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December 2014

Snapshots in History: December 30: Remembering Winston Churchill in Canada

December 30, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)


On December 30 and beyond, take a moment to remember British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his speech to Canada’s House of Commons in Ottawa on December 30, 1941 in which he ridiculed the prediction of French generals, who, as France laid close to defeat in 1940 during the Second World War, said that "’In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’" Churchill’s immediate response to this assertion in his speech to the Canadian Parliament was “Some chicken; some neck” since Great Britain had continued to fight on with the assistance of British Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, had become allies with the Soviet Union in late June 1941 following the commencement of Operation Barbarossa, and more recently, with the United States earlier in December 1941 with the surprise aerial attack at Pearl Harbor.

Some people might wish to compare Winston Churchill the war leader with other political contemporaries such as then-Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Politically speaking, Churchill’s record was rather mixed with some highs and lows, while W.L. Mackenzie King was the longest-serving Prime Minister in Canadian history, although he had tasted defeat himself several times. King was no match for Churchill as an orator but was generally regarded as a wily, political strategist. Consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King so similar so different

Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King: so similar, so different / Terry Reardon. Book.

Winston S. Churchill and W.L. Mackenzie King were contemporaries as they were born about two weeks apart in 1874. However, each took a different path into politics, viz.: King through academics and Churchill through military adventure. In the 1930s, Churchill, an isolated backbencher, was extremely prescient about the dangers of fascism and Nazism while King tended towards appeasement of the Nazis. Nonetheless, King came around to the dangers of the fascists and gave full support to Great Britain’s war effort once Canada’s Parliament had declared war on December 10, 1939, one week after the British Parliament had declared war on Nazi Germany. Following a stint as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill became the British Prime Minister in May 1940 and conducted the war in a vigorous fashion, including visits to the United States and to Canada during the course of the Second World War.

Read the review on




If you want to read another book about Churchill’s connection to Canada, consider the following title:

The Great Dominion Winston Churchill in Canada 1900-1954

The Great Dominion: Winston Churchill in Canada, 1900-1954 / David Dilks with Richard Dilks. Book.

Winston Churchill visited Canada eight times during the time period covered in this book as well as one visit to pre-Confederation Newfoundland. Reviewers of this book are divided on whether Churchill’s activities in/visits to Canada are mere appendices to visits to the United States and to more important work and negotiations being carried out with the more powerful American allies. Canada hosted the Quadrant and Octagon Conferences in Québec City in 1943 and 1944 but Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were the main players there along with their military advisors. Previously, Roosevelt and Churchill had met off the Newfoundland coast on board the HMS Prince of Wales in 1941 to ratify the Atlantic Charter. Yet it is also true that Winston Churchill never visited Australia during his lifetime and garnered resentment from Australians for their troops being subjected to severe losses at Gallipoli in the First World War (along with troops from New Zealand and from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment), and for taking greater control of the Royal Australian Navy during both world wars in which Churchill served twice as First Lord of the Admiralty.  

Read the review from International History Review on

Read the review from International Journal on

Read the review from Quill and Quire.

Read an excerpt of the review from the Canadian Historical Review on Project Muse.  


Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami: December 26, 2004

December 30, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)
















On December 26 and beyond, take a moment to reflect upon the impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the accompanying tsunami, occurring on December 26, 2004, that resulted in catastrophic destruction and loss of life in a variety of countries in South Asia and environs, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand, to name four (4) of the fourteen (14) countries affected. The earthquake was undersea and megathrust in nature with one tectonic plate forced under (or subducted) by another tectonic plate; in this instance, the Indian plate was subducted by the Burma plate. The epicenter of the earthquake was off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. (Megathrust earthquakes are generally the most powerful type of earthquakes produced with moment magnitudes of at least 9.0 on the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS).) The resulting earthquake spawned a series of large, destructive tsunamis (or tidal waves) up to thirty (30) metres (or 100 (one hundred) feet) along the shores of most countries bordering the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people. The varying 9.1 to 9.3 magnitude recorded on the MMS scale made this earthquake the third-largest ever recorded on a seismograph. Indonesia was the worst-affected country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. The global community responded with more than $14 billion (United States Dollars (USD)) in humanitarian aid. Subsequent research conducted by seismologists at Northwestern University in the United States found that the power of the Boxing Day earthquake was initially underestimated and was recalculated to be magnitude 9.3 on the Richter scale, making it second only to the 1960 9.5 magnitude earthquake in Chile. Further research conducted by American geoscientists found that the Sumatra earthquake was the longest earthquake ever recorded – between five hundred (500) and six hundred (600) seconds.


