Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

« July 2011 | Main | September 2011 »

August 2011

Staff Pick

August 29, 2011 | Sara | Comments (0)



The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad 

The Bookseller of Kabul is an amazing book written by Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad.  The book takes the form of a novel, but is based on the life of a real family living in the troubled Afghan city of Kabul.  While in Afghanistan reporting on the fall of the Taliban, Seierstad met the bookseller Sultan Khan in one of his many shops.  After numerous visits to the bookstore, Seierstad was invited for dinner at Khan’s home where she met his large family and ended up living with them for many months for the purpose of writing a book about the life and struggles of regular people in Afghanistan.

As the eldest son of his deceased father and the owner of many successful bookstores in Kabul, Sultan Khan is the undisputed ruler and provider for his large family.  This family includes his widowed mother, younger brothers and sisters, two wives, and their children.  Throughout the years Sultan has struggled and fought to maintain his bookstores through times of war, religious fundamentalism, and censorship.  Despite the threat of severe punishment, Sultan continuously defied the “Morality Police” by buying and selling books of all genres and subjects, including those deemed to be unlawful by the Taliban.  In order to expand and run his business, Sultan pulled his brothers and sons out of school and forced them to work in his many bookstores across Kabul.  The female members of his family including his sixteen-year-old wife Sonya are confined to the home cooking and cleaning for the men, all the while ensuring that the reputation and honour of the family is upheld by their good behaviour.  The Bookseller of Kabul is a heartbreakingly honest portrayal of family life in Afghanistan.    

In addition to an interesting story with memorable and endearing characters, The Bookseller of Kabul also provides readers with factual information and insight on Afghan history, culture, and traditions.  This book is highly recommended for its quality of writing, strong storytelling, and educational benefits. 

Political Leaders Dying in Office: Laurier, Layton, Macdonald and Thompson

August 25, 2011 | John P. | Comments (0)

Undoubtedly, most Canadians have heard about the death of the Hon. Jack Layton (1950-2011), Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada’s 41st Parliament, 1st Session, and Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth since June 2004. Dr. Layton was also a former Toronto city councillor and one-time Vice-President and then President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He was a well-known advocate on AIDS research, environmental, housing and homelessness issues, and co-chair and founder of the White Ribbon Campaign on Violence against Women. Dr. Layton’s list of accomplishments is too long to list but here is a short list of books by Jack Layton, available for placing on hold from Toronto Public Library:

Homelessness: how to end the national crisis. Layton, Jack with Michael Shapcott.
Revised and updated ed. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2008. 272 p.

Homelessness: the making and unmaking of a crisis.
Toronto: Penguin, 2000. xxiii, 246 p.

Speaking out louder: ideas that work for Canadians.
Revised and updated. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2006. 288 p.

Speaking out: ideas that work for Canadians.  
Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2004. 288 p.  (Also available in Talking Book format restricted to print disabled patrons).

A full list of Toronto Public Library holdings by Jack Layton can be accessed by clicking here.

Jack Layton was only the second federal Leader of the Opposition to die in office. The first was none other than the Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919) who had previously served as Canada’s first francophone Prime Minister. Only two Canadian Prime Ministers died in office: the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) and the Right Honourable Sir John S. D. Thompson (1844-1894).

For books about Laurier, Macdonald and Thompson, consider the following titles:

The destiny of Canada: Macdonald, Laurier, and the election of 1891 / Christopher John Pennington, 2011. (Series: The History of Canada)

Canada’s first Prime Minister fought his final election campaign before his death the same year. Macdonald fought the election once again on his “National Policy” of tariffs against American goods. His opponent, Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier, urged Canadians to embrace unrestricted free trade with the United States. Macdonald was concerned about Canada losing its political independence to the Americans should the Liberals win. Scandals and accusations of treason peppered the campaign but Macdonald and Laurier both sought a Canada that would overcome its ethnocultural, linguistic and religious differences to develop a pan-Canadian national identity.

Favourite son?: John A. Macdonald and the voters of Kingston 1841-1891 / Ged Martin, 2010.

Historian Martin looked at Macdonald’s connection to the Kingston riding that he held for 38 of 47 years served in politics. Martin juxtaposed Macdonald’s national focus with the need to be a local politician as well.

