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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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

By Trevor Corkum

“Norma Jeane Baker of Troy leverages a millennia-old story of beauty and war to animate a history of the male gaze and …

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YOSS Guide for Novices


Even before a passionate group of writers and readers declared 2011 the Year of the Short Story (YOSS), Canadian short stories had been enjoying some time back in the spotlight. Sarah Selecky’s This Cake is for the Party and Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting were both much celebrated and made the Giller Prize shortlist last year, and Katrina Best’s Bird Eat Bird won Best First Book for the Canada/Caribbean Section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Online initiatives like Joyland and Found Press are giving short stories new life online.



And now the YOSS itself has delivered some remarkable new short story collections, all of this an absolute boon for those readers devoted to the form, and has surely also brought about a few converts. But there remain those readers upon whom all the celebration is lost, those who’ve tried and fail …

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Sarah Selecky: Permission to Write Beyond

Sarah Selecky's first book was the Giller-nominated This Cake Is For The Party, which she's just followed with her debut novel, Radiant Shimmering Light. Barbara Gowdy writes, "In the person of Lilian Quick, Selecky has created an irresistible heroine. She has once again proven that she is a writer perfectly attuned to the music of the present moment.”

Read on for Selecky's recommended reading list as she proves it again. 


Radiant Shimmering Light is about women, friendship, art, and spirituality, and what happens when those gifts become transactional. If you make your living by creating and maintaining a personal brand, how do you live a real, connected, sacred life?

This novel is about women: entrepreneurs, artists, and visionaries. The two protagonists are 40 years old, unmarried, and they do not live or work with men. The book isn’t experimental in form, and yet it felt risky. Was it okay to write this? A story about women who aren’t wives or mothers, a story without an important male character? There was a voice in my head telling me it wasn’t allowed.

Like many writers, I’m comfortable on the edge of an experience, observing other people. Often, I don’t feel like I fit in. So my list of favourites below shows my admiration for rebels, misfits a …

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Quick Hits: From Paradise to Pop Culture

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.



Trauma Farm, by Brian Brett

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Greystone Books

What It's About

An irreverent and illuminating journey through a day in the life of writer and poet Brian Brett, as he tends a small island farm on Salt Spring Island, affectionately named Trauma Farm, with numerous side trips into the natural history of farming.

Brian Brett moves from the tending of livestock, poultry, orchards, gardens, machinery, and fields to the social intricacies of rural communities and, finally, to an encounter with a magnificent deer in the silver moonlight of a magical farm field. Brett understands both tall tales and rigorous science as he explores the small mixed farm—meditating on the perfection of the egg and the nature of soil while also offering a scathing critique of agribusiness and the horror of modern slaughterhouses. Whether discussing the uses and misuses of gates, examining the energy of seeds, or bantering with his family, farm hands, …

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Shelf Talkers: This Is a Read Until 3 am Book and More

Out here on Vancouver Island, the first few days of spring have been largely grey, with intermittent periods of dismal. I mention this not to complain (we had a wonderfully warm and sunny run in the late winter) nor because these conditions are unusual (spring rarely arrives with a clichéd fanfare), but as a matter of contrast. Despite the grizzled pallor of the change of season, there are bright flashes of colour: the reds and purples of tulips, the shocking green of a city park lawn, the pink of cherry blossoms. There are signs on the sides of city buses, seeking daffodil pickers.

Yes, spring has returned.

It may not feel like it quite yet, but trust me, it’s here.

You can tell from the parka clad crowds on Toronto patios, and the look of guarded optimism as the last winter storm strikes the east coast (please, the expressions seem to say, let this be the last one).

You can taste the change in the air.

Canada’s dedicated independent booksellers are feeling it too. This is a season of renewal, of new projects, and, of course, of new books.
Here are a few of their current favourites, some of them on the shelves already, and a couple to look forward to in the next few weeks, like buds set to burst into beauty.

Ah, spring. How wonderful.

The Bookseller: Barb Pratt of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)

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The Recommend for September 2018

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 Sarah Selecky, author of Radiant Shimmering Light; Jennifer Robson, author of the forthcoming The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding; Alix Hawley, author of My Name Is a Knife; Deborah Willis, author of The Dark and Other Love Stories; and Kerry Clare, author of Mitzi Bytes. IMPORTANT NOTE: This week's recommendations are part of a larger series launched in 2017 where we asked 150 Canadian authors to recommend 150 Canadian books. It's pretty awesome, so do check it out!


Sarah Selecky recommends Sarah Henstra's Mad Miss Mimic

Readers of adult literary fiction might not have heard about this lovely book, because it’s officially published as teen and YA fiction. I recommend it to older readers, too! I loved getting lost in this subtle thriller about London in the 1870s, when the city was experiencing violent terror attacks and opium fever. This historical page-turner has everything: compelling characters, a love story, …

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The Randomizer

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