In 2010, the International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being (IJQHW) published an empirical study entitled “Out of the wave: The meaning of suffering and relief from suffering as described in autobiographies by survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami” with the intention of exploring the meaning of suffering and relief from suffering as described in autobiographies by visitors who experienced the December 26, 2004 tsunami and lost people close to them. Despair can be accompanied by hope and new possibilities in life for the survivors. In this vein, consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:



Wave / Sonali Deraniyagala. Book.

Read the moving account of economist Sonali Deraniyagala’s coping with grief as the sole survivor amongst her immediate family. Her husband and two sons died from the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 at the Yala national park in Sri Lanka. Learn how the author worked through initial desires to end her life

Also available in eBook (Access Online).

Read the review in The Guardian. Read the review in the Colombo Telegraph.


Not quite paradise an American sojourn in Sri Lanka

Not quite paradise: an American sojourn in Sri Lanka / Adele Marie Barker. Book.

An American academic went with her son in tow to Sri Lanka to teach Russian literature at the University of Peradeniya soon after 9/11 in the United States, immersing herself and her son in the cultural life and ways of the local people against a backdrop of civil conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. She returned to Sri Lanka in October 2005, following the devastating December 26, 2005 tsunami, to see things for herself. She criticized aid charities working in competition without understanding the needs of the local people.

Read the review in Kirkus Reviews. Read the review in The Christian Science Monitor.  


Wave of destruction the stories of four families and history's deadliest tsunami

Wave of destruction: the stories of four families and history's deadliest tsunami / Erich Krauss. Book.

The author, a specialist in natural disasters and a relief worker, told the story of the tsunami’s effect upon four families in the Thai village of Nam Khem against a backdrop of rice farms and tin mining interests trying to force people off the land. A Christian relief organization was taken to task for offering assistance on the proviso that the predominantly Buddhist Thai people affected in Nam Khem convert to Christianity in order to receive the disaster aid.

Read the review in Publishers Weekly. Read the review in Kirkus Reviews


Love always Petra a story of courage and the discovery of life's hidden gifts

Love always, Petra: a story of courage and the discovery of life's hidden gifts / Petra Nemcova and Jane Scovell. Book.

Read Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova’s death-defying tale of clinging onto a tree for almost eight hours with a broken pelvis at a Thailand resort while her boyfriend, British photographer Simon Attlee, was swept away to his death in the Boxing Day tsunami. Nemcova faced some challenges in coming to terms with what had happened. Find out how Petra Nemcova got her life back on track.

Read the article Petra’s story in Vanity Fair


Only the sea keeps poetry of the tsunami

Only the sea keeps: poetry of the Tsunami / edited by Judith R. Robinson, Joan E. Bauer, Sankar Roy. Book.

This poetry anthology offers the reader another avenue of personal expression arising out of the terrible devastation that resulted from the Boxing Day tsunami and earthquake in 2004.  


Natural disasters

Natural disasters [3 videodiscs] / National Geographic. DVD. Documentary.

Watch this National Geographic series about natural disasters including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina (2005) and its effects upon New Orleans and other places, as well as severe storms, blizzards, and tornadoes.  


Blood & water [1 videodisc] / Rohan Fernando; National Film Board of Canada. DVD. Documentary.

Watch this National Film Board of Canada documentary about the story of Dr. Anton Ambrose (a Tamil who had immigrated to the United States in the 1970s), who while visiting Sri Lanka, lost his wife Beulah and his daughter Orlantha (who had established a non-profit organization in Sri Lanka giving underprivileged children free violin lessons) to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Dr. Ambrose collaborated with his nephew, award-winning filmmaker Rohan Fernando, on this documentary which highlighted Dr. Ambrose hosting a fundraising concert to build a music centre to honour daughter Orlantha’s work, visiting with some of his daughter’s friends, and seeking out the archbishop of Sri Lanka for advice, all the while trying to cope with tremendous loss against the backdrop of civil war in Sri Lanka between the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority.  


