Pinawa Life
January 2006 Newsletter Archive

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The Biblio File

January 3

Pinawa Public Library

Tues-Fri 1:30-4:30

Mon-Fri 6:30-9:00

Sun 1-3 pm


The first Biblio File of the year is traditionally a list of my favourite books from 2005 but this time I was worried.  I hit 2 disappointing books in a row in December and couldn't remember when I'd last read anything noteworthy. However, it turned out to be fun to look at my 2005 record and remember these books, very few of them off the new book shelf, that I read last year.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – Why didn't I read this one sooner? – it was wonderful!  It begins as a story of two boys growing up in Afghanistan and delves into matters of ethics, courage and character.  That might sound a bit dry, but this book is gripping – complete with the intrigue and danger of a spy novel.  Hosseini, an Afghan physician whose family received political asylum in the U.S. in 1980, will make you believe that this is a true story although you'll find it on the Fiction shelves.

Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee – Maya is a middle schooler who was born in India and raised in small-town Manitoba.  The interesting thing is that this also describes the author, who grew up in Pinawa.   It's a delightful story about an irrepressible girl who feels “neither Indian enough for Indians nor Canadian enough for Canadians.”   Although not auto-biographical, it draws on Anjali's childhood experiences in Pinawa and it's fun to read a story that might be set in our town.  Look for this one in the Teen section.

Saturday by Ian McEwan – I loved this book.  It follows neurosurgeon Henry Perowne through the ups and downs of one Saturday of his life.  The novel shifts from back and forth between calm and calamity within a very balanced framework and is beautifully written.

Notes from the Hyena's Belly: Memories of my Ethiopian Boyhood by Nega Mezlekia – The author was forced, at age 18, to join a guerrilla army and managed to survive and leave Ethiopia in 1983.  Even so, it contains family stories from a childhood fondly remembered – a great book.

Eventide by Kent Haruf – This is the long-awaited sequel to Plainsong , an uplifting story set in Colorado.  I was eager to continue the story and it did not disappoint.

Rockbound by Frank Parker Day – This classic story about an isolated fishing community was the 2005 CBC Canada Reads winner.  The gripping story, strong style and Nova Scotia dialect combine to produce a wonderful read.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – This historical novel immerses the reader in the 17th century, and has been described as luminous, vibrant and sumptuous.

Memoirs of a Whiteshell Trapper by Alex Henschell – This little book has been in the Library for years and I'm glad that I finally read it. It's an interesting look at life in this area of Manitoba in the early to mid-1900's, full of anecdotes and family photos.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields Of the Carol Shields novels that I've read, this one is my favourite.  It chronicles the life of Daisy Goodwill, capturing the drama of everyday life as Shields loves to do.  An odd touch, which adds to the feel of an autobiography, is the inclusion of photos of the characters.  These, of course, cannot be pictures of fictitious people; in fact, some of the family members depicted are Shields' own children.

Dance for the Dead by Thomas Perry – I needed a thriller to keep my mind occupied on the airplane and this book fit the bill nicely.   The hard part was stopping part way through so I'd have something to read on the way home.

January 10


with Rob Murray, Wed. Jan. 18, 7 p.m.

  Book recommendations are sought after and appreciated by all booklovers who use the Library. Next Wednesday at 7 p.m., be in the Library when Rob Murray shares some of his favourite books with us. Rob, an avid reader with an eclectic taste in books, is a great speaker. Join us for a cup of tea or coffee and a very interesting evening.

  Although our Library is full of many wonderful books, the buzz is all around the New Books shelf. Most of us are guilty of quickly perusing what's new in the Library, often ignoring the thousands of other books in our collection.  With so much attention on new books, many old ones are overlooked and forgotten – “hidden” somewhere in the stacks. Over the past year or so our Library Board has been tossing around the idea of uncovering these “hidden gems.” We are beginning to identify them with a bright yellow “Hidden Gem” sticker to assist patrons who are looking for a great book to read. What is a hidden gem? That's a tough question, and everyone has a different answer. We're open to your suggestions as to which books should qualify for this distinction. A simple guideline could be “an outstanding book that has stood the test of time.” How much time and how outstanding are matters that are hard to pin down but we're hoping to figure that out as we go along. Many thanks to John Weeks for recently identifying the following Hidden Gem.


by Cecil Woodham-Smith

reviewed by John Weeks

St. Thomas's Hospital in London, England is famous for a number of things, among them that it is the home of the Nightingale School of Nursing. This school, established by Florence Nightingale in the 1860's, was largely responsible for the transformation of a mixed bag of dedicated and sometimes not-so-dedicated women into a highly-trained, disciplined and respected nursing profession. The Nightingales' carried their message world-wide; they were and still are the commandos of the nursing profession and even in the 1940's, as a bunch of war-hardened medical students, we were greatly in awe of them. This school is but one of Nightingale's achievements. Horrified by her experiences during the Crimean War, when deaths from preventable disease greatly exceeded battle casualties, she set about the reform of medical services in the British Army. In itself a major task, it was made greatly more difficult by a fiercely entrenched bureaucracy and by military vested interest. An invalid for much of her working life, she had the ability to attract to her cause many able men of good will and influence; these she drove without respite and some of them died in harness, battling on her behalf. In the end she was able to effect major improvements in the medical services, not only of the British Army, but also of the army in India and of Public Health Services in Britain.  A strange, driven and incredibly dedicated woman, solitary but adored by the many and hated by a few, she would nowadays be called a workaholic. She died at the age of ninety in 1910 having accomplished great good. This excellent biography has been out of the Library twice since 1987. It deserves to be read more widely because many of the problems faces by Miss Nightingale are similar to those faced today by people who plan to actually do something.


