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    Book Club in a Bag

    Canada Reads 2012 - Battle On!

    by Shannon S - 0 Comment(s)

    Who says reading books can’t be a blood sport?! Canada Reads is an annual "battle of the books" competition organized and broadcast by Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC.

    The Canada Reads 2012 panelists and books have just been announced. My favourite part is to hear the panelists defend their choice! I love to hear readers impassioned by their reads!

    Here are the panelists and the books they have chosen:

    Alan Thicke defends: The Game by Ken Dryden

    Ex-hockey-player Dryden's memoir/meditation begins on the day, a few years back, when he announced his definite retirement from the game--after nearly a decade with the Montreal Canadiens as semi-star goalie. He then takes us through the following week, mixing dense narration of events (on-the-road, play-by-play on the ice) with reminiscences, profiles of colleagues, introspective ponderings, and earnest musings on "the game."

    Stacey McKenzie defends: On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini

    The memoirs of rhythmic guitarist David Bidini, narrating his experiences touring Canada with his rock and roll band, the Rheostatics.

    Arlene Dickinson defends: Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

    Two harrowing, shame-filled years in Iran's Evin prison.When unrest erupted in the streets of Tehran during the late 1970s, the author, daughter of Russian-Iranian Christians, was hardly aware of politics. Then her friends began to disappear one by one, seized first by the shah's police, then by Khomeini's fanatical supporters. Schools were shut down in the fall of 1978; when they reopened in 1980, teachers had been replaced by inexperienced revolutionary guards who preached politics rather than academics. An important eyewitness account.

    Shad defends: Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre

    A gripping, darkly comic first-hand account of a young underground revolutionary during the Pinochet dictatorship in 1980s Chile.

    Anne-France Goldwater defends: The Tiger by John Vaillant

    Documents the efforts of a tiger conservation leader who was forced to hunt a man-eating tiger through the brutal Siberian winter, an effort that familiarized him with the creature's history, motives and unique method of attack.

    If you were a panelist which book would you defend as the book that all of Canada should read?

    The Stories of War

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    The tamed pigeons of Sarajevo

    The Calgary Public Library’s One Book, One Calgary is an annual, city-wide library initiative designed to ignite community dialogue and enrich community connections through a shared reading experience. The 2011 One Book One Calgary selection is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, a haunting novel with universal resonance. It tells the story of three people trying to survive in a city rife with the extreme fear of desperate times, and of the sorrowing cellist who plays undaunted in their midst.

    Calgary Public Library invites you to participate in the One Book, One Calgary program and discover what happens when an entire city reads one book.

    Explore our rich collection for more stories about war-torn Sarajevo, as well as about other places around the world affected by armed conflicts, former and present.

    The Fixer by Joe Sacco, a noir-graphic novel set in Bosnia and Sarajevo, follows the author's real-life relationship with Neven, a "fixer", who, for cash, leads foreign journalists through the fragmented postwar landscape and sniffs out the grittiest "underground" news stories for them. Neven's tales of his days as both a legitimate soldier and a guerilla gang member are interesting; even more compelling are his descriptions of the ways in which certain ruthless, sociopathic fighters became, bizarrely, bubblegum idols, their looks fantasized over and their deeds lauded in pop songs. The story is told in fragments, flashbacks, and flashforwards; what readers will gain is less a "practical" knowledge of the war and its aftermath and more a deep, realistic, and dizzying sense of the time. The book was not created with promoting "war awareness" as a primary goal, which is probably what makes it so realistic. War is not clear-cut and easily described in a narrative with a traditional beginning, middle, and end. Full of jagged edges, The Fixer reads like the equivalent of a roomful of broken mirrors.

