Month: January 2016

5 Ways to Read More

jbccIt’s just about the time of year when we all start breaking our well-meaning New Year’s Resolutions.  The gym is emptier and emptier each morning at 6am (not that I’m there; I just have reliable sources.)  For those of you with more bookish resolutions, I offer my help.

In my entire life I’d say the question I’ve most often been readtoomuchasked is, “How do you find the time to read so much?”  (If I’m being honest, I just read what I read without trying to hard and no matter how busy I am it seems to work out to between 50-100 books a year.  But that wouldn’t make a very helpful post now, would it?  So allow me to dig deeper… and present 5 ways to read more:)

cinder5.  Discover audiobooks.  Audiobooks can literally change your whole life.  They allow me to read when I’m:

  • Doing housework
  • Out for a walk
  • Commuting
  • At the gym  (I find if you are listening to audiobooks while doing cardio, it’s better to up the reader’s speed to 1.5x.  Otherwise I tend to keep pace with the voice I hear.)

The other nice thing about audiobooks is you don’t just have favourite authors anymore, you have favourite narrators too.

petitfour4.  Read to children.   My kids are great for a lot of reasons.  One of them is that they give me an excuse to stop whatever boring adulting I’m involved in in the evenings and read them a bedtime story. We’ve done everything from old favourites like Matilda to whimsical new releases like Anne Michael’s The Adventures of Miss Petitfour.

3.  ALWAYS have a book on you.  (You see that staff member reading in the elevator on the way to the break room?  Me.)

33 1_32.  No guilt reading.  If you’re not enjoying it, don’t finish it.  If you’re 100 pages from the end and feel like you know how it’s going to end… abandon it with impunity.  I’m a big fan of reading the right book at the right time.  If that means I’m currently going through a 33 1/3 phase and ignoring award winners and the Canada Reads shortlist, so be it.  (Dear Canada Reads shortlist, I’ll get to you shortly… when the mood strikes.  Fear not.)

  1.  Develop insomnia.
    I realize this might not constitute advice, but it’s still true.  Insomnia is a generous curse that gives you lots of time to read.  Oh, you want actual advice? Fair point.  Find something that captures your imagination.  Ask for recommendations from friends or your local library staff — anybody who gets as excited about books as you want to be.

Have tips of your own to share?  Sound off in the comments below.  Happy Reading!




Terrific Canadian Graphic Literature

I started a post on graphic novels and found that I had selected all Canadian books, and they’re great. So here are my top graphic picks (3 of 5 are non-ficiton), none of which could be confused with comic books.

OutsideCircleThe Outside Circle, by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, art by Kelly Mellings

From the 2016 Canada Reads Longlist comes this striking graphic novel about Pete, a young First Nations man caught in a cycle of poverty, violence and trauma. Ending up in prison, Pete realizes that he must make changes in order to survive and to be an example for his younger brother. It’s a hard-hitting but hopeful story, beautifully illustrated and beautifully told.

Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me, by Sarah LeavittTangles

Graphic storytelling might seem like a counterintuitive choice for a poignant memoir about a daughter and a family coping with the mother’s dementia, but the spare artwork and candid prose work really well here. Though it is something of a harrowing read, Leavitt manages to incorporate humour along with the tragedy. Ultimately this is a moving story of a family’s love during an excruciating time.

EssexCountyEssex County, by Jeff Lemire

This trilogy of graphic novels set in Ontario explores the Canadian psyche through community, hockey, winter, loneliness, and great art. A superhero-obsessed orphan, estranged brothers, and a community nurse draw us into this small-town world. Lemire’s spare text is beautifully wrenching and the illustrations perfectly match. By turns poignant, sad, and amusing, this is a great read.

Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Gillian TamakiSkim

Goth teen Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka Skim), is an outsider, a wannabe Wiccan, and in love with her female English teacher. When a classmate commits suicide, Skim descends into a depression that no guidance counselor platitude can reach. A lovely coming-of-age story with artwork derived from the best Japanese traditions. Lovely.

