Building Stories (and a Wrap from Dan and Brendan)

Here is the last of the sessions on Books for Breakfast (CFRU 93.3FM) with Dan Evans. This time two pre-recorded sessions about Chris Ware’s book, Building Stories. First Jared and then Sarah and Farwa. In between and at the end Dan and Brendan (the co-host who has been MIA for a few weeks) talk about the course, the students, the books, and (yikes) even me.

Have a listen:

As things wind down I owe Dan and Brendan of Books for Breakfast a huge thank you! They have been brilliant to collaborate with and stunning in their interactions with the students. I couldn’t have asked for better partners in this adventure.



The End

Wow. The semester’s gone by so quickly, and it feels like just yesterday I moved into residence, and yet here we are, at the end of our first semester, and the end of our first year seminar. Having the seminar was a nice break from 600-person science and math lectures, and I really enjoyed just being able to get together with several fellow book lovers and just talking about something we all enjoy.

One of my favourite things about this course was that even though it centred on books, there really wasn’t very much actual reading, or analyzing works of literature. I do love reading, of course, but I found it really interesting to talk about books in general without actually talking about a specific book.

We brought up things that I’d never even thought of before, such as buying books online, what goes into a book’s design, how the printing of books works, etc. There are so many aspects to books that don’t focus on the actual story. I’ve learnt that a book isn’t simply something in which a story is written; it is so much more complex and intricate. A book is a piece of art itself, and there’s so much about them that I didn’t know.

But I feel that after taking this course, I can appreciate books even more now, and I’m really glad that I have a better understanding of the book as a whole. I’ve learnt so much, met new people, and have tried new things that I never would have expected to (such as going on the radio, and writing on a blog; I really enjoyed both of them) – so to everyone, and to Mr. Ridley, thank you.


PS Guelph

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Making our own books at Publication Studios Guelph was the perfect wrap-up to our seminar. In many ways it was a sort of culmination of all we learned throughout the course; we got to consider design, the technical process and the purposes of the journals we were creating. It was especially great to be able to use the tools of the trade after seeing them in action at Coach House Books. Of course it was on a smaller scale, but the ideas were still there. I feel like having this hands-on experience really cemented our knowledge of bookmaking. This is definitely something that I would love to return to.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

I was so happy with my finished product. Everyone’s journals were so unique and beautiful!

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Fisher Library + Coach House Books

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The (secret?) entrance to Coach House

They’re late, but I wanted to share some of my photos from our lovely trip to Toronto to visit the Fisher Rare Book Library and Coach House Books. Our tour of the library was fantastic, though I didn’t have my camera at the time. We had some once-in-a-lifetime chances, being allowed to handle illuminated manuscripts from as far back as the 14th century, reading an original first folio of Shakespeare’s collected works, and seeing some really creative takes on bookmaking through the centuries. There’s something about seeing and touching something from hundreds of years ago that adds a whole new dimension of understanding to learning.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset                   Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

An old linotype machine greeted us at the door.

Our tour of the nearby publisher Coach House Books was illuminating in a totally different way. It is a very small publishing house which allowed us the opportunity to get an intimate look at the process. Coach uses offset printing, where the text is printed first onto rubber rollers and then onto the paper itself. The printers were huge, old machines that had been refurbished, so it was very cool to see them in action… and scary when anyone put their hands near the rollers (see below).

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Wondering how many fingers have been lost to this monster…

I loved the atmosphere of the place; it was so eclectic and cluttered, but in a very creative way. I could definitely imagine many masterpieces of books being brought to life there… Which makes sense, because the company is very exclusive due to its small size and only chooses the cream of the crop (creativity and content-wise) to work with. It was great to hear first-hand about the processes, difficulties and triumphs of independent publishers. I personally love creative writing and have always been interested in editing or publishing, so it was wonderful to get a sense of the trade in this way.

Overall, our jaunt to Toronto was an experience that I felt very lucky to have. The tours were intimate and informative, and I will never forget the religious experience of touching an original folio compiled by Shakespeare’s friends. Amazing!


Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Sidewalk poetry installment by bpNichol, outside of Coach House.


