Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Man Who Quit Money--Blog by Elaine Oshell

This very readable non-fiction book by Mark Sundeen investigates an acquaintance of the author who, since they parted ways at high school, has renounced money as a make-believe conundrum that makes us selfish and self-centred.

The protagonist, Daniel Suelo, gave away his life savings, all thirty dollars, in 2000 and has been living on the generosity of friends, strangers and nature ever since. He was raised in a Christian fundamentalist family that still welcomes him into their homes despite his sampling all other mainstream religions, eventually settling on his own minimalist belief that we should all attempt to live as much as possible like Jesus--love your enemy, turn the other cheek, bless the meek--even though it is almost impossible to live in America without a "mortgage, property tax, home insurance, utility bills, health insurance and retirement savings", as listed by the author, who has yearned to live more simply himself.

Suelo lives mainly in a cave in Utah, bicycling and walking into the nearest town to dumpster-dive, use the computers at the public library, visit friends and volunteer at a women's shelter. He does not want charitable donations but takes what is freely given (shelter, rides, meals, food) and shares whatever he has. His wildly popular blog is www.zerocurrency.blotspot.ca but he has found it difficult to write much since the book was published in 2012 due to a stream of visitors.

This book raises interesting questions about our modern lifestyle but his method of dealing with it all is not for everyone. As Sheila pronounced, as she checked me and my book out the other day, "He obviously doesn't have kids!"

"Or likely a wife," I responded, immediately recognizing my own predilection for a warm home, a reliable food source and electronic devices--all requiring regular inputs of cash. We were both right .

Monday, December 17, 2012

From Ampersand...

The following is a review written by Chris from our November/December 2012 issue of the library's newsletter, Ampersand.

Non-Fiction: Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt 940.21
In this wide ranging history, the author reconstructs the story of the re-discovery, in the early 15th Century of a poem written in 50 B.C. He argues that the poem which might otherwise have been lost, was the seminal work which kicked off the Renaissance.
There are two central characters in the story. Poggio, a papal secretary who re-discovers the poem by Lucretius called 'The Nature of Things.'
Lucretius, who lived in a time of multiple gods, was apparently an atheist and a humanist. His work is wide ranging from the erotic to the scientific. It apparently had an understanding of astronomy and atomic structure.
Greenblatt traces the progress of distribution of this remarkable poem from its re-discovery in a German monastery by Poggio. It was ruthlessly suppressed by early Catholic and Protestant churches. Yet its content kept it alive until it was eventually printed and translated from the Latin into modern languages.
Not everyone will enjoy this book, but, for those with an interest in history, it is involving and readable.

From Ampersand...

The following is a review written by Chris from our November/December 2012 issue of the library's newsletter, Ampersand.

Fiction: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is the third in a series which starts with The Shadow of the Wind and continues through The Angel's Game.
The stories are set in Barcelona. They concern the era of the dictator Franco in the pre-World War II time of widespread repression in Spain.
Zafon is a consummate story teller with a touch of the gothic. The main characters work in a book store and there are occasional visits to a secret and hidden library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
In this story The Angel's Game is referenced as a book by a mysterious mad writer, who may, or may not have died in one of Franco's worst prisons. One of the book store employees, who was also imprisoned, tells the story of the castle prison and its sadistic governor.
I envy anyone who has not read these books and has that pleasure ahead of them. The Library has all three.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I discovered this delight in the New Books section and am a little reluctant to give it up. Even though it caused me to lose a full day of my vacation, I truly enjoyed this foray into the Parisian world of luxury apartments, autodidacts and family foibles.

It is author Muriel Barbery's second novel and is translated "from the French" by Alison Anderson. The two main characters, concierge Renee Michel and twelve-year-old tenant Paloma Josse, are both hiding their true talents and finest qualities from the world for fear they will not be believed nor appreciated. In their own words we are introduced to a wide variety of interests and observations including phenomenologic philosophy, the importance of regular doses of silence, vapid dissertations, the underrated colour pink and Japanese culture.

When a wealthy, retired Japanese exporter, Kakuro Ozu buys and renovates one of the large apartments in their block, the quirks and prejudices of the other tenants quickly are revealed. All are abuzz about the new tenant; all hope to be included in his exotic circle.

It is Mr. Ozu who quickly discerns who are his most intelligent, interesting fellow inhabitants--Madame Michel and Paloma. Through kindness and good conversation he strikes up a companiable romance with the concierge. By respecting the profound abilities and difficult family life of Paloma, he gives the gift of justification to a troubled girl.

