Book Event of Alastair Sweeny’s “Black Bonanza”, September 11, 1pm to 3pm

blackbonanza.jpeg Alastair Sweeny will be in the store from 1:00pm to 3:00pm on September 11 to promote his newest book, “Black Bonanza: Canada’s Oil Sands and the Race to Secure North America’s Energy Future.”

Quoted from Publisher’s website:
Black Bonanza takes the reader on a tour of the fabulous tar sands of north west Canada, the world’s largest single deposit of oil, greater than that of the entire Middle East. In fact, the 1.7 trillion plus barrels of oil in the tar sands just about equals the world’s entire stock of proven reserves of conventional petroleum.

The global economy is dependent on access to energy and stable market prices are a large factor of its overall health. In contrast to the oil reserves held by other nations, the oil sands in North America represent an opportunity to ensure that we will not be held hostage by countries that would dictate fuel prices. Already the Alberta oil sands have become a major factor the world economy, and certainly represent the promise of a viable and stable source of energy for North America. The result is that the world’s major energy companies are getting deeply invested in the tar sands, and one third of multinational giant Shell’s reserves are now there. Until the 2008 downturn, institutional investors flocked to buy a piece of the action, and even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been recent visitors to the site, and all of this action made Alberta second only to China in its growth rate and has made the oil sands a huge target for environmental criticism and controversy.

Black Bonanza is the first major look at the modern engineering feat-and the promise-that is Alberta’s Oil Sands, primarily from a business and political perspective. It is one of the few books to focus on the positives and upside of this enormous project rather than the downsides of the development of this resource. This book will give readers a close-up of the great environmental and engineering challenges of developing the black bonanza that is the Oil Sands.”

For additional information on “Black Bonanza,” you can visit the author at his website, or check out the publisher’s website, We look forward to seeing you at the event!

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

thehelp.jpeg Kathryn Stockett has written a fine – and original – novel about black-white relations in a Mississippi town. She concentrates on the white women and their household “help”. But she skilfully carries the story far wider than that and we become truly immersed in the deep and troublesome chasm between the races.

The time is the early l960’s :- Martin Luther King, President Kennedy’s assassination, civil rights marches. But in Jackson, Miss. nothing is moving, until a young college graduate, who wants to be a writer, interviews a number of maids who agree to tell their stories.

These of course show the abundant love the nannies give their white charges, only to be shunted out of sight when the children grow up. The stories are quite startling, more so because of the acceptance by the blacks. There is a risk in telling, and later publishing them and the author reveals some of the heartbreaking results.

Kathryn Stockett grew up in Jackson, Miss. herself. Like this journalist she went to work in New York City and now lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter. She knows intimately of what she writes and the book is both funny and moving, justly called “a stunning debut from a gifted talent.”

Review by Anne McDougall

“Bird Cloud: A Memoir” by Annie Proulx

birdcloud.jpeg Anyone who loved Annie Proulx’s “Shipping News” will know her as a versatile writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction.

“Bird Cloud” is her first non-fiction in more than 20 years. The title refers to the cloud in the shape of a bird that hung over a piece of property in the wilds of Wyoming that Proulx fell in love with and knew she had to buy. This book is the account of her acquiring 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie as well as 400-foot cliffs that plunged down to the North Platte River. It also tells us a lot about Proulx herself, the adventures that led to her stories, the constant moving, setting up house, having three sons and, in this book, hoping to find that elusive perfect spot to write, with room for thousands of books, guests, and writing tables.

Her chapters give a rich picture of the wild life all around her, the bird life: she sees pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, great blue herons, ravens, blue birds,harriers, kestrels, all of which she watches closely for days on end. There is a chapter on the elk, deer and antelope that remind her of the British hunters who discovered the wealth of game in the New World and greedily killed “eighteen stags in ten days’ stalking” and “easily obtained our limit of 800 brace of grouse and blackgame” – finally destroying the game in certain areas.

She tells of the Indian tribes that went back in time and even finds traces of their implements on her land. She writes: “Running through everything these people thought or knew, like the vast root systems of grasses that extend deep beneath the surface, were spiritual filaments that guided behaviour and nourished rich mythologies.”

