Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sneak Reading


I had some nasty surgery last summer and ever since I have been slightly obsessed with infrared sauna therapy. It has much to recommend it: it improves circulation, encourages a phenomenon called "resonance" that aids in cellular regeneration, acts as an artificial fever (very pleasantly) revving the immune system, and, significantly, provides captive reading time.

Sitting in the wooden box my nephews like to refer to as "the spaceship," I have forty-five minutes where I must allow the technology that is beyond me to do its good slow cooking work. I have been caught out in other parts of my life for my renegade reading. As I was dropping my son off at his piano lesson the other day, he arched one eyebrow and said, "I know you take so long to come back because you are sneak-reading in the car." Busted! But the sauna feels like an appropriate place--I always bring in a stack of books, because forty-five minutes can be a long time with a bad book. Recently, I started The Dinner by Herman Koch and found it read like a thriller, but had to leave it behind once my forty-five minutes were up. It was since stolen by my stepfather, who read the entire thing and hated it--"It was terrible, just terrible."

My book list for today's session is Good Kids by Benjamin Nugent, Living Beautifully by Pema Chodron and Object Lessons by the Paris Review.

Locked in. Blissed out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

1001 Books: Saturday, Timbuktu, Turn of the Screw, The Monk

When I first found out about the 1001 Books list, I was unduly thrilled because it brought together two things I love best—books and lists! To be honest, I never actually bought the book itself, and I have read only a few of the commentaries contained therein. I felt that if I learned too much about why someone else thought the books were important my mind would not be sufficiently open when I read the works myself. Instead, I found an online copy of The List and set to work.

The List is organized chronologically, starting with the twenty-first-century titles, but I felt it would get dull to read my way backwards into history—why not mix it up a little and read a book from each of the centuries in turn, and then start over again with the present day? As I mentioned in my previous blog, I decided to forgo the ancients in favour of reading from the seventeenth century forward. I also resolved that on my first run through The List that I would only read titles we had in stock at the Bookshelf, so I wouldn’t have to wait a single day between finishing one book and starting another, time being of the essence.


The first book I read was Ian McEwan’s Saturday, and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed with it. It was the first McEwan novel I’d read and I was immediately impressed with his eloquent style and the story’s tensely-paced ending. Loving Saturday was a great way to start my reading project and it made me optimistic for what other literary treats lay in store. I will say, however, that despite my initial enthusiasm for McEwan, he has failed to impress me with some of his other titles from The List—Amsterdam and Enduring Love didn‘t capture my interest like I‘d hoped. Perhaps when I get around to reading Atonement, McEwan will at last redeem himself (nyuk nyuk nyuk).


After Saturday, I picked up Paul Auster’s Timbuktu with no small amount of excitement. I’d read Auster’s New York Trilogy years earlier and had loved it! Regrettably, Auster’s attempt to write from the perspective of a dog was simply underwhelming.
The List made up for its Timbuktu misstep when I started Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. I was familiar with James. I’d always thought his characters unique and his use of language remarkable. Yet, however much I admired James, I would not have described his novels as enjoyable, let alone exciting—until I read The Turn. What a fun little ghost story! I finished up my first round of books with M. G. Lewis’ The Monk, a book so awesomely creepy that, in hindsight, I’m surprised I’d never heard of it before. Seriously, this man was writing horror before Bram Stoker was a gleam in his mother’s eye! Highly recommended!

My first round of The List completed, I was happy to note that I’d happily give a thumbs up to three out of the four books. Would round two be so satisfying? That is a question to be answered in another blog….

