Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Salma the Syrian Chef

Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Satisfying Endings

By Julie Booker

How do you create a sense of satisfaction in a story’s finale? The following books pull it off!

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49thShelf Summer Reads

Introducing the 49th Shelf Summer Books List: Part 2

By Kerry Clare

Our summer reads extravaganza continues with PART 2 of our Summer Books List, and once again, each and every title is up …

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Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

By Spencer Miller

Welcome to the Association for Canadian publisher’s Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom, a blog and preview video seri …

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Book Cover bread and water

Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

New books about everything, including food, beauty, art, travel, singing, healing, grieving, shopping, aging, and so muc …

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Book Cover Unlocking

CanLit Yearning

By Amy LeBlanc

"At the heart of my novella and in each book on this CanLit list is a sense of desire or a yearning (for belonging, iden …

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The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

By Trevor Corkum

This week we’re in conversation with political trailblazer Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, whose memoir, The Queer Evangelist, …

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Book Cover The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Fall Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

With new books by Miriam Toews, Dawn Dumont, Douglas Coupland, Marie-Renee Lavoie, Omar El Akkad, Zoe Whittall, Trudy Mo …

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Book Cover The Quiet is Loud

Speculative Fiction: Vast and Thrilling

By Samantha Garner

"As a reader and a lightly superstitious human, I can’t deny the pull of the unusual, the not-quite-real. I love books …

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Book Cover Travels in Cuba

Writing with Four Hands

By Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel

"That’s what the Travels series is all about: sending a resourceful, observant, unafraid (well, sometimes a little afr …

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On Our Radar: Rideout, Petrou, Marston, Heiti, and Hughes

"On Our Radar" is a new monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books in all genres with buzz worth sharing. The buzz hails from around the Internet, and beyond ...

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Book Cover Arguments With the Lake

Arguments With the Lake by Tanis Rideout 

From Mark Sampson at Free Range Reading:

"The listless, monolithic hulk of Lake Ontario looms large in this stellar collection of interconnected poems by Tanis Rideout. Arguments with the Lake takes as its basis the lives of two teenage swimmers from the 1950s, Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell, the former of which was the first person ever to swim across Lake Ontario. By plunging into the aquatic depths of these two characters’ fictionalized emotional lives, Rideout pulls off a poetic rendering of two historical figures that is as consuming as it is invigorating."

Read the whole review here

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Is This Your First War? by Michael Petrou

Winner of the 2013 Ottawa Book Award for English Non-Fiction. From the jury statement:

"Is This Your First War? is a harrowing journey into the heart of darkness of post-9/11 Afghanistan. In this journalistic coming …

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Unpacking "Quirky": A CanLit Round Table

Throughout March we've been celebrating the weird and wonderful side of CanLit, the one-of-a-kinders, the eccentrics and oddballs. And when you start thinking about these ideas, the word "quirky" comes up a lot, a word much enamoured by marketers and critics alike. But what does quirky really mean? What are its politics? Who gets to be quirky? What is quirky's hidden edge? 

With the aim of addressing this questions, we enlisted four Canadian writers whose work we love—and whose books have also been called quirky. And together, they go about unpacking the term. 

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49th Shelf: What does “quirky” mean to you? When critics or readers refer to a book as “quirky,” what are they trying to say?

Dawn Dumont: Quirky means a slender girl with short hair who wears distinctive eyeglasses and owns an umbrella that cost more than most people’s bikes. She also works at Starbucks and writes poetry about leaving said umbrella on trains. Basically Emma Stone.

In the writer world, quirky strikes me as a dismissive term like “cute” or “rabid.”  Still I’d rather read a book that was characterized as “quirky” rather than as a “definitive tome.”

Lenore Rowntree: To me "quirky" means something slightly offbeat, a little whimsical, sort of fun. A friend of mine …

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Quick Hits: Laugh-Out-Loud Titles

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.

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Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, by Zarqa Nawaz

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: HarperCollins

What It's About

Zarqa Nawaz has always straddled two cultures. She’s just as likely to be agonizing over which sparkly earrings will “pimp out” her hijab as to be flirting with the Walmart meat manager in a futile attempt to secure halal chicken the day before Eid. “Little Mosque on the Prairie” brought Zarqa’s own laugh-out-loud take on her everyday culture clash to viewers around the world. And now, in Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, she tells the sometimes absurd, sometimes challenging, always funny stories of being Zarqa in a western society. From explaining to the plumber why the toilet must be within sitting arm’s reach of the water tap (hint: it involves a watering can and a Muslim obsession with cleanliness “down there”) to urging the electrician to place an eye-height electrical socket for her father-in-law’s epilepsy-inducing …

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The Recommend: Squatters, Classics, Stories, and Violence

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of writers Becky Blake (Proof I Was Here), Kathy Page (Dear Evelyn), Sally Cooper (With My Back to the World), Missy Marston (Bad Ideas), and Rabindranath Maharaj (Fatboy Fall Down).

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Becky Blake recommends Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown

While researching my novel about squatters and street-involved folks, I read Genet and Orwell’s accounts of living on the street. Then I stumbled on Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown. This nonfiction book is set in Tent City, a squatted community that existed on Toronto’s Lakeshore Boulevard from the late 90s to 2002. I remember the area well, having ridden my bike past it many times, always slowing a little, as though the faces I saw through the fence somehow added weight to my back wheel.

Bishop-Stall lived in Tent City for the last year of its existence and his book chronicles his heartbroken, hard- …

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