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January 2015

Shiny New Books for Movie Lovers

January 30, 2015 | Maureen | Comments (21)

As the year 2014 recedes into the rear view mirror, what better time to consider some pleasure reading for movie lovers? The Screen Actors Guild Awards have been handed out, and so have the Golden Globes. The Academy Awards will be held on February 22. Here's some reading for the cinephile's bedside table -- a selection of books published in 2014 about the world of film.

  Tinseltown   Scandals of classic Hollywood   Five came back   The 11 billion year
On a winter night in 1922, film director William Desmond Taylor was shot to death in his Hollywood home. The suspect list was drawn from the colourful cast of characters that surrounded him. The author digs into recently released FBI files to shine a light on this unsolved murder. While making his case, he takes the reader on a trip through the glamour and vice of old time Hollywood, where we meet an obsessed starlet, a stage mother, an unscrupulous actress determined to become a star, gangsters, petty thugs and a movie mogul who helped orchestrate a cover-up. Quote from the book: “Hollywood knew how to manipulate a crime. Their scenarists had been doing it for years.” From Publishers Weekly review: “Mann has crafted what is likely to be a true-crime classic.”
This book, inspired by the author's web columns of the same name, examines notable scandals, showing how they shaped and reflected America's changing social and sexual values. Chapters cover the sexual assault trial of silent film comic "Fatty" Arbuckle; silent action star Wallace Reid's drug habit and "dope parties"; and how stories about "platinum panic" Jean Harlow, racy Mae West, and "It Girl" Clara Bow always had to be followed by stories that they were no different from the rest of us.” Wide-ranging and surprisingly thoughtful, according to the Kirkus book review.

Five came back: a story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris.
• eBook

Five Hollywood directors abandoned successful careers to volunteer for military duty in World War II. Frank Capra, William Wyler, John Ford, John Huston, and George Stevens contributed to the war effort by doing what they did best: movie making. They documented the war and created cinematic propaganda. Wyler filmed a combat mission of the Memphis Belle (a B-17 heavy bomber aircraft) over Germany. Ford got hit by shrapnel while filming the Battle of Midway. Stevens captured the landing of the troops in Normandy, the liberation of Paris and the horrors of the concentration camp, Dachau. His work was used as evidence in the Nuremberg trials. Harris shows how these legendary directors were profoundly affected by their experiences during the war.

The $11 billion year: from Sundance to the Oscars, an inside look at the changing Hollywood system by Anne Thompson.
• eBook

Thompson focuses on 2012, a watershed year for the movie industry in Hollywood. "From executive firings and hirings to the stories behind films that almost never made it to the screen, Thompson's journalistic flair makes her analysis of the film industry a compelling and page-turning read." Kirkus book review.

Meryl Streep So anyway   Watch me Carsick

Meryl Streep: anatomy of an actor by Karina Longworth.

This book looks at the brilliant career of three time academy award winner Streep, focusing on ten pivotal performances, including her turns as Margaret Thatcher (The Iron Lady), Julia Child (Julie and Julia) and Sophie Zawistowska (Sophie’s choice), a performance so emotionally devastating I haven’t been able to watch it again. Lavishly illustrated, with lots of interesting biographical details and quotes, such as this one, from 2006, in which Streep modestly sums up a career that's still going full throttle: “My achievement, if you can call it that, is that I’ve basically pretended to be extraordinary people my entire life and now I’m being mistaken for one.” Other actors put under the spot light in the Cahiers du Cinema’s "Anatomy of an Actor" series: Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Marlon Brando.   

So anyway by John Cleese.
• eBook
• eAudiobook

“In this rollicking memoir Cleese takes readers on a Grand Tour of his ascent in the entertainment world, from his humble beginnings in a sleepy English town and his early comedic days at Cambridge University (with future Python partner Graham Chapman), to the founding of the landmark comedy troupe that would propel him to worldwide renown. Twisting and turning through surprising stories and hilarious digressions--with some brief pauses along the way that comprise a fascinating primer on what's funny and why--this story of a young man's journey to the pinnacle of comedy is a masterly performance by a master performer.”

