Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Best Canadian Poetry 2020

A Record of Literary History: Best Canadian Poetry 2020

By Marilyn Dumont

An excerpt from Marilyn Dumont's introduction to BEST CANADIAN POETRY 2020.

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Book Cover Book of Donair

The Donair: Canada's Official Food?

By Lindsay Wickstrom

Excerpt from BOOK OF DONAIR explores how a bitter rivalry between Halifax and Edmonton helped propel the donair to be de …

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Book Cover My Ocean is Blue

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Questions, Questions

By Julie Booker

Great picture books that engage with questions and encourage readers to think about answers.

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Book Cover Gutter Child

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Spring Fiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Exciting debuts, and new releases by Christy Ann Conlin, Pasha Malla, Eva Stachniak, Jael Richardson, and more.

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Book Cover Better Luck Next Time

Patriarchy Lies: Women Are Funny

By Kate Hilton

A funny woman reading list by the author of new novel Better Luck Next Time.

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 The Chat with Eve Lazarus

The Chat with Eve Lazarus

By Trevor Corkum

Eve Lazarus has drawn back the curtain on some of Vancouver’s secret places. Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City …

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Canadian Books of the Year: Chosen by Educators and Librarians

Canadian Books of the Year: Chosen by Educators and Librarians

By 49th Teachers

We asked educators and librarians to share their favourite Canadian books of 2020.

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Photo of two books tucked into a  knitted cozy against a backdrop of a minimalist tree bedecked with white lights.

Happy Holidays!

By Kerry Clare

This year, books were the one thing we could count on.

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The Chat with David Bateman

The Chat with David Bateman

By Trevor Corkum

Acclaimed writer David Bateman has just released his fabulous debut novel, DR SAD (University of Calgary Press). It foll …

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Christmas Tree Ornament of a Pile of Books

Have you Entered Our Books of the Year Giveaway Yet?

By Kerry Clare

All the titles on our 2020 Fiction: Books of the Year list are up for giveaway! Don't miss your chance to win.

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Writing Your Way Into Landscape: Guest Post by Jenna Butler

Book Cover Seldom Seen Road

Writing your way into (toward) a landscape is a tricky thing, a continual process of navigation, negotiation, re-visioning. I’m in awe of those who do it well, and turn often to the likes of Candace Savage and Sharon Butala, Robert Kroetsch, John Newlove, and Di Brandt.

Book Cover I See My Love More Clearly

I was talking with poet Nora Gould about this a handful of months back; her book I see my love more clearly from a distance, set in the ranching country of southeastern Alberta, has become a touchstone for me. We were deep into a conversation about the similarities between farming and ranching life, mostly the close attention to the natural world in all weather. I’ve spoken of this before with other rural friends, and usually the discussion shifts to the differences between ranching and farming: mobility versus stasis, that certain hardship out on a cattle drive versus the farmhouse just back over the rise if anything goes wrong. But with Nora, I felt the deep companionship inherent in setting those dividing lines aside and focusing on commonality: the weather, the seasons, the sto …

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An Excerpt from Condemned to Repeat, by Janice MacDonald

Edmonton mystery author Janice MacDonald is back with Condemned to Repeat, the latest instalment in the Randy Craig Mystery series. For anyone other than Randy Craig, a contract to do archival research and web development for Alberta’s famed Rutherford House should have been a quiet gig. But when she discovers an unsolved mystery linked to Rutherford House in the Alberta Archives and the bodies begin to pile up, Randy can’t help but wonder if her modern-day troubles are linked to the intrigues of the past...

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Stephen Dafoe was not really what I had expected from what Marni had told me about him. First off, since he had been such a child prodigy and local icon, I sort of expected more ego to be emanating from the man. Instead, when I went out to the curb to see if I could help him with his equipment, he introduced himself with a bright smile and a firm handshake.

“I’d love some help. You know, most magicians have assistants just to help schlep equipment. Fishnets and a Vanna White presentation arm are incidental.”

We propped the front door open with one of the bins and began hauling the rest in, straight to the kitchen hall. We were going to have to close one of the public doors for this event, which had already been agreed to when they were negotiatin …

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Launchpad: Mad Cow, by Alexis Kienlen

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Alexis Kienlen's debut novel Mad Cow, the perfect literary fiction debut for a published poet who spends her days working as an agricultural journalist.

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Mad Cow is a novel about how bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, devastates and nearly destroys a beef ranching family living in rural Alberta in the early 2000s.

Describe your ideal reader.

People who want to le …

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Filling the Gaps, Minding the Gaps: the Unconventional (Mostly) Small Town Girls of CanLit

My latest poetry collection, Gaptoothed, is about my own bashful, lusty Wife of Bath smile. Yet it is also about gaps in identity, memory, history—flaws, holes, spaces and absences, that when looked at from a certain angle, become powerful instruments of poetic expression. The collection, released by Gaspereau Press this past spring, is also about gender, girlhood, and the unconventional and vulnerable girls who too often fall through the cracks—or gaps—in a system that was never built to help the likes of them. The collection is dedicated to my late grandmother; she was supposed to be one of forgotten, cast-aside girls, but her tremendous wit, her razor-sharp tongue, her vitality made her unforgettable. The book is about the beauty of the one-of-a-kind that tells you off for not noticing sooner.

The books listed below have filled in the gaps for me over the years on a literary landscape that so often seemed full of holes—that still seems to be short so many vibrant and vital stories and poems and voices.

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Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson

This is …

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Alberta, Today

Katie Bickell’s first novel, Always Brave, Sometimes Kind features a cast of Albertan characters whose lives intersect through the years 1990 - 2016. Set in the urban and rural reaches of Alberta, “Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.” Here, Bickell lists 18 novels that pay homage to the contemporary stories, landmarks, events, people, and communities associated with the land and larger community now known as Alberta.

(Author's note: All books are novels set in and referencing Alberta, and all take place within —or can be assumed to take place—within the last 50 years. Sorry in advance to any I might have missed!)

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A Rhinestone Button, by Gail Anderson Dargatz

In the rough-and-tumble farming community of Godsfinger, Alberta, Job Sunstrum lives a solitary existence, raising cattle and farming the land, like his father and grandfather before him. Yet the surrounding pasture do not old much attraction for him. Instead he prefers his humble farmhouse kitchen, where cooking …

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