Must-Reads of Summer 2017

Double your pleasure! Our Featured Titles – Summer 2017 edition has double the usual goodness.

We think there’s a lot to love here. 

FICTION:  We’ve got the fun of Kevin Kwan (remember Crazy Rich Asians?), another Nina George “Paris” title, some first rate mystery with Anthony Horowitz’ Magpie Murders and The Marsh King’s Daughter, a father and daughter tale that brings murder close to home. Julia Glass is back with a beautiful book about an artist who is a fictionalized Maurice Sendak. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the first new book from Arundhati Roy since her acclaimed novel The God of Small Things (it’s off to a roaring start – yes, we’re getting more copies!). Then there’s the buzz surrounding The Essex Serpent in which two unlikely characters are brought together by a common idea (note, this is not a fantasy novel, even though there’s a mythical monster that gets the headlines). We’re rooting for the debut novel Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore (who can resist a bookstore after hours?) and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The Wanderers should appeal to folks who got caught up in the story of The Martian by Andy Weir.

NON-FICTION:  Imagine not being allowed to drive on account of being a woman.  Manal Al-Sharif shares the consequences of Daring to Drive in Saudi Arabia. What summer would be complete without baseball – take a summer stroll to the ball diamond with Baseball Life Advice from Stacey May Fowles. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is hitting all the right notes and sure to be popular here in Waterloo. Billy Bishop’s story is told by Diana Bishop in Living Up to a Legend. We’ve got history (Churchill & Orwell) the space race (Apollo 8) and some behavioural economics (Everybody Lies) – always interesting. Feast is a beautiful cookbook that is the product of a cross-Canada-food-love-expedition. You may want your own copy once you spend a little time with it. The Bright Hour and Driving Miss Norma both face the end of life, one with reflection (what makes a meaningful life?) and one with a bucket-list kind-of-a-road trip. If humour is what’s called for, maybe try: Would Everybody Please Stop?

Check out the full list of Featured Titles – Summer 2017 edition today!






Living a life filled with joy

Who’s looking for more joy in their lives? Maybe a better question is: who isn’t?

The Book of Joy is, well, a joy. The book came about when Desmond Tutu went to visit his old friend the Dalai Lama in 2015. They spent five days together, celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday (Desmond Tutu is four years older) and also discussing joy, specifically how people can feel more joy.

Desmond Tutu is an Anglican archbishop from South Africa. He is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate (as is the Dalai Lama) and is particularly known for promoting peace and reconciliation. I won’t ID the Dalai Lama, as I think everyone on the entire planet knows who he is.

I loved how the two spiritual leaders relate to each other. They laugh and tease each other – a lot.

Levity aside, when the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu speak, you can feel their utter sincerity and heartfelt compassion for all beings. I felt their words in a very tangible way.

So what, you ask, is the answer to finding joy in a world filled with so much suffering? You’ve probably guessed it’s not about money, having a big house or driving a flashy car.

No, the Buddhist and Anglican leader believe that real happiness – not the fleeting kind, not the kind that is based on fortuitous circumstances – lies in our connection to others. Thus they deeply value friendship, and also being concerned for the well-being of others.  They also offer specific practices (on compassion, generosity and gratitude, for example) to increase joy.

This is a book brimming with warmth and wisdom – and joy too. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

–Penny D.

My DIY Project: A Domestic Scrapbook

I’ve been patrolling the library shelves, looking for a good DIY book, for a few weeks now. When I finally spotted Crafting a Meaningful Home by Meg Mateo Ilasco, I knew it was going to be a good one.

This book focuses on DIY projects that celebrate family heritage, memories and storytelling. In her introduction, Ilasco talks about how our homes tell the story of who we are. She describes our homes as “domestic scrapbooks that evolve over time as our lives progress.” The more meaningful the objects in the home, the richer the domestic scrapbook. This sentiment is a breath of fresh air in an age of minimalism and de-cluttering.

The book goes on to look at different individuals and how they have built their domestic scrapbooks. Each project is preceded with a story about why the DIY project was meaningful to the creator. The stories were just the right length to get a sense of how the DIY project could introduce meaning into the reader’s home. Although you could skip over the stories, I really enjoyed reading them.

