Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

The winner of this year’s Canada Reads is The Orenda by Joseph Boyden.  This story artfully weaves together the different worlds of the Hurons and the Jesuits in early New France. 

The Orenda, (the word is Huron for ‘lifeforce’), is set in the early years of the French settlement of Canada and chronicles a fictional encounter between the native peoples and the French Jesuits sent to establish a mission in the New World.  Three main characters illuminate the relationships and conflicts between groups – Bird, chief of the Huron , Snow Falls, the Iroquois girl kidnapped as an act of  vengeance, and Christophe, a French Jesuit priest.  The Hurons and the Jesuits each have their own worldview and see the other as both dangerous and admirable.   Diseases brought by the Europeans leave the Huron population decimated and nearly defenceless against the Iroquois.   The clash between the Huron and the Iroquois is brutal, as it its aftermath.

The Orenda exhibits a deep humanity.  Though the worlds of the Huron and the French are so different, there are the common human traits of love, joy and respect; sometimes between the different, clashing cultures but certainly evident within their own.

Read more about the Canada Reads books, panelists, authors, and the debates:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

News: A user's guide by Alain De Botton

What is “News”?  

We are bombarded with it 24 hours a day, but do we ever really think about it? Have you ever wondered why it is that certain news items are presented as such?  What is newsworthy about the behaviour of Miley Cyrus, or Justin Bieber?  Ever wonder what political machinations are at work behind the scenes of what is presented as news?  Why are real news stories from another part of the globe often ignored?  What is the 24 hour access to news doing to the ways that news is presented, and how the public receives it?  In a new (surprisingly short) book, The News: A User’s Manual by Alain de Botton answers some of these questions, and examines what the onslaught of facts without any context is doing to our brains.  De Botton examines 25 archtypal stories including a political scandal, a plane crash, a murder, a celebrity interview, and more, and subjects each to careful scrutiny.  

We have to ask ourselves, “ is the news making us stupid?”  De Botton writes, "If you want to make people accepting of the status quo, give them no news at all, or give them so much they'll drown in it. Then, nothing will ever have to change." 

An Irish country doctor by Patrick Taylor

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve chosen an Irish theme.

 An Irish country doctor is the first title in a series of books set in a medical practice in Ballybucklebo Northern Ireland, in the 60’s.  With the exception of the assistant doctor, Dr Barry Laverty, everyone is a wee bit eccentric.  Dr Laverty is a new medical school graduate when he takes a position as assistant to Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly.  Dr. O’Reilly is the main character and a character he is.   One of their regular patients, Maggie MacCorkle,  has a persistent pain, the cure for which is somewhat unorthodox.  Mrs. Kincaid, known as Kinky, serves as the doctor’s housekeeper/receptionist/nurse. She is also a wee bit fey – that is, she can, at times, see into the future.  The pet cat is known as Lady Macbeth, and the dog is named Arthur Guinness.   Included in most of the books are Kinky’s recipes for whatever the doctors favourite dishes are at the moment.  Interspersed with homespun common sense and true scientific doctoring the doctors see to the well being of their patients.  

This series is strongly recommended by our head librarian, who says “Tis a fine read indeed”.

Consumer guide to home energy savings

This week is “Let’s talk energy” week; a week during which the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation encourages all of us to become more aware of where our energy comes from and how we can be better energy consumers.

One book that can help us become more energy aware is the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings by Jennifer Thorne Amann, Alex Wilson and Katie Ackerly.  The lasted version was published in 2012 and is held in several library branches.  This book is filled with practical tips and information on saving money while saving the earth.  In this climate heating our homes in winter and cooling them in the summer uses up a significant amount of energy and money.  Proper ventilation and air distribution is vitally important for a healthy home, as well as energy efficiency.  Every home uses energy in food storage, cooking, dishwashing, laundry, and lighting.  If we all do our part, there are energy savings to be had.  Home electronics have become so prevalent that we don’t even think of them as energy consumers.

Hopefully we will all spend a few minutes this week to learn about energy issues, and perhaps take a few steps toward more efficient energy use.  

Librarian on the Roof by M. G. King

Each year at this time we celebrate the role of books in our lives and communities.  A book that celebrates the lengths some people have gone to to ensure that the people in their communities have access to libraries is Librarian on the Roof by M. G. King.

This children’s book tells the true story of RoseAleta Laurell, a new librarian who arrives at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart Texas.  It is a musty old place which the idealistic and energetic  RoseAleta sets out to transform.  She makes many changes and soon realizes that there are no children in the library. She decides that children need their own space in the library which can be had for $20,000. After sending many fundraising letters, all to no avail, she decides to take matters into her own hands.  She takes to the roof to raise awareness for her campaign.  After a week which included some nasty stormy weather, she raised almost $40,000.

Fortunately the librarians in our community have not had to take to the roof to raise funds, but the book is a reminder of the importance of libraries to the community and all who love to read.