Book Clubs can be wonderful and book clubs can be tricky … Recently, Stuart McLean of The Vinyl Cafe (CBC Radio) told a story about “Morley” and her experience joining a book club.

Stuart recites: ” … the books she will read will take her to worlds beyond her own, and it’s always more fun to travel with friends.”

In the end, Morley sets some book club reading guidelines of her own:

Read …

1. A book about a man I could marry.

2. A book I read in Grade school.

3. A book that mentions chocolate favourably.

4. A book I haven’t read but have seen the movie.

5. A book my husband would quit after the first chapter.

Sounds like a fun book club to me!

So, set up the computer (or ipad or whatever you tune in on!) within earshot as you’re making dinner and enjoy the hilarity and the poignancy in this clip from the podcast. Just click on the link and Stuart will be chatting with you in no time.

Stuart McLean Vinyl Cafe podcast – April 1- 2012

“A place for everything and everything in it’s place” is a mantra I chant in my most optimistic housekeeping moments … in reality, “chaos reigns”  or even “man the torpedos!” is better suited to the state of domestic affairs chez moi. I therefore wholeheartedly embrace a recent trend in home decor, one that  celebrates a more rumpled, lived-in look. Turns out I may be ahead of my time.

Deborah Needleman, known for founding the shelter magazine, Domino, which has achieved cult status among home decorators, is the author of this terrific book. Her sense of humour, apparent in the magazine, is clearly present in this book too. Chapter titles include: “Cozification” and “A Bit of Quirk”.  The Perfectly Imperfect Home – How to Decorate and Live Well is a “perfect” home decor item unto itself – the illustrations inside by Canadian artist Virginia Johnson (about whom I’ve blogged before, here) are so pretty. Here’s her version of the bedside table, complete with books.

“A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent LIfe” also embraces a good sense of humour and a good sense of relaxed style. Mary Randolph Carter is Creative Director at Ralph Lauren and has written some eight books on design and has been an editor of even more – all with the same forgiving, eclectic, family-oriented and personality revealing style. In this particular book you will find a number of essays about the concept of “home” and practical tips for achieving a comfortable haven. Gorgeous photos are throughout.

Ahhh … the Queen of relaxed, romantic style is Rachel Ashwell. She established her brand in 1989 and calls the style “deliciously comfortable”, blending English elegance and California casual. Her story is entrepreneurially (apparently that isn’t a word – my spell-check just had a fit) inspiring. One little Malibu boutique has become a multi-faceted global enterprise. She has along the way produced an impressive number of her own books, all with beautiful photos and guidance.

So consider permission granted to embrace disorderly conduct –  these three very accomplished style mavens have declared it a most legitimate pursuit.

I, like most Canadians, was enthralled with the spoken word performance of Shane Koyczan at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver. Click here if you are not familiar with it or if you just want to wander down memory lane. Mark Grist (link below) is also a Spoken Word artist and has performed the following poem. I couldn’t resist including the written version. It’s tremendous!

(Saucy language ahead – consider thy sensibilities and thyself warned)

I WANT A GIRL WHO READS

by Mark Grist

“So, what do you go for in a girl?”
He crows, lifting a lager to his lips
Gestures where his mate sits
Downs his glass
“He prefers tits
I prefer ass.
What do you go for in a girl?”

I don’t feel comfortable
The air left the room a long time ago
All eyes are on me
Well, if you must know

I want a girl who reads
Yeah. Reads.
I’m not trying to call you a chauvinist
Cos I know you’re not alone in this
but…

I want a girl who reads
Who needs the written word
& uses the added vocabulary
She gleans from novels and poetry
To hold lively conversation
In a range of social situations

I want a girl who reads
Whose heart bleeds at the words of Graham Greene
Or even Heat magazine
Who’ll tie back her hair while reading Jane Eyre
and goes cover to cover with each Waterstones three for two offer
but I want a girl who doesn’t stop there

I want a girl who reads
Who feeds her addiction for fiction
With unusual poems and plays
That she hunts out in crooked bookshops for days and days and days
She’ll sit addicted at breakfast, soaking up the back of the cornflakes box
And the information she gets from what she reads makes her a total fox
Cos she’s interesting & unique
& her theories make me go weak at the knees

I want a girl who reads

A girl whose eyes will analyse
The menu over dinner
Who’ll use what she learns to kick my ass in arguments
so she always ends the winner
But she’ll still be sweet and she’ll still be flirty
Cos she loves the classics and the classics are dirty
So late at night she’d always have me in a stupor
As she paraphrases the raunchier moments from the works of Jilly Cooper

See, some guys prefer asses
Some prefer tits
And I’m not saying that I don’t like those bits
But what’s more important
What supercedes
For me
Is a girl a with passion, wit and dreams
So I want a girl who reads.

