"A girl was never ruined by books," my mother used to say. I've spent most of my life trying to prove that wrong.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Warrior's Road and Others:Road through Time at the Atwater Library

Hope to see you at 12:30 p.m. Thursday October 12 at the Atwater Library when I'll be talking about Road through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move (University of Regina Press.) This image of Persian charioteers (as imagined in the 19th century) will be one of those I'll show as I talk about the first roads, warrior's roads, modern roads, and where they may be leading us now.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Reading Report: Commonwealth by Anne Patchett and Swing Time by Zadie Smith Top So Far

The summer is marching on, and I've begun to start thinking of the book groups I'll lead in the fall. Indeed, I've begun reading the books on the lists that I hadn't read before (always risky to put something on a list that you haven't already read, but sometimes that's unavoidable.)

So far I've finished Anne Patchett's Commonwealth, which I find quite wonderful.  A very sharp rendering of people's difficult lives, which nevertheless leaves one in a positive frame of mind.  Very hard to do.

Zadie Smith's Swing Time isn't on any of my group's lists,  but I told myself I should read it anyway.  It was a chore at first--the narrator's involvement in the glam world of a Madonna-like vedette  left me cold at first.  The sequences in Africa seemed also to be transcriptions of notes taken while on a travel-writing assignment.  But by the end, I found myself wrapped up in the story, pleased with the spin Smith put on the the world of the Bitch Goddess Success, and nodding my head over the portrayal of women who try with mixed success to escape poverty and lack of control of their lives.

However, my mid-summer literary epiphany came a couple of weeks ago when we were travelling with kids and grandkids in the North West. One of the grandkids favourite stories is that of The Great Antonio, a Montreal strong man, by Elise Gravel.  He pulled buses with his teeth and other feats of strength.  Gravel's illustrations are delightful, and obviously made a big impact on not-quite-five Thomas.

When we were doing a little morning walk-about near Grand Coulee dam on our recent trip, he got very excited, pointing toward the hilltops and talking about the Grand Antonio.  The adults couldn't figure out what he meant, but then it dawned on us: the high tension pilons carrying electricity from the dam.  They look a little like someone flexing his muscles, I agree.

You could probably do a nice turn on that: how electricity makes the world run, and how it magnifies the strength of all of us.  But I think I'll just be delighted at a little boy's imagination. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Books to Read This Summer in Preparation for Next Year's Book Groups

Okay, the booklists for the five book groups I lead in Montreal libraries are all set up. Here's what we'll be reading in the English groups, just in case you want to get a head start.

In no particular order:

The Heart, AKA Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Orange Grove by Larry Tremblay

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Huraki Murakami

The Door by Magda Szabo

Commonwealth by Anne Patchett

The Light between the Oceans by M. L. Stedman

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

The Girl Who Was Saturday night by Heather O'Neill

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Doing the Heart Good by Neil Bissoondath

Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (Tr. Sandra Smith)

Doing the Heart Good by Neil Bissoondath

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Brooklyn, a novel by Colm Toibín

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

To the End of the Land by David Grossman

Hag-seed: Shakespeares' The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Et dans le groupe francophone:

Doerr, Anthony Toute la lumière que nous ne pouvons voir

Kerangal, Maylis Réparer les vivants

Arcan, Nelly Putain

Grenier, Daniel L'année la plus longue

Morrisson, Toni Beloved

Erdrich, Louise Dans le silence du vent

Schmitt, Eric- Emmanuel La part de l'autre

Barbeau- Lavalette, Anaïs La femme qui fuit

Dickner, Nicolas Six degrés de liberté