Thursday, 2 July 2020

The Weight of Ink

The Weight of Inkby Rachel Kadish

In our increasingly digital age, the value of the tangible written word that one can hold in their hands is often questioned. Yet as is shown in Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink, paper can prove to hold more than just words conveyable on a screen. This historical medley intertwines the lives of two women, living centuries apart yet connected by paper and ink. The Weight of Ink embodies a story of resilience, of faith and of the connections and histories that surpass even the bounds of time.

We meet two women, separated by centuries. Ester Velasquez is a scribe working to write the words of a blind rabbi. Helen Watt is an ailing professor with a love of Jewish history. When a former student of Helen’s reconnects, having discovered historic documents hidden within the walls of his home, she and graduate student Aaron Levy seek to answer questions that the documents raise, starting with determining the identity of the documents’ author: the elusive “Aleph”.

The plot of The Weight of Ink is complex and the text is constructed in such detail that one cannot help but wonder if they are capturing everything; it seems that every phrase, when read a second time, reveals something new. Kadish explores Judaic themes and connections beyond faith, asking what it means to be born into Judaism, what bridges may be crossed and what boundaries must always remain. I loved this book for its intricacies; I could see every scene described and could imagine myself in each situation. Though a long and complex read, I recommend this book for history-lovers and for any reader looking to immerse themselves in a reality that though set centuries away, can be easily understood.

The Weight of Ink is part of the Ben and Esther Dayson Judaica Collection at the Richmond Public Library.

Humble Pi

Humble Piby Matt Parker

I watch math videos on YouTube for fun.  For a lot of people that’s probably a strange concept.  Math has always been considered “hard”, and for the really advanced stuff, it is.  I’m not going to pretend that I understand a lot of it, but the idea that really strange things happen with math that we don’t ever notice because we aren’t mathematicians is fascinating to me.  After all, I work in a library: I chose words over numbers for a reason (and the Dewey Decimal System isn’t math).

Matt Parker is one of the best math YouTubers, and he has written several books for the layperson.  Easily accessible with very few equations to throw you off, he just uses regular plain English to show how much fun? Math can be.   


How does he pull it off?  He’s not just a math enthusiast and former teacher: he’s also a standup comedian. 


Humble Pi is his latest book, and it’s a tale of mathematical misery where math has gone wrong in the real world. Case in point: when Canada switched from Imperial to metric not every industry was prepared.  An Air Canada flight from Montreal intended for Edmonton never made it when the plane ran out of fuel mid-flight.  Fortunately the pilot was a skilled glider pilot as well and managed to find a runway to land on without power, but it was proof that a simple math problem can have potentially huge consequences. 


I realize that this doesn’t sound like the most appealing book if you just look at it on the surface, but I promise you that you’ll really look at the world in a new way when you realize how much these simple mistakes can affect you.  The stock markets can swing wildly based on a single typo in a spreadsheet. 


Humble Pi is a fun read.  There aren’t any complicated formulas or too many weird symbols.  Parker recognizes that the average reader probably isn’t too interested in a bunch symbols that we have probably never seen and never will see again unless we are doing a doctorate in theoretical physics.  He recognizes that not only do we not know, we don’t need to know to realize that math is more than just numbers: it’s ideas, and most of the time they are actually fairly simple ideas.  His enthusiasm shows, and it’s what makes me recommend Humble Pi  even for people who would rather never look at math again. 


I'll Be Your Blue Sky

I'll Be your Blue Skyby Marisa de los Santos

Reading a Marisa de los Santos novel is like listening to the most intricate of melodies, layered with exquisite detail that places you in the centre of the story. I have read every one of her novels and pick up each one in both anticipation and unspoken expectation. I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is the third in an unofficial series, following Love Walked In and Belong to Me. This one is readable on its own or in succession with the other two, and as with De los Santos’ other novels, it does not disappoint.

Clare Hobbes is getting married. She should be the happiest she’s ever been, but all she wants to do is run away. While picture-perfect Zach is everything Clare could ever ask for, she can’t let go of the nagging sense that she is with the wrong person. On her wedding day, an overwhelmed Clare runs from her pre-wedding brunch and meets Edith, an elderly lady who reminds Clare of the importance of carrying a place inside her that feels like home: something Clare has forgotten. This seemingly minor interaction, however, flips Clare’s life upside down when she learns just a few weeks later that Edith has died…and has left her a house. Armed with a jangling set of keys and a pile of indeterminable ledgers, and with her best friend, Dev, by her side, Clare sets out to resolve an endless list of questions. Who was Edith? What happened at Blue Sky House so many decades prior, and how does it relate to the ledgers left behind? And, most pressing and perhaps most impossible, why would Edith leave Clare, a near-stranger, such a mystery to solve?  

Alternating between Clare’s experience and Edith’s, the reader is given almost a sense of dramatic irony, understanding Edith’s story before Clare does while still coming to the same conclusions. Readers who are left with a new understanding not only of Clare, but of all those who have helped to make her who she is (which is particularly satisfying if you have read the other two books in this line). I recommend this book as a camping read for summer or just as an evening wind-down (preferably accompanied by a warm blanket and a bottomless cup of tea)