English and set in the same world as the Three-Body Trilogy. Intrigued, I picked up the first in the series at the library and subsequently lost my mind over the writing style, the mysterious plot, and Cixin Liu’s prediction of humanity’s response at finding out there is extra-terrestrial intelligence in the universe.

You should really read The Three-Body Trilogy. It’s exhilarating! But if it’s not for you, let us help you discover something that will excite you.

– Rémi

 

It’s Time to Read: The Namesake

The reader should realize himself that it could not have happened otherwise, and that to give him any other name was quite out of the question

                —Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat” & epigraph of “The Namesake”

 

Dear Readers,  if you listen to Time to Read regularly you’ll know that I love thinking about names and titles and what they mean. So it is fitting, one could say that it could not have happened otherwise, that this month we will be reading The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri.

In The Namesake, a couple emigrate from Calcutta to America, eschew cultural tradition and name their firstborn child Gogol after the Russian author of the same name.

 

Do you need to know your Gogol to read The Namesake?  No.  But I bet it will be more interesting if you do.  I’ve been reading The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil and have found it surprisingly accessible.  I’ve found the collection at different times both dark and funny, and Gogol plays with story structure in surprising ways.  But if you only have time for one of Gogol’s short stories I recommend The Overcoat from which the above epigraph is pulled (and if you have time for two I highly recommend The Portrait.)

Please let us know if you have any thoughts about Gogol or The Namesake by going to our website wpl-podcast.winnipeg.ca, writing to us at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca or leaving a comment on our Time to Read Facebook group.

Also, don’t forget to check out the new episode which drops today.  It features Alexa and Sappfyre who joined from BlackSpaceWPG to discuss Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.  A great way to kick off Black History Month!

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

Faeries and Wendigos and Witches, Oh My!

I love reading short story collections featuring many different authors, especially the horror collections edited by Ellen Datlow. Short stories allow us to get a taste for an author’s writing style and if we enjoy their story we can look further for other books of theirs. Or if we aren’t enjoying a particular story, we can skip to the next one. Short stories are also great for delivering quick hits of suspense in just a short amount of time (you can usually finish one on a coffee break and not have to wait until your lunch break to find out what happens next). Needless to say I was very excited to hear that a collection of speculative fiction short stories was coming out, all stories written by Manitoba authors and all take place in Manitoba or are partly set in Manitoba as travelling to other realms/worlds/planes is inevitable in speculative fiction.

parallel-prairies

Image courtesy of Great Plains Publications Ltd.

 

The collection is titled Parallel Prairies: Stories of Manitoba Speculative Fiction and it is edited by Darren Ridgley and Adam Petrash who also contribute a story each. The 17 other authors who contributed to the collection are Chris Allinotte, Wayne Arthurson, Jonathan Ball, S.M. Beiko, Sheldon Birnie, Keith Cadieux, Jennifer Collerone, Gilles DeCruyenaere, Will J. Fawley, Chadwick Ginther, Kate Heartfield, Patrick Johanneson, Lindsay Kitson, J.M. Sinclair, David Jón Fuller, Craig Russell, and Christine Steendam. The best part of this collection is that it is has something for everyone and as each story uses the local landscape and landmarks, Manitobans are sure to be able to picture the setting perfectly and be in the know regarding certain Manitoba customs. Lest I bungle up a nice synopsis of the collection, I’ll let the book explain itself to you: “Get acquainted with baby dragons, killer insects, faery kings, infernal entities, and more; as 19 authors let the Manitoban landscape inspire weird and wondrous tales. You thought the prairies were flat, plain, and boring. You were wrong.” Does that not sound intriguing to you? As mentioned these stories feature faeries, wendigos, witches, dragons, folklore and everything in between so there should be something for everyone. Some of my personal favourites were The Comments Gaze Also Into You by David Jón Fuller which discusses cyberbullying in online message boards on news websites in a very unique way, Seven Long Years by Jennifer Collerone which follows a young woman and Wisp, a coyote, as they set out to complete a task that must be undertaken every seven years, and finally Eating of the Tree by Chadwick Ginther which explores Norse mythology in present-day Winnipeg. The other stories in this compilation are of course very good as well, but these three especially stood out for me.

If you are craving more Canadian short stories that are speculative fiction, we have a couple of collections available titled Imaginarium which may be right up your alley.

In other Canadian speculative fiction news, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Testaments, is now available to request from Winnipeg Public Library so be sure to get your requests in, as it is sure to be a popular and talked-about read!

Happy Reading!

-Aileen

DIY Book Stack Management

I can never read all the books I want.
Sylvia Plath

I love books, the more the better. The mere thought of being somewhere without something to read is enough to make me break out in a cold sweat. Fortunately this doesn’t happen very often, given where I work and the size of my book collection. Sometimes, though, too much of a good thing is simply too much. My TBR (To Be Read) book stacks, reading lists, wish lists and downloads can and do get out of hand at times. I’ve discovered a few tricks that work for me to wrestle my TBR to a manageable size, at least until the next time it gets out of control.

