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The Tom Hiddleston Book Club

May 30, 2016 | Viveca | Comments (2)


[photograph by Charlie Gray, Shortlist Media Inc]

The only thing better than a photo of Tom Hiddleston staring into your soul while sporting an elegant suit, is a photo of him doing this while holding a cat. Hiddleston, a British actor with a Cambridge and RADA pedigree, glides from the Shakespearean stage into the Marvel comic book universe with ease -- exuding equal parts charm and menace. Thoughtful in interviews, impeccably polite, Hiddleston has amassed a legendary and loyal fan base who apparently like the cut of his jib.  

Here are some titles that would be requisite on any Tom Hiddleston Book Club list:   

Night Manager Book Cover Deep Blue Sea Book Cover War Horse Book Cover High Rise Book Cover

The Night Manager by John Le Carré. Hiddleston's role as the enigmatic Mr. Pine in the six-part television adaptation of John Le Carré's spy thriller is generally acknowledged to be his screen test to be the next James Bond. 

The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan. Rattigan's 1952 stage play about post-war repression and isolation was the basis for Terence Davies' achingly beautiful film adaptation. Watch this on DVD and prepare to weep. 

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. In Steven Spielberg's film adaptation, Hiddleston plays a doomed World War I soldier along with fellow erudite Brit, Benedict Cumberbatch.

High-Rise by J. G. Ballard. In the upcoming film adaptation, Hiddleston joins the residents of a luxury high-rise building who gradually withdraw from the outside world and descend into violence and debauchery.  

 Only lovers left alive Archipelago Unrelated DVD Cover Hollow Crown

Only Lovers Left Alive. Directed by Jim Jarmusch. Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are weary vampires who cling to music, books and art in a changing world. Bibliophiles will relate to the tactile attachment to books and reading. 

Archipelago and Unrelated. Directed by Joanna Hogg. Don't miss these two intelligent indie films that explore family and personal relationships. Both star an extremely young Hiddleston. 

The Hollow Crown.  Shakespeare's histories. Hiddleston is Prince Hal, the party-time bro who becomes defender of the realm. 

Midnight in Paris DVD Cover Sidetracked Book Cover Hank Williams Book Cover  

Midnight in Paris. Directed by Woody Allen. Spot Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Hank Williams: The Biography by Colin Escott. This book was the basis for Marc Abraham's recently released I Saw the Light, a biopic about the country music legend with Hiddleston in the title role. 

Fans of Henning Mankell's mysteries should check out the Wallander series on DVD.  Hiddleston plays Magnus, a young cop working under the brooding and boozy Kurt Wallander. 

Thor DVD Cover Thor The Dark World DVD Cover Marvel's The Avengers DVD Cover

Gospel of Loki Book Cover

In Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and The Avengers, Hiddleston got his breakout role as the villain Loki which launched his legendary army of fans known as Hiddlestoners.  

Recommended Reading: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. An entertaining retelling of the Norse legend.



Related Links: The Benedict Cumberbatch Book Club


Spectator Sport: Books about Fan Culture

May 24, 2016 | M. Elwood | Comments (0)

At the course, Labour Day in Harriston
At the course, Labour Day in Harriston, 1910

The Raptors are in the Eastern Conference Final of the NBA playoffs even though a CBS sports poll identified them merely as the "other" team. The Marlies are in the Eastern Conference Final of the Calder Cup. The Toronto Blue Jays are brawling in Texas. The Toronto Maple Leafs have the first draft pick. It's a pretty good time to be a sports fan in Toronto -- if there is ever a "good" time. It's a hard thing to be a sports fan. The thrill of victory is sweet but rare, and requires suffering through plenty of agony of defeat moments. 

These books are about the passion and pain of being a sports fan:

Boys of summer Federer and me Fever pitch Hope and heartbreak

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn
Kahn recalls his boyhood in Brooklyn, the borough's devotion to the Dodgers and his career covering the team in the 1950s. 

Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession by William Skidelesky
Skidelesky examines his consuming passion for tennis player Roger Federer. Trying to understand the psychology of the obsessed fan, he dissects his own personal history. 

