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30 years of Word Worth Books — Guest post by David Worsley

Nice post, Dave! Congrats to you and Mandy (and Chuck and Tricia before you) on 30 years!

House of Anansi Press


Tricia Siemens and Chuck Erion opened Words Worth Books in 1984 in uptown Waterloo, when Kitchener-Waterloo was a manufacturing power, and the area was growing quickly.  Both Chuck and Tricia brought a wealth of complimentary talents to the job.  Tricia had an accounting background, and Chuck was a whiz with computer networks who could fix or build most anything.  Both of them were also voracious and eclectic readers.

The store thrived until the Chapters rollout of the mid-90s when we took a serious hit.  Staff hours were cut, inventory shrunk, as people flocked to the new discount-kid on the block.  There were weeks when we had fewer than a dozen special orders; there were days when we had fewer than a dozen customers.  Through that time we wondered if we could make it, but put our nose down and learned to be smart and lean with our inventory.  Where…

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Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

It’s been a while since I read a YA book that chewed me up the way that this one did. Think John Green and The Fault in Our Stars, or Martine Leavitt’s My Book of Life by Angel. It’s that powerful. And what was great was what was not there. There were no long pages of exposition explaining why each character was the way they were, no real back story. We get to know Eleanor and Park as they get to know each other. And another thing, with one important exception there are no “bad guys” and “good guys.” The main characters are nuanced, and if we don’t always understand the peripheral characters I got the sense that it’s because Eleanor and Park don’t either.

Eleanor thinks Park’s family is perfect compared to her dysfunctional life. But they’re not, and as she gets to know them she sees the cracks. But just when you think you should hate Park’s dad, he comes through, and big. Even the bully girl turns out to be more than she appears on the surface (not much, but just enough).

This book is unashamedly a love story and it’s a love story that broke my heart. It’s a story of mix tapes and comic books and is conveniently set before cell phones and the internet; the tension these two share when they’re together and when they’re apart is contagious — my heart was often in my throat. The ending may not be dramatic enough for some, but I thought it was fitting.

Watching the Dark (Extra Feature)

I mentioned in my review of Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson that I wanted to go through and note the music that he plays. I decided to do that before I moved on to another book, so here’s DCI Alan Banks’s playlist:

1. Bach’s sonatas and partitas for violin

2. Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (4th movement)

3. Kate Royal – A Lesson in Love

4. Martin Carthy – Essential

5. Treme (1st Season) – TV

6. Anna Calvi – Baby It’s You

7. June Tabor – Finisterre

8. June Tabor – The Grey Funnel Line

9. June Tabor – The Oggie Man

10. Pulp – Common People

11. Peter and Gordon – A World Without Love

12. Jimi Hendrix – Gypsy Eyes

13. Richard Thompson – Watching the Dark

14. Arvo Pärt – Fratres

15. Erkki-Sven Tüür – Awakening

16. Coldplay – Fix You


TEDxWaterloo 2011

Yesterday I attended my second TEDxWaterloo. Last year I blogged about the first one and how much I enjoyed it. I attended with my friend Jennifer and fully expected I would do the same again this year. But she jumped in with both feet and became one of the lead organizers, so my contact with her during the day consisted of quick hellos in the hallway, except for a few minutes of chat at the supper break. I am so thrilled at what she and the rest of the team put together for us yesterday. It was an inspiring day. What I like about TED is that I go in with a set of expectations with respect to who I want to hear and who I’m not so interested in. By the end of the day those have all been shattered. Yesterday’s blow-me-away talk came from Vicki Keith, marathon swimmer. Her talk about coaching a young athlete with a disability to swim across Lake Erie was just fantastic. Roberta Bondar was another who just rocked my world for fifteen minutes. Jean-Francois Carrey, mountain climber was funny and smart and told a great story, and young sailor Abby Sunderland totally impressed me.

There was great coverage of the event this year and so instead of recapping I will link to someone else who has done a stellar job. Please click here for summary and pictures of the day. A huge thanks to the organizers for all your hard work.