Some of the projects were a bit hokey, but I thought a lot of them were great ideas. My personal favourites were the Vintage Fabric Display, the Memory Wall, and the Two-Family Crest. Another project that interested me (and more importantly, was at my skill level) was the City Rubbings. For this project you do rubbings of raised surfaces in your cities (e.g. signs, architectural elements etc.) and layer them into a collage. In order to really put this book through it’s paces, I figured that I had to give one of the projects a go, so I tried my luck with City Rubbings. Here’s how it went:

I started my City Rubbings project at The Artstore in Uptown Waterloo to gather my supplies. Along with paper, the book told me that I needed graphite sticks, wax crayons, or coloured pastels. I bought charcoal sticks. I learned very quickly that although charcoal looks an awful lot like graphite, it’s not the same thing. More on that later…

Armed with my supplies, I walked through the construction of UpTown with my eyes peeled for any raised signage or plaques. I finally found a heritage plaque at the old post office at King and Dupont.

Heritage Plaque

The Conestoga Wagon is a pretty iconic symbol of this region, so I was anxious to get a rubbing of it. This is when I realized how much charcoal smears. Here’s how attempt number one turned out:

Attempt 1

Not great, I know.

After multiple attempts and multiple failures to get a clear image, I realized that I would have better luck with a bigger sign. Fortunately, there was a bigger sign on the same building. After a quick and somewhat successful test on that, it was clear that we had to find a bigger sign. Knowing that we had exhausted the options in Uptown, we trooped over to Waterloo Park.

We found some great pieces to do rubbings of, including the City of Waterloo crest, but over and over there were problems with the charcoal smearing. At this point, it hadn’t yet occurred to me that I should reread the directions and use the appropriate materials.

With the rain threatening to fall, I went home slightly defeated. I opened up the book again and finally took another look at the directions. It was then that I realized my need for graphite sticks (and the importance of following instructions). The next day I acquired some graphite sticks and was ready to face the project again. This day I took a new approach. I started doing rubbings of objects in my home, and I landed on the jackpot: my bookshelf. Who knew embossed books made the best rubbings?

Here are some close-ups of the embossed sections that I used:

Embossed Covers

Following the collage instructions in the book, I began making my masterpieces *ahem* by combining the different textures. Here’s what I came up with:

Rubbings 1&2

It was actually a lot of fun. I felt like I was redesigning book covers. When I finally settled on one that I liked, I framed it and put it on the wall with some other photos.

Framed Rubbing

Although you have to be close to appreciate the design, I like the simplistic pattern I landed on. I did deviate from the book a bit, but I love the idea of shining a light on the ornamental details of book-binding that often get lost in the bookshelves. Was this the best project that I’ve ever done? Probably not. But will I enjoy this hanging on my wall for a few months? Most definitely.

Overall, I think this book has a lot to offer, especially if you read the directions. If you’re interested in making a DIY project that’s more than a disposable paper flower, I’d encourage you to check out this book.

Four out of five stars.

–Jenna H.

Life in the ER

In his latest book, Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine, celebrated humanitarian Dr. James Maskalyk has provided a fascinating and sometimes discouraging account of life in emergency rooms in Toronto and Ethiopia. Mingled throughout this portrayal are peeks into his relationship with his hunter/trapper grandfather who is in deteriorating health himself since the death of Dr. Maskalyk’s grandmother. The common thread in both of these narratives is the incredible strength of the human spirit in the face of crisis.

He begins with the basics, the “ABC’s of medicine”, and moves through the alphabet of ER necessities. A for Airway, B for Breathing, C for Circulation….if we can’t get those back in working order, there is not much else to do. Interspersed through the book, you’ll pick up interesting facts on how the body operates and how it tries to compensate for lost functions.

But the real story lies in the emergency rooms themselves and the relentless pressure on the medical teams that try to resuscitate, comfort, heal, and repair the broken bodies that flow endlessly through the ER doors. You can feel the frustration, exhaustion and despair whether in the supply starved ER in Addis Ababa or the state-of-the-art trauma centre in Toronto.  

He reveals the irony that in spite of a lack resources, such as modern operating rooms and diagnostic tools, emergency care in impoverished parts of the world may be at times more humane and heartfelt. Some of the most profound healing happens when all one has to offer is one’s kindness and compassion.  

Dr. Maskalyk portrays very well the grinding hopelessness that eventually drives some talented medical personnel from this kind of work. And yet, in spite of it all, he shows us that there are glimpses of hope and that trying again is what really matters.

-Nancy C.

Your summer reading list

My birthday comes at the best time of the year – the end of May when the rosewood tree in my backyard is in perfect bloom and the big books of summer are hitting the shelves.

Even though I work in the library there is nothing I like to own more than my books. I have a tiny library in my house with shelves double-stacked with books I’ve read and more books that I’ve yet to get to. I’ll get to them and as I walk past my shelves – at home and at work – I touch the spines of the ones I’ve loved and say hello to the others I can’t wait to read. 