Tsunami wave of destruction

Tsunami wave of destruction [1 videodisc] / ABC News. DVD. Documentary.

Learn about the sequence of events from the earthquake and the tsunami that led to massive destruction and loss of life in South Asia from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, followed by relief efforts in the region. Learn also about the workings of tsunamis and look back at other catastrophic events.  






Snapshots in History: December 23: Remembering Yousuf Karsh and Portrait Photography

December 23, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)







On December 23 and beyond, take a moment to remember Armenian-Canadian Yousuf Karsh (December 23, 1908-July 13, 2002), a portrait photographer who made a name for himself by photographing famous people such as Joan Crawford, Albert Einstein, Indira Gandhi, and Ernest Hemingway, to name four. In fact, it was Karsh’s famous photograph of a scowling British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Ottawa on December 30, 1941 that not only became (arguably) the most reproduced portrait photograph in history but symbolized Great Britain’s determination to fight on during the earlier half of the Second World War. Karsh had taken away Churchill’s cigar that resulted in the now famous facial scowl.

Karsh paid a great deal of attention to studio lighting and often shone separate lighting on the subject’s hands for effect. Karsh tried to sum the nature of a photographic subject through the moment taken with the portrait, and to reveal any inner secrets.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Karsh beyond the camera

Karsh: beyond the camera / Yousuf Karsh and David Travis, 2012. Book.

This book is based upon nine hours of taped conversations between Yousuf Karsh and his assistant Jerry Fiedler over many portraits taken by Karsh and their accompanying sessions. View over seventy (70) duotone photographs and the context underlying each one regarding Karsh’s preparation, the personality of the portrait involved etc. Art curator David Travis helps the reader by organizing the content into this book itself.  


Regarding heroes

Regarding heroes / Yousuf Karsh, David Travis and Patricia Kouba, 2009. Book.

Yousuf Karsh employed hero worship in expressing admiration for a variety of people. Combine that idea with his expertise in portrait photography and his desire to express the humanity in his photographic subjects. Art curator David Travis used the introductory essay to discuss Karsh’s use of lighting to highlight the portrait subject’s personality. Patricia Kouba wrote the biographical sketches of the portrait subjects.


Portrait in light and shadow: the life of Yousuf Karsh / Maria Tippett, 2007. Book.

This biography was written with the support of the Karsh family, his colleagues, and that of the Karsh archive in Ottawa. Follow the life of a small boy escaping the Armenian Genocide in the First World War, immigrating to Canada in the 1920s, and learning the techniques of portrait photography that resulted in a sixty-year career of travelling the world and of photographing famous people. Sixty (60) of Karsh’s portraits are reproduced in the biography, accompanied by a discussion of Yousuf Karsh’s mastery of the camera and of the importance of lighting. Over his lifetime, Karsh photographed some 50,000 portraits.  


Karsh a sixty year retrospective

Karsh: a sixty-year retrospective [rev. ed.] / Yousuf Karsh, 1996. Book.

View nearly 200 portrait photographs of people taken by Yousuf Karsh including Andy Warhol, Ronald Reagan, and Graeme Greene.


Consider the following documentaries about Yousuf Karsh from Toronto Public Library collections:

Karsh is history: Yousuf Karsh and portrait photography  / director, Joseph Hillel; producer, Ian McLaren; written by Harold Crooks, Joseph Hillel; produced in association with Knowledge, TVO; produced by Grand Nord, 2009. DVD. Documentary.

This documentary was produced to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Karsh’s birth in 1908. Learn how to be photographed by “Karsh of Ottawa” became such an important part of the world’s cultural fabric. Explore the variety of meanings that portrait photography has for art critics and curators, ordinary people, and others the world over.

Aussi disponible en français comme:

Karsh un regard sur l'histoire: [Yousuf Karsh et la photographie de portrait]. DVD. Documentaire.


