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The smell of books is intoxicating.

But just like all senses, descriptions of scent are very subjective. What does a book smell like? Is it the warm yet acrid aroma of bleached paper and toner, as found in a modern bestseller? Decomposition of a 1940s paperback, printed back when paper was still treated with acid? And then there’s my personal favourite, the combination of mildewed leather, dust, and India ink that is as comforting as yule log on a cold winter night. (It’s up there with my other favourite smells: grass, leaf mould and dogs’ paws—seriously!) According to the folks over at AbeBooks, old book smell is a”combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.”

I attended the International Antiquarian Book Fair in Toronto the other week. As I ran my fingers along the gilded edges and looking for secret messages in the marginalia, I thought how wonderful it would be to smell like a book.

Well, it looks like I’m not the first to wish that! Here you will find many interpretations of the classic “book smell” captured as colognes and perfumes. Because, you know, working beside a giant book-making machine and surrounding myself with stacks of books isn’t enough.

dead writers perfumeDead Writers
Sweet Tea Apothecary

Black tea, vetiver, clove, musk, vanilla, heliotrope, and tobacco

According to Sweet Tea Apothecary, the creator of Dead Writers Perfume/Cologne Oil, this blend “evokes the feeling of sitting in an old library chair paging through yellowed copies of Hemingway, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Poe, and more.” Lacking the traditional florals of women’s perfumes, this musky masculine scent can be worn by either sex.

paper-passion-perfume-3Paper Passion

Inspired by Karl Lagerfeld’s proclamation that “the smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world,” Gerhard Steidl and Geza Schoen created Paper Passion, a perfume that mimics the scent of a freshly printed, modern book. Steidl describes the scent as “heavy, elegant, and calm.” Beautifully packaged inside a hardcover book, this would make an excellent albeit pricey holiday gift. Can’t afford a hundred bucks on a whim? It’s also available from Chapters/Indigo for $65 right now.

cb in the libraryIn The Library (#306)
CB I Hate Perfume
$13–95 depending on size and type

Moroccan leather, worn cloth, wood polish

This scent was inspired by the perfumer’s favourite book, a 1927 novel that “had a marvelous, warm, woody, slightly sweet smell” that he was determined to capture. Online reviews vary; some say the scent of lemon Pledge is overbearing, while others associate the smell with woody libraries. If opting for their air fresheners, which may have been inspired by this satirical website, the polished scent might actually be preferable. I strongly recommend the 2ml sample size ($13) before shelling out big bucks.

$6-40 depending on size and type

These all sound great, but none seems to capture the grassy vanilla dust smell that the experts claim is “book smell.” Demeter has been making unusual perfumes for years with incredibly accuracy, and I have high hopes for their Paperback perfume. Unlike the other colognes mentioned, this one includes floral elements (think less European academic and more Harlequin romance). They also make Grass, Dust, Vanilla, and Russian Leather scents, so you could experiment to create a signature scent.

Starting your Christmas shopping? Pair one of these scents with a copy of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, or The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro for a classy and quirky holiday gift. [Fun fact: Perfume by Süskind was Kurt Cobain’s favourite novel and inspired the song “Scentless Apprentice”]


Clockwise from top: 1. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Süskind 2. Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins 3. The Perfume Collector, Kathleen Tessaro 4. The Book of Lost Fragrances, M.J. Rose


Wordplay Festival at Toronto Public Library

On Nov. 16 (tomorrow) the Toronto Public Library will be hosting Wordplay, a festival for lovers of text-based video games. I have very mixed feelings about this; text-based games and I always had a love-hate relationship. From games like The Golden Wombat of Destiny, played out in beautiful white-on-black DOS, to the more visually appealing Hugo’s House of Horrors, these games promised hours of hair-pulling “fun.”


Playing Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards and its sequels was something of a right of passage. The biggest challenge for my 8-year-old self was getting into the game in the first place, but repeated attempts at answering the age-testing questions probably taught me more about Boomer pop culture than anything since. Though the jokes are much less risque than I recall from childhood, it still stands up to the test of time nostalgia.

larryStop by the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St. at Bloor, from 12-5 for panel discussions, workshops, and (of course) game time. For more information on text-based games, visit Quill & Quire’s interview with festival director and Hand Eye Society board member Jim Munroe.

