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December 2014

The Best Cookbooks of 2014

December 24, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (2)

It’s that time of the year again. It’s the end of the year, the time where people pick their favourite books published in 2014. The library has compiled a few lists: best ebooks, children’s, non-fiction and best books of 2014.

Just like last year, I’m sharing the best cookbooks published this year. Here are the best cookbooks selected by various sources (click on the name of the source to view the full list and for reviews of the books):


The art of French pastry  Everyday Thai cooking  Melt  Provence, 1970

The Globe and Mail:

Sugar rush  The SoBo cookbook  The vegetarian flavor bible  Bitter

National Post:

Made in Quebec  Plenty more  Prune  Jewish soul food

The Toronto Star:

Thug kitchen  A modern way to eat  Street food diaries  The family cooks

Did you get an ereader or tablet for Christmas? Or already have one? Or looking to buy one during Boxing Week? Well, here are some of the favourites from this year in ebook format: (If you’re new to library e-books, get started with OverDrive.)

Craft beer for the homebrewer  Egg  A kitchen in France  J.K.
Marcus off duty  Heritage  The messy baker  Make it ahead

I hope you’ll enjoy these cookbooks over the holidays. Lots of books to inspire and just perfect for all the family gatherings. Do you have any favourites from 2014?

Free Science Events in Toronto for January 2015

December 23, 2014 | Jeannette | 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 January calendar (PDF).

January's highlights include:

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

January's highlights include:

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these titles:

The green smoothie prescription  The science of Shakespeare  Maltreatment of patients in nursing homes  No more dirty looks

Understanding Alzheimer's disease and other dementias  The human brain  The driving dilemma  Boosting your immunity

Season's Greetings, Glacial Readings

December 22, 2014 | Ann | Comments (0)


Biography of Roald Amundsen on
Photograph of Amundsen's successful voyage to Antarctica in 1911.  (This image has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.)

Winter Arrives

Last night at 6:03 pm, the Winter Solstice swept across Toronto to officially jumpstart the winter season. The dwindling daylight endured these past three months will return stronger and stay longer.

This week ramps up with several festive celebrations manifesting in spectacular events across the city.  Even with the gladdening news of fun-filled activities and increasing daylight hours ahead, winter holds center stage.  The season accompanies face-freezing temperatures, frost-covered roads, incessant sleet, blowing snow, and blazing winds.  Past temperatures have easily dipped down to -25 degrees Celsius or lower and this does not include the wind chill factor.

Despite the frosty welcome, this arctic-like weather compares little with the winter temperatures at the bottom of the world.  The December 10, 2013 Guardian article, Coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Antarctica: -94.7C (-135.8F), provides an eye-opening account of how people sustain themselves in such severe biting conditions.

Canada sits in the northern hemisphere and the Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories are the land masses nearest to the North Pole.  In contrast, the North Magnetic Pole currently lurks near the upper western corner of Nunavut.  Both the geographic north and south poles have corresponding north and south magnetic poles that shift in location over time.  

For more information on the Earth's magnetic poles, please read Gillian M. Turner's (2011) title, North Pole, South Pole : the epic quest to solve the great mystery of Earth's magnetism:

North Pole, South Pole: the epic quest to solve the great mystery of Earth's magnetism by Gillian M. Turner

The Geographic North and South Poles in Early Maps

One could become fascinated with the interpretations of things and events in earlier times.  The Toronto Public Library Digital Archive and The Toronto Public Library on Pinterest offer amazing digital artifacts to entertain, enlighten, and enrich our understanding of past accomplishments.

Early maps provide an intriguing view of the world.  Featured below is a map of the North Pole in 1732. As you can see, the region where the country of Canada currently resides was, "Part of America," and the area above the Arctic Circle was named, "Parts Unknown."  Clearly, little was understood on the various aspects of this northern terrain, but geographers such as Herman Moll provided the North Pole with a definitive point in space.

More digital images pertaining to the North Pole on
1732 Map of the North Pole by Herman Moll and courtesy of the Toronto Public Library


The map below was printed forty years later and sketched an outline of the South Pole.  This depiction seemed as mysterious as its polar counterpart.

A Southern or Antarctic Hemisphere map by Robert Sayer in 1732 on
Map of the Southern or Antarctic Hemisphere by Robert Sayer in 1773 courtesy of The Toronto Public Library

There was no indication of any land structure at the South Pole.  This visualization is a chilling reminder of the limits of human endurance in early global exploration.  The Polar Regions remained shrouded in secrecy for the next century.

