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Posts tagged ‘booklist’

Honouring World Religion Day

The wheel of World Religions.

Image via St. Edmund Campion Catholic Secondary School.

Today is World Religion Day, an acknowledgment that in these times of division between religions, we can choose to look at all faiths as paths to God. Many fundamentalist strains of many different faiths would call that heresy, but it’s hard to imagine a world that can be truly peaceful and just if we don’t have the humility to admit that the path we’ve found to God might not work as well for another person as it has for us. Essentially it’s a celebration of acceptance and unity.

It’s my personal belief that harmony starts amongst children, who have a natural tendency towards openness and acceptance. We can shut that down by teaching them that our way is the only right way, or we can encourage it by exposing them to other types of people and how they are different from – and similar to – ourselves. In that spirit, I’ve created a book list for families who want to help their children get to know how some of the world’s other faiths reach out to God.


Recent Reading Round-Up

A true bookshelf of the mind

Image via Rod Dreher's blog on Beliefnet.

It’s been a busy time of year, and I haven’t had a chance to blog about all my recent reading. So here – in time for Boxing Day book-shopping, if you’re so inclined, or a relaxing vacation-time visit to the library if you’re not – a list of some books I’ve read and enjoyed, but never discussed in their own blog posts.


Scary Library: Truly Weird Tales

Throughout the week I’ve mostly been focused on scary stories from the fiction world: after all, Hallowe’en is all about the scary stories we tell ourselves. But there’s a non-fiction side to the paranormal and spooky as well. Believe in it or don’t, people have written countless books about the folklore, spirituality, and science behind the things we see in horror films and in the Hallowe’en decorations aisle at your nearest Wal-Mart. Here’s a sampling.

A skeleton reading

Image via Monster Bash News.


Scary Library: Banned Books from Hell

There are plenty of reasons for books to get censored, many of them political (it espouses an opinion considered objectionable by the powers that be) or moral (it advocates some sort of action or behaviour believed to be wrong, very often sexual). But since Hallowe’en is just around the corner, I figured it’s a good time to create a booklist of books that have been banned, challenged, or censored because they contain content that’s scary, violent, macabre, and horrifying. In other words, if they were made into movies, they’d probably get a pretty restrictive rating.

Ghoulish reader

Image via All Yearbooks Blog.

Interestingly, it’s actually better for the sensitive soul to read a scary book than to watch a scary movie. The reason? When you’re reading, you conjure the images in your mind. It’s still possible to get scared while you’re reading something spooky, but at least you control how frightening the projected images will be. If you don’t want to see anything too graphic, you can tone down your mental imagery and make it a gentler experience just by tweaking what’s in your brain. But in a movie, the images appear onscreen as-is, with no possibility for changing or toning down. However much blood and gore the killer splashes around, however  many corners and closets he jumps out from behind, and however terrifying the demon-possessed child looks during that exorcism, you’re going to see it in all its exquisitely terrifying detail.

With that in mind, you might decide you’re interested to read some of the stories I’m offering here. But keep in mind, too, that not all of them are as terrifying as their censored-book status might lead you to believe. After all, terror is in the mind of the beholder . . .


The “Eat Pray Love” Booklist

By now it’s no secret that I’m not too interested in seeing Eat Pray Love, and I’m not sure I even want to put the time into reading the book. Memoirs really aren’t my cup of tea in any case. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pull together a bundle of reading recommendations and suggestions for people who want more of the Eat Pray Love phenomenon.

If you loved Eat Pray Love, what was it that captured your heart? It could be the exotic settings. Maybe it’s the idea of a woman finding freedom or self-discovery. It could be the romance, or the spiritual seeking. Or maybe you’re a foodie at heart. There’s no doubt that Eat Pray Love is a multi-faceted concept that could draw people in on a lot of different levels. So I’ll try to recommend a few volumes to appeal to any Eat-Pray-Lover. (more…)

The Drama of Reincarnation

“Conversations with His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama are strange for a Westerner who does not believe in reincarnation. He points out such linkages, nodding his head with pity at how human behaviours continue to spin the web of lives, one after the other, through connections – actions, motivations, associations in past lives – that are impossible for most of us to see. For the Dalai Lama, this is a story of a connection, as he defined it, between two humans, played out over a thousand years, demonstrating a mixture of the divine and the human as manifested in corporeal lives.”