FatherlandFatherland, by Nina Bunjevac

This memoir / family history deals largely with the author’s father – a Serbian nationalist – whose experiences during the Second World War left him an embittered drunk. When the father dies by accidentally setting off a bomb he was preparing for a terrorist act, the family must deal with the consequences and face their unsettling history. The illustrations drive the narrative in this one and are truly extraordinary.

What’s your favourite piece of graphic lit?


After Making a Murderer

makingamurdererWhen it comes to true crime, I am a sensitive viewer.  As a general rule, I stay away from media portrayals of real life violence as much as I can.  So it came as a complete surprise when I — like many many other people — got hooked on the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer.  In less than a week I’ve watched seven episodes of the ten episode series (a working mom’s version of binge watching) and already know I’ll be resistant to pull back from that constant state of wondering, “Is Steven Avery guilty?

What follows is kind of an exploration for me about what I’ll read and watch in the weeks to come that will be provoking and uncomfortable (and yet compulsively watchable or readable) in the way that Making a Murder has proven to be.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

innocentkillerAbout Steven Avery’s Case

My first stop will be Michael Griesbach’s book The Innocent KillerThe documentary left me with the feeling that this case (like all cases) is more complex than can be shown in 10 hours.  And there’s no denying the prosecution didn’t give the filmmakers the same access as the the defense.  Griesbach is a prosecuting attorney Manitowoc County, so I’m keen to hear his take on the case.

Wrongful Convictionscentralpark

Whatever your opinion about Avery’s guilt with regards to the Halbach murder, it’s difficult to get over the fact that Avery lost years of his life because of a wrongful conviction — years that likely cost him a relationship with his children.  I can see myself watching The Central Park Five out of a desire to understand how those who are wrongfully convicted function after society has treated them unjustly.

Police Corruption

changelingHaving already watched (and been stunned by) The Changeling, a film in which Angelina Jolie plays a mother who knows that the kidnapped boy returned to her is not her son at all, I’ll probably watch it again.  Jolie enduring the horrific effects of public slander by corrupt police shares a certain kinship with Avery.

I can also see myself picking up Jo Nesbo’s thriller, The Son, a fast-paced read about a web of corruption. 

Conspiracy Theoriesvoodoo

Voodoo Histories is a non-fiction work that examines the psychology behind what makes conspiracy theories addictive.  It does so through the lens of twelve real life cases including JFK’s assassination, the first moon landing, and 9/11.  Also, awesome cover.

frozenRural Wisconsin

In many ways, I think it is the landscape of Making a Murderer that will stay with me.  All those lingering shots of Avery Auto Salvage through the changing seasons seem somehow haunted and foreboding.  I’ve put a hold on Frozen, the first book in Kate Watterson’s Detective Ellie MacIntosh series, which takes place partly in the rural backwoods of Wisconsin.

Something Bleakmercy

I have to say I find Making a Murderer depressing as hell.  There’s every possibility that I’ll want stay in that pocket of bleakness after the show is done.  In that case, I’ll reach for Canadian author David Richard Adam’s Mercy Among The Children a novel that dwells in rural poverty and relentless tragedy.

How to you cope with the end of Making a Murderer?  What did you watch or read next?


Kat’s 2016 Winter Reads


The Inheritance Trilogy… coming in at 2 1/4″ thick

It’s going to be a busy winter! Before I can get to the titles on this list, I’ve got to get through this monster-sized book:

It’s awesome so far (every bit as good as I expected it to be after reading Jemisin’s more recent novel, The Fifth Season) Also, to be fair, it’s three books and one novella in one edition… I just hadn’t anticipated how big that would be when I ordered it.

