WPL Book Clubs’ Picks for October

Join us for book club conversation at any meeting. No need to sign up. No need to clean your house. The WPL Book Clubs have “open” membership, so you can drop in once in a while, or come faithfully every month.

Monday, October 21 – Monday Evening Book Club
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
7:00pm – Main Library, Auditorium

21 Lessons For the 21st Century provides a kind of instruction manual for the present day to help readers find their way around the 21st century, to understand it, and to focus on the really important questions of life. Once again, Harari presents this in the distinctive, informal, and entertaining style that already characterized his previous books.

The topics Harari examines in 21 Lessons include major challenges such as international terrorism, fake news, and migration, as well as turning to more personal, individual concerns, such as our time for leisure or how much pressure and stress we can take.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century answers the overarching question: What is happening in the world today, what is the deeper meaning of these events, and how can we individually steer our way through them? The questions include what the rise of Trump signifies, whether or not God is back, and whether nationalism can help solve problems like global warming.

Few writers of non-fiction have captured the imagination of millions of people in quite the astonishing way Yuval Noah Harari has managed, and in such a short space of time. His unique ability to look at where we have come from and where we are going has gained him fans from every corner of the globe. There is an immediacy to this new book which makes it essential reading for anyone interested in the world today and how to navigate its turbulent waters.

Read a review of the book by Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates!)

Goodreads: 4.2* rating and reviews

Just want a summary of the book?  Find it here

Place a hold on a WPL copy of the book, the eBook or on the eAudiobook.

Thursday, October 17 – Thursday Afternoon Book Club
Transatlantic by Colum McCann
1:30 p.m. – Main Library, Boardroom

In 1845, Frederick Douglass, a black American slave, lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine unfurling around him. In 1919, two brave young airmen emerge from the carnage of World War I to pilot the first transatlantic flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to the west of Ireland. In 1998 an American senator criss-crosses the ocean in search of a lasting peace in Ireland.

Taking these stories as his point of departure, Colum McCann weaves together the lives of Douglass, Alcock and Brown, and Senator George Mitchell in a tapestry that is both ambitious and unforgettable.

Goodreads: 3.8* rating and reviews

NY Times review of the book

Place a hold on a WPL copy of the book.

In-Between Days

In-Between Days is a memoir about living with cancer. For people who are sad-averse, this subject matter would be enough to keep them away from this book. Having it presented in a graphic novel format could be the last straw for the reader sitting on the fence. However, I urge you to step outside of your comfort zone and experience this illustrated emotional, spiritual and physical cancer journey that Teva Harrison takes us on.

At the age of 37, Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, a disease that, at the time, was classified as incurable but controllable. Believing that she would be living with this disease as a chronic illness, Teva sought the help of a psychiatrist who worked in the oncology department at her hospital. Talking through her concerns led her to creating drawings of the dark emotions she was experiencing. Her doctor encouraged her to continue with this therapeutic exercise and from that encouragement, this graphic novel was born.

The reader is taken through Teva’s cancer journey from diagnosis through numerous treatments to her eventual acceptance of the incurability of the disease. The illustrations are done in black and white, which allowed her to depict her experience, both starkly and also more-lightheartedly. Visually, the drawings are stunning in their simplistic detail.

We learn of her first meeting with her soul-mate/husband David and the incredibly beautiful way their romance unfolded and the solidity of that relationship through some of Teva’s darkest moments.

Anyone who has experienced a devastating diagnosis of any kind, whether personally or alongside a friend or family member, will understand the oscillating moments of torment and hope that patients experience. The need for connection versus the need to be alone; the need to eat versus the emptiness of hunger; the need to get up and out versus the paralyzing fatigue that makes the smallest movement seem monumental. Harrison walks us through the map of the intimacies of her life with candor and humour. She was blessed with a family of exceptional women and that legacy and support was the steel in her spirit when the days seemed their darkest.

