Blog - Library Services Centre

The Holocaust is one of the most horrifying and devastating events in history, and while those who experienced it firsthand are fewer each year, Holocaust Education week is held annually in November and International Holocaust Remembrance Day occurs every January 27th  to ensure that the history doesn’t die with the last survivor.

 

Thankfully, as sales statistics prove, reader interest in the Holocaust endures for both modern and classic books on the subject. Elie Weisel’s memoir Night, chronicling his experience surviving Nazi death camps as a teenager is one such example.   

 

Since the original Yiddish publication in 1956, it has been translated into more than 30 languages, was an Oprah book club pick in 2006, and is widely studied in schools around the world. Today, it remains a fixture on the Publisher’s Weekly Biography/Autobiography bestseller list, and tops Amazon’s Jewish Biographies list. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the book has sold 209k copies as of November, 2018, and the book has sold more than 10 million copies overall.

 

My first introduction to the Holocaust was through Anne Frank's Diary. I still remember the first time I read it. I was around 8 or 9 years old and my teacher assigned it in school. I was way too young to fully grasp everything that Anne was talking about in her diary (particularly the stuff about sexuality), but I did understand the reason that she and her family had to hide and the tragedy of what happened to Anne and her family.  

 

When the movie Schindler’s List released 25 years ago this Christmas, it became a huge box office success, and brought fresh attention to Thomas Keneally’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel of the same name.  Oskar Schindler was a German man who found a way to save 1200 Jewish people from execution by employing them in his factories. It's a story of heroism and courage, and viewers/readers flocked to it. 

 

In recent years, the genre has become so popular that it now has its own category on Amazon and is mainstream in bookstores. From The Book Thief to this year’s hit The Tattooist of Auschwitz, these titles resonate with readers, so what is it about the Holocaust that appeals both to writers and readers?

 

I believe there are a few reasons. One is that the generation who fought in WWII and survived the Holocaust are in their 80s and 90s, and there is a renewed sense of urgency to share their stories before there’s nobody left to tell them.

 

Another is that good historical fiction on any subject allows readers to make connections between the past and the present. For children especially (and adults too), history can be highly abstract and it can be difficult to understand what something that happened so long ago has to do with them. I hated history when I was a kid because my teacher was dry and boring. She had obviously forgotten the most important part of the word history is ‘story”.  Holocaust fiction brings it to life in a way that most textbooks can’t, and makes facts matter.

 

Lastly and most importantly is the emotional connection. If there wasn’t someone to care about or root for, why would anyone keep reading? These characters persevere against all odds and in one way or another are heroes.

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is based on interviews that Morris had with the real Lale Sokolov in the three years before he passed away at age 90.

 

What makes this book successful is not just that it’s a Holocaust story, but a human story. It is a story of triumph, hope, resilience and love. Lale didn’t want to be the tattooist. It was a terrible task but one that he knew offered him a layer of protection and a chance to survive. When Lale inked the tattoo on Gita’s arm at Auschwitz, it was love at first sight, and he vowed to survive the camp and to marry her when the war was over.

 

Lale's story is like a beautiful flower in a barren wasteland. The fact that he and Gita survived at all is miraculous, let alone falling in love and finding each other after the war. It's about incredible courage, and love triumphing against all odds.

 

Readers want Lale and Gita to survive. They hope for the happily ever after. He is a hero for finding ways to help others when many wouldn’t, and for finding ways to give them hope. Gita was shipped out of the camp before he was, and all he knew was her name, not where she was from. At this point, it seemed like hope was lost and he’d never see her again, yet somehow they found each other. The couple was married in 1945, and were together until Gita’s death in 2003.

 

Some reviewers have criticized the book for focusing too heavily on the romance and of glossing over the horrors of the Holocaust, but I disagree.  In an age where the news is so bleak, we need hope. We need to be uplifted and to be reminded that even when things seem their darkest, something good can still exist.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy reading!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Jodi Picoult got me my first job in this industry. Not literally, but indirectly.

