New Books

Ready to Read? Prepping for this year’s North Shore Writer’s Festival


Just over one month to go before the annual North Shore Writer’s Festival takes off at the District of North Vancouver’s beautiful Lynn Valley Branch. As you may know, the North Shore Writers Festival is a celebration of Canadian authors brought to you by your North Shore public libraries – North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District and West Vancouver Memorial – as well as by the North Shore News.

NVCL Splash Page

The festival kicks off on Friday, April 15th with a highly competitive Literary Trivia contest, hosted by the hilarious, “gregarious and encyclopedic” Grant Lawrence. If you are interested in joining this fierce battle of literary wits please email ASAP to secure your spot!

Then on Saturday April 16th we have a variety of activities to delight the literary-inclined including an information session on “How to Become a Successful Indie Author” hosted local author and Amazon bestselling author of five novels  Martin Crosbie. In addition, the festival will also feature a local-author book fair, Literary Fortune Teller, and a Writer-Reader Reception.

However, when all  is said and done what I’m looking forward to most is la pièce de résistance: this year’s incredible line-up of author readings! In the past we’ve had authors such as John Valliant, Elizabeth Hay and Lawrence Hill share and discuss their craft, and this year is no exception. This year we are grateful to have award-winning cartoonist Lynn Johnston, poet and performer Jordan Abel, and author Camilla Gibb join us. For more on the schedule, click here.

In celebration of this biblio-extravaganza, I’ve put together a little wrap-up about each of our guest speakers and their selected works. Stop by the library and pick up a copy of their books today!

Lynn Johnston Lynn Johnston

Known best for her beloved series ‘For Better Or For Worse”, the brilliant newspaper comic strip which chronicles the domestic lives of the Patterson family in real-time, Lynn Johnston will speak about her career and retirement adventures here on the North Shore. Growing up, I remember my mum giggling over the Saturday paper, then cutting and pasting various strips to the fridge in delight. Of course I was always most interested in the various adventures of Farley, the family dog.

Jordan Abel


I first heard about Jordan Abel’s work when he was highlighted as one of CBC’s “Writers to Watch in 2015.” As a  Nisga’a writer and poet from Vancouver who created some truly innovative and genius work examining historical texts about indigenous life, and then re-working and thereby re-contextualizing their meaning. His latest work , ‘Un/inhabited’ draws from 91 Western novels that total over 10,000 pages of source text and explores “the public domain as a discoverable and inhabitable body of land.” For more about Abel’s work and process, check out his interview with Event Magazine here. 


Camilla Gibb

Known best for her four acclaimed novels, including the bestseller ‘Sweetness ithis is happyn the Belly’  Camilla joins memoirist JJ Lee in a conversation titled “The Art of Turning Personal Stories into Universal Truths” where they will discuss writing life, and her motivations for writing her critically acclaimed new memoir ‘This is Happy’ (currently on my nightstand….stay tuned!). Having completed an undergrad degree in Creative Non-Fiction, I’ve always been a huge fan of memoirs and have heard nothing but good reviews about this poignant, devastating and yet ultimately uplifting book. For more about Camilla’s story, check out this interview she did with the Globe and Mail last year. 




Happy reading and I hope to see you at the Festival!!


Farewell from your Non-Fiction Librarian (with a few upcoming Current Event recommendations as I go out the door)

It has been fun contributing to the library blog, but I’m leaving my role as non-fiction librarian – so this will be my last blog (at least for now). I’ve been seconded to library administration for the next year which will bring a whole new set of non-blogworthy challenges and interests. I hope some of my bloggy suggestions and observations over the past few years have been useful. As a goodbye, here are a few current event titles I’m looking forward to reading when they come out:

DifferentKindOfDaughterDifferent Kind of Daughter, by Maria Toorpakai (May 2016)

What to do if you’re a girl interested in sports, but live in a tribal area of Pakistan? Dress as a boy, of course. Toorpakai’s choice to live as a male, as well as her athleticism, put her into the crosshairs of the Taliban. This is the story of her remarkable journey as she rose to become the number one female Squash player in her country before fleeing to Canada – where she remains a voice for oppressed women everywhere.

Brown: What Being Brown Means in the World Today (To Everyone), by Kamal Al-Solaylee (May 2016)Brown

From the 2015 Canada Reads finalist (for Intolerable) comes this new look at the global implications of being brown-skinned. Full of stories and street-level reporting, Solaylee travelled four continents and ten countries to research the lives of persons like himself – neither black nor white, but something in between.