Spoiler alert. I’m not going to lie to you… by the time I reached the end, I really thought/hoped/prayed that Teva’s story would end well. And I think to a certain extent, it likely did insofar as she lived with passion and ferocity, in the face of an uncertain future. I expect that she packed more ‘living’ into her dying days than some people do in their ‘living’ days. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming tale told by a very brave and very talented woman.

— Nancy C.

Leaf Through a Good Book This Autumn

I wonder if Salman Rushdie and Colson Whitehead thought about asking their publishers to put their most recent novels into a drawer for a few months when they learned that Margaret Atwood was releasing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale? The fall publishing season is always so competitive plus they have that upstart, previously sticking with non-fiction, Georgia-born Delia Owens sitting on the NY Times bestseller list for over 50 weeks, and now Mags has more to say about the Republic of Gilead. Poor guys looking at their sales numbers, just feeling glum.

Well, they have a lot more competition on the way. So much more. And it’s all great news for readers! There is an absolute rush of wonderful material coming into the library every week and it’s almost too hard to keep up. Even better news for us – we don’t have to buy any of them. We just place holds, come into the library to ask for suggestions, or browse the shelf and marvel at the treasures. It could not be easier to find something to read this fall.

With her 10th book Emma Donoghue has created a novel that is once again completely different from anything she has written before (and she has written so many good things). A childless widower, Noah, almost 80 years old, agrees to take in his 11-year old great-nephew just as he is planning a trip to Nice. It seems as if it might be a story about an unlikely friendship but becomes something entirely different. Their relationship is surprisingly funny and takes the reader deep into Noah’s family history while he is learning about the future through 11-year old Michael. Akin is a vacation novel that you won’t easily forget.

Usually when reviewers say that a book is ‘ambitious’ I worry they are hinting an author has bitten off more than they can chew with the scope of a novel but with Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) I think a demanding storyline is not a concern. In The Water Dancer the main character, Hiram Walker, is born with a mysterious power he doesn’t fully understand but is able to use in guiding escapees from plantations in the South to freedom in the North. Magical realism combine with historical fact in a novel that is sure to be one of the highlights of this season and we also have it in recorded book format so you can just let the story wash over you.

Author Ami McKay has been sharing tidbits about her memoir Daughter of Family G through posts on her website and recently said that she had recorded an interview with Shelagh Rogers for CBC’s The Next Chapter but I just want to read it. I want to cuddle up in a chair and learn – in the tone that we have all come to love – her family’s story. When I learned that she was publishing this memoir it reminded me of other similar books; The Juggler’s Children and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but they were written after the fact. Ami McKay is researching her family’s legacy of hereditary cancer with the full knowledge that it will have an impact on her health and that of her children. It will be an absolutely fascinating read from a favourite author.

There are other big names publishing this season who just might make Salman and Colson worry a bit before they fall asleep each night. Ann Patchett will be giving us the gift of The Dutch House this fall, Jeanette Winterson has reimagined the Mary Shelley story with Frankissstein, and Elizabeth Strout has written Olive, Again (although maybe we are all thinking of it as ‘Olive, Again!!!’ as we are so happy to see her on the shelves). Perhaps not in the running for a Booker, a Giller (wrong country, I know), or a Pulitzer Stephen King has published another full-length novel called The Institute. It begins in a very small town with the reader falling for a no-nonsense ex-cop named Tim before the action abruptly switches to the workings of a frightening institute. Children are being kidnapped from their homes and tested by scientists in an attempt to learn more about their unusual abilities. Some of the children have telekinetic powers, others can read minds, but they are united in their desire to escape the compound and the horrifying tests. Everything, including the reason for the Institute’s existence, is untwisted at the end (you will see Tim again) but not before you find yourself wishing you had read this book during daylight hours only.

