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This was taken in Puerto Maldonado, on the Rio Madre de Deus in the Amazon basin.  The  bustling little city (population about 140,000) is where you used to have to take a ferry across the …
reviewed Room: A Novel. October 16, 2013
Room: A Novel
  I finished reading Emma Donoghue's Room a few days ago and I've been puzzling about it ever since.       The novel, which according to Donoghue's website …
reviewed March: A Novel. September 30, 2013
March
    Ask me what book influenced my life the most, and I'll answer unhesitatingly: Lousia May Alcott's Little Women.  I got it for Christmas when I was in Grade Two, and began reading …
   Maybe it's because book clubs and book discussions are such a part of my life that I find books that use one as an occasion to present another agenda rather annoying.    …
Francis Parkman : The Oregon Trail / The Conspiracy of Pontiac (The Library of America)
For a book about roads I'm working on, I picked up American historian Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail this week.  Myexperience this summer in what was the Oregon Territory started me …
       One of the first things I went looking for during our sojourn on Vancouver Island was Roadside Geology of Southern British Columbia. I didn't know if such a book existed, …
reviewed Tubes by Andrew Bloom. August 28, 2013
Tubes by Andrew Bloom
  As I write this, The New York Times has been off-line for about 18 hours here.  Some stories are being posted on the newspaper's Facebook page, but because of a hacker attack the main …
The Voyage of the Beagle: Charles Darwin's Journal
We're going to take  a little vacation, and along with getting house-sitters lined up, I've been thinking about what to take to read.  Don't know yet, but I keep coming back to the …
reviewed Outliers: The Story of Success. August 03, 2013
Outliers: The Story of Success
Malcolm Gladwell will have a new book out this fall, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.     Here's the bumph from his publisher Little, Brown. "Malcolm …
reviewed the greenhouse. July 26, 2013
the greenhouse
    It's always difficult to make up reading lists for book discussion groups.  You want to have a certain balance, include a few books that will challenge the reader plus others that …
reviewed The Dollmaker. July 22, 2013
The Dollmaker
    It took me a couple of days after the announcement of Detroit's very close brush with complete bankruptcy to remember Harriette Arnow's novel about life in Motor City during the …
reviewed Finding the Enemy. July 17, 2013
  Today is the 58th anniversary of the first Atom Bomb test in New Mexico.  At the time the US had made enough fissionable material for three bombs: the test one, and two to drop on Japan.   …
reviewed The Commoner: A Novel. July 16, 2013
The Commoner: A Novel
Royal Babies: The Commoner While We're Waiting for Kate to Give Birth  There's been a lot about the impending birth of the new third in line to the British throne: the Duchess of Cambridge, …
reviewed The Commoner: A Novel. July 16, 2013
The Commoner: A Novel
Royal Babies: The Commoner While We're Waiting for Kate to Give Birth   There's been a lot about the impending birth of the new third in line to the British throne: the Duchess of Cambridge, …
making waves: the continuing portuguese adventure
From a review by Ryan Tucker Jones in the Bulletin of Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies:      "In this short book, Mary Soderstrom combines history, anecdote,   …
reviewed Young Men and Fire. July 02, 2013
Young Men and Fire
Young Men and Fire: Recent and Past   Nineteen young firefighters were burned to death over the weekend in Arizona, and this morning we smell smoke from forest fires 900 kilometers from Montreal  …
reviewed flight behavior. June 27, 2013
flight behavior
Just as I was finishing Barbara Kinsolver's latest novel, Flight Behavior, the news of the strange deaths of thousands of bees in Oregon. It seems that pesticides used on the trees around this parking …
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
I couldn't help thinking about A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian when I saw the story in The New York Times this week about the radical feminist movement Femen, which had its origins, apparently, …
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
I couldn't help thinking about A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian when I saw the story in The New York Times this week about the radical feminist movement Femen, which had its origins, apparently, …
reviewed Purge. June 20, 2013
Purge, by Finnish-Estonian writer Sofi Oksanen is one of the hardest novels I've read in a long time.   Spanning 60 years of history from World War II through the break up of the Soviet bloc …
Curious George Goes to the Hospital
