Shelf Talkers: July 1, 2017

tagged : Shelf Talkers

Most years, the significance of July 1 passes with little in the way of fanfare. Sure, there are festivals and fireworks, cake and crowds, but—generally speaking—we’re a fairly low-key nation when it comes to celebrating ourselves. We might wave flags, one day a year, but we do it somehow apologetically.

This year is different, though. The Canada150 celebrations have turned (brace yourself for impending Spinal Tap reference) our annual momentary patriotic fervour up to 11. And that’s as it should be: as Canadians, we have a lot to be proud of.

Accompanying that passing patriotic fervour, however, is a steadily developing consideration of what precisely it means to be Canadian. We’re justly proud of ourselves and our country, but we are also aware of the shadows in our history, and in our national consciousness.

Accompanying that passing patriotic fervour, however, is a steadily developing consideration of what precisely it means to be Canadian. We’re justly proud of ourselves and our country, but we are also aware of the shadows in our history, and in our national consciousness.

As a nation, it seems, we are recognizing that the story of Canada is not singular, that there are multiple stories, multiple Canadas.

The stories of Canada are (literally) stock in trade for our intrepid independent booksellers, who both celebrate and examine this country every day, every year. They recognize that those stories—fiction and non-fiction, current and historical—are the key to understanding ourselves and those around us, and vital in building and continuing a country that merits celebrating.

This Canada Day weekend, why not take a moment to explore a Canadian story? We’ve rounded up a bonanza of recommendations here, and remember, our independent booksellers are always ready with a recommendation.

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newfarm

The Bookseller: Jenn Hubbs, Curiosity House Books (Creemore, Ontario)

The Pick: The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution, by Brent Preston

With humour, honesty and a fair dose of humility, Preston tells the story of how he and his wife, Gillian, gave up life in the city to move full-time to their farm near Creemore, Ontario. Over the course of their ten years, Brent and Gillian have become not only bona-fide farmers, but also passionate advocates for an honest and sustainable food system. While this book does contain its fair share of humourous moments from their trials and errors, it also makes you re-examine your food choices and what it means to be part of the "eat local" movement in Canada.

**

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

curefordeath

The Pick: The Cure for Death by Lightning, by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Mary-Ann read this book when it came out in 1997 and Caitlin just read it this month and we both agree that it is one of the best Canadian novels we have ever read. You're drawn into the haunting and mysterious land of Turtle Valley, BC at the end of WWII, and a summer in the life of 15-year-old Beth, after which nothing will ever be the same, for her or for you. A varied and fascinating cast of characters provide for some chilling and some magical interactions, and will leave you wanting more. Your heart will break for Beth many times throughout this novel, even as you rejoice in her new-found independence and relationships. You won't want to leave her world and will immediately need to read the follow-up, Turtle Valley, written ten years later, in which Beth's daughter returns to the family farm.

Mary-Ann read this book when it came out in 1997 and Caitlin just read it this month and we both agree that it is one of the best Canadian novels we have ever read.

**

The Bookseller: Gwendolyn Bortolotto, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: The Best Kind of People, by Zoe Whittall

It takes almost no time for Whittall to bring to the surface how fast one decision can uproot the lives of a family. Gripped quickly by the attachment you feel for the characters, you are compelled to read on, wanting your questions answered as much as the characters in the book desperately need theirs answered. Whittall allows for you to question what you believe and search yourself to discover your own depths, while asking you to feel and understand betrayal through the emotions of others. Whittall has masterfully written characters that stay with you long after you’ve finished.

**

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

The Pick: What the Small Day Cannot Hold, by Susan Musgrave

About thirty years back I had the great good fortune to leave my poser metalhead youth behind and get serious about books.

At the time that meant finding Susan Musgrave's early poetry, and I was hooked from day one.

Alas, much of her West Coast and Indigenous-inspired work is no longer in print, but What the Small Day Cannot Hold is still about. This is a collection of her work from 1970 to 1985 and it holds up because there will always be youth looking for a place that makes sense to them, especially when living online can seem so very indistinct after awhile.

Musgrave's poetry is sensual, challenging, utterly atmospheric, but with a tight rein on language. It comes off still as utterly and defiantly modern. I saw her then as years ahead of her time, and it still goes. Her work should be in every high school library and if there's a better weapon in use to make poetry cool, I've never seen it.

Her work should be in every high school library and if there's a better weapon in use to make poetry cool, I've never seen it.

