Fiction

NVCL Reads: Illustrated

Sometimes you want fewer words, and more pictures! Below we have a selection of 5 fabulous illustrated books that can be found on our shelves for your #NVCLreads Canada Reads 150 bingo! Kick off your sandals, find a hammock and get lost in the colorful pages of these beautiful works of art.

tokyoonfootTokyo on foot: Travels in the city’s most colorful neighborhoods, by Florent Chavouet

Florent Chavouet, a young graphic artist, spent six months exploring Tokyo while his girlfriend interned at a company there. Each day he would set forth with a pouch full of color pencils and a sketchpad, and visit different neighborhoods. This stunning book records the city that he got to know during his adventures. It isn’t the Tokyo of packaged tours and glossy guidebooks, but a grittier, vibrant place, full of ordinary people going about their daily lives and the scenes and activities that unfold on the streets of a bustling metropolis.

 

patternsPatterns: Inside the design library, by Peter Koepke

Every season, designers from fashion, home furnishings, textiles, graphic arts, and paper-product industries seek inspiration from patterns to bring their collections to life. Many of these designers – including Beacon Hill, Boden, Calvin Klein, Lululemon, Nike, Oscar de la Renta, Pottery Barn, and Target – look to the Design Library, the world’s largest archive of surface design. This one-of-a-kind book, drawn from the Design Library’s archive, is an exclusive and ultimate sourcebook of pattern and ornament.

 

rebeljesterRebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: contemporary Persians, by Fereshte Daftari

This beautiful illustrated title tells the story of the evolution of Iranian contemporary art by examining the work of 30 artists. This is art where the ills of internal politics remain astutely masked below a layer of ornamentation, poetry, or humor. What unite the disparate works into a coherent theme are the artist’s coping mechanisms, which consist of subversive critique, quiet rebellion, humor, mysticism, and poetry, hence the publications title.

 

aloneAlone, by Chaboute

On a tiny lighthouse island far from the rest of the world, a lonely hermit lives out his existence. Every week a supply boat leaves provisions, its occupants never meeting him, never asking the obvious questions: Who are you? Why do you hide? Why do you never leave? What is it like to be so alone? Years spent on a deserted rock – a lifetime, really – with imagination his sole companion has made the lighthouse keeper something more than alone, something else entirely.

 

secretpathSecret Path, by Gordon Downie

Secret Path is the heart-rending story of an Indigenous boy seeking to escape the residential school system and return to his family. Alternately hopeful and devastating, Secret Path traces the boy’s fateful journey into the wilderness, lending a personal face to a cold and distant chapter of Canada’s history.

 

– Brie

NVCL Reads: Written by a Margaret

Margaret_Atwood_2015Whether you love her or loathe her, there’s no denying that when many of us think of Canadian literature, we think of Margaret Atwood.  And with a hit TV show — and the Trump administration in full (golf) swing — there’s no denying our Margaret’s work is enjoying a renaissance.  If you’re planning to read #NVCLreadsMargaret this summer, you may look no further than The Handmaid’s Tale, or you may want to get your hands on Atwood’s Angel Catbird graphic novels, or her books for children.  However, if you decide you’d like to branch out from Atwood, Canada has several awesome Margarets for you to choose from.

stoneangelThe next most obvious choice is Margaret Laurence, best-known for writing books you have been forced to read in high school (The Diviners, The Stone Angel) and loved anyway.     Her earlier works, like This Side Jordan, are set in Ghana, where the Laurences lived for a few years.

mr jonesMargaret Sweatman is yet another solid choice.  She’s even won the Margaret Laurence Award for fiction (thus effectively doubling her Margaret-ness).  We recommend Mr. Jones. “Set in a time of rampant paranoia, Mr. Jones peels back the veneer of Canadian politics to reveal a nation willing to sacrifice its own. It is a fearful time, a time of “peace” at the onset of the nuclear age.” (description from publisher)

Sweatman’s works also work for #NVCLreadsHistorical or #NVCLreadsWinner

momentary darkIf poetry (#NVCLreadsPoetry) is more your speed, try Margaret Avison’s Momentary Dark, “a celebration of the world, but not without edge and a quiet challenge to care for a damaged earth and all its citizens equally, including a veritable populace of city trees graciously and beautifully linking the earth and the sky” (description taken from the publisher).