His greatest gift to both is his gentle hand that facilitates their friendship.

And now it is back on the shelf for all to enjoy.    

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Comparing Travelogues

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit to being a serial reader. Not the trilogies or Harry Potter juggernaut, although I have dabbled in the consecutive genre. No, it's more like a lack of focus and I start one book before I have finished the last. At any one time I may be reading as many as six.

So it was that I recently found myself reading two travelogues simultaneously quite by accident. I had been meaning to read Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier for some time and checked it out and dove in. But alas, I had to go to the mall and there's a book store there! And didn't I leave with several under my arm, one of which was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by new author Rachel Joyce. It hooked me over lunch in the food court and I was off. (At about the same time Marie purchased Harold Fry for the library.)

Cold Mountain is set in the American Civil War and follows the path of W.P. Inman, a wounded Confederate soldier, who walks away from the war back to his home in the Blue Mountains and to Ada Monroe, the woman he loved. Since he is a defector, Inman must use his wits to outsmart the marauding Home Guard, aiding and being aided by slaves and farmers along the way. Interwoven is Ada's tale of trying to revive her deceased father's derelict farm with the able assistance of a local girl, Ruby. Although Ada and Inman attempt to correspond with each other the only one who benefits from their letters is the reader as they never connect.

So Inman's journey is a lonely, uncertain one--uncertain of success and, even, if Ada is still on the farm and waiting for him. And such is the climate that, should he succeed in reaching Cold Mountain, his deserter status will prevent him from settlng in.

Harold Fry's journey begins innocently enough in his village in the south of England (Kingsbridge) when he steps out to mail a note of encouragement to a dying colleague who is in hospice 600 miles away at the northern tip of the country. A chance encounter along the way convinces him that his friend, Queenie, will live as long as it takes him to deliver the note in person. So he keeps walking.

Harold is woefully ill-prepared for the excursion--recently retired, dressed only in tennis shoes and a light jacket, unfamiliar with the rigours of long-distance walking and sleeping in the elements. It turns out his journey is as much an escape as a destination. His long marriage to Maureen has stalled in an unhappy quagmire and neither seems to know how to get out. But neither has found the reason to end it and move on.

Along the way Harold encounters the good and bad elements of society but on the whole, most are decent and helpful. His travels force him to revisit the highs and lows in his life, and as he and Maureen begin to talk again, the immaterial falls away.

I won't give away either ending except to say that both men complete their journeys. And both books, in their own way, are an excellent read.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Home Front by Kristin Hannah - Blog by Sandy

This is a hard book to put down.  It is a story about honour, love, tragedy and family life. A troubled marriage is made worse when the wife who flies helicopters is sent to fight in Iraq. The husband, a workaholic lawyer, quickly learns what it takes to run a household and raise children. There is also the friendship between two female pilots that plays a big part in sustaining the characters and showing us two different type of military life styles.  The reader learns a lot about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and life in military families.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Odd Egg: Give this a try with your kids!

This past week at our TD Summer Reading Club, we did a group read aloud of The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. This book features fun illustrations, split pages, and a suspenseful and joking story line perfect for kids. This book allowed a lot of feedback as we asked, "What kind of bird is that?" and "What do you think will hatch out of this egg?" Each of the children at the program shared their guesses and were quite surprised when it was revealed what was really inside the 'Odd Egg'.

To make this read aloud even more exciting, we provided each of the children with plasticine and encouraged them to build a creature (imaginary or realistic) that would be found inside of their egg. Their creations included bunnies, elegators (a mix between an elephant and an alligator), and robots.

After the plasticine creations were finished, we set them aside and got each of the kids to create an egg using a balloon and paper mache. This activity was super messy, but we had a tarp to protect the carpet and asked each of the parents to send their children in play clothes so that prevented some of the mess. The older kids grasped the concept more than the 5-year-olds who seemed to just enjoy getting their hands covered in the gooey mixture.

Before the next program, Emma and I are going to do another layer of paper mache on each of the eggs, give them a quick paint job, and cut a hole inside the eggs just big enough to squeeze in the paper mache creations. When the children arrive, they'll have their 'Odd Eggs' with their surprise creatures to either play their own guessing games with or share with their families!

This book was an awesome choice for our story time and the activity supplemented it perfectly!