Off the Page

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

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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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Book Cover Better Luck Next Time

Patriarchy Lies: Women Are Funny

By Kate Hilton

A funny woman reading list by the author of new novel Better Luck Next Time.

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 The Chat with Eve Lazarus

The Chat with Eve Lazarus

By Trevor Corkum

Eve Lazarus has drawn back the curtain on some of Vancouver’s secret places. Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City …

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Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead

Habeeb Salloum's award-winning book of recipes and recollections of Syrian cuisine in 1930s' Saskatchewan has just been released in a new revised edition, Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead. We're pleased to feature the book's introduction by historian Sarah Carter, as well as three stew recipes from the book. Enjoy! 

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Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead has long been one of my favourite books, not only because of the delectable recipes, but because it is a unique work of prairie history. It weaves recipes into a beautiful memoir about growing up on a Saskatchewan farm. Written by the son of homesteaders from Syria, it brings to light the experiences of Arab settlers whose contribution to the history of Canada is not well known. As Habeeb Salloum writes,“today people stare in disbelief when they hear that Arabs homesteaded in western Canada.” They were the first to grow lentils and chickpeas, the pulse crops that are today central to the economy of the prairies. Acquiring seeds from relatives, Salloum’s parents drew on the knowledge of their ancestors who had cultivated pulses in semi-arid conditions for centuries.

As Habeeb Salloum writes,“today people stare in disbelief when they hear that Arabs homesteaded in western Canada.” They were the first …

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The Donair: Canada's Official Food?

In Book of Donair: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Halifax Street Food that Became Canada's Favourite Kebab, Lindsay Wickstrom explores the history of the donair, and the people who shaped this Halifax-born kebab into the iconic Canadian street food it has become. In this excerpt, she shares how a bitter rivalry between Halifax and Edmonton helped propel the donair to be declared the official food of Halifax.

Bonus: want to win a copy of Book of Donair? We've got it up for giveaway this week.

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“Edmonton is the true donair champion, the true mecca of donairs,” Omar Mouallem said, boldly concluding his presentation at Edmonton’s PechaKucha Night 2014. A PechaKucha is a storytelling art, originating in Japan, where 20 slides are presented with 20 seconds of commentary each. It’s an efficient, creative and personal way for people to share their work with the community.

Omar’s work was journalism. He went on to write an in-depth piece for the Walrus about the history of the donair in Alberta. That year he also wrote donair articles for Maclean’s and Swerve Magazine. In 2017, he wrote a piece for Canadian Geographic’s Canada 150 special issue, which officially made the donair one of CanGeo’s “150 icons of Canada.” A local paper had deemed …

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Read Local: A Literary Map of Canada

Read Local

Over the last week, we've appreciated all the excitement surrounding the Toronto Public Library's map of Toronto books by neighbourhood and how it is inspiring readers to think about connections between their books and the world. In his opening essay on today's episode of Q, Jian Ghomeshi called out for a national version of the TPL map, and we're pleased to remind him (and you!) that such a map is already in existence. Our own coast-to-coast-to-coast Read Local Map was launched almost two years ago and remains an ongoing project.

Our site also features a variety of reading lists with regional themes, compiled by our editorial team in conjunction with readers, authors, publishers, librarians, and others in every region of the country and, like the TPL map and our own Read Local map, these are all works in progress. They are also a community effort, so please feel free to get involved. Revisit the map, pin new books to places, or make a list of regional reads of your own.

For inspiration, we're happy to share some of our favourite lists with a regional focus.

Book Cover Come Thou Tortoise

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Freshly Picked: Amazing Food Books

Freshly Picked: A Locavore’s Love Affair with BC’s Bounty, by Jane Reid, is an amusing romp through the fruits and vegetables grown in the varied soils and landscapes of British Columbia. The author covers the fascinating history and oddball growing habits of the plants we eat, and includes personal stories of love and affection plus recipes and tips to enjoy the harvest. “Packed with informative, humorous stories that celebrate the fruits and vegetables grown in local fields and orchards, Freshly Picked is an ode to the joys of eating in season,” according to Edible Vancouver & Wine Country Magazine.

Author Jane Reid continues to read and write about eating and growing local food. She is constantly inspired by others. Her favourite books (for now) are described below. 

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The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

It was the flavour of local harvests that first made me a locavore, but now I know there are multiple reasons to seek out food grown nearby —and this book was one of the first that told me so. The …

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