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Getting Hygge With it
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Getting Hygge With it

By 49thShelf
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tagged: cozy, hygge
The Danish word for cozy has been an international sensation, and these are books that give the trend a Canadian twist: the cross-genre literary equivalent of thick socks, a warm blanket, and a roaring fire. These are books worth staying in for. Enjoy!
Dutch Feast

Dutch Feast

edition:Hardcover

Taste Canada Award finalist

A modern take on Dutch cuisine that highlights the ways that simple meals bring joy and comfort.

In the same way that British, Scandinavian, and German food have undergone a renaissance in recent years, Dutch cuisine is going to be the next big thing, according to writer and blogger Emily Wight. Her new cookbook reimagines traditional Dutch cooking, which has always been known for its thriftiness and practicality, with an emphasis on the ways that simple meals bring joy …

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So Much Love

So Much Love

edition:Paperback

Finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A Quill & Quire Best Book of the Year
Olive Kitteridge meets Room and The Lovely Bones in this stunning first novel about the unexpected reverberations the abduction of a young woman has on a small community.

When Catherine Reindeer mysteriously vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Her fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother desperately …

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Excerpt

It seems disloyal after all these years, but I’ve got to start buying different mascara. The Lancôme one I’ve always used wears so nice and soft—heavy makeup makes a woman my age look like a harri­dan—but it isn’t waterproof, and I’ve been crying all spring.
     When Catherine first disappeared in March, everything was still frozen, but within a week the spring melt began. Rivers of slush ran down the edges of every street and the police came again and again, tracking dirty slush into my foyer. They doubted that an adult, a grown woman with a job and a husband, could be taken—as if such violence were kiddie stuff, or showed a lack of willpower. They kept asking questions about any unhappiness with Grey, an affair, secrets I can’t imagine my daughter would keep from me. Or him. I can’t imagine any of it. And so, helpless, clueless, I wept and wept.
     After four weeks, the police don’t feel the need to visit anymore. Like with a bad boyfriend, I call them if I think of anything new to tell them or just to check in, but they never call me. Things are changing, the world is stuttering forward, and these constant tears have to stop.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