Karsh: the searching eye / Harry Rasky; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1986. DVD. Documentary.

Watch this biographical portrait of portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. See Karsh at a working photo session as well as examples of his work. American composer Leonard Bernstein appears as a special guest in the documentary.

Snapshots in History: Remembering the December 20-23, 2013 Ice Storm

December 23, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)


December is a good time to reflect back upon the 2013 North American Ice Storm that plagued much of central and eastern Canada, parts of the Central Great Plains and the northeastern United States from December 20-23, 2013 with large amounts of freezing rain and snow that damaged electrical power transmission capability as well as much of the tree canopy. In Ontario, over 600,000 customers were without electrical power at the height of the storm. In the case of Toronto, over 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers were lacking electrical power or heat at the storm’s zenith.  The City of Toronto responded with temporary community reception centres as well as Toronto Police Service facility community warming centres to offer people without electricity and heat a place at which to eat and sleep. By December 24, 2013, almost 70,000 Toronto Hydro customers were still without electrical power will 1,000 people spending Christmas Eve 2013 in the warming centres. Crews from Hydro One, Manitoba Hydro, and other electrical utilities assisted Toronto Hydro crews in connecting up the remaining 6,000 customers still without electrical power on December 29, 2013. Regrettably, at least 27 deaths were as a result of the storm, particularly from carbon monoxide poisoning in enclosed and not well ventilated areas as people attempted to keep warm and cook with gas generators and charcoal stoves.

When looking back to remember the ice storm of 2013, consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Ice storm Ontario 2013 the beauty the devastation the aftermath

Ice storm, Ontario 2013: the beauty, the devastation, the aftermath / Michael Cooke, Photographers of the Toronto Star, et. al., 2014. Book.

This book visually captures the effects of a devastating ice storm that brought power outages to central and eastern Ontario, parts of southern Québec, and New Brunswick. 40% of power transmission lines in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were affected on account of the 2013 ice storm, while more than 20% of the City of Toronto’s tree canopy was destroyed. Transportation chaos reigned with the airlines, on trains, on the roads, and with public transit. A new challenge emerged in the aftermath with the cost and logistics of the storm clean-up and repair.  


ICESTORM1 Photograph by Shelley Savor December 2013

(A portion of the downed tree canopy somewhere in Toronto, December 2013 – Photograph and Copyright © by Shelley Savor – Permission was given to use this photograph.)


Let us not forgot about the North American ice storm of January 1998 and its devastating effect upon the power grid and people’s lives in eastern Ontario, southern Québec, parts of the Maritimes and the northeastern United States. Consider the following title for comparative purposes from Toronto Public Library collections:

The ice storm an historic record in photographs of January 1998

The ice storm: an historic record in photographs of January 1998 / Mark Abley, 1998. Book.

Up to 100 millimetres of freezing rain fell over five days in sections of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States in early January 1998. Over five million people living in two million homes languished in the cold darkness of winter without power for up to a month in some instances. Various newspapers in eastern Ontario and southern Québec collaborated on producing this book.


Aussi disponible en français comme:

Le grand verglas récit en images de la tempête de janvier 1998

Le grand verglas: récit en images de la tempête de janvier 1998 / Mark Abley, 1998. Livre.


Remembering Norman Bridwell and Clifford the Big Red Dog

December 18, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)






Followers of preschool children’s literature are sad to learn of the passing of American author/illustrator Norman Ray Bridwell on December 12, 2014 who created the series of Clifford the Big Red Dog books. As a commercial artist, Bridwell sought supplementary income in the early 1960s to support his wife Norma and young daughter Emily. He followed the suggestion of a book publishing editor to write a story around one of his picture illustrations, settling on a picture encompassing a young girl named Emily (based on his daughter) and a big, all-round dog named Clifford (after his wife’s imaginary friend when she was a child). After facing rejection from nine (9) publishers, Scholastic Books liked Norman Bridwell’s concept and published Clifford the Big Red Dog in 1963 with thirty-nine (39) subsequent titles following and 60 million copies sold over the next fifty (50) plus years. As a tribute to Norman Ray Bridwell who has brought countless pleasure to innumerable children and families over the years, please consider the following items for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Clifford collection the original 6 stories

Clifford collection [the original 6 stories] / Norman Bridwell, 2012. Book.