Goodreads Best Books of 2013

It’s the time of year when literary awards fill our newsfeeds, and if you are anything like me, you are checking the shortlists and wishing you had the final say in which books will be big winners this year. Unless you are a very accomplished author writer or literary critic, your chances are pretty slim, but you still have the chance to see your favourite books of 2013 get a fancy award blurb on their upcoming paperback editions.

The annual Goodreads Choice Awards lets you pick the best books of the past year. Categories include specific genres such as science fiction, fantasy, and horror (bonus points to Goodreads for not lumping all spec-fic together!), as well as more all-encompassing awards for fiction and nonfiction. There are even two categories for biographies, if that’s your preferred genre: memoir & autobiography, and history & biography.

The 15 finalists in each category were chosen from the most popular books rated and reviewed on Goodreads in 2013. There are three rounds of voting:

Nov. 1–9: Playoffs
Nov. 11–16: Semifinals
Nov. 18–25: Finals
Dec. 3: Winners Announced

In the first week, the top 5 write-in nominees will be added to each category, bringing the total to 20 books per category for the second week. The top 10 books in each category will go on to the finals in week three.

I was happy to see some of my favourite books (and some that are still “to-read”) already in the running. Leaving out those genres that I never read, here are my picks for books of the year:

taleFiction: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I seriously can’t recommend this book enough. This book gripped me before it was even published, when I read a 5 page sample in the Penguin catalogue last winter. On the shores of a remote island in northern British Columbia, Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox containing the diary of a suicidal Japanese schoolgirl, a stack of yellowed letters, and a secret French journal from WWII. Gracefully moving between Nao’s own diary and Ruth’s attempts to find where the girl is now, we also come to know Nao’s anarcho-Buddhist nun grandmother and kamikaze great uncle. Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, A Tale for the Time Being is a nesting doll of imagination that transcends time and space. This is the best book I’ve read all year.

night filmMystery & Thriller: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Okay, I confess—I haven’t read this one yet. It’s been catching my eye since it came out a few months ago, and I’ve heard wonderful things about it. I didn’t actually vote in this category, but I still have until November 25 to finish this book. I don’t tend to read much mystery, and the only book I’ve read in the past year that fits this genre is City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte (I don’t recommend it, it was a bland read).

saintexHistorical Fiction: Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado

Inspired by the life of Antoine de Saint Exupery, author of the beloved children’s book Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), Szado tells of the love triangle between up-and-coming fashion designer Mignonne, Saint-Ex, and his fiery wife Consuelo. Amid tensions within New York’s Alliance Français over France’s surrender to Germany in World War II, it is an atmospheric love story that is more concerned with emotion than historical accuracy. Mignonne may be Saint-Ex’s lover, but it is clear that Szado is the one who is most in love with him.

gaimanFantasy: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I have always been fond of Neil Gaiman, and though this isn’t his strongest work, even his worst is better than most people’s best. The book could have used a firmer edit (how many times did I read that the lead character was an avid reader and bookworm? Answer: too many), although the story was captivating. As his first “adult” novel in years, it’s as if he wrote a young adult book which was mis-marketed.

lexiconScience Fiction: Lexicon by Max Barry

This book was amazing. I read it as an ARC early this past summer and I couldn’t put it down. It follows a covert agency that seeks out and trains those with a natural aptitude for influencing others, bestowing on them the names of great poets once they have proven themselves (poets, after all, are “good with words”). One part murder-mystery, one part love story, and all parts awesome. Not only is it a riveting plot, it will make you reconsider the meaning and power of language, and its use/abuse by the media to control what we believe.

resuurectionistHorror: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth

Can I judge a book by its cover? Because this one is just brilliant. It’s dark, gothic, even scientific—everything I desire from good horror. But I have to confess, I’ve only flipped through and read through the bestiary at the end. But hey, I’m sure Stephen King will win as he always does, so does it really matter if my vote isn’t completely valid??

badNonfiction: Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre

The follow-up to Bad Science, this book focuses exclusively on the big business of pharmaceuticals and the ways in which companies manipulate or suppress reports that are bad for profits. Akin to street dealers, they put their clients’ health at risk to keep them coming back for more, to the detriment of doctors and medical practitioners. 2013 is the year of the whistleblower, and Goldacre is in good company.

starwarsHumour: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher

This is by far the best Star Wars parody/spin-off I’ve seen (second place goes to How to Speak Droid). Yes, it’s written in iambic pentameter. Yes, even R2-D2! Best of all, Doescher deftly evades the “dispute” over whether Han shot first:

“[They shoot, Greedo dies.]
Han: [To innkeeper:] Pray, goodly sir, excuse the mess.
[Aside:]And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!”

crayonsPicture Books: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

It’s not often that I read or review children’s books, but every now and then one stands out as I’m shelving the picture books. I am neither a parent nor an elementary school teacher, so I can’t speak to the book’s appeal to children, but if you have to read your 6 year old at bedtime this one will keep you entertained as well. It has a good message of “thinking outside the box” (couldn’t resist a crayon pun!): each crayon is tired of being used only for one or two purposes, or even worse, not being used at all. One of my favourite books as a child was The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters, which used a similar format. There is something about reading mail that makes a kid feel very grown up, and I loved reading many different perspectives all in one place.