BoysInBunkhouseThe Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland, by Dan Barry (May 2016)

From 1974 to 2009 a group of intellectually disabled men lived in an old Iowa schoolhouse. They were paid $65 per month plus food and lodging in return for their work in a meat-packing plant. They endured neglect, exploitation, and physical and emotional abuse before finally being freed. A reminder to us all to be vigilant; that we are responsible for the social justice issues of our age.

Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, by Barton Gellman (July DarkMirror2016)

Gellman was one of the three journalists Snowden chose to receive his collection of NSA documents. Building on his twenty plus years as an investigative journalist for the Washington Post, Gellman was able to access sources in government and the tech industry to help make sense of Snowden’s massive leak. Soon Gellman himself became a target. A true-life spy story, dealing with the surveillance revolution that impacts us all.

GirlWhoBeatISISThe Girl Who Beat ISIS: Farida’s Story, by Farida Abbas (June 2016)

When ISIS Jihadists overran her village killing all men and boys, Farida Abbas was taken captive. Beaten and sexually assaulted, Abbas was taken to a market where ISIS sold female prisoners. But by then Abbas had realized that fighting back made it harder for her captors to continue their abuse. This is her heroic struggle to escape the unthinkable.

Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time, by Steve EstherWonderPigJenkins and Derek Walter (May 2016)

On a lighter note, Steve knew his partner Derek wouldn’t be keen on adopting a micro piglet, but he decided to go ahead anyway. This tiny pig turned out to not be so micro after all – ultimately growing into a 600 pound pet. When space became an issue, Steve and Derek bought a farm where they created a refuge for other animals in need. A charming tale about accidental animal-rights advocates.

Place a hold for a title or two today!

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.





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!

Michael’s Autumn Non-Fiction Reading List

autumn_leaves_PNG3601The days are noticeably shorter, the sun has lost some of its power, and  the kids are back in school (don’t forget to slow down in school zones). It’s time to pack away the sunscreen, return those summer reads to the library, and find something more serious to sink your teeth into. But serious doesn’t mean dull; check out a few of these great new non-fiction books we’re adding to the collection.

prisonbookclubcoverThe Prison Book Club, by Ann Walmsley

A book club without wine and cheese? No chitchat about career concerns and vacation plans? Ann Walmsley, a victim of violence herself, gets talked into helping out with a book club in a men’s prison. As she works through her own issues, she observes the transformative power of books and human connection in the lives of the men who participate.

ReasonYouWalkcoverThe Reason You Walk, by Wab Kinew

In this narrative of hope, healing and forgiveness, broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew tries to reconnect with his father, a distant aboriginal man recently diagnosed with cancer. Kinew revisits his own Winnipeg childhood, and travels to a reserve in Northern Ontario where he learns about his father’s traumatic experiences in a residential school.

AloneAgainstNorthcoverAlone Against the North, by Adam Shoalts

Shoalts, sometimes described as Canada’s real-life Indiana Jones, takes wilderness travel to a new level. The Hudson Bay Lowlands is a trackless waste with the Again River winding through. Questing for the headwaters, Shoalts finds edenic islands, a towering unmapped waterfall, and proves that the earth is larger than we often assume.

Dispatches from Pluto, by Richard GrantDispatchesFromPlutoCover

Grant, an English journalist and television host, moves to a former plantation deep in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. The culture shock he and his girlfriend experience is lessened by the welcome of the locals, who range from eccentric millionaires, to catfish farmers, blues musicians, and even a cookbook maven. More than just a fish-out-of-water tale, though, Grant discovers that the racist shadow of the area’s history persists.

TucoCoverTuco, by Brian Brett

This is the extraordinary story of Brett’s decades-long relationship with an African Grey parrot, coupled with an exploration of the history of birds and their relationship to humans. It’s also an exploration of the author’s own, often painful experience of being an outsider as an androgyne.