John A.: the man who made us: the life and times of John A. Macdonald, Vol. 1 1815-1867 / Richard Gwyn, 2007.

Journalist Gwyn showed Macdonald to be a pragmatic politician who developed Canada’s first “big-tent” political party, the Liberal-Conservative Party, and sought compromise in establishing a workable government. Macdonald demonstrated his loyalty to the British Empire and his preference for its legal and political systems over its American counterparts. Some readers might question the author’s contention that Macdonald’s primary motivation was seeking money and power.

The man from Halifax: Sir John Thompson, prime minister / P.B. Waite, 1985.

Thompson served as Prime Minister for less than two years. As Justice Minister under John A. Macdonald, he defended the trial and execution of Louis Riel. Thompson fought hard for Canada to have its own copyright legislation separate from British legislation. In 1892, Thompson introduced Canada’s first Criminal Code. Thompson died in office as Prime Minister before the government had to deal with the Manitoba Schools Question.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the romance of Canada / Laurier LaPierre, 1996.

Historian LaPierre covered Laurier’s life from the early years through his education at the McGill University Law School, his marriage to his adored Zoé and his relationship with the enchanting Émilie Lavergne. LaPierre brought out Laurier’s feelings on Louis Riel and the Northwest Rebellion and some challenges that he faced including the Manitoba language and school issue and a conservative church in the province of Québec.

Wilfrid Laurier / André Pratte, 2011. (Series: Extraordinary Canadians)

Pratte shows Laurier at his best as an eloquent, masterful politician well-accustomed to the art of compromise. Whether in government or opposition, Laurier had to deal with contentious issues such as the 1899-1902 South African war, the 1910 naval crisis over the “tinpot navy”, the loss of the 1891 and 1911 elections over free trade with the United States, and the 1917 conscription crisis which badly divided the Liberal Party.

Upcoming Fall Programs at Albert Campbell Branch

August 24, 2011 | Sara | Comments (0)

Albert Campbell branch has a diverse program line-up for the fall.  These are just some of the interesting new programs being offered at the library.

Movies for Seniors and Older Adults

Join us for screenings of unforgettable classic films!

Wednesday September 21 @ 2:00pm - Some Like it Hot (1959)

Wednesday October 19 @ 2:00pm  - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Wednesday November 16  @ 2:00pm - North by Northwest (1959)

Homework Help on the Net

Learn to search the Internet for school projects.  This program is for children in grades 3 through 6 and their caregivers.

Friday September 23, 7:00 - 8:00pm

Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions

This six week program will teach participants new skills to use in their daily life to improve their chronic conditions.

Tuesdays, from October 11 to November 15, 2:30 - 5:00pm

Social Media Networking

A representative from Goodwill Employment Centre will lead this interactive presentation on social media networking.

Tuesday November 22, 2:00 - 4:00pm

The Job Market- What’s Hot, What’s Not!

This fun and interactive workshop presents labour market information in a simple and interesting manner.

Wednesday November 23, 2:00 - 4:00pm

For more information on these or any other programs being offered at the branch, visit us in person or call 416-396-8890.

BIOGRAPHY: Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall

August 13, 2011 | John P. | Comments (0)

Endgame Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall

Biographer, chess player, and associate Frank Brady has written an excellent, balanced biographical account of the life of Robert James “Bobby” Fischer (1943-2008) in Endgame: Bobby Fischer's remarkable rise and fall -- from America's brightest prodigy to the edge of madness (2011). In fact, this is Brady’s second book on the subject – he penned the bestseller Profile of a prodigy; the life and games of Bobby Fischer (first published in 1965; revised edition in 1973).

Fischer became World Chess Champion in 1972 by defeating Soviet player Boris Spassky by 12.5 points to 8.5 points in Reykjavik, Iceland, only to forfeit the title 3 years later. Brady covered the highs and lows of Fischer’s career and life, including: his victory in the “Game of the Century”; becoming the first 15-year old grandmaster in history; his accusatory article in Sports Illustrated entitled “The Russians Have Fixed World Chess”; his dominance of the United States Closed Championship in the late 1950s/early 1960s; his win of the world title in 1972 and subsequent forfeiture in 1975; his 1992 re-match with Spassky in Yugoslavia and subsequent censure by the American government for disavowing an United Nations embargo forbidding economic activity in that country; his growing anti-Semitism despite having a Jewish background; and, his later-in-life, virulent anti-Americanism that reached a climax with his controversial comments following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Brady delved into Fischer’s personal life, including his relationships with his mother Regina and sister Joan, his Japanese wife Miyoko Watai, his alleged daughter Jinky Young (whose relationship was disproved by DNA testing) and her mother Marilyn Young.