NaNoWriMo Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 15th annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It has come a long, long way since 1999 when it only had 21 participants—there were 341,375 participants last year!

nonaowrimoThe goal is to write 50,000 words of your novel between November 1 and the deadline, 11:59:59PM November 30. This could be the halfway point for a typical adult novel, or perhaps a completed children’s/young adult novel. How far you take the story is up to you. Some writers may have already signed up and begun an outline, but it’s not too late to jump on board if this is the first you are hearing of it. I have been thinking of joining for years now, but always felt cheated because I only remember halfway through the month. This year I was reminded in time, and I’m all geared up to start writing tomorrow.

Stay motivated with the help of a whole community of writers, including online check-ins and in-person meetings. For those in the Greater Toronto Area, there are Write Ins, brunches, and book swaps to look forward to!

For more information, visit their website here: http://nanowrimo.org/how-it-works

On Reading Speed

Last Friday, I realised just before leaving work that I hadn’t properly charged my Kobo for the 3.5hr journey to my mother’s cottage where I would be spending the August long weekend. Luckily, I lamented to the right person: my boss, who kindly offered use of any ARC of my choosing!

Looking through the pile, I found one that I had just had approved through NetGalley and was already waiting on my temporarily defunct e-reader. Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen turned out to be the perfect light read for the bus–I read about a third of it in that single sitting. I couldn’t put it down, and it was definitely a refreshing break from the more serious novel I’m working through (We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver), but more than that I was surprised at the speed at which I was reading.

I always thought I was a fairly slow reader, with occasional bursts of “speed-reading” pulpy books. I’m not sure that’s the case anymore; I think rather than being a slow reader I often choose more ambitious books that require a lot of reflection and introspection in spite of their page counts. This isn’t to say that a book’s merit lies solely in it’s ability to inspire deep thought; sometimes I want a book to be a simple, pleasant escape that I don’t have to think too much about. Still, I always felt intimidated by friends of mine who zip through three books a week, keeping annual reading goals that make my unambitious goal of 50 books seem piddly in comparison. The one thing that always consoled me is the knowledge that instead of skimming and jumping ahead, my tendency to subvocalise (especially when reading fiction) actually works to help process what I’m reading on a deeper level.

The emotional response when taking in each sentence, word, syllable at a time would be akin to an art lover looking at a masterpiece and appreciating each individual stroke the painter made. The overall impression is one way to take it all in, but if a work is carefully crafted so that the sum of its parts is greater than the whole, are we not doing a disservice to the artist by staggering on focused on the goal of finishing and moving on, rather than savouring reading for its own sake?

Maybe this is just another way of saying “slow reader”. Maybe the measure of one’s speed should not take into account simply one’s beginning and ending a sentence, but also measure the reflective period between paragraphs. Perhaps then those of us that seem to take weeks reading a single book might not feel so envious of extensive readers who are on to something new every few days.

Review: 14 by Peter Clines


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by Peter Clines
Permuted Press, 2012
Paperback, 352 pages

Experts agree that the three most stressful experiences the average person will go through in life are death of a loved one, weddings, and moving. This third category has multiple levels that all affect stress levels.

First, there is the hassle of going through your belongings and coming face to face with so many memories, not to mention the arduous task of deciding what to keep and what to toss. It is spring cleaning at its worst. And then there is the move itself: wake up at dawn to greet the professional movers, watch over your boxes like a hawk lest anything marked “fragile” be treated less than kindly, eventually collapsing on a bare mattress in your new home. Finally, the adjustment phase, where you lie awake listening to the unfamiliar creaks and groans as your home settles at night, dreaming up all sorts of childhood bogeymen.

But what happens when your new home really is unsettling?