    In his novel To the End of the Land, Israeli author Grossman serves up a powerful meditation on war, friendship, and family. Instead of celebrating her son Ofer’s discharge from the Israeli Army, Ora finds her life turned upside down and inside out when he reenlists and is sent back to the front for a major offensive. Unable to bear the thought of sitting alone waiting for the “notifiers” to bring her bad news, the recently separated Ora decides to hike in the Galilee, where she will be both anonymous and inaccessible. Joined by her estranged best friend and former lover Avram, a recluse who never recovered from the brutality he experienced as a POW during the Yom Kippur War, she narrates the story of her doomed marriage to Ilan and her often arduous journey as a mother. As the tension mounts, she talks compulsively about Ofer, as if telling his story will protect him and keep him alive for both herself and for Avram, the biological father he has never met. As Ora and Avram travel back and forth through time via shared memories, the toll exacted by living in a land and among a people constantly at war is excruciatingly evident. Grossman, whose own son was killed during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, writes directly from the heart in this scorching antiwar novel.

    Mario Vargas Llosa's The War of the End of the World is set in nineteenth-century Brazil. In the midst of the economic decline in the Northeastern province of Bahia — following drought and the end of slavery — the poor of the backlands are attracted by the charismatic figure and simple religious teachings of Antonio Conselheiro, the Counselor, who preaches that the end of the world is imminent and that the political chaos that surrounds the collapse of the Empire of Brazil and its replacement by a republic is the work of the devil.

    Seizing a hacienda in an area blighted by economic decline at Canudos, the Counselor's followers build a large town and defeat repeated and ever larger military expeditions designed to remove them. As the state's violence against them increases they too turn increasingly violent, even seizing the modern weapons deployed against them. In an epic final clash a whole army is sent to extirpate Canudos and instigates a terrible and brutal battle with the poor while politicians of the old order see their world destroyed in the conflagration.

    (Photo courtesy of Max Tosic)

    Off the Shelf (10)

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

    By Jacques Pépin

    Mmmm! Delicious! Jacques Pepin infuses his autobiography, Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, with the flavours and aromas of good cooking, starting from his youngest years and ending with his maturity as an internationally famous chef. The Pepin family lived food; through generations everyone worked in the family restaurants

    Jacques’ extraordinary mother started her first restaurant in a dilapidated building immediately after WWII. Several times, over many years, she repeated her miracle of creating a popular restaurant from the ashes of a failed business. From birth Jacques learned to appreciate simple ingredients prepared with care and economy.

    At that time, however, professional French cooking demanded meticulous technique, a multiplicity of ingredients, and strict adherence to recipes. Before he was even out of short pants, Jacques began his long apprenticeship at the bottom – referred to as “P’tit!” or “Kid” – running and fetching at lightning speed. He loved it all, and he tantalizes the reader’s taste buds with his luscious descriptions of the dishes prepared in the kitchens of his apprenticeship. He also loved practical jokes and played them on other apprentices and even senior chefs. When one particular chef couldn’t take it, Jacques turned his harsh reprimand into the impetus to find a more prestigious kitchen and even better learning experiences. Through the system of apprenticeship, Pepin became an outstanding traditional French chef.

    Finally, he journeyed to the United States and his culinary mental set changed forever. Gradually he incorporated new concepts and techniques into his repertoire. Astoundingly, he loved his time cooking for the Howard Johnson organization, and when the founder died, he mourned both the man and his lost legacy of tasty frozen foods. With extensive knowledge of how to prepare delicious ingredients for both formal dishes and home cooking, he followed his mother’s example by opening his own restaurant. Ever seeking new adventures, he cooked on TV in the early days of cooking shows, most notably exchanging anecdotes on air with Julia Child.

    Jacques Pepin is a lively person and a lively writer. The foods he described made my mouth water. The recipes that accompany his story made me want to cook. French cooking was never so enticing.

    Judith Umbach

    A Book Snob Recommends

    by Jasna - 3 Comment(s)

    I am conflicted. I believe Why Read Moby Dick? By Nathaniel Philbrick is an important book that everyone over the age of eighteen should read, but it is also a book that I wish was better than it is.

    In my opinion Moby Dick is the most important novel ever written, but I have always had difficulty explaining why I feel this way. I am grateful to Philbrick for elegantly arguing that the novel transcends the time it was written in and has relevancy, even urgency, to those us living one hundred and sixty years after its original publication. This alone makes me recommend it, although I still do not feel completely satisfied. I do not think Philbrick is convincing enough that a non-believer would be won over. Since the only people I know who want to read this book have already read Moby Dick – and loved it – it makes me think perhaps he was right to adopt a “preaching to the choir” approach, but I still wish it reached out more to the unconverted. I also found the book to be a compilation of unrelated points rather than an artful construction where each point supports a central argument.