**

The Bookseller: Elizabeth Olson, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: The Break, by Katherena Vermette  

This emotional and gritty story takes place on the streets of Winnipeg. A very young Metis girl, Emily, is sexually assaulted on a empty BC Hydro lot. The assault is witnessed by the girl's relative, Stella, who must work through her feelings about not only having run out and intervened but also of allowing herself to become cut off from her grandmother and family after marrying a non-Metis. The layers of story, told from the points-of-view of four generations of family members and also the culprit, move at a slow pace, working their way through the grief and healing in a mature way that transcends the brutality of the crime. While the police investigate, there is no blame placed or revenge sought by the family—every member is bent on wanting to move forward together, gathering and watching over the young girl at her hospital bedside and supporting one another. A powerfully-written  story of family love and forgiveness and showing bountiful beauty amid suffering. An utterly astonishing read. I am so surprised to realize how strongly this book affected my sense of what family really means.

**

aqueerlovestory

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

The Pick: A Queer Love Story: The Letters of Jane Rule and Rick Bébout, edited by Marilyn Schuster, foreword by Margaret Atwood

Rick Bébout is the editor of the monthly Toronto-based LGBTQ magazine The Body Politic. Rick and Jane were long-term friends and kept up this friendship through monthly letters based on their intellectual takes on many and varied issues of the day. The book includes an extensive examination of these letters over the course of their long-standing friendship. A fascinating account of an unusual friendship and one that crossed genders and generations.

**

The Bookseller: Jenn Hubbs, Curiosity House Books  (Creemore, Ontario)

The Pick: Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies

Davies' debut novel and book one of the famed Salterton Trilogy, the story begins with an amateur production of The Tempest that brings to light the humour and pathos of small-town life. His satirical look at each of the participants and their motivation may seem initially to be made up of cliched stereotypes (the sweet young thing, the uptight math teacher, the quirky New York theatre director, the tomboy), but gradually the reader begins to realize that each character is more complex than originally thought. The entire trilogy is worth reading, but this book, written in 1951, still holds up.

**

The Bookseller: Gwendolyn Bortolotto, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden

This story will take a piece of your soul with it when you’ve no longer a use for it. There are moments so haunting you dare not read further and yet since there is no turning back you just read on. Joseph Boyden tells the story of three souls intertwined and so woven into darkness both past and present. Together they navigate the world trying to leave despair behind and yet it is all-consuming and all they’ve known. You will learn how war ravages the memory of the person living with it and those around them. Although the theme of the book is dark and harrowing, the writing is untouchable.

**

 

The Bookseller: Jenn Hubbs, Curiosity House Books  (Creemore, Ontario)

The Pick: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined, by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her. Told through alternating chapters that include letters to her opera singer mother, Margot-Sophia interspersed with flashbacks to time travelling with her mother on tour, Ingrid's story is both hilarious and heartbreaking. It's a story of family, of forgiveness,and of finding yourself in the wilderness that we call life.

**

The Bookseller: James Irvine, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)

The Pick: Bad Endings, by Carleigh Baker

A superb collection of short stories awaits the reader of this book. Each story left me wanting to read more. Take this book to lunch; take it for coffee or a nice glass of wine. A great companion. Carleigh Baker is a new and exciting voice in Canadian literature.

**

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

The Pick: This Side of Sad, by Karen Smythe

It's always wonderful to stumble upon what could be a sleeper, and leave it to Goose Lane to have one on offer. Karen Smythe's This Side of Sad is due in September and it's a stunner.  

The novel opens with the sudden violent death of Maslen's husband James. Beneath questions of whether this was a suicide or an accident, the novel explores in luminescent prose; the history of their marriage and life together, as well as that of a pair of other fellows important to Maslen's early adult years.

Questions of grief, joy, regret and the vagaries of age carry the day, and this will be a great read for engaged book clubs. The trio of characters share the stage all the way through the novel and are interspersed via page break from front to finish. The defiantly non-linear structure lends a dreamscape element to the novel and pairs wonderfully with the quality of the writing.

This is going to be great fun to handsell and it's always nice as well to see this kind of talent (Karen is from nearby Guelph, Ontario) so close to home.

**

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

The Pick: Now You Know Canada, by Doug Lennox


With all the Canada 150 celebrations happening there is no better time to brush up on your Canadian trivia. Doug Lennox’s new book Now You Know Canada offers readers 150 years of fascinating facts that run the gamut from policy-makers to play-makers; you will never be stuck for conversation starters again. It also contains a question & feature list in the back to make it easy to find the bits that you didn’t quite remember and need to come back to!

June 29, 2017
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