Big may be beautiful, but small is seductive!

Spoiler Alert: I am talking about books here.

I love small squarish books. I like the feel of them in my hands, their unexpected heft, their solidity. Customers in libraries ask all sorts of questions, like  “Where are your Biographies? Do you have any Italian books? How do I log-on to the computers?” and “Where are the toilets?” to name but a few. But as of yet, no one has ever asked me to direct them to the Small Seductive Books section.

A Dog a DayBut just recently I have been spoilt for choice. Here are 5 small, but perfectly formed chunky little books: A Dog a Day by Sally Muir is a collection of Muir’s dog drawings – a different dog every day over 365 days. I am moved by this book in more ways than one: I love drawing (and I try to draw every day), I love dogs (though Muir has omitted Scottish Terriers – what was she thinking?), and it is small and  squarish. Win, Win, Win.

In the midst of the dreary grey winter weather that was such a feature of life in Christchurch a few weeks ago, a small jaunty book stood out from all the drabness and said “Pick Me!”, and that’s how Brolliology (A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature) ended up in my book bag. What substances are these people imbibing to get such an off-the-wall idea as linking literature and umbrellas? Whatever it is – Give It To Me Now!

Everyone know’s that I love café culture, that I never take my meals at my workplace, but each day treat myself to a capuccino at a nearby café. Some libraries even have café’s on site – that works too. Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour is a neat little book that I wish I’d had in my possession when we travelled to Italy. I checked out the New Zealand and  South African cafés and I am pleased to report and I am ahead of the pack in these two countries. If you are about to travel, have a flick through this muscular little number.

Now, let’s put it all to music. Donna Leon, well known crime novelist has brought out a beautiful little book on an intrinsic aspect of Venetian life: the Gondola, and it comes with its own CD of well known Gondolier renderings. This book is arguably one of the most beautiful books I have ever held. It is also informative and entertaining. One of the first chapters “I Think I Could Do This” tells of a dinner guest who was given the blueprints of a gondola as a gift. It took him over 5 years to build, and 32 men to lift its 350kg weight onto the truck that would take it to its launching place. That’d keep Greg busy in his retirement!

And finally, step aside Hygge, because Japonisme is about to knock you right off your perch. In an exploration of your Ikigai (purpose), Kintsugi (repairing broken ceramics with gold) and wabi-sabi (the transience of life) and more, you will be gently exposed to much wisdom, such as:

One who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.

Japanese Proverb

And I am delighted to tell you that all the above-mentioned seductively small books did indeed make me smile.

Recommended Reading:

Let’s think about the future

The winners of the Hugo Awards will be announced next month and with the Nebula Award winners having been announced in May (two of the biggest awards in science fiction), let’s take this moment in between to think about the future in literature and what it actually means to write and think about the future.

When we think about fiction and the future, there are two sub-genres that immediately spring to mind: dystopian and utopian. Most people will be familiar with dystopia; arguably the most popular form of science-fiction that there is. From Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, The Walking Dead, or the classics of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, and Logan’s Run, the idea of dystopia appear to be firmly entrenched in Western cultures’ collective imaginary. We all have different ideas of what a dystopia might look like, but put simply, it is an imagining of an unpleasant future that could occur through an apocalyptic event, the rise of widespread tyranny, or simply the break down of civil society.

The counterpoint to this bleak storytelling of a world gone to the dogs is utopian fiction. Many people will, as with dystopia, have different ideas of what utopia looks like. So, in this instance I am going to use the pragmatic definition of utopia put forward by Hugo and Nebula award winning author Kim Stanley Robinson: utopia is imagining the best possible outcome given where we are now. What I like about this understanding of utopia is that it doesn’t mystify utopia into religious sentimentality but places it firmly into the realm of possibility.

Cover of New York 2140Take Robinison’s novel New York 2140 (that has been nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award for best novel) for example. Here we experience a New York that as endeavoured to survive and re-create itself in the wake of catastrophic climate change as the innovation of adaptability of humanity leads to a future despite of the crisis it found itself in. Robinson’s Nebula award winning novel 2312 also highlights the redeemable aspects of humankind as they work together to try alleviate humanity’s suffering and begin to recreate Earth into something resembling its former self.

Utopian fiction is not about the absence of conflict – no one would want to read or watch a story with no conflict – but the conflict is about the actions taken to prevent the fall into dystopia. Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series is a fantastic example of such utopian thinking as the protagonists work to prevent a galaxy wide collapse into unprecedented galactic barbarism. Here, the utopian thinking is about creating a future for humankind that is free of insecurity and suffering.

Other examples of utopian fiction include Ursula Le Guin‘s The Dispossesed and Arthur C. Clarke‘s Childhood’s End.

So take a moment, and read about the future. Not the future in which everything is awful and the only thing humanity can hope for is survival, but a future in which humanity has a chance to thrive and flourish as it overcomes all the obstacles that could limit it from having a meaningful future existence.

And you might want to try the best novel finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards and the winners of this year’s Nebula Awards.

OverDrive Big Library Read – Cowboy Pride

OverDrive’s Big Library Read, the world’s largest digital book club, is back for July. This story has something for everyone – whether romance is your thing, or perhaps you like the Wild West, or even if you’re a Jane Austen fan. That’s right; we have a version of Jane Austen’s much loved Pride and Prejudice, set in Wild West Wyoming – Cowboy Pride by Lacy Williams.

From 9 to 23 July, Christchurch City Libraries users can borrow the eBook with no wait lists or holds. Join the Big Library Read by visiting Christchurch City Libraries OverDrive or by downloading the Libby app. Big Library Read is facilitated by OverDrive, our leading platform for eBooks and eAudiobooks.

“Everyone knows a rancher in possession of a large spread needs a wife.”

First impressions count. Liza Bennett has two missions in life: keep the family’s shop afloat, and ensure her shy sister finds love. Sparks fly when she meets rancher Rob Darcy at a town dance, but when she overhears him insult her, she vows to put the man out of her mind. Rob Darcy is instantly attracted to the vivacious Liza but a lack of social graces and the promise he’s keeping ruin his chances of winning her.

Once jilted, Janie Bennett is appropriately gun-shy of falling in love again. But she doesn’t seem to be able to help herself when she meets charming Nathan Bingley. Bingley desperately wants a wife and family of his own. Can he trust that Janie returns his feelings?

When Janie is injured in a spring storm, she and Liza are sequestered on Nathan’s ranch. Hearts and emotions get tangled, but will first impressions prove true, or false?