    While I greatly enjoyed the passages about Melville’s friendship with Nathanial Hawthorne, I don’t see how they strengthen the argument Moby Dick is a great book. On the one hand he writes (correctly, I think) that Melville’s genius was having the prescience to create a novel that would become more relevant with the passing of time. Exactly! Why then does he spend so much time discussing the historical context the novel was written in? To repeat: Moby Dick transcends the Nineteenth Century and its many messages are more important in 2011 than they were in 1851. So less about what some editor in New York in 1851 had to say and more about what a cab driver in Calgary in 2011 can learn from the book.

    Philbrick also makes the common mistake of portraying Moby Dick as The Great American Novel. Moby Dick is so much more than that! It’s not only about America but all humankind – the relationship of all humanity to God and Nature - and it needs to be read by all of us who are the crew of this fragile boat called Earth.

    In short, Philbrick did not go far enough.

    Ultimately, for all its universality, Moby Dick is a book that speaks to its readers individually. By reading Why Read Moby Dick I learned what the novel has to say to Nathaniel Philbrick, and while some of it overlaps with my own experience of the book, it may or may not have anything to do with what Moby Dick has to say to you.

    So, should you read Why Read Moby Dick? Yes, you should. But it’s even more important that you read Moby Dick.

    Tyler Jones


    by Shannon S - 0 Comment(s)

    Calgary-born Esi Edugyan is the winner of the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel, Half-Blood Blues!

    Her win was announced at a gala ceremony in Toronto on November 8, 2011 and broadcast on CBC Television.

    Of Half-Blood Blues, the jury wrote:

    "Imagine Mozart were a black German trumpet player and Salieri a bassist, and 18th century Vienna were WWII Paris; that's Esi Edugyan's joyful lament, Half-Blood Blues. It's conventional to liken the prose in novels about jazz to the music itself, as though there could be no higher praise. In this case, say rather that any jazz musician would be happy to play the way Edugyan writes. Her style is deceptively conversational and easy, but with the simultaneous exuberance and discipline of a true prodigy. Put this book next to Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" – these two works of art belong together." from:

    The Scotiabank Giller Prize is awarded annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. The award was established in 1994 by Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller.

    2011 marked the 18th year of the prize. Why don’t you check out some of the past winners of the Scotiabank Giller Prize:

    2010 Winner:

    The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

    2009 Winner:

    The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre

    2008 Winner:

    Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

    2007 Winner:

    Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

    2006 Winner:

    Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

    Looking for more Award Winning Reads? Why don’t you contact your local library or try NoveList. Did you know that your Calgary Public Library card gives you access to this great database full of ideas for what to read next? If you want to use this resource for great reads, just click here and log on with your Calgary Public Library card.


    by Shannon S - 0 Comment(s)

    Lots of people love disaster novels. What’s not to love –they’re often filled with drama and high stakes. Whether they show people dealing with the unfolding disaster or living in its aftermath, there is something compelling that always makes you think about how good you’d be in that situation. Would you have what it takes to survive? Here are a few of our favourite disaster reads – what are yours?

    The Strain by Author Guillermo del Toro

    A vampiric virus infects New York and spreads outward, threatening the city and then the world, as a CDC doctor and a Holocaust survivor fight to save humanity.

    Blindness by José Saramago

    A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" whose victims are confined to a vacant mental hospital, while a single eyewitness to the nightmare guides seven oddly assorted strangers through the barren urban landscape.

    The Plague by Albert Camus

    Chaos prevails when the bubonic plague strikes the Algerian coastal city of Oran.

    The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    In a novel set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity.

    The Stand by Stephen King

    A monumentally devastating plague leaves only a few survivors in a desert world who move toward the ultimate confrontation of good and evil, in the expanded original version of King's novel.

    *Annotations courtesy of NoveList, a database that recommends fiction and non-fiction books by author, plot, setting and topic and includes book reviews.

    If you want to use this resource for great reads, just click here and log on with your Calgary Public Library card.