I can cry at night, alone in my big bed full of pillows—perhaps I always will. But I’ve got to be stronger during the day. It will be a relief, maybe even a blessing, as Seva would say, to be back at work, thinking and talking and making people’s lives slightly easier by helping them with their banking. I want to spend the day with people who have never had the person they love most snatched away from a parking lot; I want to pretend to be one of them.
     I’ve been such a reliable employee for so many years that Janie has been generous about my leave of absence, even coming by for tea with some of the other girls from the branch. Not that anyone knows what to say, but they’ve come over the past three Friday afternoons, bearing pumpkin loaves and coconut brownies, little bits of news from work, and encouraging smiles. If Catherine had died, if she’d had a straightforward car accident on an icy night or a fall while hiking in the mountains, there would have been some discussion of God, I’m sure—all of that “everything happens for a reason” non­sense, but it would have filled in the silences. I’m not religious, and Seva and Leanne know that, but it’s what they rely on in bad times, and I rely on them. We’ve all been working at the same branch since the strip mall opened.
     Even if it had been a more uncomfortable thing, a drug overdose or driving under the influence—and we have certainly had our share of such tragic idiocies around here—there are things you can say. About forgiveness, about moving on, about appreciating the time we had. About never doubting the value of memories.
     But Catherine’s disappearance is nothing but doubt. No one knows who would do her harm, but equally no one knows why she would run off. Both options are impossible, and there is no third. There is nothing to say, no question left to ask. I read the poetry Catherine likes—the book she forgot on the sofa, and another by the same poet that I got from the library. The poems are about plates of pasta, cats in the dark, vegetable gardens—nothing to do with me, but they are something that she loved. And they are something to think about other than the empty space where my daughter used to be. No one wants to talk about that, but my colleagues aren’t that interested in poetry either. So on this, the fourth Friday since my daughter disappeared, I ask the ladies about mascara.
 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 
I wait until they’re gone and I’m at the sink washing dishes before I let myself follow my thoughts as far as they’ll go. It’s dangerous to think of Catherine too much, especially when I’m alone. If Grey were here, we’d pick one little topic and go over every detail—how she could never be bothered to blow-dry her thick, heavy hair, how even at the end of the day when she took down her ponytail there would still be a trace of damp. Or that woman poet she liked so much—or maybe she didn’t like her, but she was reading her books over and over in the weeks before . . . before. She was like that, so much energy, you didn’t always know what she loved and what she just felt strongly about. We can talk and talk about Catherine, Grey and I, and almost always manage to stop before one of us breaks down. We can do that because we both love her equally, if such a thing is possible.
     Alone, I worry I’ll go too far, think too much, and then not be able to get up off the floor. But remembering my beautiful girl is devastatingly tempting. Oh, my Catherine. So interesting. So lovely to think about. Her strange theories of how the world works. The rare moments when she wouldn’t do the expected, “normal” thing. Her refusal to get a student loan, so horrified of debt that she took only the courses she could pay for in cash, which was why her degree was stretching out into its seventh year. Her contempt for her friends who competed in figure-skating competitions. Her childhood terror at the idea of French immersion.
     She was only four when the neighbourhood school mailed me a flyer about French immersion classes—it seemed a wonderful opportunity to me. One night on the back porch as we played shadow puppets I told her that next year, when she went to school, she would get to learn French. In fact, I had the bunny shadow say it, hopping up and down the crumbling brick of our back wall. I even improvised a French accent, told her she would love French, mais oui.
     But Catherine unclasped her hands from making the goose shape and squawked angrily, “No, I will not. I will not learn French.”
     I was baffled—still so inexperienced as a mother even after four years. Though Wayne had never contributed much in the way of parenting, he had left only six months earlier and I was feeling especially unmoored. I tried to explain the benefits of learning a new language, something different and exciting, something I myself would have loved to have done. And Catherine in her pink-and-white overalls just plopped right down on her bottom and wailed. I can still picture her hot wet face, sobbing that she would never “say that stuff,” that she only wanted to say “true words.” I never found out where she got the impression that French was a scary language or even where she learned that French was a language.
     Years later, she laughed at the story and claimed not to remember her tantrum. When I pressed, she said, “Iria’s a pretty small place, Mom, and I’d never been anywhere. I probably thought I’d have to move away to learn another language.” She was giggling—I hope I laughed too, although I can’t remember that part. The memory of Cat is clear, though—I recall her grinning pink-lipstick mouth as clearly as I recall her childish panic. My memories come into clearer focus every day—I suppose it’s the longing that makes me conjure her so strongly.
     They would have let me say all this and more, Seva, Leanne, Janie— they would have listened all afternoon and been glad to. But so much has been taken from me, I have to keep some memories for myself.

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The Book of Marvels

The Book of Marvels

A Compendium of Everyday Things
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
tagged : essays, canadian

A Globe and Mail top 100 book of 2012

In a series of playful and startling prose meditations, celebrated writer Lorna Crozier brings her rapt attention to the small matter of household objects: everything from doorknobs, washing machines, rakes, and zippers to the kitchen sink.

Operating as a sort of literary detective, she examines the mystery of the everyday, seeking the essence of each object. She offers tantalizing glimpses of the household's inhabitants, too, probing hearts, brains, noses, an …

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A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

A brilliant, unforgettable, and long-awaited novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozeki

“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s o …

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Inside

Inside

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Paperback Paperback

Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and selected as an Oprah's Book Club Summer Reading Pick, an Amazon.ca Best Book, and an iTunes Store Best Book

When Grace, a highly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man in the snowy woods who has failed to hang himself, her instinct to help immediately kicks in. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from str …

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The Republic of Love

The Republic of Love

edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook (CD)
tagged :

With a viewpoint that shifts as crisply as cards in the hands of a blackjack dealer, Carol Shields introduces us to two shell-shocked veterans of the wars of the heart. There's Fay, a folklorist whose passion for mermaids has kept her from focusing on any one man. And right across the street there's Tom, a popular radio talk-show host who has focused a little too intently, having married and divorced three times.