This would also work for #NVCLreads200 and  #NVCLreadsPoetry

cougar annieAnd finally, if you like your Margarets with a healthy dose of non-fiction, you might want to check out Margaret Visser, Margaret Horsfield, or Margaret Macmillan.  In her Massey Lecture, Beyond Fate, Visser “investigates what fate means to us, and where the propensity to believe in it and accept it comes from.”  Horsfield meanwhile takes local history as her muse, writing extensively about Tofino and Clayoquot Sound.  Like Horsfield, Macmillan is inspired by history.  She focuses mainly on the late 19th and early 20th century, and is best known for her book 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.

 

Whatever your reading tastes, we’ll bet there’s a Canadian Margaret for you.

-Patricia

**For those of you just joining us for NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo, please download your bingo card from our website.  Five lucky winners will each receive a $25 gift card to a local bookstore!

NVCL Reads: Pets

Being a pet owner is one of life’s greatest joys. Although it’s a big commitment and a lot of work, the experience teaches you a lot of good and beneficial things. A loving pet has the ability to convert even the most anti-animal person into an animal lover; be it dog, cat, bird, or even a moose.  The bond between people and pets can be just as powerful as a bond between family members.  Here are some pet books by Canadians to share with your child as you play #NVCLreads bingo or just for fun.

DogDayA Dog Day for Susan by Maureen Fergus

Spencer and Barney decide to teach Susan how to be a real dog. With Barney as a role model, they take her to the off-leash dog park to develop skills like barking at buses, cyclists and squirrels, eating garbage, resisting grooming, and refusing to come when she’s called. Susan returns from the park covered in burrs, having shed her dignity and grace enough to fully embrace her inner dog.

DogsinCarsDogs in Cars by Felix Massie

Join these canine critters as they zoom around town in their dogmobiles. Count to one hundred through the many breeds of dogs from French bulldogs to great danes, while they wreak havoc on the streets in some pretty recognizable locomotives.

NobodysCatsNobody’s Cats by Valerie Ingram

Based on the true story of how one little black kitty came in from the cold by a project that was started to help community cats in the small town of Burns Lake in rural northern British Columbia.

 

EmilyCarrEmily Carr & her dogs: Flirt, Punk & Loo by Emily Carr

This delightful book combines 25 stories about dogs with 16 playful drawings by famous Canadian writer, artist, and animal lover Emily Carr. She tells of her joys and tribulations raising Old English sheepdogs, from her decision to start a kennel to the sad day when she had to close it. With each story Carr brings the affectionate and loyal nature of her canine companions to life, making this book an ideal choice for any dog lover, child, or adult.

FarleyFarley and the Lost Bone by Lynn Franks Johnston

This children’s tale features fan favorite sheepdog Farley as he digs in Elly’s flowerbed, under Michael’s model railway set, and inside Lizzie’s sandbox until he remembers the special spot where he buried his tasty bone.

**This title also works for Author Has Spoken at North Shore Writers Fest #NVCLreadsNSWF

MooseMaking the Moose out of Life by Nicholas Oldland

Why not a moose for a pet? Here is a comic-adventure story of a mild-mannered moose who learns how to take life by the antlers. This moose may live in the wild, but he doesn’t act it — he watches from the sidelines as his friends have fun. Every now and then, he wonders if he’s missing out on anything. When the moose finally takes a chance and goes on a solo sailing trip, a raging storm carries him far from everything he knows. Will he curl up in a ball and cry, or make the most of it? The moose’s unlikely hero-journey is a lighthearted, contemporary fable that celebrates living life to the fullest

So what pet will you get, eh?

