wmtc: what i’m reading: four realistic youth novels

Young-adult publishers’ mania for series, with the emphasis on fantasy, has finally ebbed. There are still plenty of fantasy series to go around, but the new crop of youth novels is chock full of individual titles in the realistic mode. (In YA land, “realistic” means the opposite of fantasy: set in the existing world with real ...

wmtc: down these mean streets: raymond chandler’s "the simple art of murder"

Netflix has added many older movies to its library, including several classics and modern classics. Among them I noticed “Mean Streets,” the 1973 film that put both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro on the map. I always thought Scorsese took the film’s name from Piri Thomas’ autobiography, Down These Mean Streets. Thomas’ work is ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: welcome to the goddamn ice cube

Canadians might be disappointed to learn that Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North is not about Canada. We sometimes refer to Canada as the Great White North, but the Canada that most Canadians inhabit has little in common with the stark landscapes that author Blair ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: the underground railroad by colson whitehead

Colson Whitehead is a literary genius. In The Underground Railroad, he has found a way to tell the story of 400-plus years of African-American oppression without delivering an awkward march through history, and without using characters as billboards for ideas. Instead of linear time, Whitehead employs a geography of time: different eras, different historical moments, ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: born to run by bruce springsteen

This is a run-don’t-walk review. Fans of Bruce Springsteen: run to find a copy of The Boss’ memoirs, Born to Run. This book was seven years in the making, and (like Chrissie Hynde’s and Patti Smith’s memoirs) written by the artist himself. It is by turns hilarious and heart-wrenching, poignant and gripping, and always profoundly ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: your heart is a muscle the size of a fist, by sunil yapa

If only Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist could be required reading. Everyone who has ever scoffed cynically at protesters. Everyone who has ever seen a mainstream news report showing a burning car, over and over and over, but not showing tens of thousands of peaceful protesters, and looked no deeper. Everyone ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: the evil hours, a biography of post-traumatic stress disorder

The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an outstanding book — meticulously researched, but written in a compelling, accessible style, and with great humanity and compassion. Author David J. Morris unearths the social and cultural history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the US. He surveys ...

wmtc: labour day readers’ advisory: books and movies that celebrate labour

I spoke to a customer yesterday who was visiting from Denmark. He described himself as a trade-unionist, and he came to the library, looking for me, to learn about our strike! He also said he had read a book he loved, and was looking for more like it. He described the book: “by a Canadian ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: the deserters, a hidden history of world war 2

No one knows exactly how many US soldiers deserted from the Vietnam War, nor how many young men resisted conscription by going either to jail or to another country. The most conservative account puts the number at about 50,000, the highest at about double that. The majority of those went to Canada, where – after ...

wmtc: awful library books and why we remove them from our shelves

A while back, I blogged about weeding, every library’s not-so-dirty little not-so-secret. Daniel Gross, writing in The New Yorker, looks at weeding, too – from a library-users’ revolt in Berkeley, California to the hilarious Awful Library Books blog: Weeding the Worst Library Books. It’s a sweet story about a necessary evil that is really a ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: every exquisite thing by matthew quick

I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance reading copy of Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick. Quick – a/k/a Q – is the author of The Silver Linings Playbook, which I have not read, but now will. Every Exquisite Thing combines a few stock elements of youth fiction into something heartfelt, authentic, and compelling. I ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: reckless: my life as a pretender by chrissie hynde

I’m a big fan of The Pretenders, but more than that, I’m a Chrissie Hynde fan. To me, she has always been the epitome of the female rock frontman. She’s the whole package – guitar player, singer, songwriter, commanding stage presence, pure rock image, and smoldering, tough-girl beauty. I was naturally interested reading her memoirs, ...

wmtc: the great weed of 2016: the results are in

Goodbye. A while back, I announced that Allan and I were going to try weeding our books and CD collection. A few months passed until we could find the time, but we’ve done it. Seven boxes of books and three boxes of CDs will be leaving our lives. Last September, I said this: When I ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: the invention of air by steven johnson

How do we know that the oxygen exists, and that oxygen is different from carbon dioxide? Well, we know it because we’ve been taught those facts. But how did that knowledge enter the scientific record? Air is invisible to our eyes. How did humans first understand that invisible gases exist, and have predictable properties? Answering ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: ghettoside: a true story of murder in america

When we think of gun violence in the United States, chances are we think of mass shootings. These horrific events which occur with such regularity seem, to much of the world, mostly preventable. The public nature of the shootings, and the often tragically young age of the victims, capture headlines and a good portion of ...

wmtc: remembrance day: 11 anti-war books

Remembrance Day readers’ advisory: eleven books to help us contemplate the reality of war, and thus oppose it. 1. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque 2. War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Christopher Hedges 3. Catch-22, Joseph Heller 4. The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang 5. Regeneration, Pat Barker 6. ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: thoughts on "go set a watchman"

I wasn’t planning on writing about Go Set a Watchman, the surprise second – or possibly first – novel by Harper Lee. I am among the legions of readers who were shocked, thrilled, and confused at the sudden appearance of this book, and I didn’t think I’d have anything noteworthy to add to the conversation. ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: dead wake: the last crossing of the lusitania by erik larson

On May 7, 1915, the gigantic luxury ocean liner Lusitania – an engineering marvel, the fastest ship of its era – was hit by a torpedo shot from a German “U-boat” submarine. The ship had nearly completed its crossing from New York and was in sight of the Irish coast. Eighteen minutes later, the Lusitania ...

wmtc: the great weed of 2015?

You will not be surprised to learn that Allan and I own a lot of books. And CDs. And even LPs! Many, many hundreds of each. We have culled our collection a bit over the years, out of necessity, but living in houses for the past 10 years, we expanded again without much thought. Now ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: the doubt factory, a young-adult thriller by paolo bacigalupi

A thriller about public relations? And for teens? It sounds improbable, and The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi is an improbably terrific book. Marrying a somersaulting plot with heart-pounding suspense to an unabashed political agenda and a hot love story, Bacigalupi has delivered a stunning youth read. On the political front, we contemplate “the place where ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: soul made flesh: the discovery of the brain and how it changed the world

The ancient Egyptians, when preparing a body for mummification, carefully preserved the heart, liver, lungs, and other vital organs in special canisters, now known as canopic jars. The brain was yanked out and throw away as trash. A millennium or two later, human knowledge of the workings of the brain was every bit as erroneous ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: plainsong trilogy by kent haruf

I’ve recently read three books by Kent Haruf: Plainsong, Eventide, and Benediction, also known as the Plainsong Trilogy. These novels are set in the rural US west, in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Plainsong is a small, quiet, poignant story, about how some unrelated people come together to form a chosen family. Through various ...

wmtc: rtod

Revolutionary thought of the day: Scargill’s got the megaphone and he launces intae one ay his trademark rousin speeches that tingles the back ay ma neck. He talks about the rights ay working people, won through years of struggle, and how if we’re denied the right to strike and organise, then we’re really nae better ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: wild by cheryl strayed, zeitoun by dave eggers

I’ve just finished two truly excellent works of nonfiction: Wild and Zeitoun. Both books read like fiction, with clean, clear writing and page-turning suspense. Both document almost unbelievable, out-sized events, in one case likely unique, in the other – horribly – anything but. I highly recommend both books. I didn’t expect to like Wild. Something about ...

wmtc: what i’m reading: fallingwater rising, biography of a building

In the prologue to Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann, and America’s Most Extraordinary House, author Franklin Toker writes, “Put this book down now if you can’t live without the old myths about Fallingwater. But take comfort in the fact that a Fallingwater history shorn of miracles can still be thrilling.” Toker examines those ...