New Books and Featured Reading Lists

Each week on the 49th Shelf homepage, we highlight new releases. We also make theme-based lists and showcase lists from guest contributors and 49th Shelf members. This page archives these selections so they are always available to our members.

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New Fiction for the week of January 11th : New Fiction
A Curious Incident

A Curious Incident

A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery
edition:Hardcover
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Without Blood

Without Blood

A Victor Lessard Thriller
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Excerpt

April 1st, 2005
Chapter One

Montreal

As far as I can remember, there was no sunshine on the morning of April 1st, only the grey drizzle of a late-breaking day. A sheet of dirty ice clung to the pavement in front of my apartment on Saint-Antoine Street.

Caught up among the torrents of snow that the plows had been shoving aside since December, discarded papers lay in a mosaic on the sidewalk.

April.

It’s the time of year when, as though recalling a forgotten promise after a long winter, the residents of Montreal start looking forward to blue skies, to buds on the trees and a warm wind on their faces. It’s also the time of year when Canadiens fans begin to dream about the Stanley Cup.

Though the district of Saint-Henri was manifestly underprivileged, its fortunes had been looking up lately. Contributing to this trend were the renaissance of the old Atwater Market, the revitalization of the Lachine Canal — where empty factories were being converted into high-end condos — and the creation of a bicycle path linked to the market by a pedestrian bridge.

Unlike the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal, Saint-Henri would never be a tourist destination. It wouldn’t become a mini Soho or Greenwich Village. But still, a growing number of young people were moving into the area.

That’s precisely how it was with me. I occupied a five-and-a-half with crumbling plaster walls, though I only used the three rooms that were fit for habitation.

My clock radio went off for the first time at 6:45 a.m. I automatically hit the snooze button, giving myself ten minutes’ grace. It was the same routine every morning until my official wake-up at 7:15 a.m. But for reasons I’d be hard put to explain, that’s not how things worked out this particular morning.

I woke with a start at 8:45 a.m., emerging from an awful nightmare in which a car was about to run me down. I lay in a daze for a few seconds, staring at the clock’s liquid crystal display. No doubt about it. The time really was 8:45 a.m. I was going to be seriously late.

Leaping from my bed, I hurried into the shower. I didn’t pause to enjoy the scalding caress of the water, a pleasure I usually prolonged until the tank was empty, which generally took less than three minutes.

I had turned thirty-three the previous week. My best friend, Ariane, had given me a green wool sweater, which I now threw on after grabbing my jeans off the floor.

To celebrate the occasion, we’d had dinner in Chinatown. We’d gotten decidedly tipsy and closed out the evening in a seedy karaoke bar on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, where, to my own surprise, I’d launched into a delirious rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s old hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

I walked past the mirror and pushed back a few unruly locks of red hair. My face was freckled. As for the rest of me, it was neither ugly nor beautiful. Ordinary, but not boring. Makeup was something I never wasted time on. I grabbed a beanie off the coat rack to keep my hair in place and threw on my old coat.

As I was opening the door, a caramel-coloured furball darted through my legs into the street.

Stupid cat!

I loved to hate that animal, which fled from me every time I set foot in the apartment. But I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of him.

I had come home one morning to find him on the doorstep. He had probably belonged to the previous tenant.

A survivor, like me.

By 9:12 a.m., I was running toward the bus stop on Atwater.

After slipping discreetly into my cubicle, I collapsed onto my not-even-slightly-ergonomic chair, which squeaked as I sat down.

I looked at my watch: 9:50 a.m.!

Maybe nobody noticed.

The first thing I did was check my emails. I opened a few messages and noted that there were no new developments in the file that I was supposed to be overseeing.

My tension level rose when I saw an email from the boss, sent a few minutes ago and marked “Important.” The company was small, and Flavio Dinar ran it like a dictator. He hated lateness, but I desperately needed this job. My cheeks flaming, I clicked the email.

