Shelf Talkers: The Best New Book I've Read

Bookstores can be daunting experiences.

Walking into a good bookstore can be almost overwhelming: all these books! Where does one begin?

That’s where the bookseller comes in. A good bookseller can guide a reader through the impossibilities of selection in search of that perfect read. They know the sections intimately; after all, they’re responsible for every one of those spines being on the shelf. They’re the ones who spend hours every week selecting books, conscientiously and deliberately building a collection which they know will appeal to the readers in their communities. They’re responsible for keeping on-hand books they love, knowing that they will be able to match them with the perfect reader.

But what of new books? What of debut authors? What of the great unknown? How does a reader sift through the deluge of new titles being published every week?

This is where booksellers truly shine, spending the hours they’re not in the store reading ahead, perusing Advance Reading Copies and galleys, open to that electrical charge one feels when finding the next great book.

For this month’s Shelf Talkers column, we’ve set our panel of erstwhile indie booksellers a single question: what’s the best new book you’ve read? All of these recommendations are hot off the presses (one of them, in fact, is still on the presses, and won’t be on the shelf until next month!). These are the cream of this year’s crop, and they all come with the Shelf Talkers’ seal of approval.

***

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

The Pick: Mitzi Bytes, by Kerry Clare

In the years to come, one wonders if a novel that nods to the internet as a historical conceit may be harder to pull off.

Mitzi Bytes is a chatty, whimsical blog that documents the romantic trials of Sarah Lundy. Sarah parlays her blog into a few books and a decent bit of fame. In the ensuing fifteen years, Sarah is happily married with kids, but has kept her blog a secret to all in her real life, until a troll threatens to reveal her anonymity.

The question of who could have figured out Sarah's offline identity makes for a propulsive and compelling story, and the nature of truth and the limits of friendship are all put to the test in this breezy and entirely enjoyable first novel.

There's a lot of wisdom, heart and nuance in Mitzi Bytes, and it's a hell of a lot of fun, too.

**

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

The Picks: The Change Room, by Karen Connelly

I was blown away by Karen Connelly's The Change Room. Before I read it, I had been told it was sexy, and that sets up a whole bunch of preconceived notions. But Karen knocks it outta the park with this one. In her words, “After The Lizard Cage and Come Cold River, I had to write something both fun and sexy before I died...”  Well. This is not a guy's version of sex and this is not a Harlequin version of sex. This is real. Interspersed with doing the dishes. Well done, Karen Connelly.

***

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

The Pick: All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai

Mastai's first novel is a weird and brilliant book. It's about time travel, but it's more about family and love and the choices that you make that determine what kind of person you are. This one stays with you long after you're done.

***

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

The Pick: This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence, by Terry O’Reilly

Marketing guru and longtime host of Under the Influence, Terry O’Reilly, lets readers into the fascinating world of marketing. Looking at both successful and unsuccessful campaigns from brands that you likely have in your home, O’Reilly uncovers the truth behind the spin and why it works so well. Very accessible and highly entertaining, readers will come away more informed and loaded with trivia (like what caused Coke to change its recipe after 100 so years even though it was still the No. 1 cola), This I Know will be the funnest business book you will read all year.

March 29, 2017
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