The link below is to an article that lists six alternatives to Audible for audio books.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at 5 free webcomic apps.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at some of the best fantasy maps in books. The list of course includes the map for George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’
For more visit:
The link below is to an article that lists 15 ebook reader apps that the writer considers the best. As always, check out the comments section below the article for ‘alternative’ views as to what is the best ebook reader (oftentimes not listed in the article), especially if what you are after is not in the provided list. However, you should be able to find what you need in the list provided.
I, of course, use the Kindle ebook app whenever I need to use an app, though generally I use my Paperwhite. I do find the Moon Reader + app to be a very good ebook reader app also.
The link below is to an article that covers (pun intended) bad book covers.
The link below is to an article that looks at the best crime reads of 2020.
This article is part of three-part series on summer reads for young people after a very unique year.
US teenager Trayvon Martin was shot dead in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman who was later acquitted of the murder. This saw the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The racist social and political issues in the US saw the deaths and violence on Black bodies brought front and centre through acts of protest.
The arguments against the alleged police brutality in the US were easily translatable to the Australian context.
The Black Lives Matters movement was renewed following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May this year. And together with US counterparts, tens of thousands of Australians marched across our cities to draw attention to racial profiling, police brutality and the more than 400 Indigenous people who have died in police custody since a royal commission into the problem was held in 1991.
The global movement brought unprecedented sales of books about race and anti-racism. This turn toward texts is indicative of the role they play in helping us make sense of major social issues.
Angie Thomas, author of the 2017 bestseller “The Hate U Give”, has spoken about the role of literature in igniting awareness, resistance and change.
I think books […] play a huge role in opening people’s eyes and they’re a form of activism in their own right, in the fact that they do empower people and show others the lives of people who may not be like themselves.
Research has long shown a link between the books we read and our development of empathy. But more recent research has highlighted it is important we don’t see books as immediate fixes to complex social issues, especially when we import these books from other locations and times.
Our reading must be accompanied by close attention to the ways racism and prejudice unfold in our own location.
Coming to understand the impact and complexity of racism in this way is referred to as “racial literacy”. Here are five books that can help young people build racial literacy around the varied forms of racism and discrimination.
1. Dear Martin
by Nic Stone
Dear Martin explores issues of race through the eyes of conscientious 17 year old, Justyce McAllister.
Built around the central question, “What would Martin (Luther King) do?”, this novel brings to light the litany of decisions and ethical conundrums thrust into Justyce’s lap daily, as he navigates a world affected by racism and prejudice.
by Ibi Zobai and Yusuf Salaam
In 1989, five young men were falsely accused of the assault and murder of a jogger in New York’s Central Park. Now documented in Ava Duvernay’s Neflix miniseries When They See Us, the Five were exonerated 12 years later.
But the story stands as a haunting reminder of the inequalities experienced by Black men and the life-altering consequences this can wreak on innocent lives.
One of these young men, Yusuf Salaam, collaborates with award-winning author and prison reform activist Ibi Zobai, to craft a story that examines these themes through a narrative of a wrongfully incarcerated young man navigating his teenage years in prison.
edited by Anita Heiss
This anthology of 50 chapters provides an opportunity to deeply listen and understand the lived experiences of Indigenous Australians and the ways racism takes all manner of overt, subtle and systemic forms.
Particularly noteworthy are the chapters by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Celeste Liddle, in which the authors describe both the nature of racism experienced by them from the schoolyard, and the broader historical context on which this racism is based.
by Brittney Morris
This novel centres on 17-year-old Kiera, a talented young developer who creates a multiplayer role-playing game. The game is a “mecca of black excellence” and an escape from the racism often experienced by those “game-playing while black”.
When an offline murder is traced back to the game, Kiera grapples with the complexity of both the implications of her creation and the conversations it triggers.
Slay weaves social commentary into the dialogue between characters from all walks of life, covering everything from cultural appropriation, to whether racism can ever be “reversed”.
by Ambelin Kwaymullina
Many books here centre around the kind of racial stereotyping and violence that put the Black Lives Matter movement on the map. But understanding racism in the Australian context also involves examining colonialism and the racist underpinnings of our history.
Living on Stolen Land centres Indigenous sovereignty in the conversation about race. Using prose verses such as those titled “Bias” and “Listening”, it leads readers through examining unconscious beliefs and moving toward being a genuine ally of Indigenous people.
Author and educator Layla F Saad has suggested when we read texts about social issues like racism, we read for transformation, not merely information.