For Nate Tucker, moving into the Kavach Building in Los Angeles was a stroke of luck. With suspiciously cheap rent and a studio with a view of the Hollywood Hills, one might almost be able to overlook the irregularities of the building. Almost. Perhaps in part due to his mind-numbingly boring data-entry job, Nate rallies his fellow residents into investigating the peculiarities: the antique elevator that hasn’t worked in living memory, the mysterious suicides of apartment 16, the strange mutant-green cockroaches, and of course the namesake apartment 14, sealed up with multiple padlocks that have rusted with age.

With a Lovecraftian build-up—a slow pace that picks up speed with each unsettling detail revealed—and shout-outs to horror and sci-fi favourites like Clive Barker and Dr. Who, you just know that things are going to get absolutely mental before the end, and boy do they ever! Five stars to Peter Cline for creating a total head trip of a story. Once things got going, it was very hard for me to put this book down. I tore through it in only two days, a breakneck speed for someone who averages 1-2 weeks per book.

It’s a great book for those more interested in plot than character development. There were some things left to be desired, however, by the end of the novel. The dialogue is full of bantering quips that some may find a bit thin: it was reminiscent of a novelized horror-movie, and this book could be adapted quite well in the same vein as Cabin in the Woods. The frequent references to Scooby-Doo was a bit tiresome after the fourth time, but my cynical view is that this is actually pretty true to life: people run jokes into the ground all the time, long after they are amusing. In some ways this was one of the most realistic traits of the Kavach gang.

I love the punning of story and storey (of which the Kavach building has five) as the book is divided into parts evoking engineering blueprints: “Foundation”, “First Story”, “Second Story”, and so on. This leads our gaze upwards to the oversized machine room on the roof and beyond, creating further intrigue through the formal aspects of the book and complementing the plot.

The Lovecraftian style was well developed for the most part, but I would have preferred this influence to be more subtle than Clines treated it. It was appreciated until the later chapters, when a direct reference to H.P Lovecraft is given. In a way, 14 is like Lovecraft fan-fiction, and perhaps there are legal reasons he had to make this reference very clear (reasons that I can’t discuss without revealing huge plot-spoilers). The mood of xenophobia is strongly lacking, however, and we don’t get a sense of genuine horror from the characters but rather wonder at their situation.

The setting for the story was very fitting for this homage to Lovecraft. Let’s be honest, L.A is fairly well accepted as the mecca of weirdo cults. From religious revivals like kabbalah to the brainwashing antics of scientology, if a group of people were to worship Cthulu and the Old Ones, it is more likely to surface on the West coast than a quiet New England town—though this theory may be dismissed if one also takes into account Stephen King’s oeuvre.

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Spec-Fic Legend Richard Matheson Dies at 87


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Horror and science-fiction writer Richard Matheson died

Sunday, June 23rd at the age of 87.

Matheson is one of my favourite authors of horror and science-fiction. His 1954 novella I am Legend treated the vampire myth with a scientific lens, where Robert Neville uses local resources to try to find a cure for the disease—his notable efforts lead him not only on a vampire-killing crusade through the suburbs, but also to his municipal library branch where he uses good old-fashioned research to best the undead. The story has been adapted for the screen numerous times (The Last Man on Earth, 1964; The Omega Man, 1971; and I am Legend, 2007), none of which has perfectly captured all the nuance contained within—I could write a whole paper on the ways in which the Will Smith abomination eviscerated all substance and meaning, but that’s a story for another time. “I don’t know why Hollywood keeps coming back to the book just to not do it the way I wrote it,” Matheson said in an interview with David Brown and John Scoleri in 2001. “The book should have been filmed as is at the time it came out. It’s too late now… It is just the nature of Hollywood to try to ‘improve’ or reinterpret.” The novella was also the inspiration behind George A. Romero’s zombie cult classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), and is therefore one of the grandfathers of the modern zombie revival. In the same interview, Matheson also shared his reaction to seeing Night of the Living Dead:

“I ran across [Romero’s] film on TV one night and thought, ‘When did they make my novel into a film again?’ His series of films put the final stake into the idea of making my novel into a film. They should just stop trying. To me, vampires are totally passe anyway. They are disgusting creatures who smell bad and are revolting in every way. Turning female vampires into sexy creatures is absurd.”

Richard Matheson was also the creative genius behind one of the best-loved episodes of The Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 feet,” (1963) in which a young William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of an airplane. The episode permeated pop culture so heavily, that even those who have never once seen an episode of The Twilight Zone recognize this episode.

