Carnegie Libraries: Paris

Brant Public Library – Paris branch

Andrew Carnegie is famous for his philanthropic donations in support of public libraries, and in fact, his donations resulted in 125 public libraries being built in Canada, 111 of which were in Ontario. Not all of the libraries remain in use today, but the one in Paris, Ontario still does.

Interesting tidbit: unlike many public libraries that were built near the turn of the last century, the Paris public library has been in continual use as such since it was built. A list of head librarians through the years can be found at the County of Brant Public Library Digital Collections website, along with the building’s timeline.

Paris Public Library first opened to the public on July 27, 1904.

Voted ‘the Prettiest Little Town in Canada’ by Harrowsmith Magazine, Paris is replete with natural beauty (it lies between two rivers) and architectural delights, featuring a great many well-kept Victorian buildings.

Fun fact: both Alexandrea Graham Bell and Andrew Carnegie have ties to this little town. On August 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received the world’s first successful long-distance telephone call here; and as we know, Andrew Carnegie sponsored our featured library, tying both of these great men to the humble town of Paris, Ontario.

Doric columns are featured on the library’s former facade.

I hope you enjoyed this tiny library travelogue. There are several Carnegie libraries that I plan to feature in this new section of BookNotes, so please stay tuned for the next one!

Sources:
http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/libraries/carnegie.shtml
http://images.ourontario.ca/brant/3281106/data?dis=dm
http://images.ourontario.ca/brant/2713035/data
https://oaa.on.ca/bloaag-detail/Carnegie-Libraries/327
https://www.brant.ca/en/live-and-discover/paris.aspx#

Trees, Demons, and Secrets

There’s nothing like weeks of self-isolation to really help you get a a handle on your To Be Read pile. In keeping with one of this blog’s themes, suggesting books that are a little out of the ordinary, I would like to recommend a few titles. I haven’t done this in quite a while, so I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on any of these titles, if you’ve read them. Or if you do read them. But full disclosure: the last one is pretty mainstream, so not exactly along the lines of ‘quirky’ or ‘out of the ordinary.’ Still a good book, though!

  1. The Overstory by Richard Powers

This book was incredibly moving, and extremely relevant to today’s world. A truly real glimpse into the impact that the natural world has on us, whether we are aware of it or not. The first section appears to be short stories, but parts two and three weave all the initial and seemingly unrelated stories together, creating an epic story that spans generations. Although this was not what I would call an ‘uplifting’ read, it was an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.

2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Wow, what a change of pace! This book is still in print, even though it was first published in 1996. So that should let you know right there, that this book is worth reading. Neverwhere falls into the fantasy category, but it’s not high fantasy, so there are still humans with pronounceable names, and they live on earth. Definitely a great escape from the ordinary, and it even causes a few chuckles along the way! If you are looking for something different to read that will quickly become hard to put down, look no further. Neverwhere is the answer.

3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is mainstream book. But, even books we find at the grocery store or in an airport departure lounge can still be good, and this was one of those books. It was a thought-provoking and intricate story, and also easy to read. A mysterious past, the fight over a baby’s future, and problems that everyone struggles with as they navigate the choppy waters of adolescence. This is a good story that will definitely help you escape the four walls of your home as you practice social distancing.

Please let me know if you read (or have read) these books. Other suggestions are always welcome, too! Stay healthy, xoxo

Bored? Not anymore!

This is week 3 of working from home, for me, and week 4 of self-isolation. At first, so much extra time was filled the exciting possibilities that all my unread books presented, their time of languishing on my shelves finally coming to an end. But, as it turns out, there is only so much reading one can do over a period of several weeks, and one starts to get a bit stir-crazy, even knowing that adventures and new friends await in each new book.

If you’re in a rut, and starting to drift away from your books, take heart! There are still some things we can do that are not technically reading, but are still very much book-centric, and thus, almost as good. If you will allow me just a few minutes, I would like to walk you through the very easy process of making something fun: bookmarks! Make them funny, or scary, or beautiful – it’s all up to you.