I’ve spent many fascinating hours in the world of the Seven Kingdoms, created by George R. R. Martin. But at a certain point I simply had had enough, and I have yet to finish reading the entire series. I might be the only fan out there who isn’t concerned with when the next book comes out, but I refuse to feel guilty. Alright, maybe I feel a little guilty, but not enough to continue the series until I’m ready for it.

Ian Rankin’s Rebus character is one of my favorite literary detectives, to the point where I found myself craving Irn Bru, bacon butties and brown sauce on chips, even though I’m not entirely clear on what brown sauce is. I mourned the end of Rebus’s career when Ian Rankin retired him, but I still appreciated all of the great writing. When Rebus returned I found I didn’t have much interest in reading his new stories. I’m sure that the quality of the writing is excellent, I mean we are talking about Ian Rankin, after all, but sometimes you just have to let a character go. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it, at least for now.

Apples and Robins by Lucie Felix is an amazing picture book that uses die cut shapes to reveal a surprise on each page. It’s absolutely beautiful, but I’ve never been tempted to find more books by this author. This stems partly from a fear of being disappointed, and partly as a means to stop myself from adding yet another book to my stack.

 

The first time I read Rainbow Rowell’s book Eleanor and Park I was enchanted, and I only became more enchanted each time I read it. Despite all of the tempting reviews and recommendations I’ve gotten about her other books I haven’t rushed to read them. Sometimes it’s good to wallow in the undiluted greatness of one book for awhile before picking up another one by the same writer. I have read several of her books, and plan on reading everything that she writes, but for me having a bit of a hiatus lets me savor the stories that much more deeply. Plus it keeps the book stack just a wee bit shorter.

Other book stack management methods that work for me are suspending my holds, editing the lists on my library account, clearing out my Goodreads lists, and periodically moving the stacks of books in my house from one room to another. Somehow, even with all of this, I never seem to have enough time to read everything that I want, but on the bright side I never have to worry about running out of books, either.

-Lori 

Motherhood Memoirs

All over the world women are finding their voices. From speaking out against sexual assault to workplace inequalities, we have reached a point where the great disparities among the sexes are being acknowledged and challenged.  Among these voices, we are hearing from mothers. For so long, there has been such a narrow definition of motherhood. A definition that includes only happiness and baby cuddles and lullabies. But what about those for whom this definition doesn’t fit? What about those, who, when they become a mother, find themselves unhappy or struggle with the immensity of this change? Is it any coincidence that now, when women are making themselves heard, we are seeing such a boom in motherhood memoirs?

Recently there is the Giller Prize nominated Motherhood by Sheila Heti. As with Heti’s other writing, this novel blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction as the narrator, a writer in her late 30’s and in a serious relationship, considers having a child. Though this is a huge, life-altering decision, it is rarely given much critical thought, but Heti’s narrator understands the immensity of this decision and carefully weighs her options, wondering if she’s willing to sacrifice her art for a child, and which is more important.

A lighter read, Meagan O’Connell’s And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready is a less heady, perhaps more relatable book for new mothers. Based on her experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, O’Connell does not shy away from the messy, ugly, devastating parts of the topic while keeping her sense of humour intact.

In Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, Angela Garbes writes about women’s bodies through a mix of science and personal experience. Her book offers fascinating facts about the placenta, the transfer of cells between mother and fetus, and the wonders of breastmilk. Garbes encourages women to trust themselves and ask questions of their health providers, allowing pregnant women and new mothers to make informed decisions.

Two classics in the motherhood memoir genre are Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year and Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother. Lamott’s book takes the form of a diary of her first year of motherhood. Told in a sarcastic and witty way, Lamott struggles as a single parent but has a community of friends and her faith to help her. Cusk’s book is more thoughtful and philosophical. She writes about sleeplessness and colic and breastfeeding, but also how to navigate this new identity for herself.

 

Whether you’re a new mother trying to find your footing or a seasoned pro, there is something so satisfying about recognizing your own experiences in someone else’s writing. As women become increasingly empowered to share their truths, I can only imagine the writing that is to come.

-Toby

 

 

 

Tangentially Speaking, not the center of IT

This story begins back when I wasn’t a regular library user. In fact, to be honest, I didn’t think to use the library much at all. I know you’re all gasping, “How could he!,” “What a fool!,” so I’ll give you a paragraph break to catch your breath.

I was young. I was naïve. I was on a mission to complete a sub-list of THE LIST. My goal: to read every book mentioned in Donnie Darko. And before you ask, yes, compiling a list of books to read from a beloved movie or television show is a thing1. People do it for Gilmore Girls. Sometimes a work of art strikes you in just the right way and you end up falling down the rabbit hole2 exploring its references and allusions.

Image credit Keir Hardie (https://flic.kr/p/4x2mqf)

Because of Donnie Darko, I read and watched Watership Down. I started reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Then I started reading it again.  Then I told myself that one day I would be smart enough finish it. My heart skipped a beat when they released Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut and it featured a commentary track with Kevin Smith. And I would laugh to myself while listening to a soundtrack featuring Echo and the Bunnymen3—did I mention Donnie Darko features a man in a giant bunny suit?