Even if I just leave it on my kitchen table to impress people when they come over I am looking forward to From the Oven to the Table. Just look at that cover. Doesn’t that look like a book someone would check out if they were an incredibly impressive home cook? In 2018 the author published the absolutely sublime How to Eat a Peach which I was sure I would use for more than the desserts (I never did) but I loved checking it out of the library more than once just to allow myself to imagine I could cook fish that way (instead of the same three ways I always do it). This new cookbook promises quick recipes for dinner after work and substantial dishes we can use to charm our friends. I like to do both of these things! Friends and food sound so good to me when the weather starts to get colder. This is one of the many new cookbooks that will be on the shelves to tempt me this fall. Keep them coming, I am ready.

Keep all of the gorgeous books coming, I really can’t wait.

— Penny M.

Odd Recipe. Delicious Cookie.

Recently I had quite a number of cookbooks at home from the library. It was overwhelming, in a good way. Knowing how much my husband loves cookies, I gave him American Cookie by Anne Byrn and asked him to find at least one unusual recipe for me to try. In just minutes he was asking “Have you ever heard of Forgotten Chocolate Cookies?” What? How could a chocolate cookie be forgettable? I just cannot believe that but all was revealed when we read the blurb provided by Byrn.

Forgotten Cookies were named after the baking method for these old fashioned meringue-type delights, not due to the fact that the cookies were so mediocre that they were forgettable. Bakers “back in the day” used to start baking these cookies, then turn off the oven, leaving the cookies inside as the oven cooled. This would dry the cookies and give them the light but chewy texture they are known for.

91JRXYpGxoLApparently there are a myriad of methods of making “Forgotten Cookies”. Some require additional steps like beating the egg whites separately until a certain consistency before adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. The method shared by Byrn, almost an all-in-one, is super easy, seems strange (the method will seem so wrong but it is so right) and the resulting dough is unlike any cookie dough I am familiar with. However, bear with it and you will end up with some amazing, light, rich, super-chocolatey decadent cookies.

I also made a batch of Victorian Ginger Drop Cakes for my colleagues. This tea cake recipe was adapted by Byrn from one featured in Victoria Cakes by Caroline B. King, published in 1941. A contributor to various women’s magazines, King was also the lead US Army dietician in France during WWI. These drop cakes were a favourite from her childhood. The ingredients would vary depending on what her mother had in the pantry.

A colleague of mine, Kerstin, also borrowed American Cookie. Kerstin tried two recipes: the “Joe Frogger” and “The Cowboy Cookie”.  The former is an “adult” gingerbread cookie with rum, although she thought brandy with a sprinkling of sugar on top would be a wonderful alternative. The dough for the Cowboy Cookies was very dry so Kerstin ended up hand-shaping them into mounds rather than using a cookie dough scoop. The cookies held their shape when baked and tasted like a more decadent version of a granola bar.

I really liked Ann Byrn’s book and both Kerstin and myself especially enjoyed the morsels of history shared alongside each recipe. Not only is there a wonderful selection of recipes to choose from, you’ll learn a bit of American food history along the way.

  • Sandi H.

About Those Cookie Sheets

“When I was baking the Joe Frogger cookies I noticed that in the instructions Byrn advised bakers to let the cookie sheets/pans cool before putting more cookie dough onto them. Because I didn’t want to have to wait between batches, I rotated bakes between two different types of cookie sheets. Doing this allowed me to discover that my preferred, insulated cookie sheet is actually not ideal for baking cookies because it takes too long to bake them!  The cookies didn’t rise at all, look anemic and almost tasted raw. In comparison, the cookies that were baked on a traditional, single layer cookie sheet were absolutely lovely. Something to keep in mind when buying your next cookie sheet.”  — Kerstin

Forgotten Chocolate Cookies

2 ¼ c icing sugar
½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp corn starch
Pinch of salt
3 large egg whites
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 c finely chopped pecans

Place rack in centre of oven. Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In large bowl combine icing sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Add egg whites and beat on low to incorporate into the dry ingredients. Increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute or until well combined. Stir in vanilla and pecans.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheet…only 8 per sheet as the cookie spread a lot.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes until shiny and firm on the outside but a little soft inside. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes on the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve or store in airtight containers at room temperature for a week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Tea With Our Bloggers

Meet some of our More Books Please bloggers for tea at the Harper Branch and join in fun discussions about books and more.

