Off the Page

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

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Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Ed O’Loughlin

Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Ed O’Loughlin

By [Trevor Corkum]

We continue our Giller special this week in conversation with Ed O’Loughlin, author of Minds of Winter (House of Anans …

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Book Cover Cartography

Cara-Lyn Morgan's Essential Reads

By [Kerry Clare]

"The following are books which, when I read them, made me feel less alone in this country, less unvoiced and less unseen …

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Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Rachel Cusk

Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Rachel Cusk

By [Trevor Corkum]

Next up on our special Giller Prize edition of The Chat, I’m in conversation with Rachel Cusk, author of Transit.

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Image of pumpkin pancakes, accompanying the recipe

First We Brunch: The Summit Restaurant Pumpkin Pancakes

By [Kerry Clare]

"This recipe puts me in mind of cool, sunny autumn mornings, but using canned pumpkin purée makes these pancakes easy t …

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Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Michelle Winters

Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Michelle Winters

By [Trevor Corkum]

To kick off our Giller Prize special edition of The Chat, we’re in conversation with Michelle Winters, author of I Am …

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Book Cover Hunting Piero

Elephants, Bears and Birds: Animals in Canadian Literature

By [Kerry Clare]

"Animals contribute immeasurably to our lives, aesthetically, emotionally and spiritually." 

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So Many Writers, All in One Place

So Many Writers, All in One Place

By [Kiley Turner]

One of the best things we ever did on 49th Shelf was asking Trevor Corkum to join our team to lead the interview series, …

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Why Recreate the Woolly Mammoth?

Why Recreate the Woolly Mammoth?

By [Kiley Turner]

Jurassic Park meets The Sixth Extinction in Rise of the Necrofauna, a provocative look at de-extinction from acclaimed d …

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Book Cover Pictographs

Pictographs, by James Simon Mishibinijima

By [Kerry Clare]

"Mishibinijima’s art reflects a lifelong search for ways in which past and present, the spiritual and human, the anima …

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Book Cover Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead

Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead

By [Kerry Clare]

"Salloum’s book helps us remember what being Canadian means, that we have always been a pluralist nation." 

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Reading Lists on Canadian Bookshelf (Featuring Stacey May Fowles!)

In these days of overstimulation, distraction, and time constraints, finding ways to downsize and simplify feels pretty good. Maybe that’s why we love lists so much.

Lists of things to do or check out are oases in the midst of information chaos—especially when they’re made by people we admire and trust. When they include ten or so items, they are soothingly finite and doable—easy to bookmark, act upon, and feel excited about investigating. Just think of playlists from industry insiders (e.g., Kate Carraway’s mixtape, CHICKS, for the new Burner Magazine), awards shortlists, or numbered magazine cover lines.

Lists can provide a helpful and meaningful filter for search activities, which is why we’re making Recommended Reading Lists a prominent feature on Canadian Bookshelf. There will be lists by Canadian Bookshelf editors, lists readers create, and lists contributed by writers and subject experts. For example, here’s a list we’ve just received from one of Canada’s hottest new authors, Stacey May Fowles (author of Fear of Fighting and Be Good):

Unconventional Heroines, Lives, and Loves
A Reading List by Stacey May Fowles

Bottle Rocket Hearts, Zoe Whittall

A refreshing take on the typical coming-of-age narrative, Whittall submerges us in the frantic, y …

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Kidsbooks' Owner Phyllis Simon on Matching Children Up With the Right Books

Visiting a good children’s bookstore, especially but not only when you have kids of your own, is an instant mood booster and occasion for awe. A combination of impressive stock, ingenious store layout including play/explore areas for kids, and friendly, knowledgeable staff can make such a bookstore a favourite family destination for years—a local and cultural institution.

Vancouver is lucky enough to have Kidsbooks, which former librarian Phyllis Simon opened in 1983 in Kitsilano, and which now includes three locations, an online storefront, and a co-partner, Kelly McKinnon.

