April 1, 2009
Book Lovers’ Toronto: Introducing the “Events” Tab
A couple of years ago I found myself in London (England) for exactly one day. It was a tough choice, but I opted to spend the day engaged in bibliotourism. This was made a great deal easier by a book I’d picked up in town: Book Lovers’ London by Leslie Reader.
This book is a gem. With no trouble at all I’d mapped out a route through as many used and rare book stores as I could get to, and was able to see an unbelievable exhibit of Holy Books put on by the British Library (including Gutenburg Bibles, scraps of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qur’an of Emperor Babar and much more). I assumed the book was part of a series, and planned to get copies of Book Lovers’ guides to other cities.
I’ve since come to the disappointing realization that Book Lovers’ London is the only book lovers’ guide out there. But every empty gap is a great opportunity, right? I’d like to make a case for a Book Lovers’ Toronto.
You’d never know it, but Toronto is a fantastic city for the bibliophile. From its world-class events like the International Festival of Authors and Luminato and the literally hundreds of signings and readings around town to world-famous booksellers, collections and book sales, Toronto has enough book sites, events and exhibits to keep a bibliotourist entertained for a week.
Toronto is home to the fourth-largest University library system in North America (after Harvard, Yale & Illinois), including the largest repository of publicly accessible rare books and manuscripts in Canada. We house Canada’s major collection of speculative fiction and popular culture as well as Canada’s oldest science fiction bookstore. We have neighbourhoods where so many internationally-acclaimed writers live that the area is affectionately referred to as the “Writer’s Block“. We have statues of our poets and small presses open to the public. We have had two books written on that subject – Toronto – A Literary Guide by Greg Gatenby and Writer’s Map of Toronto by John Colombo (not entirely up to date either of them – nevertheless.) And on and on.
The “new book” events – the Festivals, the signings and the readings – are fairly well covered in the media. Publishers and promoters put a lot of money, time and effort into getting the word out there. As much as we’d like to think the aim of these events is literacy and cultural edification, they’re also really about selling books and that’s a cause that seems to justify publicity.
But on the used-and-rare end of the book spectrum we have a less cohesive “scene”. No one giant body stands to make money from these exhibits and events and no PR people are employed. Rare book people – sorry kids – are also an eccentric and slightly antisocial lot and tend not to strive for inclusion. The product – old things – also doesn’t lend itself to a media-savvy, internet prevalent crowd. This hurdle didn’t stop Leslie Reader, though, and it won’t stop me. So I introduce to you the Events Tab.
I have tried to collect a comprehensive list of books events and exhibits which might otherwise fall between the cracks, events not loudly trumpeted by their sponsors. Most of the listings are exhibits but I’ve also tried to compile a list of book fairs and sales in the area. Whether you are a native Torontonian who didn’t realize these events were available for your enjoyment or a visitor looking to absorb another dimension of the city’s rich literary offerings, I hope you will find these listings useful. And I’d love to add more! Always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think I should list something I might have missed.