She also gives some of her own background, interesting to Canadians as her ancestors came from Normandy to Quebec with records of one ,Jean Proulx ,marrying in Quebec City in l673. But this is mainly the story of challenges in building a house in the wild and stormy country that even Annie Proulx admits may not be the perfect house when winter completely closes down her road of entry. A brave, candid, book.

Review by Anne McDougall

“Cigar Box Banjo” by Paul Quarrington

cigarboxbanjo.jpeg Paul Quarrington sang his way off his earth, and he writes about it in this remarkable book.

“Cigar Box Banjo” will mean a lot to people in Ottawa who watch his brother Joel play the double bass in the National Arts Centre orchestra. They are a musical family from Toronto and Joel is part of this story along with a third brother.

It is a marvelous tale of popular music in Canada – rock’n’roll, the blues, folk, country and soul over the last 56 years, which is when Paul died, in January of this year. He actually had a career in both writing and playing music. The writing earned him the Governor General’s award for his novel “Whale Music”, as well as the Stephen Leacock Medal for “King Leary”.

This book zeros in on his musical side and the wild life of writing and playing music in and around Toronto where he grew up. There are vivid, funny stories of the bands he played in, including the cult band Joe Hall, and the Continental Drift. He finally became the rhythm guitarist and singer with the band Porkbelly Futures. When diagnosed with lung cancer he decided to keep on playing. This book is full of songs he wrote and shows he gave from Newfoundland to Nashville. It’s a terrific story.

Review by Anne McDougall

“The Prizefighter and the Playwright” by Jay R. Tunney

prizefighter.jpeg This is a fascinating book about a friendship beween two fighting Irishman, both famous in very different ways.

Jay Tunney is the son of Gene Tunney, the American boxer who left his profession at the top of his fame. World-renowned, he had occasion to meet the great Irish playwright, Bernard Shaw, because of a play Shaw had written on a boxer called “Cashel Byron’s Profession”. It turned out Shaw himself had done a little boxing himself. More extraordinary was the fact that Gene Tunney, growing up poor and uneducated on the lower west side of New York, had from early days taught himself to read and developed a
love for all kinds of literature which he would later discuss with Shaw, often meeting the authors of the books he loved.

Jay Tunney writes candidly but with obvious affection about his handsome father who became a legend in the boxing world not only because of his superlative, but fair-minded fighting style, but because of his insistence on time and place for study. As it happened, the Shaws and Tunneys got together often, for visits to Shaw’s home in England, and for an eventful trip to Brioni, the seaside resort where Mrs. Tunney almost died, and Shaw revealed a caring side that few people ever saw.

The book is full of stories on Tunney’s career as well as the theatre life of many of Shaw’s plays. Famous personalities on both sides of the Atlantic knew one or both men and were often intrigued to be with them together, as friends. It is altogether a very successful double portrait.

Review by Anne McDougall

“The Global Forest” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

globalforest.jpeg Diana Beresford-Kroeger is in love with trees. Her new book describes them from every conceivable angle -all the way from holy and mystical to downright scientific and botanical.

Beresford-Kroeger is a botanist and medical biochemist herself, and lives on a farm in Ontario with her husband Christian Kroeger, who did the photos for the book’s jacket. Part of the author’s background is Irish and much of her story-telling resembles the Irish myths from the old country. At a time when we are regaled every day with the perils of climate change, and the danger in cutting down the forests and wasting valuable resources, Beresford-Kroeger writes specifically about the magic in trees (the elderberry and hawthorn were never touched in China and Japan as well as Russia because of extraordinary medical properties). The trees that were once called anti-famine feeders of the globe had fruits and nuts holding first-class protein filled with essential amino acids. They could again be saved with sufficient finances and will to protect them. She writes about the intrasound found in a forest. She describes the “greenhouse effect” which is being damaged by the burning up of carbon reserves.

Finally, she describes the aboriginals of North America whose prophets were called “Fire-keepers”. They kept the legends, and also looked out for care of all trees, lands and forests. This writer puts her faith in the children of today and believes an old legend which holds that the children will save their parents through a dream and hold hands across the planet in their minds.

It’s a wise and eloquent book and the essays pay a beautiful tribute to the forests of the earth.

Review by Anne McDougall

“Corduroy Mansions” by Alexander McCall Smith

corduroymansions.jpeg It’s hard to find new ways to praise Alexander McCall Smith’s stories except to say that in this one he’s got a brand new setting – London – and hence a new slant on daily living.

