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January 2014

Recommended by you

January 31, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (7)

Question: what do a 1980s science fiction book, a comical Swedish picaresque tale, an Italian novel steeped in sadness, a tough guy thriller, a history of the native peoples of North America, a teen romance, a true story about a deadly trip into the Alaskan wilderness, a vegan cook book, and a ghost story from that questionably coined category "chick lit" have in common? The answer is that all of these radically different books were recommended to me by library patrons.

People often ask librarians for book recommendations, which we happily provide. But the relationship works the other way around too -- library patrons enthusiastically suggest books to library staff. If you encounter a librarian who jots the title you tell her about on a little scrap of paper and shoves it in her back pocket, that's me. When these scraps start to resemble an indoor snow storm I add them to my will-never-finish-it-in-a-lifetime-but-will-have-a-great-time-trying reading list.


Below, I offer a sampling of the books I've read based on the recommendations of library patrons. Why these books in particular? I guess it's because they remind me of a surprise package -- remember those mysterious paper bags filled with treats that you blew your allowance on when you were a kid? Sometimes you'd get something really delicious, a tasty treasure. Then there were the items that were new and strange to you, that you bit down on curiously, open to the new experience. And once in a while there was something you really didn't like, but you ate it anyway.

There's a fiction book on this list that I loved. And a non-fiction book that got into my dreams. And, to be honest, there were a couple of books I didn't like, but I finished anyway. Thank you for all your recommendations. I like to explore outside the borders of my reading comfort zone once in a while, even if I don't always like what I find there. Sometimes I stumble across treasure that way. What's really interesting to me is that all of these books are treasure to someone. It just goes to show, we are not all the same. Vive la différence! Please keep the recommendations coming!



Downbelow station A huge thank you to the man who recommended this -- I loved it! Downbelow station won the Hugo award (for science fiction) in 1982. It's impossible to give an adequate description of this big novel in so small a space, so I'll just give you some keywords: extraterrestrial colonization, trade, interstellar war, ambition, political intrigue, assassination, desperation, hairy aliens, and a big, fascinating cast of characters. The novel suggests that when humanity begins to colonize other worlds, we won't just bring the better part of our nature with us -- our demons will be along for the ride too.
  American holocaust American holocast: Columbus and the conquest of the New World is about the catastrophic impact Europeans had on the indigenous population of the Americas beginning in 1492. According to the author, ninety-five percent of the Native American population  perished as a result of contact with Europeans, not only because of exposure to disease the indigenous peoples were defenceless against but also because of “purposeful genocide.” Though disturbing to read at times, this is an important piece of scholarship written in crystal clear prose.


  Into the wild The true account of a young man, Christopher McCandless, who sets out to ramble through America right after graduating from college. He leaves behind family, car, cash – all the trappings of a conventional life – and disappears into the wilderness of Alaska. Into the wild was a fascinating, compelling read. I liked it so much, I plan to read it again one day. An excellent recommendation from a young man.
Thanks to the teenager who recommended The fault in our stars, a heart wrenching book about two very sick teenagers who fall in love. Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters are delightful characters to spend some of your precious life with (and reading this book will remind you of just how precious it is.) Green's description of how difficult the simple act of breathing without machine support is for Hazel is so well done that for the longest time after I read this book I felt a sense of great fortune when I took a deep, unimpeded breath.   The fault in our stars
  Isa does it~ The library patron who recommended this book to me was so enthusiastic about it, she got it from the shelf and put it in my hands. I haven't read it -- it's a cookbook, after all -- but I've turned every page, oggled the pictures, and made note of recipes to try. (The black bean burgers look heavenly.) Thanks for recommending this beautiful new cook book, Isa does it: amazingly easy, wildly delicious vegan recipes for every day of the week.
  The solitude of prime numbers

“Giordano's deeply touching debut novel immediately thrusts the reader into the lives of two individuals, at the moment when each of their young lives takes a sharp turn toward painful solitude: Alice has been crippled in a childhood skiing accident, Mattia is consumed by guilt after playing an unintended but key role in his twin sister's disappearance. Upon meeting in their early teens, they develop a frequently uncomfortable yet enveloping friendship.” (Book List Review.) Physicist Paolo Giordano's The solitude of prime numbers won the Premio Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary award. A wonderful recommendation – I enjoyed this melancholy, beautiful book.