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
A passionate Arsenal FC fan, Hornby tells the story of his childhood, adolescence and early adulthood through a series of essays, each about a football match he watched.

Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto: Life as a Maple Leafs Fan by Peter Robinson
It is hard to be a Maple Leafs fan and Peter Robinson understands. In this book, he tries to explain the irrational (and sometimes unrequited) love Leafs fans feel towards the team. 

I don't care if we never get back Secret life of sports fans Wait till next year World is a ball

I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever
by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster

Baseball fan Ben Blatt wrote an algorithm for the ultimate baseball road trip -- 30 games in 30 stadiums in 30 days and decided to give it a try. His companion for the trip is Eric Brewster, a man who doesn't really like the sport.

The Secret Life of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession by Eric Simons
Why do some of us love sports so much when others really don't care? Science writer Simons investigates the scientific reasons we are so committed to our favourite sports and teams.

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Award-winning historian Goodwin relates the role baseball, especially the Brooklyn Dodgers, played in her childhood providing bonding moments with her father and heartbreak when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1957.

The World is a Ball: the Joy, Madness and Meaning of Soccer by John Doyle
A lifelong soccer fan, Doyle was thrilled when he was given a chance to cover the World Cup but he found himself becoming more interested in the fans and began studying them.


The postcard used at the top of this post is from Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive. The Digital Archive includes rare historical pictures, maps, manuscripts, ephemera and digitized books from our Special Collections and other library collections for research, study and discovery.


Know Her Value: Books about Female Spies

May 24, 2016 | Andrea | Comments (1)

It's been a tough month for Peggy Carter. The intrepid secret agent has never backed down from a challenge: she fought beside Captain America during the Second World War, continued to fight nefarious cabals and workplace sexism through two seasons of her own television show, and eventually became one of the founders of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. But being fictional, her existence is subject to the decisions of studios and networks. Her latest appearance on the big screen was a muted affair, as audiences who watched Captain America: Civil War can attest, and then the news broke that ABC cancelled Agent Carter. Viewers immediately launched a petition calling for Netflix to rescue the show, and though its future remains uncertain, it was a grand adventure while it lasted. 

Agent Carter herself once stated, "I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter." That said, many fans share the opinion that the Marvel Cinematic Universe should better acknowledge the value of their heroines, namely by giving Black Widow her own movie. Until we next see these ladies onscreen, follow their adventures in espionage on the page:

Operation SIN Agent Carter by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis  Black Widow Forever Red by Margaret Stohl Black Widow Vol 1 The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson and Phil NotoBlack Widow Vol 2 The Tightly Tangled Web by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto Black Widow Vol 3 Last Days by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto

Operation S.I.N.: Agent Carter by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis

Peggy teams up with Howard Stark to investigate alien technology, and to nobody's surprise, Hydra is involved. Despite featuring Hayley Atwell on the cover, this graphic novel does not tie into the TV show.

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Assassin. Agent. Avenger. Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff has worn many masks, and in this young adult novel you'll see her in yet another role: mentor to a teenage protégé.  

Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto

"I've got red in my ledger," Natasha admitted in The Avengers. "I'd like to wipe it out." These graphic novels chronicle her exploits as she atones for past sins and goes undercover in Russia to expose a worldwide conspiracy, crossing paths with Hawkeye, Iron Man and the Winter Soldier along the way. The story continues in Volume 2: The Tightly Tangled Web and Volume 3: Last Days.

More women in spy fiction:

At Risk by Stella Rimington  Girl in a Box by Sujata Massey  Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen  Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal

At Risk by Stella Rimington 

Rimington, the first woman to serve as Director General of MI5, went on to write an ongoing series of spy thrillers starring counter-terrorism agent Liz Carlyle.

Girl in a Box by Sujata Massey

Rei Shimura accepts an assignment from the CIA to go undercover in a Tokyo department store.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

The first in a series of cozy mysteries, this fun whodunit introduces readers to Lady Georgiana aka Georgie, who is 34th in line to the throne and doing her best to make her own way in 1930s London while carrying out covert missions for the crown.  

