Friday, December 7, 2007

Favourite Reads of 2007 - The Librarian's Picks Part 2

Today we have some librarian picks from Western and Central Ontario. The Deweys have been bumping into Sharron Smith at various libraries all across the province this fall, as she is in high demand with her seminars for readers' advisory staff. She also teaches a course at the Library School of the University of Western Ontario where John Miedema, our second guest, is a student. He also runs the terrific slowreading blog

Sharron Smith's picks - Kitchener Public Library
Here is my list of some of my favourite reads of 2007:

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Debut novelist Horan blends fact and fiction as she recounts the affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of one of Wright’s clients. Commissioned to build a home for the Cheney’s in 1903, the two went on to have an affair that shocked society of the day and destroyed themselves and those around them. Horan is able to draw the reader into the life of Mamah and her thoughts and feelings about her choices and Wright himself come through clearly. This is not so much the story of an affair, but rather the implications of choices that were made by a woman trying to carve out a life for herself beyond the bonds of the early twentieth century.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hoseini
Two boys, Amir, son of a prominent and wealthy man, Hassan, son of Amir's father's servant, it is through the recounting of the relationship between these two boys that the reader is taken into Afghanistan. Hosseini, through the pages of his story explores relationships – the bonds between fathers and sons, the bonds between two boys raised in the same home yet worlds apart and the bonds of culture. Through the recounting their lives and their choices, we learn about life in Kabul before the Russian invasion and then the destruction of all they held dear. This is a tour de force that clearly demonstrates the power of story.

Smoke by Elizabeth Ruth
Travel back to rural Southern Ontario in the 1950s through the pages of Elizabeth Ruth’s second novel, Smoke. Here we meet Buster McFiddie, a popular, handsome 15-year-old whose life changes forever one night after he falls asleep in bed smoking and Doc John, the town doctor who tells Buster stories of a Detroit mob gang in the 30’s to help him ease the pain of his burns. As the story unfolds, the reader is asked to consider what is most important, who we are on the outside or the inside.

Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema
The lives of the characters in this book are changed forever following a hit-and-run accident that leaves three year old Sherry Barrett in a coma. Sherry’s parents, forced to confront every parent’s nightmare - the loss of a child, take their daughter off life support, however, the child breathes on her own, this is only the first of a number of “miracles”. At home, Sherry’s nurse discovers that the child’s touch has the power to heal and as word of this gift leaks out believers begin to gather. Like Sherry’s parents, the reader is asked to consider questions of faith and belief.

October by Richard B. Wright
With a grace and gentleness of style Wright weaves the story of a man who must confront both his present and his past and the connection between the two. James Hillyer, a retired professor, is in England to spend time with his daughter, she has recently been diagnosed with cancer. While there, he has a chance encounter with a man he knew as a teenager and it is through this meeting that he comes to recall a summer spent with his uncle in Quebec and to consider a unique request that will help him face the possibility of outliving his child.

Never wanting to waste a “free” moment, I indulged myself during my recent weekly travels between Kitchener and London, with some great pleasure reads. Audiobooks are a fabulous way to experience books that you might just not find time to get to. Here are some recent “reads” that have engaged and entertained while on the road.

Austenland by Shannon Hale
The Sea by John Banville
Abundance : a novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund
Mary Modern : a novel
by Camille DeAngelis
The secret life of Josephine : Napoleon's bird of paradise by Carolly Erickson

Sharron Smith is the Manager of Readers’ Advisory Services at the Kitchener Public Library and the co-author of Canadian Fiction: a guide to reading interests a resource designed to connect readers and books; as well, she is an active participant in a professional readers’ advisory committees both in Ontario and the U.S. A committed promoter of reading in her community through appearances on local television, public speaking and community outreach; she has been actively involved with the Region of Waterloo’s One Book, One Community program, one of the first community reading campaigns in Canada, since it began in 2002.

John Miedema's Top 10 Books of 2007 - University of Western Ontario Library School :

I have a strong preference for Canadian fiction writers as you can tell by the list. Salamander was the top pick because it is a wonderful story about a printer, and I grew up in the printing shop of my family home. Black Water was my first BookCrossing catch (; what fun! I enjoy reading slowly; the top ten are almost all the books I have read for pleasure this year.

Salamander, Thomas Wharton
Conceit, Mary Novik
The Republic of Nothing, Lesley Choyce
Bloodletting & Miracle Cures, Vincent Lam
The Memory of Running, Ron McLarty
The 100 Mile Diet, Alisa Smith & J.B. Mackinnon
Home Schooling, Carol Windley
A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel
Job: A Comedy of Justice, Robert Heinlein
Black Water, TJ MacGregor

John Miedema is a library student at the University of Western Ontario, and author of the blog,

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