Let’s Talk About Reading Challenges

With November creeping up on us next week, I started thinking about the books I’ve read this year and reading challenges! Since 2013, I’ve tried to read a certain number of books per year. Generally, because of my interest in graphic novels that are quick for me to read, I read around 150-200 books a year. This year, I’m well on my way to almost 300 books and if all my recent comic book requests come in soon, I will probably hit that goal.

That got me thinking, what are some ways that people keep track of their personal reading progress? If you use Goodreads or a similar alternative (my site of choice is The StoryGraph) then you are probably also tracking your reading through quantifiable means. There are also some sites that create their own reading challenges based on different characteristics, such as a certain number of books by women authors, a certain number of fantasy books or non-fiction, etc.

Screenshot of the Vaughan Public Libraries' Catalogue Page for Becoming by Michelle ObamaWhile these are lofty goals, it may be a bit hard to find books that fit these categories if you’re not sure where to start. One place I often find helpful is looking up a book that I’ve read before in VPL’s library catalogue. For example, I looked up Michelle Obama’s Becoming and through the catalogue’s recommendations, I’m able to see more books that have the same topic or I can even search through subject headings such as autobiographies (pictured left). This method works great if you’re aiming to read more of a certain genre. While I don’t do this method often, as I still am too much of a mood reader, I think this totally works for those who are looking to expand on a certain reading goal in the next few months. Looking up books by a genre is its own challenge in a way, one would need to know a fair bit about the books within that category before they can embark on reading a set amount. That’s why using methods like the one above or looking for recommendations on staff lists is great. Some of my favourite staff lists from this month include Books for K-Pop Fans and Black Stories Matter.

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Hot Sauces, or What to Do with All Those Peppers You Grew This Year

Book Cover of The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy LeeThe crop that has grown the most prolifically in my garden this year have been my peppers*, and while I love eating them roasted, served with some homemade sourdough (lean or enriched dough, it’s all good) and a fried egg on top… it’s a lot of hot peppers. Some of which are those tiny little chilis not normally eaten peppered on toast with an egg over top (pun intended).

So I decided to make some hot sauce when a bunch of the Padrón, Poblano, and Tibetan lhasa peppers (along with a few Thai chilis) started to ripen around the same time, and stumbled upon Lady and Pups’ Mean Santa chili sauce recipe. Part of it is that her food photography is off the charts stunning and she (or her photographer) could probably convince me to eat just about anything through the photo alone, but what sealed it was the short ingredient list, plus copious amounts of photos detailing the process and what it looks like at every stage. I remember this author from her incredible cookbook The Art of Escapism Cooking, having only recently made the connection between Lady and Pups (whom I follow) and her cookbook (which I adored). The recipe is deceptively simple – I had everything except fish sauce, which I then acquired, and shiso leaves, which I left out – for the amount of flavour that comes out of it. Don’t get me wrong, your kitchen (and the living room, and maybe the entire floor) will smell for the entire day. But is it ever worth it! And definitely try it with eggplants as she suggests after the chili sauce recipe: perfect combination, and this coming from someone who doesn’t even enjoy eating eggplants.

I should make a note that this is a chunky chili sauce, a different beast from the vinegar-based hot sauce you might be used to. Think sliced rounds of chilies cooked in oil till they’re oozing with flavour, their natural smoky fruitiness paired with fish sauce (or soy sauce if you want to make this vegan/vegetarian) to increase the complexity and add just enough saltiness to it… the umami scale is next-level, and you’ll be salivating right by the pot as it’s cooking from the moment the peppers start to cook down and release all their delicious flavours, even as your hands start to tingle from cutting the peppers and continue to burn as you wait for the chili sauce to cool and develop even more flavour**. It’s worth it.

If you’re a spicy food lover and could probably imagine yourself spooning (mild or moderate) chili sauce into your mouth as a snack***, this is for you. For even more resources for hot sauce creation & use, see below the cut!

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Late Night Presents: Friday Night Frights

Friday Night FrightsOn October 23, our Late Nights at the Library team is putting together a special Halloween-themed program. Get ready for Friday Night Frights! We’ll be talking ghosts and hauntings and all that good stuff, with special guest Jaymes WhiteAlong with some oracle reading, we’ll be delving into some local urban legends and haunts—come with your best spooky stories!  Ages 18+.

If you’re like me, you love a good urban legend. Unlike older myths and folklore, the origins of urban legends can often be traced back to a source, if you really cared to find it. A lot of mid-20th century legendscampfire classics like “The Hook”, “High Beams”, and “The call is coming from inside the house…”stemmed from newspaper advice columns, where fears about teenage impurity abounded (you know all those stories about “Lovers Lane”? That’s what happens when you get caught neckin’!). And this goes double for all the newer stories that originated on the Internet; oftentimes, we literally know who created the legend. These modern stories usually don’t concern themselves with morals, like those of the past—we’re just looking for a good spooky scare! In The Vanishing Hitchhiker, well before the dawn of the Internet, urban legend historian Jan Harold Brunvald notes that “It might seem unlikely that legends—urban legends at that—would continue to be created in an age of widespread literacy, rapid mass communications, and restless travel”, and yet here we are. It seems nothing will quell our collective desire to explore the unknown. To borrow a catchphrase from The X-Fileswe want to believe.  

So in honour of the spooky season, and these time-tested tales, let’s look at some urban legends—some very new and some quite old—and see how exactly they came to be the—wait for it—legends that they are today

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