Date: Friday, April 1, 2005, 9:20 am
From: flavio.dinar@dinar.com
To: simone.fortin@dinar.com
Attachments: Fundraiser(text).doc, Fundraiser(photos).gif

To all employees:
I was delighted to see everyone participate so enthusiastically in this year’s “Software Fights Poverty” fundraiser.
I’m proud to inform you that thanks to your commitment, your hard work, and the generosity of our donors, we surpassed our fundraising objective for 2005, collecting the record sum of $16,000.
I want to thank you all for the excellence of your contributions, which reflect the high standards of Dinar Communications.
I’ve attached some articles and photographs that appeared in various newspapers some weeks ago.
Cordially yours, Flavio Dinar

I let out a sigh of relief. The email had nothing to do with my lateness. Since I’d participated actively in the fundraising event, which had been held in a reception room at the Saint-Sulpice Hotel, I opened the file and looked over the media coverage. Each employee had created a fun piece of software for the event.

My nonsense-phrase generator wasn’t particularly brilliant, but it had attracted the highest bid of the night, three thousand dollars. That didn’t really come as a surprise. The bidder, a bald, middle-aged man, had been watching me all evening long like a drug user eyeing his stash.

Following the event, Flavio Dinar had hosted an after-party in two connecting hotel suites that he’d booked for the evening. When it came to preserving close ties with major clients, the man knew what he was doing. There were even whispers that over half the company’s revenue came from the federal government through the back channels of the scandal-ridden sponsorship program.

As a result, the entertainment laid on by the boss included champagne, cocaine, and high-end escorts. None of which was likely to raise an eyebrow among those familiar with the public-relations business. In that line of work, moral rectitude doesn’t count for much.

I had put in my usual perfunctory appearance at the party, but left before it degenerated into a bacchanal. I had decided to leave the event as Dinar, blind drunk, was preparing to offer up a public display of his personal charms, stumbling onto the dance floor in a hypnotic trance.

On my way out, I had run into the bald man. A good-looking young blond was on his arm. Gazing eagerly down my décolleté, he had invited me to join him and his companion for a drink somewhere else. Politely but firmly, I had declined.

Opening the file that contained the photos, I noticed that most of the images were of Dinar employees and inebriated donors. In one of them, I saw the bald man and the blond in a smiling embrace. The blond’s gaze seemed unfocused.

On the caption accompanying the photo, I read: Jacques Mongeau. The name seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Then I forgot about it.

I should have remembered him, but I didn’t. Even if I had, I don’t think it would have changed anything. More than seven years had passed since the last time I’d heard the man’s name. I’d spent those years trying to put a very painful chapter of my life behind me.

Despite all the precautions I’d taken, I saw my own face in the background of another photograph. Not only that, but my name was listed on the caption accompanying the picture. All of which was very upsetting. But at that moment, I had no inkling of the chaos the photo would unleash.

I was starting to feel distinctly anxious when Ariane stepped into my cubicle.

“You’re late!”

Her voice was loud and cheery.

“Keep it down,” I whispered. “No one noticed.”

She threw herself onto the visitor’s chair, which let out a groan.

“It’s not like you make a habit of it. You haven’t taken a day off in two years.”

“You know I can’t stand being late.” I reddened. I was still prone to blushing, even at my age. “A lot can go wrong in five minutes.”

I gathered up some loose papers and placed them in a neat stack on the corner of my cracked melamine desk. A lot really could go wrong in five minutes. I knew from experience.

Ariane jumped to her feet.

“Coffee?”

“Are you nuts? I just got here!”

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Breaking Right
Excerpt

From 'The Etch A Sketch Shaman'

'This guy,' asked Jessamyn as she hovered an outstretched index finger a few inches from the picture hanging before her, 'does all this with old cassette tapes?' She was pointing at an all-too familiar pose of Tom Waits on a crème-coloured canvas. His outline was dark and shiny, like the straight-edged of an oil spill.