January 17


with Rob Murray, Wed. Jan. 18, 7 p.m.

What better way to spend a chilly winter evening than talking books? Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and relax as Rob Murray shares some of his favourite books with us. Mark your calendar now – this takes place tomorrow.


by James Ruddick

reviewed by Les Crosthwaite

  Both the main and secondary titles (“Sex, Love and Murder in Victorian England”) of this fascinating little volume would make the casual browser think this is a murder story in the best traditions of Agatha Christie or Anne Perry. But in fact, it's non-fiction that more often reads like fiction.  Akin to the mystery of trying to determine the true identity of Jack the Ripper, this is a tale of one of the great unsolved puzzles of British crime history: the 1875 murder, by poisoning, of Charles Bravo, a member of the upper-class elite of British society. It was a case that gripped the public at the time (the lives and deaths of the rich and famous have always been more intriguing than those of ordinary folk) and continued to fascinate professional and amateur sleuths and crime novelists over the years that followed. Now, 130 years after the event, James Ruddick, through his extensive travels and painstaking research, makes a compelling case for at last fingering the culprit.

  The book is essentially written in two halves. In the first, the author reviews the backgrounds of the main protagonists (including old photos) to put into context what life was like for the gentry in Victorian England, including their beliefs, attitudes and, perhaps most importantly, prejudices. In itself, this is mesmerizing stuff. But even better, woven into this description are the events that led up to the crime and the outcome of the enquiry that followed, which could lay the blame on no-one for “lack of firm evidence”.

  In the second half, Ruddick describes his approach to reviewing both the evidence presented at the enquiry and delving deeper into the lives of the main characters, both before and after the fatal event. Along the way, he makes some truly startling discoveries which, had they been unearthed and presented to the enquiry, might well have caused it to reach a different verdict. Near the end of the book, he at last makes a powerful case (at least, I was convinced) for the murderer's identity, taking into account the weight of the statements made at the enquiry and the backgrounds, actions, situations and attitudes of all those involved.

  For the experienced reader, this is a great one-evening curler-upper.


After a break for the Christmas holiday, Storytime is back. Join Jackie Sturton tomorrow and each Wednesday at 2 p.m. for stories, games, songs and a snack. As well, watch for a special evening Storytime next Wed. Jan 25.

WHERE'S HARRY? – A disc from our DVD Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets has gone missing. Although it's only the special effects disc (the movie itself is complete on 1 disc), I'm sure it would be of interest to many Harry Potter fans so we'd appreciate having it back. Please check you're A/V equipment before returning audiobooks and movies – it's so easy to leave a disc or a cassette in your machine at home or in the car.

January 24


  Rob Murray is passionate about books and what a treat it was to hear him talk about some of his favourites last Wednesday evening. His interest is in non-fiction and it must have been difficult for him to select just 6 books to talk about. Rob admitted up front that his chosen books have been largely ignored by most Library patrons – these are the books that often prompt the question ‘why did they buy that book for the Library?' Rob answered that question splendidly and sent a group of avid readers away with lots of ideas.

Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte

Rob described this as the most beautiful book in the Pinawa Public Library. It demonstrates how to display statistics in a way that can be understood visually. Yes, we're talking charts, graphs, and diagrams! We quickly realized that if Rob could make this subject appealing (and he did!), we were bound to be interested in the rest of his books.

The Perfect House: A Journey with the Renaissance Master Andrea Palladio by Witold Rybczynski

Many of our ideas of what is comfortable and beautiful came from Palladio. In creating this book, Rybczynski traveled to Italy to see as many of Palladio's buildings as he could find.

Four Books on Architecture by Andrea Palladio

This is a Renaissance treatise on architecture and house plans. A good book to take out along with The Perfect House.

A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century by Witold Rybczynski

Olmstead invented the whole idea of landscape architects. He was the architectural designer of Mount Royal in Montreal and of Central Park in New York City, among many other interesting pursuits in his life.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Olmstead also designed the grounds for the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893. But this book is not for the faint of heart – it is the story of Herman W. Mudgett, a doctor and serial killer who preyed upon visitors to the World's Fair in a most horrible and gruesome manner.

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corinne May Botz

Rob ended with this fascinating and strange book. It is full of pictures of dollhouses, crime scene models created for the purpose of investigation into unexplained deaths. These dollhouse models were painstakingly produced and perfect down to the tiniest detail – clearly the work of someone obsessed.


Rob Murray pointed out the newly-created Graphic Novels section in the Library as he concluded his talk. Graphic novels are also of particular interest to him. Some are fiction and some are non-fiction and they have now been gathered together in one area because of their unique format. The fictional graphic novels all have the Dewey number 741.5 and the non-fiction ones are numbered according to subject but they all have the prefix GN and are displayed together in the reading area of the Library. Non-fiction subjects range widely – we have graphic novels about Louis Riel, the Holocaust, cancer survival, and politics in the Middle East and Bosnia. Watch as section expands.  Rob ended with a challenge. Having led the charge, he encouraged others to share the books that they treasure. If you don't have it in you to speak to an audience, consider another means of communication. Recommendations are always appreciated and I'm delighted to print your book suggestions and reviews in this column. We keep a binder of book reviews written over the years for your perusal in the reading area.


Many thanks to Janet Hilliard for filling in for Jackie on Wednesday afternoon Storytime. There was a great turnout of preschoolers and babies at our first Storytime of 2006 last week and they enjoyed the ‘snow' stories and other activities – especially the edible snowballs! Please note that the special evening Storytime planned for tomorrow is postponed until February.

January 30th Biblio file will be featured in February's Newsletter. Nancy


Marg Stokes