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

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Eric Walters' New Book Explores the "Now Normal"

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Eric Walters' New Book Explores the "Now Normal"

By Geoffrey Ruggero

Written, published and released during a pandemic: Eric Walters defies traditional publishing norms to create a book for …

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Book Cover The Abortion Caravan

The Abortion Caravan: A Ragtag Army of the Willing

By Karin Wells

The Abortion Caravan, intent on bearding prime minister Pierre Trudeau in his den and removing abortion from the Crimina …

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

By Jennifer Byrne

Forest of Reading is Canada’s largest recreational reading program, celebrating Canadian books and authors. In the eye …

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Covers of books celebrated this spring by regional awards

Big Fiction

By Kerry Clare

Fall book season is exciting with its televised ceremonies and fancy galas, but spring is just as interesting, with regi …

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Book Cover Sister Dear

10 Unapologetically Twisted Reads

By Hannah Mary McKinnon

Ten crime reads to help you discover why authors in Canada have their own hashtag (#ReadTheNorth), and deserve a place o …

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Book Cover Murmurations

Launchpad: Murmurations, by Annick MacAskill

By Kerry Clare

Populating her poems with birdsong and murmurings of the natural world, MacAskill highlights how poets and lovers share …

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

By Erika MacNeil

This is the second pair in a series of interviews with a host of Forest of Reading authors interviewed by Erika MacNeil, …

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Book Cover One Earth

Launchpad: One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao

By Kerry Clare

This is a book to be celebrated and shared!” —Elizabeth May

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Book Cover In Veritas

Launchpad: In Veritas, by C.J. Lavigne

By Kerry Clare

“The perfect mix of incandescent writing and enthralling storytelling. C.J. Lavigne has given us something we can beli …

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Book Cover See you On the Internet

Avery Swartz on How to Win with Digital Marketing

By Kerry Clare

Avery Swartz on why digital marketing matters now, what she's learned from her own missteps, and special advice for publ …

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Adrienne Gruber: Reasons to Choose the Octopus As Your Lover

If you're thinking summer books, consider Globe and Mail reviewer Emma Healey's description of Adrienne Gruber's poetry collection, Buoyancy Control“...a book about water that’s really a book about bodies—what they are capable of together and on their own. Moving through lakes and oceans to dreamier, less literal spaces, these poems, like their subject matter, are playful and dark in equal measure.” 

And now we're pleased to be featuring a delectable sample from the collection. Read on for the most tantalizingly titled poem ever...


Buoyancy Control Cover Full Size



            Eight tentacles. A hundred tiny cups to suck.
Morphs to camouflage (i.e., your favourite
celebrity). Master of disguise (warning: a bit of
a player). Savvy; smooth talker who keeps you
guessing. Manoeuvres in tight places (has no
internal or external skeleton). Only the blue-
ringed octopus (his Harley, his soft leather jacket
against your cheek) is deadly.



            There are dreams of others. Pressed chests
together like tight barnacles, the shredded silence
of wet open mouths. Gulp sweat and warm night
air. Swim in a glittery smear of phosphorescent
stars. There is always another imperfect fit; one
who eats deep-fried Mars bars and says your …

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Maude Barlow's Boiling Point: An Excerpt

Book Cover Boiling Point

Maude Barlow's Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse and Canada's Water Crisis is a self-described "cry from the heart" from one of the world's foremost water activists. "Passionate and cogent, this could be the most important book of the year for Canadians." We're pleased to feature an excerpt here, and along with a list of other remarkable books on the subject of water. 


For over three decades, I have travelled the world, learning about water, learning that abundance is not a given, and that the future of the human race and the species with whom we share this planet is literally dependent upon it. I have stood in solidarity with those fighting for water justice in their communities or trying to save endangered lakes and rivers from contamination, overextraction and corporate malfeasance, and I am always amazed at how far away these struggles appear to be to most Canadians when I return home.

For make no mistake, the world is running out of accessible water. On World Water Day 2015, the UN reported that demand for water will increase by 55% over the next 15 years. By that time global water resources will meet only 60% of the world’s demand. A 2016 report from leading scientists warned that two-thirds of the global population currently lives with …

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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:


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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Andrea Curtis: The Weight of Water

Big Water is Andrea Curtis's debut novel, and she marks its release with this fantastic list of books that will make for riveting dockside or beach reading. 


Big Water is a young adult novel inspired by the true story of one of the worst shipwrecks in the history of the Great Lakes. The main characters are the only two survivors, teenagers Christina and Daniel, stuck in a lifeboat, corpses at their feet. But the water—horrible and beautiful all at once—is equally a protagonist. Its fickle moods and outrageous power shape the plot and arc of the other character’s experience. 

My own life has also been defined by this water. Georgian Bay, known as the sixth Great Lake, is the landscape of my heart and imagination. I have grown up there, sung into the wind, swum, paddled and skimmed over its surfaces and explored its depths. I love and fear it in equal measure.

In a country like Canada, so rich in water (inland and coastal), it’s hardly surprising that many other writers have also felt its formidable weight on their psyche. The list below includes both adult and young adult novels that treat water not as incidental colour or backdrop, but as a defining force in their character’s lives.


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Endlessly Flowing: Five Books on Water

Watermark, Christy Ann Conlin's latest book, has been a favourite this fall among our editorial team here at 49th Shelf. These spooky, rich, and Gothic tales are gripping and immersive, the entire collection so propulsive. Here, Conlin recommends a handful of other titles that share her own book's preoccupation with water. 


Hunting Down Home, by Jean McNeil

Jean McNeil, a prolific writer originally from Cape Breton, has lived in the UK for 23 years. Water plays a symbolic role in all her books. “It was a dark shame, floating just beneath the meniscus of history and story and folklore, like the whale I once saw from a plane as we banked into Brisbane, passing beneath the surface of the sun-stuck water, heading up to the Great Barrier Reef,” remembers Morag in McNeil’s first novel, Hunting Down Home. Set partially in Cape Breton, the book tells the story of Morag and her last year living on Boularderie, an island separating the Bras d’Or Lake from the Cabot Strait. It is a rugged island which is a world unto itself, as is the Bras d’Or Lak …

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