'He does,' replied Trevor. He stood directly beside Jessamyn, closely examining the next canvas in line; a reproduction of Frank Zappa from his younger years, backlit by its mint green canvas. Zappa was majestic in stature. Trevor, in his late twenties with a mop of thick shaggy hair and mustache, attempted to match the posture before slumping back down into his comfortable farm boy slouch. Jessamyn would say Trevor was more modeled after Vonnegut in stance and form, a hint that pushed both at humility and quiet self-confidence. 'He was working on a couple when I was over at his place a few weeks back. He was using old cassettes someone had traded him for a couple of old car speakers at the booth he runs at the Flea Market over Irvington way.' Trevor had described initially Edgar Moore as that one great hustler artist that every Midwestern city should and generally manages to develop. Trevor had known him in the way that small town friends often had, in a sort of life-out-time fashion that knew no beginning and no end.

Jessamyn wiggled her finger, posited a lighter look at the picture, then dropped a step back to take in the rest of the canvases that hung on the single wall of the makeshift gallery. There were about a good ten or eleven of all the same size. The art was fairly mundane in folk art nature, but there was something near magical in the way it struck her. Jessamyn was little taller than Trevor, a year younger, and carried the dark hair and tanned complexion of her Persian father. She had the fine angular features of her mother. 'He sounds like a flea market professional,' she opined, realized that she sounded like a judgy out-of-towner and quickly added in sympathy. 'The things we go to get by.'

'He is known to work in the flea market,' offered Trevor. 'But a little better known as artist. A shamanic artist, a real healer of sorts.'

Jessamyn paused to consider. 'Shamanic?' she repeated. She was a newcomer to Indianapolis. She had come to know Trevor in the last few months. She had got to talking to him at a Pacer's game during an event held by the pharmaceutical company she works for. A mere few weeks into her new job in the research lab position and Trevor had become her one other single and 'hip' friend actually from the city. He was a bonafide Hoosier and good company in the way very few other men or women at work had managed to be. She might have called this particular night a date, seeing as it was only her and Trevor. It could have seemed that way quite easily, except that the two had managed to be both awkward together and quite comfortable at the same time. There was an emotional and physical line that neither one had been willing to cross.

'Yeah,' said Trevor, 'like the Lenape kind we stole the state from. He used to be pretty famous about it.'

Jessamyn hummed a reply to this. This idea fascinated her. Back home, Indiana was often referred to as the backwoods kind of place down south full of farmers, conservatives, and religious zealots. Out of something that was undoubtedly not a coincidence, Toledo's local bible thumping television station ads would be majority from Indiana PO boxes. There was something evangelical about the land she had come to inhabit. A lot of her neighbours had seemingly bought into it, for good or bad. And the daughter of Muslim auto workers with an undergraduate degree in microbiology was left more curious and wanting about spirituality in America. Edgar Moore the shamanic healer artist was about as interesting as it got for Jessamyn.

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Charity
Excerpt

Charity

 

It seemed as unlikely as the venerable Shakespeare actor once dating a Supreme. Never having heard of him Greta was certain she had heard one or two Supreme songs. “Baby love, my baby love …” Teasing us she laughed in her unruly way. “Is that the one?” I felt it better to say nothing more in case idle talk increased her willful attraction to this man four times her age and half her weight. If they were more than friends, neither Patrick nor I really wanted to know. A liaison like theirs might be plausible in a celebrity world of relaxed shack-ups, but to us it felt ridiculous.

“He’s peacocking!” said Patrick.

We liked Rudy, it was not that, even my parents had enjoyed his company, and we trusted him once to babysit Greta when our regular sitter had had a conflict. He melted her cheese bagel and dusted the den. At musical chairs she’d made him lift the needle off Baby Beluga so many times he cricked his wrist. He waggled it, that evening on our return, punctuating his account of their time getting acquainted. Like a house on fire? I didn’t ask. Before bed came Princess Mouseskin—although he confessed she hadn’t settled until they played Chinese checkers on her pillow. Younger, two decades ago, our old family friend was already balding and recently into a comfortable retirement.

