Book Clubs @ WPL

I recently had the chance to facilitate one of the WPL Book Clubs as the staff person who usually fills that role was ill.  It was an absolute pleasure.  I came away from the hour that I spent with that group of WPL readers feeling more enthusiastic about books than I have in a long time.  And it’s not like I don’t have experience with book clubs. I participate in more than one in my personal life and I passionately follow book discussions online using Goodreads.  I just love book chat.

I think that the difference with this group of people is that they all come to the WPL Book Club with such different perspectives.  Usually book clubs are made up of friends – I was invited to both of my book clubs by someone who knows me well – and you tend to have similar life experiences so your discussions can be pleasant and chatty but very much same old, same old.  In the WPL Book Club the participants are all attending because of the convenience of the location and not because they know each other in their personal lives, so the conversation was much more diverse and stimulating.

Each discussion question we covered brought multiple perspectives and it was invigorating.  We were discussing Ami McKay’s book The Witches of New York so there was ample opportunity to discuss spiritualism, midwifery, medicine, the depth of the research that the author had done into the time period, the role of the independent women at the centre of the story and witchcraft, of course.  What a great book!  We ended up discussing the role of women in the workplace in the last half century, touching on the Waterloo area in particular. We found our way to speaking about nursing and midwifery and even chatted about experiences with the spirit world.  The hour went by so quickly I was surprised when it was time for us to close up our books.

Some participants have been coming to the WPL Book Club for years, a few for decades, and others were new arrivals to the group but everyone had a chance to share their thoughts about The Witches of New York.  It was very welcoming.  And while not every reader would say that it was their favourite among the author’s books – many preferred The Birth House, her 2006 novel – it did provide so much for us to discuss and a chance for us to talk about novels to read next like Diane Setterfield’s Once Upon a River (because of the nurse character, Rita Sunday) or The Witch of Blackbird Pond which was a Newbery Medal winner in 1959.  It was the best kind of book talk, really, because we came away with other ideas of what we might read next.  I think a few members wrote down some movie titles as well. It was a jam-packed hour.

If it sounds like a wonderful time, it was!  And, WPL’s Book Clubs are open to everyone, even if you haven’t been able to attend a session this year, you can jump right in.  They run on Monday evenings and Thursday afternoons at the Main Library and I can tell you from first-hand experience that you will have the best time.  I had so much fun that I almost forgot that I was at work.  Hope to see you here in the library soon!

— Penny M.

The Book of Books

Did you watch the PBS series The Great American Read? It was wonderful. It was a booklover’s delight from beginning to end. The network began promoting it about 6 months before it aired so there was lots of time to get excited about it.

I know that library customers and staff enjoyed the series because I have been a part of some spirited conversations about it. Some of the people I follow online were so passionate about the books that they wished were included that their posts got quite heated. We watched some of it ‘live’ at our house and watched some if it taped but the good news is that all of the episodes are available online and the series’ creators have published a fabulous illustrated book as a companion that we have been flipping through with happiness at our house.

The Book of Books has a page or two dedicated to each of the novels that were featured in the PBS series. Within the entry for each book they include a summary of the book, some text dedicated to the author and interesting tidbits about the publishing history or how the book might have influenced other writing. It’s a meaty little coffee table book with great bonuses like a section of read-alikes and summaries of trends in the reading world. This is a book written for fans of books and authors with each page including something fascinating. On one page they included a photograph of a letter opener that was specially made for Charles Dickens (his book, Great Expectations, was #29 on the final list) out of the paw of his favourite cat “Bob”.

dogThey kicked off the series in May 2018 with a 2-hour special that began in the Library of Congress with host Meredith Vieira encouraging everyone to vote and share their feelings about their favourite books online, perhaps start a book club, maybe even read all 100 books (although she eventually admitted to Diana Gabaldon that she hadn’t read her fabulous series until she started working on this PBS show). I had a lot of fun following the voting and competition online throughout the summer. I loved seeing the shameless things bibliophiles would do to get people to vote for their book. The image above is a plea from someone to request that everyone vote for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (this book was recently defended by a last-minute stand-in at Waterloo Reads : the battle of the books, coincidentally).