Watch me: a memoir by Anjelica Huston.
• eBook
• eAudiobook
• Audiobook
• CD Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

"Picking up where A story lately told leaves off, when Anjelica Huston is 22 years old, Watch Me is a chronicle of her glamorous and eventful Hollywood years. She writes about falling in love with Jack Nicholson and her adventurous, turbulent, high-profile, spirited 17-year relationship with him and his intoxicating circle of friends. She movingly and beautifully writes about the death of her father John Huston and her marriage to sculptor Robert Graham. She is candid, mischievous, warm, passionate, funny, and a fabulous story teller.”

Carsick by John Waters.
• eBook
• eAudiobook
• Audiobook
• CD Talking Book (Restricted to print disabled patrons)

In 2012, cult film director John Waters set out from home carrying homemade signs inscribed with declarations such as “I’m not psycho” and “midlife crisis.” Thus began a nine day hitchhiking adventure from Baltimore to San Francisco. Along the way the director know as “the pope of trash” formed an unlikely friendship with a young republican in a corvette, got picked up by an indie band on tour, and met an assortment of ‘ordinary’ Americans. Library Journal calls Carsick a “rollicking, raunchy romp that delivers big-time laughs.”

  World film locations-Toronto   Toronto theatres and the golden age of the silver screen   Werner Herzog - a guide for the perplexed   The science of Interstellar

World film locations: Toronto.

Have you seen any film crews on the streets our city? You don’t get out much if you answered no to that question. Toronto has been the star of many movies, but just like an actor, it usually isn’t playing itself. In Good Will Hunting Toronto played the role of Boston, and the University of Toronto played the role of Harvard University. In Mean girls, Toronto played the role of Evanston, Illinois. Toronto plays jazz age Chicago in the Academy Award winning 2002 movie musical Chicago. World film locations: Toronto explores the role that the city has played in many films, including Pacific Rim, Cinderella Man, and American Psycho. The author of this book will be giving a talk at North York Central Library on Wednesday September 16 on the history of filmmaking in Toronto.

Toronto Theatres and the golden age of the silver screen by Doug Taylor.
• eBook

“Movie houses first started popping up around Toronto in the 1910s and '20s, in an era without television and before radio had permeated every household. A century later the surviving, defunct, and reinvented movie houses of Toronto's past are filled with captivating stories. Explore fifty historic Toronto movie houses and theaters, and discover their roles as repositories of memories for a city that continues to grow its cinema legacy. Features stunning historic photography.” If you are interested in the history of movie theatres in Toronto, you might also like to have a look at The nabes: Toronto’s wonderful neighbourhood movie houses, which provides a visual record of neighborhood theatres of the past.

Werner Herzog: a guide for the perplexed by Paul Cronin.

An updated edition of interviews with director Werner Herzog, whose impressive list of credits includes such diverse projects as the unforgettable documentary Grizzly man, the tragic story of grizzly bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell, and the cult crime movie Bad Lieutenant: port of call New Orleans. Among the Herzogian gems of wisdom in the book: “There is nothing wrong with spending the night in jail if it means you get the shot you need.” Reviewed in The Independent and The Telegraph.

The science of interstellar by Kip S. Thorne.

“Interstellar, from acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, takes us on a fantastic voyage far beyond our solar system. Kip Thorne, the physicist who assisted Nolan on the scientific aspects of Interstellar, shows us that the movie's jaw-dropping events and stunning, never-before-attempted visuals are grounded in real science. In chapters on wormholes, black holes, interstellar travel, and much more, Thorne's scientific insights--many of them triggered during the actual scripting and shooting of Interstellar--describe the physical laws that govern our universe and the truly astounding phenomena that those laws make possible.”

Run A Business That Will Sell!

January 29, 2015 | Kathryn | Comments (0)

There are many books and articles written about how to implement and run a successful business. Until recently, however, not many authors have tackled the final, and maybe most important, phase of business ownership: selling the company. 

Whether owners want to face it or not, every business will be sold, given away or liquidated and, since no one lives forever, every owner will leave. How business owners go about selling their businesses have far-reaching consequences for themselves, their families, investors and employees.  