Read the original six Clifford stories under one cover: Clifford the big red dog; Clifford at the circus; Clifford gets a job; Clifford takes a trip; Clifford's good deeds; and, Clifford's tricks.  Enjoy the letter from Norman Bridwell to the readers, learn about the creation of Clifford, and see an image of Bridwell’s 1962 painting that led to the Clifford series of children’s picture books.


Clifford the big red dog. Doghouse adventures [1 videodisc] / Scholastic Entertainment, 2007. DVD.

Watch the following short films on Clifford: Clifford cleans his doghouse; Doggie garden; Screaming for ice cream; Jetta's project; Then came Bob; Cloths don't make the dog; Limelight fright; Clifford's cookie craving; and, Guess who's coming to Birdwell.


Clifford's really big movie

Clifford’s really big movie [1 videodisc] / Warner Bros. Pictures and Scholastic Entertainment, 2004. DVD.

Follow Clifford’s adventure when he joins a travelling carnival to avoid being a burden to his human family. Clifford seeks a fortune based on food, advises his animal friends on overcoming fear, saves the carnival from going bankrupt, and makes his way home back to his human family.


Please follow these links for additional selections of Books, eBooks and eAudiobooks, and Audiobook CDs available from Toronto Public Library collections.

Memories and Writings from Scarborough Residents

December 16, 2014 | John P. | Comments (1)

City of Toronto residents have been living with amalgamation since January 1998 but different areas of the city have continued to demonstrate their own identities and elements of their own creativity. The people of Scarborough are no exception. Writing has been one means for Scarborough residents to share their creativity as well as their memories of Scarborough and elsewhere. Consider the following books available for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

Moments: Scarborough Seniors Write / Scarborough Arts

Scarborough Arts, a local arts service organization, published this anthology of articles, poems, and short stories of the 2013-2014 Scarborough Seniors Write (SSW) program. Read a Toronto Observer article that described the program that began in September 2013 at Toronto Public Library’s Kennedy-Eglinton neighbourhood branch.

Place Hold to reserve a copy of this book for pick-up at your local library branch location.


Watch the report of the Scarborough Seniors Write (SSW) program on Rogers TV’s program Scarborough Now:



Memories of Scarborough a bicentennial celebration

Memories of Scarborough: a bicentennial celebration / City of Scarborough Public Library Board
Available in Book or eBook formats.

A variety of Scarborough residents provided biographical essays of themselves and/or their families in Scarborough over time leading up to the 1996 bicentennial that preceded full amalgamation into the new City of Toronto.

Place Hold to reserve a copy of this book for pick-up at your local library branch location.

Click on Access PDF Online to read the eBook version.


For additional sources related to Scarborough, please read the Cultural Hotspot Comes to South Scarborough! - Non-Fiction Reading List blog post from June 2014.

Why Twitter Matters? Try These Books to Find Out…

December 3, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)

On first examination, one might think that the purpose here is to discuss how to use Twitter. If that is what one was seeking, then one will be sorely disappointed, or perhaps partially disappointed. On the other hand, if one was wondering why Twitter has become such a big deal, then consider the following book titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections to find out:

The Tao of Twitter changing your life and business 140 characters at a time Revised Edition

The Tao of Twitter: changing your life and business 140 characters at a time [Revised edition.] / Mark W. Schaefer, 2014. Book.

The Tao of Twitter changing your life and business 140 characters at a time

The Tao of Twitter: changing your life and business 140 characters at a time / Mark W. Schaefer, 2012. Book.

College professor and blogger Mark Schaefer offers the potential Twitter user instruction on the basics of setting up a Twitter account and profile, following a few celebrities, and tweeting about what one is doing at a given time. However, since studies have shown that potentially 60 per cent of Twitter users do not get past these initial steps, Schaefer offers a three part formula for success in the Twitter universe: Targeted Connections + Meaningful Content + Authentic Helpfulness. One must use Twitter regularly in order to gain understanding of it.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.  