So what am I excited about? I want to share with you my birthday book haul which has turned out to be the perfect list for summer and are all available at WPL.

Chemistry by Weike Wang – This is the book I grabbed first and devoured. It’s a tiny book, not- even 200 pages and it’s a perfect balance of happy and sad. The main character is at a crossroads, she doesn’t want to finish her PhD despite the possibility of losing her parents if she doesn’t and she isn’t as ready for marriage as her overly perfect fiance. This book could read as a quirky description of a young woman finding herself but it’s so much more. The story gets deeper and deeper as you read it, and it’s smart and very funny. It’s realistic and easy to carry around.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy – I have loved Maile (pronounced Miley) every since I read her Apothecary Trilogy years ago – a series about fantastic children with magical powers during the cold-war, written for middle grade readers. She writes amazing short stories and her newest novel is supposedly being hailed the book of the summer. It is about a family holiday gone terribly wrong, a thriller so smart that despite the title, I’ve heard you will definitely need to become alarmed. I can’t wait to read it!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – I’m reading this one now and it’s wonderful! I still give Towles first novel, “Rules for Civility” out at the library whenever someone asks me for the best thing to read. It will  forever grace my top ten reading list. This newest novel is the story of a man in the 1920s who is exiled from all of Russia except one grand hotel where he must live out his life, and he is only in his thirties when it begins. It is a story of friendships and the daily surprises that we tend to take for granted. My favourite description so far is of how he loves and notices the change of seasons without ever stepping outside:  “..the temperature had climbed four and a half degrees which culminates in hints of mint in cucumber soups, lavender blouses at elevator doors and midday deliveries of tiger lilies two feet tall.”

 Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan – A new author for me and I’ll admit I don’t know much about this book except that it is about sisters, one who is a nun, secrets and love. The cover is gorgeous and when I devour it, Sullivan has two other novels that are also supposedly just as wonderful.

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron – This book is perhaps the most intriguing of them all. After her runaway success, “The Bear”, Canada’s Cameron has written has written a novel that shares the points of view of two protagonists – a modern day archaeologist and the last ever neanderthal, a teenage girl. If that’s not enough to get you reading along with me, I don’t know what else I have to do! 

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha – There are two of these gems and I have now been given both from my nine year old son. We love to cuddle together and read the tidbits of goodness this book has to offer. How great is the feeling of discovering there is one Smartie left in the box after all, or how perfect is it to go to bed with clean sheets. Like the Gentleman in Moscow, who doesn’t need to sit and appreciate the little and best things in our days?  My other son gave me a mug that says “Reading is Sexy” and I don’t doubt this for a moment.


–Sarah C.


The great Jeffrey Tambor

When I’m working here at the library and someone asks me how I am feeling I almost always answer “great” or “fantastic” because really, it is always a fabulous day when you work in a public library. Still, once in a while, I think about my eventual retirement and those thoughts turn to working in a bookstore. Doesn’t that just sound perfect?  So for research purposes I keep tabs on a few bookstores through their newsletters and social media and was so excited to learn that the actor Jeffrey Tambor is part owner of a wonderful shop in Los Angeles. It’s called Skylight and they have the coziest little spot there with a neighbourhood vibe that comes across in their website and through their promotional material.

Another favourite shop of mine is owned by author Louise Erdrich (the most recent book you will find of hers on our shelves is the fifth book in her series for children called Makoons but if you missed her 2016 novel for adults, LaRose, you should go back and enjoy it right now) and it’s a treat of a bookshop in Minneapolis. Actually, it’s not just a store that sells books. Birchbark Books sells “good books, native arts and jewelry” and is also a community hub. It’s another vibrant website that is worth visiting regularly for their great book vibe and cheerful photographs of the dogs that are connected with staff and visitors to the store.

Several other authors have connections to bookstores and this isn’t surprising at all.  Judy Blume has a splendid community hub in Key West that hosts great author readings that you dream about attending in flip flops while carrying a suitable iced drink ( and the ever delightful Ann Patchett has a crew of amazing booksellers in Nashville at Parnassus Books where you know you would spend hours making friends with books, booksellers and the furry creatures who visit there. I have a special place in my heart for a store in Plainville, Mass. Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney opened his store, called An Unlikely Story, in a town of less than 9,000 by turning an old building into a bookstore, café, gift shop and a large meeting space that is used for yoga classes, community events and some of the best author readings I have ever seen.  It’s almost painful to get their newsletter as you see how many authors make the trip to Jeff Kinney’s store to read – they must all love this guy or just be a part of that wonderful literary feeling they have there. Now that is a reason to take a road trip!