Finish BigA new book we received in the North York Central Library  business deparment addresses this topic head on. In his book, Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies On Top, business writer Bo Burlingham has penned a guide to selling a business that should be required reading for all entrepreneurs, whether they are just starting out or thinking of retirement. As Burlingham explains, hastily-planned exits seldom turn out to be happy ones. A good transition takes time--probably years not months--and business owners should constantly be reviewing whether their businesses are sellable. 

Burlingham quotes a study done by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that found "only 20 percent of companies put up for sale are ultimately sold, meaning four out of five prospective sellers walk away empty-handed. They learn that they have little or no chance of finding a buyer." This should be concerning to the plethora of baby boomers who will be putting their businesses up for sale in the next few years. As Burlingham stresses, how you leave determines whether or not you get what you want out of your journey of building a company--not just financially, but emotionally as well.

Fortunately, the author offers loads of advice on the selling process collected from dozens of interviews with people who have been through it. As David Crow writes in his Financial Times review: "(Finish Big) is full of case studies from the realm of 'real business', rather than the fasionable tech start-ups that garner so much attention... the stars of Finish Big are entrepreneurs who set up call centres, freight trucking operations, exhaust cleaning companies and industrial water treatment plants."

Burlingham points out that preparing to sell a business can significantly improve it because the owner is forced to ask some of the difficult questions about him/herself and the business. One company that did a four-year reorganization sold for four times the amount they had been offered before the reorganization.

A few more important tips in the book:

  • You sell when the selling is good. Not when you think you'd like to. Otherwise, you run the risk of leaving a whole bunch of money on the table.
  • Autocratic management can undermine the value of a company.
  • Take the time necessary to determine whether your successor is the right person to run the company.
  • * It's a terrible idea to manage the whole process yourself. You need an advisor with experience to guide the transaction
  • There are software programs to help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your business from an investor's perspective.

There is an old saying that goes: "You should build a business today as if you will own it forever but could sell it tomorrow." In Finish Big, Bo Burlingham gives us the framework to build such a business. 

For additional books on the topic, Toronto Public Library has the following titles:

The Complete Guide To Selling A Business Sell your business for an outrageous price Sell Your Business Your Way

Note:  Burlingham is also the author of Small Giants: Companies that Choose To Be Great Instead Of Good

Free Science Events in Toronto for February 2015

January 27, 2015 | 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 February calendar (PDF).

February's highlights include:

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

February's highlights include:

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

Wonders of the winter landscape  Biological clocks  Red Rover  Crazy about chocolate

Teach yourself visually Word 2013  Black holes  Immunology  Neuroscience

International Year of Light

January 23, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

The United Nations (UN) proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies. It is a global initiative to illustrate the importance of light and optical technologies. The opening ceremony occurred this week in Paris.

Light plays an important role in our daily lives. Through photosynthesis, light is necessary to the existence of life itself. While light-based technologies, such as optical fibres, have revolutionized society through medicine, communications, entertainment and culture. And most importantly, these technologies support sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. The importance of light reaches far beyond life on Earth. Light has helped us to see and better understand the universe.

It’s easy to overlook the significance of light. We are so used to having light in our daily lives. We’re also often not aware of how light-based technologies affect almost everything we do. It is in consumer electronics (barcode scanners, DVD players, remote TV control), telecommunications (Internet), health (eye surgery, medical instruments), manufacturing industry (laser cutting and machining), defense and security (infrared camera, remote sensing), entertainment (holography, laser shows) and much more.

To learn more about light, take a look at these books:

Let there be light  The speed of light  Light years  Patterns of light

To learn more about photosynthesis, the process of how plants and organisms convert light energy into chemical energy, take a look at these books:

Eating the sun  Photosynthesis 3rd edition  Photosynthesis 6th edition  Photosynthesis and respiration

Energy from our sun that reaches Earth can be converted into heat and electricity. This is one of the major initiatives by scientists and governments to develop affordable and clean solar energy technologies. To learn more about sustainable energy, take a look at these books:

Lights on!  Project sunshine  Renewable  The solar revolution

The Internet changed the way we communicate. Through social media, low cost telephone calls and video conferencing we are able to stay connected with friends and family. This technology is possible because of light. These e-books look at optical communication, a light-based technology:

Fiber optic reference guide  Fundamentals of optical fiber sensors  Handbook of fiber optic data communication  Optical networks

From sunsets to rainbows, the natural world contains a wonderful range of light and colours. Take a look at these books to see light in nature:

Aurora  Color and light in nature  The optics of life  Why the sky is blue

Unfortunately, the importance of light is often unknown. We take for granted the light in our homes, the Internet we use daily to stay connected with loved ones, the vegetables we eat and much, much more. It is so great that the UN decided to declare 2015 as the Year of Light to bring awareness to the world the vital role light and light-based technologies plays in our lives. This is a great opportunity to learn and to join in on the events that are happening throughout Canada. The Canadian Association of Physicists are also hosting numerous events, including lectures.


