Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Brighten the Corner Where You ARe

Fiction We Can't Wait to Read This Fall

By Kerry Clare

29 books that should be on your radar.

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Super September Giveaway!

Super September Giveaway!

By Kiley Turner

Did we call it this because of the alliteration? Maybe, but more because the books up for grabs here are SO GOOD. Enter …

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Book Cover Crosshairs

Launchpad: CROSSHAIRS, by Catherine Hernandez

By Kerry Clare

"Crosshairs asks us what we will do to resist and build a better future when faced with such momentous and dangerous tim …

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The Chat with Bahar Orang

The Chat with Bahar Orang

By Trevor Corkum

Bahar Orang’s Where Things Touch is a stirring, wholly invigorating meditation on beauty and memory. Part prose, part …

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Book Cover Angel Wing Splash Pattern

Launchpad: ANGEL WING SPLASH PATTERN, by Richard Van Camp

By Kerry Clare

"If your heart needs an ever-exploding series of glitter bombs, please read Angel Wing Splash Pattern. We are so proud o …

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Book Cover The Ghost in the House

Launchpad: THE GHOST IN THE HOUSE, by Sara O'Leary

By Kerry Clare

"This beguiling page turner of a novel is a story for all seasons—the seasons of the year, and yes, the seasons of our …

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Book Cover THe Manana Treehouse

5 Books for World Alzheimer's Month

By Kerry Clare

In fiction and nonfiction, these authors whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer's Disease bear witness and weave sto …

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Book Cover Tiff

Launchpad: TIFF: A LIFE OF TIMOTHY FINDLEY, by Sherrill Grace

By Kerry Clare

"Tiff is a biography of becoming. Timothy Findley was a writer, but one who arrived at the vocation by way of the stage, …

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Book Cover We Found a Hat

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Think Outside the (Hat) Box!

By Julie Booker

From fedoras to bowlers to shoe hats to winter toques to Carnival headdresses, this list is for anyone looking to inspir …

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The Chat with Aislinn Hunter

The Chat with Aislinn Hunter

By Trevor Corkum

This week we speak with Aislinn Hunter, whose latest novel, The Certainties, asks important questions about bearing witn …

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Excerpts from Billeh Nickerson's Impact: The Titanic Poems

Excerpts for 49th Shelf from Impact: The Titanic Poems by Billeh Nickerson.  Published by Arsenal Pulp Press (2012).




One passenger believed it was her husband,

the ship’s jolt just another expression of their love.

Others thought it was an earthquake

or a mishap in the galley—

a runaway trolley, a stack of fallen dishes.

The baker wasn’t sure what happened

though he hoped his loaves would not fall.


While airtight after airtight compartment filled,

a second-class passenger ordered his drink

with chunks from the berg.

A small child sucked pieces of ice

as if they were candies,

and her brothers scraped up snowballs,

their mother worried only

they could lose an eye.




Unlike his musician compatriots

whose instruments could be carried on deck


the ship’s piano player could only watch

as his band mates played on.


At first he just swayed to the music

then tapped his feet and hummed


but he couldn’t withstand

the ache to play along


even without a sound

his hands slipping from gloves,


his cold fingers

tickling the air, ghost-style.




By chance the Carpathia’s wireless operator

kept his headphones on

while undressing before bed


and in what should have been the last moments

of his long shift, he overheard messages

destined for the great ship.


Come at once.

We have struck an ice berg.

It’s C.Q.D., Old Man.


When her Captain learned of the disaster,

he ordered heating and hot water turned off

to conserve as much steam as possible,


so that her passengers,

scheduled for sunny G …

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6 New Canadian books about the Titanic

While images of Leonardo di Caprio decorating its bow have at times threatened to overwhelm the story of the Titanic, that unsinkable ship that sank remains an object of fascination. In the century since the disaster, its story has been told countless times in books and films and even campfire songs, and now we can add to that a whole slew of new Canadian books that have just been published to mark the Titanic’s centenary this week.


Impact: The Titanic Poems by Billeh Nickerson: Perhaps poetry is what the Titanic required for the legend to be rid of its cinematic grandiosity. Nickerson has written his poems with an eye for detail, the ship itself already a ghost from the book’s start to its finish, but every single one of its rivets (and the men who built them) are rendered in remarkable specificity. So too are the passengers, crew and other details Nickerson brings back to life—the piano player who could only watch as his band played on, the woman whose last sign of her husband is the bruise he left on her arm as he pushed her into the lifeboat without him, somebody’s lucky penny drifting in the sea. Read an excerpt here.

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The Shadow in the Mirror: Guest Post by Lauren B. Davis

Book Cover Our Daily Bread

At a dinner party recently, someone brought up the topic of Israel and Palestine. Within moments, an educated and well-traveled individual I’ll call Joe stated Israel is a much-maligned island of moral purity in a sea of barbaric, immoral hatred. Israel, he said, has committed no atrocities, done nothing illegal or unethical, whereas the enemies of Israel have slaughtered children in untold numbers and desire only to drive Jews into the sea.

“And what,” I asked, “would Israelis like to do to Palestinians?”

“They have to go,” Joe said, eyebrows bristling in my direction.

I asked if it wasn’t possible both sides had more in common than not. After all, they are descendants of Abraham, they believe in the One God, they consider Jerusalem a holy city, and they would perhaps even like to live in peace, to tend their olive trees, to laugh with their children.

“No,” Joe insisted, “they are not like us. It’s a fallacy that if people get to know each other they like each other better. Often they like each other less.”

“Familiarity breeds ferklempt?” I asked.

There was some laughter at that but Joe still believed his side was right, the other side was wrong, whereas I tend to agree with Robert Benchley, who said, “There are only two kinds of people …

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Penguin author Peggy Blair on rejection, persistence, and how Ian Rankin changed her life.

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair (Penguin).

Peggy Blair was a lawyer for more than thirty years. A recognized expert in Aboriginal law, she also worked as a criminal defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor. Blair spent a Christmas in Old Havana, where she watched the bored young policemen on street corners along the Malecón, visited Hemingway’s favourite bars, and learned to make a perfect mojito. A former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Peggy is named in Canadian Who's Who. She currently lives in Ottawa where she works in real estate. Visit her online at

About The Beggar's Opera: In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramirez has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that m …

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Books that Excited Me: A List by Nancy Richler

Book Cover The Far Euphrates

The Far Euphrates by Aryeh Lev Stollman: A luminous coming of age novel set in Windsor Ontario in the fifties and sixties. Stollman writes about the most complicated and mysterious parts of life with a grace and beauty that is all the more powerful for its quietness. I’ve included it on my list because the emotional impact of it still resonates in me ten years after having read it for the first time.

The English Stories by Cynthia Flood: As a novelist, I am always in awe of writers who capture an entire world in a short story. Cynthia Flood is one such writer and each of the stories in The English Stories, her most recent offering , is a gem of concise, spare prose, compassionate observation and sly humour.

Book Cover A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry: This book is on my list simply because it is magnificent—rich, full, teeming with life. Mistr …

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