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May 2016 Staff Picks

Joanne’s Pick: A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of the Grizzly Trail by Jenna Butler

Cover image for A profession of

This poetic and thought provoking book is about a couple that buys 160 acres of rough bush in Northern Alberta with the intent to farm it and preserve a piece of virgin land for future generations.  The land is not ideal for farming but Jenna’s heart is bound with the land and she relates the couples struggles and triumphs as they start an organic market garden by driving from Edmonton to the farm every weekend.  The garden is only possible through hope and hard work and appears miraculous to the conventional farmers around them.  Not only are they successful in growing food for themselves, their friends and their students, they also take measures that help to return the land to its natural state and balance.

 Joanne’s Pick: The Snow Walker (DVD)

Book Cover snow walker

This is a very enjoyable movie about survival and the wisdom of a vanishing culture.  A bush pilot and a young sick Inuit woman have a plane crash in the arctic hundreds of miles from civilization.  When no help is in sight, the young pilot decides to trek overland.  The differences in the two cultures is very evident when the pilot becomes enraged with the difficulties and acts out foolishly and endangers both of their lives.  The Inuit woman follows the impetuous pilot and with patience, courage and years of wisdom that has been passed on to her, she saves his life and teaches him skills he needs for survival.

 Mark’s Pick: Conflict Tiger (DVD)

Book Cover conflict tiger

Conflict Tiger is a chilling true story of a wounded man-eating Siberian tiger. The massive animal preyed on poor Russian villagers who eke out their existence hunting in the forests of the Russian Far East. The documentary that inspired author John Valliant to write his award winning book The Tiger is enlightening as it shows how humans can alter animal behavior. Above all, it is a frightening true crime story that anyone who has been in the woods can appreciate.

 Sandra’s Pick: The Piano Maker by Kurt Palka

Book Cover piano maker

If, like me, you’re a fan of Canadian fiction and historic fiction, Kurt Palka’s latest novel is a must-read. While this unique and engaging story begins with protagonist Helene Giroux moving to a small French, East Coast town in 1930s, the reader also gets to visit pre-war Indochina and France during the war as Giroux flashes back to the events that led to her current and mysterious circumstances. What brings this elegant woman with her exquisite piano-playing skills to simple and isolated St. Homais? The answer is revealed in such a way that her adventurous life and uncertain future had me picking up the book to find out more at every spare moment. I haven’t enjoyed this style and quality of Canadian storytelling since Robertson Davies.

 Sonia’s Pick: Near & Far: Recipes Inspired By Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson

Book Cover near far

Heidi Swanson is a traveler, cook, photographer, and journal-keeper who gathers flavours from near (her homes in San Francisco and Northern California) and far (Italy, Morocco, France, India and Japan) and turns them into simple, mouth-watering recipes made with whole foods and vegetarian ingredients. In her own words, “I seek out my ‘beat’ within other cultures”—macrobiotic and Zen Buddhist Temple cuisine in Japan, Ayurvedic treatments in India—and “It’s from this vantage point that I begin to think about cooking and recipe development, and where I often find my own angle, voice, and technique.” Swanson’s ethos around healthy, nourishing, food, her “pantry list” approach to each section of the book, and her dreamy documentation of plates and places makes this one of the best cookbooks I’ve encountered during my 25 years seeking out and preparing vegetarian recipes.