Canadian Opera Company Talk: Wagner's Die Walküre

January 16, 2015 | Muriel | Comments (0)


Canadian Opera Company Talk: Wagner's Die Walküre

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

North York Central Library Auditorium

Please call 416-395-5639 to register for this free program.

  Die Walkure CD   Die Walkure CD 2   Die Walkure Complete Vocal and Orchestral Score

Wayne Gooding, editor of Opera Canada magazine, examines the different ways Wagner's matchless epic has been translated to the stage from its premiere in 1870 up to the present day.  Special attention will be given to the winter 2015 revival of Atom Egoyan's COC production, starring "internationally celebrated opera diva," Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde.  

The Valkyrie Die Walkure        Die Walkure DVD 2        Die Walkure DVD

Richard Wagner A Life in Music       Wagner & Me       Wagner & Cinema

Be sure to visit NAXOS, the online music library available through Toronto Public Library, and listen to great music spanning medieval to modern - classical, jazz, electronic, world music and more, and find expert educational content.   

Obstacles En Route To The Dragon's Den

January 9, 2015 | Kathryn | Comments (0)

Currently in its eighth season on CBC, the Dragons' Den has been one of the most successful shows on Canadian television. The program features entrepreneurs making pitches to millionaire business owners (dragons) for investment money and professional support. 

The dragons, who ask hard-hitting questions to the hopeful contestants, have become business icons in the eyes of televison viewers. Many of the dragons have written successful books that have become best sellers. 

Cold Hard Truth on Business, Money and LifeSeveral years ago on a flight from Hawaii to Australia, I ran out of reading material and read a book that my husband had packed for the trip: Cold Hard Truth On Business, Money and Life, by Kevin O'Leary, one of the original dragons.  At that time, a business book didn't appeal to me but, to my delight, it was extremely well-written and full of engaging stories about O'Leary's experiences. 

What surprised me the most about O'Leary's book was the number of obstacles he had to overcome on the road to success. He has the on-air persona of a business guru who has experienced only success. But his biography clearly indicates he faced many challenges along the way. 

That's what I like about this book and others written by the dragons. While they do talk about their successes, they also discuss failures and how they can be important learning experiences. O'Leary and the other dragons point out that the most successful business people are those who see barriers and mistakes as learning opportunities that can propel them forward.

DecisonsAnother veteran dragon, Jim Treliving, CEO of Boston Pizza, also discusses how running a business is not without problems. In his book Decisions: Making the Right Ones, Righting the Wrong Ones, he discusses the importance of reassessing decisons when things are not going well and having the flexibility to make changes.

As an example, Treliving writes about how he stretched his franchise empire too far in the 1990s, which required him to pull out of the Asian market. He says it wasn't an easy decision, but the move became vital to guiding future Boston Pizza expansions.


Similarly, Dragons' Den veteran Arlene Dickinson also believes bumps in the road can be blessings in disguise. In her book All In, Dickinson says "Profits spur you to do more of the same thing: losses and mistakes push you to do things better."

  All In Redefining Success The Wealthy Barber Returns The Will To Win

Brett Wilson, another former dragon, talks about misplaced priorities and mishaps in his book Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes. Like many of the dragons, Wilson talks not only about professional failures, but also about problems balancing work and personal life.

So, while you may have resolved that 2015 will be a fail-proof year of professional achievements, think again! Those stumbles in the road are a natural part of running a business and provide the invaluable experience. For more advice from the den, the business department at North York Central Library has the dragons' books in print and sometimes ebook format.