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal

The latest Maggie Hope title brings our resourceful heroine to the White House. She is posing as Churchill's typist while he negotiates an American alliance, but when Eleanor Roosevelt needs her help, Maggie finds herself drawn into another dangerous plot.


Fair Game by Valerie Plame  Femme Fatale by Pat Shipman  Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott  Spy Princess - The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu

Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House by Valerie Plame Wilson

Despite being redacted by the CIA, this memoir offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the leak that ended Plame Wilson's career as an intelligence officer. She has since co-authored a series of spy novels, the first book being titled Blowback


Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari by Pat Shipman

History has painted different pictures of Mata Hari, labelling her hedonist, harlot and heroine. Discover the complicated truth in this biography. 

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott

Like your history served narrative-style with a side of scandal? Read about the extraordinary lives of Belle Boyd, Emma Edmonds, Rose O’Neale Greenhow and Elizabeth Van Lew.

Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu

A descendant of Tipu Sultan, Inayat Khan proved her mettle when she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World War. She continued to spy for the Allies as a Special Operations Executive agent before her career came to a tragically early end.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang Wins Man Booker International Prize

May 17, 2016 | Book Buzz | Comments (0)


Author Han Kang and translator Deborah Smith were awarded The Man Booker International Prize for Han's novel The Vegetarian, translated from the Korean by Smith.

The novel is about a woman disturbed by violent images who decides to stop eating meat. Among her South Korean family, this decision is considered socially unacceptable. Her relationships begin to fall apart as she is accused of everything from dangerous subversion to mental illness.

This is the first book translated by Deborah Smith who began teaching herself Korean in 2010 when she noticed a lack of Korean literature in the English market. 

The other books on the shortlist were:

Four books General theory of oblivion Story of the lost child

The Four Books by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas

A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

Strangeness in my own mind Whole life

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap
Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled patrons)

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, translated from the German by Charlotte Collins

Kang and Smith will split £50,000. The authors and translators of the other novels on the shortlist each receive £1,000.  

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Chris Cleave: Uptown at the Salon at North York Central Library

May 16, 2016 | Patricia Naughton | Comments (0)

'Uptown at the Salon' presents critically acclaimed and bestselling British author, Chris Cleave, at North York Central Library, on Tuesday May 17, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, in the Concourse Auditorium

Chris wChris Cleaveill be discussing his recent book, Everyone Brave is Forgiven (2016), inspired by his grandparents' wartime correspondence. Whether you are a book lover, interested in history, or curious about the creative writing process, Chris' presentation is sure to be of interest!

A book signing and Q & A with the author will follow.

Register for this free event online or call North York Central's 'Browsery Department' at 416-395-5672.





Find Chris Cleave titles in the library's collections:

             Everyone Brave is Forgiven  Gold

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave (2016)

Mary, Tom, Alistair and Hilda are on the cusp of adulthood when World War II breaks out. Against the backdrop of bombs, big bands, and food rationing, their lives become intertwined with a surprising aftermath. Inspired by the wartime letters of Cleave’s grandparents, love, prejudice, fear and hope intersect to produce a very human and poignant drama. This is an epic story, filled with rich and at times jarring imagery. Fans of his award-winning Little Bee (2009) are sure to enjoy this latest work. 

Gold, Chris Cleave (2012)  

On the eve of the 2012 London Olympics, Kate and Zoe, best friends and fierce rivals, compete for one spot on the British Cycling Team. In this emotionally charged story, each woman will be tested to her physical and psychological limits. Cleave scores another win with Gold!


             Everyone Brave is Forgiven  Gold

Little Bee, Chris Cleave (2009)

While vacationing in Nigeria, Sarah and her husband Andrew are taken captive by a group of threatening soldiers. This incident, which also involves a young Nigerian girl, Little Bee, forms the basis for a friendship between Little Bee and Sarah when their paths cross again in London. With humour and understanding, Cleave masterfully contrasts the voices of the two women -- Little Bee, desperate and resilient, and Sarah, trying to come to terms with the violent episode on the beach and the chain of events it has set in motion. This New York Times bestseller and Oprah favourite was also published as The Other Hand’.