Up to now we have fallen in love with his characters in countries where he himself has lived and worked: e.g. the lady detective in Botswana, German colleagues in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs, and Isabel Dalhousie and other citizens of Edinburgh, where McCall Smith has been living for many years attached to the University of Edinburgh as professor emeritus of medical law.

With London he takes on a huge new city and we get the feeling of anonymity his characters feel as they head out to make their fortune surrrounded by strangers. “Corduroy Mansions” is the nickname they give the big rambling apartment building where they live in the Pimlico district of south London. There’s a Member of Parliament called Oedipus Snark, a middle-aged wine merchant whose son won’t leave the apartment, a literary agent looking for a husband. McCall Smith pokes fun at their love life, but nor does he leave them completely stranded. For the first time he introduces a dog into his stories and Freddie de la Hay often steals the limelight completely.

It is McCall Smith’s writing style that is such a pleasure: “full of warmth and wisdom that begs for a comfy chair” – says “The Times”.

Review by Anne McDougall

“The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman

imperfectionists.jpegThis is a brilliant book on the workings of a newspaper, inside and out.

Tom Rachman has been a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press stationed in Rome and also worked as an editor at the “International Herald Tribune” in Paris. He knows what he is talking about, with his tough lady editor-in-chief, pathetic obituary writer, stubborn copy editor. Because he still lives in Rome he gives the whole book a deep sense of that beautiful city:- its squares and magical out-of-the way corners to rendezvous, its special love of food and wine.

The chapters focus on specific characters and their sometimes topsy-turvy lives; they can almost be read as short stories. But gradually the inter-personal relations come very close and poignant and we feel the drama, not only in their personal lives, but in the struggle to keep the paper going in the days of encroaching Internet competition.

Tom Rachman was born in London and raised in Vancouver. He graduated from the University of Toronto and the Columbia School of Journalism. The reviewers praise a first novel of such scope and intensity from one so young.

Review by Anne McDougall

“The Double Comfort Safari Club” by Alexander McCall Smith

doublecomfortsafari.jpeg Alexander McCall Smith has created such a family feeling in his stories about Botswana that I even heard of a Canadian businessman taking his children off to visit the home of Precious Ramotse and her famous Detective Agency in this distant spot in Africa. In his new book, McCall Smith continues his up-close look at the characters we have come to know and love in this series.

There is one slightly exotic change in the story, which usually takes place in the town of Gaberone. This time the lady detective and her assistant set off on a mission to a Safari Club in Botswana’s remote and beautiful Okavango Delta. They have some tricky times crossing a crocodile-filled river, and even trickier times trying to find the guide to whom they are bringing a large sum of money.

Safely back home, the assistant finds a strong-minded aunt trying to break up her engagement. Her boss has a complicated case of infidelity, which she resolves in her usual common-sense, kindly way. Altogether it is vintage McCall Smith, and gives a convincing and charming picture of up-close Africa, which we can’t get in the papers with their headlines full of crisis and trouble.

Review by Anne McDougall

“The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler,M.D.

arthappiness.jpeg We all know the twinkle, as well as the courage, in the face of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This book shows how the man with so many problems facing him, still manages both the twinkle and the courage.

Dr.Howard Cutler is an American psychiatrist who has co-authored earlier books in this series with the Buddhist leader, including “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living”. Cutler has spent long visits to the village in northern India where the Dalai Lama lives, as well as lengthy interviews in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, when the religious leader was visiting the U.S. There is considerable sharing and trust between the two men in spite of their different backgrounds.

The Dalai Lama has three major concerns: building basic human values; promoting harmony between the major religions; resolving the Tibetan issue with greater freedom for his own people.

He stresses inner discipline before positive emotions can emerge. He talks of a realistic approach to problems but throughout insists that hope and optimism can and must be cherished. Now 74 years old, this monk had become supreme ruler of the ancient land of Tibet when he was l0 years old and enthroned at l5. By age 24, in l959, he was forced to flee when the Chinese Communists took over the country. For 50 years he has been seeking a peaceful resolution with China but without success. When he talks about resilience, he is talking from experience. This wise man has travelled widely and can also relate to our lives in the West. He returns again and again to the part empathy and compassion play. This book makes a convincing case for what he says.

Review by Anne McDougall