 

Let’s start at the beginning. I have always been a voracious reader. My parents used to tease me that I was born with a book in my hand, and I learned to read at an early age. I was also that person who would not only hang out in a bookstore for fun, but couldn’t resist recommending something to people who were in the store. I also have a compulsion to fix shelves, but that’s another story.

 

Many years ago, when I was not that long out of university and still wondering what I could do with a degree in English literature, I saw a posting for a job fair at Indigo. Seeing as my philosophy was to buy 5 new books for every book I finished, so I decided to take a chance. I mean, I had to do something for money, and being paid to be around books all day seemed like a really good idea.

 

Fast forward to interview day. While I was waiting, for the manager to come out, I was drawn to a display table near the front of the store. On the table was The Pact and the summary caught my attention. Without even thinking about what I was doing, I opened it up to the first page and started reading. I was hooked!

 

I was about one chapter in when I was interrupted by the manager. She asked me what I was reading, and when I showed her, she told me that she was also reading that same book. I’d never met her before and I certainly didn’t know that this was her current read. I took it as a sign that I was meant to get that job. I also bought the book before I left the store because now that I’d started it, I had to keep reading!

 

If you’ve never read the book, the story follows the impact of the apparent murder-suicide pact between two teens on their families. What was happening in their lives that they felt driven to do something so drastic? How do the families reconcile this act with the kids they thought they knew? Twenty-years after its original publication, it’s still as relevant as it was then.

 

That experience not only launched my career in books, but has also made me a loyal reader of this author.  What I like most about her is her ability to address contemporary issues in accessible and interesting manner, and to make you think. How do you define normal when your Asperger’s child is accused of murder? If you are the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and your neighbor turned out to be a former Nazi SS guard, could you forgive him? What would it feel like to be a nurse and be told not to treat a patient because of the colour of your skin?

 

Her new title, A Spark of Light  asks readers to consider why a man would enter a women’s reproductive health services clinic, open fire, and take hostages. It is as thought-provoking and relevant as her previous books andI couldn't put it down. 

 

In honor of her new book, and new mass-market editions of her older titles, I thought I’d recommend  three other backlist titles that I most enjoyed.

 

I don’t think you can properly discuss this author without referencing My Sister’s Keeper. Of all her books, this is the most well-known, and probably her most popular. The book was made into a movie back in 2009 and really put her on the map. The story follows two sisters- Anna and Kate, and the moral conflict that comes with Anna’s family’s expectation that she be a permanent bone marrow donor for Kate, and Anna’s desire to lead a normal teenage life- even if it means her sister could die. Picoult is careful to make sure the reader can understand all the points of view, and you come out of it realizing that there are no simple choices.

                                                                                         

Sadly, school-shootings continue to be in the news and Nineteen Minutes, published a decade ago,  looks at bullying in high school, mental health, school violence, and how we can prevent incidents like this from happening. While she never tries to justify the shooter’s actions, she does look at some of the reasons why he did what he did, and looks at the impact of those horrific 19 minutes on not only the teens, but everybody in the town. This is a popular title in high school classrooms as well, and it’s heart-wrenching and riveting.

 

Leaving Time is a book that made me want to immediately go to the library and learn more about elephants. Unlike some of her more issue based books, it’s a story of a daughter’s grief for the mother that seemingly abandoned her years ago, and her determination to find out what really happened to her all those years ago. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between elephants and humans (did you know elephant’s grieve?), and it explores loss, grief, and the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.

 

There are countless other books by Jodi Picoult that I could put on this list, and a corresponding selection list of in-print Jodi Picoult titles is available on our website if you need to replace or fill in missing titles in your library.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

According to Wikipedia, there are over thirty holidays, observances, and traditions celebrated world wide in the month of December. Some as ancient as Shabe Yaldā and some as new as Festivus. Most of them celebrating, in some manner, the shortest day of the year, and the turn away from the Bleak Midwinter. One holiday in particular nearly lapsed into obscurity until, a century and a half ago, it was rescued by some ghosts.