Incendiary, Chris Cleave (2005)

A young working class mother's life is shattered when a terrorist attack kills her husband and young son attending a football match. Guilt-ridden, devastated by grief, she writes a letter to Osama Bin Laden beseeching him to end his campaign of terror. Writing is an outlet for her anguish. It also initiates her own personal odyssey of self-discovery. Incendiary was made into a successful feature film, starring Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor.



Friday the 13th: Are You Superstitious?

May 13, 2016 | Lynn | Comments (0)

Today is Friday, May 13th, an unlucky day according to superstition. Since the 20th century some theories suggest the 13th is a bad day because it was on a Friday the 13th that the Masons were ordered rounded up and executed by King Philip IV of France, as suggested in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry's The Templar Legacy. As an aside this idea of the Mason roundup being on a Friday the 13th was first included in the 1955 book The Iron King by Maurice Druon, which was what inspired George R.R. Martin to write The Game of Thrones series. Judas Iscariot was the 13th person at the Last Supper and Loki was the 13th guest at a dinner held in Valhalla. This superstition is so prevalent that most buildings and hotels don't have a 13th floor. Whether you believe or not here are a number of books about superstitions from around the world.

Thirteen Club 1884-1904

Thirteen Club, 1884-1904

We have a real copy and a PDF file of a Thirteen Club here in Toronto. These clubs could be found all over the world and some continue to exist today.  At the time, some people believed that if 13 people say down and ate a meal together one will die within a year. Thirteen clubs were formed to debunk these beliefs.

Superstitions 1,013 of the wackiest myths, fables and old wives' tales

Superstitions: 1,013 of the wackiest myths, fables and old wives' tales

Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky? Why do we knock on wood? Why do we cross our fingers for good luck? It may not be logical, but underlying these irrational notions are centuries of beliefs and many affect us still. In fact, the most important aspects of people's lives have been influenced by their superstitions both at work and at home, particularly their health, marriage, children, and prosperity. Superstitions is a chock-full compendium of more than 1,000 of the world's most common folklore beliefs.

Cassell's dictionary of superstitions

Cassell's dictionary of superstitions

People around the world and throughout history have always held arcane beliefs to try to gain understanding and control over a mysterious world. This entertaining and educational reference describes why actors shout "break a leg" to each other for good luck, and consider any word of encouragement before a performance to be a curse. The entry on baseball players explains why they never mention a no-hitter while it's in progress, and why they carefully place their gloves in the field for good luck. Other sections describe customs involving hundreds of animals and birds, rocks and plants, foods and occupations, sleeping and sexual activities, all believed to possess the power to bring doom or fortune. Besides the many entries about superstitions, taboos, and fears, there are sections on traditional rhymes and chants, as well as the uses of potions and rituals that are employed to avoid harm and master the future.

Hockey Superstitions from playoff beards to crossed sticks and lucky socks

Hockey Superstitions from playoff beards to crossed sticks and lucky socks

One of North America's best-known hockey writers examines the strangest rituals and superstitions within the NHL.

Why did Wayne Gretzky start every pre-game warm-up by shooting wide to the right of the net (a rather funny habit, given that he scored more goals than anyone in the game's history)? Why do many hockey players seem to believe performance is tied directly to facial hair? Why does Geoff Sanderson use a different length stick for every period? And why did Petr Klima break his stick after every goal he scored? Hockey Superstitions, by one of Canada's best-known hockey writers, Andrew Podnieks, explores the fascinating and fun world of hockey superstitions: their origins, their quirks, and the mythology around them. Along the way, it gives us an original look into the minds of the players and coaches behind them.

