Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chronic Condition: Why Canada's health-care system needs to be dragged into the 21st century by Jeffrey Simpson



You know that ad that has been running on TV for about the past month about the “elephant in the room”.  The ad asks the question:  who will pay for government services when there are more people using them, but no longer enough people paying into the system?  The ad puts me in mind of Jeffrey Simpson’s lastest book, Chronic Condition, in which he examines Canada’s health care system.  The book was recently awarded the Donner Prize which honours the Best Public Policy book by a Canadian.

The subtitle, Why Canada’s health-care system needs to be dragged into the 21st century, offers a glimpse of what’s inside.  Simpson maintains that the system is too expensive, and is ill-adapted to an aging population.   He provides a history of Canada’s health care system and shows why the medicare system that was developed in the last century no longer works.  He compares ours with other publicly-funded health care systems that are providing a better level of service.  He discusses the taboo subject of user fees.

A phrase commonly associated with the book describes our health care system as “a Chevrolet system at Cadillac prices.”  Simpson has opened the way for a dialogue that is long overdue and hopefully a day when discussing health care reform is no longer political suicide.

Michael Enright recently spoke to Jeffrey Simpson about this book on the CBC program, Sunday Edition.  The podcast can be found here:  http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/shows/2013/05/19/jeffrey-simpson-on-medicare-marcia-angell-on-living-a-goodlife-and-more/

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jack of Diamonds by Bryce Courtenay



How much trouble can one man get into?  Jack Spayd, the central character in Bryce Courtenay’s book Jack of Diamonds can probably answer that.  A staff member, and loyal fan, gives us a description of the book on the SCRLreads page.

Jack Spayd began life in the slums of Cabbagetown (Toronto) during the depression.  His father was a mean drunk who beat his mother regularly.  His mother manages to provide the bare necessities through her job as a night-time cleaning lady.  One night his father wins a Hohner harmonica in a card game and gives it to Jack.  During his many nights alone, Jack discovers a talent for music.  Through good luck and various mentors his musical talent is developed until he becomes an excellent piano and harmonica musician.  He also becomes very adept at cards and loves to gamble.  These two skills take him around the world and he usually finds trouble wherever he lands; in Moose Jaw, Las Vegas, or in the copper mines of the Belgian Congo.

This is the last book written by the author before he died from cancer in 2012.  He had many fans all over the world and will be missed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I brake for yard sales: and flea markets, thrift shops, auctions, and the occasional dumpster by Lara Spencer



Every town has them.  They seem to pop up everywhere at this time of year - Garage sales, yard sales, auctions sales, whatever you want to call them.  There are those that visit the occasional sale, and the diehards who travel from one sale to another hoping to find that rare priceless collectible.

Lara Spencer, known to many of us as a co-anchor for Good Morning America, and former host of Antiques Roadshow, gives us a glimpse at some of the cool ways she uses other people’s castoffs in, I Brake for yard sales and flea markets, thrift shops, auctions, and the occasional dumpster.  Spencer shows the reader how to rescue, recycle and reinvent secondhand items.  The trick to Lara Spencer’s designs is to see items in a new light.  Spencer explains what she looks for and how she came to develop her personal style.   In many cases she shows before and after photographs and the transformations are remarkable.  The designs are sleek, classy and modern.  The narration is fun and informative.  

The flyleaf calls this, “blue-blood style on a blue-collar budget”.  If you are not already a garage sale junkie, this book might turn you into one.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Cat's Pajamas by Wallace Edwards



It’s the TD Canadian Children’s book week and this week we welcome to our branches the visiting author/illustrator, Wallace Edwards.  Mr. Edwards was awarded the Governor General’s Award (Illustration), for his first book, Alphabeasts.  It’s definitely an honour and a real pleasure for all of us to welcome him.

Wallace Edwards has so many beautifully illustrated books, it’s difficult to choose just one to talk about today.  I have chosen one of his newer ones, The Cat’s Pajamas.  In this book are 26 illustrations, each depicting a different idiom.  An idiom is “a group of words whose meaning cannot be understood from the meaning of the individual words; an expression, peculiar to a specific language, that cannot be translated literally.”  For example, think about what the phrases “face the music”, “a bee in her bonnet”, “something  smells fishy”, or being “counted on in a pinch”, would mean if one tried to understand them literally.  Wallace Edwards shows us what it would look like.  Oops, have I let the cat out of the bag?

Each Wallace Edwards’ book is unique so it’s difficult to talk about them as a group.  They are all treasures, so I hope everyone has a look at more than 1.