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    Book Club in a Bag

    The Book Snob Recommends - Denis Johnson

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    By Tyler Jones

    About twenty years ago, when I was a fresh-faced young book seller, I read a book called Jesus’ Son by an author I’d never heard of - Denis Johnson. At first this collection of short stories just seemed like a pointless series of tales of confused and directionless young man’s attempts to get as drunk or high as possible. I was pretty sure that the author was himself an addict – the stories had an air of authenticity and were not written in the polished prose I had been led to believe made “good” writing. As I read on, however, I realized there was significant depth to these stories about one man’s attempt to make sense of his world. Then I saw that there was an overarching structure to the collection, in fact it was a novel posing as a short story collection. By the time I finished I was convinced Denis Johnson was a genius. I immediately read his (then) two available novels: Angels and Resuscitation of a Hanged Man. Both are absolutely riveting portrayals of people who have been forgotten, marginalized and institutionalized. It would not be a stretch to say that these books taught me I have a great deal in common with those less fortunate than myself. A bit of bad luck and few bad choices and any one of us could end up there.

    As the years passed I eagerly read every new Denis Johnson book. Or tried to. Already Dead, his massive 1997 novel of California counter-culture was confusing and unfocused and I could not get more than fifty pages into it. Tree of Smoke, an even more massive novel about Vietnam, had the same effect on me. Strangely these two books are often cited as Johnson’s best by critics. Tree of Smoke was so well received that it was awarded the National Book Award in 2007. Perhaps it is I, not the books, that is confused and unfocused.

    I love his shorter works. The Name of the World, a short novel about a mid-western professor living in the aftermath of the death of his wife and child, was beautiful and gritty at the same time. It made me understand that personal tragedy can affect us in ways we cannot control or even really comprehend. I think having read this book prepared me in some way when years later I found myself trying to make sense of a senseless loss. When I think of people who say fiction has no real purpose but to entertain, I think of this book and know they are wrong.

    This year Johnson released Train Dreams, a novella. I am amazed at how much Johnson has packed into the 116 pages of this book. He says as much as a lesser writer would take 300 pages to say. It is both the story of a poor labourer in the American northwest and a story about the development of America itself. I was completely captivated by the mix of realism and dream-logic the novel employs. It was my favourite book of 2011.

    So there you are. If you have never read the work of Denis Johnson, I believe you have some great books to look forward to reading.

    More books to change your life

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    A little while ago we posted a few titles under the heading “Books to Change your Life” and asked you to share your personal reading suggestions with us.

    We’ve loved getting your feedback!

    We learned that you also loved a few of our recommendations, and, of course, had many to recommend in return.

    When we recommended Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, not only did people agree, but you’ve also shared other children’s or young adult novels that had an impact on you, including the classic such as L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, as well as works of Asimov, Vonnegut, Faukner, Pyncin, Nabokov, Heinlein, and many more.

    Here are the other great books with the power to change your life:

    And if you missed sending us YOUR recommendation, now is your chance!

    Send us the book or books that changed YOUR life!

    January Staff Picks - Julia, Mia, Jasna

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    We are avid readers and, just like you, we love to get personal reading recommendations! So here are some more staff picks for you to enjoy as winter makes another appearance. There is a wide variety here, and as always we would LOVE if you would post YOUR picks in the comments!

    We the Animals by Justin Torres

    Three brothers tear their way through childhood— smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

    War and Peace: original version by Leo Tolstoy

    A new version ' the one Tolstoy originally intended, but has been hitherto unpublished ' of Russia's most famous novel; with a different ending, fewer digressions and an altered view of Napoleon ' it's time to look afresh at one of the world's favourite books. War and Peace is a masterpiece ' a panoramic portrait of Russian society and its descent into the Napoleonic Wars which for over a century has inspired reverential devotion among its readers. This new version is certain to provoke controversy and devotion in equal measures.

    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers . . .Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

    Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

    Matthew Shardlake, the marvelous hunchbacked 16th-century attorney who first appeared in Sansom's Dissolution, returns in this spellbinding Tudor-era tale of murder, conspiracy and betrayal. Shardlake normally handles property cases and the occasional dangerous mission for Lord Thomas Cromwell, the king's high counselor. Now he is engaged to defend a young woman accused of a curious murder, and the case seems hopeless. The girl refuses to speak and, under English law, unless she offers a plea in court she will be slowly crushed to death. Cromwell offers Shardlake a two-week stay of execution if he will agree to undertake a secret mission. Desperate to save the girl's life, Shardlake agrees. Rumors abound of a new and terrifying weapon called Greek Fire, and Cromwell orders Shardlake to find it, along with its secret formula and the two alchemists who possess it. Before Shardlake can even speak to the alchemists, they are brutally murdered, the formula and Greek Fire go missing, and horror and death are unleashed.

    Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James

    On a desolate stretch of the East Anglian coast, high atop a sweep of cliffs, sits the theological college of St. Anselm's. Down below, smothered by a fall of sand, lies the body of a young ordinand, the son of a powerful business mogul who wants Scotland Yard to investigate his death. Dalgliesh, doubting there is much to uncover in the case, agrees to go, motivated only by a desire to revisit a place where he spent several happy summers in his boyhood. Yet no sooner does he arrive than the college is torn apart by a sacrilegious murder and Dalgliesh finds himself embroiled in one of the most puzzling and horrific cases of his career: no one is above suspicion, and suspects abound.

    Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: a modest bestiary by David Sedaris

    Featuring David Sedaris's unique blend of hilarity and heart, this new collection of keen-eyed animal-themed tales is an utter delight. Though the characters may not be human, the situations in these stories bear an uncanny resemblance to the insanity of everyday life.

    Off the Shelf - The Tiger Claw

    by Jasna - 0 Comment(s)

    At first, The Tiger Claw seems to be a fairly ordinary WWII spy drama focused on a radio operator in occupied France. However, Noor Khan’s name signals that she is not an ordinary spy. Astonishingly, she was a real person, lovingly recreated by Shauna Singh Baldwin with fictional details unknown to history.

    Baldwin uses our expectations to smooth the way for us to encounter a revision of history. Yes, the basic facts of Europe‘s War play out the same, but Baldwin inserts the parallel history of colonial peoples to enrich the mainstream recollection of this time.

    Noor Khan is young woman raised in France in a Sufi Muslim family. Faced with the German invasion she and her family flee to Britain where their British colonial passports from India allow them entry. Soon after, Noor escapes the confinement of her family’s traditions by volunteering to be a spy – an operator of the radios that enabled the French underground to communicate with British intelligence during the war. Life-span was short for such operatives. Madeleine is Noor’s code name, and Madeleine fulfills all her duties meticulously. The private self remains “Noor”, who has a secret goal - to find her illicit Jewish French lover, Armand.

    The novel unfolds with the intertwined story of Armand (addressed to Noor’s once-existent fetal baby), the story of a fractious community of spies operating against ruthless invaders, and the anguished story of her imprisonment by a German officer. Threaded through the emotional turmoil of her stories are dry political observations about all invaders and colonial powers. Doesn’t the Nazi regime adopt the same techniques of interrogation that the French used in Algeria? Haven’t the British also used semi-starvation as a method of subjugation in India? Aren’t the Indians and the Algerians striving for their own liberation even while individuals such as Noor fight on the side of the Allies during the War? Noor has no simple answers: her pondering these questions while engaged in a life of action raises The Tiger Claw to an impressive level of sophistication. Shauna Singh Baldwin’s literary talent ensures we enjoy the adventure while reflecting on the complications of real life.

    Judith Umbach

    Tis the Season for all things ‘E’

    by Shannon S - 0 Comment(s)

    Ring in the New Year with a primer on E-Readers!

    Overdrive? What is it?

    It works just like the regular Library. You can borrow eBooks and audiobooks or place a hold for books that are already out. They are automatically deleted from your device on the due date. Card holders have access to popular fiction and non-fiction titles, in both eBook and audiobook formats. Depending on your device you can checkout and download:

    • Adobe EPUB eBooks
    • Adobe PDF eBooks
    • Mobipocket eBooks
    • OverDrive WMA Audiobooks
    • OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks

    What do I need to get started?

    Click on the “My help” button on Overdrive (hint: click on 'Overdrive' to go to the page) button in the upper left corner to determine what software you need to download.

    More Information?

    We’ve gathered a lot of useful links on this page: eBook Help

    If you follow the link above you can click on a link to see information on the following topics:

    • Overdrive Help
    • Online video tours
    • Quickstart Guide
    • List of compatible devices
    • Lending policies and procedures
    • FAQ

    Still deciding which e-reader you should buy?

    The right e-reader for you will depend on a lot of personal factors including whether you want a dedicated device or something that does other things like a tablet, your price point, screen brightness, battery life, weight, and whether you want e-books and/or audiobooks.

    Check out this information from Overdrive on ‘supported devices’: Supported Devices


    Maybe you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed? Well don't worry, there is lots of help! Check out Calgary Public Library's Program Guide for programs offered at the library.

    You can also find some helpful online videos explaining how to use Calgary Public Library eBooks. Click here to find them.

    Or if you need some technical assistance most devices also provide that. You can find links to that here: Technical Assistance Just find your device and click on the ‘support’ link.

    However you might be reading - e-book or paper copy - we hope you're enjoying it!