The penguin guide to the superstitions of Britain and Ireland

The penguin guide to the superstitions of Britain and Ireland

This survey not only explains what people have believed and why, but when superstitions arose, which parts of the country adopted them, how they evolved and what people today believe. Drawing extensively on literary sources from medieval times to the present, the book settles many arguments, debunks many myths and provides in the process an interesting sideways view of social customs and beliefs over the centuries.

The Library's reference collections have numerous books and materials on this topic if you are willing to travel, here are a few.

Superstitions: omens, charms, cures 1787

Superstitions : Omens, Charms, Cures 1787

Responding to the growing interest in British history and driven by a desire to make it more easily accessible to ordinary readers, Grose toured the country for many years, making sketches and collecting lexicographical data. Drawing on decades of fieldwork, he published in 1787 a disparate collection entitled A Provincial Glossary, with a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions. In his introduction to the collection of superstitions he wrote: "I shall arrange my subject under the following heads: Ghosts- Witches, Sorcerers, and Witchcraft-Fairies -Corps, Candles, &c.-Second Sight-Omens -Things lucky and unlucky-Spells, Charms, and other fanciful devices...-Superstitious Methods of obtaining a Knowledge of Future Events- Sympathy-and Miscellaneous Superstitions." Grose's Popular Superstitions are reproduced here under their original headings, with an introduction by John Simpson, setting the superstitions in their wider context and drawing attention to their historical, cultural, and lexicographical significance. The resulting collection is a delightfully quirky guide to traditional sayings and beliefs, some archaic and surprising, some still in use and recognizable today.


Observations on the popular antiquities of Great Britain, chiefly illustrating the origin of our vulgar and provincial customs ceremonies and superstitions

Covers such topics at Bride Ale, Groaning Cake and Cheese, Music at Funerals and Bees informed of death.


Essays on the superstitions of the Highlander of Scotland, to which are added translations from the Gaelic and letters connected with those formerly published

Published in 1811 by Anne MacVicar Grant, one of many books she published exploring beliefs.


The curse of Macbeth, and other theatrical superstitions: an investigation

Find out why Macbeth is the play the Scottish Play, and why you never wish an actor good luck before a performance.


What to Read While Waiting for the Next Game of Thrones Book

April 29, 2016 | Kelli | Comments (0)

Game of Thrones is back (finally!) with its sixth season on HBO Canada. Until this season, fans who had read the books of the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin had the advantage of knowing what was going to happen in the television show. This is the first season to take the story beyond the published books. Fans of the books and the show are curious (and perhaps somewhat anxious) to see where the story leads. 

George R.R. Martin is expected to write at least two more books in the series.  The next book, The Winds of Winter, was expected in the spring of 2016, but it has been postponed and a new publication date for the book has not been announced as yet.  

Here are some series to keep you busy while George R.R. Martin writes and writes and writes....

Black prism Iron king Name of the Wind Prince of thorns Queen of the tearling

Black Prism by Brent Weeks. Gavin Guile is facing his final years as high priest and emperor. Seeking to rectify the lingering wrongs from the war against his twin, he is forced to acknowledge a bastard son, face down a corrupt governor, and stop a challenge to the state religion. The Lightbringer series also includes The Blinding Knife and The Broken Eye.

Iron King by Maurice Druon. George R.R. Martin has called this series the original Game of Thrones. Beginning in 1314, the French king, Philip the Fair, rules France with an iron fist. Philip's persecution of the Knights Templar causes the Grand Master, as he dies, to unleash a terrible curse on Philip that sets the stage for all the events that follow. The Accursed Kings series is based on history and is full of political intrigue, family drama and characters who would do credit to the Lannister, Frey and Bolton houses. The Accursed Kings series continues with The Strangled Queen, The Poisoned Crown, The Royal Succession, The She-Wolf, The Lily and the Lion and The King with Kingdom.

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. These are the stories of Kvothe, a presumed dead hero and villain, as told to the Chronicler. From his upbringing as an actor in his family's traveling troupe, through his education at "the University," Kvothe tells of his drive to learn the higher magic of naming and to discover as much as possible about the Chandrian, the demons of legend who murdered his family. The Kingkiller Chronicles also includes The Wise Man's Fear and The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. When he was nine, Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath was forced to watch his mother and brother being killed in front of him. Now leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs, it is time for him to return to his father's castle, claim his inheritance and get his revenge. Yet, at the castle, treachery and dark magic await him. The Broken Empire series also includes King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns.