Can you imagine any story more dramatic than that? The relationship between two people playing out, not over a single lifetime, but over more than one. Past history and past emotions intervening in the dynamic of present relationships, changing the way we view one another, adding a layer of richness to our experience. I’ve been reading about that kind of relationship over multiple lifetimes in The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, and it has inspired me to create a booklist of stories that explore past-life relationships in fiction. Thus I give you . . .

The Drama of Reincarnation

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – The story of a highly intelligent and educated dog named Enzo, who reflects on his life and his relationship with his racecar-driving human companion, Denny. As he prepares to leave this life, Enzo hopes he can become human in his next incarnation.

Audrey Rose by Frank de FelittaA bereaved father comes to believe that his little girl, killed in a horrible car accident, has been reincarnated into another child, one who seems to remember the torment and pain that ended her prior incarnation. Later adapted into a 1977 film.

Avalon High by Meg Cabot – The relationships between teenagers at a seemingly average high school come into sharp focus when Ellie begins to discover that she and her classmates are reincarnations of characters from the legend of King Arthur. YA

A Dog‘s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron – Over several lifetimes, Bailey tries to discover the reason behind his lives and loves as a dog.

Eternal by Craig Russell – A Jan Fabel detective story, in which Fabel and his team pursue a serial killer who believes he is taking revenge on those who wronged him in a past life.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – The arrogant and cynical narrator plans to kill himself after he is disfigured in a horrible car accident . . . until a mysterious woman enters his life, claiming they were lovers in a past life in medieval Germany. Through her, the nameless narrator begins to question his understanding of reality and even to entertain the possibility of redemption.

The Hypnotist by M. J. Rose – When FBI agent Lucian Glass visits a hypnotist as part of an investigation, he learns about past incarnations in Greece and Persia, which just might be related to his current investigation and also to the unsolved case that haunts him to this day.

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares – In their first incarnation together, Daniel loved Sophia deeply and hurt her deeply. Now, in each successive life, he searches for her and tries to make amends however he can, even when that means he must not be her lover this time around.

Red Earth and Pouring Rain by Vikram Chandra – A seventeenth-century poet-adventurer returns as a monkey, shot by vacationing student Abhay, who strikes a bargain with the gods: he will entertain Abhay and his family with stories from his rich past-life history.

Reincarnation by Suzanne Weyn – Over the history of the human race – in ancient Egypt and Greece, witch-hunt Salem, the American Civil War, Nazi-occupied Paris, 1960s Mississippi, and modern New York – two lovers meet over and over in different incarnations. YA

The Reincarnationist by M. J. Rose – A modern photojournalist remembers a life as a pagan priest in ancient Rome after he almost dies in a terrorist attack. As these memories surface, he begins to sense that a collection of modern-day murders might be related to a relic from his ancient past.

Replay by Ken Grimwood – An award-winning work of fiction in which, after dying of heart failure in 1988, Jeff Winston returns to a point in his life decades earlier to relive the past. He learns he cannot change the time and date of his death, but he can make other changes in the course of his life.

Sengoku Nights by Kei Kusunoki & Kaoru Ohashi – Masayoshi, a Japanese teen, learns that he lived a past life as a legendary witch. As he tries to come to terms with this knowledge, he finds he must also face the restless spirits of men he murdered in his prior incarnation. MA

The Star Rover by Jack London (also published as The Jacket in the U.K.) – Imprisoned for murder, Darrell withstands his guards’ torture by learning to enter a trance in which he roams amidst the stars and discovers the stories of his previous lives.

Yes, My Darling Daughter by Margaret Leroy – Single mom Grace searches for answers when her daughter Sylvie starts acting out in bizarre ways. She manages to trace the child’s troubling behaviour to past-life memories with the help of a professor who studies the paranormal.

