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True Crime for Serial Lovers

December 18, 2014 | Winona | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Have you been listening to Serial? The hit podcast, which aims to cover one story week-by-week, has just ended its first season. Over the course of 12 weekly episodes millions of listeners followed along with reporter and host Sarah Koenig as she re-investigated the 1999 murder of a Baltimore high school student.

I resisted Serial at first, unwilling to be lured into yet another pop culture phenomenon to have to keep up with, or catch up on. But one evening I relented and by the next morning I was bleary-eyed, having stayed up until the wee hours listening to several episodes of the stuff, and I couldn't wait for more.

Now that the show is over (or, rather, on hiatus until the second season) I am craving something to feed my newfound interest in true crime that will be just as engaging, thoughtful, and spine-tinglingly good.

I found some excellent suggestions in this article on Slate, added a few of my own, and came up with this list of true crime to keep me occupied until the next season of Serial begins.

  Homicide by David Simon Homicide Life on the Street Series 1 The Wire Series 1






The events in Serial take place in Baltimore in 1999, which comes across as a pretty gritty, crime-addled place in time. If you've been listening to the podcast you will know, for instance, that Baltimore's Leakin Park is where all the bodies are buried. Literally. As one resident says, "If you're digging in Leakin Park to bury your body, you're going to find somebody else's."

That casually chilling statement echoes a Baltimore Police Department legend recounted by Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon in Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. As he tells it, trainees searching for a missing person in the park are reminded by their supervisor that they are looking for one body in particular: "If you go grabbing at every one you find, we'll be here all day."

Simon's engrossing police procedural describes a year spent with Baltimore homicide detectives and gives readers a detailed insider's view of several murder investigations. It received the 1992 Edgar Award in the Best Fact Crime category and was adapted into the groundbreaking crime drama television series Homicide: Life on the Street. Simon also created the critically-acclaimed series The Wire.


One of the things I found most compelling about Serial is the experience of trying to understand the case from the perspective of reporter and host Sarah Koenig. Her struggle to process the myriad facts, claims, ambiguities, inconsistencies, and their implications, exposes a tension between the expectation of cool journalistic objectivity and her unabashed personal interest in the case, as well as the need to spin a captivating murder mystery tale.

A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm

Sebastian Junger also has both a journalistic and personal interest in the case he examines in A Death in Belmont. In 1963 a murder took place in Belmont, a few blocks from Junger's childhood home, near Boston, that mimicked the Boston Strangler serial killings. A young black man was quickly tried and convicted for the Belmont strangling but Junger wonders if there isn't a far messier truth. Reviewed in The New York Times. Starred review of the audio format in Publisher's Weekly. Also in these formats: audiobook | eaudiobook | large print | talking book.

In Cold Blood is a true crime classic about the brutal, seemingly random, 1959 murder of four family members in Kansas. Widely praised in the literary community upon its release in 1966, it is sometimes regarded as the first ever "non-fiction novel." Some critics have challenged its factual accuracy and others have argued that although author Truman Capote removed himself from the narrative his presence is palpable in his identification with one of the purported killers. Reviewed in The New York Times. Starred review of the audio format in Publisher's Weekly. Also in these formats: eaudiobook | ebook | film adaptation.


The Journalist and the Murderer is a study of the ethics of journalism that likens "the moral ambiguity" of journalism to a treacherous con game. Author Janet Malcolm focuses on the infamous Fatal Vision case, in which journalist Joe McGinniss nurtured a friendship with accused murderer Jeffrey MacDonald and promised to write a book about MacDonald's innocence, but instead published a book that declared his guilt. Reviewed in The New York Times.

  Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere by Poe Ballantine God'll Cut You Down by John SafranMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere is the story of author Poe Ballantine's neighbour, a college math professor, who disappeared one day in 2006 and was discovered dead several months later. But was it murder or suicide? It is also very much the author's own story: a quirky, often gently humerous, personal account of his life in a small Nebraska town, his rocky marriage, and his experiences raising his autistic son. Starred review in Shelf Awareness. Recently made into a documentary film.


John Safran, a documentarian and comedian (some consider him Australia's Michael Moore), uses humour to great effect in his re-investigation of the 2010 murder of a white supremacist in God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi. Just as in Serial, Safran tracks down and interviews several of the key players in the case and documents his experience uncovering many different, sometimes contradictory, narratives in his search for the truth. Starred review in Kirkus. Also in these formats: eaudiobook | ebook.

Safran's book owes a debt to Truman Capote as well as John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, an entertaining bestseller about a landmark murder case in Savannah and the remarkable cast of characters involved. Reviewed in Kirkus. Also in these formats: audiobook | ebook | large print reference | film adaptation.