The process for The Great American Read began with a national survey of about seven thousand people that narrowed the book choices down to the 100 that PBS used as their final list. The kick-off special featured people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chelsea Clinton, John Green, and Venus Williams sharing their own favourite books and encouraging people to read their book (or any book really) on the list. George R. R. Martin’s pitch for The Great Gatsby almost made me cry. I think that the next time we have a student in the library who isn’t pleased to have been assigned that F. Scott Fitzgerald classic I’ll call up this video and have them watch Martin speak about how the language in the novel has always moved him.

askfmlThis contest and the show they produced put libraries and literacy front and centre and it really felt wonderful to hear people – young and old – say that libraries meant so much to them. I remember loving my little library branch in Hamilton so much and still think that it was the best thing ever that I was never reprimanded for checking out a favourite book more than once. The freedom of the library shelves is such a perfect thing. The Freeport Memorial Library in Freeport, NY created the coolest social media campaign that I’ve seen in a long time with one of their library staffers taking photographs of coworkers, library visitors, and authors in poses that were inspired by their favourite books, adding quotes from the book, and then manipulating them. You really have to check out these inspirational moments on their twitter feed at @ASKFML They are amazing – this is one that they did for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Although the program was called The Great American Read, the final list of 100 books had only fifty-one books set in the U.S.A. and only sixty-four of the authors were American. Flipping through the gorgeous book that they created is a lovely trip through literature – for kids, adults and teens. You will start thinking about other books you might have wanted to include, you might consider re-reading favourites or picking one up that you haven’t read yet. I think that you will end up with a list – keep your pencil and paper handy.

The team at PBS did not limit their choices to literary classics. They included popular authors like Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook was voted #51), Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code made it to #33), and Stephenie Meyer’s Twlight series came in at respectable #73 beating out James Patterson who only made it to #81 for the Alex Cross series (although I’m quite sure he isn’t worried about his popularity). They have details about the original voting process and how the 100 books were determined on the website but we talked about the final list at our house often and I think they did a pretty good job of including a diverse section of books, authors and genres. I was disappointed to note that Madeleine L’Engle was not included in their choices but I think everyone has a pet author that likely didn’t make the cut and, in her introduction, the author notes that some of her favourites were missing from the final list as well. Culling a list to one hundred must have been painful for that team.

The final episode of the show had Meredith Viera and nominated authors, librarians, celebrities and readers on stage talking about the five semi-finalists and counting down from 100 the list of books that had been featured in the previous shows with a little bit of extra time spent on the ‘big five’. I cheered aloud when I learned that there is a convention for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, was thrilled to hear that actor Wil Wheaton feels his wife fills the role of Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings in his life and felt that inviting a Harry Potter superfan onto the stage to talk about the series was spot on – fans have always been loyal to J.K. Rowling and the voting showed this.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird received special attention as they were able to invite the cast and playwright for the Broadway adaptation to discuss the themes of the book and how they are using them to inform their performances. The final book in the top five was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which had an accompanying video filled with people holding copies of the novel, some dressed in period costume, and one enthusiastic fan wearing a shirt that read “I ❤ Mr. Darcy”.  I’m going to look into getting one for myself, to wear here at the library, on casual day.

So, which book took away the big prize? I don’t mind typing it here in this post (spoiler alert!) because it was on so many websites the next day that it was impossible to miss – you can go to their website for the final reveal, if you like – but I’m pretty sure that many of you will have a strong guess of which of those top five would make it to number one. The book with the most votes was Harper Lee’s classic novel from 1960. It led the voting from the first day they opened the polls and never dropped below first place. It was a clear winner in the eyes of people who were participating in the PBS contest and is always a favourite book here at WPL.