So no, it was not his lack of trustworthiness, at least not quite. I was puzzled the next morning by what I found on Greta’s bedspread. His effect on her was coincidental. The prospect lately of imagining him bobbing up and down atop our daughter, who would be unable to stop laughing at his effeteness, discomfited us. Having to toilet him before she was thirty could well turn her compulsive laughter manic. She loved long swims, so it seemed grotesque to contemplate for her an abridged future of pre-palliative care. Patrick confided to me, and I wished he hadn’t, it would be like mating the family’s pet goat to a rubber raft. Shamefully then, every time Rudy arrived that summer to take her chopping carrots—once our front door closed, and we watched him in the driveway ushering her regally into his Nash Metropolitan, we fell apart on the floor.

Howling?

We could as well have wept.

“Vintage slapstick,” said Patrick. “He and that puddle-jumper!”

The fullback bulk she inherited from her father. Until she turned nine, I had cooked leanly for them both, after which, when they wouldn’t suspend their taco top-ups before bed, I gave in to more lamb roasts than were good for either. By fourteen she weighed approximately half her father’s weight, and by nineteen all of it. By twenty I turned to Pacific cod and deluxe veggie burgers, too late to reconstitute her chronic hunger. I knew she was compensating on campus with oriental fare—just not of the Japanese variety. Pork, I guessed, not tuna—thick Shanghai noodles instead of sushi. Patrick had her tested for diabetes and an underactive thyroid, prescribed a statin for cholesterol, and made a valid attempt to put things right by yielding to a better regimen himself. But he was unable to resist the snacks his clinic should not have provided its staff, but did, continuing on his own to measure between Important and Severe on the Body Mass Index and so proving a poor model for the younger doctors, their patients, his own daughter.

Greta herself wondered about bariatric surgery, to reduce the capacity of her abounding belly. Patrick poo-pooed this and checked her further for sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation.

A perfectionist about everything but her weight, she was sailing through college as she had through school. Academically, that is. She enjoyed snap quizzes as much as acrostic puzzles. Do No Harm proclaimed the guiding motto of her current faculty, and if an unexpected headwind blew up in her ethics course, her tack was squally but never unscrupulous. For example, one evening over dinner at Pastis, she put it to us: “When could eliminating sodium chloride entirely from the food you serve be called an act of love?”

“At Macdonald’s,” said Patrick, “definitely.”

She looked serious.

“Go on, sweetie.”

He knew from listening to patients it was better to establish a baseline than answer any query too soon. A case history required forbearance, especially in ethical riddles of the heart, of which Patrick was convinced this was one, and not a practical question about blood pressure. Margaret claimed it was an interesting conundrum if we could imagine the consequences in a world of older men like Kim.

“Rudy?” I said.

“His taste buds,” she explained, “have withered enough. Rudy’s.”

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Our Darkest Night

Our Darkest Night

A Novel of Italy and the Second World War
edition:Paperback
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Gutter Child

Gutter Child

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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The Ancient Dead

The Ancient Dead

An Amanda Doucette Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Excerpt

Chapter One

Beneath the dry, cracked soil, the tufts of sage and prairie wool, lay the graveyard of the ancient dead. Even after weeks of exploring the open range, Todd Ellison still shivered at the thought, as if ghosts were walking at his side. The sun blazed in the cloudless blue sky and a fitful wind billowed in from the west, swirling dust in its path. After a relentlessly dry summer, the land was parched.

The weather was still hot in late August, but Todd had packed a pullover and windbreaker in his backpack. This was Alberta, after all. Full of surprises.