- Steph


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Books We Return To


I’ve written on bedtime books before, but I’d like to tweak the topic a bit and ruminate on bedside books—that is, those books that stay by the bedside and that we turn and return to whenever we have the reading itch but don’t know exactly what it is we want to read. These authors are on speed dial—in Johnny-Rotten-Speak, they provide a satisfying scratch even when we “don’t know what we want, but we know how to get it” (or, in a less safety-pin-ridden variation on this theme, when we peevishly glance at a bookcase and think “Here we are now; entertain us”). A similar thing happens with food—one feels snacky or vaguely hungry, but without a focused craving. Whenever I’m feeling that way, I usually reach for the easiest fix—KD, ramen noodles, a handful of nuts, a peach, a frozen dinner. Why put a bunch of effort into making something when I don’t know what it is I want to make? But we don’t have to make books, just enjoy them, and so it is possible, book-wise, to try to resolve your unfocused craving by taking a tentative nibble of coq au vin or a forkful of soufflé just to see if it suits your present whims.

Now that I think of it, it’s not just by the bedside that these kinds of books live. One might keep them in a bookcase close to a favoured comfy chair, or even on a chair by the kitchen table. The key is easy access; part of the pleasure of these books is that they’re always patiently waiting for me instead of needing to be found. Sure, one could always flop down in said chair and fire up a smart phone or tablet, but sometimes we crave something a bit more substantial than the informational sugar-rush we mainline from the Internet, and sometimes, instead of speed-dating authors as we do while surfing, we want to hunker down with a familiar companion who tells tales that become more burnished with each telling.



It’s likely everyone has different tastes when it comes to I-want-to-read-but-I-don’t-know-what books. Probably taking a cue from the 365 Bedtime Stories book I had beside my bed when I was but a boy, I favour big books full of little pieces, and in particular essays. I can open George Orwell’s Essays at any page at any time and find something worth reading, even if I’ve read the piece ten times before. It’s Orwell’s wonderfully lucid style that is the initial attractant; even if the subject is difficult, the reading is easy, and one can slip into an essay like one slips into a warm bath. But, even better, as you settle in you find that the bathtub becomes first a pond, then a lake, and then an ocean in which you can float around on your back, soaking up the sun on the surface, or jackknife down into chillier depths, depending on how hard you want to swim.




G. K. Chesterton is a less-known gem of a essayist, more whimsical by far than Orwell—one can’t imagine Orwell writing an ecstatic essay on chasing his wind-blown hat. Chesterton’s prose is full of playful twists and turns but, as with Orwell, after following the dancing thread of his thought, you may glance up and find yourself in the middle of a deep wood. No matter; plunge into the darkness between the trees if you like or keep to the bright path. Finally, I and Thou is certainly Martin Buber’s best-known book (You don’t even have to read the whole book to have it change you—just read the first two pages. If they leave you cold, then they’re not for you. But if they speak to you, you’ll not see the world in the same way again.), but I’ve been dipping into his Tales of the Hasidim for decades. It’s full of very brief anecdotes about Hasidic religious masters, and I read and re-read them mostly because, although the majority of them are a paragraph or two long and are told in simple, entertaining prose, I still very often don’t have a clue what’s going on, though I can sense that, whatever it is, it’s something profound, even if it sometimes seems merely absurd. Buber’s stories are bite-sized, but you can chew on them indefinitely. Sometimes I sit there trying to work things out, and sometimes I just go “Hmmm” and turn out the light. Either way, I sleep on a full belly.

Bookshelf Baby #3: Welcome Josephine!



Capping off our current windfall of Bookshelf babies (and, along with Ruby, definitively demolishing the Bookshelf's decade-long run of boy babies) is Josephine English Evans, who made her appearance on the morning of Feb. 22, weighing in at eight pounds. Josephine and parents Dan and Ali are all enjoying a blissful postpartum hiatus. Congratulations!


Friday, February 22, 2013

A Bookseller Bids Adieu


Our travel-literature-obsessed bookseller Ashley is off to study in New Zealand!
From the moment I discovered the Bookshelf as a fresh-faced eighteen-year-old bookworm starting uni in a new city, I knew I wanted to work here. After weekly browsing for my coveted art magazines and numerous resume drop-offs over the years I finally, FINALLY got in and man was I chuffed!