   PersuasionDriven Cold Hard Truth About Men, Women, Money Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids, Money

Learn more about the scientists in "The Imitation Game" and "The Theory of Everything"

January 9, 2015 | Carolyn | Comments (1)

Holiday movie releases usually range from action-packed to family-friendly. Two of the movies I saw over this holiday season didn't fit into the usual categories; instead, they're based on the lives of two of the twentieth century's most intriguing scientists.

The Imitation Game tells the story of the British intelligence officers who cracked the German Enigma machine code during the Second World War. It focuses on the contribution of mathematician Alan Turing - in particular the machine he developed to decrypt the coded German messages. According to a BBC web page published to mark the recent centenary of Turing's birth, historians estimate the codebreakers' achievements shortened the war in Europe by two to four years and saved millions of lives.

In the movie, Turing uses a crossword challenge to recruit staff for the Enigma project. The reality was somewhat different, but crossword puzzles did play a part in the recruitment of wartime codebreakers. Try your hand at the original puzzle from January, 1942; if you can solve it in fewer than 12 minutes, you might have been a candidate.

Recontstruction of the Bombe codebreaking machine at Bletchley ParkBy Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The efforts to break enemy codes remained secret for decades after the War, but the information has been declassified in recent years and Bletchley Park, site of the codebreaking work, has been opened to visitors who can see a recontruction of the decryption machine built under Turing's direction.

Alan Turing's other claim to fame is that he is considered to be one of the fathers of computing and artifical intelligence. In fact, the name of the movie, The Imitation Game, comes from his famous 1950 paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence (PDF). Turing proposed the game as a test to determine whether machines could think. The Turing Test is still used as one measure of artificial intelligence.

The Theory of Everything is based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: my life with Stephen by Jane Hawking, and tells the story of her marriage to renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking. It depicts the period from Hawking's arrival at Cambridge as a graduate physics student in 1962 until their divorce in 1995.

The film focuses more on Hawking's personal life than his work, but there are several scenes in which he discusses his theories about singularities and black holes. There was a physics advisor on set to ensure that the explanations, while simplified for the benefit of the audience, were also accurate. If, like me, you're a bit intimidated by Hawking's ideas, check out this video from The Guardian's Made Simple series. It's Stephen Hawking's big idea in 150 seconds:


The film depicts the early symptoms of Hawking's illness and his diagnosis with ALS, a motor-neuron disease, at the age of 21. Voice and movement coaches worked with Eddie Redmayne to ensure that his portrayal of Hawking as the illness progressed was as realistic as possible. There's a fascinating video in the movie's website that describes how he prepared for the role.

If you're interested in learning more about the lives of these two remarkable scientists - whether you've seen the movies or not - why not have a look at any of these books, available at many Toronto Public Library branches:


Alan Turing: the enigma by Andrew Hodges The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the invention of the computer by David Leavitt The Essential Turing: seminal writings in computing, logic, philosophy, artificial intelligence, artificial life, plus the secrets of enigma
book, eBook book, eAudiobook  


Travelling to Infinity: my life with Stephen My Brief History The Illustrated Theory of Everything
 book, eBook book, audiobook, talking book, eBook, eAudiobook  


Sports Highlights of 2014

January 5, 2015 | Aleks | Comments (0)

Super Bowl XLVIII

Super Bowl XLVIII

On February 2, 2014, the American football game between the American Football Conference champion and the National Football Conference champion was played. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks met on the field for a complete knock out game of 43-8 for the Seahawks. This became the first Super Bowl victory for the Seahawks with a 13-3 record. Super Bowl XLVII was held in an open-air stadium in a "cold-weather" city; the first in Super Bowl history. 


NFL Playoffs
2013-14 NFL Playoffs - Wikipedia


Also available on Zinio.

Sports illustrated football's greatest You can't make this up - miracles, memories, and the perfect marriage of sports and television  Parcells: a football life 

The blind side League of denial - the NFL, concussions, and the battle for truth 


 Sochi winterSochi Olympics 2014

In the third largest region in Russia, the games were organised between two clusters: a coastal area for ice events in Sochi and a mountain area located in the Krasnaya Polyana Mountains.  The month of February was eclipsed with spotlights of spectacular events, historic performances and numerous records. 


