All posts by Claire

About Claire

Claire is an Information Assistant at Vaughan Public Libraries. Avid cooker, concertgoer, coffee drinker, TV and movie watcher, washi tape enthusiast, and unabashed fan of romance in all its varieties (even Hallmark movies).

Top Ten Borrowed Lists for 2023


It’s that time of year again. The time when algorithms — and the multinational corporations who employ them — encourage us to look back. At the pictures we’ve taken, the music we’ve listened to, and the digital lives we’ve led over the past year. We inevitably start to draw conclusions. What kind of year has it been? ‘Have I listened to a lot of emotional music this year?’ Or, ‘Should I start taking more pictures of my friends?’ It feels as if we’re being prepped to make our new year’s resolutions starting from the end of November, and resolutions have never been my friends. I don’t find it helpful to try to start new habits at the beginning of the calendar year, when we’re all getting over the indulgences and excesses of the winter holiday season. If there’s a habit I want to start, I try to start it when the motivation and momentum are there. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t have much motivation or momentum at the beginning of January. Nevertheless, it is the end of the year, so here at VPL we’re looking back at the most popular books and films borrowed by our customers in 2023. Here are my recommendations from the top ten lists this year. I share them in the hopes that they may bring a little joy to the last part of your 2023. Don’t worry about your new year’s resolutions yet. To paraphrase Ina Garten:

Don’t worry about the future. If you’re in a stream, and you find yourself knocking against the riverbanks, you’re in the wrong stream. Find a stream that carries you along. 1

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Past Lives and Other Reincarnation Stories

Cover-image-for-the-DVD-Past Lives

This post is a shameless excuse to tell you about an excellent movie by the name of Past Lives. I was lucky enough to see it at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre in September, and it was the perfect venue. That being said, the TIFF theatre is pretty much the perfect venue for anything. It’s a gorgeous, glamourous, multi-story affair that screens untold cinematic gems. The biggest difference between a theatre like the TIFF and your neighbourhood cinema is that the movies shown are curated by experts in the field. It’s not just the latest films to hit the big screen after distributors secure the rights to show them. The selection process is based on the quality and individual merits of every work. Equivalent to an art gallery or a museum, but in movie theatre format. If you’ve never been and you live in the GTA, you must rectify this immediately. If you’re under 25 and you haven’t been, you really need to rectify that because you can often get tickets for free. And so I went one Friday in September, making the long voyage on the subway downtown, because I was successfully targeted by Instagram’s algorithm and a well-made ad.

It did not disappoint. It’s a lengthy, meditative, tranquil time that, nevertheless, would not suit every personality type. If you’re not the type of person that can sit still for hours at a time and passively experience something, this is not the film for you. However, if you can get yourself in a mindful place (keeping in mind that the relentless pursuit of productivity is a losing cause), you may relish the opportunity to take a few deep breaths and settle in for a while.

The story follows Nora and Hae Sung, beginning with their childhood friendship. A transition point comes when Nora moves from Korea to the United States (by way of Canada). Their paths move in separate directions for a while, but the connection between them is never lessened or forgotten. As the years go on, and they become adults, they find each other online — as the internet has enabled us to do. The capacity for something like Facebook to reconnect friends on different sides of the planet is given an almost magical quality here. The rest of the film is devoted to their efforts to grapple with the strength of their connection, given the realities of both their lives. When we see friends we made when we very young, how does that inform our other relationships? And how do we reconcile everything that person meant to us as a child once our lives have changed in monumental ways?

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Celebrating Ukrainian Heritage Month

Cover image for Andrei Kurkov's novel  Grey Bees.

September is Ukrainian Heritage Month here in Ontario, so I wanted to share some recommendations from our Ukrainian collection. You loyal readers out there will hopefully be tempted to explore some of these intriguing reads. Included below are Ukrainian, Canadian-Ukrainian, and other authors with ties to the country. Given that they make up a significant proportion of our population, Ukrainian people have substantially contributed to our society (Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is Ukrainian-Canadian, for example). This contribution includes the development of a spectrum of rich artistic and cultural expression.

Andrei Kurkov

Andrei Kurkov was born in Russia and writes his fiction in Russian, but he moved to Kyiv when he was only two years old. His identity has been steeped in the experience of living there, and he’s become one of the most well-known Ukrainian writers the world over. With the advent of the war in Ukraine, he has become something of a representative for his people, even sharing a personal war diary with BBC Radio 4. Here he talks with the Guardian about getting used to air raid alerts sounding through his cellphone several times a day.

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