A range of texts have been developed to support families in having these transformative discussions together. Maxine Beneba Clarkes’ “When We Say Black Lives Matter”, for instance, is a beautifully illustrated picture book that focuses on the strength and resilience of black children and communities. While texts like Our Home our Heartbeat by Adam Briggs centres on key Indigenous figures to be celebrated.
The Deficit Myth: How to Build a Better Economy
Stephanie Kelton, Hachette Australia
No book prepared ahead of time better targeted the year in economics.
Just as governments including Australia’s were embracing debt (A$800 billion and counting) and creating money out of nowhere ($200 billion scheduled) came a treatise explaining that at times like these (actually, at any time when the resources of the economy aren’t fully employed) that’s entirely responsible.
Kelton explains that in an economy such as Australia’s the purpose of tax isn’t to raise money but to slow spending, and something else: demanding the payment of tax in Australian dollars forces Australians to use Australian dollars.
The example of teenagers not cleaning up around the house that she used in her talk at Adelaide University in January is priceless. You can watch the video here.
Economics in the Age of COVID-19
Joshua Gans, MIT Press
Written as we were coming to grips with what to do, and posted online chapter by chapter to get real-time feedback, the Australian author’s flash of inspiration was that we have experience in shutting down an economy and then restarting it.
We do it every Christmas writes Joshua Gans, and “no-one screams depression”.
That his way of seeing things now dominates talk about the pandemic doesn’t make it less radical. It’s partly because of his insights, published in April, that most governments no longer think that in this crisis they can trade off health against wealth.
Mervyn King, John Kay, Hachette Australia
The idea that every possibility can be reduced to a number, to a probability, is what makes simple mathematical economics work. It’s what makes insurance and credit ratings and assessments of the risk of getting coronavirus work. And it is wrong, as became clear in the devastation caused by the global financial crisis.
By itself, that’s not a particularly useful observation, but what is useful is the author’s discovery of where the idea that probability could be reduced to a simple number came from. The Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman shares much of the blame. He insisted that every uncertainty could be reduced a number that a rational utility-maximising human being could use to make decisions.
Before Friedman and contemporaries, there used to be two numbers, one representing risk, and the other representing uncertainty, which are quite different things and can’t be thrown together.
If you’re too busy for the book, try the London School of Economics podcast.
Fully Grown: Why A Stagnant Economy Is A Sign Of Success
Dietrich Vollrath, University of Chicago Press
Advanced economies may or may not roar out of the recession, but they are unlikely to boom as they did before. For decade after decade throughout the 1900s annual economic growth has been strong, averaging 2% per capita in the US.
In the first two decades of the 2000’s that growth has been weak, averaging 1% – only half of what it did.
Dietrich Vollrath, who blogs on growth and had no preconceptions, approached the puzzle as a mystery and found that the usual suspects (rising inequality, slower innovation, competition from China) didn’t explain enough.
The extra comes from success. The populations of the US and kindred nations have become so rich and (on average) old that having more children and striving for even higher incomes no longer makes sense.
The technical stuff is at the back. The message from the front is that we’ve arrived at our destination, which needn’t be a bad thing.
Economics in Two Lessons
John Quiggin, Princeton University Press
I’ve slipped this one in from 2019 for a reason. John Quiggin is about to publish a sequel, The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic.
Economics in One Lesson, published in 1946 financial journalist Henry Hazlitt, was a homage to the power of prices in a free market.
In lesson one (the first half of the book) Quiggin teases out Hazlitt’s thinking, and in lesson two shows how it follows from it that in many circumstances the market has to be contained.
Central to both lessons is opportunity cost, “what you give up in order to get something”, the most important concept in economics.
Polluters will make the wrong decisions if the cost of their pollution (largely borne by others) isn’t charged for. It’s a persuasive and increasingly-pressing argument.
Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University
Summer is the time for holidays and travel. But as we weakly wave goodbye (we hope) to the horrors of 2020, international travel is off the table and even domestic travel is still restricted.
A book is still your most faithful companion on summer journeys, even if that trip is limited to the journey between the kitchen and a sun lounge in the backyard.
Curated here is a mix tape of great literary road trips. There is one oldie but goodie, some 21st-century hits and shout-outs to the authors who mapped the way. Buckle up — or curl up — and enjoy.
1. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (c. 1400)
A series of stories told by a group of travellers, in Chaucer’s Middle English, takes readers on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas à Becket in Canterbury. Indeed, the pilgrimage can be seen as the earliest form of today’s holiday (a “holy day”), in which the faithful would journey for days or even weeks to visit a holy site. The physical demands of the travel itself contributed to the pilgrim’s spiritual growth.