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Although the rightful Queen of the Tearling, Kelsea has been kept in hiding since birth for her safety. Now that she has reached the age of ascension, she travels to the capital to claim her throne. Kelsea wants to abolish the slave lottery that plagues her people, but that earns the wrath of the powerful and magical Red Queen of the neighbouring kingdom which expects to keep on receiving shipments of the Tearling slaves. The Queen of the Tearling series also includes The Invasion of the Tearling and the upcoming The Fate of the Tearling.
Large Print
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If you have not read George R.R. Martin's books as yet, the five published so far are:

Game of Thrones A Clash of Kings A Storm of Swords A Feast for Crows A Dance with Dragons

Game of Thrones
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Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

A Clash of Kings
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Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

A Storm of Swords
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Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

A Feast for Crows
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Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

A Dance with Dragons
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If you prefer to watch the television series, there are five seasons so far.  They are:

Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5


Related Posts:

Want to be Becky with the Good Hair?

April 27, 2016 | M. Elwood | Comments (3)

Beyoncé's new song "Sorry" has been the talk of the Internet this week. Widely interpreted as proof that Jay Z has cheated on his wife, people are desperate to learn more. Who is "Becky with the good hair", mentioned in the song? Some women are denying it -- Rachel Roy, for example. Others, like Rita Ora, are hinting that they are Becky. Poor Rachael Ray is an innocent bystander caught in the Rachel Roy fallout and Taylor Swift is a suspect because she always is. Although if Taylor is Becky, she would have already written her own song about it.

I have no idea who Becky is but I am annoyed that the world is focused on finding a woman to blame, when we all know exactly where Jay Z is. That is a subject for a different blog post, however. This one is all about hair. 

For the record, I think you all have perfect hair but if you're looking for a change or are curious about why we care so much about hair, check out these books:

Better than good hair Diy dye Diy updos

Better than Good Hair: the Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous Natural Hair by Nikki Walton

DIY Dye: Bright and Funky Temporary Hair Coloring that you do at Home by Loren Lankford

DIY Updos, Knots, and Twists: Easy Step-By-Step Styling Instructions for 35 Hairstyles from Inverted Fishtales to Polished Ponytails by Melissa Cook

Every woman's guide Going gray Hair a human history Hair story

Every Woman's Guide to Beautiful Hair at Any Age: Learn What Can Be Done to Keep a Beautiful Head of Hair for a Lifetime by Lisa Akbari

Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else that Matters by Anne Kreamer

Hair: A Human History by Kurt Stenn

Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana Byrd

Hairstyled Me my hair and i Politics of black women's hair Red a history

Hairstyled: 75 Ways to Braid, Pin and Accessorize Your Hair by Annie Thoumieux

Me, My Hair and I: 27 Women Untangle an Obsession edited by Elizabeth Benedict

The Politics of Black Women's Hair by Althea Prince

Red: a History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey

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Chernobyl 30 Years Later

April 25, 2016 | Andrea | Comments (2)

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the nuclear power plant in Pripyat exploded, spreading radioactive material across Ukraine and the rest of the continent, the effects and ramifications of which are still plainly seen and keenly felt. A great deal of the conversation during Earth Month revolves around preservation, sustainability and preparing for tomorrow, and nothing throws the future into more devastating relief than looking to the past. The fragility and resilience of life is demonstrated in Chernobyl's cataclysmic wake, but danger remains: the seeping radiation, and more nebulous threats posed by bureaucracy and greed. Today, a new steel sarcophagus nears completion and a government-sanctioned wildlife preserve is in the works, but rebuilding efforts are hindered by political turmoil and illegal logging, fishing and poaching. Learn more about the current situation in this Scientific American article.