  Gone tomorrow
A fast paced thriller that grabbed my attention from the first page. Lee Child’s thirteenth Jack Reacher novel, Gone tomorrow,  starts with a bang – our hero finds himself riding the New York subway with a woman who is a perfect match for the Israeli counterintelligence profile of a suicide bomber. The knife fight between Reacher and two women, one old, and the other young, stunningly beautiful and possessing mad knife skills, was ridiculous, (Reacher is very tall and muscular) but aside from that it was a good page turner-type read.
  The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared. One day Allan Karlsson climbs out the window of his nursing home, steals a suitcase full of cash from a young thug in a bus station, and accumulates a set of colourful friends while he flees from criminals who want their money back. His past is as interesting as his present – mostly due to his talent with explosives, he gets involved with some of the key figures of the twentieth century -- Mao, Winston Churchill and Stalin, to name a few. I didn’t find this popular book quite as hilarious as many people did, but it had some good lines. My favourite: “People could do what they wanted, but Allan considered that in general it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to.” Words to live by.


  Twenties girl

Lara Lington, a young woman in her twenties, is haunted (but not in a scary way) by the ghost of her great aunt Sadie, who was a young woman in the 1920s. Sadie is a demanding pest of a ghost who alternates between sulking and shouting in people’s ears to manipulate them. I was rooting for Lara to hire a ghost exorcist to banish Sadie from the earthly realm forever. Not my cup of tea -- but some readers find Twenties Girl fun, breezy and funny. A light, confection of a ghost story with lots of references to the roaring 1920s.


Free Science Events in Toronto for February 2014

January 25, 2014 | Emoke | Comments (0)

The Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the February Calendar.

February's's highlights include:

The Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

February's highlights include:

The Hygiene Hypothesis and Your Immune System

January 24, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (0)

Hygiene Hypothesis

Illustration courtesy of

With the cold and flu season in full throttle, you may be thinking of the best ways to boost your immune system.  As noted in Harvard Health Publications' How to Boost Your Immune System, age, diet, exercise and stress may be factors. 

But just how does your immune system work?  PhD students from the University of Toronto's Department of Immunology will be presenting an educational seminar on how our bodies fight bacteria, viruses and other organisms and the role hygiene plays in our immune system. Learn more at North York Central Library on Thursday January 30, 7 p.m. in  Room 1.

In the meantime, check out these titles in your local library branch:



Immunology: a short course by Richard Coico Living with Germs: in sickness and in health by John Playfair  

Keep your New Year's Resolution and Rock your Finances this 2014! You could win a free book!

January 22, 2014 | Ashley | Comments (0)

Here we are again, it is the beginning of the year and I'm sure we are all filled with resolutions. One of the most common ones is to manage our money better, especially after spending over the holidays. New Year's resolutions seem to go by the wayside quite shortly after the new year. 

Next Tuesday, January 28, 2014 from 6:30 - 8:00pm Bruce Sellery will present the program The Moolala Guide to Rockin' Your RRSPs  

In this fun and engaging talk, Bruce Sellery, columnist and author, will bring you "The Moolala Guide to Rockin' Your RRSP". He'll make retirement savings relevant to you, help you to develop a simple plan to rock your RRSP immediately and leave you inspired to get up and take action. 


Moolala RRSPs



The book Moolala Guide to Rockin' your RRSP: Start Rockin' in 5 Easy Steps was just released early January 2014. Actually, the Business Department just received its copy last week. Bruce Sellery has generously offered to give a copy of the book to the first 50 people to attend

Take a look at Bruce Sellery's five week financial challenge:



Go ahead, take the challenge, you've got nothing to lose - especially not your money!

At Toronto Public Library we have a lot of Finance Programs and workshops coming up which will help you maximize your income at all stages of life from student loans to living on your RRSPS. So why not start the year by being mindful of your financial goals, putting your plans into action and attending some free finance workshops?

