Fall events for Toronto book lovers

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Fall is a great time to be a book lover living in Toronto. In addition to all of the new releases to read curled up with some hot apple cider, there are also lots of literary events to attend in the city. Here are a few to look out for.

Toronto’s First Post Office’s used book sale

There are lots of used book sales happening in Toronto this fall, including the college book sales at U of T. But Toronto’s First Post Office is having their first used book sale ever to raise money for the Town of York Historical Society’s research library. The sale runs September 22 to 25 during the post office’s regular operating hours. Perhaps there may be some gems waiting for you.

Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon Series

A new season of the Appel Salon series begins this month at the Toronto Reference Library. Authors appearing this fall include Claire Messud, Orhan Pamuk and Jennifer Egan. Tickets are free but are required. They can be reserved three weeks ahead of each event.

The Word on the Street festival

The Word on the Street festival is one of my favourite days of the year. A giant book fair that includes readings and talks by writers and publishing professionals? Yes, please! The Word on the Street is taking place at Harbourfront Centre on Sunday, September 24, 11 a.m, to 6 p.m. Buy some books and/or magazines, get some information about writers’ and literacy organizations and attend some readings or talks.

Toronto Public Library’s eh List Writer Series

The Toronto Public Library’s eh List Writer Series features Canadian authors at various library branches across the city. Some of the authors participating this season include Helen Humphreys, Catherine Hernandez and Alison Pick. These events are free and no tickets are required.

An Evening with David Sedaris

Humourist David Sedaris will be at the Sony Centre on Tuesday, October 17. At $45.13 to $60.13 per ticket, this is the priciest event on this list. However, Sedaris–who is quite an entertaining speaker and reader–has been known to not only sign books, but to also take the time to speak with every fan who lines up at the end of the event. It’s just a matter of whether or not you will be patient enough to wait your turn. (And whether or not you think the wait is worth the money.)

International Festival of Authors (IFOA)

October is filled with book events to choose from since IFOA runs from October 19 to 29 at Harbourfront Centre. Most events will run you $18 a ticket, but there are a few that cost a bit more and a few free ones, too. This year’s festival includes appearances by Heather O’Neill, John Boyne, Colm Tóibín and, of course, many others.

R. L. Stine at the AGO

If, like me, you were a fan of R. L. Stine’s Fear Street series growing up, you may want to attend his talk at the AGO on November 29. Tickets are $30 for the general public.

Various literary events at Famous Last Words

I’ve written about this west-end book-themed bar before and the literary cocktail class I attended. Since that time, Famous Last Words has created “Book Lover Tuesdays.” Each month, on different weeks, the bar hosts a silent reading party, a book exchange and a drop-in book club. These events aren’t specific to fall, but getting cozy in front of the bar’s fireplace with a cocktail and some fellow bookworms seems like a pretty good way to spend a fall evening.

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How my parents raised readers

Earlier this week, I went to the Toronto Reference Library to hear Will Schwalbe talk about his new memoir, Books for Living. At one point, he mentioned that his parents gave him and his siblings the greatest gift anyone can give someone: a love of reading.

This comment made me reflect on my own upbringing and how my parents managed to instil a love of reading in both my brother and me. Here are a few ways I think my parents managed to do just that.

They filled the house with books

My brother and I had our own bookshelves in our respective bedrooms, but there were books in the common areas of the house, too. There was a fair-sized bookcase in the living room and several others in the finished basement, all filled with books–everything from the classics to mystery novels to the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

As a child, most of these books were above my reading level, but nothing was off limits to us. We could pick up any of the titles as we pleased. Even when I was too young to understand (or have an interest in) Thomas Hardy or Dylan Thomas, I still liked to run my fingers across the spines or flip through the pages of the books.

They read to us

Sometimes we’d sit on the couch together, and my parents would read a book to both me and my brother (Charlotte’s Web comes to mind). Other times, they would read to us in our bedrooms when we were being tucked in. Mom and Dad would take turns reading to each of us. I can’t say for certain, but I believe this happened every night–at least until we were too cool for it and preferred to read on our own.

They took us to the library

Our family visited our local branch of the public library frequently. It was something to do on a weekday evening or a weekend afternoon. Just going to the library and hanging out for a bit was fun, but of course we’d always bring a bundle of books home with us.

They gave us books as gifts

To this day, it’s been a tradition to give books as stocking stuffers in my family. It’s something we still look forward to: We all know we’re getting books; it’s just a question of which ones. Growing up, this small gesture helped ingrain in us the idea that books have a lot of value to offer. And not only did this ritual give us the joy of receiving books, but it taught us the joy of giving books, too.