More true crime, available in both book and audiobook formats, at the library:

Crime Beat by Michael ConnellyFinal Analysis by Catherine CrierLost Girls by Robert KolkerThe Good Nurse by Charles Graeber






  Imperfect Justice by Jeff AshtonThe Innocent Man by John Grisham  Heart Full of Lies by Ann RuleToo Late to Say Goodbye by Ann Rule







Arriving Soon - The City Builder Book Club

December 11, 2014 | Cynthia | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

  City Builder Book Club
Did you know that 'most humans on the planet now live in cities and over the next few decades, another quarter to a third of the world will join them? This urban migration marks the most decisive social and cultural shift since the Enlightenment'.

“We will end the century as a wholly urban species,” notes Doug Saunders, "the consequences of which will affect everything from governance systems and financial markets to climate conditions and fuel resources."

Arrival cities, sometimes known as “slums, favelas, bustees, bidonvilles, ashwaiyyat, shantytowns, kampongs, urban villages, gecekondulars, and barrios of the developing world," are our immigrant neighborhoods, ethnic districts, banlieues difficiles, Chinatowns, Little Indias, Hispanic quarters and Thorncliffe Parks. They are created by people who want to find work, build a life, save and invest, and move on, making room for the next wave of immigrants.

Arrival CityCome January, the City Centre for Ecology will launch the online City Builder Book Club for 2015 featuring Doug Saunders' Arrival City : the Final Migration and Our Next World.

The idea is that an international audience will read the book and participate in weekly online discussions. Contributors might be well-known sociologists, planners, policy-makers or politicians or someone just interested in commenting. Take a look at the site; take out or download Arrival City, and join the discussion.


Look for our weekly listing of relevant books, magazines and multimedia materials to complement each chapter. Most things can be found in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department, 2nd floor, Toronto Reference Library. Many titles can be found or sent to your local branch.

Salaam Brick Lane

Last Train Home 
  Village in the city Planet of slums



December 6: Women, Men, Violence

December 5, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (9) Facebook Twitter More...

Twenty–five years ago on December 6, 1989, a man, whose name you probably know, walked into the École Polytechnique in Montreal and shot to death fourteen women. He wounded fourteen more women and four men. He deliberately targeted the women, saying feminists had ruined his life.

Since that day there have been commemorations and controversies, coalitions for gun control, push back against that. Arguments about individual responsibility, societal responsibility. Whether mental illness was the root cause, or a broken and violent family life, or a society that denigrates women, or a society that denigrates outsiders. Whether men hate women, whether women blame men, whether any of us can live together in this world.

Perhaps one way to start, is to remember the names of the people who died. To remember the women and men who were wounded and damaged and changed forever by what happened to them. People like Lt. Pierre Leclair of the Montreal police, who found one of the first victims and identified her. She was Maryse Leclair, a fourth-year metallurgy student, and she was his daughter.

             Ecole Polytechniques Plaque

             Plaque on the exterior wall of École Polytechnique  Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps another way is to remember how many more have died because of sexual violence or domestic violence or gun violence since that day in 1989.

And still another way is to read and learn the ways others have tried to respond to those events and that tragedy. A short list:


Aftermath- the mother of Marc Lepine December 6 Intimate Personal Violence in Canada Male peer support and violence against women








Aftermath : the mother of Marc Lépine tells the story of her life before and after the Montreal massacre by Monique Lépine

Vivre : dix-neuf ans après la tragédie de la Polytechnique, Monique Lépine, la mère de Marc Lépine, se révèle

December 6 : from the Montreal massacre to gun control : the inside story by Heidi Rathjen

Intimate personal violence in Canada by Anastasia Bake

Male peer support and violence against women : the history and verification of a theory by Walter S, DeKeseredy

  Misogyny-the world's oldest prejudiceThe Montreal Massacre Rage and Resistance Sexual assault in Canada







Misogyny : the world's oldest prejudice by Jack Holland

The Montreal massacre : a story of membership categorization analysis by Peter Eglin

Rage and resistance : a theological reflection on the Montreal Massacre by Theresa M. O'Donovan

Sexual assault in Canada : law, legal practice, and women's activism Elizabeth A. Sheehy   eBook






After the Montreal Massacre

Heidi Rathjen: from tragedy to triumph




National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women--Ontario Women's Directorate

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women--Status of Women Canada

The Rose Campaign


Candle Light Vigil for Lost Lives

Kaz Andrew: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Salon du livre de Toronto à la Bibliothèque de référence 3-6 decembre, 2014

December 4, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Pour la cinquième année, Le Salon du Livre de Toronto sera à la Bibliothèque de Référence du 3 au 6 décembre 2014. C'est une occasion de plonger dans les livres et de rencontrer des auteurs francophones.

C'est gratuit et intéressant.

Des bibiliothécaires seront au stand pour discuter des services en  français dans nos bibliothèques.


