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Feb 1, 2022

[Editor's note: Chris Melnick is the Executive Director of Share the Magic Book Program, which is a federally registered charity that distributes books, from books for babies to adults, fiction and non-fiction to underserved communities in Manitoba.  To date, Share the Magic has given away over 630,000 books at an estimated value of over $4.2 million. You can follow Share the Magic on Facebook by searching "Share the Magic Book Program"]


As we move into the dead of winter, continue dealing with the Omicron variant and wait for the rays of the sun to strengthen, it is time for some lighter reading.  In that vein, I recommend anything written by Alexander McCall Smith, whose writings I would describe as happy, uplifting, kind and soul restoring.  Not sure how many books one must write to be declared prolific, but McCall Smith is prolific on steroids I am sure, publishing an average of 5 books a year.  To date he has written over 85 and counting.  Together they create a cornucopia of delights, written from the perspective of men, women, children and in one case, a dog, that being in the Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse.  I would read anything written by this man, including his grocery list, which I am sure I would enjoy. In fact, although I thought that I had read all of his works, I happily discovered, while writing this column, a few that I have missed and look forward to catching up on them.


        So, what exactly are his writings?  McCall Smith has written several series as well as individual one offs. 


  • The #1 Ladies Detective Agency follows the development and cases of Botswana’s leading and only female private detective, Precious Ramotswe.  Years ago, in reading this series I wondered if it was written with a colonial perspective, so I asked a person, now living in Winnipeg, whose country of origin is Botswana, if this was so.  Much to my relief, he laughed heartily and replied, “Don’t worry Chris, we read them too!”


  • 44 Scotland Street follows a quiet urban neighbourhood in the author's home town of Edinburgh, where the inhabitants lead extraordinary lives and little Bertie Pollock is at the centre of it all.  By the way, Ian Rankin of the murder mystery fame is one of McCall Smith’s neighbours.


  • Isabel Dalhousie is an Edinburgh philosopher who finds and solves mysteries in her own neighbourhood, while editing an international journal on ethics, gently leaving one with much to ponder.


  • Stand-alone titles There are several stand-alone titles, covering many themes and taking place in different locations, two of my favourites are La’s Orchestra Saves the World, about the Channel Islands during WWII and  The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, about a dog accompanying British pilots also during WWII.


        Most of Alexander McCall Smith’s writings are available at the Winnipeg Public Library in both the juvenile and adult departments, fiction and non-fiction, English and French, in the following formats:


  • Book regular type
  • Book large type
  • CD
  • eBook
  • Audiobook
  • DVD


        Recently I came across 1001 Yiddish Proverbs by Fred Kogos, unfortunately not available at Winnipeg Public Library, and will be sharing some of them with you in future columns.  This month I am wondering which rings true to you:


Proverb 416 – Der shlof iz a ganev – Sleep is a thief.



Proverb 417 – Der shlof iz der bester dokter – Sleep is the best doctor.


For me it is definitely Proverb 417!

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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