Off the Page

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

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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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Robert Hough on the nature of con men and the secret to writing a successful novel.

Dr. Brinkley's Tower by Robert Hough (House of Anansi Press).

About Dr. Brinkley's Tower: Equal parts Mark Twain and Gabriel García Márquez, Robert Hough's wildly imaginative new novel takes us to 1931 and Corazón de la Fuente, a tiny Mexican border town where the only industry is a run-down brothel. Enter Dr. Romulus Brinkley and his gargantuan radio tower, built to broadcast his revolutionary goat-gland fertility operation. Fortunes in Corazón change overnight, but not all for the good. Word of the new prosperity spreads, and the town is overrun by the impoverished, the desperate, and the flat-out criminal. The tower's frequencies are so powerful the whole area glows green, and the signal is soon broadcasting through every bit of metal it can find: fencing wire, toasters, even a young woman's new braces. Meanwhile, Dr. Brinkley has attracted the affections of Violeta Cruz, Corazón's most beautiful resident. But is he really all that he seems?

Peopled with unforgettable characters and capturing a young Mexico caught between its own ambitions and the imperialist designs of its neighbour to the north, Dr. Brinkley's Tower is a stunning achievement in storytelling.

Julie Wilson: The doctor in Dr. Brinkley's Tower is based on a real man, an American doctor who created a treatment for impotence and then promoted his practice …

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Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2013: Adult Fiction

The nights are cooling down and with the drop in temperature comes a frisson of excitement about a new season of life, and of books. Already Canadian publishers have begun releasing the titles with the potential to make a splash in the fall, during lit fests, during award season, and in bookstores. And more will come in the next few weeks. Here's a round-up of some of the most promising novels and short story collections geared for adults. Poetry, non-fiction, and kids lit will follow in the next couple of weeks.

Of course there will be more remarkable Canadian books that will emerge this fall; we will endeavour to introduce these to you as well through our regular editorial programming.


Long-awaited novels from celebrated authors compose a good portion of what we can look forward to this fall. Governor General's-Award-winning author David Gilmour examines sibling relationships and the incredible condition of being alive while anticipating imminent death in his novel, Extraordinary. Fans of Margaret Atwood will be buoyed to hear Booklist's verdict that the final work in her dystopian trilogy, Maddaddam, is anchored by a "feverishly suspenseful plot."

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Dazzling Debuts, As Picked by Mark Medley, Jared Bland, Steven W. Beattie, and Kerry Clare

tagged : debut, fiction, 2014, novel

First novels, as a lot, are exciting phenomena because they carry so much of an author's energy and ambition. The best of them are electric, marked with a confidence and uniqueness that sets them apart from the rest.

In today's post, Mark Medley, who's just moved from the National Post to the Globe and Mail as books editor; Jared Bland, arts editor at the Globe; Steven W. Beattie, review editor at Quill & Quire and author of the blog, That Shakespearean Rag; and our own Kerry Clare, editor here and author of the popular lit blog, Pickle Me This, choose their favourite Canadian debuts so far of 2014.


Mark Medley's Picks



"Reading Nick Cutter's debut horror novel, The Troop, is just about the most fun I've had this year. Okay, I know Cutter is actually Giller Prize-nominated author Craig Davidson, but this is his first novel under the pen name. A violent yet surprisingly tender portrait of boyhood—forget Richard Linklater! I was also blown away by Emily Carroll's debut collection of illustrated stories, Through the Woods. These are old-school, slow- …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Amy Jones



On this week’s chat, we’re in conversation with Amy Jones, author of the big-hearted novel We’re All in This Together. The book follows the various members of the Parker family, whose stories and lives intersect after matriarch Kate plummets over a local waterfall in a barrel.

In a starred review, Quill & Quire says Jones “has created a novel of great psychological insight and a kind of sharp-edged tenderness that revels not in family dysfunction, but in its “beautiful, crazy chaos.”

Amy Jones won the 2006 CBC Literary Prize for Short Fiction and was a finalist for the 2005 Bronwen Wallace Award. She is a graduate of the Optional Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at UBC, and her fiction has appeared in Best Canadian Stories and The Journey Prize Stories. Her debut collection of stories, What Boys Like, was the winner of the 2008 Metcalf-Rooke Award and a finalist for the 2010 ReLit Award. Originally from Halifax, she now lives in Thunder Bay, where she is associate editor of The Walleye. Follow her on Twitter @AmyLauraJones.



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Moonlighting Poets

It's not shocking that many of Canada's best novelists moonlight as poets—after all, writers like Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood and Anne Michaels have kind of institutionalized the practice. Here's a list of other writers whose novels you might have loved and whose poetry collections are definitely worth checking out. 


Book Cover The Outlander

If you loved The Outlander, by Gil Adamson....

"In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand."

Book Cover Ashland

...then you're going to love Ashland (2006).

About the book: In the dusty main streets of an unnamed West, this collection of stories features little European villages, a sanitarium in the mountains, Mounties, madwomen, long-dead gunslingers, thieves, lost children, and wolves.


Book Cover What We All Long For

If you loved What We All Love For, by Dio …

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The Randomizer

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