And, speaking of great author visits, Jeffrey Tambor was a guest at his own bookstore when he launched his memoir Are you anybody? in May of this year. That would have been a wonderful, welcoming crowd even though at this point in his career, I think he and his family of young children are living in New York City. Tambor began his career on Broadway but has had small roles in many of the iconic TV shows of the late 70s and early 80s like “Taxi” and “Starsky & Hutch”.  Do you remember him from “The Ropers”?  I absolutely do.  He is still stopped on the street for that part even though most recently he is playing George Sr. & Oscar Bluth in “Arrested Development” and was also the incredible Maura Pfefferman in “Transparent”.  There is no way anyone will forget that part. People will stop him on the street to talk about that show for decades. Just imagine having such an incredible career. Well, you don’t have to imagine this because you can read about it in this outstanding book.

This is a memoir I would have missed if I hadn’t received an e-mail about it from Skylight books and I am so thrilled to have read it. Jeffrey Tambor has been a lifelong presence on the big and small screen (you should have a look at his CV on – you have to keep scrolling and scrolling through it) and so many of the parts he has played have stayed with me. His face and his voice stand out in each production he has done and reading his memories and how grateful he is for each opportunity was quite a treat. He’s an actor, not a writer, so the pacing of the book floats around a bit but you get a real sense of his personality far more than you would if he had used a ghost writer or if this were a celebrity memoir which had been ‘told to’ someone else and had all of the fun massaged out of it. I think this might be a book I’ll choose to buy. I just can’t decide which of my favourite bookstores to order it from.

–Penny M.


A young Italian hero

“Life is change, constant change, and unless we are lucky enough to find comedy in it, change is nearly always a drama, if not a tragedy.  But after everything, and even when the skies turn scarlet and threatening, I still believe that if we are lucky enough to be alive, we must give thanks for the miracle of every moment of every day, no matter how flawed” spoken by Pino Lella in Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

Writing Beneath a Scarlet Sky literally saved the author’s life. In the preface, Mark Sullivan writes openly about a time in his life when he was so low he considered crashing his car. He decided instead to go to a dinner party, where he heard an old story about a young hero that completely changed his life.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky is based on the true story of Pino Lella, who, at 17, wants nothing more than to meet a girl and fall in love. However, it is 1943 and not only is Nazi Germany in Milan where Pino lives, but the Allies start dropping bombs on the city every night.  I am a huge fan of WWII fiction but, until this book, I had never read anything from the Italian point of view. I feel Beneath a Scarlet Sky does a good job describing the struggles within Italy between the Nazis, Fascists, Partisans, and later, the Allies.

The reader will be drawn to Pino’s idealism and passion for his homeland and all those who are suffering. This young man clearly sees the cruelty and injustice around him and acts upon it, while many of the adults seem too full of hatred or too afraid.  Each task that Pino takes on is more dangerous than the last, and he witnesses and endures more heartbreak than anyone at any age should.  It is sad to wonder if he keeps going on because of the resiliency of his youth, or because he lived in a time when there was no other choice.

There was only one part of the book I found slow, but I think the detail was necessary to truly appreciate the peril that follows. Similar to Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See I found myself thinking about the characters and the story days after I finished reading it, giving thanks for the miracle of a young man named Pino Lella.

-Sandy W.


Drop in for a book chat

Please join us for a book club conversation at any of our meetings. No need to sign up – you can just drop in!

How to Bake Pi : An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng

Monday, June 12 – 7:00pm – Main Library Auditorium

What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? In How to Bake Pi , math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics, powered, unexpectedly, by insights from the kitchen: we learn, for example, how the bechemel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard.

Combined with her infectious enthusiasm for cooking and a true zest for life, Cheng’s perspective on math becomes this singular book: a funny, lively, and clear journey through a vast territory no popular book on math has explored before. How to Bake Pi offers a whole new way to think about a field all of us think we know; it will both dazzle the constant reader of popular mathematics and amuse and enlighten even the most hardened math-phobe. So, what is math? Let’s look for the answer in the kitchen.

