Off the Page

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

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The Chat with Kelly S. Thompson

The Chat with Kelly S. Thompson

By Trevor Corkum

Kelly S. Thompson served as a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces and writes about her experiences as a female soldier …

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Book Cover What is Long Past Occurs in Full Light


By Marilyn Bowering

“Bowering is one of our essential poets...."

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Wild Books About the Natural World

By Rachel Poliquin

Seriously fun non-fiction for middle-grade readers.

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Books for Summer Adventures

Books for Summer Adventures

By Sarah Campbell

Summer is a time for adventures! When you’re a kid anything can be magical when school is out — whether it’s campi …

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Book Cover One Piece of String

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Drawing the Line

By Julie Booker

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Poetry Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

The poetry releases that are going to be making waves this autumn.

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The Chat with Derek Mascarenhas

The Chat with Derek Mascarenhas

By Trevor Corkum

Derek Mascarenhas' debut collection of short fiction, Coconut Dreams (Book*hug), explores the lives of Aiden and Ally Pi …

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A Whisper to a Scream: Books with Compelling Narrative Voices

By Amy Spurway

"It is not just what is being said, but how."

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Book Cover Tiny Lights for Travellers

9 Great Memoirs by Women

By Naomi K. Lewis

A recommended reading list by the author of Tiny Lights for Travellers

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The Recommend for July 2019

The Recommend for July 2019

By Kiley Turner

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Arthur Slade (Amber Fang), Heather Smith (The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota' …

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A Shelf of Small Press Books: a list by Theresa Kishkan

Given the economics of contemporary publishing, it strikes me as something of a miracle that so many small presses continue to publish such interesting and beautiful books. Often they are books that would not be picked up by the larger houses yet they find loyal readers and contribute significantly to literary culture. Sometimes it’s hard to find them. Most small presses can’t afford full-page ads in the nation’s newspapers or publicists. But word travels by mouth, by the passing of these volumes from one hand to another. They’re worth the search.

Dragonflies, by Grant Buday: This brief novel is an account of the period during the Trojan War when Agamemnon asks the crafty Odysseus to come up with something ingenious to bring the bloody conflict to a conclusion. The reader is taken into the heat and sweat of the Greek camp outside the gates of Troy, and into the claustrophobic interior of that iconic horse as the warriors wait for their moment. Superbly written and designed.

The Nettle Spinner

The Nettle Spinner, by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer: An elegant weaving of fairy-t …

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In Conversation With: Nutritionist @JulieDaniluk (Meals That Heal Inflammation) talks cravings and the path to healing. (cc: @RandomHouseCA)

Julie Daniluk, author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.

Julie Daniluk, host of Healthy Gourmet.

Walk with me, barefoot in the snow, back to the summer of 2006 where a group of post grad book publishing students have just presented their final project, a hypothetical publishing house. I was one such student and presented a hypothetical title written by a young nutritionist I knew from The Big Carrot in Toronto. Flash forward, and Julie Daniluk—having since added TV Host to her many gigs—has indeed written her first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation: Embrace Healthy Living and Eliminate Pain, One Meal at a Time (Random House).

What better way to catch up with Julie than to ask her a few questions for Canadian Bookshelf?

In particular, we focus on the often complicated and conflicted emotions that accompany a shift in diet, how to counteract the fear and shame of giving our bodies what they need to heal, and how to start that conversation with our loved ones.

Julie Wilson: I'd like to theme the questions, if possible, around the emotional legwork one needs to do to get to healthful place of self-worth, to make a choice that is best for their own mind and body and not the needs of their friends and family. My guess is that there's a lot of shame and fear ass …

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Unlikely Inspirations: Guest Post By Mark Lavorato


Things weren’t looking good. I was hitchhiking on a lonely, secondary road in the Maritimes, it had just started to rain, and the night was quickly sinking into the landscape around me, colours taking on ever-dimmer shades of grey. I heard a minivan hissing over the horizon and turned to walk backwards, a half-hearted thumb held out into the road, knowing that, in terms of getting a ride, the odds were certainly not in my favour. A family car, the rain, the dark, the isolation, my beard. I’d be lucky if the driver didn’t speed up just to better spray me on the fly-by.

But this minivan, which looked to be fresh out of a showroom, slowed down, swerved, and came to a stop right in front of me. I opened the door to a hesitant, middle-aged man. “I… I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker before,” he admitted. “Is there some… protocol, something I should be asking you?”

“Uh. Well, generally you ask where I’m headed. Then, if we’re going the same way, you tell me where you’ll likely let me off. And that’s it. So I’ll start. I’m heading to PEI.”

He nodded slowly, thoughtfully. “PEI. I think I might be going there too.”

So we drove, through the long, quiet dark, and we talked for hours. He was balding, slightly overweight, and was living out the quintessential mid-life crisis. The second his divorce papers had been finalized, he sold his house, quit his job, bought a van, and filled three Rubbermaid containers with pricey outdoor gear he had yet to u …

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Margaret MacMillan on Canadian Memoirs and Diaries

Book Cover Concubine's children

Denise Chong, The Concubine’s Children. A family history starting with Chong’s grandfather and his two wives, the official and the concubine. The first stayed in China with some of the children, the second made a life in Canada. The two families suffered very different fates. A vivid account which raises bigger issues about the immigrant experience and how there can be both losses and gains.


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Max Ferguson, And Now... Here’s Max. Both very funny and interesting as you would expect from a man who in his time was a leading broadcaster and a comedian. Interesting too about the CBC sixty years ago.


book cover washington stories

Allan Gotlieb, The Washington Diaries. Allan Gotlieb was the senior civil servant in the Department of Foreign Affairs when Prime Minister Trudeau appointed him Canada’s ambassador to Washington. Gotlieb had a ringside seat in the Reagan administ …

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In Conversation With: Bookseller, Sarah Ramsey, on Amazon, cliche book club picks and the power of the handsell.

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sarah ramsey

Book Fairy (Sarah Ramsey) meets Book Madam (Julie Wilson) at Tango Palace in Toronto, ON.

Sarah Ramsey is a long-time bookseller in Toronto and currently works as manager at TYPE Books in Forest Hill Village. When not with a good book, she crafts with her favourite materials: butter, sugar, flour and eggs.

In the heart of Leslieville, Toronto sits Tango Palace Coffee Co., home to lone souls plugged into headphones and coffee klatches alike, the music ranging from slow jams to show tunes. Here, I've enjoyed chatting with Michelle Walker and her husband George Walker of George Walker Books and Art. An industry (and life) matchmaker, Michelle's particular strength is hooking people up with their next great conversation, which is how I tumbled face first into a lively debate with "book fairy" Sarah Ramsey, manager of the Forest Hill TYPE Books. (Michelle captured the accompanying picture of me and Sarah, rosy-cheeked from a fierce debate.)

What follows is what I'd consider a pretty accurate description of what it's like to work among the often under-utilized and under-appreciated ranks of the front line bookseller in an industry that needs the in person handsell just as much as the next online clickthrough.

J …

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