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Selectors' Favourites

by Stephen - 1 Comment(s)

The book selectors at the Calgary Public Library see thousands of books over the course of a year as they look for new and exciting materials for the Library's collection. Although it is impossible to remember all of them, every year a few books stand out above the rest. Here are four of the selector's favourite reads from 2013!

 

RelishRelish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.

It is a joy to read this graphic memoir celebrating the author’s life-long love affair with food – from her mother’s perfect chocolate chip cookies and a great recipe for huevos rancheros, to an appreciation for junk food that her father, a chef, finds unbelievably frustrating when she enters a McDonalds in Italy. Readers will find both the story and the included recipes worth their time.

 



 

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala.Wave

Wave is a heart wrenching memoir about the devastating 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Sonali Deraniyagala, her husband, two sons and parents were enjoying their Christmas vacation in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit and in an instant Sonali lost her entire family. How does a person continue to live when everything they know is taken from them? Wave is a powerful book about grief, loss, anger, healing, honesty and most importantly love.

 







The Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

This entertaining picture book chronicles the dramatic labour dispute between Duncan and his crayons through a series of letters outlining each colour’s grievances. Grey is sick of colouring in all of those enormous elephants and whales, black is sick of being limited to outlining everything and yellow and orange can’t agree on who should be responsible for the Sun. With charming illustrations and a great sense of humour this is the best kind of picture book for parents and children alike.

 

 

 

 

CanadaI could not put down Richard Ford’s memorable book “Canada”. His sparse and lyrical writing eloquently captivates the harsh reality of Dell Parson’s life as he is traumatically separated from his family to begin life anew in 1960’s rural Saskatchewan. When his parents are arrested and imprisoned in Montana, he is smuggled across the Canadian border and put under the care of mysterious American, Arthur Remlinger. The story is powerfully told through young Dell’s eyes as we see his struggle to redefine himself and develop his own moral compass. Despite the underlying current of violence, this is ultimately a story of hope.

In Search of Short Stories

by Dieu - 2 Comment(s)

I admit that despite being an avid reader, I never liked reading short stories. The short story genre always seemed to me like it was the finger-food of fiction instead of the full meal of a novel. From my conversations with friends and from reading blogs, online articles and forums on the subject, it became clear that I was in the majority of readers who never read short fiction. It wasn’t until I read The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman that I realized how good short stories can be.

Book cover of the Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists is a perfect introduction to the short story form for readers who are hesitant to enter that unfamiliar territory. Bridging the two worlds of novel and short stories, The Imperfectionists chronicles the trials and tribulations of a fictional struggling newspaper based in Rome.

Although technically a novel, each chapter reads as its own distinct story following a different character as they each navigate their way through relationships, ambitions, failures and disillusionment in the post-digital age of journalism. While distinct enough to stand on their own, the stories cross over into each other, revealing a web of connections between the players as the reader progresses through the book.

As I was reading each chapter, I found myself becoming engrossed in the personal lives of the sympathetic, neurotic and complicated reporters, journalists, and editors. Insightful, witty and offering an inside look at the world of journalism (the author himself is a journalist), The Imperfectionists will leave readers wanting more from this first-time author.


If you’re looking for classic short fiction, I highly recommend anything by Anton Chekhov. Universally regarded as one of the greatest of all short story writers, Chekhov’s writing has a way of drawing you in and lingering with you long after the story has ended. I find that when I read Chekhov, I not only care for his characters, but I also find myself immersed in a particular time and place of Russian history, geography and customs.

If you are to read anything by Chekhov, his short story trilogy comprised of, A Man in a Shell, Gooseberries, and About Love are not to be missed. About Love has to be one of my favourite pieces of fiction for its poignant look at the regret and yearning of lost love. A moving passage from the story:

"I understood that when you love, and when you think about this love, you must proceed from something higher, of more importance than happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue in the commonplace sense; or you mustn't think about it at all."

An excellent compact illustrated edition of the trilogy called, About Love: 3 Short Stories by Chekhov is available at the Calgary Public Library.

Book cover of About Love: 3 Stories by Chekhov

book cover of Too Much Happiness

Lastly, the most recent work of short fiction I've read comes from our very own soil. Alice Munro, who has been cited as Canada’s own Chekhov, writes what I would call psychological fiction. Like Chekhov, her stories focus on the inner lives of the characters, where moments of revelation, emotion and changes of perspective make up the core of her fiction. As well, what I love most about Munro’s stories are the complex female characters she writes about.