 

Last year saw the release of the film the Man Who Invented Christmas, telling the story of Charles Dickens and the mutual life support his A Christmas Carol gave to both himself and a fledgling celebration that had long since been dwarfed by Boxing Day. By the beginning of the 1800s, Christmas had already had a turbulent history. The Romans had celebrated Saturnalia at this time, but didn’t have to contend with snow. As they expanded into Northern Europe, they encountered the Germanic Yule, and other “pagan” celebrations happening at the same time, and merged those traditions with their own.

 

Time, as it likes to do, moved on, and Christmas largely remained an excuse to drink and be merry, with emphasis on the drinking. The rowdier elements of the pagan traditions did not sit well with the English Puritans, and Christmas was banned in England by Oliver Cromwell in 1645. It was restored along with the monarchy a few years later, but the wind was taken out of its sails, and for the next two hundred years the celebration in the UK was a much more subdued, private affair. No decorations, no presents, no carols or fanfare.  Just a goose, if you were lucky.

 

In 1819, Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame) wrote an account of Christmas celebrations, which were almost certainly fabricated. Irving was a notorious liar, who is also responsible for the myth that people before Columbus thought the Earth was flat. But Irving’s idea of a seasonal gathering which brought together people of all status, to celebrate a new year and enjoy the customs of the ancients caught the imagination.

 

In 1823, Clement Moore published The Night Before Christmas in New York (with its long Germanic and Dutch heritage, as well as healthy immigrant population), fully bringing the Germanic and Nordic traditions of St. Nicholas into the Christmas story. A few years later, back in the UK, a young Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert and with him came more of the German traditions, still heavily influenced by the ancient pagan practices. Mistletoe, Holly wreaths, candles and carols came to England with the Prince. In 1841, a tree was decorated in Windsor Castle for the first time, illustrations of which made their way across England and over the ocean, cementing the Christmas tree as the centerpiece of the holiday home.

 

For more on the history of Christmas, and how it evolved over the centuries, check out the gorgeously photographed Christmas: from solstice to Santa by Nikki Tate.

 

Then came the ghosts. The Victorians were no strangers to ghost stories; they permeated much of their literature. As the Victorian age marched on and the Scientific Revolution began to take hold, spiritualism spiked. Charles Dickens wasn’t a spiritualist, but he did think of ghosts often. Not as the white sheeted frights of horror, but as the memories of those who have passed, especially in the last year (this being the Victorian era, and death common and indiscriminant). It was his belief that there was no better time of the year to consider the lessons ghosts might teach us then in the deep of the winter, when the trees were bare and the air cold, and candles danced shadows through long nights.

 

Having suffered a series of commercial failures, Dickens was desperate for a hit. But Christmas was a long shot at best. A holiday people barely made mention of was hardly the foundation for a best seller. His publishers were nervous, but Dickens had his ghosts to guide him, and wrote his Christmas Carol not based on any religious practice but on a common human decency. That Christmas was a time for families to come together, to celebrate and rejoice in their company, and toast the year to come. Most of this was – again – largely fictional. It made for a good story but shared little in common with a reader’s actual experience.

 

It struck a chord though. Upon publication, it was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Readers saw in Dicken’s morality tale not what they had, but what they wanted and could have. Christmas as an idea exploded across the British Empire, heralded by ghostly warnings and promises. Ghosts never really took off as a Christmas staple – they lost their moral compass and became spooks over on Halloween. Thanks to Dickens though, they’ve never really left Christmas either. Each year more writers are inspired to tell their own paranormal tales - such as in the short story colletion Ghosts of Christmas Past, including the works of Neil Gaiman - usually featuring spirits seeking to put right what once went wrong.

 

This year we’ve put together two lists (40777 for fiction and 40653 for everything else) of recent and popular material the celebrate the holiday season. With more than thirty to choose from, there is surely something for everyone in the coming month. And if you’d rather skip them all, there are still roaring fires, hot cocoa, and thoughts of tropical beaches you’d rather be on to keep you warm. Whatever and however you celebrate being halfway out of the dark, if you happen to meet any ghosts along the way, mind what they tell you. They might be friendlier than they look.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

I love a good scare. As a kid, scary movies were never scary enough for me. TV shows like Twilight Zone intrigued me more than anything, and I’ve never been afraid of things that go bump in the night.

