Off the Page

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

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The Chat with GGs Literature Award Winner Michelle Good

The Chat with GGs Literature Award Winner Michelle Good

By Trevor Corkum

Today we are pleased to kick off our special coverage of the 2020 Governor General's Award winners (English-language) wi …

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Book Cover Cattail Skyline

The World Up Close

By Joanne Epp

A recommended reading list by author of new book CATTAIL SKYLINE on paying close attention to the small and particular.

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Book Cover What's In It For Me

The Keepers on My Bookshelf

By LS Stone

Depth and humour are themes in this great recommended reading list by the author of the new middle grade novel What's in …

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Book Cover the Girl from Dream City

How Does a Woman Become a Writer?

By Linda Leith

"The writers who interest me most, always, are women who write about themselves in ways that a male writer never could." …

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Book Cover Big Reader

11 Essay Collections to Revisit Now

By Susan Olding

"The bestselling novel of a decade ago will sometimes seem stale or irrelevant today, but that’s rarely true of an ess …

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The Chat Special Coverage: Griffin Poetry Prize Roundtable 2021

The Chat Special Coverage: Griffin Poetry Prize Roundtable 2021

By Trevor Corkum

We’re so pleased to be partnering once again with our friends at the Griffin Poetry Prize to profile this year’s thr …

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Book Cover Run Riot

Poetry Feels Like Memory to Me

By Ash Winters

"Something of the intensity of feeling, sparseness of narrative and intricacy of images in poetry feels like memory itse …

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Book Cover Lost Immunity

Tackling the Big Themes

By Daniel Kalla

"I am drawn to fiction writers who highlight vital social and scientific themes through their novels. And fortunately, t …

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Book Cover The List of Last Chances

On the Road Again: Literary Road Trips

By Christina Myers

"I’m still fascinated by the possibilities that road trips present and perpetually curious about the unique and divers …

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Book Cover Maggie's Chopsticks

Note From a Children's Librarian: Stories for Asian Heritage Month

By Julie Booker

Great picture books celebrating Asian heritage.

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Jowita Bydlowska on Writing Herself as the Villain in Her Memoir, Drunk Mom

Drunk Mom, by Jowita Bydlowska (Doubleday Canada, 2013).

Drunk Mom is bound to raise a few eyebrows. The memoir, published by Doubleday Canada (2013), recounts the time after the birth of Jowita Bydlowska's son during which she fell off the wagon, at times getting dislocated in harsh snow storms, son in stroller, the empty streets an opportunity to drink away from her family.

What follows is a brutally honest account of that "ugly" period, as well as Bydlowska's path to eventual recovery. Drunk Mom is a wake-up call—hope in a hopeless place. It is also a refreshing response to what has become a commonplace joke: that admitting your addiction is the first step ... as if that first step isn't a doozy. 

We talk with Jowita Bydlowska via Skype for this 49th Shelf podcast about what it means to cast yourself as the villain in your own story.




Jowita Bydlowska, author of Drunk Mom (Doubleday Canada, 2013).

Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, Poland, and moved to Woodstock, Ontario, as a teenager. She eventually learned English well enough to try writing in it. She writes a popular parenting blog, and her work has appeared in an assortment of magazines, newspapers …

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Books That'll Mess You Up Good: A List by Suzanne Sutherland

Book Cover When We Were Good

Young adult literature, for most of us who are long-past those acne-fied, fumbling teenage years, is often seen as something of a guilty pleasure; it's a lingering inclination toward the immature and melodramatic that is frowned upon when carried into adulthood-proper. Yet, if we are asked to rhyme off a list of books that have profoundly changed us—either as readers, writers, or even genuinely living-and-breathing human beings—many of those titles would be books we’ve read as children and teens, books which feature young people as their central characters.

I am a young-adult author (who happens to still be a fairly young adult, though that’s another matter), but didn’t set out to be one when I wrote my first book. It was only when I’d finished my second or third draft that I realized what I’d created: a novel for and about teenagers. I told my brother, himself a writer, when I realized what had happened. “That’s great,” he said, “right on. That’s when a book’ll really mess you up, when you’re young.”
Here then is a list of particularly stellar Canadian books with young people as central characters. Books that’ll mess you up good, in the best way possible.

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Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion: The First Bookmark


Miranda Hill is the founder of Project Bookmark Canada, a beautiful initiative that—literally—joins Canadian literature with our landscape. Across the country, Project Bookmark has been creating plaques adorned with an excerpt from a Canadian writer’s novel, story or poem, and placing them in the exact physical spot where it happened. The current count is 12 Bookmarks (see the list of them here) and the hope is to keep that number growing. Right now Miranda’s got a fundraising campaign on to ensure this happens—the Page Turner campaign—where some of our finest authors and poets are explaining why Project Bookmark is so incredible and necessary.

On 49th Shelf today, Miranda recalls the experience of reading one of the books that inspired her to create Project Bookmark in the first place—as well as the reactions of those who have now come upon the In the Skin of a Lion Bookmark.


Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion takes Toronto, a place that is familiar to many of us, and makes it mythic. It’s a stellar example of the writer as conjurer. No scene shows off this trick better than the one in which the nun falls from the Prince Edward Viaduct (which today we know informally as the Bloor Street viaduct) during its construction. The book tells us …

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Rebecca Silver Slayter on Myth-Making Books (and Myth-Breaking Books)

Book Cover In the Land of the Bird Fishes

Rebecca Silver Slayter, author of new novel In the Land of Birdfishes, offers up this fantastic recommended reading list.

I’ve always felt drawn to books that engage in some way with myth. It’s one of those instinctual attractions that I have to sort of reason my way backwards to explain. Myth aspires toward connection and toward consolation for disconnection, distilling the vastness and variousness of human experience to its heights and depths, as if there is something universal in those moments of extremity. Which of course is probably where the problems start. Sometimes I am suspicious of my attraction to myth, and wonder if it’s something I should cut down on, like salt. Probably if I were a more serious person, I would read only austere, searing realism, trafficking exclusively in accuracy of detail. But then I think there must be a lie in realism too, that it’s only another kind of myth about what life is and how it feels. And inversely, there must be something true in the stories we share between us (even if only in what they reveal about us and what we want to be true). That sharing is really what defines myth—that it becomes part of a collective way of looking at the world. And so maybe that is where the problems start: with religious or cultura …

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Guest Post by Hilary Scharper: The Eco-gothic, or Jane Eyre on Georgian Bay

Book Cover Perdita

Last July, my husband and I were comfortably ensconced in two Muskoka chairs watching a blazing sun drift across the sky above Georgian Bay. We tried hard not to look directly at what appeared to be a perfect sphere as it made a lingering drop to the horizon. If there had been a scientist on hand, no doubt he or she would have pointed out that it was the earth that was moving and not the sun. We, however, were drinking white wine and on the verge of taking a real holiday, not a working one—and the sun did drift and it did drop as far we were concerned.

There was only one thing that I had to finish up before the fun and games could begin. It was the final item on my author questionnaire for Simon & Schuster asking me to give a short account of my broader writing goals. I had proposed the “eco-gothic” as a term to describe my novel, Perdita, and I was still trying to sketch out its lineaments for the marketing department.

My husband, Stephen, had already come up with “Jane Eyre on Georgian Bay” to describe the book—and I had loved that. To this day Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 tale of a lonely governess and her romance with the byronic Mr. Rochester remains a much-loved gothic novel. I liked thinking of my work in terms of the larger gothic tradition, espec …

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