Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Memoir Conversations and Craft

Dazzling Memoirs

By Marjorie Simmins

Marjorie Simmins, author of MEMOIR: CONVERSATIONS AND CRAFTS, recommends her dream lineup of memoirs.

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For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

By Kiley Turner

Isn't it great when you find a new author or series that fits your reading taste to a tee? Here are a few new books that …

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Book Cover Big Reader

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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If You’re Going to Read Just One Book This Summer, Why Not Read Two?

Photo Beach Reading

Every year during summer holidays, the jackets on the beach are all the same. It was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, then last summer it was The Help, and all this summer’s books are already bedecked in 50 Shades of Gray. The monolithic nature of the summer read certainly comes with its benefits—all these book sales keep booksellers and publishers afloat, and books in common create connections between readers. But as for fostering a vibrant literary culture, the one-book-per-summer approach is having us come up seriously short.

What does a vibrant literary culture look like, is a question you may ask, which is a question best answered by taking a peek at the 49thShelf main-page anytime. This is what a vibrant literary culture looks like, books and books, side by side, mingling forms and genres, illuminating connections, contrasts, big presses and small presses. In literature as in biology, diversity is the way to sustaining life, books of all sorts, some familiar and some obscure, off the wall and, yes, some according to formula because it’s true that a little bit of formulaic fiction is nice to encounter in the summer. We work hard enough the rest of the year that we can be permitted some indulgence lake-side, a beach-read and a glass of wine on a Wednesda …

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Summer Covers, Had Me a Blast

All right, it's True Confessions time: I'm a sucker for books whose covers scream, "Summer!" 

My all-time favourite summer cover is Alice Petersen's short story collection, All the Voices Cry, and when the book came out in 2012, I cooked up reason after reason to feature that gorgeous cover on the 49th Shelf main page. Because I loved that cover—the lake, horizon, the just-perceptible haze. I loved that leap, with arms and legs outstretched—a moment in midair. This is summer: ephemeral, soaring, perfect. 


Some of this year's best summer covers take a similar approach, and the results are just as pleasing, such as the bestselling graphic novel, This One Summer, by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki:



Mating for Life, by Marissa Stapley, features raft-leaps as well, perhaps fitting for this novel about mothers, daughters, and sisters and the chances we take in our lives. 


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2017 Summer Books

Winter is good, autumn is nice, spring is okay, but there is nothing else quite like reading in the summer. Except for, perhaps, reading about summer, books about road trips, swimming, canoe paddling, long lazy days, and even a little bit of summer intrigue. The books in this list, out now or coming soon, have all of this, and they run the gamut of fiction, non-fiction, YA, and a most excellent picture book. These are books that mean summer starts NOW. 


The Last Wave, by Gillian Best (Out in August) 

About the book: A beautifully rendered family drama set in Dover, England, between the 1940s and the present day, The Last Wave follows the life of Martha, a woman who has swum the English Channel ten times, and the complex relationships she has with her husband, her children, and her close friends. The one constant in Martha’s life is the sea, from her first accidental baptism to her final crossing of the channel. The sea is an escape from her responsibilities as a wife and a mother; it consoles her when she is diagnosed with cancer; and it comforts her when her husband’s mind begins to unravel.

An intergenerational saga spanning six decades, The Last Wave is a wholly authentic portrait of a family buffeted by illness, intolerance, anger, failure, and regret. G …

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"Love Song," by Theresa Kishkan

Book Cover the Summer Book

Theresa Kishkan weaves a gorgeous narrative out of light and time in her beautiful essay, "Love Story," which opens the newly-released non-fiction collection The Summer Book, edited by Mona Fertig. Reviewer Howard Stewart calls the The Summer Book "a masterpiece collection of finely crafted and evocative reminders of why summer is such a special season"; read this essay for a taste of just how right he is. 


On an early summer morning, I wake to the sound of Swainson’s thrushes. Beyond my bedroom window, beyond the house, they sing where the woods begin. And there are robins, vireos, the long whistle of a varied thrush. My curtains are rough white linen, and they filter light, the light at dawn, coming from the east, pink and golden as the sun finds its way over Mount Hallowell. My husband sleeps closest to the window, and he pulls the curtains aside to let in more song. There is honeysuckle blooming, and dog roses, trumpet vines. Hummingbirds bury themselves in the flowers. The pink throats of the tree frogs inflate, a loud vibrato close enough to touch. A face peers in the window through the lattice of vines, and it’s a weasel, as surprised to see me in a bed with pillows and a log-cabin quilt as I am to see a weasel among the dog roses. That’s what I …

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