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Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? By Henry Alford

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I've been taking a few online courses through the U of C’s continuing education department, so I haven’t had very much time to keep up with my leisure reading, lately. But, one book that I recently read in only a few days (even though I had multiple deadlines looming) was Would It Kill you to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners, by Henry Alford.

Pick this book up if you take the C-Train to work or school, or if you find yourself baffled at today’s lack of common decency. It’s what Emily Post might have written had she been born an acerbic gay man, in a different decade. It’s sharp and observant, off-beat, well written, and very, very funny.

Calgary Public Library has everything you’re into!

the thing you think you cannot do

by Katherine - 2 Comment(s)

I just finished reading a great book by American war veteran and psychiatrist, Gordon Livingston. It’s called the thing you think you cannot do: thirty truths about fear and courage. I didn’t pick it up because I’m a particularly fearful person; in fact, I’m not sure why, given its relatively humdrum cover, I picked it up at all. But it spoke to me.

Livingston writes in a clear and accessible way, about some of the most difficult issues we face. How should we live in a world that is manifestly unfair, sometimes violent, and haunted by our impending deaths? What is real courage and who can we identify as heroic? Where do love, humour and hope factor into the equation? This short but very worthwhile read - peppered with quotes from everyone from Hillel to Nietzsche - is sure to make you think.

Here is my favourite quote, by Rumi: Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. It doesn’t represent the tone of the whole book, but there’s something about the imperative to destroy one’s own reputation that I think is fantastic.

Need more suggestions about great books? Ask a librarian, during your next visit!

Blue Cheese at 9 Months?!

by Katherine - 3 Comment(s)

I’m reading French Kids Eat Everything (and Yours Can, Too): How our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon, and it’s fascinating! It’s much more than a manual to cure picky eating and family food fights. It’s an insightful examination of attitudes towards food, eating, and nourishment, and how they differ between the French model and the American (and by extension, Canadian) model.

I’m young (for a little while longer, at least) and single (likely for eternity) and it’s my prerogative to eat dinner alone, standing over the sink. Or sitting on the couch, channel flipping. Or at midnight. Or twice. Because there’s no one watching me, my eating routines lack both a social component and a sense of restraint. According to the author’s mother-in-law, my normal habits are a recipe for obesity. So, apparently, is snacking, using food as a reward or punishment, allowing your children to dictate what or when they’ll eat, and eating at any place other than the table, surrounded by your family.

Le Billon observes that French parents are firmly in control and by refusing to let their children eat the same thing every day, or complain about the food they’re given, French children wind up eating a wider and much more balanced range of foods. They are more willing to try new foods, and they don’t whine or throw hunger induced tantrums. Even children 5 or 6 years of age will sit patiently in a restaurant, while their parents linger over a nice long meal. This is because French children are taught that food is exciting and interesting; part of a familial set of rituals; and an aspect of their national identity about which to be proud.

It’s a very far cry from exasperatedly stuffing greasy McNuggets into the whining maw of an angry 7 year old, en route to a hockey practice.

Check out this book whether you have children or not. As long as you’re someone who eats, it will provide you with lots of interesting ideas. Food for thought, if you will.

I noticed a woman on the C-Train, jotting down the title, as I read. We started chatting and it turns out she is French. She said that in her family, they always made sure to eat together at the table, at a very precise time. Sure enough, she was slim. Maybe the French are on to something...

How To Be Black, by Baratunde Thurston

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

In my last post, I mentioned that I picked up How To Be Black because I thought it would be hilarious. Indeed, it’s funny, but it’s substantive, too, and definitely worth your time.

Author Baratunde Thurston tells the story of his Nigerian name and his time at Sidwell Friends and Harvard, and describes the huge impact that his mother has had on the formation of his character. Thurston also assembles a panel of black thinkers, and asks them questions ranging from: Can you swim? to Are we living in post-racial America?

This book is not a manual for how to be cool, urban, “thug”, or whatever else we may associate with being black. Besides, even if it provided that kind of direction, the result would be people who are either “too black” or “not black enough” – and this paradox is a central theme. Thurston himself has at times been considered too black, or not black enough. So have Barack Obama and many other prominent black individuals. So, what's the right amount of blackness, anyway? Can you imagine being told that you're too white, or not white enough?

How To Be Black is a fabulous exploration of what it means to be black, but it’s also a rallying cry for those who are fed up with being identified only as black, and who just want to be themselves – whatever colour that happens to be. As for Thurston, he's black and he's proud! He's also a computer geek, an avid camper, an eater of tofu and much more. He defies black stereotypes and encourages other black people to do the same.

Check it out!

Picks of the Litter(ati): Chucklefest

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

Today I noticed two new books that I just can’t wait to read! In fact, I’m sneaking some covert glances at a few of their passages, hoping my colleagues won’t notice my temporary dip in productivity.

The first is Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners by Henry Alford. The front cover leaves something to be desired, but the back cover glows with praise, including “slaying wit”, “profoundly, wonderfully goofy” and “A master of the delightfully harebrained scheme”, so how can you go wrong?

The second is How To Be Black, by Baratunde Thurston. The first line in the jacket is “If you don’t buy this book, you’re a racist” which is just the kind of in-your-face comedy that I relish. Thurston is the director of digital at The Onion. Need I say more?

I haven’t been this excited since I got my hands on a copy of Tina Fey’s Bossypants. And now that I’m totally over my fear of being regarded as psychotic for laughing repeatedly and out loud on the C-Train, I’m ready to delve into these new titles.

Visit a branch near you for recommendations about hilarious new reads!

Knapp Chat

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

A customer started a chat with me today (you know that you can chat online with us, right?), in order to ask if she could place a hold on a book by Caroline Knapp. Interestingly enough, I’m reading a book by that same author right now.

My customer had read Pack of Two, a title I have yet to read, and Drinking: A Love Story, which I’ve read and reviewed. I told her that I, too, had read Drinking, but that I preferred the title I was reading right now: Appetites: Why Women Want.

Check out Caroline Knapp’s writing, if you haven’t already. She writes beautifully and bravely about her struggles (mainly with alcoholism and anorexia, but family relationships, too) and she is unflinchingly honest about the frightening terrain in the dark realms of her psyche.

I’m really enjoying Appetites: Why Women Want. It’s described as an anorexia memoir, but it’s much more complex than a simple recounting of what was eaten (or not) and how many pounds were shed. Knapp explores desire as it relates to food, cultural zeitgeist, mothering, and body image. I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder (unless “unrelenting nocturnal potato chip addiction” has finally made it into the DSM 4...) but readers don’t have to have any familiarity with eating disorders to enjoy this book. Simply put, if you are a woman and have a body, Appetites: Why Women Want will very likely resonate with you. Place a hold today!

Pack of Two

Drinking: A Love Story

Appetites: Why Women Want

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