Salon du Livre French Book Fair


TRL Program Calendar December 2014

November 28, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Join us this month for two lunchtime musical interludes, with duos Kirk Elliott & October Browne, and Sara Churchill & Colin Savage.  Plus, lots and lots of computer classes.

Click on each image to enlarge or Download The December 2014 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, check out our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

December 1 December 2 December 3

Renovation Finished! A Last Update on the Re-vitalization of the Toronto Reference Library

November 25, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto Reference Library ExteriorYes, the renovation is finished! This TRL blog has followed the progress and the many changes since October 2010 and now, here is the final Renovation Project Update.

An official celebration in late September marked the completion of new study spaces, digital innovations, reorganized subject floors and additional forums for public presentations. Now, with a few weeks of full operation behind us, we’d like to show off one last time some of the beautiful new parts of the library.

(Click to enlarge any image)

  Entrance & TD Gallery


As you enter the library, sit by the quiet waters of the entrance or visit the TD Gallery--behind the glass wall in this photo. 






Information Commons 1st floor


Walk round the waters, and use the Information Commons to check email, read the latest news or research a subject.






Still on the 1st floor, visit the Browsery where you can borrow current popular books and DVDs. In the Adaptive Technology Centre, you'll find aids to information access like magnifiers, Digital Access Information System (DAISY) talking books, screen magnification software (Zoomtext) and screen reader software (JAWS). Cross the floor to find the Digital Innovation Hub and the Asquith Press, where you can publish your own book.

    Adaptive Tech-Browsery 1st floor Digital Hub-Asquith Press 1st floor





Idea Garden 2nd floor

Think or study in the Idea Garden on the 2nd floor (above) or try some of the other curved, glassed or traditional study spaces.

Study space 2nd floor TRL View from 5th floor Study table 1st floor Study Pods





Libraries are changing and whole new technological and maker spaces are happening here at Toronto Reference Library and around the world. But don't worry. There are still books everywhere--over 4 million in this building.

Open Shelf 2nd floor











Music Scores 5th floor  Display case & Open Shelf 2nd floor Social Sciences Open Shelf 2nd floor




Please visit soon, if you haven’t already. You’ll find thousands of fellow citizens reading, searching, studying, tweeting, discussing, creating, connecting, working. Just what this place was built for.



Toronto's Official Plan: You Can Make a Difference!

November 18, 2014 | Cynthia | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto Skyline

The City Planning Department is updating Toronto’s Official Plan. What is an “official plan”? 

In Ontario the Planning Act requires municipalities to have an Official Plan. The Official Plan is a legal document approved by Council that describes policies and objectives for land uses and how and where the community should grow. The Official Plan is prepared in consultation with residents and reflects a community vision for future change and development.

Official Plan coverThe City of Toronto’s Official Plan sets out the vision for where and how Toronto will grow to the year 2031. That's a fairly long time, so it is important to do regular "check-ups" to ensure that the Official Plan is working to fulfill its vision. So the current review is one of those checkups.

Toronto is also undertaking a Municipal Comprehensive Review that looks specifically at designated areas of employment in the Official Plan. Both reviews are important, so we can all help by sharing ideas on how we can plan for Toronto's future. We all want Toronto to continue to be a great place to live, work, invest and play.

St George Street, TorontoWe invite you to get involved and be engaged. Together we can make Toronto better. As part of this review, the City is holding events to listen to your views on draft changes that address policies on Urban Design, the Environment, as well as our Neighbourhoods and Apartment Neighbourhoods (PDF) .

Come out and have your opinions and ideas heard. There will be a “pop-up event” here at the Toronto Reference Library to let you participate in an interactive mapping exercise. Sound intriguing?


Where: Toronto Reference Library, front entrance

When: Thursday, November 20, 2014 from 9-5


The Toronto Collection, 2nd floor, Humanities and Social Sciences, has official plans and background reports for Toronto and other municipalities going back for decades. 

Look for plans of the past with titles like Cityplan '91, The Liveable Metropolis,  and Plan for the Urban Structure of Metropolitan Toronto.

  Aerial view of Toronto

Maps, Architecture and Sherlock - my month at Toronto Reference Library

November 7, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Today's post is a guest entry by the Swedish student intern who we've had the pleasure of hosting for the last few weeks at the Toronto Reference Library (TRL).  Here are her impressions of our library and our work:


My name is Karin and I'm a library student from Uppsala University, Sweden. Instead of staying in Uppsala for our five week internship, I decided to travel across the pond to Toronto to do my internship at Toronto Reference Library. 

I arrived in Toronto three days before the start of my internship and decided to visit the library right away. I instantly liked TRL, the beautiful architecture, the light, the atmosphere, and I couldn’t resist posting a photo of it on Instagram with the slightly smug caption “I think I’m gonna like it here”. 