In her book, Too Much Happiness, a story called "Dimensions" had me conflicted about the main character, Doree, a teenage mother who is grappling with a personal tragedy inflicted on her by her abusive husband. I found the character infuriating for the choices she made, but always empathetic. A multitude of writers have gushed over Alice Munro's effortless writing, a quality that I too admire in her work.

Short stories can be deceptively simple because of their short length, but from my experience, even the shortest work can be the most satisfying. Another plus is they can be easily finished in a short period, such as during a coffee break, and their format makes them perfect to be read on an E-reader or tablet.

What's more, most short stories fall into the category of literary fiction, which may be why some people see them as too high-brow to enjoy, but reading short fiction by authors such as Chekhov and Munro do offer their benefits. A recent article in the New York Times talks about how reading literary fiction can help with social skills and emotional intelligence.

The Calgary Public Library can help you explore the world of short fiction with the Poetry & Short Story Reference Center, a new resource available in the E-Library.

New Books in Favourite Series

by Betsy - 0 Comment(s)

Bridgertons: Happily Ever AfterBridgertons: Happily Ever AfterSum of All KissesSum of All KissesJulia Quinn first introduced readers to the Bridgerton family in a light and humourous 8-book romance series. The books allowed readers to follow the tribulations of eight alphabetically named siblings (Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth), while enjoying the London background and a fairly substantial set of characters around whom the stories came to be told, including the formidable and forthright Lady Danbury, the definitely unmusical Smythe-Smith family, and the mysterious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown. All of these characters eventually take center stage in their own right in other books, and indeed the Smythe-Smith clan eventually does get their own series. This 'easter egg' (or crossover) effect allows readers to catch up with characters with whom they are familiar and have an affinity, while allowing new readers to start up a series. A prime example of this is the use of a particularly horrid romance novel that is either passed around or which all of the characters seem to end up reading and discussing.

This fall Ms. Quinn's two new books will present readers with either a visit back to not only all of the Bridgertons, but their mother, Violet, with an additional epilogue intended to answer potential questions or tie up any possible loose ends from each of the original eight books in The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After, and yet another unlikely couple will meet up at a Smyth-Smith wedding (one of the three from The Lady Most Willing), in The Sum of All Kisses, under the stern and amused eye of Lady Danbury. August is ReadaRomance month, and Julia Quinn's post will be added to the R-A-R site, which has posts by 93 contributing authors, on August 25th.


StormbreakerStormbreakerRussian RouletteRussian RouletteYounger readers will be familiar with Anthony Horowitz as the author of the Alex Rider series. We first met Alex in Stormbreaker, when officers came to his school to tell him that his guardian and uncle, Ian, had been killed in an auto accident. Alex initial suspicions about his uncle's death will set him on a chilling and dangerous path as an MI6 operative and into a life of danger, one that eventually spanned nine books and four graphic novels, with Alex as a teenage secret agent dealing with spies and a life that seemed ever more out of his control.

This fall, Mr. Horowitz is set to release a prequel to the series called Russian Roulette: the story of an assassin, in which readers will get the backstory of Yassen Gregorowich, a boy who will grow up to be Alex's mirror image, and become the man who kills Alex's father.

Are there authors that you wish would revisit a character or a series that you really like, or that reintroduce moments from earlier efforts into their books in a particularly enjoyable way?

Top Ten Fiction Titles

by Jan S - 3 Comment(s)

Have you ever been curious about what books are the most popular at the Library? Want to know what other Calgary Public Library customers are reading? Well I am here to satisfy your curiosity and share with you the Top 10 Adult Fiction Titles currently circulating at Calgary Public Library. Starting with the most popular the list is:

  1. The Racketeer by John Grisham - A legal thriller that follows detective Malcolm Bannister as he investigates the death of a federal judge. Full of twists and surprises, this fast paced novel has thrilled CPL readers who are checking the book out more that any other fiction title in the system.
  2. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter is a hard act to follow, but JK Rowling introduces a new cast of characters that occupy the small English town of Pagford. In the picturesque town not all is as it seems.
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - A mystery about a marriage gone wrong. On the fifth wedding anniversary of Amy and Nick, Amy disappears. Everyone, including many CPL readers, have picked up the book and found out what happened to Amy.
  4. 419 by Will Ferguson - The winner of the 2012 Giller Prize, the novel follows Laura Curtis from her quiet life in Calgary as she embarks on a mission to understand the death of her father. Her journey's take her into the dangerous world of Internet scams.
  5. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult - Powerhouse writer, Picoult's latest novel tackles the holocaust and looks at what it means to be good or evil and whether evil can or should be forgiven.
  6. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James - Some love this book, others hate it, but clearly it's been a popular read here at the Library. The erotic novel about Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey continues to draw readers and interest making in to number six on the list.
  7. Winter of the World by Ken Follett - Historical fiction at it's best, or a least most popular, Winter of the World is book two in Ken Follett's Century Trilogy. If the popularity of this book indicates anything it's that the third book should show up in the top ten list after it's release.
  8. A Wanted Man by Lee Child - Jack Reacher is back in the latest installment in Lee Child's thriller series. All seventeen of the Jack Reacher novels remain popular with CPL customers.
  9. Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich - Stephanie Plum is at it again in Notorious Nineteen. While Stephanie is notorious for finding trouble, she may have found a little more than she bargained for this time around.
  10. The Forgotten by David Baldacci - Army Special Agent John Puller is back and investigating his most personal case to date. This case takes Puller to Paradise, Florida where his aunt has been found dead.

If you are looking for a great read, why not take it from other CPL customers and check out one of these books. Copies are currently available for a number of these titles, (only numbers 3, 4 and 5 have hold lists!) so get your hands on one of these books today. The Racketeer by John GrishamCasual Vacancy by JK RowlingGone Girl by Gillian Flynn419 by Will FergusonThe Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Author Crushes

by Katherine - 3 Comment(s)

I’ve had a crush on author Alain de Botton for a while, now. It started when I read his Essays in Love and found myself wishing that I was the woman he had met and quickly began rhapsodizing about. When I read A Week at the Airport, I day dreamed that he and I met on a flight to wherever, and we struck up a conversation when he noticed me reading his book...

But it’s time for old Alain to move over and make room for my newest crush: Mark Haddon.

I’d picked up Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time some time ago, and then abandoned it after about 30 pages. But, I picked up A Spot of Bother recently, and couldn’t put it down! Haddon paints such a realistic portrait of the Hall family – you’d swear that you were a fly on the wall, watching as their pre-wedding drama plays out.

Now I’m fantasizing that I take a trip to the UK and stop in at a little pub where I meet a man who asks for my phone number. I have nothing to write it down on, and so I end up writing it on a page that I tear out of – you guessed it – Mark Haddon’s book. The man asks me if I like the book, and I start to gush about it:

“…such a realistic portrait of the Hall family – you’d swear that you were a fly on the wall…”

I realize that he’s smiling. I flip to the back of the book and check out the picture – it’s him! It’s actually Mark Haddon!!!

Now there’s a story! A story so romantic, in fact, that Mark (we’re on a first name basis, now) writes his next book about just such a chance encounter. And dedicates it to me.

Unleash your inner geek and get your author crush(es) on, at the Calgary Public Library!

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Mad Men

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

The fashion! The eyewear! The furniture! And a typewriter so simple that “even a woman can use it”! What more could you ask for?

I may just be the only person on the planet who hadn’t seen Mad Men until about a month ago, when I borrowed season one and treated myself to a marathon. What an incredible drama!

Mad Men follows the lives of employees who work at Sterling Cooper, an advertising agency in 1960's Manhattan. The series reveals what work, home life, and relationships were like in the 60's, and how much they have (and haven’t) changed, since then.

What’s shocking to me is the idea that once upon a decade, I may have actually been able to smoke and drink at work. Not only that, but I might have been called “honey”, “sweetheart” or some other derisive term, by a colleague or even a boss! But Mad Men isn’t just about the differences between then and now. It’s a compelling drama about men and women, work, fidelity, families, creativity, and commerce.

So far, my favourite character is Peggy, who starts season one as “the new girl” and finishes it as a junior copywriter. But, I also love Joan Holloway, the foxy office manager and resident femme fatale. The casting is brilliant and each character is really unique.

If you want to get immersed in a swell new drama, make it the world of Mad Men! Place a hold today and have it delivered to the branch of your choice.

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