-Diane

An interview with local author Alexander Boldizar

Boldizar Jacket Phot 5x5x300dpiTell us about your book, The Ugly.

It’s the story of Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth, a 300-pound boulder-throwing mountain man from Siberia whose tribal homeland is stolen by an American lawyer out to build a butterfly conservatory for wealthy tourists. In order to restore his people’s land and honor, Muzhduk must travel to Harvard Law School to learn how to throw words instead of boulders.

Boldizar - The Ugly Cover front page only as JPGIt’s a satire of law and society. At its best, it sat at the #2 spot in Amazon’s “dark humour” category between Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut, and it’s been generally treated as humour, which has been somewhat surprising. It’s currently a finalist competing against the founder of The Onion for the Indies humour “Book of the Year” prize—but the humour is sort of an accidental by-product. I saw it more as an attempt to create existentialist fiction for the modern era, with the strongest debt to writers like Kafka, Musil and Borges. But I also wanted to make it fun.

If I may be forgiven for quoting a review that picked up on this side of the novel, William Morris, the Emmy-nominated writer for NYPD Blue, wrote in the Buffalo News that “Like a boisterous Borges ignoring the delete key or an angry Celine forced to write in a language he hates, Alexander Boldizar plays with our minds by mixing fact with fiction in The Ugly… Borrowing from every fabulist he knows he turns Conrad’s Heart of Darkness on its head. Kurtz’s “horror” has become Boldizar’s “Ugly”… It’s as if the Harvard Lampoon turned on itself…Kurtz has returned from the jungle and the horror is our institutions.”

I guess any book about the horror of our institutions has to end up absurdist and funny.

kafkaWhy do you write?

I love seeing things from odd angles, simultaneously from the outside and the inside, like a cubist painting that never quite fits together. Kafka once wrote to his father that “Life is not a jigsaw puzzle.”

Writing gives me the opportunity to flesh out crazy perspectives, mismatched puzzle pieces, and crash them into each other and see what happens.

slovakiaDescribe your first ever piece of writing.

I had an intense dream when I was 12, one of those seminal dreams that you remember for a lifetime, that I turned into a short story immediately upon waking up. The key to the story was a passphrase to get out of a trapped situation. I was born in Slovakia and had been in Canada four years by then, but still had frequent dreams growing out of our escape and the six months we spent in a refugee camp. The passphrase was in Czech: Strch prst zkrz krk. It means “Stick your finger through your neck.” It’s a complete, grammatically correct sentence without a single vowel.

herringI didn’t write before that, and nothing after until university, where I wrote for the Red Herring (McGill’s version of the Harvard Lampoon). But it’s remarkable how well Strch prst zkrz krk foreshadowed my entire writing career. Though I do try and use vowels when writing in English.

castleI’ve read your book.  What should I read next?

The Ugly is not the lightest book, and it was inspired by novels that took some work to get through but have stayed with me for decades. If you enjoyed it, then the books I’d recommend are ones you’ve probably already read. The Castle, by Kafka, is probably my favourite book of all time. The Man Without Qualities by Musil is a close second. The Good Soldier Svejk by Hasek. Rhinoceros by Ionesco. Anything by Bohumil Hrabal. Radetzsky March by Joseph Roth. Independent People, by the Icelandic writer Haldor Laxness—the main character there has some similarities to Muzhduk. I remember feeling the sheer weight of the book, of the Icelandic winter, while reading it, but twenty years later I still remember the entire novel. It’s an amazing book.

If what you liked about The Ugly is mostly the humour, then anything by Heller or Vonnegut. Or, something that had never crossed my mind until multiple reviewers made the comparison, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

jjleeWhat local authors do you love?

Depends on the genre, I guess. I recently met JJ Lee at a North Shore Writers Association workshop, and his The Measure of a Man is great. If you like serial-killer thrillers, Jackie Bateman is here on the North Shore, and I really like the way she cuts against the formulas at just the right moment. And I have a young son and was very happy to discover Michael Kerr’s riffs on classic fairy tales. I actually discovered his The Nervous Prince and Other Stories thanks to this blog, so thank you on behalf of both my son and me!

oveWhat is the best book you’ve read so far this year?