  1. All you need is: a cutting mat and an X-Acto knife (or not even those, if you prefer to use scissors), a ruler, a pencil, glue stick, and some paper that you love. I used chiyogami paper, and some flyers that had graphics I was drawn to, but any paper will do – even wrapping paper works – whatever you have that makes you smile, and can be cut to about 2″ x 6″.
1. All you need to get started: scissors or a knife & cutting mat, pencil, ruler, glue stick, and your choice of paper.

After you make the bookmarks, you will need a means of laminating them, at an office supply store (once they open again), or you can use a home laminator, if you have one. If you don’t have a means of laminating, that’s okay! Once the glue has dried, they are ready to use until you can get them into that protective coating.

  1. Once you have the paper ready, measure a rectangle on the back it, over the part you want to be featured on your bookmark. It should measure two inches wide (we will fold this in half, so your bookmark will be one inch wide), and as long as you would like, usually between 6 and 8 inches.
2. Measure two inches across, and 6-8 inches long, being very careful that your lines are straight. Using the grid from a cutting mat will help you, if you have one.
  1. Next, cut along the rectangle you drew. Using a ruler will help you make sure the lines are perfectly straight.
Use a knife on a mat for quick, perfect edges. You can use scissors, but be careful to keep the lines straight.
  1. Once you have your rectangle, fold it in half lengthwise, creasing it very hard to give it a sharp fold. If your bottom and top edges do not match up exactly, just trim them up against the ruler.
Trim edges after the rectangle is folded, to make sure the sides match exactly.
  1. Once you have the paper folded, it’s time for the glue. Cover one half of the paper in a layer of glue, being sure to go beyond the edge of your paper. This ensures the glue will go right up to the edge of all three open sides, and prevent any lifting. Don’t press it together yet! Let the glue dry slightly, and then apply it again. After the second coat, firmly press the sides together, taking care to smooth any air bubbles out.
Apply two layers of glue, being sure to apply the glue beyond all the edges of the paper, to ensure full adhesion.
Ta-daa! Now all you need to do is laminate.

I hope this little project helps to settle some of your restlessness, and brightens your day at the same time. If you do end up making some bookmarks, please let me know in the comments! Good luck, and STAY HEALTHY 💜

Books reborn

Hello, friends. A post on book art is long overdue, wouldn’t you say? Like you, I love to read, and I love books, so perhaps that is why art made from books moves me so.

In researching book art creators, I recently discovered some new names. First, let me introduce Thomas Wightman. If you are familiar with Malena Valcarcel‘s work, you should check out this artist’s work as well; you will be glad you did. Here is one of my favorites, but there are many others that are just as impressive on Mr. Wightman’s website. What I find so interesting about this site, is that the artist walks us through the creative process, and shows us (more or less) how each piece was made. Enjoy!

Drowning from Obsession – Thomas Wightman

Jodi Harvey is another book artist whose site is fun to stroll through. When I look at these sculptures, I am absolutely amazed at the patience the artists exhibit with each creation. Having done a tiny bit of book art myself, I know I truly do not have what it takes to produce something like this. Here is a collection of images from her home page, to give you a taste:

Jodi Harvey

Quite some time ago, I mentioned Brian Dettmer in a similar post about book art, and Kelly Campbell Berry‘s work falls into a similar category. They both work with illustrated texts, cutting away most of the words and letting the pictures tell their own version of the story.

Kelly Campbell Berry

I mean, really. How do they do it?! I remain in awe of this amazing skill and talent. I don’t own any real book art yet, but I look forward to that day when I acquire my first piece. I know it will be worth the wait!

The Pain of Remembering

I think I can count on one hand the number of memoirs I’ve read in my entire life, but this year I read two in as many months!

The memoirs I read are Educated by Tara Westover, and War Child by Emmanuel Jal. I was surprised to discover that I could actually relate to one of these memoirs, and as you might expect, it was not the one about child soldiers in Sudan. However, while I also have some tales from north Idaho that defy belief, Emmanuel Jal’s account of his life was even more gripping and horrifying (at times), so I’ll start with that one.