Punishment by Linden MacIntyre

Thursday, June 15 – 1:30pm – Main Library Auditorium

In Punishment , his first novel since completing his Long Stretch trilogy, Scotiabank Giller-winner Linden MacIntyre brings us a powerful exploration of justice and vengeance, and the peril that ensues when passion replaces reason, in a small town shaken by a tragic death. Forced to retire early from his job as a corrections officer in Kingston Penitentiary, Tony Breau has limped back to the village where he grew up to lick his wounds, only to find that Dwayne Strickland, a young con he’d had dealings with in prison is back there too-and once again in trouble. Strickland has just been arrested following the suspicious death of a teenage girl, the granddaughter of Caddy Stewart, Tony’s first love. Tony is soon caught in a fierce emotional struggle between the outcast Strickland and the still alluring Caddy. And then another figure from Tony’s past, the forceful Neil Archie MacDonald-just retired in murky circumstances from the Boston police force-stokes the community’s anger and suspicion and an irresistible demand for punishment. As Tony struggles to resist the vortex of vigilante action, Punishment builds into a total page-turner that blindsides you with twists and betrayals.

You can find more information about WPL Book Clubs here or contact Christine Brown at 519-886-1310 ext. 146.

Hooked on Trevor Noah

When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show I was bereft. I did so love his witty, honest commentary and I had never heard of this ‘Trevor Noah’ guy who would replace him. But I needn’t have worried. Noah quickly became one of my favourite ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ comedic commentators on current events and I wanted to know more about him.

In his book, through a series of vignettes, Noah shows his readers what life was like for him as a bi-racial child, who never felt like he really fit in, during post-Apartheid South Africa. He shares funny, loving, awkward and negative aspects of his childhood and many of his descriptions of the harsh realities of living in South Africa at that time will hit you like a punch in the gut. He was a self-proclaimed troublemaker as a child and teenager and some of his antics made me want to yell “What were you thinking?!?” He definitely liked to stir things up.


“The names of the kids with detention were announced at every assembly, and I was always one of them. Always. Every single day. It was a running joke. The prefect would say, ‘Detentions for today…’ 

and I would stand up automatically. It was like the Oscars and I was Meryl Streep.” 

I respect his brutal honesty and I love, love, LOVED the special, yet often complicated, bond he had with his mother — the ultra-religious, determined, fierce, rebellious woman who wanted so much more for her son. Though a few of her parenting methods may surprise some, her deep love for her son is indisputable.


She’d say things to me like, “It’s you and me against the world.” I understood even from an early age that we weren’t just mother and son. We were a team.”


Growing up I learned about Apartheid in school but I know I only got the bare gist of it. In stark contrast, Noah brings a human side to the economic and social aspects of segregation, hatred and the blatant violation of human rights and basic decency that one group committed against so many others.


“Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared 

language says ‘We’re the same.’ A language barrier says ‘We’re different.’ The architects of 

apartheid understood this. Part of the effort to divide black people was to make sure 

we were separated not just physically but by language as well…The great thing about 

language is that you can just as easily use it to do the opposite: convince people 

that they are the same. Racism teaches us that we are different because of the color of our skin. 

But because racism is stupid, it’s easily tricked.”  


“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”


Before reading this book, I was already a fan of Trevor Noah. I enjoyed his honest yet humorous approach to current events. He’s obviously a well-informed and funny guy but, after reading this book, I have a better understanding of where he comes from. Trevor Noah will make you laugh, cry and give you much to think about. The hype surrounding this book is duly given. I highly recommend this book. 


–Laurie P.

Happy Anniversary, Sgt. Pepper

“It was twenty years ago today,

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…”

Correction, make that 50 years ago. That’s when, on June 1, 1967, after months in the recording studio the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, perhaps the greatest LP of all time.

Predictably, several re-issue packages are coming out soon – they might be worth a listen. Better yet, I suggest you grab yourself a copy of the original album. Take a good look at that cool, iconic cover. How many of those faces in the crowd can you recognize, or make a guess at?

Now the music. Some of the highlights for me are:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (the song): I love the rockin’ guitar and horns on this, the opening song of the album. Also, the sound effects (the emcee, the talking/laughter of the crowd) meant to re-create a live band’s performance.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!: Love that whirly, swirly sound to invoke the circus.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds: The imagery of the lyrics will blow your socks off – “tangerine trees,” “marmalade skies,” “plasticine porters with looking glass ties.” Just wow.

And the undoubted highlight, A Day in the Life. John Lennon had most of a song (“I read the news today, oh boy…”),  and Paul McCartney had an incomplete one, consisting of just a few lines (“woke up, fell out of bed…”). So they cobbled the two together, joined by that magnificent orchestral piece that starts off at the lowest note and rises to the highest. A masterpiece, pure and simple.

So go ahead and have a listen (or re-listen) to Sgt. Pepper.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

–Penny D.