7 great reads for summer

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True Confessions From the Ninth Concession,
by Dan Needles, Douglas & McIntyre, $22.95

Like countless people in far-flung corners of the world, I was introduced to a small town in Canada through Stephen Leacock long before I ever set foot in the country.

There was a copy of his Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town in our school library and I recall laughing out loud reading about the community and its quirks.

It is fitting, then, that Dan Needles won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for his writing. In 1998,  Needles and his wife left the city to start a family on a forty-acre farm in Nottawasaga. Just two-hours north of Toronto, it could be in a different planet as far as the rhythms of life (and availability of wi-fi and plumbing) are concerned.

True Confessions from the Ninth Concession is a collection of his essays dated from 1997 to 2016, chronicling their life on Larkspur Farm.

The book is dedicated to his friend and neighbour Hughie with a quote from him: It’s hard to be a good neighbour and grow zucchini. And right away one is transported to a world of neighbourly exchanges over a fence.

His day as a writer often unfolds as follows: “I’ve been chasing cows and foxes and repairing buildings and burying chickens and now I have to go buy some eggs because they are re-enacting the 1952 encephalitis scare at the school tonight. When am I supposed to get anything written around here?”

She led me back into the house  to the keyboard and patted me on the shoulder.

“I’ll get the eggs for the school play,” she said. “You just sit here and write.”

“What about? I said glumly.

“Why don’t you write about your day?” she suggested and gently closed the door.

And write Needles does, describing with great affection and wry humour life in rural Canada.

It is not only about goats and chickens and ancient manure spreaders, but his observations on life, itself.

Needles finds puttering around with old machines comforting.

It reassures me about many things: that the past is not entirely lost, that there are still some mechanical processes that can be understood and that I don’t have to shop for entertainment.

He writes about the reality of diminishing numbers in rural communities as young people move to the bright lights of the cities.

And about what it takes to belong to a small closely-knit community.

After years running the farm and with strong friendships having been forged, their place is still referred to by the name of its previous owner, as the Old Currie Place.

Someday, down at the diner in the village, someone may eventually refer to this property as the “old Needles Place”. Unfortunately I won’t be around to hear it.

Just like Malgudi Days set in Canada. A great way to celebrate Canada Day!


by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Alfred A. Knopf, $36

It is strange that you exist but you don’t know anything about what the world looks like. It’s strange that there’s a first time to see the sky, a first time to see the sun, a first time to feel the air against one’s skin. It’s strange that there’s a first time to see a face, a tree, a lamp, pyjamas, a shoe. In my life that almost never happens any more. But soon it will. In just a few months I will see you for the first time.

In Winter, widely acclaimed Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard takes stock of the world as he awaits the birth of his daughter. In Letter to an Unborn Daughter, month after month, he describes water, owls, coins, Christmas, the social realm, the funeral procession, the ‘I’, the brain, manholes... and the mess at home.

We are one of those families whose homes are messy. That this bothers me, not intensely, but steadily and quietly, is clear from the way I formulate it – that we are one of a number of families to whom this applies – is obviously a way to render the mess harmless, to spread it out among more people and thus to lessen it.

Winter  is an ode to the season. is this silence that reigns. But just as a hitherto drab and anonymous colour can suddenly blaze against the white, if it stands alone, it is as if the few and sporadic sounds that remain in the forest grow in strength and intensity against a backdrop of silence.

It’s an exquisitely beautiful, ruminative, and very individualistic look at ordinary everyday things and the not-so-ordinary, too.

The more we know about the world the greater the pull of what we don’t know, and every tunnel, every grotto, every subterranean chamber is a confirmation of what we have always felt, that nothing ends with what the eyes can see.

How many of us look at a manhole cover in the street and think thus?

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The Inkblots,
by Damion Searls, Crown, $35

Even those who don’t know how to pronounce his name have heard of his famous test: the Rorschach Inkblot Test.

In 1917, Herman Rorschach devised a psychological experiment to probe the human mind – a set of 10 inkblots. How each individual perceived the inkblots revealed a lot about the inner workings of their minds. Damion Searls draws on unpublished letters, diaries and interviews with Rorschach’s family, friends and colleagues to tell the story of what is known as the twentieth century’s most visionary synthesis of art and science.

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Lemons Are A Girl’s
Best Friend,

by Janet Hayward,
Potter, $17.50

Lemons are a girl’s best friend. As are cherries, pomegranates, mangoes, sweet potatoes, cucumber and mint!

Janet Hayward provides recipes for the inside as well as out. So, for instance, along with one for sour cherry and mint granita, you find one for making cherry lip tint. Here’s one for a mango and avocado cleanser.

1 ripe mango

½ a ripe avocado

1 tablespoon yoghurt

Place the flesh of the mango and the avocado in a small dish and add the yoghurt. Mash, then mix to a smooth consistency.

Gently massage the cleanser onto your face, neck, and decolletage for around three minutes. Rinse with warm water and pat dry before applying your usual serum or moisturizer. For a deeper cleanse, keep the face mask on for 10 minutes before rinsing.

Some of the concoctions may do so more than others, but they all seem like loads of fun to try!

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Brilliant Blunders,
by Mario Livio, Simon & Schuster, $29.99

We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Not even some of the greatest geniuses in history.  Mario Livio reveals how Charles Darwin, Linus Pauling, Albert Einstein and others, all brilliant scientists, all also stumbled badly. The scientific process, as Livio explains, advance through error.

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Red Sky at Night,
by Elly MacKay, Tundra, $17.99

How weather-wise are you? Might you know a saying or two? asks this book that introduces young readers to weather lore in a delightful manner.

Some are familiar:

Ring around the moon, rain will come soon.

Others might teach parents a thing or two, too.

When the dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.

When ladybugs swarm, expect a day that’s warm.

A beautiful way to get little ones familiar with nature’s signs.

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The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold,
by Tim Moore,Yellow Jersey Press, $17.07

Perseverance! From the first page to the last, what inspired me the most was Tim Moore’s perseverance.

People expressed their disbelief, saying it would be near impossible for him to undertake the 6,000-mile journey through the Iron Curtain. Moore details his expe-riences, from freezing toothpaste to not having access to a place to sleep for three days (during the cold Norwegian winter!).

Through the kindness of others, such as elderly ladies at hotels and reindeer farmers, and his own preparation, we see the journey of a man who is dedicated to his cause.

Moore only used a mifa 900 series bike with 20-inch wheels, a hinge, a step-through frame, a spoon brake, and one gear – a small mass-manufactured bike picked up from a communist store.

Now, bicycles are not very commonly used as a mode of transportation in North America, and especially not here in Brampton. In contrast, European countries are very reliant on bicycles. It is imperative that we introduce a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

It can be seen from Moore’s journey that anything is possible when a goal is set, and introducing bicycles within Brampton should become one of our goals.

Bike sharing can be one way to do so. While this may not seem like a big impact on a large scale, this will definitely decrease our environmental impact while ensuring an enjoyable form of transportation. Tim Moore’s story tau-ght me a lot about setting goals and working towards them. Bike sharing is one such great goal and opportunity! June was Bike Month.

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Reviewed by Vyomesh Iyengar

Vyomesh Iyengar is a grade 10 student and a member of Brampton Library’s Teen Library Council.