 

Titanic-ish Fiction

April 10, 2012

100 years has passed since the dramatic demise of the Titanic and many fascinating features are appearing in the news. There are an extraordinary number of non-fiction narratives on the shelves about the ship, the tragedy, the victims, and survivors and even a cookbook re-creating the meals served on board. Two new releases in the Fiction department look very appealing to me. Whether Titanic-inspired or not (they are) these strike me as simply great stories.
   
Kate Alcott (a pseudonym) is a journalist who had always been intrigued by the Titanic disaster and more specifically, by the lives of its survivors. With her professional eye for detail and story, she found a particularly colourful character during her research around whom she deftly projected an imagined tale. The Dressmaker is the result. Much of the action in this novel stems from the investigative hearings which took place following the sinking. Romance and moral angst appear, of course, to keep us riveted!
 
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan also fictionally echoes the Titanic but more vaguely; the featured ill-fated vessel is named the Empress Alexandra. But, as with The Dressmaker, this novel’s story flourishes in the ethical dilemmas and emotions rising from post-sinking investigations and trial. Author Charlotte Rogan, who practised writing as a surreptitious diversion while raising triplets (!), was inspired by reading old legal texts and by time spent sailing as a youngster when she learned to appreciate on-board hierarchy and decision-making protocols. Both experiences influence the thrilling study of truth and integrity as survivors recount and defend behaviours that took place within The Lifeboat. The strategizing and posturing sounds a bit like a heated episode of TVs “Survivor”! I am certain this remarkably well-reviewed book will be a bestseller.
And just because I know I piqued your interest above … click to be taken to amazon’s peek inside.  It’s a gorgeous book!

Ahhhh Bookshelves

March 12, 2012

When it comes to furniture shopping I think I’d be content to buy but only bookshelves … apparently I’m not alone. Here is a poem by Robert Service and a quote from Anna Quindlen and a few images of lovely shelves to admire …

 Book Lover

I keep collecting books I know
I’ll never, never read;
My wife and daughter tell me so,
And yet I never heed.
“Please make me,” says some wistful tome,
“A wee bit of yourself.”
And so I take my treasure home,
And tuck it in a shelf.

And now my very shelves complain;
They jam and over-spill.
They say: “Why don’t you ease our strain?”
“some day,” I say, “I will.”
So book by book they plead and sigh;
I pick and dip and scan;
Then put them back, distrest that I
Am such a busy man.

Now, there’s my Boswell and my Sterne,
my Gibbon and Defoe;
To savour Swift I’ll never learn,
Montaigne I may not know.
On Bacon I will never sup,
For Shakespeare I’ve no time;
Because I’m busy making up
These jingly bits of rhyme.

Chekov is caviare to me,
While Stendhal makes me snore;
Poor Proust is not my cup of tea,
And Balzac is a bore.
I have their books, I love their names,
And yet alas! they head,
With Lawrence, Joyce and Henry James,
My Roster of Unread.

I think it would be very well
If I commit a crime,
And get put in a prison cell
And not allowed to rhyme;
Yet given all these worthy books
According to my need,
I now caress with loving looks,
But never, never read.

Robert William Service
“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” – Anna Quindlen

Travel with Taschen

March 6, 2012

  

   

Taschen is a publisher known for colourful and beautiful books and magazines – mostly art, design, architecture, style, or artist themed. Beautifully photographed and designed travel books also appear in their repertoire and these little gems are indeed works of art unto themselves. Whether for real-life plans or vicarious travel, they happen to be quite practical too. In the decorative boxed edition above, you will find Four Cities (New York, London, Paris and Berlin) broken down into 3 volumes each focused on: Shopping, Restaurants and Hotels. Maps with hand painted illustrations, stunning photographs and detailed descriptions of must-see and memorable sites are throughout.

Another recently published Taschen travel adventure is The New York Times “36 Hours”: 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada.

This would be another perfect travel planning companion – if no plans yet in motion, here’s the inspiration!

From the Publisher: “The NYT has been offering up dream weekends with practical itineraries in its popular weekly “36 Hours” column since 2002. Over the years, the column’s writers have brought careful research, insider’s knowledge, and a sense of fun to hundreds of cities and destinations, always with an eye to getting the most out of a short trip. Its photographers have gone along, capturing the images that tell more of the story.