Each pilgrim of The Canterbury Tales represents a different class or social position — the knight, the priest, the merchant, and so on. Additionally, each story not only represents a particular and symbolic genre — the low humour of the miller’s fabliaux, or the knight’s idealisation of the courtly love poem — but when taken together signify the interactions between people and experiences of the period.
If you enjoy The Canterbury Tales, you might also like Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey (8th C BCE) — a heroic adventure on the high seas. Likewise: Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days (both first published in English in 1872), or Jonathan Swift’s satirical masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels (1726).
2. Cheryl Strayed, Wild (2012)
Perhaps best known for the image of Reese Witherspoon tossing her hiking boots into a canyon in the 2014 film adaptation, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail is an epic pilgrimage in its own right.
Just as the archetypes of The Canterbury Tales undertake both a physical and a spiritual journey, so too Strayed commits to the trail as a trip of transformation and discovery: “a world I thought would both make me into the woman I knew I could become and turn me back into the girl I’d once been. A world that measured two feet wide and 2,663 miles long”.
Wild constitutes a modern, even feminist, reimagining of the American frontier narrative — a lone journey into the “wild west”, stripped of the markers of civilisation to truly find a self-made paradise. The book echoes and subverts the classic road trip novel, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) — a compulsory addition to any literary road trip list. It also hearkens back to Mark Twain’s boyhood novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), or even Vladimir Nabokov’s twisted trip in Lolita (1955).
3. John Green’s Paper Towns (2008)
That the road trip is frequently used as a symbolic journey of understanding the self makes it ripe for the contemporary bildungsroman form — a novel of development — in the Young Adult genre. Author John Green has plumbed this trope a number of times, perhaps most successfully in Paper Towns. The acclaimed Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (2010), or the more recent I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest (2019) both also fall within this category.
Poised on the precarious cusp of adulthood and searching for their adventurous friend Margot, the teenaged protagonists of Paper Towns set off on a road trip through the night, determined to “right a lot of wrongs … wrong some rights … (and) radically reshape the world”. It is thus a moral journey, an effort to imprint the emerging self on a world not yet acknowledging its presence. The travellers want to make decisions about their lives, rather than be swept down a predetermined road.
4. Tara June Winch’s Swallow the Air (2006)
Australian road trip narratives are more often described by fear than frontierism, as in Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright (1961) or cinema’s Wolf Creek (2005). Similarly, Ari’s drug-fuelled trip around inner Melbourne in Christos Tsiolkas’s Loaded (1995) tracks the urban intersections of individual, national and multicultural identity.
With a nod to the structure of The Canterbury Tales, Winch’s stories follow the cross country journey of a young Indigenous girl, May. She is determined to escape and change the cycles of violence and misery to which her family has been subjected. Like Tony Birch’s Blood (2012), it adopts the road trip as a means of going back to Country, providing not only a specifically cultural innovation in the genre, but a different understanding of self-discovery.
5. Joe Hill’s N0S4A2 (2013)
Not all road trips constitute journeys into the self. Instead, a psychological voyage might constitute a plunge into the depths of the nightmarish unconscious.
Joe Hill, son of that most famous horror writer Stephen King, offers up a road trip we might prefer not to take, although it does have a festive theme. In N0S4A2, Christmasland is the horrific and fantastic destination for the child victims of a phantom vehicle and its deranged driver.
Hill offers the chilling prophesy that “sooner or later a black car came for everyone”, pointing out the horrific inevitability of one final road trip. It’s a journey in the tradition of the monstrous vehicle, as in King’s Christine (1983), as well as the apocalyptic father-son walk in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), Josh Malerman’s Bird Box (2014), King’s The Stand (1978) and (as Richard Bachman) The Long Walk (1979).
After the year we’ve all had, I hope your road trip is less nightmarish.
How do you get through the dark winter months of a pandemic? By reading exciting work by long overlooked Canadian women writers.
Consider the first generation of Canadian Jewish authors who wrote in English. Readers will know the poet Irving Layton — whose death we commemorate on Jan. 4 — as well as novelist Mordecai Richler and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, all of them Montréalers.
But you may not know the women who published poems and prose alongside their more recognized male counterparts.
Prairie writers Miriam Waddington, Adele Wiseman and Fredelle Bruser Maynard and Torontonians Helen Weinzweig and Shirley Faessler were among the pioneering figures who produced daring work out of their own experiences as women.
My research on Canadian Jewish writers has led to a deep appreciation for the work of these accomplished women who deserve recognition for their contributions to the field.
Who were these women and what did they publish?