Some of the finance programs coming up at North York Central Library are:

Identity Theft Protection

IdentitytheftPlease join us for an informative session to better understand fraud and learn how to protect yourself from being victims of fraud. Program is brought to you by Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

Thursday, January 23, 2014 | 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. | Auditorium 


Real Estate 101: Everything from buying, selling, leasing and investing


Real Estate Broker, Investor, Developer, Author of two books, and University of Toronto Instructor Claude Boiron will give an overview of Real Estate ownership, buying, selling, leasing, financing, and answer all questions. This program is free. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014 | 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. | Auditorium 



Tax Tips for 2013-2014


78 tax tips

Brian Quinlan, chartered accountant and co-author of 78 Tax Tips for Canadians for Dummies, will discuss "what's new in tax." Learn how you can minimize your 2013 taxes as well as plan for your 2014 taxes.

Monday, February 24, 2014 | 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. | Auditorium 


You can call the Business Department at 416-395-5613 to register or you can always just drop in if space is available - we hope to see you there!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 20, 2014 | Ann | Comments (4)


Connects to The King Center Archive
Photo credit:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a galvanizing force in the Civil Rights Movement in America.  His approach through nonviolence for social change and his famous speeches continue to inspire people.  He is revered as one of the most effective political leaders of all time, received five honorary degrees, and in 1963, represented Time's magazine first African American Man of the Year (Ryan, 1992).


Martin Luther King article from The Guardian

Martin Luther King, Jr. was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his famous speech, I Have A Dream.  This year marks the 50th year anniversary of that pivotal achievement.

Today, we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the great contributions he made. Louisiana State University created a detailed biographical sketch of his life.


Here are some inspiring books on Martin Luther King, Jr. in our collection:

A Time To Break Silence on I Have A Dream on Becoming King on The King Years on
King on At Canaan's Edge on I May Not Get There With You on Pillar of Fire on


Below is a listing of more titles on The Civil Rights Movement:

The Struggle For Black Equality on Voices In Our Blood on The Shadows Of Youth on My Soul Is A Witness on

Let Freedom Ring on

The Race Beat on Nobody Turns Me Around on My Soul Looks Back In Wonder on


The Massey Lecture Series Archives houses an audio recording of a speech made by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his last Canadian visit in 1967:


As America celebrates this federal holiday, may we all unite in remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as his legacy continues to inspire the world over.

Art Talk at North York Central Library: "The Great Upheaval" at the Art Gallery of Ontario

January 17, 2014 | Muriel | Comments (0)



Art Talk: "The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the
Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918"
North York Central Library - Auditorium
Tuesday, February 4, 7:00 p.m.

"...the new AGO show is like a greatest hits package of
contemporary art."
                                                     The Globe and Mail

Come and join us and listen to David Wistow, Art Gallery of Ontario interpretive planner for the Guggenheim exhibition, as he  talks about this magnificent
collection of avant-garde masterpieces.  The years 1910 to 1918 represent an intense chapter in European and world history during which there was tremendous creativity, dynamism and innovation that shaped the art of future generations.  If you are planning to see the exhibition, you won't want to miss this talk.


         The Liberation of Painting     Inventing Abstraction     Inventing Futurism

Goodnight Moon: You've Read the Book, Now Listen to the Music

January 17, 2014 | Deb | Comments (2)

Goodnight Moon originalBack in 1945, when children's author Margaret Wise Brown woke up and wrote down the words to a book that had come to her in a dream, no one imagined that this book, first called "Goodnight Room", would become a classic loved by generations of children around the world.

Today, almost 70 years after that fruitful dream, "Goodnight Moon" is a cultural icon and available in an astonishing range of formats and languages, including Spanish ("Buenas Noches, Luna") and French ("Bonsoir Lune") and Braille, to name just a few. These three editions and more are at the library.

"Goodnight Moon" has also inspired numerous parodies, including this one which cleverly sends up the same cozy bedtime rituals that Margaret Wise Brown wrote about in the first edition:

Goodnight iPad

In short, there's now a "Goodnight Moon" of one kind or another for almost everyone -- including one that acknowledges our fascination with technology.

What there has not been, at least until recently, is a musical interpretation of Margaret Wise Brown's text. Her text, which lists ordinary, everyday objects (socks, comb, brush,) somehow presents these things in a way that is viewed as -- and there is a wide range of feelings on this matter -- either perplexing and odd ("What's the deal with the bowl of mush?") or mystical and maybe even a bit profound.


Goodnight Moon interior

But whatever one's feeling about the words, at the end of the day, there is something about the rhyming verse that invites a second (and third and fourth ...) reading. The words are simple and yet compelling, just right for a young child getting ready for bed. Soothing and gentle, they're like a lullaby. All that's missing is the music.