This is a big THANK YOU to my Bookshelf crew, my super-supportive, sometimes dysfunctional, loving family who make work a fun place to come to. You truly represent all of the amazing independent booksellers out there who genuinely love getting the perfect book into eager hands.

I am so proud to be a part of something so special to the community in Guelph and am so very grateful to have met you.

Open invitations to all heading down to New Zealand in the following years. I look forward to being your traveling blogger and reading what life brings you! All the best.

See you on the flip side

Love,
Ash


Tenth of December


George Saunders

So, the ginger's out of the bag.

Thanks to a laudatory, sometimes gushing profile in a well-known New York paper, and a nationally broadcast chit chat with Charlie Rose, the secret of George Saunders's sheer awesomeness is no longer a secret. Not that those of us who've been reading Saunders for a while now have been trying to keep the guy under any kind of wraps. Anyone sporting wood for contemporary short fiction will eventually demand you read him; if you can get out before this recommendation careens into proselytizing, consider yourself lucky. The aptest analogy I can conjure for this fandom is that Twilight Zone episode where William Shatner spots a gremlin on the wing of his plane. For years we nerds have been insisting that George Saunders is messing around out on the wing of literature. With the recent press surrounding Saunders's Tenth of December, the plane appears to have landed and now everyone can assess just how much monkeying that little guy has been up to all these years.




With the appearance of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline in 1996, Saunders drew apt and long-lasting comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut. In Saunders, as in Vonnegut (well, his early work, really), we find everyday schnooks struggling to comply with and understand a world that is becoming more and more unrecognizable. Saunders's near futures are gadget-rich and glutted with brands. In the story "Escape from Spiderhead," criminals are used as test subjects for drugs that bend emotion and intelligence, testing how genuine and alterable any of our basest experiences are. In "The Semplica Girl Diaries," refugees from the second and third worlds are hung as decorations, proof of one's status and success. In those stories that don't reach so far into America's branded future, Saunders spends his time in the fantasies of his characters and narrators—dreamers, usually outsiders, with broad, wonderful ideas about themselves that they strive to superimpose on a bleak and cold reality. 

The rejection of these graphs by the "real" world is where the deep heartbreak lives in stories that can otherwise read as kooky or jouncy. Here's chubby Robin in the eponymous story, who heads into the woods to battle the imaginary Nethers, who, he decides on the way, have abducted the new girl in his home room, Suzanne Bledsoe:
The twerpy thing was, you never really got to save anyone. Last summer there'd been a dying raccoon out here. He'd thought of lugging it home so Mom could call the vet. But up close it was too scary. Raccoons being actually bigger than they appear in cartoons. And this one looked like a potential biter. So he ran home to get it some water at least. Upon his return, he saw where the raccoon had done some apparent last-minute thrashing. That was sad. He didn't do well with sad. There had perchance been some pre-weeping, by him, in the woods.

Tenth of December is the polished product of a short story writer who has kept writing short stories. In nearly twenty years he has collected roughly 1,000 pages of fiction. The form has a reputation for being mostly a stepping stone towards novels, and while this isn't an absolute observation, it's often the case. Partly the reason is economic (short stories don't really sell as collections, and there are fewer and fewer print venues to sell the things); the other, shadier reason points to a general opinion of short stories as simply being a lesser form than those big, honking, rambling novels. The former point is the sad fact, the latter a seriously unfortunate canard. The sometimes-novelist but more often than not short story writer Steven Millhauser writes—in an essay in that same paper that loves Saunders—
Large things tend to be unwieldy, clumsy, crude; smallness is the realm of elegance and grace. It’s also the realm of perfection. The novel is exhaustive by nature; but the world is inexhaustible; therefore the novel, that Faustian striver, can never attain its desire. The short story by contrast is inherently selective. By excluding almost everything, it can give perfect shape to what remains. And the short story can even lay claim to a kind of completeness that eludes the novel—after the initial act of radical exclusion, it can include all of the little that’s left.... If you concentrate your attention on some apparently insignificant portion of the world, you will find, deep within it, nothing less than the world itself. In that single grain of sand lies the beach that contains the grain of sand. In that single grain of sand lies the ocean that dashes against the beach, the ship that sails the ocean, the sun that shines down on the ship, the interstellar winds, a teaspoon in Kansas, the structure of the universe. And there you have the ambition of the short story, the terrible ambition that lies behind its fraudulent modesty: to body forth the whole world.
The trouble with condensation of the world, as Millhauser describes, is that a lot of the magnification work is left up to the reader. I try not to say this, for fear of being seen as some sort of snob or dick, but I think it's this shared effort that keeps the meat of readers away from the short stuff. What's called reading is more often than not plot collecting. 