I had the honour and privilege of meeting Mr. Jal in person, and his life story is one I will never forget. He has lived through horrors that people in the West cannot begin to truly understand, and yet he came out of bitterness, death and hatred, to a life devoted to the spread of peace. He found healing when he met God, but also through music, and he has released several albums, topping the charts in Africa, and working with some very big names here in North America and the UK as well. (Check out We Want Peace, More Power, or Baai on YouTube.) Although there are devastating moments in this memoir, it is still quite easy to read, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Wow. What a tragic story. Educated is technically also an easy read, but emotionally speaking, ‘easy’ is not a word anyone would use to describe this book. I like reading while I eat, and there were times when I had to put the book down to finish my meal. So much violence. And plenty of emotional manipulation as well, although that was less stomach-churning. The worst part for me was that so much of the physical injuries (well, mental injuries too, but from head trauma, not emotional trauma – of which there is also plenty!) could have been easily avoided. This book is a real page-turner and also comes very highly recommended. And if it seems like it’s too extreme to be real, let me assure you that it is very likely true.

If there are memoirs out there that you would recommend, could you let me know the titles? I’d love to hear which ones have touches your lives, and get more acquainted with this genre at the same time. Thank you!

Does the weather affect your reading choices?

In all my life, I don’t believe there has ever been this much snow on the ground for such a long time without a thaw! As a snow lover I am thoroughly enjoying every soft, sparkling second. All the cold and snow have kept me indoors more than usual, though, so I have been able to chip away at my never-ending To Be Read pile.

As I was selecting a book to read, I wondered whether the wintry weather had an impact on my choice. Beach reads are obviously meant to be read in the summer, preferably while on vacation. But what about cozy mysteries, are they always read in the winter months, by a fire or with a cup of tea (or both)? Lately I have been conscious of something that makes me choose a gloomy mystery over less atmospheric non-fiction nature writing, but I’m not sure what the cause is. In case anyone is out there thinking I just didn’t want to start reading something ‘dry,’ that is not the situation in this case. I truly love the natural world, and I therefore find nature writing very interesting! It’s just that I was vaguely aware of some underlying instinct that seemed to result in my final selection.

I think we can all agree that the weather affects our mood, and I suppose our mood would have an effect on what we choose to read, so maybe it’s not exactly the weather that causes us to read something light, or something a bit heavier.

What do you think? Have you noticed that the genre of books you read tends to vary with the seasons? Or am I on my own with this one?

Books as Therapy

I think it’s time for another post about bibliotherapy – the practice of using books as tools for improving, promoting or maintaining mental health. Wellness and mental health are extremely important, with our lives getting busier and busier, and stress increasing with every new addition to our calendars.

Reading helps us escape from the pressures of everyday life

Is there anything more satisfying than recommending a book that someone else reads and enjoys? I absolutely love those moments. Readers’ advisory is not bibliotherapy, but if finding someone who likes the same books as we do warms our hearts, imagine the thrill of prescribing a book that helps someone on such a foundational level as their mental wellbeing.

In her Guardian article, Move over Freud: literary fiction is the best therapy, Salley Vickers breaks it down for us, spelling out some social problems (‘chronic loneliness and isolation’) and a therapeutic solution that involves reading: “reading in groups . . . significantly ‘improves self-confidence and self-esteem.'”

The Conversation has a great article about the history of bibliotherapy, which came into its own after World War I. Many returning soldiers were so traumatized from their experiences that they had a difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life; but prescribed reading helped many sufferers to work through their trauma. I know I have written about her before, but one of my heroes is Sadie Peterson Delaney, who pioneered bibliotherapy, and worked very closely with veterans as well as children.

Image courtesy of The Steampunk Home

On the other hand, bibliotherapy is still an imprecise science. A book that one person connects with might not be helpful to someone else. In their article, 5 Books That Will Make You Happier, According to Bibliotherapists Good Housekeeping sites therapists who recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a good book to read if you are feeling pessimistic about the future. I found that book very depressing and not at all positive or uplifting, so in my opinion that’s an inappropriate recommendation for someone who is already feeling pessimistic. This article leads me to believe that there could be quite a margin of error in the practice of bibliotherapy, but I suppose that could be said about many things. Overall, I still love the idea and am eager to connect with someone who has been an official participant in bibliotherapy.