What have others said about Endgame? Dylan Loeb McClain, the chess columnist for the New York Times, noted that people were interested in the 1972 World Championship Match on account of the Cold War context but were also interested in Fischer’s unpredictable behaviour, a point that McClain said that Brady was only partially successful in explaining. Those unfamiliar with chess history may be confused by some of the references as the book does not include an appendix outlining Fischer’s chess tournament and match results. Janet Maslin, also writing in the New York Times, stated that Bobby Fischer was “both one of the most admired and one of the most reviled figures in American history”. She felt that “Endgame” was intimate and fascinating given Brady’s relationship with Fischer and his access to unpublished material. Maslin’s opinion differed from McClain’s as she felt that no prior knowledge of chess personalities, strategies, or tournament rules was necessary to read “Endgame”.

Endgame: Bobby Fischer's remarkable rise and fall -- from America's brightest prodigy to the edge of madness is also available for loan from Toronto Public Library in eAudiobook format.

Frank Brady has also written biographies on other interesting personalities, available for borrowing from Toronto Public Library, including:

Citizen Welles: a biography of Orson Welles (1989)

James Boswell, the later years, 1769-1795 (1984)

Onassis, an extravagant life (1977)

Readings on Mother Earth

August 10, 2011 | John P. | Comments (0)

This selective book list offers an introduction to titles that focus on Earth and some of its environmental issues, both human-generated and naturally occurring, such as energy paths, global warming, ocean acidification, and disasters. Renowned environmentalists such as Tim Flannery, Bill McKibben and David Suzuki weigh in on some of the issues facing Earth and push for a sustainable planet, while others look at disaster planning and survival, eco-friendly entrepreneurs, and planetary forecasting for the future.

Here is a sneak peak at some of the titles. Click here to access the entire book list, complete with annotations.



Eaarth: making a life on a tough new planet / Bill McKibben, 2010.

McKibben cites problems such as increasing sea levels, ocean acidification, and rising temperatures that harm life through disease, drought, famine, floods and storms. The current carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are likely to lead to permanent changes on Earth. Alternative energy paths are unlikely to be a viable solution given political inertia. Humankind needs to refocus on local self-sufficient communities with local and sustainable energy and food production rather than continued reliance on external sources and unbound growth.

Also available in Audiobook CD and Talking Book (Restricted to Print Disabled Patrons) formats.


Here on Earth

Here on earth: a natural history of the planet / Tim F. Flannery, 2011.

Flannery examines Earth’s history and human evolution using two opposing theories, namely a Darwinist reductionist approach through selfish exploitation of resources, and a holistic, Gaian approach supported by James Lovelock and Alfred Russel Wallace that views the planet as a living, self-regulating organism with the opportunity for humankind to learn from its mistakes. Flannery comes down on the Gaian side in which humankind as part of the natural world can evolve co-operatively with other species in a sustainable manner.


Legacy an Elder's Vision

The legacy: an elder's vision for our sustainable future / David T. Suzuki, 2010.

While he is concerned about the planet’s well-being, environmentalist and geneticist Suzuki is also optimistic about the future. Environmentalists need to more closely examine the main reasons for humankind’s destructive bent, including a lack of regard for our species’ spiritual reliance upon nature. Humankind has an opportunity to transform the planet but one must challenge the outdated notion that environmental protection is financially impractical and unattainable.

Also available in eBook format.


Now or never: why we need to act now to end climate change and create a sustainable future / Tim F. Flannery, 2009.

Flannery offers causes and consequences of and possible solutions for dealing with global warming. He offers various initiatives that should be undertaken simultaneously to achieve sustainability, including the development of an electric car, a carbon trading mechanism for South American rainforests to facilitate carbon capture, and the use of a holistic approach to link food production with carbon sequestration.

Also available in Audiobook CD and eAudiobook formats.

