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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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Quick Hits: Timeless Books With Amazing Raves

In Quick Hits, a new 49th Shelf series, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

*****

19 Knives, by Mark Jarman

Genre: Short stories

Publisher: House of Anansi

What It's About

Quill & Quire described it like this—"Jarman’s work is .... fade-resistant. Each of 19 Knives’ 14 stories (all first-person narratives) integrates sparkling linguistic kinetics and honey-like narrative stickiness. Rejecting postmodern cynicism, Jarman celebrates life’s ecstatic mysteries. Religious in their own way – finding meaning in music and everyday life, not empty theology – these stories shake like Muddy Waters riding a riff into the dark recesses of the night."

What People Say

"It is very irritating to discover a wonderful book published too long ago to be an official 'book of the year.' Jarman's collection is ... brilliant. The writing is extraordinary, the stories are gripping, it is something new." —A.S. Byatt

"The best of many highlights in Jarman's new collection, 19 Knives, is 'Burn Man on a Texas Porch.' I …

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Quick Hits: Funny, Moving, and Everything In Between

In Quick Hits, a new 49th Shelf series, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

*****

 

Dance, Gladys, Dance, by Cassie Stocks

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: NeWest Press

What It's About

Winner of the 2013 Stephen Leacock Award for Canadian Humour Writing, Dance, Gladys, Dance is about 27-year-old Frieda Zweig, who is at an impasse. Behind her is a string of failed relationships and half-forgotten ambitions of being a painter; in front of her lies the dreary task of finding a real job and figuring out what “normal” people do with their lives. Then, a classified ad in the local paper introduces Frieda to Gladys, an elderly woman who long ago gave up on her dreams of being a dancer. The catch? Gladys is a ghost. In Dance, Gladys, Dance, Cassie Stocks tells the uplifting story of a woman whose uncanny connection with a kindred spirit causes her to see her life in a new way—as anything but ordinary.

What People Say

"Cassie Stocks' debut novel, Dance, Gladys, Dance, is a quirky blend of comedy and tragedy with …

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Quick Hits: Dirt, Time Travel, Love, and Gossip

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

*****

Eating Dirt, by Charlotte Gill

Genre: Literary Non-Fiction

Publisher: Greystone Books

What It's About

Eating Dirt is an extended postcard from the cut blocks—a vivid portrayal of one woman's life planting trees, her insights into the forest industry and its environmental implications, and a celebration of the wonder of trees.

Charlotte Gill spent almost twenty years working as a tree planter in the forests of Canada. During her million-tree career, she encountered hundreds of clear-cuts, each one a collision site between human civilization and the natural world. Charged with sowing the new forest in these clear-cuts, tree planters are a tribe caught between the stumps and the virgin timber, between environmentalists and loggers.

What People Say

“Eating Dirt will likely get passed, dog-eared and mud-stained around planting bush camps for seasons to come, and reading it will take retired treeplanters back to the thrilling agony of the cut blocks …

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Quick Hits: Infernos, Outrage, Love, and Anything But

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

*****

Pathologies, by Susan Olding

Genre: Personal Essays

Publisher: Freehand Books

What It's About

In 15 personal essays, debut author Susan Olding takes us on an unforgettable journey into the complex heart of being human. Each essay dissects an aspect of Olding's life experience—from her vexed relationship with her father to her tricky dealings with her female peers; from her work as a counsellor and teacher to her persistent desire, despite struggles with infertility, to have children of her own. In a suite of essays forming the emotional climax of the book, Olding bravely recounts the adoption of her daughter, Maia, from an orphanage in China, and tells us the story of Maia's difficult adaptation to the unfamiliar state of being loved.

Written with as much lyricism, detail, and artfulness as the best short stories, the essays in Pathologies provide all the pleasures of fiction combined with the enrichment derived from the careful presentation o …

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Quick Hits: Books of the Year and Books for Right Now

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

*****

 

Sweet Jesus, by Christine Pountney

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

What It's About

Set mainly on Vancouver Island, in Toronto, and in the American Midwest, Sweet Jesus tells the story of three siblings who, in the week before the 2012 US Presidential election, reunite and set off on a journey that will transform their lives.

Connie Foster, a mother of three young children, learns that her husband’s attempt to maintain their lifestyle has led them to financial ruin. Her sister, Hannah Crowe, a writer, desperately wants to have a child but the man she loves is determined not to. Zeus Ortega, their much younger adopted brother, who left the family home when he was only fifteen, is living in Chicago with his boyfriend and working as a therapeutic clown in a children’s hospital. Prompted by a heartbreaking loss, he quits his job and decides to search for his birth parents in New Mexico. Together, the three siblings head south and, …

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