Books can inform and educate, offer comfort, help us understand others and help us feel understood. So Schwalbe is right. A love of reading is the best gift you can give someone. And it’s something that, no matter what happens in life, no one can take away from them.

The significance of libraries

I’ve been thinking about libraries a lot lately. Partly because of a school project I’m working on, partly because of the threat that city council could close branches to save money.

But thinking about libraries isn’t a new thing for me. I recently dug up some older posts I wrote (originally posted on blogs that I no longer update).

Here’s something I wrote in March 2006, when I was in university:

I went to the library at school today (yes, on a Saturday). I went because I feel like I am so behind, and I was not looking forward to spending the day at school. But I love libraries. They are so quiet and peaceful. And then there are the books. I can be sitting at my computer with the world wide web at my fingertips, but being surrounded by such a vast number of tangible resources really gives a sense of the large amount of information and ideas out there.

 Anyway, I had fun researching for a couple of essays I have coming up. The stress isn’t as great now that I know what I am writing about, and I’m getting into it.

 I wandered through rows and rows of books with no one around. It was a really serene day. And then off to read by the floor-to-ceiling windows with the sunshine pouring onto the pages. It made me feel good about what I’m doing. It reminded me of when I was little and told my mom I wanted to move into the library.

The library was vital to my university experience. I went to the library to find books and to get help from the librarian to conduct research for papers. I went to the library when I needed access to a computer. I went to the library to find some quiet study space. But I also spent time there to relax.

I visited that university library in June 2010, a few years after I graduated:

It’s pouring outside, but I find warmth surrounded by these concrete walls. I haven’t been here in a while, but it feels like I’ve never left. The silence. The serenity. Nothing compares to the comfort of a library. 

My memory tells my feet where to take me. I’m led to the same rows of books I would duck into in between classes or when the day was done and I just wasn’t ready to go home yet. 

Almost nothing has changed. Many of the books I used to pick up are on the same shelves—the same books that provided me with comfort and entertainment years ago. Everything appears to be placed where it was when I left. For some reason, it strikes me that even the lighting is the same. Well, of course it would be, I think to myself. But it makes me feel as if I’ve gone back in time—or as if time stood still, waiting for me to return to where I belong.

I walk slowly through the stacks, glancing left and right, up and down. Wordsworth, Beckett, Coleridge, Keats, Emerson, Dryden, Woolf, Milton, Chaucer.

As I glance at these names, one book in particular comes to the forefront of my mind. I remember searching for it on these exact shelves after a professor mentioned it in class. It’s probably still here. I look up and down the aisles. I only have a few minutes—not enough time to go back and look it up in the catalogue. I can remember what it looks like. I can still feel its weight in my hands.

It’s almost time to go; I’m going to miss my bus. I become slightly frantic as I’m now determined to find it. Aha! I spot the T.S. Eliot section. But there are many, many books here. My fingers trace the spines as I search, moving faster and faster, still trying to look at each title thoroughly so I don’t miss it. And then, when I’ve almost given up, I see it. It sits on the bottom shelf, almost at the floor. The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts.

The big, blue hardcover calls out to me to pick it up. I know I am not able to check this book out, that I can’t take it home with me. I need to get going. But I slide it out of its place anyway. I turn the pages and notice how they’ve yellowed at the corners. I breathe in the familiar musty scent. But time has run out. I put it back with the other Eliot works. 

As I rush to the bus stop, I wonder how many students, if any, have checked out that volume since the last time I did. I smile to myself as I imagine some nerdy girl or boy finding comfort walking amongst those literary giants.

When I think about it, it seems a bit odd that The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts was the book I felt compelled to look for. But when I think about it some more, it doesn’t seem so odd. I didn’t know it existed until that day our professor told us about it in class. When I checked it out of the library, I remember how cool it was to see Eliot’s handwritten notes and Ezra Pound’s handwritten edits. So it always stuck with me.

Even though I love looking for books in libraries, throughout my life, libraries have been more than a place to find information. They’ve been more than a place to find something entertaining to read. I’ve always thought of the library as my refuge; it’s the place I could go to when things got to be too much.

But even this isn’t why I think libraries are so significant. Libraries are centres that bring the community together. They give everyone equal access to information and the opportunity for education.

The Toronto Public Library offers everything from tutoring services, ESL programs, book clubs, job search help, legal services, health and wellness programs and a lot more. A couple of years ago I read an article about a homeless man who spent his days at the Toronto Reference Library. Through the use of the library’s resources, he was able to start his own business and get back on his feet.

So if you’re someone who thinks libraries aren’t important simply because you don’t check out materials, think again. There is so much more to libraries than the books they hold.