But I think the reason that Saunders is currently poised (thanks to the help of the media) to "get big," is because such work has never been this fun. It's going a bit far, I think, to call this book, or any book, The Best. But I understand the gushing, the push towards hyperbole. Tenth of December is an awesome book, and I can at least promise you that it will be the best book called Tenth of December that you will ever read.

- Andrew

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Book Club of One (Thousand and One)


I belong to a book club of one, where all of the selections are predetermined and (largely) non-negotiable. We read the classics, the moderns, the post-moderns and translated works. We read the kind of books we always wanted to get around to reading. We read the kind of books we would probably never think of reading otherwise. My book club is the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, as compiled by Peter Boxall in three editions, 2006, 2010 and 2012.


In case you haven't had the opportunity to peruse this sizable tome (the book itself is just shy of 1,000 pages long), you should know that its selections run the gamut from The Iliad to Bridget Jones's Diary, from Tolstoy to Stephen King. Each book has been chosen by a different person, and the resulting list is wonderfully eclectic, if a little bizarre at times. You can find an older version of the list on Listology.

I've been a member of this club since the year of the book's first publication, and my reading has been almost completely dictated by its suggestions (one really can't get through 1001 books before one dies if a certain cultish devotion isn't maintained.) To be fair, my four years as a student of English lit gave me a bit of an advantage, since I'd already read all of the Austen novels, and I had a pretty good jump on James, Eliot, and Dickens, too, due to an ongoing fascination with the late nineteenth century. Still, despite my scholarly experiences, I hadn't read the lion's share of the list, and I certainly had my work cut out for me where the twentieth century literature was concerned.

I should mention that, despite my best intentions, I had to abandon the ancient Greeks and Romans early on because I was already feeling overwhelmed by the epic style within the first five pages. I also found some of the books on the list so tedious that I started them but couldn't finish them. Surprisingly, these frustrating books weren't necessarily long or difficult, they were just irritating to me. Books that got kicked to the curb included: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, and Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Now I'm sure there are some very good people with some very good reasons why I should have soldiered on through these particular works, but there were time constraints and my own sanity to consider.

Having admitted my limitations, I will say that I have read several books that I liked well enough, many books that I read that were a complete waste of my time, and some books that were mind-blowingly great.  But that, as they say, is a blog for another day....

- Steph 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Authentic Happiness and Flourish



Martin Seligman

When I first heard about positive psychology it made immediate and great sense to me. For the last century, psychology has rightly focused on the pressing matter of psychopathologies such as phobias, depression, and schizophrenia. It has met these terrible causes of suffering head-on by cultivating theories, gathering scientific evidence, and establishing effective treatment protocols.

However, over time this focus has inadvertently cast a shadow over the possibility of a psychology that focuses on the positive. Martin Seligman first posited this idea in the mid-90s, when he was president of the American Psychological Association. In his first formulation, he gave a lot of weight to positive emotions, particularly happiness, and the application of “life satisfaction” testing. However, after receiving substantial professional criticism, Seligman moved toward a more sophisticated framework. He now uses “well being” as the optimal goal, where happiness and positive emotions are only one element. In his definition of well being Seligman also includes the quality of engagement or flow, the presence of meaning (which is being committed to something bigger than yourself, whether secular or spiritual), positive relationships, and achievement or mastery.

