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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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Your Crummy Relationship

by Katherine - 2 Comment(s)

Back in February, I was asked to generate ideas for a Valentine’s Day display at the Central library and the cynical side of me thought: let’s do a display about breaking up! so I browsed through our collection about relationships, and to my sad surprise, I found plenty of books about heartbreak.

Apparently, men cheat on women and vice versa (with staggering frequency!); both genders unwittingly find themselves in co-dependent relationships, and it seems like everyone (married, dating, divorced, widowed) needs advice on dealing with emotional turmoil. There are countless people browsing on internet dating sites, while wondering whether to stay with their current partner or not – and perhaps you’re one of them.

So, have you been cheated on, or are you the bad guy? Do you struggle with intimacy? Does it seem like you can’t ever find a suitable partner – no matter how many dates you politely sit through? Are your standards too high or too low? Are you dating the same type of person over and over again?

There’s only so much wisdom you can glean from Sex and the City reruns, and your more-than-slightly-bitter circle of friends. At some point, you’re going to have to delve deeper and explore your childhood family structure, your fears and insecurities, and your expectations of what a lasting relationship entails. Not fun, but definitely necessary.

Find the tools you’ll need by browsing the relationships section of your local library branch. Here are just a few of the items you might find there:

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together by Mark Driscoll

Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up by Harriet Goldhor Lerner

Mirror Effect: Six Steps to Finding your Magical Match Using Online Dating by Troy Pummill

From Shy to Social: The Man's Guide to Personal & Dating Success by Christopher Gray

How To Be Black, by Baratunde Thurston

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

In my last post, I mentioned that I picked up How To Be Black because I thought it would be hilarious. Indeed, it’s funny, but it’s substantive, too, and definitely worth your time.

Author Baratunde Thurston tells the story of his Nigerian name and his time at Sidwell Friends and Harvard, and describes the huge impact that his mother has had on the formation of his character. Thurston also assembles a panel of black thinkers, and asks them questions ranging from: Can you swim? to Are we living in post-racial America?

This book is not a manual for how to be cool, urban, “thug”, or whatever else we may associate with being black. Besides, even if it provided that kind of direction, the result would be people who are either “too black” or “not black enough” – and this paradox is a central theme. Thurston himself has at times been considered too black, or not black enough. So have Barack Obama and many other prominent black individuals. So, what's the right amount of blackness, anyway? Can you imagine being told that you're too white, or not white enough?

How To Be Black is a fabulous exploration of what it means to be black, but it’s also a rallying cry for those who are fed up with being identified only as black, and who just want to be themselves – whatever colour that happens to be. As for Thurston, he's black and he's proud! He's also a computer geek, an avid camper, an eater of tofu and much more. He defies black stereotypes and encourages other black people to do the same.

Check it out!

Happy International Women's Day!

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Celebrate International Women’s Day by joining us in our John Dutton theatre for a discussion of how women are creating strong and vibrant communities.

This year, in solidarity with feminists throughout the world (men included!), I give to you a list of some of my recent favourites: writing about women and women’s sexuality.

Self Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again, by Norah Vincent. An interesting examination of the pressures confronting men, from a lesbian point of view. Crass, funny, and insightful, even though the project of chronicling a year as a man was based on deception.

My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies, by Nancy Friday. This book had enormous impact when it was first published, and it’s still popular today. Read it for titillation, of course, but also to realize that you’re perfectly normal and that your fantasies are, too.

The Sexual Life of Catherine M, by Catherine Millet. I included this book here not because of the graphic sexual descriptions it contains, but because it’s a reflection of one woman’s choices. It’s not just sex but choice that’s important to feminism. The choice to marry or not, have children or not, have multiple (and concurrent!) sexual partners or not, and so on. Millet lives life on her own terms.

Our Bodies, Ourselves, by Boston Women's Health Book Collective. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this classic. It's been informing women about their bodies for over 4 decades!

Your local library has all sorts of resources about women’s sexuality: relationships, sexual health, gay/lesbian/trans/queer issues, sexual education and pregnancy, and lots more! Learn to create more safety, intimacy and pleasure in your sexual routines. Learn about who’s doing what to whom, and how.

The Calgary Public Library has resources for everything you’re into!

Black History Month: The Big O

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

No, not that Big O. I mean Obama. As in Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States of America.

With only about 10 months remaining until the next American presidential election, it’s time to put Obama’s accomplishments into perspective. Has he managed to clean up Bush’s messes, or has he only exacerbated existing problems? Will his contentious health care reforms prove to be beneficial for the average American, or not? Is the world safer with Obama at the helm, or is Obama merely a pawn in corporate America's game? No matter where you stand on the political issues, it’s undeniable that Obama is a groundbreaking, historic figure.

Imagine: it was only decades before Obama ascended to presidency that Rosa Parks was being asked to move to the back of that fateful bus. Now, read that sentence again.

Check out some of these titles and learn more about America's first black president:

Obama on the Couch: Inside the Mind of a President, by Justin A. Frank

Obama and the Middle East, by Fawaz Gerges

Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves and Letters of the First Postmodern President, by Jack Cashill

The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad, by Tariq Ali

And don't forget that Obama is an author, too! Check out The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father.

February is Black History Month. Learn more at your local library branch!

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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