Read the review in the New York Journal of Books. Read the review on 



Things a little bird told me confessions of the creative mind

Things a little bird told me: confessions of the creative mind / Biz Stone, 2014. Book.

Follow the story of Twitter’s co-inventor: an Internet entrepreneur who made strides in the worlds of blogging (working at Google when Google bought Blogger) and podcasting before co-founding Twitter. Those seeking to make their own opportunities, learn from their mistakes, and harness their creativity may enjoy reading this book. Those seeking to track the rise of Twitter from a start-up to a multi-billion dollar enterprise specializing in microblogging will find Biz Stone’s account to be interesting.

Also available in Audiobook CD, CD Talking Book (Restricted to PRINT DISABLED patrons), and eBook (Access Online) formats.

Read the review in Publishers Weekly. Read the review in The Toronto Star. Read the review in the Washington Post. 



Hatching Twitter a true story of money power friendship and betrayal

Hatching Twitter: a true story of money, power, friendship, and betrayal / Nick Bilton, 2013. Book.

New York Times columnist and blogger Nick Bilton tracks the metamorphosis of a failing podcasting start-up named Odeo into the social networking and microblogging service Twitter in March 2006 (with the public website coming on stream in July 2006) up to the initial public offering (IPO) in September 2013. A key ingredient in the Twitter story is the relationship dynamics between the major personalities: One co-founder named Noah Glass was forced out even before Twitter came into existence; Co-founder Evan Williams appointed programmer Jack Dorsey as chief executive officer but subsequently became involved in Dorsey’s removal; Evan Williams was later fired in a coup involving Mr. Dorsey who is now Chairman; Dick Costolo is the current CEO. Read the book to see how Twitter itself has been perceived differently by different people, including its founders.

Read the book reviews from the Wall Street Journal, the Independent, the Guardian, and The Verge.




Twitter social communication in the Twitter age

Twitter: social communication in the Twitter age / Dhiraj Murthy, 2013. Book.

Sociology professor Murthy takes an academic approach in examining the economic, historical, political, and yes, social facets of Twitter. Twitter has carved out a unique place in the social media universe but the idea of short message communication can be traced back to the early telegraphs as well as to the notificator message boards of the 1930s on which anyone could leave a message. Naturally, Twitter has a worldwide impact thanks to its tie-in to the Internet, enhancing citizen journalism and social activism (i.e. Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street), allowing media organizations to tap into news stories from local sources (including reporting disasters and other potentially dangerous events), and connecting celebrities from different backgrounds to connect with their fans and supporters. Dhiraj Murthy also examines medical collaboration by health researchers through Twitter within an ethical context.

For further information, read the International Journal of Communication 7 (2013), Book Review 1240–1242 online or access the same information in portable document format (PDF) by clicking here.



To view additional books, eBooks, eAudiobooks, and eVideos eligible for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections on the subject of Twitter, please click here.

The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to Our Brains

December 2, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)

The shallows what the Internet is doing to our brains

The shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains / Nicholas G. Carr, 2010. Book.

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


The Internet has become a large part of daily living for many people. Some have begun to question how the Internet might be changing the thought processes of human beings. Technology, culture, and economics writer Nicholas Carr (author of The Big Switch: rewiring the world, from Edison to Google (2008)) tackles the effect of the Internet on human thought processes in The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to Our Brains (2010), an expansion of his July/August 2008 article in The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains”. In that article, Nicholas Carr wrote of the feeling of his brain being affected by something reprogramming his memory and remapping his neural circuitry and noticed that he had a shorter concentration span.

One can acknowledge the influence of communications and information technology in changing society. However, there is less certainty about and agreement on whether this technology could change human brains and beings. Carr used neuroscience and its “plasticity” of the human brain to postulate that habitual activities can alter neurons and influence the brain.

Not everyone buys this argument:

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker argued that the Internet and communications and information technology are essential to keeping humankind smart.

University of London Education Professor Andrew Burn opined that relating Internet usage to being distracted or shallow-thinking is fallacious and does not consider detail-oriented activities such as online role playing games.   