Thanks to the efforts of my colleague Patrick (Thank you, Patrick!) I was delighted to learn about the musical version of "Goodnight Moon" composed by Eric Whitacre. Part of his 2012 recording called "Water Night," this song captures all the mysterious, poetic, "what-does-it-all-mean-anyway?" mood of the book. You can listen to an excerpt of "Goodnight Moon" here:




The singer with the lovely, silvery voice is Eric Whitacre's wife, Hila Plitmann, who talks below about the significance "Goodnight Moon" holds for the two of them and their young son. Interestingly, she notes that the composing of the song, like Margaret Wise Brown's writing of the words, happened very quickly.




Eric Whitacre first came to my attention as the composer behind the Virtual Choir project, which brings together thousands of singers from around the world to perform his works as part of a giant "there-but-not-really-there" high-tech choir. ("Water Night" also features Virtual Choir performances.)

There's a terrific overview of Mr. Whitacre's Virtual Choir work in the following TED --Technology, Entertainment, Design -- talk that he gave. What a choir he has created!



The complete "Water Night" CD is available from the library here.

As well, the library has the following highly readable works about Margaret Wise Brown. They're written by Leonard Marcus, a historian and children's literature critic with a passion for children's books. Both works include interesting facts and little-known background on the writing of "Goodnight Moon." The slim book on the right, below, also shows the page where Margaret Wise Brown wrote her first (and, remarkably, almost final) draft of "Goodnight Moon" immediately after waking.


                            Awakened by the moon                Making of Goodnight Moon

Happy listening and reading -- and please let me know your thoughts (yea or nay and why) about "Goodnight Moon." I would love to hear them.


The winter of 2014 - is it one for the ages?

January 10, 2014 | Carolyn | Comments (2)

IciclesWhen we complained about the inconveniences of winter as children, my father told us how he walked 5 km to school, even in the worst winter weather; when the lake froze over he could skate there, which was only 3 km. Not to be outdone, my mother told us how so much snow fell one night when she was a child that the front door wouldn't open in the morning; her brother had to climb out an upstairs window and slide down the snow piled up against the house before he could shovel it away from the door.



Photo 2What stories will we tell about the winter of 2014?

We've experienced an ice storm, power outages, frost quakes  and a polar vortex - all before the middle of January. It's shaping up to be an epic    winter.                                                                                                                       



Here are some reading suggestions in keeping with the season:


Ice: the nature, the history and the uses of an astonishing substance

Former science journalist Gosnell presents a well-researched and engaging history that natural science readers will enjoy. She discusses ice in all its forms as it occurs in nature, as well as how it is experienced and used by plants, animals and humans.








Falling for snow: a naturalist's journey into the world of winter

Stories and anecdotes about snow from a Yellowknife-based science writer. Includes instructions for building a quinzhee (snow house).









  Life in the cold: an introduction to winter ecology
A classic book describing how plants, animals and human interact with their winter environments. The author is an ecologist, writer and photographer.



Available as:






 For fictional treatments of winter stories:


The Frozen ThamesThe Thames River has frozen forty times from the first record in 1142 to the most recent occurance in 1895. Here, Helen Humphreys presents stories, based on actual events, for each of the times the river froze.

Available as:



talking book




Hans Brinker, or, the silver skatesThis classic children's book by Mary Mapes Dodge seems to be enjoying a revival of sorts. I picked it up a few years ago and found it  stands up very well to a second reading. The story has universal appeal and is satisfying on many levels.

Available as:





The Osborne Collection has copies of Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates dating back to 1874.




The Month of Janus

January 6, 2014 | Ann | Comments (0)

Definition of Janus from Encyclopedia Mythica


Being two-faced is a good thing to start the New Year.  One face reviews the past and reflects on glories and defeats.  The other face surveys the future with hopeful goals to accomplish.  The Roman God Janus represents beginnings, transitions, and passages through time and self-contemplation.  The month of January is appropriately named for this time of year.

Despite its newness, January feels chilly and empty since the holiday celebrations ended.  The next months ahead are filled with grey skies, cold winds, and fat heapings of sleet and snow. 