Reading and the love of books can't encouraged too soon.  The Curious George books by H.A. and Margaret Rey were great favourites of our kids and Jeanne has delighted in them ever since Elin …
Curious George Goes to the Hospital
Reading and the love of books can't encouraged too soon.  The Curious George books by H.A. and Margaret Rey were great favourites of our kids and Jeanne has delighted in them ever since Elin …
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story
   For my next non-fiction project, I'm been rummaging around in  paleolinguistics and paleohistory: I'll tell you just why in a future post.  Suffice to say that my most recent …
reviewed Midway by David Homel. November 30, 2010
Midway by David Homel
   Ought to put the disclaimer right at the top: Chicago-born novelist David Homel has long been one of my favourite mechants gars, as they say around here. That is, he enjoys playing the naughty …
reviewed sunflowers. September 25, 2010
sunflowers
   Sunflowers seem, at first glance, to be the emblematic flower of summer. They stand tall, face the world, and reflect the sun which is the origin of life, in many respects. French artist …
The Monkey Bible: A Modern Allegory; includes The
   "But you've been looking for Truth in a work of fiction," one of the characters wails near the end of The Monkey Bible, a "modern allegory" by Mark Laxer.   …
reviewed What the Day Owes the Night. September 07, 2010
What the Day Owes the Night
The New York Times ended its lukewarm review of Yasmina Khadra's The Attack four years ago with this proviso: "if he is to instruct us at the deepest level, he cannot afford to leave so much …
reviewed Le Corbusier. September 07, 2010
   The 45th anniversary of the death of Swiss architect Le Corbusier on August 27 slipped by without a mention that I've seen, despite the fact that his ideas about building new cities with …
reviewed Make Way for Ducklings. August 21, 2010
Make Way for Ducklings
   No, this really isn't a review of one of those children's classics that are a pleasure to read again and agains.  It's about really ducklings in Montreal, not Boston.   …
reviewed Lorrie Moore. August 21, 2010
Lorrie Moore
   The pile of books by the side of the bed has been tall all summer. In addition to a number of gift books, there have been a series of what might be called directed reading. These are books …
reviewed Unaccustomed Earth. July 05, 2010
Unaccustomed Earth
   Jhumpa Lahiri's short story collection Unaccustomed Earth kept me up reading over the weekend, and this despite the fact that I'd read four of the eight stories previously in The …
reviewed Absolute Friends. July 01, 2010
Absolute Friends
   Just as I was finishing John LeCarré's thriller Absolute Friends, comes the news of the arrest of 10 people, apparently Russian spies in deep, deep cover. The book is vintage LeCarré: …
Fête Nationale du Quebec (Quebec National Holiday)
Today is Quebec's Fête nationale, formerly St. Jean-Baptiste Day. A couple of decades ago, the focus was shifted from being an exclusively French-Canadian festival to being a celebration for …
reviewed The Heart Specialist. June 23, 2010
The Heart Specialist
   Is it fair for a writer to take the life of a real person, switch it around, add bits, fill in the gaps--in short, make a fiction of it?      That's what I've …
What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs
The folks at New Village Publishing in Oakland, CA wanted to know if I would review a new collection of essays on Jane Jacobs and her legacy, called What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs. …
reviewed Winter. January 09, 2010
Winter
The sun is out and the temperatures have plummeted after more than a week of gray skies and continual snow showers. When I was up on Mount Royal early this morning, I met several runners dressed in spiffy …
reviewed Singapore. January 02, 2010
Singapore
Last night I realized that a decade ago, nearly to the day, I changed my life drastically. In January 2000 I decided to forge ahead with the idea of writing a book about botanical gardens even though …
reviewed Valsinha. January 01, 2010
A lovely Brazilian waltz to celebrate the New Year. The pictures are of young folk, but I think it applies to older ones too. You'll find my English translation below which doesn't rhyme, but maybe gives …
reviewed Christmas Bird Count. December 19, 2009
The temperature was hovering a little below minus 20 C (a degree or so below 0F) as the sun was rising this morning. At the entrance to Mount Royal Cemetery I passed a group of hardy souls, shivering …
reviewed H.M. Górecki's Concerto for Harpsicho.... December 04, 2009
H.M. Górecki's Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra
Anyone who thinks that classical music is for wimps should take a look at this riveting performance of Polish composer H.M. Górecki's Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra, Op. 40 (1981) …
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