My Favourite Books

In light of this courses focus on the book I thought I would end the semester with a few descriptions of some of my favourite books:

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This novel was written in 2008 and was a New York Times bestseller. It is a uniquely told story because it is written from the perspective of a dog. This dog named Enzo is the pet of an amateur car racer and the book tells the story of their lives together. The author plays with your emotions with multiple funny, sad and serious parts. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys reading because it is very well written and is a great story that will leave you wondering how someone could have made such a good book from the perspective of a pet dog. I urge anyone that can get their hands on this book to read it, it is my all time favourite book!


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

This is a story of two brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters are hitmen in the cowboy era of the United States. The plot follows them on a job across country that results in violence, romance, comedy and some reconciliation of the past. I enjoyed this book because the time period and setting make it very neat to visualize the story as you are reading. I would say this novel appeals more to people that like old western and/or action movies. A small bonus is that the author is Canadian! Patrick deWitt was awarded the Governor General’s Literary Award for this book. If you come across this one give it a chance!

Sisters Brothers

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Jody Picoult is a New York Times Best selling author with many highly rated novels. I’ve read a few of her books and this is my favourite one so far. Nineteen Minutes is about a shooting at a high school in New Hampshire it reveals the relationship between the shooter (Peter), a socially awkward boy, and the popular teenage girl (Josie), the daughter of the judge sitting on the case (Alex). The story is a continuous jump between the past (childhood of Peter and Josie; the events of the shooting) and the present trial of Peter. The story is told from the multiple perspectives switching between Alex, Josie and Peter. The story is very well written, very intense and has some major plot-twists. This book is suitable for all readers!


Sycamore Row by John Grisham

For those familiar with Grisham’s work (A Time to Kill) you will note that it is a typical story from him. Following legal matters from the perspective of a lawyer. This book is the sequel to A Time to Kill and follows hot shot lawyer Jake Brigance on another controversial case. This one is of a wealthy old white man that is dying of cancer, he can no longer take the pain so he hangs himself. He leaves a handwritten will leaving 90% of his estate to his poor, black housekeeper and stating he wants Jake to defend the will at all costs. Since the setting is in the southern United States this causes an uproar in the town. The children of the wealthy man fight against the handwritten will because they receive no money in the new one. The story follows the court proceedings and goes in depth into the back story of why this man would leave almost everything to a housekeeper. Anyone interested in (legal) drama should pick this one up!


Hope anyone that gets to read one of these enjoys it as much as I did.



Publication Studio and Coach House Press

Today [actually a few days ago] in class we visited the Guelph Publication Studio. It was by far one of the best experiences with taking this course.

After visiting Coach House Press and the Publication Studio, I really felt as though it was an incredible experience to visit both places. Coach House Press was an interesting experience. It’s not what you picture a publishing press to look like. It’s in an older, small building that shocked me when we walked up to it. Coach House Press has a homey, worn-in feel to it. They are a smaller press, but still a lot larger than Publication Studio.

Publication Studio is only one small room., At Publication Studio, we were luck enough to get to make our own books. As a long-time book lover, it was a dream. I love how Publication Studio uses file folders to create the book covers. I think the simplicatiy of it is quite bueatiful and honourable.

It’s so interesting to see the behind the scenes of how something I love so much gets created. Personally, I preferred visiting Publication Studios because it was a much more intimate experience, because we all got to pick out our own end papers and covers to make our own book.

Overall, both places were an incredible experience.

[a post on behalf of Rachel]

The Petting Zoo

A little while ago in class, we had a book petting zoo. Basically what that means is we got to look at books that come from all sorts of genres. There were pop up books, and books written completely in emoticons, and books that change when you flip them around. This was one of my favourite classes. I think it’s so interesting to see books that aren’t what you normally expect.
We live in a society where everything is very normalized, and to see something break that standard is beyond refreshing.
I think there’s something interesting about each of the books. I liked the transformers pop up book because the pop ups were very detailed and honestly quite beautiful. If I’m being quite honest, I don’t know if I’d necessarily say it’s totally for children, because the pages and physical content are so delicate, that they are not quite suitable for younger audiences.
I also really enjoyed the book that changes once you flip it around 180 degrees. It teaches you that if you change you perspective, you can see things differently.
(A post on behalf of Rachel)