Donnie Darko also put a pair of Stephen King novels on my to-read list: The Tommyknockers and another, the title of which I can’t quite remember at the moment4.

But the main obstacle to my goal, the problem that hounded me for years, was trying to track down a copy of “The Destructors” a short story by Graham Greene. In Donnie Darko the Greene’s story is banned from the titular character’s high school because it is seen to promote vandalism. So too, in my life, did it seem to be banned. I scoured bookstores of all shapes and sizes:  from corporate edifices to fly-by-night street sellers. Graham Green was prolific and I found many of his novels, my favourites being:  Doctor Fischer of Geneva and A Burnt-Out Case. But it wouldn’t be until years later that I was able to track down a copy of “The Destructors.” I found it at a place that doesn’t ban books. I found it, if the opening paragraph didn’t give the ending away, at the library.

Alan

1 Part of what put Atlas Shrugged on my list was Mad Men, but that’s a blogpost for another time.

2 Alice in Wonderland reference AND Donnie Darko allusion!

3 Track 3 on this album.

4 Someday I’ll think of it.

Beyond Anne’s Diary

Diary Young GirlI have a vivid memory of being in my local library as a kid and picking up The Diary of a Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank). My Mom said to me: “I’m not sure if you should read that. It’s very sad!” She thought it best to shield me from the heartbreak of Anne’s story for just a little bit longer. Fast-forward about 15 years and I was asked to be one of the tour guides for the travelling exhibit currently at Millennium Library – Anne Frank: A History for Today. At this point, I had seen the play multiple times and even visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, but I still hadn’t done the diary justice.

So, I just recently read the famed book and of course my Mom was right, it is a heartbreaking story! Most people know what happened to Anne, her family, and the six million other Jewish people the Nazis systematically murdered (not to mention the other groups Hitler persecuted based on ethnicity, ability, sexuality, etc.). It’s a devastating piece of history, but when reading the diary there are moments where you somehow forget how the story ends. Anne’s writing is eloquent and you can’t help but be sucked in by the unexpected humour, glimpses of teenage romance, and Anne’s perpetual charm.

As Anne’s diary is a cultural phenomenon, I was not entirely surprised to find a variety of other books about her life. The following titles take the diary in new directions and cross into different genres. No matter what your age, there is a version of Anne’s story for you. Each of these books can be found at the Winnipeg Public Library, but be sure to keep searching as this is just a fraction of our collection on Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and World War II.

 

Anne Frank MullerAnne Frank: The Biography

In this first biography of Anne Frank, Melissa Müller’s thorough research creates a compelling portrait of Anne’s life. Originally printed in 1998, this book contains interviews with family and friends, as well as previously unpublished letters and documents. A new edition of this biography was released in 2014, full of even more information that has since emerged. These documents, along with the Frank’s family tree and an epilogue by one of the family’s helpers, Miep Gies, shine light on this incredible girl.

 

Anne Frank House BioThe Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

This biography in graphic novel form is an illustrated account of Anne’s life. New York Times bestselling authors, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, seamlessly work Anne’s story into the history of World War II and the Holocaust. The book contains a concise chronology of events in the history of the Frank family – an extremely helpful tool for any reader.

 

Anne Frank Hudson-GoffAnne Frank

This graphic novel by Elizabeth Hudson-Goff focuses on both sides of the attic – life before going into hiding and a glimpse at what her final days in a concentration camp may have looked like. A quick read that can easily be finished in one sitting, illustrations bring a new dimension to this famous story of survival.

 

Anne Frank Poems AgosinDear Anne Frank: Poems

A poetry collection that is a tribute to Anne’s life. In most pieces, Marjorie Agosín holds a conversation with Anne, addressing her courage and curiosity. Poetry, and the dialogue Agosín creates, brings Anne’s narrative to life in a unique way.

 

 

Anne Frank PooleAnne Frank

A beautifully illustrated picture book that relays Anne’s story – from birth to death – to a younger audience. By explaining how the Franks end up in hiding, Josephine Poole provides an introduction to the Holocaust for children that is easy to understand. The story ends on a positive note, with Otto, Anne’s father, receiving her diary after the war. The diary ensures that the rest of the Frank family will live on after their senseless deaths.

 

Anne Frank WorldAnne Frank in the World, 1929-1945

This book is a history in pictures published by the Anne Frank House. While the focus is primarily on the Holocaust, the book is framed by Anne’s story. By continually returning to photos of the Franks, the reader is reminded that the victims of the Holocaust are not just a statistic but are real people.

 

“ANNE FRANK: A HISTORY FOR TODAY” Exhibit and Tours

 

Anne Frank Exhibit

The travelling exhibit has come all the way from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam! It officially launched on Monday, July 11, at the Millennium Library, where it will run until September 3rd. We encourage everyone to spend some time looking at the beautifully crafted panels.

There are also a number of guided tours available, in English or French, that you can register for by calling 204-986-6489. Each tour will begin in the Carol Shields Auditorium (second floor) and will last up to 90 minutes. Those who want to book group tours for more than 10 people can register by calling 204-986-6458.

  • Stephanie