Can Fay believe in lasting love with such a man? Will romantic love conquer all rati …

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Excerpt

If Fay McLod no longer loves Peter Knightly, there is still the question of whether she can live without him, live alone that is. She is thirty-five years old, after all, and should know something about compromise.

Toast, she says to herself, might be the test.

She is being whimsical, of course, which is one of the ways she protects herself, but she is partly serious too: can she bear to stand alone in her kitchen on a Saturday morning, or any morning, for that matter, and push down the lever of her ten-year-old General Electric black-and-chrome toaster and produce a single slice of breakfast toast? One only.

Other things she can do on her own. Traveling, for instance. Last summer, tracking down mermaid legends, she scoured half a dozen American libraries, California, Texas, Boston -- three happy weeks, traveling light, one suitcase, three changes of clothes, two pairs of shoes, that was it. She relished the ease of arranging single-seat tickets and the sight every night of a neatly made-up hotel room, avoiding, if she could, those pompous doubles with their giant puffed duvets and bulging headboards. "A very small room, please," she said to a succession of hotel clerks, interchangeable behind their crisp summer haircuts and narrow shirt collars and eager looks, and they'd complied, beaming as though she'd bent forward over the desk and smoothed their faces with the flat of her hand. Occasionally, vacationing families with young children called out greetings, but mostly she sat alone by pool sides or in hotel dining rooms with a book open by her plate. People looked her way and smiled, pitying or else envious, she wasn't sure which, and it didn't matter. She finds the bewilderment of travel rousing. Next summer she'll be off again, Europe this time, her mermaids again, a second research grant, more generous than the first. She departs at the end of July and will be gone for four intense weeks. Most of the arrangements have already been made -- and the thought that she will be on her own adds to, rather than subtracts from, her anticipation.

The solitude of living alone does worry her, a grim little visitation of concern -- mostly in the late afternoons, when the day feels vacuumed out, but she's not at the point of paralysis, not yet. She's capable, for instance, of going for a walk alone. The street she lives on, Grosvenor Avenue, is old, lined with trees and with Victorian houses, now mostly converted to rental apartments, or to condominiums, like the one she shares with Peter Knightly. The snow is almost gone, the sidewalks more or less clear of ice, and she likes on Saturday afternoons to put on a pair of jeans and her suede jacket and strike off, saying to herself: I, Fay McLeod, have every right to breathe this air, to take possession of this stretch of pavement. (Occasionally during these walks, the word "single" presents itself. She makes herself sigh it out, trying hard to keep her mouth from puckering -- single, singleness, singlehood, herself engaged in a single-ish stroll.) Blasts of wind smooth the sky to a glossy blue-rose, and the sun sits weak and yellow. She can set her own pace, that is her right after all, and fill up her lungs with the chilly air, stop if she likes at the Mozart Café for a cup of coffee, come home when she chooses. Along the way she smiles and nods at elderly couples or joggers or women dragging shopping bags, and each time this happens she feels her ties to the world yank and hold firm.

Sleeping alone is harder than going for a walk alone, oh yes, she admits it, but she's learned a few tricks of accommodation. And sex these days is everywhere, abundantly, dismayingly available.