Advent Book Blog 2011

Last year some friends of mine over at Book Madam and Books on the Radio came up with the idea of the “digital hand sell,” book recommendations from people who work with and love books. A simple idea that took off like crazy. My two posts last year sang the praises of Carla Gunn’s very fine Amphibian (Coach House Books) and celebrated Canadian mystery novels from the likes of Gail Bowen, Peter Robinson, Maureen Jennings, and others.

The Advent Book blog is back and will start up again with regular postings at the beginning of December. If you want to be involved, visit the How You Can Participate Page, take a deep breath, and jump in with your recommendations. I look forward to reading what you do.

What the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Means to Me

As another season of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival comes to a close I am reflecting again on how lucky we are to be just thirty minutes down the highway from this amazing experience. I got a chance to see New York last year for the first time and there are not enough superlatives to describe how I feel about New York. I loved every minute, including the two shows we saw. But, here’s the thing: the city aside, I’ve seen just as good at Stratford, year after year.

My first experience at the festival was a school trip in Grade 9 to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That was the Elizabethan year somewhere in the mid-seventies and I was very confused about why all the heroines were wearing red curls and neck ruffs. I’ve since seen Dream twice more. Last year’s production with the bad biker fairies was by far the best. Throughout my high school years I got involved with musical theatre (as an orchestra member) and we put on a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1979 that the locals still talk about (well, those of us that were in it, I mean). Cast parties went on for a year after, and a big group of us have become lifelong friends. Such is the power of theatre.

I attended shows sporadically at Stratford when my kids were little and priorities were different, but in the past few years we’ve started going regularly, and I’m so glad to be back. What impresses me about the festival is that it really is for everybody. There are serious plays, there are comedies, there are big productions, and there are one man/woman shows. The spectacle of Peter Pan and the intimacy of The Little Years in the Studio Theatre. And there is a price for everyone, too. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to have money to go to the theatre. I don’t have any. I buy tickets to previews, rush seats, end of season sales, and I watch for deals on Facebook and Twitter. In the past I have been fortunate to have friends at the theatre who have watched for deals for me too. If you can afford it you can have a luxurious experience in the best seats in the house. But if you can’t, there are other options, and they’re just fine. My daughters and I, and occasionally my son too, try to catch three or four shows over the season, and if we weren’t so busy with our own theatre/music projects we would probably see more.

As the tickets for 2011 go on sale I am already excited about next season. It’s about time to see Twelfth Night again. I’ve never seen Richard III and I think I should, the last time I saw Camelot was the Toronto show with Richard Burton around 1980, so I’ll put that on the list, and, what was that other show again? OH YEAH, Jesus Christ Superstar!! You can bet I’ll be there for that!


I had an hour to kill last night between dropping Kathleen off for her concert and going back to sit in the audience, so I headed next door to the mall. Oooh, look, an LCBO, I thought. I haven’t had a nice bottle of wine in a while. So in I went, and the first person I saw was a woman offering samples of wine.
Woman: Would you like to try some wine?
Me: Sure, where’s it from?
Woman: Africa
[Intrigued, I bend my head to look.]
Me: Oh, South Africa. Sure, I’ll try the Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve really been enjoying the New Zealand ones lately from the Marlborough region.
[Blank stare}
Woman (to woman behind me): Would you like to try some wine?
Woman 2: Sure, where’s it from?
Woman: Africa!
[Women2 peers at bottle]
Woman2: Oh South Africa. Sure I’ll try the Sauvignon Blanc.
Woman: OMG I LOVE your pendant.
Woman2:OMG I KNOW. I saw it at the mall last night and I just COULDN’T leave it on the shelf.
[I drift away obviously unneeded and buy my bottle of Kim Crawford wine]

Ok, so for the next part you need to understand how much I love eggnogg. It’s the only thing I welcome about early Christmas marketing. We go through buckets of it at our place. So I was in the line waiting to pay for my wine and I spot a display of eggnog liqueur, kind of like a Bailey’s.

Me: Impulse buy — is this good?
Clerk: I don’t know. I hate eggnog. I’ve only tried it once but I thought it was disgusting.