Recorded for Posterity

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, travelers have endeavoured to reach the poles. The need to know was of paramount significance.  The unfinished maps of that period in time compelled explorers to fill in the gaps with new knowledge.  Other aspects included competition to reach that place first and the challenge to test their own physical, mental, and emotional limits against the harshest conditions imaginable.  Even so, some explorers paid the ultimate price for this opportunity.  These stories, too, are preserved in the historical body of knowledge as a part of that particular landscape.

In today's world, current technology in the form of satellite imagery digitally maps out these forbidden landscapes.  This information is easily accessible through print and online resources.  Explorers who want to travel to these regions (particularly the South Pole) will require the latest tech gear to arm themselves against these harsh terrains.  

For the rest of us who prefer to reside in warmer climates but want to read up on these fascinating explorations, here are some suggested cool titles:

Race to the top of the world: Richard Byrd and the first flight to the North Pole by Sheldon Bart To the end of the earth: our epic journey to the North Pole and the legend of Peary and Henson by Tom Avery Polar attack: from Canada to the North Pole, and back by Richard Weber Into the cold (2011, DVD) by Copeland, Sebastian and Heger, Keith
South with the sun: Roald Amundsen, his polar explorations, and the quest for discovery by Lynne Cox Return to Antarctica: the amazing adventure of Sir Charles Wright on Robert Scott's journey to the South Pole by Adrian Raeside 1912: the year the world discovered Antarctica by Chris Turney Photographs of Captain Scott by David M. Wilson

Enjoy the cheery warmth of the festive season while Old Man Winter pounds the Northern Hemisphere with blistering icy conditions.  The early travelers on their polar expeditions will solemnly wait until the reader chooses to pick up and continue along with them on their epic journeys.

Downton Abbey Returns!

December 19, 2014 | Muriel | Comments (4)

Dedicated Downton Abbey fans, like me, are especially looking forward to the new
year, since on January 4 PBS will start broadcasting season five! Familiar faces will be
returning to this phenomenally popular series, including my favourite actress on the
show, Dame Maggie Smith.  She plays the inimitable, always witty Violet Crawley,
Dowager Countess of Grantham.  An extraordinarily versatile actor who will be new
to the show will be Richard E. Grant, who came to fame starring in the cult film,
Withnail and I.  He will play art expert Simon Bricker, who is invited to Downton
Abbey by the Granthams.  You can catch a glimpse of him in the trailer below, with
Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Cora Crawley.


Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, based the setting for his
award-winning drama on Highclere Castle.  He is a friend of the Carnarvon
family, who make Highclere Castle their home.  Highclere Castle has become
such a popular tourist destination, that tickets for tours for their Easter and
Spring openings are already sold out.  The Telegraph reports that Lord and
Lady Carnarvon have restored two buildings, where for £350 and up per night,
visitors can stay.  "Called London Lodge, the accommodation is set in two
newly-restored buildings, joined by a path, that originally date from 1840
but had fallen into disrepair. They are set on either side of the estate’s grand
Georgian gatehouse, built in 1793...The owners have opted for a modern,
Cotswolds-cottage feel as opposed to trying to recreate anything you might
see in Julian Fellowes’s series." 

However, if you would like to save yourself the cost of accommodation, airfare
(and the ensuing jet lag), you can go, for free, to "Toronto's Downton Abbey,"
Spadina Museum.  Just pick up a Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass
for the City of Toronto Historic Museums.

  A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey      Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey      Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey

I find the real history of Highclere Castle and its inhabitants to be actually quite
fascinating.  George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (referred to as Lord Carnarvon),
was the financial backer of the search for and excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb. 
Along with archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon opened
the tomb in 1922.  When Lord Carnarvon died in 1923 after a severe mosquito bite,
it led to the story of the "Curse of Tutankhamun."  Lord Carnarvon was survived
by his wife, Lady Almina, the illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred
de Rothschild.  The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was also survived by his son Henry
George Herbert, 6th Earl of Carnarvon, as well as by his daughter Lady Evelyn Leonora
Almina Herbert.  The 6th Earl of Carnarvon married a beautiful young American,
Anne Catherine Tredick Wendell.  When her father-in-law died less than a year
after her marriage, Lady Catherine suddenly found herself chatelaine of the
castle and in charge of a large household staff.

