Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover The Abortion Caravan

The Abortion Caravan: A Ragtag Army of the Willing

By Karin Wells

The Abortion Caravan, intent on bearding prime minister Pierre Trudeau in his den and removing abortion from the Crimina …

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

By Jennifer Byrne

Forest of Reading is Canada’s largest recreational reading program, celebrating Canadian books and authors. In the eye …

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Covers of books celebrated this spring by regional awards

Big Fiction

By Kerry Clare

Fall book season is exciting with its televised ceremonies and fancy galas, but spring is just as interesting, with regi …

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Book Cover Sister Dear

10 Unapologetically Twisted Reads

By Hannah Mary McKinnon

Ten crime reads to help you discover why authors in Canada have their own hashtag (#ReadTheNorth), and deserve a place o …

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Book Cover Murmurations

Launchpad: Murmurations, by Annick MacAskill

By Kerry Clare

Populating her poems with birdsong and murmurings of the natural world, MacAskill highlights how poets and lovers share …

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

By Erika MacNeil

This is the second pair in a series of interviews with a host of Forest of Reading authors interviewed by Erika MacNeil, …

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Book Cover One Earth

Launchpad: One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao

By Kerry Clare

This is a book to be celebrated and shared!” —Elizabeth May

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Book Cover In Veritas

Launchpad: In Veritas, by C.J. Lavigne

By Kerry Clare

“The perfect mix of incandescent writing and enthralling storytelling. C.J. Lavigne has given us something we can beli …

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Book Cover See you On the Internet

Avery Swartz on How to Win with Digital Marketing

By Kerry Clare

Avery Swartz on why digital marketing matters now, what she's learned from her own missteps, and special advice for publ …

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Book Cover Grandmother School

Launchpad: Grandmother School, by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney

By Kerry Clare

"How great a treat it will be to read this book in a grandmother’s lap."

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The Recommend: March 2015

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Robert Hough, author of the upcoming The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan; Nina Berkhout, author of The Gallery of Lost Species; Harry Karlinski, author of The Evolution of Inanimate Objects; Ann Dowsett Johnson, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcoholand Steve Stanton, author and former president of Canada's national association of science fiction and fantasy authors.

*****

Robert Hough picks Black Bird, by Michel Basilières

"I’m not exactly sure how I discovered my favourite Canadian novel, though I’m pretty sure I have my editor at the time, a legend named Anne Collins, to thank. In my memory, we were at some industry party—likely a sweaty Harbourfront affair—when she pulled me over and, in a slightly conspiratorial voice, said, 'There’s a book coming out I think you’re going to like.'

The year was 2003. The title was Black Bird and it was the first title by a Montreal native named …

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Shelf Talkers: May 2015

Hark!

What is that, in the sky? Is it spring, unfolding all around us, after what was, for much of the country, a long and brutal winter?

Is that the scent of flowers on the breeze?

May is upon us, and in the wake of the amazing experience of Authors for Indies Day, we have a selection of recommendations from a handful of Canada’s foremost independent booksellers. Fiction and poetry, adult books and a kids book, this installment of Shelf Talkers is a veritable bouquet of spring blooms. And what better way to spend an afternoon than to visit your local independent bookseller, list in hand, then find a sunny spot to spend a few quality hours with a quality book.

Enjoy! And happy spring!

 

*****

The Bookseller: Mary-Ann Yazedjian, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)

The Pick: The Mountain Story, by Lori Lansens

Without a doubt, this is the best book I have read so far in 2015. It is a story of survival, friendships, family relationships, adversity, resilience, and love. Our 18-year-old narrator Wolf Truly takes the tram up the mountainside near Palm Springs with no intention of coming back. When he meets three enigmatic women on the mountain and becomes lost with them, he has to re-evaluate his priorities if any of them are going to survive. I loved this novel and I …

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Great Families in CanLit

Don't you love escaping into a book where brothers, sisters, moms, and dads—not to mention freaky aunties and uncs—are crazier than yours? Where they fight more, philander more, commit more crimes, get sadder, and have their hearts broken even more than than you do? The best families in literature are wonderful because they are somehow utterly familiar—but strange enough—and thus cathartic. Here are a few greats. Of course there are many more (Larry's Party anyone? Fall on Your Knees?) so we want to hear suggestions from you. Tweet us @49thShelf with the hashtag #CanLitFamilies.

***

The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews

“Toews’s writing is a unique collision of sadness and humour. . . . The Flying Troutmans is a dark story but it is also a never-ending series of hilarious adventures.”—Ottawa Citizen

Days after being dumped by her boyfriend Marc in Paris—"he was heading off to an ashram and said we could communicate telepathically" —Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the childre …

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Shelf Talkers: Women, Songs, Oceans, Freedom, and Hellfire

It’s a special time of year.

September.

Even the word sounds a little magical.

The kids are back in school, some of us are taking classes, our routines are starting to settle again, after a few months of lovely summer entropy...

This month, our dedicated independent booksellers (including a couple of new folks!) have selected a set of fantastic fall reads. These are all fiction, all novels, but it’s striking just how close these picks hew to the real world, and what is going on in it. Sometimes we read for escape, and sometimes—like now—we read to connect to the world, to have the light of fiction shone into the shadows of the real world.

**

The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: Women Talking, by Miriam Toews 

Women Talking, the fantastic new novel from Miriam Toews, tells the story of a group of Mennonite women meeting in secret to decide the fate of their community. Set over 48 hours, and told from the view of the lone male in attendance (because the women are unable to read or write but need this event transcribed), Women Talking is a powerful read about the inner strength a group of women find to take control and change their futures for the better. It is a story that is often heartbreaking but sprinkled with wit to make it bearable …

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Shelf Talkers: Books for Christmas Eve Shoppers

With apologies to Clement Moore.

**

'Twas the week before Christmas and all 'cross the land

The booksellers were racing, stacks of books clutched in hand.

They doled out some Ravi, Rick Mercer, and Washington Black

And if they couldn’t find it, why, they checked in the back.

They raced up the aisles, they dodged the kids’ wails,

They thrived on the bustle, they rang up the sales.

They walked and they walked, and their blisters brought a tear

Until they heard a faint voice, one they often did hear:

“You’re an indie bookseller, the best of the best.

You work before dawn, you work without rest.

You’ve read all the books, you could pass any test,

Now, could please tell me, which one was the best?”

The booksellers paused, the booksellers stilled

It was an impossible question, one that pricked like a quill.

Who could say what was best, who could even compare,

Not just apple and orange, but mango and pear!

Put two books together, and how do they rank

When one is a novel, the other history frank?

“Impossible,” they said, “that’s not how books work

To say one is the best would make me feel like a jerk.”

“All right,” said the voice, loaded with care,

“Which book is your favourite, that you want to share?”

“Ah,” said the booksellers, “this I can do,

Just give me a coffee, and a moment to stew.”

And the booksellers weighed in, with their picks of the year

It was a list most compelling, and rich with good cheer.

The voice tried to thank them, but they waved it away,

Turning back …

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