Off the Page

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

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Book Cover the Queer Evangelist

On Telling the Truth in Politics

By Cheri Divnovo

An excerpt from new memoir The Queer Evangelist, Cheri DiNovo's story of her life as a queer minister, politician and st …

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 The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winners The Fan Brothers

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winners The Fan Brothers

By Trevor Corkum

We continue our special coverage of this year’s Governor General's Literature Award winners in conversation with the a …

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Book Cover Oy Feh So

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Jewish Heritage

By Julie Booker

Compelling stories showcasing Jewish Heritage to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Madhur Anand

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Madhur Anand

By Trevor Corkum

Check out our conversation with Madhur Anand, whose brilliant experimental memoir This Red Line Goes Straight to Your He …

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Me and Bridget Jones (20 Years Later)

Me and Bridget Jones (20 Years Later)

By Erika Thorkelson

Erika Thorkelson's "Me and Bridget Jones (20 Years Later)" is one of the essays in Midlife, a new essay collection explo …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Michelle Good

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Michelle Good

By Trevor Corkum

Today we are pleased to kick off our special coverage of the 2020 Governor General's Award winners (English-language) wi …

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Book Cover Cattail Skyline

The World Up Close

By Joanne Epp

A recommended reading list by author of new book CATTAIL SKYLINE on paying close attention to the small and particular.

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Book Cover What's In It For Me

The Keepers on My Bookshelf

By LS Stone

Depth and humour are themes in this great recommended reading list by the author of the new middle grade novel What's in …

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Book Cover the Girl from Dream City

How Does a Woman Become a Writer?

By Linda Leith

"The writers who interest me most, always, are women who write about themselves in ways that a male writer never could." …

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Book Cover Big Reader

11 Essay Collections to Revisit Now

By Susan Olding

"The bestselling novel of a decade ago will sometimes seem stale or irrelevant today, but that’s rarely true of an ess …

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The Canadian Sleuth Lit Wish List

How the Light Gets In, the latest book in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, was a huge international success this year, proving once again that Canadian crime fiction knows what it’s doing. And although it is unclear whether or not Penny has more Gamache novels in the works, there is a huge variety of other Canadian crime/detective series to try out in the meantime. (And get ready—quite a few of these series have new instalments due in 2014!)

But how to choose which series to start with?

Well, it’s easy with our handy #LitWishList of fictional Canadian sleuths. Think of it like sleuthy speed-dating—peruse the list to see who catches your fancy. Though you just may end up wanting to read them all.

*****

Book Cover Yellow Vengeance

The Toronto Lesbian PI: Calli Barnow

Last Seen: Yellow Vengeance by Liz Bugg

After narrowly escaping death while solving her last case, the Toronto PI is settling happily into married life with her new wife, Jess. Once again, however, trouble is looming: Jess wants a baby but Calli would rather fight a psycho with a gun than contemplate parenthood. When an old school friend asks Calli to investigate her mother’s death, Calli jumps at the chance to distract herself with work. Her plans go awry when her own mother reveals a shocking secret that threatens …

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Shelf Talkers: June 2015

Like most kids, I always looked forward to this time of year with a keen anticipation. I loved going back to school in September, but June brought an incredible rush of joy and elation—for two months, I would be able to read whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted.

I spent the summer months in the hayloft, or in an upstairs bedroom at my grandmother’s house, curled up on the couch or perched in an apple tree, on the front step or in the backyard, but always, always, engrossed in a book. I would stage regular sallies into the library, raid the thrift shop and the second-hand store to feed my voracious literary appetite.

This month’s collection of recommendations from independent booksellers across the country is dedicated to the waning of the school year, and the chance for everyone—whether they have two months off or not—to spend a little time with a new favourite book. There are some great options for you here.