He tilted his cowboy hat back and turned in place to take stock. The rolling grassland seemed to stretch on forever, broken only by a scattering of Hereford cattle, occasional clumps of trees and farms, and an oil derrick bobbing lazily against the distant horizon. His backpack stuck to his sweaty back as he pulled it around to get at his water bottle and binoculars. He needed shade and rest. According to his GPS, he was not far from a coulee, which carved a deep crevice through the ancient sandstone.

Coulees promised the shade of bushes and outcrops, but more importantly, they were where some of the best secrets lay. He trained his binoculars toward the eastern horizon, where a smudge of grey humps suggested the edge of the coulee. Nearer still was the slumping shape of an old outbuilding. Exactly what he’d been looking for! After a quick swig of water, he looped his camera around his neck and slipped his pack into place. With a fresh burst of energy, he started forward, picking his way through the sage and keeping an eye open for the vicious spikes of cactuses.

The wind blew in gusts against his back, tugging at the dry grass and driving fine sand into his eyes. His hiking boot struck something hard. He parted the grass to reveal a smooth stone partially buried in the soil. A quick search revealed other stones arranged in a circle about twelve feet across. Excited, he photographed them, taking care to capture the iridescent oranges and greens of the lichen and the sharp shadows of the sage. Once, the Blackfoot had roamed unhindered across this prairie, hunting buffalo, but now these occasional stone circles were all that remained of their camps and tepees. The stones would make a spectacular photograph for his book.

Closer to the outbuilding, a pair of craggy grey posts poked up out of the grass, and soon he could distinguish bits of rusty barbed wire still clinging to their sides, remnants of a long abandoned fence put up by a farmer or rancher in earlier times. Todd nudged his boot into the soil, which was too dry and sandy even for grazing here. Like the stone circles, the fence posts were testament to long-dead dreams. A title for his photographic history book was beginning to take shape: Ghosts of the Ancient Dead. Snapping photos, he walked around the posts and adjusted settings and filters as he knelt to highlight them against the sun. Subtle hues of lichen glistened in the light. He studied the effects on the screen and smiled. This was going to be good.

As he drew nearer, details of the outbuilding took shape. Barely fifteen feet square, it listed badly as if weary of its battle against the relentless wind. Its sun-bleached walls still propped one another up, but its roof had long since fallen inside. The door hung open, creaking in the wind, its wooden hinges and bolt splintered as if someone had tried to break it down. Holes gaped where the two small windows had been. Todd peered inside. All but a few primitive furnishings had been scavenged, but a willow sapling was flourishing in the relative cool of the shade.

After taking dozens of photos outside, Todd bent his head to squeeze his six-foot frame through the door and adjusted his camera to capture the gloom. He noted now the scorch pattern on the wall where the woodstove must have been, the nails in the walls where the few clothes and implements would have hung, and the single shelf on which sat some chipped cups and an empty whisky bottle caked in dust and oddly out of place. A message had been carved into the wall next to the window. He leaned in to photograph it. It was barely legible, and he blew the sand out of the cracks. A horizontal line, and next to it Snow, March 1907.

More ghosts. Todd smiled as he photographed it, documenting history. In March 1907, some poor beleaguered pioneer must have been nearly buried in a spring blizzard that had blown in from the Rockies. He had probably been forced to crawl out through the window. Todd wondered whether he’d been alone or whether he’d had to rescue his entire family from the storm. A trip to the local archives or land registry should tell him the identity and fate of the settler who’d once tried to survive on this land. He retreated back outside to look for more clues about their early life. There was almost nothing left except a nail keg and a broken sleigh runner. He dictated his impressions into his phone. First impressions and a dose of imagination made for powerful reading.

Afterward, he checked his watch, mindful that he had to retrace his steps to the range road before nightfall. In August, the days were already getting shorter and the nights cooler. But it was just past two o’clock, still plenty of time to reach the coulee. The best pictures would be there, amid the old cottonwoods, the ripples of eroded, multilayered rock, and the curving shadows of light. With any luck, maybe even a dinosaur bone or two.