Author Donald Morrison, writing in the Smithsonian, relayed his experience in following up on research that a friend told him about and learned some interesting facts about the hummingbird along the way, leading him to conclude that human brains may be able to evolve in different ways but that the Internet might be helping to make humankind smarter.

An August 15, 2010 Guardian article by John Naughton discussed Carr’s book but also collected a variety of opinions on the issue of the internet influencing human thinking.

Author and journalist John Harris reviewed Carr’s book in the Guardian on August 20, 2010 and cited the 2008 research of UCLA psychiatrists led by Dr. Gary Small, the co-author of iBrain: surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind (2008). Small and his colleagues published “Your brain on Google: patterns of cerebral activation during internet searching” that described the results of 24 test subjects aged from 55 to 76 years, 12 of whom had minimal Internet searching experience while the other 12 individuals had more substantial Internet searching experience. The preliminary findings suggested a greater usage of neural circuitry not previously activated while reading pages of text but only in those individuals with previous computer and internet searching experience.  Small expressed concern that too much online time can affect human contact skills and human creativity can be hampered by a plethora of text messaging because people are not developing ideas on their own but constantly with others.

The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to Our Brains is available for loan through Toronto Public Library in book format, as an audiobook CD, and in talking book format (restricted to print disabled patrons).

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?

December 2, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)

Is the internet changing the way you think

Is the Internet changing the way you think?: the net's impact on our minds and future / John Brockman (ed.) et al., 2011. Book.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.

Does the title of this blog post intrigue you? If the answer is yes, then you might want to consider reading Is the Internet changing the way you think?: the net's impact on our minds and future (2011) edited by John Brockman, the editor and publisher of . Each year, poses a question to be answered by a group of great thinkers from a variety of backgrounds. In 2010, the website posed the question "How is the Internet changing the way YOU think?". Consequently, the book is the end result with 172 collected responses from a variety of individuals, including:

Steven Pinker (discussing the adaptation of the human mind to new technologies); Richard Dawkins (ruminating on the implications of infinite information); Nicholas Carr, the author of The shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains, discussing the future prospects of deep thought; Former Google Vice-President and current Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer (emphasizing what one can find out using the Internet rather than what one already knows); Artist Fred Tomaselli (on the Internet serving as another medium for cutting and pasting ideas, images and information in addition to doing research at bookstores and libraries); NYU-Poly Distinguished Risk Engineering Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the debasement of precise knowledge and predictability; and, June Cohen, Media Director, TED Conference, on the rise of social media on the internet as a reprise to tribal cultures and oral traditions.


Christine Rosen reviewed the book in the Wall Street Journal and noted that many of the essayists looked at past history and use of technology but asked whether humankind had learned from the past. Nathan Seppa reviewed the book in Science News and praised Brockman for taking on “an ambitious undertaking” with the resulting “witty treatment from a diverse crowd.”

Reserve your copy of Is the Internet changing the way you think?: the net's impact on our minds and future from the Toronto Public Library by placing a hold.

Readings on the Internet and Its Influences

December 2, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)

Like it or not, the Internet has an influential role in disseminating information and shaping societies, both negatively and positively. Some people harken back to a taste of a pre-Internet world, while others use social media and other means to have a citizen’s opportunity to express oneself on the Internet. However, personal expression can sometimes take on a negative form in extreme cases such as cyberbullying. Does this opportunity to express oneself on the Internet constitute a shift in societal power for both democratic and autocratic governmental systems? To consider these issues, consider the following titles for loan from Toronto Public Library collections:

Do you think constant connection can actually be harmful to our lives? If so, in what ways do you think it can harm us? posted by Michael Harris on Vidoyen.


The end of absence reclaiming what we've lost in a world of constant connection

The end of absence: reclaiming what we've lost in a world of constant connection / Michael Harris, 2014. Book.

Canadian journalist Michael Harris looks at society through the “Straddle Generation”, the final generation (born before the year 1985) that remembers adult life before the Internet. Harris compares society’s exposure to the Internet to the advent of the Gutenberg printing press in the 1400s and the subsequent wider availability of the printed word. Ongoing connectedness to the Internet has deprived many people of the ability to daydream and experience solitude. The author describes his self-imposed “analog August” without a cellphone, email access, or the Internet.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.