But as soon as I’ve worked my way through that, these are next up:

Thiscensus Census-Taker by China Mieville

From the master weird-fiction writer, this story is narrated by a young boy who has witnessed a deeply traumatic event; trapped, he dreams of escape, and thinks he might have found the help he’s been looking for in a stranger who knocks at the door. But apparently the man may not be what he appears. Knowing Mieville, I’m intrigued as to why this novella is called “This” census-taker rather than “The” or “A”…

lucybartonMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

The Pulitzer Prize winner of Olive Kitteridge turns her eye to the complex mother-daughter relationship in her latest novel.  In it, Lucy is recalling the time she spent recovering in hospital and her Mother, with whom she hasn’t spoken to in years, came to visit. Strout’s characters are always so fully realized, and I’m excited to meet a new set of them.

whywecameWhy We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma

About a group of tight-knit twentysomething New Yorkers, this is a story about friendship, loss, and how we grow together and grow apart. It’s described as “warm, funny, and heartfelt,” with an engaging ensemble cast.  And I can never turn down ensemble casts.


nobaggageNo Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen

A travelogue with an engaging premise; Clara and Jeff barely know each other, but set out on a 21-day trip from Istanbul to London with no plan and (they think) no baggage. Of course ‘baggage’ has that double meaning here, but I’m honestly interested in the literal meaning, and how one can do without it on a trip of this scale.

portableveblenThe Portable Veblen by Elizabeth Mckenzie

The story of a soon-to-be-married couple, whose engagement is threatened by their dysfunctional families, career aspirations, and other things/people that come between them.  Called “Quirky,” with appendices and squirrels, so I’m sold.


heartisamuscleYour Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

Yapa’s debut novel, set during the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, is the story of how one afternoon will change the lives of seven people forever.  It promises to be a beautiful and emotionally powerful  – albeit potentially gritty – read.





In Memory of David Bowie

The man who fell to earth was a creative force and the world has lost a great talent in his passing. Here are a few of the items about or by David Bowie that can be found in the library collection.

BowieBowie: A Biography, by Marc Spitz

Spitz presents a complex and in-depth look at Bowie, and the post-war England that played such a large part in his development. Based on a hundred original interviews with managers, actors, and even his ex-wife, the author delves into his early struggles, his interest in Buddhism and the occult, his difficult family life, and his tricky relationship with art and commerce.

Hallo Spaceboy: The Rebirth of David Bowie, by Dave ThompsonHalloSpaceboy

By 1987, Bowie was being dismissed by critics, and was at a creative and commercial low. Then the amazing man reinvented himself. This biography focuses on Bowie’s later work, chronicling his extraordinary comeback, his groundbreaking music, and his evolution as a family man – married to the lovely Iman.

YourPrettyFaceYour Pretty Face is Going to Hell: The Dangerous Glitter of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, by Dave Thompson

Glam Rock anyone? This text looks at the outrageous lives of three rock legends and how their creativity intersected in the 1970s. Reed, Iggy Pop, and Bowie worked together, influencing each other and inventing the arresting music (and visuals) that characterized this moment in rock history.

Bowie on Bowie: Interviews and Encounters with David Bowie (3M Cloud ebook), by Sean Egan (Ed.)BowieOnBowie

David Bowie always delivered when it came to being interviewed. This ebook is a collection of the best Bowie interviews over the past five decades, with each selection focusing on a new step in his remarkable journey. Here is the voice of the man himself, in all his many self-reinventions.

Here are a few of his CDs: Heathen, The Next Day, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Hunky Dory

And of course there is his film career: The Man Who Fell to Earth, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Basquiat, and The Prestige.

Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie. We will miss you.