He came upon the coulee quite unexpectedly as the prairie floor fell into a yawning crevice of barren hills and steep slopes down to the ancient riverbed. In the spring, snow melt would tumble down through the gully into the Red Deer River farther east, washing silt and debris with it, but in late August, the riverbed was dry. Willows and gnarled cottonwood trees clustered along the shoreline to sap the last drops of water from the parched soil. The v-shaped valley snaked ahead into the distance, forming an eerie moonscape of colours and shapes.

The wind picked up as it swept through the gully, racing over the barren hills and tearing at the bushes nestled in the crevices. Tufts of sagebrush and prairie grass clung to the desolate southern slopes, but hardy green and gold bushes grew in the lee of the north-facing hills. Todd picked his descent carefully down a crevice through sandstone and popcorn rock that crumbled underfoot, dislodging cascades of debris. Amid the debris, rocks and pebbles glinted in the sunlight. He bent to pick them up, looking for bits of ancient shellfish, seeds, and bones, imprints of leaves and flowers, the ancient dead from a time millions of years ago when this had been a swampy, inland sea teeming with life.

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This week's recommended reading lists

Change Your Life!

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You Hold Me Up

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Tree Books

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New Non-Fiction for the week of January 4th : New Year, New You: Self Help
The 4% Fix

The 4% Fix

How One Hour Can Change Your Life
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Body Positive

Body Positive

A Guide to Loving Your Body
edition:Paperback
More Info
You Are Awesome

You Are Awesome

How to Navigate Change, Wrestle with Failure, and Live an Intentional Life
edition:Paperback
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The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project

How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good
edition:Paperback
tagged : happiness
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How to Be Kinkier

How to Be Kinkier

More Adventures in Adult Playtime
edition:Paperback
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The Conscious Creative

The Conscious Creative

Practical Ethics for Purposeful Work
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Excerpt

Acknowledge Your Role in the System
Say it with me: “My name is ________________ and I’m a tool of capitalism.” A vital first step toward an ethical practice is being aware of and owning our roles within a troublesome consumption-machine and the human, animal, and environmental consequences that come along with that. Being aware of the impact of the systems within which we operate can empower us with an enriched understanding of the work that we do and, hopefully, help us advocate for change. There is a fine line between being aware of issues and being crushed by the weight of the systemic problems we face. Aim for the former to stay in a headspace of action and empowerment, and remember, we can’t single-handedly save the world in one profound act. What we can do is implement some of the actions outlined in this book, and develop some of our own, to effect incremental change toward a more equitable world.
Help your Audience Live (Mentally) Healthily
Over the years there have been all sorts of sketchy ways the creative industries have been complicit in manufacturing needs. The practice of manipulating audience behaviour has become increasingly stealthy through the use of things like dark patterns (manipulative interface designs that trick users into doing things they may not have wanted to do), the repetitive hyper-targeting and re-targeting of ads and past-viewed products, and addictive experiences in digital product design. Aiming to identify and avoid these modes of practice is a key step toward an ethical practice.
I would argue that we can’t be conscious creatives if we’re exploiting self-esteem to sell a product, infusing fat-phobia into our marketing messages, advertising nutritionally void foods to kids, producing experiences that capitalize on a dopamine/reward response, selling high fashion using violent, misogynistic imagery, or promoting mindless consumption. These ethical pitfalls aren’t always simple to avoid, however mindful awareness, positive intentions, and advocating for the promotion of healthy behaviours in our audiences are steps in the right direction.
Make it Analogue
When creating with objectives toward developing strong and connected communities, consider that reliance on or defaulting to a technology-based solution might not serve our cause well. Social Innovation leader Ezio Manzini believes that a community’s reliance on digital connectivity can actually weaken a once-solid social fabric. This replacement of authentic, real-world connections with connections based in superficial, digital realms can, arguably, compromise a community’s resilience. If technology is necessary in your creative work, ensure it plays a supporting role and never replaces face-to-face human connection.
Acknowledge The Privilege of Ethical Practice
Let’s promise to stop judging the people around on us whose choices we don’t perceive to be ethical. Having the ability to make socially and environmentally conscious decisions can be steeped in a privilege not universally shared. For example: ethically made materials, resources, food, and fashion often come at a higher price point and are therefore inaccessible to many people. To have the choice to work for an ethical employer often demands earning a college education, which requires financial means and intellectual aptitude. Advocating for change can require long hours, emotional labour, mental fortitude, and a requirement for presence in collective action not always available to those whose safety, mental health, or physical health may be compromised. To be supportive allies in the pursuit of a better world, we must start with an understanding of the complex systems that can impact our abilities to act. When we withdraw judgment from other people’s choices, we can remember to do the same for ourselves. Usually we are doing the best we can with the awareness and the resources we have at the time.