Other notable contributions to literature include novels Hell House (1971), which is essentially a more violent and sexually explicit knock-off of Shirley Jackson’s brilliant The Haunting of Hill House (1951) but still holds its own merit, and What Dreams May Come (1978), in which Matheson moved away from the horror genre in favour of a metaphysical love story that shares elements with the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. As with I am Legend, these tales were later adapted for film with varying success.

Last week, I attended IdeaCity in Toronto as ladp-thumba bookseller for the event. One of the guests was Paul Davids, a documentary filmmaker who worked with Richard Matheson on The Life After Death Project, a film covering the quest for proof that something remains when our bodies lie dead. I regret not being able to speak with Davids in person about working with Matheson. In the film, Matheson states that he believes [mutual acquaintance and sci-fi bigwig] “Forrest J. Ackerman, who in life was a skeptic, actually has engaged in After Death Communication (ADC) with the director of this film and others.” If Mr. Matheson is correct, it is quite possible that he may be floating around as one of the spirits and ghouls he was so fond of—so break out those Ouija boards, I’m sure that a creative force such as he would never be able to resist sharing more tales from the other side.

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Toronto Comic Arts Festival 10th Anniversary: May 11-12

It’s hard to believe that ten years have gone by since the Toronto Comic Arts Festival first began. It’s an amazing treat for comic lovers: a showcase of great local and international talent that is totally FREE to attend, a gift to true fans who may find the extortionate fees for the annual Fan Expo at the Toronto Convention Centre in August daunting. Started in 2003 and shifting from churches to colleges to tents, the festival finally settled at the Toronto Reference Library downtown where it has been held for the past three years, boasting an attendance of 15,000 guests in 2011.

With the anniversary this weekend, expect bigger crowds due to the big name artists that will be attending, from biographers like Art Spiegelman (Maus) and David B. (Epileptic) to homegrown talents like Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) and Chester Brown (Ed the Happy Clown).

There are also many events that are being held in various locations close to the Toronto Reference Library, all withing wallking distance of the exhibition. Visit the TCAF website for a full list of activities and locations.


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What to Read Next??


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As I approach the end of another novel, I look to the stack of books under my window to see what I can tick off my “to read” list next. But lately I’ve been looking at it and feeling uninspired. So how do you figure out what you are really in the mood to read next?

Just check out these book list flowcharts, they make it easy to decide between dozens of options. Click on the images to see them in full size!

This Sci-Fi/Fantasy flowchart from NPR was floating around my social media circles last year, and it is still my favourite. Not content with a binary division of your interests? This one walks the middle ground, including hybrids, horror, and graphic novels too. It is by far the most comprehensive suggestion list I’ve ever seen, and much too difficult to pick a favourite in the bunch.


Brought to us by happinessinsmiles at reddit, and this next chart was inspired by the one above. While the NPR Sci-Fi/Fantasy chart does include a few horror suggestions, the one below kicks it up a notch including a variety of classic and contemporary titles. My only complaint is that some of the titles are very difficult to read, and there are no captions below the book covers for clarity. I suggest jumping right to Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.


Next up is a very tongue in cheek infographic from Goodreads, and it suggests some pretty good reads — if you can get past the snickers of “Hipster!” while reading them in your local fair-trade organic coffee shop. My faves on the list are Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn and — ok, I confess, the only other title I’ve read was Bechdel’s Fun Home graphic novel memoir. I’m too old to be a hipster anyways.


Last but not least is a flowchart of epic proportions created by the folks over at Teach.com . I love this one because it includes a large selection of non-fiction titles, something that is lacking in all other suggestion charts I’ve found. For readability, I think it would benefit from a slight edit to place these categories horizontally. According to this one, it looks like my next read is Kevin Mitnick’s autobiography, Ghost in the Wires.Teach.com-IG-Summer-Reading-Flow-Chart-Final-Draft-Not-Max

What kind of flowcharts would you like to see? I’d love to see more Canadian representation, or better yet a whole chart just for Can Lit!