Sometimes the facts are even more extraordinary than the fiction... This book tells the story of Lady Catherine, a beautiful American girl who became the chatelaine of Highclere Castle, the setting for Julian Fellowes' award-winning drama Downton Abbey. Charming and charismatic, Catherine caught the eye of Lord Porchester (or 'Porchey', as he was known) when she was just 20 years old, and wearing a pale yellow dress at a ball. She had already turned down 14 proposals before she eventually married Porchey in 1922. But less than a year later Porchey's father died suddenly, and he  ( more)

Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey         Downton Abbey Rules For Household Staff        Edwardian Cooking    

While you are waiting for the start of season five, you might like to try the
Maggie Smith trivia quiz, or even figure out which Downton Abbey bachelor
is right for you
!  If you are really enthusiastic, you might like to try cooking
a meal reminiscent of Downton Abbey.  The recipes in Edwardian Cooking make
me appreciate that it must have taken a lot of time and effort, on the part of
the downstairs staff, to produce the elaborate meals which were consumed so
delicately upstairs.  For total atmosphere, you could listen to a CD of Downton Abbey
music while you cook and dine.

For dessert, it really would be hard to top Martha Stewart's gingerbread abbey,
her tribute to Downton Abbey.  Here she is, seen with actress Lesley Nicol,
who plays the hardworking and charismatic cook, Mrs. Patmore, on the series:

Best wishes for happy holidays, and enjoy season five!

The Neuroscience of Willpower

December 18, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (2)

  Yes you can clouds
Image courtesy of

With 2014 drawing to a close, I have been thinking about New Year's resolutions, not that I make them, officially.  I think about what I would like to change, improve and accomplish for the next year, (yes, I know--resolutions).  I recently realized that I have been thinking about making the same changes ever since I was a teen.  It's strange that I accomplish everything I want and need to for work, but cannot do the same for my personal life.  

I am hoping to change that by going to a presentation, The Neuroscience of Willpower at North York Central Library at 7 p.m. on January 6, 2015.  Uri Galimidi will share simple, yet effective, neuroscience-based interventions that will help strengthen willpower, conquer undesirable habits, adopt new beneficial habits, increase the rate of success of meeting your goals, and help you become the best possible version of yourself.  In a nutshell: boost your willpower, change your life.

In the meantime, I might do some reading on increasing my willpower... or I might not.



  Neuroscience of everyday life
Willpower: rediscovering the greatest human strength by Roy F. Baumeister The willpower instinct: how self-control works, why it matters and what you can do to get more of it by Kelly McGonigal The neuroscience of everyday life by Sam Wang (DVD)
On second thought: outsmarting your mind's hard-wired habits by Wray Herbert This will make you smarter: new scientific concepts to improve your thinking by John Brockman Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem (eBook)


Calling all amateur scientists

December 12, 2014 | Carolyn | Comments (0)

Traité de la sphère
Public domain image. From Nicole Oresme's "Traité de la sphère".

For most of human history, all scientists were amateurs...

Are you among the many people who attend our science programs or pick up our monthly Free Science Events (PDF) calendars? If so, why not take your interest in science to the next level by becoming a citizen scientist?

What is citizen science, you ask? Here's a simple definition from " Lab Coats for All! A Layperson's Guide to Citizen Science ":

Citizen Science (CS) is a data-gathering technique that allows anyone to volunteer their time in support of scientific research projects.       

In other words, citizen science projects harness the power of the internet to allow non-scientists to participate in research. You can think of it as crowd-sourced science.

The Zooniverse, sponsored by the Citizen Science Alliance, is one of the largest and most popular web portals for research projects. Over 1.2 million people have registered to participate in projects such as:

  • Moon Zoo participants will use images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study the lunar surface
  • Planet Hunters monitor light curves recorded by the Kepler spacecraft to search for exoplanets
  • Penguin Watch volunteers study images of penguins  taken in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to help scientists understand their lives and environment
  • Cell Slider participants contribute to cancer research by analyzing slides and classifying cancer cells

NOVA Labs is another citizen science portal. It's projects include:

  • Cloud Lab, in which participants classify clouds and investigate their role in tropical storms
  • RNA VirtuaLab volunteers start by practicing RNA folding and can go on to design RNA molecules that could potentially be used in future therapies


Would you like to learn more about the citizen science movement? 

The Incidental Steward: reflections on citizen science Citizen Science: public participation in environmental research   
Inspired by her involvement in environmental studies, the author celebrates the volunteerism that fuels the citizen science movement and urges others to become involved. This highly recommended book describes several popular citizen science projects and their impact both on research and on the general public.  

Would you like to learn more about the contributions made by amateur scientists?