If you are interested in these ideas and practices around cultivating character strengths, virtues, and talents rather than solely attending to negative conditions, you might want to check out Authentic Happiness for the nuts and bolts of Seligman’s approach, or Flourish for his more recent theoretical developments and the application of positive psychology in larger institutions. You can also check out Seligman's website for more information.

p.s. There is a Canadian Positive Psychology Association, chaired by Jamie Gruman, currently a professor at the University of Guelph. 

- Ken


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just Call It The Bureau of Anti-Competition



The U.S. Department of Justice has just approved the merger of Penguin and Random House. The Canadian Competition Bureau will probably follow suit this spring. How can this be possible--unless they rename themselves the Bureaus of Anti-Competition? By even conservative accounts this will mean that the Random Penguin or Penguin House will control about 40% of the market. 

This American decision is the latest in their vendetta to actually crush competition in the guise of consumer protection. One of their latest decisions has been to charge five of the major publishers (Penguin is one of them) and Apple with ebook price fixing...or colluding to control the market. Some of the CEOs of these companies decided what their ebook price to Amazon would be over lunch. They needed to have a certain price to make their publishing programs sustainable. Amazon is the gorilla in the room. They pound their chests and demand higher discounts and more, more, more. They want to have the lowest ebook price in the world. The Department of Justice's decision virtually allows Amazon to sell ebooks at below cost. They don't even care if they make money in the bookselling part of their business because they sell tractors, washing machines, and beauty products too. 

And what will the ramifications of these decisions be? Amazon has been enabled to control the retail book business, and it is on their agenda to become a major publisher as well. Random Penguin will become an even bigger account for all dwindling booksellers. If Random Penguin changes their payment terms, booksellers will have no choice but to pay them earlier. Smaller publishers will be behind them in payment. C'est la vie I guess in today's careening monopolistic book world.

- Barb

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Middlesteins



Jami Attenberg
Our intelligence is imperfect, surely and newly arisen; the ease with which it can be sweet-talked, overwhelmed, or subverted by our other hardwired propensities--sometimes themselves disguised as the cool light of reason--is worrisome.

- Carl Sagan
Jami Attenberg's The Middlesteins opens with a devoted mother battling up four sets of stairs, bags full of food, library books weighing her down, as her exhausted, overweight daughter Edie pleads with her to carry her up. Neighbours open their doors and shrivel the emotionally complicated scene with these words: "It was just that fat kid from 6D." The doors bang shut. With that foreboding dismissal, you realize little Edie is f*cked. 

The novel then leaps ahead many years, centering around Edie's rotting legs and her inability to stop hurting herself through food. Attenberg switches perspectives between Edie, Edie's husband, and Edie's children and their families. The family members' tendency to judge and assume is highly amusing, and it's incredible how little each character actually sees into the larger drama and the smallness of their own concerns. Edie is morbidly obese, acerbic, and smart as hell. Inside her lumbering shell, though, is a timeless tenderness for her father and her own husband, who she nearly pecks to death. Black rotten teeth, hideously swollen legs, she beams love at her grandchildren and her own kids, who mostly turned out OK. I loved the individual takes on their shared reality. It is always humbling and wonderful to be reminded that truth is a many-faceted thing, and may shift and creak from day to day.

Highly recommended.

- Hannah

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Black Swan


Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A black swan is a highly impactful, often destructive event, like the tsunami that destroyed the nuclear power plants in Japan in March 2011. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb states, a black swan “lies outside the realm of regular expectations because nothing in the past can convincingly point to the possibility” of its occurrence. We tend to try to make black swans look explainable and even predictable so that it seems the situations would have been manageable if only we had been better prepared, whereas in all likelihood this wasn’t possible. Taleb suggests that we will see more and more of these events because of the growing interdependence of world events and the leveraging of power through technology.