Telling stories about terrible events can help fulfill a human need to understand, process and move on from tragedy. Here are four books, both fiction and non-fiction, covering the incident at Chernobyl and its aftermath in different ways:

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon   Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell   Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Aleksievich   Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon 

The lives of a surgeon, a dissident and a child piano prodigy converge when the incident at Chernobyl sets the world aflame and burns away everything they thought they knew. This literary debut novel is a coming of age story, a romance and a work of historical fiction mapping the decline of the Soviet Union and the plight and suffering of its people. 

Visit Sunny Chernobyl, and Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell

When you think of environmental tourism, the Great Pacific garbage patch probably isn't the first destination to come to mind. Blackwell takes his readers off the beaten path, journeying to some the most polluted places on Earth, including a computer recycling plant in China, a poisonous river in India, and even the tar sands of Canada. Described as "a love letter to our biosphere's most tainted, most degraded ecosystems," this unusual travelogue/guidebook explores the uglier aspects of our planet, including Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone. (Yes, it's open to sightseers!) Read more about the day tours in this article from The Guardian. The less adventurous can opt for a virtual reality tour, as the BBC reports here

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

Alexievich, a Belarusian journalist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015, listened to the stories of hundreds of people whose lives were shattered by the disaster and recounts them in this harrowing book. The interviews, compiled in monologue form, are intensely personal and offer a heartbreaking look at a turning point in history through the eyes of villagers, scientists, teachers, soldiers, firefighters, politicians — all citizens, all people, all irrevocably changed by Chernobyl. 

Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith

World-weary detective Arkady Renko investigates the death of a Russian billionaire who seemingly committed suicide. But why was radioactive salt found at the scene? The mystery leads Renko into the ghost town of Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone, contaminated but still inhabited by scientists, scavengers and other shady characters. An eerie atmosphere and the underlying conspiracy make for a gripping read.

Other Earth Month-related posts:
Cli-Fi, A Fiction Genre for Climate Change
Fragile Planet: DVDs for the Weekend
Our Fragile Planet: Magazines to the Rescue
It’s Earth Month

'Cli-Fi', A Fiction Genre for Climate Change

April 22, 2016 | Patricia Naughton | Comments (1)

It's Earth Month 2016 and the time has come to take seriously our impact on the planet. Toronto Public Library is happy to present the best of our collections on environmental education, geared to children, teens and adults. Watch for environmental displays in branches across the city and pick up some reading material. At the same time, please join us for Our Fragile Planet, our free environmental programming series. Learn about issues that impact our city, and what you can do to tread lightly on our planet.


April 22.  ‘Earth Day’. ‘Protect Our Planet’ should be the watchword for this day, and motivate us into action.

But what are the dangers threatening Earth? Why does our planet need protecting? And more importantly, what can we do about these dangers?

Worrying about the future of our fragile planet has become a feature of everyday life, so much so, that a genre of fiction called ‘cli-fi’ or ‘climate fiction’, has grown out of these anxieties. The term ‘cli-fi’, originated by author Dan Bloom, is a variation of ‘sci-fi’, and first made an appearance some 10 years ago. See this article from The Guardian, Global Warning: the rise of 'cli-fi'.

There are similarities between 'climate-fiction' and 'science-fiction' -- both genres tend to feature dystopian worlds, and characters who take on the struggle to prevent further devastation to give humankind some hope of survival.

However, in 'cli-fi', the major threat to Earth and its civilization is climate change and its deadly outcomes, and not necessarily an alien invasion from Mars or a takeover by hostile robots equipped with artificial intelligence.

Search tip: TPL has a sizeable 'cli-fi' collection and a catalogue search using the term ‘climatic changes fiction’, will give you access to these titles.

Check out some of the cli-fi titles in TPL’s collection:

The Drowned World   Gold Flame Citrus  Loosed Upon the World

The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard, 2006 (first published in 1962)
Authors such as J.G. Ballard were speculating about the possible effects of climate change long before the term 'cli-fi' made its first appearance. First published in 1962, Ballard's highly imaginative novel examines the psychological effects on its characters when they are forced to adapt to a new Earth, irreversibly transformed by the effects of global warming.

