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    Book Club in a Bag

    Canadian Authors Honoured

    by Sonya

    Who's just been appointed to the Order of Canada? Two fantastic Canadian authors! And both have new titles on offer for your reading pleasure.

    Louise Penny

    The author of the much-loved Inspector Gamache series set in Three Pines, Quebec, has lots to celebrate! Her latest in this series, How the Light Gets In, somehow manages to surpass the already high expectations of her fans. (Well, this one, at least.)

    Join the hold list if you haven't already had the pleasure of Inspector Gamache's company in this latest installment.

    Douglas Coupland

    This inimitable author's latest novel, Worst. Person. Ever., promises to be as funny as any of his titles. Click on the title or book cover to read the summary.

    Off the Shelf: The Singularity is Near, When Humans Transcend Biology

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    Perhaps three decades ago, I heard Ray Kurzweil speak at a conference and never forgot him and his messages. He was an outstanding speaker. The Singularity is Near employs the same clarity to explain rather easily the complex science of biology-based computing.

    The book was published in 2005, which is fortunate for me because many concepts are more recognizable now they have moved into the mainstream. The exponential miniaturization of the last eight years helps the reader comprehend how computing power will be woven into clothing and other everyday items. The invention and improvement of cochlear implants points the way to ubiquitous support of human functionality by computers.

    For decades computing power has been doubling every 18 months, known as Moore’s law. This could be continued indefinitely by using or mimicking biological processes for accomplishing work. Kurzweil emphasizes that we won’t need to replicate biological processes. Reverse engineering allows scientists to replace biological functions in ways that innovatively use available or invented materials. A basic example can be recognized by comparing Icarus unsuccessfully beating artificial feathered wings and our flying fixed-wing aircraft made of strong metals and polymers.

    Already we can see the use of information technologies to drastically reduce power consumption. This is why the tablet computers of today vastly outperform the desktop computers of only a decade ago. And, why today’s cars consume less fossil fuel while providing more “information content”, such as GPS and engine monitoring.

    The “singularity” is the point at which technological change is so rapid that humans will not be able to comprehend its entirety. In effect, the human mind will be able to take advantage of computing power and memory without distinction between human and machine. According to Kurzweil, this will occur about the middle of this century. When I heard him speak a long time ago, the timeframe was 2020. Both now and then, rather than absolute predictions, I consider his ideas stimuli for my own thinking; nevertheless, he has an excellent track-record for predicting the future.

    - Judith Umbach

    Staff Picks: Stoner by John Williams

    - 2 Comment(s)

    One of the great pleasures of working in a library is finding great, little known books and recommending them to friends and customers. About eight years ago I stumbled upon a reprint of a novel originally published in the mid-sixties called Stoner by John Williams. I fell in love with this story of a poor farm boy who discovers a love of literature and devotes himself to teaching English at a small university. The book was written in such a way that, before I knew it, I found myself caring more for the protagonist than I ever cared for a fictional character.

    Stoner is in many ways a sad novel, but I found inspiration in it as well. I have been recommending it to readers ever since and almost always people come back to tell me it is one of the best novels they have ever read. I have often wondered why this book is not widely known about, but have come to accept that not all great books get the attention they deserve.

    However, in the past few years something amazing has happened – Stoner has become a bestselling book right across Europe. In 2011, almost fifty years after its original publication and over fifteen years since the death of its author, Stoner became a phenomenon in France, Holland and Italy, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. This year it has become the book to read in England – being named Book of the Year by Waterstones booksellers, and last week the novelist Julian Barnes wrote an article in the Guardian outlining why Stoner was the must-read novel of 2013.

    Stoner mania has yet to catch on in North America in quite the same way, however the Globe and Mail recently did an article on the book, which has certainly stirred up a good deal of interest. I have noticed that suddenly there is a waiting list for the copies available from the Calgary Public Library, and my bookselling friends tell me they have sold numerous copies in the last couple weeks. So why not put your name down on the waiting list to read it now? I can almost guarantee that you’ll be glad you did.

    - Tyler at Louise Riley Library

    Calling All Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    December is shopping season, and chances are good that you (or someone you're shopping for) is into books. There's still time! But which books should you buy? Here are a few suggestions:

    Alice Munro has had a year of iconic achievements, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature and announcing her retirement from writing. Pick up an old favourite or her latest collection, Dear Life for someone you love.

     

    Continuing on the theme of prize-winning Canadians (who write short stories), why not try 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady's Hellgoing? She's an Albertan, and her writing gets to the nitty-gritty of real life with all its dark and surprising moments.

     

    Another one for your literary friends and family: Eleanor Catton (also Canadian-born, by the way) won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries. She also happens to be the youngest-ever winner of that prize!

     

     And for everyone else on your list, I'll share a few great lists I've come across:

     

    Still can't decide? Good news! You can grab one of these titles, FREE from your local library, pick up a gift card to ______ (insert your favourite book store) and just relax with a good book. Personalize your gift-card-giving with some sure-fire suggestions, once you've finished reading them, of course!

    Canada Reads Shortlist

    by Sonya - 0 Comment(s)

    If you've ever followed Canada Reads, don't miss your chance to get in on the action with your vote on the best book! The shortlist of 10 for next March's even has just been posted, and there are some fantastic titles on the list!

    I've read five of the ten, so now I have my work cut out: five more to read before March...

    It may be unfair to offer a "preliminary" opinion based on the five I've already read, but here are a couple of thoughts in any case:

    If you only ever read one young adult novel, make it Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. This novels follows the story of a group of teens in a version of modern-day San Francisco reeling from a terrorist attack. Scooped up and illegally held as suspects by an overzealous government agency, Marcus and his friends must decide how to deal with their situation.

    This is a fast-paced and fascinating look at computer hacking, surveillance and civil liberties, with a believable plot that makes you look at the world around us from a new perspective. It could happen. And if it did, what would you do?

    More from our catalogue summary:

    In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they're mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

    San Francisco Public Library chose this title for their "One City, One Book" program this year, and the sequel to this novel, Homeland, just came out.

    The other four titles that I've read from the list, all of which I would recommend, are:

    If you're just interested in what people are recommending and looking for your next book to read, don't miss the top 40 list. Also lots of great Christmas shopping ideas here!