   Toronto Reference Library

On my first day I was introduced to all the delights of working life. My own desk! Endless supply of stationary! Staff lounges!

I also got started on my first project: cataloguing European maps. Having no experience of cartography, the project turned out to be way more interesting than I'd thought, and I soon found myself deeply invested in indexes and insets, scales and distance charts. The downside was that it made me acutely aware of my ignorance of European geography. The Faroe Islands belong to Denmark? I really had no idea. But after all, I'm here to learn, and now when I meet people from lesser known parts of Europe I no longer have to pretend that I know where their hometowns are!

   Filing Cabinet

My next project was helping out with an ongoing project of digitizing the architectural drawings submitted by the contestants in the Toronto City Hall and Square competition in 1958. My job was to transfer images of the finalists’ drawings from microfilm onto an USB-stick. "Nobody ever loved microfilm" one of the librarians told me as she showed me how to use the microfilm reader, and yeah, I can see why. I had to have a few tries before I figured out how to correctly thread the microfilm reels, glancing enviously at the man at the microfilm reader next to me, who seemed to know exactly what he was doing. 

   City Hall Competition

I enjoyed the drawings though, and was surprised to see so many innovative and futuristic designs, considering they were created more than 60 years ago. 

I've also been shadowing the Humanities and Social Science (HSS) information desk. Having worked at the info desk at the arts, humanities and languages branch of the Uppsala University Library, I thought this would be pretty much the same types of queries (where the washrooms are, how to use the photo copier etc.), but I was surprised by the variety of reference questions asked and impressed by how well the staff are able to answer them. It's been slightly awkward any time a customer has asked me something though, (an easy mistake to make since I'm not wearing a sign saying "Intern") and I've had to refer them to someone else. So if you've approached the HSS desk expecting to talk to a competent member of staff and instead met with an utterly confused person, chances are that was me. 

   2nd Floor Reference Desk

On the third week of my internship I moved up a couple of floors to the Languages and Literature Department. There I got to look at the Swedish collection, which had many of my childhood favourites like Anne of Green GablesRonia the Robbers Daughter by Swedish literary icon Astrid Lindgren, the Moomin-books by the famous Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson, and even a few by Maj Bylock, who writes excellent, and at times gory, historical fiction for children, which unfortunately seem hard to get by English translation. Perhaps Anglo-American publishers don't consider the 17th century witch burnings an appropriate topic for children. 

    Languages and Literature Department

   Anne of Green Gables

Sweden is no exception to the most recent Sherlock Holmes-mania that has swept the world since the BBC-series. Mattias Boström's Från Holmes till Sherlock about Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes was awarded the Swedish Thriller Academy's prize for best non-fiction and the fourth season of Sherlock is highly anticipated. Therefore I was excited about the project the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection had prepared for me - cataloguing Sherlock Holmes comics. 

   Arthur Conan Doyle Collection

Perhaps I would be more efficient had I not been remotely interested in Sherlock Holmes. The temptation to not only catalogue the comics but also read them cover to cover is sometimes very strong.

   Sherlock Holmes Comics

All in all, I've had a blast at TRL and I'll be sad to say goodbye to everyone at the end of this week. Everyone's been so kind to me and I've learnt so much. TRL, I will be back.

Guest Author

TRL Program Calendar November 2014

October 31, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

This month, two moving tributes to mark the centenary of the beginning of World War One.  In the TD Gallery, running this month and into January, see Four Families, One War, an exhibit of artifacts tracing the experience of four Toronto families from 1914-1918.  Also, each night at 8.30 and through the nights until November 11, see The World Remembers, an international multi-media collaboration to list the names of all those killed in the conflict.  Visible from the front Cube area and outside on the street at the entrance to the Toronto Reference Library.

Click on each image to enlarge or Download The November 2014 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, check out our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

November 1 November 2
*Please call 416-393-7209 to register for all programs in the Le@rning Centre*

November 3 November 4


"Is Shakespeare Dead?" Come find out !

October 30, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Actor Keir Cutler is offering a thought provoking (and free!) performance adapting Mark Twain's 1909 book "Is Shakespeare Dead" at the Toronto Reference Library on Monday November 3rd at 6 pm in the Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium. All are welcome.

Is Shakespeare Dead Mark Twain

Twain's comic book plays with the Baconian idea that Sir Francis Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's works. This was a very popular theory in the late 19th century among literary critics. Is this true...come find out! There are several older 1800s titles in our collection that discuss this including the aptly named Bacon is Shake-speare.

Bacon as Shakespeare
copyright owned by the website

Prof Don Rubin will host an open discussion after the performance. Come out and enjoy some free live theatre. You may also enjoy this youtube clip:        


            Contested Will Who Wrote Shakespeare by James Shapiro    Who wrote shakespeare by John Mitchell

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