Is there anyone out there who would like to share a books-as-therapy experience? I would love to hear your thoughts!

What a year!

Overall, was 2018 a good year for your reading? A good year could mean you reached your goal for the number of books you hoped to read. Or it could mean that generally, you liked the books you read. For me, I wouldn’t say it was a great year. I read fewer books than I hoped to, and there were a lot of books in there that I really did not enjoy. My least favourite 2018 reads are:

  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
  • Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

On the plus side, there were some new titles I discovered last year which I really enjoyed. They are pictured below, and I honestly can’t recommend them highly enough. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a book I will always cherish, because it opened my eyes to the the astonishing intricacies of the little guys we see on the sidewalk every morning in the summer. I will forever appreciate snails now that I’ve read this book.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock was very unusual, and extremely well written; there’s nothing like a breath of fresh air just when you need it.

As someone with a heart for books (especially old ones), history, mystery, and quaint, ancient English towns, Charlie Lovett’s The Lost Book of the Grail was the literary equivalent of eating a delicious dessert every time I picked it up (which wasn’t often, because I rarely put it down!):

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

I am happy that I discovered some new gems in 2018, and even though I read a few books I didn’t enjoy, no reading is ever a waste of time. The books we don’t connect with still teach us things – about ourselves or something else. And learning is always a good thing!

To see a list of the books I conquered last year, please click the following link:

Thank you for stopping by. I think last year was my worst for blog posts, but I will try to post more this year. Although truth be told, I do find it difficult to come up with original things to blog about. But please hang in there! I appreciate everyone who pops in to read my thoughts ❤

Is there anything better than summer reading? (of course not!)

Have you been able to work on your To Be Read pile this summer? For the first time in years, I have actually had time to whittle away at my TBR list, and it’s been wonderful.

Last week I read The Slow Waltz of Turtles by Katherine Pancol. It’s a sequel to The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, which I really enjoyed. Yellow Eyes was definitely quirky and original, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Slow Waltz of Turtles was a bit grittier, but I still liked it – not quite as much as its predecessor, though.
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I am an unabashed lover of animals, insects, nature and all things related to our natural world, so I was excited to read The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel. Lewis-Stempel is a renowned nature writer, and wow, it did not disappoint! Throughout the entire book, I was preparing myself for the horrible demise of the creatures I was growing to love (the hares that the author was protecting and indirectly providing for, for instance) but although nature and her carnivorous ways were well depicted, the book ended on a positive note, and my fears were allayed. (I might have also bought it because of the cover.)
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To change things up a bit, I also read an Agatha Christie mystery, The Murder on the Links. As well as being a nature lover, I’m also a cozy mystery enthusiast, and Agatha Christie does cozy mysteries like no one else. What better way to relax and unwind, than going through an exercise of the “little grey cells” with Hercule Poirot?
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So what have you been reading this summer? Have you found new books and added them to your TBR pile? Or have you been diligently ticking off those titles that have been looking at you for months? Maybe both! Whatever this summer brings you, I hope it involves many hours of literary happiness. ❤

Preventive Maintenance for Books

There’s no doubt about it, spring is on its way! Although today it is very cold here, so that might seem hard to believe. Nevertheless, warmer temperatures will be with us soon, and air conditioners will be humming once more.

With a change in the weather in mind, it’s time to do a quick assessment of your book collection’s health.

  1. Make sure your books are not in the basement or attic, where temperatures fluctuate the most, and the air can be very damp.
  2. Check that your books are not on an outside wall, where dampness can settle into them.
  3. Move shelves away from the blast of heating and cooling vents.
  4. Make sure your books aren’t jammed too tightly into their shelves, so they can breathe. Ensuring proper air circulation helps to prevent damage caused by moisture.
  5. Give those treasures some love with a duster. Dust and other particulates that settle onto the tops of books are harmful too, if it is not removed from time to time.
  6. Be sure to keep your collection out of direct sunlight: light damage is cumulative and irreversible.

I’m sure these tips are already in practice for the majority of my readers, but just in case anyone needed a reminder, I hope this short list was helpful.

Happy Spring, and happy reading! xo

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