Gold Fame Citrus, Watkins Claire Vaye, 2015
Watkins won numerous literary awards for her debut story collection, Battleborn (2012). Critics claim this follow-up novel is equally impressive. Set in the near future, Luz an ex-model and her friend Ray, a soldier just back from serving in the Middle East, join forces to survive in drought-devastated California.

Loosed Upon the World: the Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction, various contributors, 2015
New to ‘cli-fi’? Want to find out what it’s all about but don’t know where to start? Then this collection of ‘cli-fi’ stories, with contributions from award-winning authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi and Seanan McGuire, is for you!


Memory of Water  The Healer  Flight Behaviour

Memory of Water, Emmi Itaranta, 2014
In this coming of age novel, the effects of global warming bring about a new world order -- China rules Europe, and water is so scarce that wars are fought over it. Against the backdrop of a remote, northern landscape, 17-year-old Noria carries on the family tradition in her role as 'tea-master', responsible for guarding fresh water sources. After her father dies, Noria is alone, faced with making the most difficult decision of her life: "Should she keep the location of a fresh water source secret to prevent it from being controlled by the military, or reveal the location, at risk to her own life, to save a village slowly dying from thirst?"

The Healer, Antti Tuomainen, 2013
Tapani and his wife Johanna decide to stay behind in a Helsinki devastated by climate change, even as its inhabitants seek refuge further north. When Johanna, an investigative journalist goes missing, Tapani is determined to find her. Amid the devastation, Tapani’s search for his wife uncovers a puzzling connection between her and ‘The Healer’, a serial killer bent on punishing those he believes responsible for climate change.

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver, 2012
Dellarobia Turnbow witnesses a mystifying sight -- a forested valley absolutely teeming with Monarch butterflies. The locals believe the event to be a miracle, but Dellarobia and Ovid Byron, a gifted entomologist, suspect that the effects of climate change may be responsible for preventing the butterflies from migrating further south for the winter. A New York Times bestseller, this suspenseful drama is a real page turner.


I'm With the Bears  Solar   Far north

I'm With the Bears, ed. Martin, Mark, 2011
Ten short stories on the theme of climate change and its possible consequences by various award-winning authors such as Margaret Atwood and Bill McKibben, environmentalist, author and founder of, an organization dedicated to increasing public awareness about environmental issues.

Solar, Ian McEwan, 2010
There's no dystopian setting here. Instead, McEwan looks at the issue of climate change in the here and now, and through a rather satirical lens. Nobel prize winning physicist Michael Beard funds his extravagant and environmentally UN-friendly lifestyle by educating the public about the threat climate change poses to civilisation. When Michael is given the chance to save the climate and his marriage, will he accept the challenge and change his self-indulgent ways? McEwan's storylines are never predictable and Solar is no exception.

Far North, Marcel Theroux, 2009
In this post-apocalyptic Arctic adventure, civilization has been wiped out by global warming. Sheriff Makepeace Hatfield, the only survivor from her remote Siberian town, sets out in search of other possible survivors. Along her journey, the resilient Makepeace faces danger and loneliness, but never loses her insight or sense of humanity.


The Year of the Flood a Novel  The Road

The Year of the Flood: a Novel, Margaret Atwood, 2009
This second installment in Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy, expands on the storylines and characters of Oryx and Crake (2009). Extreme social inequality and catastrophic climate change have brought about a tipping point. Most of civilization has been destroyed by 'The Flood' with the exception of two women, Ren and Toby -- their affiliation with 'God's Gardeners', an eco-religious group devoted to protecting plants and animals, has helped them to survive. This is dystopic cli-fi at its best! 

The Road, Cormac McCarthy, 2006
This is the story of a father and son and their quest to reach the coast through a post-apocalyptic, climate ravaged America, where it is always ‘winter’. Intense, dark and reflective, The Road is considered McCarthy’s ‘masterpiece’, something to read in 'late-night solitude’.

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