To me the central idea of The Black Swan is the “Platonic fold,” which is the gap that exists between the map and the actual territory being described. This is important because it can cause “Platonic blindness,” a state in which we rely on familiar abstractions rather than being present to an ever-changing and  infinitely more complex reality. Taleb identifies five common errors that heighten these misperceptions and miscalculations: 1) The error of confirmation, where for example a turkey has 1,000 really good days that seem to confirm that the farmer has his best interests at heart, and then Thanksgiving Day ends very badly. 2) The narrative fallacy, in which we tell ourselves or each other a story about an event that oversimplifies or distorts it, making it more acceptable or less frightening. 3) A variety of arguments that suggest that “human nature is not programmed for Black Swans,” but rather for small, day-to-day successes or failures. 4) The distortion of “silent evidence,” such as discussing the efficacy of prayer in surviving a shipwreck when we only hear the testimony of survivors. 5) Finally there is tunnelling, where we look to known examples of risk, thereby missing the unexpected ones.


The Black Swan challenges our understanding of risk, causality, and knowledge, and our assumptions about the world. 

- Ken

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Song of Roland




Michel Rabagliati, Trans. Helge Dascher

With a slight nod of the (pen)cap to one of the oldest surviving epics of French literature, Rabagliati offers us a tender story about age, perseverance, and immortality. The Song of Roland continues the chronicle of his alter-ego, Paul (Paul Has a Summer Job; Paul Moves Out), this time with a story about the life and death of Paul’s father-in-law, a larger-than-life patriarch, living in suburban Quebec, who faces death by cancer with the strength of character he uses to inspire and love his large Catholic family.

Rabagliati’s style is beautiful, brush-work centred, and reminiscent of European comics. Black and white line drawings on heavy paper stock always make me notice the impact, psychological and physical, of light on a scene. A bright scene, with lots of white space for sky, can make a reader feel a sense of peace. Heavily hatched lines or darkly filled backgrounds feel sinister, foreboding. Rabagliati is fantastic with the weight of his drawings, and the way this scenery is reflected in the emotions of his characters. A typical scene of four or five panels can pass with few words, just facial and body language, and much conveyed.
This book is part of the excellent BDANG series (I believe the acronym is Bande Dessinees en ANGlais), which aims to translate major French-language cartoons into English in order to interest a new market in French Canada.

- Dan

Monday, February 11, 2013

Beyond Belief


Jenna Miscavige Hill

You might think that acronyms like MEST and Out 2D are the latest in texting communication. But if you are a Scientologist you know that MEST means "matter, energy, space, time" and Out 2D refers to someone who has had an affair. If you are at all critical of the church you are deemed an SP, or suppressive person. Very bad. This was the label given to Nicole Kidman when she separated from Tom Cruise. SPs are so evil that their family and friends are mandated to have nothing to do with them.

Jenna Miscavige Hill’s recent expose of Scientology, Beyond Belief, couldn’t have a better title. If even a quarter of what she relates is true, you will find yourself wondering how this organization could possibly have tax-exempt status in the U.S. and why it hasn’t been investigated for child abuse, kidnapping, and fraud. The Church is so litigious that recently Random House of Canada decided not to distribute one of their authors who has just published his own book on Scientology called Going Clear.  They know how to control and instill fear.



Jenna is third-generation Scientology. Her parents were part of Sea Org, which as far as I can tell is the clergy. They had her before they rose up the ranks, as Sea Orgers are not supposed to have children. They were often separated, having been assigned different tasks around the world. Jenna was left to live in a camp in California with other children of Sea Orgers. She saw her parents once a year. Her day consisted of early rising, followed by manual labour in the morning and studying in the afternoon--seven days a week. These kids studied the hallucinatory and copious works of L. Ron Hubbard, or LRH, as everyone called him. It sounds as close to brain washing as I can imagine.