5 Books to Read Before They Hit the Silver Screen 2016

If you are one of those people who love going to the movies if only so they can letter dissect how the book was better, take note.  Here are five books you’ll want to be reading before they hit the theatres later this year:

billylynnBilly Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee takes on this story of 19-year old Private Billy Lynn and his company.  They are sent on a promotional tour in the US before ultimately returning to war. Kristen Stewart co-stars. (November)

The Lost City of Z by David Grannlostcity

Based on a true story.  In 1925 explorer Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) went looking for the site of El Dorado deep in the Amazon.  He never returned.  Robert Pattinson co-stars.  (TBA)

luckiestLuckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Ani (formerly TifAni) is a woman in pursuit of an effortlessly perfect life, but what has that pursuit cost her?  Perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train (which is also coming to theatres this year), this thriller has been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon’s production company.  No word yet on a star. (TBA)

The History of Love by Nicole Krausshistorylove

Leo (Derek Jacobi) wrote a book sixty years ago.  Now Alma (Gemma Arterton), who was named after a character in the book, sets of on a journey in search of her namesake. (TBA)

girlgiftsThe Girl With All The Gifts by MR Carey

Finally, I’m assuming that everyone who wants to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has already done so in time for the February release of the film, but can’t bear to leave you without a zombie film on this list.  I haven’t yet read this story, which NPR’s Genevieve Valentine called “grotesque and grimly hopeful by turns.”  The films stars Gemma Arterton — I predict a big year for her.  How about you?

For a more complete list of book-to-screen adaptations for 2016, check out the CBC’s 15 of the biggest book-to-movie adaptations of 2016.  And be sure to let me know if the book was better 🙂



New Books Published in January & February

Here are a few new titles I’m looking forward to that are scheduled for release in the next two months. What’s on your reading list?

WalkingNileWalking the Nile, by Levison Wood

This one is for all you armchair travellers out there. Ex-army officer, Levison Wood, is the first person to have walked the entire length of the Nile (4,250 miles), crossing seven countries, foraging, camping, and defending himself against multiple dangers. It’s also an exploration of modern Africa, with reviewers commenting on the depth of the political and historical content. Sign me up!

And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East, by Richard HellBrokeLooseEngel

At twenty-three, Engel set off for Cairo to be a reporter. In the decades since, he has witnessed the Arab Spring, seen Mubarak and Morsi arrested and condemned, been taken hostage, shot at, and blown out of his hotel bed. He interviewed Libyan rebels, witnessed the arrival of Al-Qaeda in Syria, and saw the rise of ISIS. This promises to be a page-turning account of a region we all need to understand more.

IntoMagicShopInto the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart, by James R. Doty, MD

At twelve years old, Doty wandered into a magic shop to buy a plastic thumb (as one does). But instead of getting a fake appendage, he met a woman who taught him exercises to ease suffering and achieve his potential. Part memoir, part science, part inspiration, and part practical instruction, this book is being described as a guide for changing our lives, by first changing our hearts.

100 Million Years of Food: What our Ancestors Ate and Why it Matters Today, by 100MillionYearsStephen Le

Interest in Paleo diets and the like has sparked much curiosity about the evolution of nourishment. This book, by biological anthropologist Stephen Le, promises to explain how cuisines of different cultures came about through centuries of adjustments to biology and environment. He argues that ancestral diets present the best defense in protecting health. Looks fascinating.

RaisingRylandRaising Ryland: Our Story of Parenting a Transgender Child with No Strings Attached, by Hillary Whittington

Moving stories about unconditional love are always high on the reading list agenda. When Jeff and Hillary Whittington realized they were parenting a transgendered child, they posted a YouTube video chronicling the transition, and it has been viewed 7 million times. This book is the account of their journey and it illuminates a very timely subject.

UngentlemanlyA Most Ungentlemanly Way of War: The SOE and the Canadian Connection, by Colonel Bernd Horn

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was created by Churchill to sabotage Nazi interests and support partisan uprisings behind their lines. It was a unique organization focused on innovation and adventure, and many of its members were trained at Camp X in Ontario. This book looks at the Canadian contributions to this little-known aspect of the Allied fight.

IndustriesFutureThe Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross

It seems the only constant in our world, is change, change, change. This book promises to give a perspective on what’s coming in robotics, cybersecurity, genomics, and big data. Ross also covers the evolution of what work means, and addresses other global trends that affect the way we live. Looks like a must-read for all of us.

Put these on hold now!