Off the Page

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

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Book Cover the Queer Evangelist

On Telling the Truth in Politics

By Cheri Divnovo

An excerpt from new memoir The Queer Evangelist, Cheri DiNovo's story of her life as a queer minister, politician and st …

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 The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winners The Fan Brothers

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winners The Fan Brothers

By Trevor Corkum

We continue our special coverage of this year’s Governor General's Literature Award winners in conversation with the a …

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Book Cover Oy Feh So

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Jewish Heritage

By Julie Booker

Compelling stories showcasing Jewish Heritage to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Madhur Anand

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Madhur Anand

By Trevor Corkum

Check out our conversation with Madhur Anand, whose brilliant experimental memoir This Red Line Goes Straight to Your He …

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Me and Bridget Jones (20 Years Later)

Me and Bridget Jones (20 Years Later)

By Erika Thorkelson

Erika Thorkelson's "Me and Bridget Jones (20 Years Later)" is one of the essays in Midlife, a new essay collection explo …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Michelle Good

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Michelle Good

By Trevor Corkum

Today we are pleased to kick off our special coverage of the 2020 Governor General's Award winners (English-language) wi …

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Book Cover Cattail Skyline

The World Up Close

By Joanne Epp

A recommended reading list by author of new book CATTAIL SKYLINE on paying close attention to the small and particular.

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Book Cover What's In It For Me

The Keepers on My Bookshelf

By LS Stone

Depth and humour are themes in this great recommended reading list by the author of the new middle grade novel What's in …

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Book Cover the Girl from Dream City

How Does a Woman Become a Writer?

By Linda Leith

"The writers who interest me most, always, are women who write about themselves in ways that a male writer never could." …

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Book Cover Big Reader

11 Essay Collections to Revisit Now

By Susan Olding

"The bestselling novel of a decade ago will sometimes seem stale or irrelevant today, but that’s rarely true of an ess …

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Courage from the Outliers

Michelle Butler Hallett's latest novel is Constant Nobody, and we've got three copies up for giveaway right now.

Don't miss your chance to win!

*****

I’m often plagued by self-doubt when writing, when trying to serve a story and give it what it needs, however strange, upsetting, or just plain weird that might be. Sometimes I borrow courage from aesthetic and thematic outliers.

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A Stone Diary, by Pat Lowther

A Stone Diary is such a strong collection, one that takes many risks with subject, themes, and form with confidence and control. Lowther’s often slant perspective is compelling, almost hypnotic—in “Craneflies in Their Season,” for example, and “It Happens Every Day.” Many of the poems examine violence, intimate and state-induced, from “I.D.” to “Chacabuco, The Pit.” Violence is still something of a taboo subject for women writers now, let alone in in the 1970s. I admire how Lowther portrays violence: harrowing, yet never gratuitous, allowing space to acknowledge, consider, and recognize the full truths of being human.

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11 Essay Collections to Revisit Now

Susan Olding's latest book is the essay collection Big Reader.

If the pandemic has left you feeling too distracted and foggy to concentrate for long, buy or borrow a book of essays.

Short enough to finish in a sitting, inventive enough to spark your weary brain, intimate enough to dispel some Covid loneliness, an essay is the next best thing to an hour with a smart friend.

The bestselling novel of a decade ago will sometimes seem stale or irrelevant today, but that’s rarely true of an essay. Like your smart friend, the essay has staying power.

Here, then, are eleven stellar essay collections published in Canada over the past decade or so. Most are small press books you might have missed on their first release. Revisit them now—for their continuing relevance, for the comfort or provocation they’ll offer, for the laughter they’ll kindle, for the futures they’ll help us imagine as we slog our way through this third and —let’s hope—final wave of the pandemic. 

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Book Cover Reverberations

Reverberations, by Marion Agnew

Anyone who has lost a parent to a lingering illness …

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Launchpad: TIFF: A LIFE OF TIMOTHY FINDLEY, by Sherrill Grace

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today Andrew Pyper is recommending new biography Tiff: A Life of Timothy Findley, by Sherrill Grace.

Pyper writes: “Tiff is a biography of becoming. Timothy Findley was a writer, but one who arrived at the vocation by way of the stage, a storyteller who shifted from the speaking of others’ words to the crafting of his own. Sherrill Grace brings thoughtful attention to both the man and the work, the latter of which notably marked the national literature by its particular obsessions and inventions.”

*****

Book Cover Tiff

49th Shelf: What particular thing have you achieved with this book of which you are especially proud? 

Sherrill Grace: I believe I have brought Timothy Findley to public atten …

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Literary Bites in Bits: A List by paulo da costa

Book Cover Green and Purple Skin of the World

Each book in this selection is sliced in bite-sized portions, yet none miss any of the essential vitamins and minerals, delivering satisfying nourishment despite their small portions. Think of them as power-bars. These six books share in common a succinct, power-charged delivery of texts in condensed servings that leave me purring and yummying with delight. For those readers, like me, who appreciate snacking, these works exemplify the type of book I carry around in my shoulder bag, to sneak, peek and bite into, while waiting in lines, while moving along the day-to-day river of busyness. During those days I cannot squeeze out large chunks of leisure to engage with traditional novels, these works deliver the daily literary sustenance I seek for my brain, heart and my spirit.

Murder in the Dark by Margaret Atwood: Feast on these diverse literary hors d’oeuvres of everything you can imagine. From the lyrical prose to the sci-fi narrative, from ruminations to romance, you find in this slim volume every imaginable vitamin, making it a complete and satisfy …

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Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea

Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea, edited by Michael L. Hadley and Anita Hadley, is an anthology of 170 pieces of writing from over 130 of Canada’s most significant literary voices. The passages range from Kwakiutl prayers to stories of immigration and exile; from tales of nautical exploration to humorous portraits of coastal characters; and from classic Canadian poetry to sea-themed contemporary fiction. It showcases the relationship of all Canadians to the three oceans that frame our country.

*****

from the Introduction, by Anita Hadley:

Beginnings

The inspiration for [Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea] arose from an evening of nautical readings held at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Victoria. Entitled “Master and Commander,” the presentation offered an entertaining selection describing daring exploits upon the high seas. While passages were largely drawn from the adventures of Patrick O’Brian’s swashbuckling hero, Captain Jack Aubrey, other works from around the world were also represented. We were enthralled—and our seagoing imaginations tweaked. As we walked home past the vessels moored in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, we began to imagine a similar evening based on Canadian nautical writings. What would it include? Who would be the wr …

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