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

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A Taster: Spring 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

Life stories, family, baseball, and retreat. These highlight the nonfiction we're most looking forward to this spring. 

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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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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.

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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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Visceral: A Book List, Part I

The word "visceral" originated in the 1500s, and it was defined vaguely as "affecting inward feelings," with these feelings said to stem from our "gut."  In modern times, the interpretation of visceral has extended beyond our bellies to encompass other parts of our bodies: the hair at the back of our necks, a shiver running down our spines, deep physical reactions to feeling unsettled, enlivened, repulsed, electrified, aroused.

Some books, more than others, affect readers via the extraordinarily powerful images they bring forth and the way they speak to every sense. These are books we feel in our bodies as much as our brains, and they can span a wide range of focuses, from hard-hitting stories of war and other miseries; erotic passages; razor-sharp, evocative poetry; shocking challenges to the status quo; sensual descriptions of food, land, bodies, etc.; and of course, stories of love and loss. Not surprisingly, these are some of the books we remember most.

Here are a few favourites including excerpts from jacket copy and reviews, with thanks also to Vicki Ziegler, Dee Hopkins, and Steph VanderMeulen for their ideas. But there are more: wait for Part II later this week.

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Vs., by Kerry Ryan: Ryan has a fairly rare distinction (we think?) of being a writer who's a …

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The Chat With Governor General's Award Winner Steven Heighton

Heighton_Steven_portrait 2

Our next chat in this year’s Governor General’s Awards special is with Steven Heighton, who won his first GG Award for his poetry collection The Waking Comes Late.

According to the jury, “Steven Heighton’s The Waking Comes Late is a journey deepening as we read. He locates the complexities of the personal in a wide range of social issues, while playing masterfully with language, form and tone. His stunning political poems never descend to pedantry or the prosaic. A mature work: smart, moving, inventive, original.” 

Steven Heighton’s most recent books are The Waking Comes Late and the Trillium Award finalist The Dead Are More Visible (stories). His novel Afterlands has appeared in six countries, was a New York Times Book Review editors’ choice, and was cited on best of year lists in ten publications in Canada, the US, and the UK. The novel is now in pre-production for film. His short fiction and poetry have received four gold National Magazine Awards and have appeared in London Review of Books, Best English Stories, Poetry, Best American Poetry, Tin House, TLR, Agni, Best American Mystery Stories, London Magazine, Zoetrope, Poetry London, and five editions of Best Canadian Stories. Heighton has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and Brit …

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The Chat with Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton cr. Mark Raynes Roberts 600 dpi

This week, we’re in conversation with author Steven Heighton. His memoir, Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos, (Biblioasis) was a recent finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

The 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction jury says:

"We know Steven Heighton as an award-winning poet and novelist. With Reaching Mithymna, he emerges as an indelible nonfiction writer. Combining his poetic sensibilities and storytelling skills with a documentarian’s eye, he has created a wrenching narrative from the front lines of the Syrian refugee crisis. In 2015, Heighton travelled to Greece, his mother’s homeland, equipped with a duffel bag, a notebook, and a conscience. Reaching Mithymna is a heart-rending story of humanity and sacrifice by a writer who put his own life on hold in a desperate and often futile attempt to help shipwrecked strangers find a safe and secure future for themselves and their children.”
 
Steven Heighton’s most recent books are a novel, The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep, which has appeared in French and Ukrainian translations and has been optioned for film, and a poetry collection, The Waking Comes Late, which received the 2016 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. His …

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