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

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ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

By Kiley Turner

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our attention spans, making it possible to miss really great fiction. These books caug …

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Book Cover Small Courage

Small Courage: Parenting Memoirs

By Jane Byers

A recommended reading list by Jane Byers, whose new queer parenting memoir is out now.

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The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

By Trevor Corkum

Author Kimiko Tobimatsu and illustrator Keet Geniza have teamed up to create Kimiko Does Cancer, a timely graphic memoir …

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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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YOSS Guide for Novices

yoss

Even before a passionate group of writers and readers declared 2011 the Year of the Short Story (YOSS), Canadian short stories had been enjoying some time back in the spotlight. Sarah Selecky’s This Cake is for the Party and Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting were both much celebrated and made the Giller Prize shortlist last year, and Katrina Best’s Bird Eat Bird won Best First Book for the Canada/Caribbean Section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Online initiatives like Joyland and Found Press are giving short stories new life online.

9781897231944_cover_coverbookpage

9781897178942_cover_coverbookpage

And now the YOSS itself has delivered some remarkable new short story collections, all of this an absolute boon for those readers devoted to the form, and has surely also brought about a few converts. But there remain those readers upon whom all the celebration is lost, those who’ve tried and fail …

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Jessica Westhead on Ottawa's Octopus Books

Jessica Westhead's latest book is the story collection And Also Sharks, and she is also author of the novel Pulpy & Midge. In her Canadian Bookshelf guest post, she celebrates Ottawa's Octopus Books and Lisa Greaves, the woman at its helm.

I first met Lisa Greaves in fall 2007, on a Coach House book tour stop at the Plan 99 Reading series at the Manx in Ottawa. After I read from my then-new first novel, Pulpy & Midge, a grinning blonde woman made my night by telling me how much she’d enjoyed the excerpt. She introduced herself and said she owned a bookstore in town, and would I like to read there some time? I said I’d love to.

Photo of Lisa Greaves, Octopus Books

Lisa Greaves, Octopus Books owner-of-amazingness

We hatched a plan for me to visit Octopus Books that spring, along with local author and Octo-pal Jennifer Whiteford. On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, embraced by crammed, colourful bookshelves and a small but very friendly crowd, Jennifer read from her awesome young adult novel grrrl, and I read from Pulpy. Then we launched into an impromptu Q&A session and animated literary gabfest, fuelled by Lisa’s wine and her giddy enthusiasm for both of our books.

I saw Lisa and Jennifer again at Octopus Books’ 40th birthday celebration the following year. That’s right—this independent book …

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The Best Book Trailers We've Seen Lately

When creating a book trailer, it certainly helps to have a good book to start with, not to mention a friend with strong video-editing skills. But otherwise, there really is no formula when it comes to making a book trailer great, although it seems the great ones have no truck with formula in the first place.

All Jessica Westhead has to do is read her book, and the story sells itself. With the assistance of some 1960's stock footage of a hotdog casserole, of course. From And Also Sharks:

 

Vintage footage is also used to great effect in the trailer for Mark Lavorato's novel Believing Cedric:

 

The trailer for Suzette Mayr's Monoceros is a less formal affair, but underlines the truth that we've all suspected for some time: it is impossible to have too much kitsch.

 

Erin Bow's award-winning Plain Kate has a spectacularly animated trailer whose music and images create a perfect atmosphere for the book:

 

Put two writers together in a car and keep them there for a couple of months and it's more than likely that you'll get a book. And a book trailer too, for Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds' fabulous Breakfast at the Exit Cafe:

 

And it's good music coupled with a nice dose of self-deprecating humour that makes the trailer for Doug Harris' YOU comma Idiot.

 

Any other great trailers we missed? Tweet us your favourites @cdnbookshelf with the #booktrailers hashtag.

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The Books Behind WORRY

Worry is Jessica Westhead's new novel, a compelling and unsettling story about threats real and imagined—and where one draws the line. Kim Fu calls it "an irresistible novel from its first pages to its devastating end." 

In this recommended reading list, Westhead names titles that informed her work as she conceived and developed her novel. 

*****

In Lands and Forests, a superbly stark and brooding short-story collection by Andrew Forbes, the wilderness is a constant presence. It offers hope to the disillusioned, broken men and women who populate Forbes’ bleak and beautiful stories, and fills them with reverence, peace and awe. But it can just as easily fill them with unease and dread. In Worry, the lake and forest (ha, see what I did there?) is a constant presence as well, offering my characters the promise of a fun, carefree vacation and a welcome break from rules and responsibilities, but also awakening long-dormant grief and fear in Ruth, my main character. Lands and Forests is also adorned with some of the most ravishing cover art (designed by M …

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Friend. Follow. Text: Shawn Syms on Stories From Living Online

cover friend follow text

Twitter lit? Facebook fiction? Here at 49th Shelf, we use the online realm to bring books and readers together. A new book, Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline, really takes this idea to heart. It consists of stories where the ways we connect online—chat sessions, Facebook status updates, website comment threads—are incorporated directly into the narrative. We asked editor Shawn Syms to talk about some of the stories in the book and the ways in which contemporary writing is being increasingly enhanced by the language and format of social media.

*****

How we meet each other, talk to one another, experience our lives together: it’s all changing. The possibility of being constantly online—while dancing in a big, sweaty crowd or standing alone on a quiet, snowy mountaintop—has started to permanently alter how we communicate as a culture. Whether we’re talking about sharing photos, trading tweets or texting exes, some find this delightful, others disconcerting.

This shift has affected us as readers. Curled up in bed reading 1984 on a tablet or getting breaking news while sitting on the bus, our eyes scan more information of myriad types in many different ways now. And it’s starting to affect how authors construct their works, too. Is there a plac …

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