I don’t know if I could choose. I always find it very difficult to choose one favourite book. We receive boxes and boxes of new ones here at the library each week and I find something wonderful in those shipments almost every week. I have several that I return to almost every year – some by John Irving (his interview in the PBS series was fabulous!). I have re-read The Stand (#24) more times than I can count and Charlotte’s Web (#7) never fails to cheer me, especially when I hear the recorded book in E.B. White’s own voice.

I think the most enjoyable part of this series was learning how books and libraries impacted individual people. Hearing Margaret Atwood read aloud from Anne of Green Gables (#11) and knowing that she was having difficulty with the emotion behind the words that she was saying as she quoted Marilla felt so special. Only a television show about books could bring this kind of magic alive. I encourage you to pick up this wonderful book, go online and click on a few inspiring snippets of video from PBS, and start a conversation about a book that meant something to you – if you need someone to talk to about that book we’ll be here, at the library.

— Penny M.

Join us at a book club discussion

It is a new year and a wonderful new selection of book club titles awaits. Please feel free to join us for a discussion of the book. No registration required and everyone is welcome.

Date: Monday, January 8th at 7 p.m.

Location: Auditorium, Main Library, 35 Albert Street. Waterloo

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Ned Marriner, fifteen years old, has accompanied his photographer father to Provence for a six-week “shoot” of images for a glossy coffee-table book. Gradually, Ned discovers a very old story playing itself out in this modern world of iPods, cellphones, and seven-seater vans whipping along roads walked by Celtic tribes and the Roman Legions.On one holy, haunted night of the ancient year, when the borders between the living and the dead are down and fires are lit upon the hills, Ned, his family, and his friends, are shockingly drawn into this tale, as dangerous, mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, claiming and changing lives.

Place a hold on a WPL copy of the book here.

Read a review of the book from Quill & Quire here.

Discover information about Aix-en-Provence from Wikipedia here.

 

Date: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:30 p.m.

Location: Boardroom, Main Library, 35 Albert Street. Waterloo

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors. On his 18th birthday, Wolf Truly takes the tramway to the top of the mountain that looms over Palm Springs, intending to jump to his death. Instead he encounters strangers wandering in the mountain wilderness, three women who will change the course of his life. Through a series of missteps he and the women wind up stranded, in view of the city below, but without a way down. They endure five days in freezing temperatures without food or water or shelter, and somehow find the courage to carry on. Wolf, now a grown man, has never told his son, or anyone, what happened on the mountain during those five days, but he can’t put it off any longer. And in telling the story to his only child, Daniel, he at last explores the nature of the ties that bind and the sacrifices people will make for love. The mountain still has a hold on Wolf, composed of equal parts beauty and terror.

Place a hold on a WPL copy of the book here.

Read a review of the book from Globe and Mail here.

Discover how to survive in the wilderness here.

Please feel free to contact Christine Brown at cbrown@wpl.ca or 519-886-1310 ext. 146 with any questions.

Want to talk books?

Join us for book club conversation!

No need to sign up. The WPL Book Clubs have “open” membership, so you can drop in once in a while, or attend every month.

Date and Time: Monday, November 13 at 7 p.m.

Location: Auditorium, Main Library

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

avenueofmysteries

Summary: This is the story of Juan Diego Guerrero (né Rivera), who is either “a kid from Mexico or a grown-up from Iowa,” depending on his mood. As an adult, Juan Diego is a famous writer, a professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop no less, and an international literary sensation. Although he lives a somewhat glamorous life — first-class travel, occasional groupies — he is not entirely happy, owing to the trauma of his childhood. Not that he has disturbing recollections; on the contrary, and as counterintuitive as it seems, Juan Diego is bothered by the lack of them. He is under the influence of two prescription drugs: Viagra, with its obvious benefit, and Lopressor, a beta-­blocker that leaves him feeling “diminished.” Even worse, it robs him of his dreams, the only means by which he can access his memories.

 

Date and Time: Thursday, November 16 at 1:30 p.m.