Patricia’s 2015 Fall Picks

autumn2015Autumn is an invitation to walk in the woods all day and curl up with an amazing book all night.  Here’s what I’ll be reading as the days shorten while rain patters against windows:


undermajorUndermajordomo Minor* by Patrick deWitt

I would love to be able to go back in time and read The Sisters Brothers again for the first time.  It was funny, heartfelt, and relentlessly entertaining.  So it stands to reason that I have ultra high hopes for deWitt’s newest offering, a darkly comedic love story.  deWitt will be at the Vancouver Writers Fest this October.

ferranteThe Story of The Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

It’s finally here!  The final book in Ferrante’s mesmerizing series, The Neopolitan Novels.  This book continues to trace the tumultuous lives of longtime friends, Lila and Elena as Elena returns home to be with the man she’s always loved. Don’t let the cover fool you, Ferrante’s books are perfect for fall reading.

goldfamecitrusGold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Kirkus Review calls Gold Fame Citrus a “A tour-de-force first novel [that] blisters with drought, myth, and originality” and raves that “Watkins is magnificently original.”  I’m looking forward to sinking down into the novel’s post-apocalyptic desert landscape and seeing if the two main characters, Ray and Luz, have what it takes to survive.


goldenThe Golden Son* by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Gowda’s debut, Secret Daughter, was such a joy to read because of of how easy it was to become immersed in Indian culture and family drama while reading it.  The Golden Son looks to be in the same vein.  Anil is an Indian boy sent to America to become a doctor.  While he acclimatizes to American culture, his family and friends remain tied to tradition.

cityonfireCity on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

I know that Franzen’s Purity is the doorstop-of-a-novel to beat this fall, but I’m much more excited about Hallberg’s City on Fire, which takes place during New York’s 1977 blackout.  At the heart of the story is the mystery of who shot punk fan Sam and why.

cleopatraCleopatra’s Shadows by Emily Holleman

Ever since devouring Margaret George’s The Memoirs of Cleopatra more than 15 years ago, I’ve been a fan of ancient Egyptian historical fiction.  Rather than focussing on Cleopatra herself, Holleman delves into the lives of her sisters, Berenice and Arsinoe.


japaneseThe Japanese Lover by Isabelle Allende

I will read anything by Allende, and almost anything set in WWII.  In 1939, Alma’s parents send her from Poland to the safety of San Francisco.  There she meets and falls in love with Ichimei, but then he is sent to an internment camp.  The novel traces the story of their secret relationship in the decades that follow.

avenueAvenue of Mysteries by John Irving

A new John Irving novel is a truly exciting thing indeed.  From Homer to Owen, he has created some of my favourite fictional characters.  While Irving can usually be relied on to write about New England, wrestling, and unusual sexual relationships, this book the story of a Mexican man in the Philippines appears to be a departure.

calvinCalvin by Martine Leavitt

My final pick is a YA book about a schizophrenic boy born on the day the last Calvin and Hobbes comic was printed.  Calvin believes that his illness can be cured if he can persuade Watterson to write one final Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.  From the author of the utterly unforgettable Keturah and Lord Death.


*As always, thank you to Edelweiss and NetGalley for ARCs of these titles.

Go Set a Watchman: For Better or Worse…It’s Finally Here!

mockingbirdThere was a period in high school where I (along with countless others of you I’m sure) touted around with a paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.  My copy was dog-eared, and heavily underlined, with a good amount of scribbling in the margins.

Since that time other books have been my favourites, but I have always wondered what became of Scout, Jem, and Dill.  And today I finally get to find out.

watchmanPart of me is as excited as a kid at Christmas — sure that Mockingbird’s companion Go Set a Watchman is equally as quietly wise.  Part of me is wary of getting my expectations up to high — I’ve already read enough of the book to know that one of the major players has died in the between Mockingbird and Watchman, and my heart has broken a little accordingly.

What makes me most nervous, however, is the murmurings on the Internet that Atticus is not the saint many of us have made him out to be.  A review in yesterday’s Guardian sums up this disillusionment well:

“To the horror also of his daughter, the anti-racist lawyer now attends public meetings to oppose the supreme court’s attempts to impose integrated education and equal voting rights in the south. For many readers, large stretches of Watchman will be like discovering an alternative version of The Catcher in the Rye in which JD Salinger casts the story of the adolescent Holden Caulfield as the dream of a paedophile Republican senator.”

atticusWhile I don’t think it’s unusual in the real world for people to hold different views privately than they do publicly, I’m genuinely concerned that I’m not ready to lose my Atticus. In Mockingbird Scout notes, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” But we have loved Atticus even before we knew we might lose him.

Today I’ll read on (and I’ll no doubt finish Watchmen or finish with it by this time next week). I am wondering if I’m doing the right thing by going back to Maycomb, but I’m still going back willingly.

Will you read Go Set a Watchman?