All posts in Books

Alcuin Society Book Auction Sunday – Reminder

When: Sunday, 19 November 2017, noon – 4 pm
Where: Westpoint Room, University Golf Club, 5185 University Blvd., Vancouver.
Cost: Free and open to everyone

Here’s a chance to find beautiful new Canadian books published last year in time for holiday giving; many of these little beauties are hard to find elsewhere. Canadian publishers submitted them to the Alcuin book design competition and now you have a chance to buy them for as little as 50% of list price.

This year we’re having a very brief live auction of select books, starting at 1:00 p.m. – the rest of the books will be sold by silent auction. Come at 12:00 p.m. to look over the books and place your bids, and chat over coffee or tea and cookies with like-minded members and their friends.

The proceeds from this event help fund next year’s competition, as well as the wonderful free events that are going to be part of it. Registration for the auction is required, although the event is free.

For more information, a list of the books, and to register, contact Mary Luebbe at 604- 255-1802 or

This event is sponsored by The Alcuin Society

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Reading observed

Steve McCurry’s new book contains beautiful colour photographs of people around the world  reading in a wide variety of situations. Continue Reading…

A book recommendation: John Glassco’s, Memoirs of Montparnasse

(Editor’s note: Many of the Alcuin Society Board members have recommended John Glassco’s Memoirs of Montparnasse and given this article by Elizabeth Renzetti in the Globe and Mail of July 29, we thought it would be timely to share the recommendation.)

Canadian John Glassco of Montreal was in Paris in the 20s mixing with, among other literary figures, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Ford Madox Ford, Frank Harris, and Lord Alfred Douglas. Some have said Memoirs of Montparnasse, his depiction of those heady times in Paris, was superior to the far better-known Moveable Feast of Hemingway. Continue Reading…

On soliciting reading advice from one’s husband’s secret lover

I recently came across this advice request in the Seattle Review of Books:

My husband is having an affair. It is what it is, and we’ll get through it. In fact, he doesn’t even know I know, and I think I’ll leave it that way. All the guilt has made him pretty attentive and sweet!

But here’s the thing: whoever his mistress is, she has amazing taste in books. How do I know? Because overnight he went from solely military sci-fi to reading Eco and DeLillo and Borges, and having interesting conversations about literature with me. I never could inspire him step outside his comfort zone, but I never thought about what literature would engage him intellectually like this, either. She did.

Here’s my problem: I want her to recommend books for me! She has to be a librarian or a bookseller. I just know it. I snooped his browser history and stuff, but he’s more tech savvy than me and obviously being smart about this. Any advice? He could go off and philander with her all he wants, just as long as she recommends a big stack of good novels I could enjoy while he was gone. (You can read the letter on the original site, and the very moderate advice given on the site here) Continue Reading…

The Savoy Cocktail Book

In the 1920s Harry Craddock was the doyen of Cocktail Bartenders in New York, working at the Knickerbocker Hotel and the Hoffman House. Prohibition, the attempt to stem the social and domestic abuses of alcohol, commenced in 1920, forced him to leave New York and move to London where he joined the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel.

In 1933 he authored the Savoy Cocktail Book which contained 750 cocktail recipes, including the Corpse Reviver #2 and the White Lady for which he was renowned. The book was published by the Savoy Hotel which probably accounts for its distinctive Art Deco ‘decorations’ by Gilbert Rumbold  with its cover’s lavish use of gold. Continue Reading…

Birth of a guidebook

In a post-brandy haze at about 2am on a hot 1983 summer night in Vancouver BC, George, a fellow lover of European train travel and the delights it gave access to, and I were musing whimsically about the indulgent possibilities offered by the giddy freedom of a month’s Eurail Pass. ‘Yes, I can see it – after a few sweltering days in Madrid, the refreshing mountain air of Switzerland would look great and the next Express could whisk you there. But what about accommodation costs for a month?’ ‘Then one would live on the train’, said George. ‘Sure, but every now and again you’d need things like a shower and, perhaps, a pharmacy etc’ ‘So… we need a guide-book to the facilities in the major stations of Europe’. And so started the path towards a guidebook… Continue Reading…

The Book that Saved a City

(Editor’s note: The book discussed here is Living Past of Montreal: Passe Vivant de Montreal, by R.D. Wilson and Eric McLean. Here is the original review from the Ottawa Citizen, and here are some listings for sale via AbeBooks.)

In 1963, when I came to Montreal, the historic part of the city, called “Old Montreal,” was decaying and in danger of demolition. So much so that Dick Wilson, the art director of a local pharmaceutical company, set himself the task of spending weekends drawing various buildings before they were torn down. Graham Warrington, a Vancouver friend who was living in Montreal at the time, noticed him drawing and told me about what he was doing. Continue Reading…

World War II Front Pages

Douglas & McIntyre published a book of mine called The Front Page Story of World War II. It consisted of Vancouver newspapers I had collected during the war when I was going to Kitsilano High School. I loved the FINAL editions that came out at 4 p.m. because of their large and colourful woodtype headlines. Sometimes I would go down after school to the Sun and Province press rooms and watch them printing the “Finals” on the giant, roaring presses. The News-Herald “Final” came out in the morning and was printed on green newsprint with large headlines of the latest disasters. Continue Reading…

Very rare book to be auctioned at the Penticton Art Gallery’s annual fundraiser this Saturday

Each summer the Penticton Art Gallery holds an auction to raise funds for its endowment. Most of the items to be auctioned are paintings or graphics, but this year there’s one very rare book that was donated to aid the gallery. It is an incunabulum – a Latin word meaning cradle or beginning – which is used for any book printed in the 15th century, during the infancy of printing in Europe. The vast bulk of incunabula are already in public collections or private libraries, so they do not come to the market very often. In addition, most editions from the period survive only in a few copies. Hence their ever-rising prices in the rare book market. Continue Reading…

Before the Dam: Rural Life in the Kootenay Valley of B.C. Before it was Flooded


STANLEY TRIGGS was at UBC when I was there in the late 1940s, and I heard his name bruited about in relation to the Photographic Club. I never met him, so when I came to McGill in 1963 I was surprised to hear his name again, this time as Curator of the Notman Collection of 250,000 glass plates at McGill’s McCord Museum. We became great friends when we worked together producing the famous book of photographs from the Notman Collection in 1967. Continue Reading…