Starting and staying motivated can be challenging if not outright disconcerting.  Some people refer to this time as the January Blues. To assist in the New Year transition, one suggestion is to keep the momentum going by eating healthy and staying hopeful until the weather improves.   To maintain feelings of positivity and inner warmth, here are some cheerful titles to browse:


  Up on   Pursuing The Good Life on  
    Before Happiness on    
Hardwiring Happiness on       Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression on
  8 Keys to Stress Management on Code to Joy on Kiss That Frog on  


Mark your calendar for next month!  On Wednesday, February 5, 2014 from 7pm to 8 pm in the auditorium, North York Central Library is offering a program called, Beat The Winter 'Blahs':  How to be Happier with guest speaker, Dr. Tami Kulbatski.  Dr. Kulbatski will offer useful happiness-inducing strategies to survive and beat the dull weather blues. 

Program:  Beat the Winter 'Blahs' with Dr Tami Kulbatski at
Please call The Society and Recreation Department at (416) 395-5660 to register.  Seating is limited.

Face it, we have a New Year to look forward to so why not live life to its fullest with all the great resources at your disposal.

Calling all opera lovers: learn about Verdi's "A masked ball" at North York Central Library

January 3, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (0)

Please join us at North York Central Library on Wednesday January 22 at 7:00 p.m. for our first opera talk of 2014. Wayne Gooding, the editor of Opera Canada magazine, will give a talk on Giuseppe Verdi's opera Un Ballo in Maschera (A masked ball). The talk will include guided listening, images, opera history, and a look at the Canadian Opera Company's production of the piece. Call to register for this free talk: 416-395-5639.

Giuseppe Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera was first performed in Rome in 1859. By the time he composed the piece, Verdi had become rich and famous, and was a dominant figure in the world of Italian opera. Even so, he was not immune to the interfering hand of censorship. The opera was originally loosely based on the true story of King Gustav III of Sweden, who was shot at a masked ball in the Royal Opera House in Stockholm in 1792. (He died thirteen days later.) While Verdi was putting the finishing touches on his opera, an assassination attempt was made on Emperor Napoleon III. Censors slammed the door on the idea of an opera about the killing of a powerful ruler. Verdi, who'd already been forced to revise the opera, was furious. There was a broken contract, a lawsuit, and a countersuit. Ultimately, Verdi was made to radically alter his vision yet again. The grandiose court of the King of Sweden became the governor's residence in colonial Boston and the King of Sweden became Ricarrdo, the Governor of Boston.

Here is a portrait of King Gustav III of Sweden, painted by Swedish artist Alexander Roslin. Is it any wonder that many modern productions of the opera use Verdi's original Swedish setting and characters? Think of the costumes!


Would you like to hear Verdi's opera before attending Wayne Gooding's talk? With your library card, you have access to Naxos Music Library, a streaming music service, anytime of day or night. Here's a sampling of some of the versions of Un Ballo in Maschera available through Naxos Music Library. Visit Naxos Music Library on the Toronto Public Library website for more.




Catling, Ashley; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; Grove, Jill; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Michaels-Moore, Anthony; O'Neill, Dennis; Parry, David; Patterson, Susan; Purves, Christopher; Richardson, Linda; Sherratt, Brindley; Wood, Roland

Label: Chandos




Banks, Barry; Bayo, Maria; Bronder, Peter; Chernov, Vladimir; Crider, Michele; Howell, Gwynne; Leech, Richard; Rizzi, Carlo; Rose, Peter; Scaltriti, Roberto; Welsh National Opera Chorus; Welsh National Opera Orchestra; Zaremba, Elena

Label: Teldec



Albertini, Alberto; Curtis Verna, Maria; Erato, Maria; Questa, Angelo; RAI Chorus, Turin; RAI Symphony Orchestra, Turin; Renzi, Emilio; Stefanoni, Marco; Susca, Vito; Tagliavini, Ferruccio; Tassinari, Pia; Valdengo, Giuseppe

Label: Warner Classics



Almgren, Mats; Barbacini, Maurizio; Glemme, Ulf; Gothenburg Opera House Chorus; Gothenburg Opera House Orchestra; Landstrom, Jonas; Lind, Tomas; Martinpelto, Hillevi; Resmark, Susanne; Rosenlund, Joel; Sandgren, Carolina; Simlund, Mikael; St. Hill, Krister; Sverredal, Tore; Tjelle, Harald; Zetterstrom, Ake

Label: Dynamic





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