Is it safe to come out yet?
Groundhog Day was months ago, and across the country, Canadians are only now daring to emerge cautiously from our holes in the ground, wondering if the strangest winter in recent memory is finally over. Take, for example, Victoria. Looking back, thanks to the miracle of social media, Victoria’s cherry trees were in full bloom in mid-February last year (yes, we know that makes you hate us; that’s one of the reasons we post those photos every year). This year, Victoria had blizzards through February. Blizzards. Of actual snow! That’s a once-a-decade or so occurrence.
But weather be damned, it’s spring on the calendar, and in the bookstores. Our hardy crew of independent booksellers has recommendations for every eventuality, from guides to take you outside (down to the dirt or up to the skies) to companions to warm you indoors. Plus, a baseball book, because it IS spring, after all.
And summer is just around the corner. Though many of us will believe it when we see it.
The Bookseller: David Worsley, Words Worth Books (Waterloo, ON)
The Pick: Baseball Life Advice, by Stacey May Fowles
With Baseball Life Advice, Stacey May Fowles has captured the tumult, frustration, and unabashed love that comes with being a long-suffering Blue Jays fan.
She loves the game and the team, and knows everything worth knowing to be sure, but her steely knowledge of the nonsense and shortcomings of pro ball don't keep her from the Church.
Baseball has a unique mythology in sport simply because it suggests that a sort of purity of spirit around a simple game is still possible; there's no such thing as a Bull Durham-like movie for football. Fowles knows this and nails both the emotional attachment of the game and the need for a hard look at the state of pro baseball.
I haven't watched or been to a baseball game in years, but I reread Jim Bouton's masterful Ball Four every couple years because it brings me more pleasure than just about any other book I've ever come across. The years melt away to a near-perfect still point. I can absolutely see rereading Baseball Life Advice for the rest of my life and for the same reason.
The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)
The Pick: Backyard Bounty: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest, by Linda Gilkeson
With spring finally here it’s time to get back out to the garden, and there is no better place to prepare yourself for island gardening than with Linda Gilkes' Backyard Bounty. A complete guide to year-round organic gardening in the Pacific Northwest, Backyard Bounty offers spot-on and down-to-earth advice to gardeners. With an emphasis on low-maintenance methods for high-yield crops, Backyard Bounty is certain to become a book you return to year after year.
The Bookseller: Jenn Hubbs, Curiosity House Books (Creemore, Ontario)
The Pick: The Last Neanderthal, by Claire Cameron
Girl is the eldest daughter of a Neanderthal family who, through a tense series of events, is left to care for Runt, a young foundling. Together, they must travel through the winter storms to the annual fish run, where Girl hopes to find others of her kind.
Rosamund Gale is a present-day archaeologist who is attempting to excavate newly discovered Neanderthal remains before the arrival of her first child. Her task is complicated by pressure from museum officials who prefer to put the 'show before the science.'
These two different perspectives, separated by 40,000 years, begin to reveal the similarities in Girl and Rosamund's lives, from each woman's need for survival to the primal forces of childbirth. Cameron's latest involved five years of intensive study of Neanderthal history, including an exploration of her own DNA (she's 2.5% Neanderthal), and it is a powerful exploration of the not-so-changing roles of women as well as our own human history.
The Bookseller: Rebecca Sanger, Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge ON)
The Pick: Juliet's Answer, by Glenn Dixon
Once in a while we all need a reminder that love exists. To find it between the pages of a non-fiction title - between the pages of a novel stemmed out of heartbreak—is too perfect for words. Juliet's Answer reveals more than just science and Shakespeare, it reveals how important and powerful love can be ... with a little help from Juliet.
The Bookseller: Hanna Kaczerowska, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)
The Pick: Birds of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest: A Complete Guide, by Richard Cannings, Tom Aversa, and Hal Opperman
If you want to become, or already are, a serious birder, this regional guide will take your birding to the next level. Detailed but user-friendly, Birds of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest includes hundreds of full color photos and range maps, as well as bird diagrams and a glossary of technical terms.
The Bookseller: Timothy Carlow, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)
The Pick: A Number of Things, by Jane Urquhart
Of all the books on Canada and what it means to be Canadian that will appear over the next year, Jane Urquhart has undoubtedly written one of the most unique and honest. Through the lens of 50 objects, she unpacks the essence of a whole nation, dipping her toes into the historical events, contemporary ones, people, and places that make Canada what it is. Like she does in her incredible—and also very Canadian—fiction, Urquhart uses her 50 choice objects to map out the image she's trying to create, and leaves the reader to connect the dots. The result is intelligent, informed, and thorough. A Number of Things will make you stop and reflect on our nation, its past and present, and the place of each and every one of us within it.
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