MA = manga & anime.
YA = written with Young Adult readers in mind.

Inspired By Drama: Book Lists Inspired by the Stratford Festival

One of the things we learned as we studied public librarianship in school was the art of the book display, which is a librarian’s way of highlighting books that people might not otherwise think to check out. A similar concept is a book list, which offers up themed reading selections in the same way, but prints out titles and authors on paper instead of constructing a real-world display with physical books. That means it can be posted on the Internet or distributed over multiple libraries; also, a book that gets selected off a book display disappears, but its name is still on the list for people to place on hold.

Often book displays or lists focus on a theme, which can be pretty much anything – ‘Fiction and Fashion’, say, or ‘Spies in Paris’, or ‘Civil War Romance’. A clever librarian will often tie a book display to something that’s popular or topical right now. Here’s an example: there’s a lot of buzz about the new Twilight movie, so a savvy librarian might display on related themes: ‘Vampires in History’ or ‘Paranormal Romance’ or even simply ‘If You Like Stephenie Meyer, You Might Like These’.

(Personally, I’m hoping to one day create an ‘I Would’ve Picked the Werewolf’ book display for readers who think Jacob was a better choice, full of books with strong heroines, sweet love interests, and arrogant creeps who get their comeuppance.)

Today I happened upon a copy of the 2010 Visitors’ Guide for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. This is a big deal for Ontarians. The Stratford Festival is one of our most popular theatre destinations, featuring a fairly eclectic mix of traditional Shakespearean plays, historical classics, popular musicals, and contemporary shows. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun for a librarian who knows the Stratford Festival is a popular event for her patrons to create a book list based on the Stratford Festival repertoire?” There are so many directions you could take! How about focusing on something specifically related to the Festival as a whole? It could capture the imagination even of patrons who aren’t planning to attend a show in Stratford. For instance:

Shakespeare in Spades – Not just his works, but also fiction and non-fiction about his life and times, or about his characters.
Shakespeare Updated – Ever heard it said that Ten Things I Hate About You is an update of The Taming of the Shrew? Or that somebody is wrapped up in a classic Romeo & Juliet situation? Find a bunch of stories, set in the modern world, that retell traditional Shakespearean plots like “son seeks revenge for the death of his father” (Hamlet) or “controlling man seeks revenge in tropical paradise” (The Tempest). And why stop at Shakespeare – they say Bridget Jones’ Diary is just updated Jane Austen. See what you can find!
The Show’s the Thing – Since preparing a theatrical performance can be as dramatic as the subject matter it’s written about, why not gather together some fiction and non-fiction about the dramatic arts and performance? That could make for some extremely compelling reading.
Theatre Back Then – From Greek tragedy to Elizabethan drama to the Restoration comedy to vaudeville – and beyond – a greater knowledge of how theatre played out in past time periods could enrich the experience of a modern performance . . . or just make a restful backyard escape for the book-lover.

Shakespeare knew drama; let's take a cue from him! (I stole this image from a fellow WordPress user. Click to check out his blog!)

There’s also a possibility of creating not-necessarily-theatre-related displays inspired by the ideas, themes, and characters explored in individual performances. Think about it this way: Why not tailor reading lists around individual performances in ways that might inspire Festival fans to delve deeper into the ideas they’re seeing enacted on stage? Here are some ideas based on Stratford’s 2010 lineup:

As You Like It – “Crossing Boundaries.” This was one of several Shakespearean plays to exploit the comedic possibilities of cross-dressing and gender-bending. How about a scattering of other such instances – fictional, historical, or sociological – in which men dress up as women or women dress up as men? Alternatively, especially if there’s a big romance-novel crowd at your branch, the spotlight could shine on romantic comedy, romance and politics, or secret loves.
Dangerous Liaisons
– “Revolutionary Stories.” This is a racy story based on a nineteenth-century novel that was banned as “an outrage to public morality”. It’s a great opportunity to put the spotlight on banned books or controversial, steamy stories. Not every library is well-suited to controversy, however, so it’s a good thing this is also a period piece. Fiction and non-fiction from around the time of the French Revolution could be a great alternative.
Do Not Go Gentle –
“A Dylan Thomas Collage.” This is a one-man show about Dylan Thomas, and it put me in mind of a different approach. Select a particularly evocative piece of Dylan Thomas’ poetry, and make copies. Then, use that poem as the theme to tie together a display or a book list on Dylan Thomas, his life and times, his works, Wales, whisky, and anything else that matches nicely with the piece of poetry you’ve chosen
“Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina!” Was there ever any better introduction to the country’s politics, history, and culture than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic? Femmes fatales and powerful women throughout history could also make a great Evita-inspired book list.
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
– “Crazy-Making Mothers!” Almost everyone can relate to a mom who sometimes annoys you, sometimes makes you crazy, and loves you always. They’ve been mined quite thoroughly as a source of relatable humour. A book list might suggest some memoirs and stories about relationships between humourously exasperating mothers and their humiliated, humbled daughters and sons . . . or, choose worn-out and bittersweet mother love like that of Angela’s Ashes for a poignant twist.
Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
– “Musical Living.” Since Jacques Brel was a real musician from Belgium, you might have some books about him somewhere around your library. But even if you don’t, what’s to say you can’t take a closer look at other (fictional and non-fictional) European musicians whose lives would make for compelling reading and compelling dramatic performance?
King of Thieves
– “Dirty Double-Crossers.” It’s a story of corporate crime in the city, so it can easily lead into more stories of criminal dealings in the upper echelons of business and politics, where the stakes are high.
Kiss Me, Kate
“Drama Behind the Curtain!”This famous musical about performing a musical could inspire a book list about musical theatre more broadly. And if you think that sounds boring, well, the same kind of drama and antics you see in Kiss Me, Kate – with bickering co-stars and gangsters looking for loot – can appear in any kind of theatrical performance. Perhaps a behind-the-scenes look at theatre – fictional and non – is in order.
Peter Pan –
“Never-Never Lands.” Fantasylands and fairy tales, whether traditional folk stories or modern adult concoctions, could form the backbone a great book list for this one. And don’t neglect non-fiction if you’ve got any fascinating literary criticisms talking about what those sorts of fairylands symbolize psychologically. That can make really interesting reading!
The Tempest
– “Island Dreams – and Nightmares.” The Tempest takes place on a magnificent island where everything is not as perfect as it seems. Any story that starts off with an island escape and then turns sinister could be a perfect jumping-off point for a Tempest-inspired book list. And since Prospero is a magical wizard, let’s not shy away from supernatural themes here! (An even better idea given the recent popularity of Lost.)
The Two Gentlemen of Verona – “Romance in Black and White.” What stands out most about the Stratford Festival’s imagining of this Shakespearean classic, as far as I’m concerned, is the race politics it’s playing with. By casting black actors in certain roles and white actors in others, the director turned it into a story about a black man in love with a white woman, and his (white) best friend who abandons his (black) fiancee to pursue the white girl. It’s a comedy, but the underlying race issue could make for a compelling collection of reading material.
The Winter’s Tale – “A Child Without A Father.” Could there be any greater drama than a family in which suspicions about illicit affairs leads a man to doubt the paternity of his wife’s baby? It may sound like an episode of Maury Povitch, but the topic has appeared enough times in heart-rending fiction and real-life historical drama to make it well worth considering as a common thread to tie together a reading list.

And the neat thing about these particular sorts of book lists? They don’t depend on the library-going public having seen the plays or even having heard of them. They may be inspired by the Stratford Festival, and they may pique the interests of a patron whose Festival-going experience has made them curious about Argentina or corporate crime or mixed-race romance. But they can also be just as interesting to people who’ve had nothing to do with the Stratford Festival.

It’s all about generating interest. And as a librarian, sometimes all you need to make it happen is a little bit of inspiration. That can come from anywhere.

(To the reader: Let me know if you’d like to see any of these developed into an actual reading list, and I’ll see what I can come up with.)

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