Top 10 medals
Top 10 Countries Medal Table - Wikipedia

The Best Of Sochi 2014 Olympics - Olympics


Ski  International Figure Skating  Snowboarder 

             Also available on Zinio.                                   Also available on Zinio.

 Unbroken  The boys in the boat - nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics  Foxcatcher - the true story of my brother's murder, John du Pont's madness, and the quest for Olympic gold 


  2014 Stanley Cup Finals
Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014

The National Hockey League (NHL) began the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs on April 16, 2014. With a display of heart, athleticism and skill, 16 teams opened the round of playoffs with the most leads changing hands than any other year. The finals saw the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings competing for the top spot and a chance at the cup. A best of seven series awarded the Kings with the cup with a 4-1 series. 



 NHL playoff bracket

2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket - Wikipedia

 The Hockey News

Also available on Zinio.

Mr Hockey  ORR  Cornered- Hijinks, Highlights, Late Night and Insights  Crazy Game - How I Survived the Crease and Beyond



2014 National Basketball Association Playoffs 

The tournament took place on June 5th to the 15th as the East took on the West in the battle of basketball supremacy. The National Basketball Association's 2013-14 season ended with the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs defeating the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat 4 games to 1 in the Finals. The Toronto Raptors made their first playoff appearance since 2008. 


 NBA tournament

2014 NBA Playoff Bracket - Wikipedia


Also available on Zinio.

The Book of Basketball - The NBA According to The Sports Guy  Dream Team- How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever Michael Jordon - The life The hoop whisperer

FIFA World Cup


FIFA World Cup 2014

From June 12 to July 13 the world vibrate to the sounds on the soccer field as the top teams across the globe travelled to Brazil for the World Cup. As the first European team to triumph in the Americas, Germany claimed the title dethroning Spain's domination of the last 4 years. 



 FIFA World Cup 2014 - Best Moments Highlights HD - James Rodriguez

World Soccer

Also available on Zinio.

The mammoth book of the World Cup  Messi  Eight world cups - my journey through the beauty and dark side of soccer  How soccer explains the world - an unlikely theory of globalization


Major League Baseball 2014 World Series

Two giants hit the stage as the National League champion San Francisco Giants and the American League champion Kansas City Royals faced off for a best-of-seven playoff from October 21-29. The postseason saw a fierce competition of team from both the American and National League fight for a chance at the title. The games were traded back and forth between the two teams (4-3) with ultimately the San Francisco Giants taking home the victory. Both teams ended their season with marginal differences; San Francisco Giants (88-74) and Kansas City Royals (89-73). 

MLB postseason
2014 Major League Baseball Postseason - Wikipedia

  Sports Illustrated baseball's greatest  Derek Jeter - Jeter unfiltered  The Art of Fielding   

 The Closer  Moneyball - the art of winning an unfair game   

Congratuations to our Canadian World Juniors team on their win yesterday in the gold medal match at the Air Canada Center against Russia!

When Your Relatives Are Your Co-Workers

January 2, 2015 | Kathryn | Comments (0)

Over the holidays many of us gathered for workplace functions and family dinners to celebrate the season. For most people, these events were distinctly separated as either vocational or personal affairs. But what if your father is your boss? What if your brother is your co-worker? When personal and professional relationships get blurred, the opportunity for conflict among family members increases.

We’ve all experienced the big extended-family gathering that turns into an emotionally-charged event.  Someone says something disagreeable to a family member and the only thing thicker than the tension in the room is the pumpkin pie! Most people can say their farewells at the end of the gathering and have a healthy cooling off period. But if you work in a family business, there is no such break.

A friend of mine who has worked in a family-run business for more than 20 years complained recently that “shop talk” inevitably creeps into the dinner conversation, despite everyone’s efforts to leave work behind. On the other end of things, the strong emotions elicited by family ties can wreak havoc on professional relationships in the workplace.

Tensions among family members can also have an impact on non-family employees who get unwittingly involved in the family dynamics. Fortunately, with a new year upon us and resolutions of good will, it’s good to know there are measures that can be taken to minimize conflicts that arise in family-run enterprises.

The business department at the North York Central Library has many resources that address common conflicts in family businesses from a legal, psychological and even cultural perspective.  Some also provide valuable information on succession planning.