Excursions are illustrated with gorgeous photos and detailed itineraries – the off-the-beaten-track surprises are featured alongside the landmark tourist draws.

Both of these Taschen travel publications are worth adding to your “pretty book” collection or  presenting as a gift to a special person.

Happy trails!

Books are already the winners at this year’s Academy Awards. It may be a ceremony dedicated to honouring the best in film but the power of the word prevails through the Nominee list this year; six of the nine Best Picture Nominees are based on successful books. I’ll list those titles below if you aren’t yet familiar with them … Meanwhile, flying books star in an Oscar-nominated Animated Short Film and that’s what I’ve been itching to share with you.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a 15 minute long film by the creative and talented Moonbot Studios. The short film has been described as: “drawing its inspiration from “Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books. Reviews call it “poignant” and “heartwarming”  and a “love-letter to books” but one commenter summed it up perfectly in my mind: “How truly lovely. A beautiful, simple story that, like the best books, reaches the heart of anyone willing to take a moment and enjoy.”

I hope you can open a 15 minute window sometime in your schedule and savour this little tribute to books and reading and so much more. Cheer with gusto when they win their Oscar!

There is also a Flying Books award-winning iPad App you might want to explore. I personally love this Mr. Morris themed iPad case:

And … These are the books which have inspired The Academy Award Best Picture Nominees in 2012:

             

A Reader’s Bill of Rights

January 29, 2012

The above “Bill of Rights” is the work of one Daniel Pennac and is contained within his popular book, Better Than Life.

Its publisher, Stenhouse Publishers, describes it best:   “In Better than Life, Daniel Pennac shares the secrets that all book lovers treasure. Delving into his experiences as a parent, a writer and a teacher, he asks, how does the love of reading begin? How is it lost? And how can it be regained? This remarkable book explores simple ways to create a life-long devotion to reading.”

Sticking to the “Reader’s Bill of Rights”, note that there is an enchanting version of it produced in a stand-alone book illustrated, and with a forward by, Quentin Blake. Anyone recognize the look of Literary Love in that expression?!

Though first drawn to Daniel Pennac by his “Rights”, I was impressed by what I learned about his career and commitment to promoting Literacy for children. An article in the Independent newspaper entitled: Daniel Pennac: Head Teacher from the School of Joy will tell you more … click the link to read on and enjoy!

Reading Here and There

January 22, 2012

I had to chuckle on Saturday morning while reading The Globe and Mail feature “My Books, My Place”. This week’s guest was Kate Beaton, a cartoon artist whose work appears primarily on the web (Hark! A Vagrant) and now in a recently published book format of the same title. Here, along with her illustration above, is Kate’s charming contribution to the Globe:

My favourite place to read is really anywhere so long as I can spread myself out. Couch, rug, bed, whatever feels best. This is because I’m a fidgeter. I flip-flop around a book like it’s the only thing I have to hold onto in a storm.

I wish I could tell you that I read in my favourite café with my legs neatly crossed, sitting next to a peppermint tea atop a dainty saucer, all in a beam of morning light. But I can’t, because I’m lying on my belly, ignoring the fact that leaning on my arms is making them fall asleep. When they do, no problem. I just plop around onto my back and hold the book above my head, or maybe curl around the book on my side in some unnatural fashion, or sit up and balance it on my knees.

Did you just step on something? Oh, that was me. I was rolled up in a blanket on the floor. Don’t worry about it.

When I was a teenager, I even threw sitting awkwardly upside down into the mix, legs thrown up and over the back of an armchair, but had to give that up when I became a Lady because no gentleman worth his salt takes an upside-down person to the altar. Not that I’m fishing for husbands when I’m halfway through the latest George R.R. Martin, but you have to draw a general conduct line somewhere, don’t you think?

Are you like Kate, a fidgeter? I love a big armchair with room to curl … you?

Christmas Snowy Woods

December 25, 2011

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, 1923

I have always loved the poetry of Robert Frost and this particular poem always makes me think of taking time for a quiet moment during the busy-ness; some of my most cherished Christmas season memories involve snow and horses and I love the image he paints. Whether you be surrounded by snow (Hello Skiers!) or warmed by a hot tropical sun (Hello Hawaii!) or dampened by a soggy mist (Hello Vancouver!) … whatever your holiday weather, I hope you are gathered with family and friends and still finding a quiet moment to reflect peacefully and gratefully on what you value most in the world.

A warm welcome to those who’ve recently joined our Bedside Table Books community and a thank you to those who’ve been here from the start … Have a wonder-ful Holiday season and may fresh pages, and time to read them, await you!

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