Winnipeg-born Waddington (1917-2004) participated in the rise of modernist Canadian poetry.
A prolific writer, she published 14 volumes of verse during her lifetime. Waddington’s poetry is deceptively accessible: it is personal but never private, emotional but not confessional, thoughtful but never cerebral.
Waddington wrote layered verse always from a gendered position, first as a social worker who saw aspects of herself in her most vulnerable clients. She detailed intoxicating romance and mature love, the pleasures of marriage and motherhood, the experience of raising two sons to adulthood and the ineffable pain of divorce.
As she moved through middle age, Waddington wrote of her ancestral past, the death of her ex-husband and loss of close friends, and later of growing old. Her poems of a Winnipeg childhood, modern urban life in Montréal and Toronto, visits to London, Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow, of art and writing, probed irreconcilable differences of place and identity, politics and work.
At the core of Waddington’s poetry was a moral quest for knowledge and understanding. A two-volume critical edition of her collected poems was published in 2014.
Wiseman (1928-92) was also born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End when it was largely Jewish.
She is best known for her two novels that mine the Prairie landscape and the Jewish culture that was her inheritance. Both works are set in insular communities whose practices reflect traditional Judaism.
The Sacrifice, published when Wiseman was 28 in 1956, received the Governor General’s Literary Award that year. This tragic novel revealed her interest in characters who challenge normative behaviour and affirmed Wiseman’s belief in community. It centres on the murder of a woman by its devout protagonist Abraham who misinterprets her flirtation.
Crackpot is the epic story of Hoda, an obese Jewish sex worker, who services the boys and men of her North End community. Hoda is garrulous and outspoken, determined and resilient. Tested by fate and the son she must give up at birth, she remains one of literature’s most memorable characters — for playwrights, poets and readers alike.
Today, Crackpot is universally admired, but in 1974, the year it was published, the Canadian audience had little taste for its novelistic treatment of unconventional sexuality and incest.
Fredelle Bruser Maynard
Born in Foam Lake, Sask., Maynard (1922-89) spent her youth in Winnipeg. Her two memoirs, written with honesty and poignancy, foreground her experience as a Jewish woman.
Raisins and Almonds (1972) evokes Maynard’s childhood and family life on the Prairies, where she recalls growing up feeling “Jewish and alien” in rural Western towns during the 1920s and 1930s.
She continues her story in The Tree of Life (1988) with an emphasis on relationships with her mother and sister, her artist husband Max Maynard — who was an alcoholic for the duration of their 25-year marriage — and her writer daughters Rona and Joyce. A brilliant student who earned a PhD in English from Radcliffe College in 1947, Maynard also exposes the gender norms of the time that prevented her from pursuing an academic career.
Born in Radom, Poland, Weinzweig (1915-2010) immigrated to Canada at the age of nine with her divorced mother. Her novels and stories are dark, spare narratives that critique the institution of marriage.
The experimental novel Passing Ceremony (1973) blends surreal and gothic styles to present a sombre picture of the ritual of marriage. It communicates Weinzweig’s belief in the paradox that tragedy always lurks beneath the seemingly innocuous conventions of everyday life.
Basic Black with Pearls (1980), which won the Toronto Book Award, is a “feminist classic.” Written as a highly subjective interior monologue, it too examines the vacuousness of traditional marriage. An ingenious work of puzzles, the novel’s clever use of transformations and masks sharpens the interplay of reality and illusion at its heart.
Weinzweig’s fragmented, discontinuous stories propel readers toward a heightened awareness of the contradictions of contemporary life.
Faessler (1921-97) was born and raised in Toronto’s Kensington Market when it was a Jewish enclave, and used this setting for her fiction.
The novel Everything in the Window (1979) describes the marriage of Sophie Glicksman and Billy James, a convert to Judaism. Set during the 1940s, it draws readers into a vivid world of contrasting sensibilities: the Jewish openness in Sophie’s family versus James’s gentile politeness.
On the back cover of A Basket of Apples (1988), Alice Munro proclaims Faessler “a witty and uncompromising writer.” Munro admired the nine stories in the collection, six of which return to the Glicksman family.
In a 2014 edition of the six Glicksman stories, linked via chronology and a consistent first-person female narrator, a cast of lively characters of the 1930s and 1940s speak to us across time through Yiddish-inflected English.
Readers will enjoy the rich diversity of Canadian Jewish experience reflected in the poetry of Waddington and the prose of Wiseman, Maynard, Weinzweig and Faessler. The work of these authors remain evocative and relevant — perfect for long winter evenings.