Biographies: The Famous, Infamous and Not-so-Famous

August 5, 2011 | John P. | Comments (0)

Truth can be stranger than fiction (with apologies to Lord Byron). Biographies afford us the opportunity to learn of someone's life told by another person.

Appeal Factors: Biographies

  • Characters: People like reading about people as well as their challenges, any ethical dilemmas, and how they adjust and grow over time.
  • Pace: Readers may read biographies at a more leisurely speed, especially if they contain many details about a person’s life and experiences.
  • Frame/Setting: Readers may enjoy reading about the historical context in which the subject is immersed as much as the subject her(him)self.


Other Factors to Consider

  • Narrative
  • Subject
  • Story Line
  • Detail
  • Experiential Learning
  • Truth – Virginia Woolf liked to read biographies because they were “true”. Naturally, readers need to be aware of a particular viewpoint or perspective being expressed. Is libel an issue?


Here are several examples of biographies available for loan by placing a hold through the Toronto Public Library website and catalogue:


Mary Tudor

Mary Tudor: princess, bastard, queen

By: Anna Whitelock

New York: Random House, 2009.


Historian Anna Whitelock presents a sympathetic portrait of "Bloody Mary" as a survivor who went from being a princess and daughter of Henry Vlll to a bastard under Henry's creation of the Church of England and his successive remarriages to obtain a male heir, and a Catholic at odds with the brief ultra-Protestant reign of brother Edward but who was determined to succeed him. Mary's ascent as the first queen regnant of England paved the way for the more popular Elizabeth l.

Whitelock does not excuse the excessive brutality towards Protestants that occurred during Mary's reign as Queen but urges readers to balance these out with her achievements as well, including her abilities in the area of policy making and conducting ceremonies.


Grace Hopper


Grace Hopper and the invention of the information age

By: Kurt Beyer

Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009.


The first woman to earn a PhD in mathematics at Yale University, Hopper enlisted in naval officer training after Pearl Harbor during World War 2 and worked on the large Mark 1 computer. She wrote the first computer manual, led the development of the COBOL computer programming language, and pursued her desire of a democratic, information age.


Golda Meir



By: Elinor Burkett

New York: Harper, 2008.


The author gives the reader a balanced and readable biography of much admired former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was born in Russia and emigrated to America before ending up as a Zionist in Palestine. Israel's near-destruction in the 1973 Yom Kippur war led to her resignation as Prime Minister. The biography also touches upon the subject's less than successful familial relations as her husband and children took second place to political aspirations.


Hans Litten


Crossing Hitler: the man who put the Nazis on the witness stand

By: Benjamin Carter Hett

New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Lawyer Hans Litten cross-examined Adolf Hitler on the witness stand for two hours as he represented two workers in a 1931 case who had been stabbed by some of Hitler's storm troopers. Hitler escaped perjury charges due to the intervention of the presiding judge. Upon the Nazi ascent to power in Germany, Litten was sent to a concentration camp and committed suicide in 1939 after several years of abuse.


Willie Mays


Willie Mays: the life, the legend

By: James S. Hirsch

New York: Scribner, 2010.


This authorized biography portrays Mays in a balanced fashion, not only showing the genius on the baseball field, including "the Catch" in the 1954 World Series and his promotion of a faster style of play, but also problems in his personal life and his somewhat cold personality.


Josef Fritzl


I'm no monster: the horrifying true story of Josef Fritzl

By: Stephanie Marsh

New York: Berkley Books, 2009.


Fritzl imprisoned his 18-year old daughter Elisabeth secretly for 24 years and raped her repeatedly. Consequently, Elisabeth gave birth to seven children. The illness of one of the children brought this case to light in 2008 when the child was taken to hospital and Elisabeth's imprisonment was discovered. Austrian police and social service agencies were criticized for not concluding that there were problems in the Fritzl household soon enough.

The Albert Campbell District Blog is an online resource and place where you can access information related to the Albert Campbell, Eglinton Square, McGregor Park, and Kennedy Eglinton branches. It will feature reading recommendations, information on new titles and resources in the branches, special events and programs, as well as other information of interest to you. We encourage you to make this blog an interactive space by replying and commenting on posts and by subscribing to the RSS feature which allows you to receive blog updates without having to search for them.