The media has loved Beyond Belief (see, for instance, this Globe and Mail article). That’s because Jenna is the niece of David Miscavige, the leader of Scientology. He is the eminence grise behind her many horrifying attempts to leave the church. The story would definitely make a great Hollywood blockbuster. Perhaps Paul Haggis could direct it. But it will also get you thinking about religion, democracy, control, child rearing, and what is fair in this crazy, polarized, materialistic world that we all live in. "Going clear" is the highest realm in Scientology. When in his song "Famous Blue Raincoat" Leonard Cohen asked, "Did you ever go clear?I had no idea what he was talking about. Now I do.




By the way, non-Scientologists are called wogs. That’s a derogatory and I suppose in some way a racist term. The Globe and Mail reported this weekend that the newest church opened this Saturday in Cambridge! See also this article in the Cambridge Times.

- Barb

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Resources for Parents and Others

This week (Feb. 4-10) is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and both Laura from F.E.A.S.T. (an international organization that helps parents and caregivers support people suffering from eating disorders) and Andrea Lamarre from the Guelph-Wellington Eating Disorders Coalition have provided a suggested reading list to increase awareness around eating disorders and related issues.


Help your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder, by James Locke and Daniel Le Grange

Locke and Le Grange provide the tools you need to build a united family front that attacks the illness to ensure that your child develops nourishing eating habits and life-sustaining attitudes, day by day, meal by meal. 
Brave Girl Eating, by Harriet Brown

In this emotionally resonant and compelling memoir, journalist and professor Harriet Brown takes readers—moment by moment, spoonful by spoonful—through her family’s experience with the nightmare of anorexia. 
Eating with your Anorexic, by Laura Collins

This poignant and informative narrative relates how one mother  treated her daughter's life-threatening anorexia using the Maudsley Approach, a home-based, family-centered therapy developed in Great Britain in the 1980s. 
My Kid Is Back, by June Alexander and Daniel Le Grange

My Kid is Back explains how family-based treatment can greatly reduce the severity of anorexia nervosa in children and adolescents, allowing the sufferer to return to normal eating patterns, and their families to return to normal family life.
Decoding Anorexia, by Carrie Arnold

Carrie Arnold, a trained scientist, science writer, and past sufferer of anorexia, speaks with clinicians, researchers, parents, other family members, and sufferers about the factors that make one vulnerable to anorexia, the neurochemistry behind the call of starvation, and why it’s so hard to leave anorexia behind.
Life Without Ed, by Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge


For years, author Jennifer Schaefer lived with both anorexia and bulimia. She credits her successful recovery to the technique she learned from her psychologist, Thom Rutledge. This groundbreaking book illustrates Rutledge's technique. 
Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, by Jenni Shaefer

Goodbye Ed, Hello Me shows you that being fully recovered is not just about breaking free from destructive behaviors with food and having a healthy relationship with your body; it also means finding joy and peace in your life.
The Diet Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health, by Paul Campos

After years spent scrutinizing medical studies and interviewing leading doctors, scientists, eating- disorder specialists, and psychiatrists, Professor Paul Campos shows that we can safeguard our health without obsessing about the numbers on the scale. 
Making Weight – Men’s Conflict With Food, Shape & Appearance, by Arnold Anderson

The first book to explore why so many of today's men are experiencing problems that have traditionally been considered "women's issues." 
Hooked on Exercise: How to Manage Exercise Addiction by Rebecca Prussin, Philip Harvey, and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo

The authors discuss the causes of exercise abuse and how to get the maximum benefits from a regular exercise program without crossing the line to unhealthy amounts of activity.


A Sisterhood of Travellers



To be honest, right now during the last week I haven't had the slightest urge to crack open a book or even pay attention to anything on the pages of the usual mags I flip through. Not even a quick pop into the library for my weekly browse! My mind has been elsewhere, it seems, but I don't fret and never do, because I know the eventual tug toward a nice-looking cover or a word that catches my eye always pulls me back from the drought.

My book choices flow like cycles throughout the year. Fiction for one month, history the next. I can binge for ages on travel lit, which I notice happens more during warmer months, although I always keep watch up back in the travel section for anything new that jumps out at me.