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Kidsbooks' lounge area (Kitsilano location)

Kidsbooks is famous for its incredible, elaborate window displays (people still talk about their “Hogwarts” storefront façade that celebrated the release of the fourth HP book) and insightful staff experts who specialize in tracking down exactly the right book for a particular child. This discovery and selection service is an amazingly important service when you consider how one book—or a suite of books—can turn a child onto reading forever, and conversely, how not finding the right reading materials can convince them that they’d rather sleep in an outhouse than curl up with a book.

Canadian Bookshelf asked Kidsbooks’ Phyllis Simon a litt …

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Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence by Sarah Leavitt

SarahLeavitt

We are honoured that our first Canadian Bookshelf guest post is by none other than Sarah Leavitt, author of the much-celebrated graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me (Freehand Books). Sarah is an avid reader of graphic novels as well as a breakout star in the genre, and here she reviews three penned by fellow Canadians.

Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence

This winter I unintentionally took up the Salon challenge mentioned in the post below: to read outside my comfort zone.
 
I’d realized how unfamiliar I was with the cartoonists of my own country; all my idols were foreigners: Lynda Barry, Jules Fieffer, Art Spiegelman, Kim Deitch, Marjane Satrapi, David B, Joann Sfar. Recently I’ve been particularly obsessed with Lynda Barry and Aline Kominsky Crumb, along with Mary Fleener and other women from the Twisted Sister collections. These cartoonists’ books are well within my comics comfort zone: stories about weird outsiders, mostly women, told with panels full of scratchy lines and dark drawings, rants and yells and sound effects.
 
Discovering my Canadian favourites was like leaving a dark, smoky, overheated party and stepping outside into a silent snow-covered night.
 
It’s not like there aren’t any Canadian …

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Slow Down, We Move Too Fast

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That Shakespearian Rag’s Steven W. Beattie wrote a nice post Jan 4th, A TSR reading challenge for 2011, that identified and challenged a certain part of the literary zeitgeist we’ve been noticing as well: literati counting and publicizing how many books they’ve read over the year. Whatever the intention, the effects of this trend can be to make other readers cast doubts about their own dedication to books and/or to provoke a competitive spirit and sense that more reading = better reader. Neither is particularly positive, and both feel like unfortunate symptoms of the pressure-cooker, media-gobbling culture we work and live in today.

Reading used to be an escape from the daily grind, not an additional to-do, and Beattie proposes a lovely challenge to readers in 2011 that aligns the habit again with this rightful function:

“Instead of pledging to read more this year, why don’t we all try to read better: to be more sensitive, expansive readers, to enter more deeply into the text, to actively engage with books on an intellectual, aesthetic, and linguistic level. Let’s try to focus less on the quantity of our reading and more on the quality. Who knows? By slowing down a bit, you might even find you’re enjoying yourself more.”

One commenter to the post, B. …

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The BC Award and Rocking Subtitles

tagged : books

We haven’t yet read any of the ten books on BC’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction longlist, but four books are already winners in the category of subtitles:

  • Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training (Tom Jokinen)
  • The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delaney Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 (Molly Peacock)
  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (John Vaillant)
  • The Wave: In the Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Susan Casey)

#1? Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training. The wry contrast between “adventures” and “undertaker,” not to mention the intrigue of “in-training,” seal the deal.

The great subtitles challenge the dry, even humourless reputation non-fiction as a genre tends to have vs. fiction (just think of how the media reacts to non-fiction awards compared to more fiction-heavy counterparts). All four of the BC Award's subtitles suggest inspired writing, and make cemeteries, later-life creativity, man-eating tigers, and big-ass waves seem like pressing things to know about.

For other musings on subtitles, check out the Guardian’s faves (love their background on Twelfth Night’s “What You Will”) and a blog called Exploring Our Matrix’s collection (one commenter offered Your Ass and a Hole in the Ground: A Comparative Study). For great titles, period, Goodreads has a fun bunch including:

  • The Hollow Bunnies of the Apocalypse (Robert Rankin)
  • Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (Chelsea Handler)
  • An …
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