This year? Probably A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. Ove is a great, beautiful curmudgeon, and the book is a perfect balance between laughter and tears assembled with a very light touch.

libraryhallWhere can fans find you?

My website points to all the various events, news and social media, but I’m most active on Facebook and Goodreads. I’m also trying to figure out Twitter, @Boldizar, though there I keep getting distracted into sending nasty tweets to Trump. The Ugly is in all the usual places, Indigo-Chapters, Amazon, and the North Vancouver City Library. Just this week I found out that it’s being translated into Czech—I wonder if it will end up in Prague’s Klementinum library? I love libraries, and that’s one of the most stunning in the world.

Thanks, Alex!

If you are a published local author who would like to be interviewed for The Top Shelf, please be in touch!  Email me at plesku@cnv.org

-Patricia

Our Favourite Canadian Reads II

We asked staff to share their favourite Canadian read with you. If you’re taking part in our NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo game, you can use these reads for Five Star Reads (#NVCLreadsFiveStar) or use your own favourite (we’d love it if you shared it with us).

DeniseDenise, our Senior Public Services Assistant, loves Anne of Green Gables (series) by L.M. Montgomery.  She says, “I love Anne; her perseverance in the face of adversity inspires, her creative spirit is a source of motivation and her tenacity should be modeled at all times.”

 

curveoftimeOne of our pages Janet is a big fan of The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchett.  She loves “the images of summer vacations on the BC coast in the 1930s – a story of a strong young widow with five young children – packed them all up and spent quality time exploring the coast.”  Janet adds, “We give a copy of this book to all our BC visitors and people always comment afterwards about how much they enjoyed the book.  I own at least two copies at all times.”

davidDavid, our Web Specialist, says his favourite Canadian novel is What’s Bred in the Bone, the 2nd novel in Robertson Davies’ Cornish Trilogy. “Set in part in Germany during the Second World War, it’s an engrossing tale of one Frank Cornish’s journey from childhood in rural Ontario – and from a family with a dark secret – to greatness as an artist, art forger … and spy. Davies’ inimitable novels combine witty, erudite, and elegant prose with highly imaginative and entertaining stories. A great summer read!”

mikale_HayBlogger and Community Librarian Mikale loves Late Nights on Air“Set in 1975, Elizabeth Hay’s story of the lives of the employees of a small CBC radio outpost in Yellowknife, and their accompanying summer canoe trip into the Artic is perfection. It reads like a role of 35mm film, with loons calling over the lake as a soundtrack.”

And finally, the always succinct Sandy, one of our Auxiliary Librarians, recommends “Bonnie Burnard’s A Good House for its clarity, conciseness, honesty and wit.”

We’d love to hear your favourites.  Please share in the comments!

-Patricia

 

 

 

Our Favourite Canadian Reads

We asked staff to share their favourite Canadian read with you.  If you’re taking part in our NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo game, you can use these reads for Five Star Reads (#NVCLreadsFiveStar) or use your own favourite (we’d love it if you shared it with us).

Fereshteh 22Our Multicultural Services Librarian, Fereshteh, raves about Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.   Why? “After so many years,  I can still remember the story  vividly, this book transports the reader to a  world filled with colour , taste, smell and unforgettable characters challenged by their human condition and unpredictable destiny.”

Audrey AdminAudrey, our Administrative Assistant’s all-time favourite Canadian book is The Diviners by Margaret Laurence.  “This classic book, part of the Manawaka series, is not only well written and engrossing, it also accurately depicts small town Canadian life which is familiar to me, being from a small town myself.  I have also visited her homestead in Neepawa, Manitoba!”

Timothy StewartOne of our Auxiliary Public Service Assistants, Timothy, chose a non-fic pick: “My most recent favourite is The NHL: A Centennial History by D’Arcy Jenish. It is well written book with plenty of stories of  how the NHL grew from a struggling league based out of Montreal and Toronto into the predominant hockey league of the modern era.”