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The Mind-Body Cure

The Mind-Body Cure

Heal Your Pain, Anxiety, and Fatigue by Controlling Chronic Stress
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook
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Perseverance

Perseverance

The Seven Skills You Need to Survive, Thrive, and Accomplish More Than You Ever Imagined
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
More Info
Excerpt

We all have an idea of what perseverance means, but it was only relatively late in life that I really came to understand it.

Our North American culture often tells us that we should look, feel, and be successful. Yet any success I’ve had has come only after significant ordeals, and rarely did I ever feel successful along the way. But I’ve learned to persevere. This is an important point to hold on to: perseverance can be learned. We can grow in our ability to withstand difficult times. We can learn to push forward in the face of failure. We can develop the determination to keep slogging ahead until we reach that remarkable day when someone in our life points out how “lucky” we’ve been.

It’s funny how so many of those who work hard and simply stay in the game get “lucky.” Without a doubt, many successful people will tell you that they’ve experienced lots of luck in their journey. That’s because they stayed on the journey. They never quit. They learned to persevere.

I’ve been forced, specifically by Parkinson’s disease, to learn simplicity within perseverance. I’ve come to see that I can’t do it all, that at times I do need a hand, and that I certainly can’t control every outcome in life. Although that sounds like a lot of things I can’t do, I’ve learned that I can pay better attention, focus carefully, and end up accomplishing more. And as I find that there are things I can control, my character is deepened and I discover contentment.

Perseverance—a great big long word that’s often attached to difficulties. Yet if we learn its lessons our lives will be deeper, richer, and more vibrant than we ever imagined.

***

Jenna was ten when her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of fifty. Unlike most ten-year-olds, she understood the gravity of the diagnosis—and set herself to doing something about this thing that had attacked her dad. When she learned that funds were needed to help people live well with the disease and to spur on research for a cure, she decided to help those who could help her dad. Five years later, “Jenna’s Toonies for Tulips” campaign is going strong; she’s raised more than $50,000 for Parkinson’s. (In Canada, a toonie is the two-dollar coin.)

Jenna is the daughter of a good friend of mine. I’m continually amazed and inspired by her work for Parkinson’s; she’s a constant reminder of the simplicity of what it is I want to do with my life. Like Jenna, I want to help. Whether it’s her dad or others like him, I want to see people lifted above the misery of their circumstances and inspired to live their best.

Hence this book. My greatest desire in writing it is to shine a light deep into people’s souls and convince them that there is a better way. Throughout the book I’ll provide practical steps, but my first goal is to help us see the bright reality of what can be. Then we can set ourselves on the course to that reality.

Later I’ll discuss how this journey is best traveled with others. I’ve learned that I can’t make it on my own; instead, I’ve experienced the best of life in community. The most important members of mine are my family. At the age of fifty-two I’m a husband of thirty-two years to my lovely wife, Sheryl. We have four incredible children (two boys, two girls), a beautiful daughter-in-law, and one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind, a granddaughter.