John M. Harper Branch
2:00pm to 3:00pm
Registration opens one week before each program

September 30

Tea with Lesley L. Learn about books that are “not just for kids.” Junior/Teen books are great for adults too. Online registration opens September 23.

October 28

Tea with Penny M. She’s sharing her favourite thrillers and horror novels in celebration of the season of fright. Online registration opens October 21.

November 11

Tea with WPL Blogger Sandy W. We’re discussing novels and stories about war and remembrance that you won’t be able to put down. Online registration opens November 4.

December 2

Tea with Jenna H. Discover how to read like a writer. Online registration opens November 25.

When “Back to School” Means “Off to University”

We started preparing for the start of the new school year in a very different way than any year before because one of our kids was making a bigger change than normal – with a school year that involved moving out of the house and into a university residence – so some of the things we usually fit into our new school year planning had to be adjusted.

It turns out that packing your first child up to send them off to university is a lot more involved than I first thought and I was relieved to use the resources of WPL to get it done more easily (some of the research could even be done from the comfort of my own dining room table when I used our Digital Library – super cozy). It’s far too early to say whether or not things have gone well but I feel like we’ve done our best. Here are some of the best things we used to get ‘ready’.

It was helpful to read both fiction and non-fiction about this topic because any time I found myself thinking back to what my university years were like I would realize things like my own cell phone had been the same size as a men’s dress shoe and textbooks back then were still made of paper so I really needed to get some idea of the kind of pressure a modern university student is under. I can recommend Jean Hanff Korelitz’ Admission, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, and My Oxford Year which gave me an idea of what contemporary university life is like. An unexpected bonus came our way through the memoir by American disability rights advocate Haben Girma which is absolutely non-fiction but reads so beautifully it is like a witty, best friend novel. She is just telling you her captivating story of growing up in California, attending a small college in Oregon, and deciding to go to law school, and it’s as good as any YA novel out there. A wonderful picture of college life.

We also found many solid resources that focused on student mental health, finances, academic success, making new friends, choosing a career path, separating from home and family, potential romantic difficulties… I almost can’t keep typing… it’s really too much. Each year Maclean’s publishes their guide to universities in Canada with a survey of almost 50 schools and over 24 thousand students – it’s a great source and we receive the updated guide every year here at the library. My absolute favourite (I quoted it a few times, read it aloud at mealtimes, it became a bit of a ‘thing’ for the kids to tease me about but it really helped) among the books that I read was called Letting Go : a parents’ guide to understanding the college years because it included anecdotes from students, university staff, and parents. It was written by two college advisors in the U.S. and I found myself thinking about sections in this book often. I’m sure that it saved me from making some unwise choices during the weeks leading up to our last days of summer.

In school years past we would usually hit the cookbooks and find new meals to try in the first weeks of September but this year we were looking at food in a different way. We were helping our university-aged student prepare for the co-op term that will arrive in four very short months. Although we started with very elaborate ideas of what a university student’s perfect meal will look like (what were we thinking?) in the end we decided that it is more realistic to choose meals that are tasty and easy to prepare. We had success with a few cookbooks and have even added some of their recipes to the family rotation – Kevin Curry’s Fit Men Cook : 100 meal-prep recipes for men and women and The 5-minute Salad Lunchbox were our top two for realistic ingredients and flavour. In Kevin Curry’s book he provides a whole plan for approaching food and meal prep and, despite the use of the word ‘men’ in the title, we all found it useful.

During the last days of prep for her final move in day all I could focus on was reading cozy mysteries and I’m so pleased that I found a really good series on the shelves that had absolutely nothing to do with universities, children, packing, or choosing a career. It was all about two women who run a gingerbread cookie-baking business in a small murder-filled town outside of Washington, D.C. It’s so much fun (other than the murders) and it included a few lovely recipes to try. Just distracting enough. Now all I am thinking is “I can’t wait for Thanksgiving” and reading week. Who’s with me?

