Monday, August 15, 2016


I am fortunate to be a member of two libraries--in Hamilton where I live and in Burlington where I work.  This blog is not intended to compare two books so much as to celebrate one concept.  There are far more worthy books to read than any one has time for.  When a library committee sorts through  multitudes of books with a theme (usually local) it gives a focus that helps select something to read.  You are also sharing an experience with others in your community,

Reading is mostly an individual experience.  We can really get wrapped up in a good book and often will tell friends about our favourites.  The Library can help make this a true communal experience.

Over the years each library has selected one book they encourage all their members to read.   I have read many of their selections--once devoting a blog to a selection from Burlington.   The book I had not heard of before was "The Beauty of Humanity Movement." You can read about it here: Another year I had bought the Hamilton selection, "Beach Strip" written by John Lawrence Reynolds who had done some work with the company I work with.  I was able to attend a talk with him.  The book was about things I knew including one place about six blocks from where I live.

This year the Hamilton Library chose "The Illegal"  by Lawrence Hill as their One Book One Community selection which also won the Canada Reads contest.  I had read two other books by the author including previous Canada Reads winner, "The Book of Negroes."  "The Illegal" was set on two mythical islands in the Indian Ocean  symbolizing US and Mexico (or maybe not) and focuses on undocumented refugees.  There were a few references to Canada such as Tim Horton's.  The author is a runner and made his main character a long distance runner. who had diabetes.  There was cast of characters including a wheelchair bound black lesbian reporter, young genius reporter, a few hookers, politicians, crooked and otherwise  One island is poor and authoritarian so there are attempts to escape.  A little mystery, a little romance and lots of satire.

Burlington chose "The Day the Falls Stood Still." published in 2009 as their One Book One Burlington selection.  A friend of my daughter's from King's College in Halifax came to visit us and of course was driven to Niagara Falls which she said was "disappointing." On the way home from Kings College I had dragged my daughter on a trip to Grand Falls, New Brunswick to show her something I had found moderately impressive, only it wasn't impressive at all, just a mere trickle compared to what I had seen on earlier trips.  The explanation for both disappointments boils down to human priorities.  In Grand Falls I learned that water had been diverted for agricultural purposes.  I always thought Niagara Falls was impressive, but have learned that in fact water had been diverted for hydro.  Cathy raised in Niagara Falls researched history including stunts, floaters and electric power development..  There is a focus on environmental concerns comparing coal with hydro power.  Another aspect of the book is with fashion and dressmaking.  I have not only visited Niagara Falls as a tourist, but more often as a salesman and recognized some of the scenery.  The time period is around World War I with references to some Canadian battles as well as the conscription issue (with a francopone tilt).

As part of the process you have a chance to meet the author and ask questions.  Discussions with other readers can help you understand and appreciate the book.   Each library stocks up on the old fashioned books and the catching on e books.  There are usually book kits aimed at book clubs.  With so many copies available you'll be able to discuss it with other patrons--it likely will have some local relevance.  A great concept.  Your library may well have a similar program and if not I suggest you encourage the idea.

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