Location: Board Room, Main Library

A Force for Good by Daniel Goleman

aforceforgood

With the help of his longtime friend Daniel Goleman, the New York Times bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, details the science of compassion and how this singular guiding motivation has the power to :

* break such destructive social forces as corruption, collusion, and bias

* heal the planet by refocusing our concerns toward our impact on the systems that support all life

* reverse the tendency toward systemic inequity through transparency and accountability

* replace violence with dialogue

* counter us-and-them thinking by recognizing human oneness

* create new economic systems that work for everyone, not just the powerful and rich

* design schooling that teaches empathy, self-mastery, and ethics

Millions of people have turned to the Dalai Lama for his unparalleled insight into living happier, more purposeful lives. Now, when the world needs his guidance more than ever, he shows how every compassion-driven human act–no matter how small–is integral for a more peaceful, harmonious world, building a force for a better future.

For more information about WPL Bookd Clubs, contact Christine at cbrown@wpl.ca or 519-886-1310 ext. 146.

Join us at a book club conversation

Please join us for a book club conversation at any of our meetings. No need to sign up – you can just drop in!  This month we are discussing the One Book One Community (OBOC) selection – Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady.  To learn more about OBOC and upcoming related events go to http://oboc.ca

Monday, August 14 at 7 p.m. – Main Library Auditorium

Thursday, August 17 at 1:30 p.m. – Main Library Boardroom

 Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady

How far would a son go to escape his past? And how far will a father go to help him?

With his wicked grin and confident swagger, navy musician Jack Lewis evokes Frank Sinatra whenever he takes the stage. While stationed in Newfoundland during the Second World War, Jack meets Vivian Fanshawe, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock. They marry against the wishes of Vivian’s family—hard to say what it is, but there’s something about Jack they just don’t like—and as the war ends, the couple travels to Windsor, Ontario, to meet Jack’s family.

But when Vivian encounters Jack’s mother and brother, everything she thought she knew about her husband—his motives, his honesty, even his race—is called into question. And as the truth about the Lewis family tree emerges, life for Vivian and Jack will never be the same.

Told from the perspective of three unforgettable characters—Vivian, the innocent newlywed; Jack, her beguiling and troubled husband; and William Henry, Jack’s stoic father—this extraordinary novel explores the cost of prejudice on generation after generation. Steeped in the jazz and big band music of the 1930s and 1940s, this is an arresting, heart-rending novel about fathers and sons, love and denial, and race relations in a world on the cusp of momentous change.

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

 

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.

Come join the conversation

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

The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Monday, May 8th 2017 – 7:00pm – Main Library Auditorium

The only thing Sripathi Rao has been proud of is his daughter, Maya, but he cut off ties with her when she married a fellow student at her American university. When Maya and her husband are killed in a car crash, Sripathi is left with his regrets and Maya’s seven-year-old daughter, Nandana.  It’s a second shot at a life that’s been disappointing so far, but to succeed he must become a better parent than he was to his own daughter, and support his young charge as she struggles to adjust to life in a small town in India.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Thursday, May 18th 2017 – 1:30pm – Main Library Boardroom

Travel to Kenya in the 1920s, where the beautiful young horse trainer, adventurer and aviator Beryl Markham tells the story of her life among the glamorous and decadent circle of British expats living in colonial East Africa – and the complicated love triangle she shared with the white hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. Brought to Kenya as a small child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised both by her father – a racehorse trainer – and the native Kipsigis tribe on her father’s land. Her unconventional upbringing transforms her into a daring young woman, with a love of all things wild, but everything she knows and trusts dissolves when her father’s farm goes bankrupt. Reeling from the scandal and heartbreak, Beryl is catapulted into a disastrous marriage at the age of 16. Finally she makes the courageous decision to break free, forging her own path as a horse trainer and shocking high society in the process. The British colony has never seen a woman as determined and fiery as Beryl. Before long, she catches the eye of the fascinating and bohemian Happy Valley set, including writer Karen Blixen and her lover Denys Finch Hatton, who will later be immortalized in Blixen’s memoir, Out of Africa. The three become embroiled in a complex triangle that changes the course of Beryl’s life, setting tragedy in motion while awakening her to her truest self and her fate: to fly.

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