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Take the Library on your Summer Vacation

by Lorrie - 0 Comment(s)

Travelling with your family by plane, train or car is always an adventure. I have always relied on the library for travelling material whether it’s a book or e-book to read in the airport or music and books on CD to pass the time in my car.

When my two boys were small we often rented a cabin in B.C. and to pass the eight hours to get there we would load up on book CDs like Robin Hood Crusader or Giants a Colossal Collection of tales and tunes, it was preferable to have a story with giants but really any adventure story would do. That was more than a few years ago but the library still has the tools to make an eight hour trip not feel like 16 hours. The kids e-library has loads of stories, games and activities to keep kids occupied and they might just learn a few things.

If you have more than one child it may require multiple devices or a little bit of compromise. It is nice when you can find a story, game or activity that the whole family can enjoy. The classic folk and fairy tales are always a good start, Jack the Giant Killer was always a favorite.

If your child is enrolled in an immersion program at school the kids e-library has Muzzy Online an animated language learning course for children in seven languages plus English. Encyclopedie Decouverte World Book kids en francais and Enciclopedia estudiantil Hallazagos World Book Online kids in Spanish both are excellent resources to help kids learn a second or third language or just keep their current skills sharp.

When kids are first learning to read it can be a struggle to keep them reading over the summer. The e-library has lots of games and activities to help the most reluctant of readers stay engaged. Bookflix and Pebble Go will keep them happily reading and playing vocabulary games. Of course some parents will have the opposite problem trying to keep their kids supplied with enough books because they have an avid reader. Luckily the library has books and e-books for the whole family including Mom and Dad.

While at the cottage we quite often found the need for some good nonfiction books like a good birding book, Birds of North America Western Region and the kids always needed a book on insects to identify all the creepy crawlies they find in the woods or on the beach.

Fishing is another popular activity summer activity and it is usually a good idea to identify that fish you just caught. Some fish can only be caught at certain times of the year so it maybe handy to have a book on identifying fish such as Fish of Alberta by Amanda Joynt.

Zinio will keep you supplied with the latest magazines and Hoopla will keep you supplied with music and movies. It is going to be a very busy summer at Calgary Public Library!

 

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.