Off the Page

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

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Shelf Talkers: Books for Summer 2020

Shelf Talkers: Books for Summer 2020

By Robert J Wiersema

Here are our booksellers’ picks for your endless summer days. And if you exhaust this list, remember, more recommendat …

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The Chat with Madhur Anand

The Chat with Madhur Anand

By Trevor Corkum

Our first conversation this month is with writer Madhur Anand, whose brilliant experimental memoir This Red Line Goes St …

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Awesome August Giveaway

Awesome August Giveaway

By Kiley Turner

We hope you've had some wonderful summer escapes by now – we all deserve some magic this season! Today, we're highligh …

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Book Cover Blue Sky Kingdom

Let's Get Out of This Town: Literary Travel

By Kerry Clare

Journey through place and time with this collection of new and forthcoming travel books, spotlighting some of the best t …

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Book Cover Bird's Eye View

Ann Eriksson Launches BIRD'S EYE VIEW

By Kerry Care

"Anyone, young or old, who wants to learn more about the birds that live in their neighbourhood or on the other side of …

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The Chat with John Elizabeth Stintzi

The Chat with John Elizabeth Stintzi

By Trevor Corkum

Writer John Elizabeth Stinzi has the distinction of publishing two fabulous debuts a week apart this past spring. On The …

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Robert Bateman

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Bird Books

By Julie Booker

A flock of tales to get young readers into birding.

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Book Cover Hope Matters

Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Nonfiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

We're looking forward to books about history, true crime, memoir, nature, music, dance, food, and so much more. There's …

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Book Cover The Woman Before Wallis

Exploring Sister Bonds

By Bryn Turnbull

One of our most anticipated debuts of the season, Bryn Turnbull's The Woman Before Wallis, tells the true story of the A …

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Novelist Ali Bryan on Gender-Neutral Domestic Humour

Ali Bryan, author of Roost (Freehand Books).

Working in the space "hilarity and humiliation" (Todd Babiak), Roost (Freehand Books), by Ali Bryan is about family tragedy and the moments for which we hadn't planned. Roost plays with the absurd nature of forced transition, resulting in a truly laugh-out-loud debut novel, something The Toronto Star picked up on calling Bryan an "amusing writer who has mastered the voice of the self-deprecating female, amusing without being annoying."

We contacted Bryan for comment, and to ask the question, is domestic humour a many-gendered thing?

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Julie Wilson: Let's start with The Toronto Star quote. I read it and had a kind of knee-jerk reaction. Were they commenting on gender? Domestic narratives? Writers who pull from life?

First, how does humour fit into your life?

Ali Bryan: I’m fascinated by how laughter tends to evolve from a simple involuntary reaction—a baby playing peek-a-boo—to a complex coping mechanism. Charlie Chaplin said “laughter is the tonic, the relief the surcease for pain.” I love the notion of laughter as tonic. Something wet and consumable and physical. It’s hot yoga for your mental and emotional junk drawer.

Personally, I use humor as a vice to cope with the everyday. Baby spitting up milk puke on husband’s side of the bed is made funny b …

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Launchpad: The End of Me, by John Gould

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The End of Me, by John Gould, of which Bill Gaston writes, "John Gould's skill with the short form is miraculous in the way of bonsai, the grand made to bloom within the small. And who knew death could be so wise, invigorating, playful—so richly alive?"

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

A collection of 56 sudden stories—funny, sad, absurd—about mortality.

Describe your ideal reader.

Likes to wonder more than assert, and to inhabit different points of vie …

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Of Determined Rebels and Patriot Wars: Fighting for the Survival of Upper Canada

Book Cover Death of a Patriot

Don Gutteridge's latest book in the Marc Edwards Mystery series is Death of a Patriot. Here, he fills us in on the book's historical background.

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My fiction series, The Marc Edwards Mysteries, tells the story of Upper Canada in the 1830s and settlers’ struggles to make their lives there. The books depict settlers’ threats from not only annexationists in the United States, but also from within Upper Canada’s own governing party, the Family Compact.

Upper Canada’s Family Compact was composed of a handful of would-be aristocrats who controlled the Upper Chamber of the Legislature and were in thick with the Governor of the day (appointed from Britain). The Upper Chamber (Legislative Council) was appointed by the Compact-friendly Governor and held veto power over bills passed by the freely elected Assembly. This power was routinely abused to stop the Assembly’s reform legislation that would benefit the farmers and ordinary citizens of the province. In this way the Compact kept all the best appointments and sinecures for themselves and controlled the banking system, to the detriment of debt-ridden farmers.

Meanwhile, below the border, many American politicians were calling for the annexation of Upper and Lower Canada, and some of those in the Assembly were a …

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Finding the Formula: Robin Spano on the Art & Science of Mystery Writing

book cover death plays poker

If you dissected my brain (please don't), I'm pretty sure “writer” is not the career you would choose for me. My happy place is with numbers – with math, physics, chemistry, logic. Anything involving formulae and rules. This is what makes my world make sense, and it's the side of my brain that works without being pushed. Sudokus, for example, are much more intuitive for me than crossword puzzles.

But to excite me emotionally, give me a crossword over a Sudoku. It's more work, but there's way more reward. I've always loved reading, getting lost in a world of fiction with characters who parallel the real world but don't actually live in it. Writing fiction has always done the same-- I get to dive into a parallel reality, shape it in a combination of how I see the world and how I'd like to see it, and learn about real life by watching the characters move and play.

My logical university major was physics-- my high school favorite because it yielded maximum grades for minimal effort. Since I laboured long hair-pulling hours to get only decent grades in English and history. Even biology was too organic, not formulaic enough--why would I even contemplate pursuing writing as a career? Yeah, it was still a passion. But I also love snowboarding, and I'd never delude m …

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