 

By the time I turned twelve, I was losing interest in the selection of kid/YA horror fiction, and that’s when I discovered the queen of creep herself: V.C. Andrews. My Sweet Audrina was one of the scariest books I ever read, and it creeped me out so much that I had to read it twice. Audrina has spent her entire life trying to live up to her deceased sister also named Audrina, and to make her father love her as much as he did his first daughter. Then she comes face-to-face with a terrifying secret - one that everyone knows except her. It was atmospheric, suspenseful, scary, and surprising. As soon as I was finished, I insisted on making a trip to the book store to purchase all of her other books. I can’t say my mom loved the idea of me reading the Flowers in the Attic series, but boy did I enjoy them. They were twisted and scary and I hadn’t read anything like it before.  

 

Details about V.C. Andrews’ life are sparse, but whatever went on in her head, she fundamentally understood what would keep her readers turning the pages. Today her books are written by ghost writers, and they continue to be published under her name, supposedly drawn from completed synopsis and outlines left behind when she died.

V.C. Andrews was a gateway to my full-fledged obsession with horror. Much to my good fortune, it turned out that my mom was into some of the big horror writers of the time. Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and John Saul are just a few that I recall seeing on her shelves, and I read them all!

 

The thing about Stephen King that I have always enjoyed is his ability to tap into the complexities of human nature. Yes there are monsters, but quite often, the monsters are human. From Annie Wilkes to Jack Torrance to Carrie White, his villains are never purely evil and his heroes are flawed, quirky and complicated. Readers genuinely worry about their survival. It’s also worth noting that both of Stephen King’s sons are following in his footsteps. Joe Hill has already published several well-received horror novels, and Owen King co-wrote last year’s hit Sleeping Beauties with his father.

 

Another of my favorite horror writers way pre-dates Stephen King. If you aren’t familiar with Shirley Jackson, she was credited with defining the horror genre.  She is best known for The Haunting of Hill House, which is considered to be the model for all other haunted house tales. It has been adapted to film twice already, and has recently been released as a television series airing on Netflix. She was so influential that she even spawned the Shirley Jackson Award, recognizing works of horror, psychological suspense, and the dark fantastic.

 

One of the most famous horror stories of all time is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I recently read Dracul, a prequel written by J.D. Barker - a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award - and Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker. Barker was specifically asked to co-author the novel, and he’s been compared to Dean Koontz and Thomas Harris.

 

This is the first prequel to be authorized by the estate, and based on early reviews, the authors have successfully captured Stoker’s original tone but with a contemporary voice.  When Stoker wrote the original manuscript for Dracula, it was 541 pages long. Sometime before publication, 101 pages from that manuscript disappeared, and nobody except for Stoker himself has ever laid eyes on them (as far as we know). To write Dracul, the authors used Stoker’s notes, journals and artifacts to try and imagine what those pages might have contained. What emerges is a terrifying yet enjoyable origin story of Dracula and his creator Bram Stoker.

 

The book is deservidly getting tons of buzz and has been optioned for film. It should also draw fresh attention to the Dracula story and introduce it to a whole new generation of readers.  

 

If vampires aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other recent horror offerings, including the spooky supernatural thriller We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix, Unbury Carol, a twisted take on the Sleeping Beauty story by Josh Malerman, or Alma Katsu’s The Hunger which is a supernatural retelling of the Donner Party.

 

Regardless of your preferences, if you want to be scared this Halloween season, there will definitely be a book for you!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Contributors

Karrie Vinters
1
January 14, 2019
show Karrie's posts
Rachel Seigel
3
January 7, 2019
show Rachel's posts
LSC Library Services Centre
2
December 24, 2018
show LSC's posts
Sara Pooley
1
December 17, 2018
show Sara's posts
Stef Waring
3
December 11, 2018
show Stef's posts
Michael Clark
2
November 26, 2018
show Michael's posts

Latest Posts

Show All Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Everything Adult Fiction Adult Non Fiction Children’s Fiction Children’s Non Fiction Graphic Novels AV Announcements Holidays