Shelf Talkers: February 2016

Despite being the shortest month of the year, February can often feel like the longest, a month of dark days and cold nights, suffused with a sense that winter may have set so deeply, it may never end.

There is, however, much brightness and joy.

Say what you will about manufactured holidays (and I’m perhaps more of a cynic about Valentine’s Day than most), there’s something, well, wonderful, about the combined force of Valentine’s Day and Family Day. Sure, Valentine’s Day seems to exist to sell chocolates and expensive flower arrangements, and Family Day is still too new to have much of a profile at all other than a day off, but at heart these days are about bringing people together.

Strip away all the trappings and both Valentine’s Day and Family Day are about making connections, about forging or affirming the sort of relationships that take the sting out of the dark winter days. Whether you’re falling in love, or spending the day with your children (or parents!), there’s something refreshing about two days devoted to togetherness, to bonding, to sharing time, and memories, with those we love.

There are, of course, the clichéd ways of observing those occasions, the clichéd gifts for the day (see the previously mentioned chocolates and flowers), but it’s going to surprise exactly no one to learn that I think there is no better gift for bringing people together than a book.

It’s going to surprise exactly no one to learn that I think there is no better gift for bringing people together than a book.

Think about it: recommending a book is the act of sharing something you love, drawing yourself closer to someone by giving them something that is meaningful to you. Giving them a glimpse of how your heart works, an insight into what is important to you. And isn’t that one of the key steps in bringing people together, that gesture of sharing, of revelation?

Canada’s independent booksellers are no strangers to this act of sharing; bringing people together is at the heart of what they do, every day of the year.

For this month, though, our dedicated booksellers have a special set of recommendations, books that are close to their hearts, books that have the very real potential of bringing people together.

It brings a tear to my eye.


The Bookseller: Tracey Higgins, Bryan Prince Booksellers (Hamilton, ON)

The Pick: The End of the Alphabet, by C.S. Richardson

The End of the Alphabet is a beautifully written novel about love, memory, and the important moments that we sometimes forget to hold on to. When a middle-aged man is told that he has one month to live, he and his wife embark on a whirlwind bucket list of travels. In very spare, elegant prose the couple reveals their past and present, rediscovering the deep love that has sustained them throughout their marriage. This is the perfect book for February, when we celebrate both romantic love and the importance of family.

The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: Had a Glass 2016, by James Nevison

For centuries, wine has been part of the table for all kinds of celebrations, from first dates to anniversaries to family dinners. With Had A Glass, James Nevison explores the world of fine budget wines, a way to get a taste of the world without breaking the bank.


The Bookseller: Shelley Macbeth of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)

The Pick: Elizabeth and After, by Matt Cohen

A few weeks before Matt Cohen's death in 1999 he won the Governor General's Award for Elizabeth and After. Long one of my most favourite books, it weaves two love stories and spans two generations in small-town Ontario. The writing is deft and brilliant and authentic. Elizabeth has stayed with me for many years and this Valentine's Day I intend to re-read!

The Bookseller: David Worsley, Words Worth Books (Waterloo, ON)

The Pick: The Reinvention of Love, by Helen Humphreys

One can never go wrong with a really good love story.

One can certainly never go wrong with a really good love story set in Paris.

During the time of Victor Hugo's ascension to the top of the Parisian literary world, a junior colleague begins a passionate affair with Hugo's long-suffering wife. In the hands of Helen Humphreys, a simple story of forbidden love manifests itself wonderfully over continents and over all facets of the human heart.


The Bookseller: Rose Hill, Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore (Toronto, Ontario)

The Pick: Kiss, Kiss, by Jennifer Couelle, illustrated by Jacques LaPlante

Who doesn’t love a kiss? All kinds of kisses are celebrated in this lighthearted, funny book. Brightly coloured loose illustrations complement the playful text perfectly. Give this sweet Kiss, Kiss this Valentine’s Day!

February 11, 2016
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