— Penny M.

Back to School…Pastry School

Le Cordon Bleu. Well. What do you think of when you hear those three words? A master chef? A piece of chicken stuffed with cheese and ham or bacon? France? Julia Child? I probably think a bit of all of these but more high standards, super high kitchen skill levels and, where a cookbook is concerned, complicated.

So why, do you ask, did I lug home (well, drove home…I didn’t want to drag this thing on the ION!) the heavy, 500 page copy of Le Cordon Bleu Pastry School from the library? Partly as a challenge to myself. Definitely in the hopes of learning something new. And yes, I was wooed by the beautiful photos (check out the mirror glaze on the cake on page 252) and the elegance of this new cookbook.

I have to say I was pretty excited on my first look through. So many delicious sounding and looking baked goods. Pastries, yes, but also cookies and desserts. Where should I begin?

On closer inspection the first thing I discovered is that a lot of the recipes I was tempted by would require me to go shopping for critical ingredients. As I delved further into the cookbook, that shopping list was going to expand to purchasing new equipment, baking tins etc. Now, as much as I like trying new recipes, I’m not the type to buy a special tin to make a one-off recipe. Nope.

So, my ambitious “to try” list had to be edited down to a more reasonable (practical? economical?) level. I started off with a lemon pound cake. I do not have mini loaf tins so I made it as one large cake and that worked out just fine. Easy to make, moist and delicious, this was all starting out on a high. The Black Forest Gateau and the Chocolate Berry Cake were very tempting but I’m going to hold off until a dinner party with family or friends to give them a go.

The chocolate marble cakes once again required a special tin so I opted instead for “individual” (they’re too big to be “individual”, really) bundt cakes. I didn’t get the swirl right so ended up more with two-tone cakes than marbled. The cake was dense and rich; more than the pound cake was actually. For presentation, I piped whipped cream on the cakes and added slices of mandarin oranges. They looked pretty fabulous and tasted good although a bit heavy for my liking.

cordon bleu 004The final recipe I tried was my favourite. They were a sandwich-style cookie made with ground almonds and glued together with chocolate ganache. The dough and the ganache came together easily. Whilst they didn’t look like the photo in the book, they did look very good. Colour was even, nice flavour and that ganache. Yum!

So, while I may not have invested in new equipment, perfected my piping or attempted a macaronnade or entremets, I do not feel defeated. I took out a Cordon Bleu cookbook, made a few items with very good result and have two in hand for the future. I’d say that’s très bon.

  • Sandi H.

Sandwich Style Chocolate Biscuits

Ganache (make this the night before!)

200 grams / 1.6 cups chocolate (65% cocoa)
225 ml cream
22 grams glucose (I used 4 tsp of white corn syrup instead)
35 grams butter / 2.5 tblsp butter

Dough

120 grams / ½ c butter, softened
25 grams / ¼ c ground almonds (I used a little less than ¼ c)
65 grams / ½ c icing sugar (a generous ½ cup)
2 grams / ½ tsp salt
1 egg
200 grams / 1.6 cups all purpose flour

For the ganache, chop chocolate and place in glass bowl. Heat cream until just below boiling. Remove from heat and mix in glucose/syrup. Pour the hot liquid over the chocolate and mix well with whisk. Mix in the butter. Cover with cling film and let stand at room temperature overnight.

Preheat oven to 300F.

Cream butter, almonds, icing sugar and salt together. Mix in egg and then flour to make a smooth dough. Roll out on lightly floured baking board until 4mm thickness.

Cut into medium-sized circles (or whatever shape is your preference), approximately 20 cookies. Take 10 of the cookie, and cut out a small circle or heart in the middle. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown. Set on cooling rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cookies, spread ganache on the solid disks. Place the biscuits with the cut out on top. Press together lightly to encourage “sealing”. Let sit to stabilize.