It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist: great amateurs of science Bunch of Amateurs: a search for the American character The Species Seekers: heroes, fools and the mad pursuit of life on Earth
Be inspired by these tales of ordinary people who were responsible for some of our greatest scientific discoveries.    

available as a book, eBook and eAudiobook

Hitt examines the American love of innovation through the stories of contemporary amateur scientists.

The story of the amateur naturalists who discovered, collected and classified much of the Earth's biodiversity.

Need Help With That Business Document?

December 9, 2014 | Kathryn | Comments (0)


  Cat on top of laptop keyboard

Photo by Roger H. Goun.  Licensed under a creative commons attribution license

Does the thought of writing a business document make you want to flop on the couch with a bag of Cheetos and watch bad reality television?  If so, you're not alone. One of the most common requests we get in the business department is for help with basic writing skills.

This is understandable; apart from physical meetings with people in the business world, written communication is our chief method of contact.  When we are not on hand to speak for ourselves, our writing speaks for us.

Many people believe correspondence must be sophisticated and complex, when in fact the opposite is true. The key to effective business communication is to keep things simple and to the point.  You don't need to be William Shakespeare to learn writing techniques that will make a good impression.

While books may be helpful for beginning writers, the library also offers an online resource called Core Skills For Business Writing that walks you through the process of creating resumes, cover letters, e-mails, reports, letters and more from the comfort of your home.

One of the things I like about this program is it prompts you to think about who will be reading your document and, therefore, how to write for your specific "audience".  Interactive exercises help you learn vocabulary and appropriate writing styles and to organize your ideas clearly and logically.

The database also provides samples of finished cover letters and resumes and offers handy rules to guide you through the process of creating your own professional documents. 

One of the most important features of good business writing is the tone of the document.  You don't want your intent to be misconstrued because of poor word choices.  Core Skills for Business Writing addresses this with explanations about the differences between formal and informal correspondence. It also gives advice about how to avoid unintentionally sexist language and provides alternatives to gender-specific words. 

Finally, because all businesses have to deal with dissatisfied customers at some point, our on-line program provides samples of appropriately-worded responses to complaint letters.

So while it would be nice if the cat could write it for you, you're much more likely to get that document written with the help of our handy online database

Note: This is a flash-based database that is not accessible to mobile devices. 

* Budding business writers may also be interested in some of our print and ebooks:

Business style handbook  Business Writing for Dummies How to write reports and proposals A pratical guide to business writing


Tis the season to be...

December 8, 2014 | Aleks | Comments (0)

Christmas card

The sentence can be finshed in many ways and for most of us, it's a way to spend a festive time together as a family. It usually is closely followed by a warm and bountiful meal and filled with eager anticipation of gift-giving. But for some families in Toronto, this is a dream or just a memory. One of the most important things about the holiday season is that it is a time for generosity. It is embedded in many of our traditions. For my family's Christmas (Wigilia), it is in the Polish tradition to set up an extra plate at the table for an "unexpected guest". This celebrates the ideas of hospitality and inclusion. We must remember how blessed we are for some of the simple things we have in our lives and to give to those that aren't so blessed. Giving can come in many different forms: perishable food items, clothing, toys, volunteering time and monetary donations. 

The City of Toronto has a great resource for community agencies that are looking for volunteers this holiday season. The site also includes a map of all the adjacent services to make it easier for people to find an agency in their community. You can also donate online to many agencies this year. Covenant House's street kid gift catalogue provides options to make donations for food, shelter and life skills. The Daily Bread Food Bank offers opportunities for volunteers and donations in their Holiday Drive. If you are looking for national and worldwide donation opportunities: UNICEF Canada, World Vision, Canadian Feed the Children, Breakfast for Learning, and Canadian Red Cross have many options to donate for basic necessities, better living and medical care. Additionally, the Toronto Public Library Foundation has a holiday campaign of "Give in Honour or Memory" as a way to give a gift to someone special.There are many choices in making a difference this holiday season; find some time and a cause that inspires you. 

If you are looking to travel this winter break, a great opportunity is giving back while you are away. 

Volunteer- a traveller's guide to making a difference around the world How to live your dream of volunteering overseas Volunteer vacation- short-term adevntures that will benefit you and others The volunteer Traveler's Handbook World volunteers- the world guide to humanitarian and development volunteering

Sometimes it just takes a small idea to spark a big global awareness. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a massive success that spread across cities, countries and continents raising $115 million dollars! Movember was a great success again this year raising $18 million dollars! With a little social media trending, campaigns such as #nomakeupselfie and #christmascarolchallenge can move the world for a good cause.  