By profession, I am a nurse. I reside in that unique minority of males who make up roughly five percent of the profession. This is my chosen career, or at least the one I backed into. By passion, I am a writer, speaker, founder of a charity, entrepreneur, runner, and follower of Christ. These are the many important adjectives that describe who I am. Not listed in any particular order.

Then there’s that pesky little friend named Parkinson’s, which came into my life at a comparatively early age and which allows me to call myself patient, client, advocate, and fighter. I have a complex relationship with this “friend.” I love much of what Parkinson’s has brought me, while hating it and specifically its symptoms. It’s a disease that typically afflicts individuals over the age of sixty. Seldom is it a bother to those under fifty, with only about ten percent of the Parkinson’s population diagnosed before the mid-century mark. I was forty-six.

Parkinson’s is a progressive nerve disease of the brain that in time leads to a debilitation of a person’s motor functions. In other words, you can no longer control the movements of your body. The individual with Parkinson’s loses the important ability to produce a chemical called dopamine, leading to the classic symptoms of tremor, stiffness, slowness, and loss of balance. Along with myriad lesser-known evils referred to as “non-motor symptoms.”

Not all lottery wins are good things, and I’m not particularly happy about having won this one. But although my new best friend—whom I hate—has brought a certain level of grief into my life, it also played a direct role in my next lottery win.

At Sheryl’s urging, my son Tim Jr. and I applied to appear on The Amazing Race Canada. We had little expectation of hearing back. But Sheryl was certain we’d get an interview; they’ll be intrigued, she said, by my Parkinson’s diagnosis. Naturally, she was right.

Running that race has changed everything. It’s not only taught me valuable lessons in how to persevere but also allowed me the opportunity to pursue my passions.

Winning was incredible, of course. The trips, the prizes, the cash—it was all more exciting than words can describe. Yet my passions have never had much to do with things. As a nurse, it was always my desire to care for individuals. Early on, as a youth pastor, I wanted to help students find their way in life. Since then Sheryl and I have been involved with a number of charities and community organizations, and the race has given us the chance to pursue these activities with renewed vigor. It, and Parkinson’s, have led to many exciting adventures that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought possible, from the founding of our charity, U-Turn Parkinson’s, to the development of a speaking career that has taken me around the globe.

So in writing this book, I want to inspire you to view life through a new lens—to see the potentially negative as an opportunity to grow. Running the race was an adventure, but what I want to share are the challenges of running it with Parkinson’s and the lessons that taught me. To help you discover the joy that comes in persevering through hard times. I hope to encourage those who face this disease, to give them and their families the courage and strength to walk this very difficult path. But I also want to encourage those living with other hardships, whatever they may be. After all, the lessons on perseverance are universal, and can help the cancer patient and the corporate CEO alike.

Running the race with my eldest son was a wonderful experience. Many have asked about this aspect of the journey, and my answer is always the same: Tim Jr. made the perfect partner. He was fun and lighthearted, but also attentive to the needs of a father with Parkinson’s. He was patient with my weaknesses and carried us when needed with the strength that comes only from a strapping young man. I’m so proud to have had the chance to create these memories with my son. I can’t imagine having won this race without him.

It is my hope that you’ll be inspired by our story—and that, like my friend Jenna, you’ll grow in your ability to persevere. I hope it will give you what you need to run your race and win.

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This week's recommended reading lists
New Children's for the week of December 14th : New Picture Books
ABC Monstrosity

ABC Monstrosity

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : beginner
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Slow Moe

Slow Moe

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contributions by Kelly Nakatsuka
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New Non-Fiction for the week of December 7th : New Books on Art
A Pocket Guide to The Unheralded Artists of BC Series

A Pocket Guide to The Unheralded Artists of BC Series

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Peter Powning

Peter Powning

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The Bomb in the Wilderness

The Bomb in the Wilderness

Photography and the Nuclear Era in Canada
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Light Revealed

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Perimeter's Ridge

Perimeter's Ridge

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Along the Western Front

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edition:Hardcover
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Into the Arctic

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This week's recommended reading lists

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