These cookies will stay fresh for at least a week if stored in an airtight container.

The ganache can be stored in a glass jar, tightly sealed, in the fridge. It made an excellent glaze for baked chocolate donuts a week later…but that’s for another review!

Book Swap at the Main

Did you buy some new books to take on vacation or to the beach, but now you aren’t sure what to do with them? Upcycle your gently used books at our Book Swap!

Wednesday, August 21
6:00pm to 8:30pm
Main Library – Auditorium
Drop-in

Participants can bring up to 10 books, adult, teen, or children (no textbooks) to swap for new reads. Everyone welcome.

Woodstock

Time to break out the tie dye T-shirts and headbands and love beads. Yes, it’s time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. In August 1969, half a million young people gathered together on a farm in upstate New York for a 3-day music festival, in what became one of the great defining moments of the 1960s.

Want to live (or re-live) the experience? Here’s what’s happening at WPL. The library is presenting a Woodstock night (live music! tie dye T-shirts! a VW van!) at the Main Library on Wednesday, August 14 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. Click here for more info. Or borrow some Woodstock-themed items from the library, like I did.

Woodstockpic2I started with this fabulous book, Woodstock: three days that rocked the world. It is jammed pack with great big beautiful photos and provides an excellent summary/celebration of the festival. The reader gets an overview of all the performers, as well as some fascinating trivia. For instance, I learned about the origins of the peace symbol and got a huge laugh out of a New York Times editorial expressing outrage over the festival (“nightmare in the Catskills,” “freakish-looking intruders.”)

Then I moved on to a DVD, Woodstock : 3 days of peace and music. I know I will be re-watching this DVD, just to take in everything it has to offer. There is also another DVD I’m eager to get my hands on, Woodstock : three days that defined a generation. It is on order and hasn’t yet come arrived at the library but you can still place your hold.

Here, based on the DVD, is my take on the musical performances:

Best Act: Tie between festival opener Richie Havens (a singer/musician who simply resonates passion for his music) and Sly and the Family Stone (cool, funky music that is guaranteed to get you moving and grooving).

Honourable Mentions: Crosby, Stills and Nash. Just at the very start of their career, this supergroup confessed to being “scared s***less” but still put on an impressive show. The Who’s performance of “Feel Me” (from “Tommy”) was sensational.

Most LOL Act: 50s style-act Sha Na Na. You can just see the hippies scratching their heads and saying “what the…?”

Performance that best captured the spirit of the times: The crowd leaping to their feet and doing a rousing sing a-long with Country Joe & the Fish:

“One, two, three
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me why, I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Viet Nam…..”

Most Fortunate Performer: John Sebastian (of The Lovin’ Spoonful) was not slated to perform at all and had showed up strictly to watch the show. However on opening night when they were short a couple of performers (stuck in traffic), someone thrust a guitar into his hand, shoved him onto the stage…. for the biggest gig of his entire career.

Most Unfortunate Performer: Jimi Hendrix asked for and was given the coveted closing slot. However various delays saw the festival finishing up, not Sunday evening, but Monday morning. By then most people had already packed up and left. Still, he gave a mesmerizing performance, including his legendary version of The Star Spangled Banner. Sadly, he would die from a drug overdose just over a year later. (Another Woodstock performer, Janis Joplin, likewise died of a drug overdose in 1970.)

********

Beyond the music, there was such a great vibe to Woodstock. Reading the book or watching the DVD you get a real, palpable sense of community. It must have been such a blast to be there!

— Penny D.

Staff Picks for Summer

WPL staff love sharing what they’re reading…or looking forward to reading! If you’re looking for a new great read, why not check out our Staff Picks List for Summer 2019. This list of fiction and non-fiction is for adult readers.

We’re also sharing our top picks for kids and teens. We hope you have a summer full of sunshine, good times and great reads.

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