Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Image Book Auction to Support Prisoners

The Book Auction to Support Prisoners

By 49th Shelf Staff

"This year has marked a sea change in how we perceive racism and our justice system, and we hope this event will further …

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Book Cover The Barren Grounds

Launchpad: THE BARREN GROUNDS, by David A. Robertson

By Kerry Clare

"David A. Robertson has written such a fine, beautiful novel. He manages to combine hard truths about our history with a …

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Book Cover TreeTalk

TreeTalk-ing or, "How I Became a Serial Poetry Monogamist"

By Ariel Gordon

"I knew I wanted to do more than just sit in a booth, eating chicken and waffles, and writing. It had to do something th …

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Book Cover The Orange Shirt Story

Books for Orange Shirt Day

By Julie Booker

Books to connect younger readers with the tragic legacy of Canada's residential schools.

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The Chat with Emily Urquhart

The Chat with Emily Urquhart

By Trevor Corkum

In The Age of Creativity (House of Anansi Press), Emily Urquhart challenges us to reconsider our thinking around artisti …

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Book Cover Noopiming

Launchpad: NOOPIMING, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

By Kerry Clare

"This is bold storytelling drawing upon a rich history to present a possible future. Simpson is generously gifting reade …

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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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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, …

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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.

storecouch

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 li …

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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 Canadi …

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Slow Down, We Move Too Fast

iStock_000004320069Small

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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