Wiedmann, Margaret1As did Margarete, our Special Services Coordinator, who chose 52 best day trips from Vancouver by Jack Christie as her pick. “Jump in your car and go out and explore this great area.  It has so much to offer.  Many of these places can be reached by bus too.  Jack gives some great short adventures usually within ½ hour of the North Shore.  Once you are at you location, you can walk or hike the location, and see its many sight or just sit and enjoy your surroundings.  The book also allows you to plan side trips on the way to your destination.

Why not a new location every day for the summer, or at least a weekend getaway, without the coast of lodging.  Staycation at its best.”

Bear 150And finally our beloved Bear wanted to share his favourite book, Winston of Churchill, though he was pretty quiet on what made it a favourite.  (I wonder why…)

Have a 5-star Canadian read you’d like to share?  Sound off in the comments below!

-Patricia

 

NVCL Reads: Dystopic Canadian Novels

Reading today’s headlines it is no surprise that dystopian fiction has attracted a new audience.  Book sales of classics like 1984 and Brave New World have skyrocketed, meanwhile Canada’s dystopic diva Margaret Atwood has found a new fanbase for her classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, with Hulu’s dark and wildly popular TV series.

In honour of these dark times, may I present #NVCLreadsDystopia

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandelstation eleven

I absolutely LOVED this book.

Station Eleven asks a question that most dystopian novels miss: how do the survivors of a worldwide epidemic learn to enjoy life after they’ve learned how to survive? What happens to art when 99.9% of the world is dead? Emily St.John Mandel weaves convincing characters together with the most intriguing elements – Shakespearean theatre, a traveling symphony, cults, kidnappings, a very fluffy puppy, secret poets, sci-fi comic books, the life of the rich and famous, and the life of a paparazzo. Station Eleven is one of those books that sits in your mind, begging for attention, long after it’s over. (From the publisher).

The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
handmaidstales

Although it was originally published in 1985, as mentioned earlier The Handmaids Tale is likely the best known piece of Canadian dystopian fiction today. Set in a near-future totalitarian England, the Republic of Gilead,  the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence.

If you’ve had enough of Gilead, Margaret Atwood has plenty to offer for those interested in imagining just how bad things could get.

As the first book in the dystopic trilogy, and soon to be it’s very own HBO series, no Canadian dystopic list would be complete without Margaret Atwood’s riveting novel Oryx and Crake. 

When the story opens, the narrator Snowman is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes – into his own past, and back to Crake’s high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief. (From the publisher).

Neuromancer by William Gibson neuromancer

Neuromancer was  the first novel to win the Nebula, Huge and Philip K. Dick Award–an unprecedented achievement which thereby legitimized cyberpunk as a mainstream branch of science fiction literature. Set within the Matrix, a world within the world and global consensus- hallucination, Neuromancer follows the story of Henry Case. Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction. (From the publisher).

 

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

companytown

New Arcadia is a city-sized oil rig off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes, now owned by one very wealthy, powerful, byzantine family: Lynch Ltd.

Hwa is of the few people in her community (which constitutes the whole rig) to forgo bio-engineered enhancements. As such, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig—making her doubly an outsider, as well as a neglected daughter and bodyguard extraordinaire. Still, her expertise in the arts of self-defense and her record as a fighter mean that her services are yet in high demand. When the youngest Lynch needs training and protection, the family turns to Hwa. But can even she protect against increasingly intense death threats seemingly coming from another timeline?

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability and heightens the unease of a rig turning over. All signs point to a nearly invisible serial killer, but all of the murders seem to lead right back to Hwa’s front door. Company Town has never been the safest place to be—but now, the danger is personal. (From the publisher).

 

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji  nostalgia

For fans of the HBO series Westworld, comes a taut and thought-provoking novel about the personal identity and the power of one’s past.

In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.

Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction–a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank’s suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him? As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient. (From the publisher).