A street cat named BobLeaving Microsoft to change the worldThe generosity network The hospital by the riverThree cups of tea Everyday heroes Giving how each of us can change the world 


More Proof Extroverts Rule the World

December 5, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (10)

MistletoeNetworking as a path to success, open concept offices, the emphasis on group work at all levels of education – need more proof that extroverts rule the world? The restaurant chain TGI Friday’s in the UK has unleashed an introvert’s nightmare: mistletoe drones with cameras. The noisy drone zips around like a giant bug clutching a bedraggled bit of greenery, on a mission to make people kiss under the mistletoe, an age old Christmas tradition. Once a target couple is selected, the drone hovers over them, blasting them with a mighty, hair disheveling wind, while restaurant customers gawk and yell, bullying the couple into smooching. The whole thing is recorded on a "kiss cam" which is attached to the drone. I won’t be at all surprised if someone (possibly an inebriated introvert) knocks one of these snoops out of the air with their dinner plate before the end of the holiday season!

Kudos to comedienne Elvira Kurt for inducting these festive pests into her Cultural Hall of Shame (a segment on the CBC arts and culture radio program, Q). In light of recent events surrounding the former host of Q, Jian Ghomeshi, Elvira made the darkly comic suggestion that diners should be provided with an "air horn of consent" to blow, in order to fend off this high tech holiday harassment.

In the good old days, introverts could reconnoiter the territory at seasonal parties and plot mistletoe-free routes to the holiday eats, but thanks to an idea floated, no doubt, by an extrovert, mistletoe drones may become the must-have holiday party ice breaker. Imagine all the ways novelty drones can give grief to introverts in the brave new world of the future. What’s a poor introvert to do?

Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talkingOne answer to that question: fake it. Many introverts mimic extroversion, putting on their party face when the situation calls for it. In her popular book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, Susan Cain argues that modern western culture prizes the extrovert ideal, and sees introversion as pathology, something that needs to be fixed. No wonder introverts fake it! Psychologist Brian Little calls this coping mechanism “pseudo extroversion” in his new book, Me, myself and us: the science of personality and the art of well-being. Little, who calls himself an “off the charts” introvert, delivers highly engaging lectures to his students in full-on pseudo extrovert mode.

If you liked Susan Cain's book, you’ll find much to interest you in Me, myself and us. (Little's focus is wider than the introvert/ambivert/extrovert spectrum.) Especially intriguing is his discussion of “neocortical arousal.” Introverts sometimes get a bad rap for being antisocial, but Little points to a theory that could explain their behaviour. According to the theory, introverts experience high levels of arousal in the neocortex zone of their brains when they are in certain situations. An environment in which an extrovert would thrive – let’s say a crowded restaurant where the air space is patrolled by pesky drones that peer pressure diners into seasonal snogging -- could send the introvert’s neocortical arousal levels through the roof.  

Me, myself, and usIntroverts can play at being extroverts, but it’s only a matter of time before the strain of acting out of character sends them running for cover. Faking extroversion too often can have a negative impact on an introvert’s health, Professor Little warns. To cope, he retreats to what he calls “a restorative niche.” He describes using the last stall in the men’s room as a “restorative niche” in between lectures at a military college in Quebec. He was quietly engaged in “arousal reduction” when the “loudest hummer” he'd ever heard burst into the men’s room, took the stall next to his, and started a conversation: “Hey, is that Dr. Little?” After the chatty extrovert discovered him, an extended “interstall” conversation followed, and the professor’s afternoon lecture suffered in quality because he was deprived of his quiet recovery time. Now Professor Little makes sure to pull his feet up when he uses a bathroom stall as restorative niche.

Yet more proof that extroverts rule the world: if introverts ruled, Dr. Little wouldn’t have to manage his neocortical arousal levels in bathroom stalls. Urban planners would make sure there were restorative niches available throughout the city.

To Professor Little and the one third to one half of the population who are introverts, may I offer this piece of advice: the next time you are pushed to the arousal brink, consider the library as a restorative niche -- it's one of the only indoor public spaces where you aren't pressured to buy, join in, or perform. Grab a book, magazine or newspaper, find a cozy corner, and let your neocortical arousal levels gently descend.

A final note: did you know the Norse god Baldr was killed with mistletoe? I'd avoid it, even if it isn't airborne. Take a look at these book titles and you'll see what I mean!


All books above except Blood and mistletoe: the history of the Druids in Britain are available in both ebook and book.

Me, myself and us: the science of personality and the art of well-being.

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.

Mistletoe image: Creative Commons

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