So while the drama in your family might not be at the level of the Sopranos, every family venture can use some guidelines to keep everyone happy.  Here are a few resources to get your started: 

Family Entrepreneur Step Up to the Plate Family Wars The Dragon Network

Sink or Swim Irving vs Irving Managing  Conflict in the Family Business When Family Businesses are Best

New year's bucket list

January 2, 2015 | Maureen | Comments (9)

Three years ago, while having a chat about books, a colleague told me that she'd been keeping a list of the books she'd read for many years. I was fascinated! I’ve been reading for pleasure since I discovered Hugh Lofting's Doctor Dolittle series as a child, and in all these many years of happy engagement, it never occurred to me to keep a record. I've flitted from book to book like a bumblebee flitting from flower to flower. If only I'd recorded everything I've read since falling for Doctor Dolittle so many years ago! I would have had a travelogue of where I've wandered in the vast fields of human invention.

Better late than never, as they say. I started my own list three years ago. If you love reading, I suggest you do the same. It could be an easy to keep new year’s resolution  (no self denial involved.) Not only will it help you to avoid picking up a book you’ve already read (my colleague's reason for keeping a list), but when you draw a blank trying to recall the title of a book you’ve read, your list will remind you. And as your list grows, you'll have a snapshot of where your head was at during any given year. Over time, you might see interesting things emerge in this bookish mirror of yourself: passions flare up and burn out, growth or stagnation, maybe even obsession.

Ripley under groundOn the last day of 2014, I finished Ripley under ground, by Patricia Highsmith, the second in a series of five books (known as the "Ripliad") about cultured serial killer Tom Ripley. As I added the title to my list I counted the books I’d read in 2014. I compared this number to my totals for 2012 and 2013. Suddenly, a new use for the list occurred to me. Maybe the idea of mortality was suggested by Mr. Ripley’s murderous doings, or maybe it was the turning of the year – just for fun, I calculated how many books I’d be likely to read in the time remaining to me.

Here's my simple forumla: The average amount of books you read in a year multiplied by estimated years remaining in your life  =  number of books you will read in the future (if you’re lucky enough to live as long as actuarial tables say you will.) Try it yourself!

I averaged my totals for the last three years, then consulted a life expectancy calculator online to get an idea of how much time I have left to read. I will not divulge the results of my calculations here, except to say that I was shocked and appalled when I put the number beside the 130 million books published over the course of modern history. (This figure comes from an article by a Google software engineer published in 2010, called Books of the world, stand up and be counted! All 129,864,880 of you. I rounded up a bit. The total must be well past 130 million by now.)

The paltry number of books I have left to read considered against the book production of just one country in one year (309,957 by the United States in 2012) was rather deflating. Talk about a wake up call! It inspired me to start a reading "bucket list."

Excellent Women

Number 1 on my reading bucket list is the book I requested for Christmas this year: Excellent women, by Barbara Pym. I absolutely refuse to kick the bucket without reading this book, which author Alexander McCall Smith called, "one of the 20th century's most endearing and amusing novels." Pym, says Mcall Smith, covered much the same territory as Jane Austen, "the details of smallish lives led."

I only just heard of Pym in 2014 while listening to the delightful documentary Barbara Pym – an excellent woman, which aired on CBC radio's The Sunday edition. Pym started publishing in Britain, in the early 1950s, but by the 1960s her work had fallen out of fashion. Publishers (including her own) rejected her manuscripts. In 1977 The Times Literary Supplement published an article in which Pym was nominated “the most underrated writer of the 20th century." The article triggered a surge of interest in the author; she was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and found a new audience.

Commenting on Pym's sudden spectacular rise in popularity, Mcall Smith wrote, "What wonderful embarrassment for those who believed that an unmitigated diet of gritty social realism, graphically described sexual couplings and sadistic violence was what readers really wanted. The entire time the reading public, or quite a large section of it, was really yearning for the small-scale delights, the beautiful self-deprecating humour and the brilliant miniaturisation of Pym's novels." Sadly, Pym had only a few years to enjoy her success: she died of breast cancer in 1980, at the age of 66.

Consider creating your own reading bucket list. It might help you take any health related new year’s resolutions more seriously. Stay healthy, live as long as you can – you have a lot to read!

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