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The Eh List: Toronto Public Library Events This May


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It’s the first day of a new month, and in additional to some overdue spring weather, May brings us another installment of The Eh List, the Toronto Public Library’s series of author talks around the GTA.

redplanetWednesday, May 1
Robert J. Sawyer — Red Planet Blues
7pm — North York Central Library

The latest from sci-fi novelist Robert J. Sawyer tells the story of private dick Alex Lomax working the “mean streets” of New Klondike on Mars. Philip K. Dick meets Raymond Chandler, Red Planet Blues is sure to be a satisfying read, especially considering Sawyer’s bestselling Triggers (2012). Don’t miss your chance to get your book signed at his only TPL appearance this spring!



livesThursday, May 2
Sandra Martin — Working the Dead Beat: 50 Lives That Changed Canada
12:30pm — Toronto Reference Library

In her second appearance with The Eh List, Sandra Martin speaks again about life as an obituarist with the Globe and Mail. Her last engagement at the Barbara Frum branch on April 18th focused on Martin’s view of obituaries: they are not about a morbid fascination with death, as commonly believed, but rather a celebration of life. More than just summarizing the fifty Canadian personalities she mentions in Working the Dead Beat, Martin included recent notorious deaths such as Stompin’ Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil. I look forward to seeing her again tomorrow afternoon at the Toronto Reference Library – it’s always interesting to note the way a speaker changes her focus depending on the audience.

jugglerThursday, May 9
Carolyn Abraham — The Juggler’s Children: A Tale of Two Chromosomes that Solved a Family Mystery
7pm — Barbara Frum Branch

In her memoir with a genetic bent, Carolyn Abraham brings us into her genealogical search for her roots and questions how much we can learn from genetics alone. Using do-it-yourself DNA technology, Abraham travelled the world taking samples from relatives and strangers in order to decode her family history and piece together the stories of her two very different grandfathers. Her multicultural background speaks to the histories of many Canadians, and takes on questions of identity, race, and the ongoing “nature versus nurture” debate.

imposterTuesday, May 14
Nancy Richler — The Imposter Bride
7pm — Runnymede Branch

Thursday, May 15
7pm — North York Central Library

Lily Azerov has just arrived in postwar Montreal, and it is revealed early in the novel that she isn’t who she claims to be. After living the charade for a year, Lily takes off and abandons her husband and infant daughter. Years later, it is her daughter who delves into the life of her mysterious mother. Who was she, and what happened to the woman whose life she stole? Why did she leave her family, and where did she go? Identity, loss, and family are the key themes in Nancy Richler’s third novel, The Imposter Bride, which was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

matadoraWednesday, May 15
Elizabeth Ruth — Matadora
7pm — Toronto Reference Library

Set in Spain and Mexico during the 1930s, a bullfighter named El Corazon impresses audiences with death defying feats of bravery, but what really attracts the crows is El Corazon’s true identity: Cabarello Garcia, an impoverished servant girl entering the bullring when it was illegal for females to do so. Recently published, Matadora has received great reviews, reaching #3 on Now Magazine‘s must-read list for Spring.


ruWednesday, May 22
Kim Thuy — Ru
3:30pm — Northern District branch (English)
7pm — Northen District branch (French)

Kim Thuy will be giving two talks in the same day at the Northern District branch, first in English and then in French. Her poetic, fictionalized memoir of life as a Vietnamese ex-pat tells of her former life and her family’s emmigration to Montreal by way of Malaysia. I have not read Ru in its original French, but Sheila Fischman’s translation was just gorgeous (and shortlisted in 2012 for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation). It’s a bit more difficult to locate the book in French outside of Quebec, so the University of Toronto Bookstore will have some copies available for sale at the evening French talk.

emptyWednesday, May 29
Lauren B. Davis — The Empty Room
7pm — North York Central Library

Join Lauren B. Davis for the launch of her semi-autobiographical novel, The Empty Room. It is a raw and emotional journey into fictional character Colleen Kerrigan’s battle with alcoholism, that will take us through Colleen’s past, where her constant companion through good times and bad is the bottle. Ami McKay, author of The Birth House and The Virgin cure, calls it “a rare act of courage—every page a brilliant, defiant examination of desire, loss, sorrow, triumph and grace.”

ideaThursday, May 30
Edward Keenan — Some Great Idea: Good Neighbourhoods, Crazy Politics and the Invention of Toronto
7pm — Barbara Frum Branch

City politics have been more contentious than ever since the inauguration for Toronto mayor Rob Ford in 2010. Despite his main focus on “Ford Nation”, Ed Keenan isn’t satisfied to blame recent struggles on one man alone. As senior editor of the free local newspaper The Grid (formerly Eye Magazine), he has seen the city grapple with amalgamation and the oscillation from left to right as politicians duke it out over the country’s largest municipality. Some Great Idea takes into account all of these factors, and presents a vision for Toronto’s future. At roughly 200 pages, this quick but thorough read is sure to generate interesting discussion at this event.

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