Surfing, street food, endless stars in a desert sky. I don't know what it is, but a great travel read really seems to feed the soul and open the mind to all of life's possibilities. I tell you, reading travel lit (written by women especially) makes me feel normal. It's hard to explain the feeling, that itch, the bug, the lust to move and explore. It's like being part of some secret club--these strangers, these comrades. So comforting to read the very thoughts and feelings I have expressed that no one but a traveler could fully understand. Favourites like Tales of a Female NomadGo Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Soloand the great read Wanderlust by Elisabeth Eaves, all written by women who took the leap.

Their stories aren't always happy or fantastical, but that's the point. They can be as simple as ordering some food, cramming onto a packed train, being chased by monkeys, a hot kiss against a hostel door, and the occasional scam, theft, missed connection thrown in when you least expect it. (Isn't that how it always goes?)
The best kind of travel—the kind I wanted to experience—involves a particular state of mind, in which one is not merely open to the occurrence of the unexpected, but to deep involvement in the unexpected, indeed, open to the possibility of having one’s life changed forever by a chance encounter.

- Elizabeth Eaves
Who knows what will happen, where the turn you make will take you? It's scary, it's adventurous, it's travel. Isn't that an exciting thing to think about? I love how Eaves references the Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime" before some travels, and it's so fitting. YOLO just isn't gonna do.
You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself, where does that highway go to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?




P.S. I am so keen to check out new release On the Road, opening at the Bookshelf Cinema Feb 8.

- Ashley Varangu


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jazz Improvisors Raid The Bookshelf!





I'm Dawn Matheson, proud member of The Bookshelf's extended family--as a customer, former bookseller, event organizer, Off The Shelf writer, and general bookstore flirt. Now I get to contribute some video to The Bookshelf's cyber-home, starting with this footage of multiple Juno-award winner Jane Bunnett blowing her horn and flitting her flute between the bookshelves. 

In 2011, Bunnett was the inaugural Improviser in Residence with the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice project at the University of Guelph under the direction of Dr. Ajay Heble. Her residency was supported by Guelph's Musagetes Foundation. It was my job to follow her around and document some of her collaborations and interventions with the Guelph community. I ended up making six videos, plus pasting together this Bookshelf footage. Some of the other videos can be found at the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice website, and on a DVD in a gorgeous publication put out by ICASP and Musagetes entitled "Things That You Hope a Human Being Will Be." 

Nicholas Loess shot around 20 minutes of Bunnett and fellow musicians making a ruckus at the bookstore amongst unsuspecting book browsers. I edited that footage into five minutes of tape in the attached video. Enjoy!


- Dawn Matheson

Monday, February 4, 2013

Putting Your Money Where Your Foot Is

                                            
A couple of weeks ago, on one of those minus 20 days, I saw a very odd sight downtown: a young man walking on the snow-covered sidewalk with no shoes or socks on! “Wow,” I said to my thirty-something son, “He must have had a late night.”

“No,” my son protested, “He's a really smart guy and he’s been walking around like that for a couple of years.”

As synchronicity would have it, this very same shoeless chap walked into the bookstore this week. He ambled to the back and very shortly came up to pay for a 736-page critically acclaimed novel called House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. During our commercial exchange I summoned up the courage to ask him why he wears no footwear. His response: “It’s political. I’m protesting the shoe industry with all of its nefarious practices, like child labour and unhealthy working conditions. Plus shoes are just bad for your feet.”

I told him that he was lucky he wasn’t a woman. “Try putting yourself into any of the ridiculous high-heeled contraptions that have been foisted upon women for years.” And with a nod and a knowing smile on his face he left to trudge the cold sidewalks.

That evening I mentioned this chap to a friend of mine who is a teacher. She said that he often comes to her high school to talk to the kids about the politics of shoes. They call him Shoeless Joe and always welcome his visits. I thoroughly enjoyed having my first impression changed from thinking he was a guy who was just coming home from a late-night party to understanding that he was someone who actually walks his talk.