What is a Canadian Bookshelf?

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Whether a tower of milk-crates, a high-end built-in unit, or a couple of two-by-fours propped up with bricks, the Canadian bookshelf is a various thing. It contains all the CanLit you studied in school, Fifth Business and The Stone Angel. Or else it’s stocked by nonfiction fiends who can’t get enough of Malcolm Gladwell, the Franklin Expedition, or Peter C. Newman political biographies. It holds innovative and challenging works by independent presses like Coach House, Gaspereau or Biblioasis, as well as novels written by women called Margaret, or by Pierre Berton or Farley Mowat.

There is young adult fiction with adult appeal, from Anne of Green Gables to Susan Juby. Or children’s books written by Robert Munsch, Sheree Fitch, Marie-Louise Gay and Marthe Jocelyn. Short story collections by Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Alexander MacLeod, Zsuzsi Gartner and Sarah Selecky. Cookbooks, craft books and books about Canadian wine. It’s got graphic novels by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, or anything by Drawn & Quarterly. Not to mention Margaret Atwood’s Survival and Noah Richler’s This is My Country, What is Yours? Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye. Or Joy Fielding and Kelley Armstrong.

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In short, a Canadian bookshelf is a shelf of wonder and infinite possibility, which is exciting but also difficult to catalogue. This difficulty is the reason so many Canadian readers have ended up wandering lost in the stacks, and others banging their heads against the walls as they argue narrow definitions of just what a Canadian bookshelf should hold. When what we need instead of wandering and head-banging is to make conversation happen, for readers to celebrate and broaden their ideas about Canadian books; but how can we talk about something so big?

Which is where this Canadian Bookshelf comes in: introducing a platform for discovering Canadian books in all their amazing diversity. Imagine an evolving virtual library-meets-community-bookstore stuffed to the rafters with Canadian books and content—complete with face-out display racks and friendly cues to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Except you don’t even need to imagine—you’re already here. And because you’re here, why not do some exploring?

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Peruse our reading lists to complement your own tastes, or to discover something new—check out lists by Guest Readers including Kathleen Winter, the staff at Woozles (Canada’s oldest children’s bookstore), other writers, lit-bloggers and our hand-picked experts (including this one on the Franklin Expedition). Read posts by guest bloggers Angie Abdou, Sarah Leavitt, Anne Perdue (coming up next week!), and Robert J. Wiersema (coming up after that!), and check back for other new posts all the time.

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Get ready for fabulous video author interviews, podcasts and a literary event map, courtesy of our host and producer, Julie Wilson. Take part in games and contests that will engage you further with the books you’re already reading and put you in touch with new ones you should know. Become a member and share your own reviews, as well as create reading lists to show what Canadian books are to you.

Canadian Bookshelf is your place online to jump in and discover everything Canadian books have to offer. Please join the conversation, and look forward to discovering a world of Canadian books that is richer than you ever imagined.

June 6, 2011
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