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The Bookseller: Carolyn Gillis, King’s Co-op Bookstore (Halifax, NS)

The Pick: Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper

I read this beautiful novel in one sitting. Etta is 82 and has never seen the ocean. She wakes up one morning and starts walking from Saskatchewan to Halifax. She leaves her husband, Otto, a note on the kitchen table. …

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Shelf Talkers: December 2015

It’s that time of year again, that most wonderful time, when the evenings are long, and the air is full of the sound of Year-End Best-Of lists. What, you were expecting carolling?

Sure, the holidays are swell and everything, but as a booklover, the turning of the year is a time to look back, to recall what books brought me joy and, more significantly, to look at other peoples’ lists and see what I missed.

My book budget goes out the window in December, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.

The Year-End Best-Of list has become as much a tradition as turkey dinners and fighting with your family around the table. David Gutowski has, at the time of this writing, more than a thousand such lists aggregated over at Largehearted Boy (and yes, I’m spending altogether too much time there).

But the lists, at least in their more formal iterations, are also a recurring cause of frustration. Open a newspaper, flip through a magazine, click a link, and what do you find? Writers talking about the best books of the year. Reviewers boiling a year’s work down to a handful of favourites. Media figures weighing in with their choices.  It’s as if, in the wake of the major prizes, everybody gets to contribute their voices.

Well, almost everyone.

Who don’t you find, as a rule?

Booksellers.

Sure, there’s the occasional broad-based piece: Quill & Quire usually consults with a few booksellers for an article, and Publisher’s Weekly did a great job with a survey of American booksellers last we …

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Bon Appetit: Food in CanLit

We all have our favourite food scenes from books and movies. Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega bonding over a $5 milkshake in Pulp Fiction. The poor lobsters in Annie Hall. Lady and the Tramp’s romantic spaghetti and meatball dinner. Butter beer and Cornish pasties in Harry Potter. Loretta telling Ronny how he’ll eat his steak in Moonstruck. Every single meal in Louise Penny's mysteries. Key lime pie and potatoes in Nora Ephron's Heartburn. The list is endless and adding to it is completely addictive. You could lose yourself for hours just by clicking on this link.
 
The best food writing defines characters and crystallizes their challenges and desires, allowing readers and viewers into a fictional world that is both familiar and surprising. When we “read food,” we automatically put ourselves into the scene and imagine how we would feel. Loved. Hated. Shocked. Enraptured. Pretty much any emotion can be summoned through food—and immediately, in very few words—if the writing is brilliant enough.

Food plays a key role in Trevor Cole’s Hope Makes Love. In the novel, the female protagonist, Hope, has suffered a terrible trauma. She is functional, but just, and fearful of intimacy. She meets a man named Adnan, and he is gentle. So as not to give too much away, here’s an excerpt from the book. The context: an email from Hope to Adnan, recalling a night they spent together.

We made—or you made and insisted it was “we"—tarts with roasted cherry tomatoes and onions and …

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Shelf Talkers: Thanksgiving 2017 Edition

Gratitude.

It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? Aren’t most of taught, from our earliest days, to say thank you? To be grateful?

It’s not that easy, though. And it’s more important than we had ever imagined.

As we gather, this week, for a national day of gratitude, tucking into our turkey (or turkey substitute), it’s worth noting that not only have the vast majority of spiritual and religious traditions long endorsed the significant benefits of gratitude, but Forbes magazine, of all places, has also come aboard, recognizing seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, including health benefits, better sleep, and greater mental strength.

And if Forbes has been writing about it, there must be something to it, right?

If you don’t already have a practice for gratitude, why don’t you try this with me: this weekend, before you dig in, take a moment to really experience gratitude, to give thanks (even silently) for the good things in your life.

One thing that I’m thankful for (and I’m sure I’ve said it before), is that every month I get to spend some virtual time with some of Canada’s finest independent booksellers. I spent more than two decades of my life on the weary side of retail, and this column allows me to keep in touch with a part of my life I miss more than I was expecting to.

Plus, they always recommend such great books.

This month I asked, in a fairly general way, for our booksellers to talk about a book or author they were grateful for. Here …

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