Read the review in Kirkus Reviews. Read the review in Quill and Quire. Read the review in the Wall Street Journal. Read the web exclusive review and an edited interview with Michael Harris on

Winner of the 2014 Governor-General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. Watch the 2014 winners’ announcement below:








The end of big how the internet makes David the new Goliath

The end of big: how the internet makes David the new Goliath / Nicco Mele, 2013. Book.

The author also looks at the negative and positive influences of the Internet and technology on large institutions in the government and the private sector. For those interested in the anecdotal approach, the author draws on his time in the political sphere when he worked on Howard Dean’s American presidential campaign in 2004.

Also available in Audiobook CD, eAudiobook (Access Online), eBook (Access Online), and Talking Book (Restricted to Print Disabled patrons) formats.

Read the review in Kirkus Reviews. Read the review in Publishers Weekly.





Extreme mean trolls bullies and predators online

Extreme mean: trolls, bullies and predators online / Paula Todd, 2014. Book. 

This book deals with the serious topics of cyberbullying, online predation and trolling. Journalist and lawyer Todd explores these issues in graphic detail by examining example cases in detail. Warning: This book may offend or upset those not prepared to explore these issues in depth.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.

Read the interview with Paula Todd in Maclean’s magazine. Read the interview with Paula Todd in the Vancouver Sun. Read the review in Quill and Quire. 






Now I know who my comrades are voices from the Internet underground

Now I know who my comrades are: voices from the Internet underground / Emily Parker, 2014. Book. 

Journalist (and former State Department adviser) Emily Parker focusses on the challenges faced by bloggers in China, Cuba, and Russia to affect change in those countries through the Internet. Meet Alexei Navalny, Zhao Jing (aka Michael Anti), and Laritza Diversent as they encounter apathy against and strong (online) support for the status quo in Russia, (self-) censorship and isolation in China, and fear of citizen-informers and the challenges faced by a predominantly offline population in Cuba.

Read the review on the Read Mario Vargas Llosa’s review in New Republic (translated from the original Spanish review in El País). Read the review from Publishers Weekly. 




The people's platform taking back power and culture in the digital age

The people's platform: taking back power and culture in the digital age / Astra Taylor, 2014. Book. 

Read about the intersection of cyberspace (“the Internet”) with “meatspace” (as coined by John Perry Barlow, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – the “material world” or “real life”) in this book by documentary filmmaker Astra Taylor. The good intentions of democratization, empowerment and liberation on account of the Internet and information technology have given away to corporate control of said technology. The Internet has not eliminated divisions and inequities in access, influence, power, and wealth or even on a gender basis but has distributed such inequalities through other means that seek to dominate or exclude some people.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.

Read the review in the Boston Globe. Read the review in The Guardian. Read the review in Kirkus Reviews. Read the review in Quill and Quire. 




Persona non grata the death of free speech in the Internet age 

Persona non grata: the death of free speech in the Internet age / Thomas Flanagan, 2014. Book.

Conservative political scientist Thomas Flanagan accounts for his public mobbing on February 27, 2013, following an ill-timed (and arguably, ill-thought out) opinion on the basis of personal liberty that he made about child pornography (an illegal act in Canada which he did not personally endorse) during a session at the University of Lethbridge dealing with the Indian Act. Flanagan deals with the infiltration of social media and information technology into the realms of academic freedom, freedom of speech, public debate, and yes – political correctness.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format. 

For background information on the incident at the University of Lethbridge, please read Margaret Wente’s column in the Globe and Mail, and Jonathan Kay’s column in the National Post.

Read the review in the Globe and Mail. Read the review in Quill and Quire. Read the review in the Toronto Star.  



Revolution in the age of social media the Egyptian popular insurrection and the Internet

Revolution in the age of social media: the Egyptian popular insurrection and the Internet / Linda Herrera, 2014. Book.

Read about the subsequent Facebook social media campaign in Egypt following the beating to death of Khaled Said by several Egyptian police officers in June 2010, and the deposing of President Hosni Mubarak’s government in early 2011 as part of the “Arab Spring”.

Read the review in the Globe and Mail. Read the review in Library Journal.

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