As for the future, there will be other men. Or at least there probably will be others. This is one of the hopeful thoughts Fay has about herself. Before Peter Knightly, she lived for three years with a man called Nelo Merino, an investment consultant who was later transferred to Ottawa; she still feels swamped at times by her lost love for Nelo, who is married now, she's been told, and the father of three children. Before Nelo it was Willy Gifford (two years), who produced business training films and was a philosopher of sorts, a Cartesian he liked to call himself, whom she might have married if his political views had been less rigidly anchored and less tiresomely voiced. Between Willy and Nelo, and again between Nelo and Peter, there had been short periods of living on her own, and she honestly can't remember these intervals as being lonely. She has her job at the National Center for Folklore Studies, her friends, her family (mother, father, brother, sister, all of them living close by), her summer trips, and her book on mermaids that she hopes to finish sometime in the next year. She's always busy, too busy, and is always reminding herself of this fact, so that the notion of an empty apartment, even an empty bed, holds no more than a faint flush of alarm. And only when she thinks about it -- those late afternoons when her blood sugar dips and the overhead lights in her office go on. She'll manage, though. She knows she will.

It comes down, then, to just one brief moment, which is in-woven in her morning routine and located in that most familiar of rooms, the kitchen. Peter Knightly, with whom she has lived for three years now, will be making coffee, stooping in the manner of tall men and registering on his long face the kind of seriousness she finds silly but endearing. A temporary hood of domesticity and sexual ease hovers over them, sending down its safe blue even heat. He grinds his special French-roast beans and measures out water, and she, standing with her back to him, is making toast, dropping the seven-grain bread into twin slots, pushing the lever down and eliciting a satisfying double click as it first strikes the bottom of its long silvery grove and then locks into place. The heat rises gradually to her face. Her image bends on the satiny chrome -- a woman performing a simple but necessary task -- and inside the mechanism, down there where she can't see, separate molecules of bread are transcending their paleness and drifting toward gold. She imagines a pair of scented clouds, rectangular and contained, rising up and mingling with the coffee odors. The toastness of toast, its primary grainy essence. Peter is pulling cups from a cupboard, smooth white porcelain objects out of a cartoon, and heating a little jug of milk in the microwave.

Then the toast pops. It always takes her by surprise, those two identical slices bounding upward, perfectly browned and symbolically (it seems to her) aligned, and bringing every single morning a shock of happiness.

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Capacity for Infinite Happiness, The

Capacity for Infinite Happiness, The

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : historical

How do you piece together love?

Mathematician Emily Kogan needs to finish her thesis, and her secretive family may be just the inspiration she’s looking for. When she returns to her family’s vacation lodge she decides to conduct research into the influence of personal relationships, using her family tree as an original social network. Tracing the spiderwebs of these connections, she learns far more than she bargained for.

In the 1930s, Harpo Marx joins his brothers at the Kogan’s Jewish reso …

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Excerpt

Emily crept to the kitchen, then up the stairs and through the hallway, then down again toward registration. There must be a vault somewhere with all the family documents. The registration area was too wide open. Nobody would leave birth certificates here. She moved on. The first visit to the lodge that she remembered had been when she was six years old, when she’d visited with her parents. She remembered dragging a towel down this narrow stairway. Corners had been difficult. But still. The lodge had been fun.

She stopped at the shut office door.

On that same trip, she'd visited her grandfather, Papa Moshe, in his office. Every time he'd moved toward her, she'd cried, and her father had had to pick her up. All the adults minus Moshe had laughed. Jonah had been there too, of course, a little boy hovering in the doorway. The door was locked. That boded well. The filing cabinets were locked too, from what she remembered. That was also a good sign, but hard to work around. She'd never figured out how to pick the locks. There might be other hiding places around, however.

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Maunder

Maunder

edition:Paperback

Maundering is a both a physical and verbal process. One can walk in a maundering, aimless fashion and one can verbosely maunder on. Claire Kelly's debut collection, Maunder, contains poems about the physical act of walking and the mental act, what is seen and what is reflected on. These poems allow the reader to do their own idle walk across the page, stepping from image to image, place to place, striding, pivoting in different, unexpected directions.

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