Shelf Talkers: April 2016

With any luck (and owing entirely to the incredible effort put in by the organizers), the end of April will become known as well for books as it is for being the early days of spring. Authors for Indies, now in its second year, draws attention to Canada’s independent booksellers with the best of Canada’s writers working shifts on the country’s independent sales floors, meeting customers and making recommendations. It’s a beautiful synergy, a living representation of the ecosystem that underlies Canada’s book trade.

If I had my way, it would be a national holiday.

Canada’s independent booksellers aren’t just retailers; they’re cultural resources, the face of our rich literary heritage. For Canada’s indies, it’s less a job than it is a calling: the hours are long, the financial rewards limited, the stress sometimes overwhelming. And yet, every day of the year, they’re there, critical parts of their communities, literally spreading the word.

When this column started, two years ago, our intent was to give voice to those booksellers, a platform for them to do what they do best: to recommend books they love to readers who will love them. And don’t they do a fine job?

Happy Authors for Indies Day, everyone. And please join me in raising a glass for our independent booksellers, every day.

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

The Pick: Lives of the Poets (With Guitars), by Ray Robertson

Steve Earle fans know that he once said "Townes van Zandt is the greatest songwriter in the world, and I'd stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."

I feel the same way about Ray Robertson's new book from Biblioasis, called Lives of the Poets (With Guitars). I'd stand on Greil Marcus' coffee table and politely suggest that Ray writes better sentences. For music nerds, Ray's book is essential. For anyone else, get thee to a good record store, then buy his book.

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

The Pick: Yiddish for Pirates, by Gary Barwin

Gary Barwin’s first novel is hilarious, quirky, and completely unforgettable. His acrobatic use of language will be familiar to anyone who has read any of his earlier works, but in Yiddish for Pirates, he is able to exercise his unique style more fully and effectively. The novel is narrated by the ancient parrot of a Jewish pirate who finds himself shipwrecked and, through circumstances, drawn into the drama and horror of the Spanish Inquisition. Yiddish for Pirates is many things at once: a darkly humourous historical novel of ideas and language that seamlessly ties in fantastical elements. It is also good rollicking fun that will make you laugh out loud.

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The Bookseller: Mary-Ann Yazedjian, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)

The Pick: The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood

Another great novel by Atwood! She has the amazing ability to make what should be a far-fetched and crazy scenario actually seem realistic and possible. Understated and chilling, this book will get in your head and not leave. If you loved the Oryx and Crake trilogy, try this one next.

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pharosgate

The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)
The Pick: The Pharos Gate, by Nick Bantock

The moment the reader picks up The Pharos Gate they are instantly transported back to Nick Bantock's wonderful world of letters and postcards . Filled with fantastic art work and tactile experiences of opening envelopes to read their correspondence  Bantock has provided fans with a final, magical glimpse at the lives of Griffin & Sabine. Each pages brings new discoveries of romance, danger, myth, and mystery.

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The Bookseller: Lee Trentadue, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: The Heaviness of Things That Float, by Jennifer Manuel

A gorgeous novel that grabs you right from the beginning. Written from the point of view of Bernadette, a non-native woman who lives in a First Nations community, on the West Coast, as a nurse for forty years. This book is an exploration of how Bernadette fits into a community that is very different from her own, where spirits and myth and stories combine to teach Bernadette the values of those whose lives she literally holds in her hands.

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April 28, 2016
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