Shelf Talkers

Shelf Talkers is a monthly series where independent booksellers across Canada tell us about a book they would put (and are putting!) in everyone's hands, it is that good.

Shelf Talkers: Indie Booksellers Get Us Through the End of the Year

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Oh, 2020.

It seems somehow strange to think that we can resent an entire year. However, 2020 has been a year like no other, and I suspect most of us are going to be giving a cheer when it's behind us.

But let’s not throw out the good with the bad, shall we? There have been bright spots, among which is a surplus of amazing books. A plethora, in fact.

To mark the passing of the year, we’ve gathered the independent booksellers of the Shelf Talkers fellowship – the strong! The proud! The bookish! – to tell us about some of their favourite reads. And hey—click on their links to order right from them!

Finally, a toast for the passing of the year: to books, and to finding light in the darkness.

See you next year.

**

The Bookseller: Mitzi M. Stone, Mulberry Bush Book Store (Parksville, BC)

The Pick: Crow, by Amy Spurway

Set in Cape Breton and filled with characters who charm and dismay you, this is a book that knocks you to the ground, then lifts you right back up again! You …

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Shelf Talkers: Melting Queens, Mysteries, and More

With all due respect and apologies to the rest of the country (I’m looking at you especially, St. John’s), I’d like us to take a moment to consider winter.

This is a topic with which, until recently, I have been largely unfamiliar. Now, though, having survived two days in which there were several centimetres of snow on the ground in Victoria, I feel uniquely qualified to discuss the frigid season. (Honestly, I’ve never felt more Canadian.)

And I just have to say: I don’t like it.

No sir. …


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Shelf Talkers: Indie Booksellers' Fall 2019 Picks

Weeks like this – the transition between seasons – serve as a strong reminder of just how huge and far-flung this country truly is. And no, I’m not talking about the federal election campaigning.

As I write, meteorologists are predicting heavy snow for parts of the prairies. Meanwhile, the temperature is in the twenties in Toronto, it’s twelve degrees in St. John’s, four degrees in Yellowknife, and fourteen degrees outside my front door in Victoria.

You might be expecting something pithy …


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Shelf Talkers: Marilyn Monroe, YA Romance, Magic Basketball, and More

Some of us – many of us – have a conflicted relationship with summer.

On the one hand, we anticipate the season as one of leisure, with extra daylight to spend on patios or beaches, the heat preventing us from doing anything too onerous. A time to savour the slow passage of the day, the lingering of the evening.

And yet, when summer arrives, we are suddenly taken up with the idea of projects. Extra daylight means more time to get things done. Too hot? You’ll be so happy when it’s done, wha …


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Shelf Talkers: Whispering Words to Hasten Spring's Arrival

I don’t want to jinx anything, but it needs to be said: Happy Spring!

I’m knocking wood, just to be safe.

This is, I think you’ll agree, an unusual spring. Usually, the vernal equinox signals a period of regrowth, of blossoming, of fresh green in the trees and t-shirts worn outside, without a parka!

This year, though, spring is a bit different. Across the country, it’s been greeted with whispered questions: Can it be? Is the long winter of our discontent finally over?

Spring has limped late …


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Shelf Talkers: Books to Get You Through February

For many Canadians, February is the doldrums of the year. The holiday season, and the promise of a new year, is but a distant memory, and winter seems to have taken hold with a cold fury that seems like it may never end. Of course we know that spring will come eventually, but in the meantime, it's a perfect time for self-care. Not the much-ballyhooed, often impetuous self-improvement of resolutions for the new year, but genuine self-care. Think baggy sweaters and hand-knit slippers, think warm b …


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Shelf Talkers: Books for Christmas Eve Shoppers

With apologies to Clement Moore.

**

'Twas the week before Christmas and all 'cross the land

The booksellers were racing, stacks of books clutched in hand.

They doled out some Ravi, Rick Mercer, and Washington Black

And if they couldn’t find it, why, they checked in the back.

They raced up the aisles, they dodged the kids’ wails,

They thrived on the bustle, they rang up the sales.

They walked and they walked, and their blisters brought a tear

Until they heard a faint voice, one they often did hear:

“ …


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Shelf Talkers: Books to Carry You Through November

There’s something about November that puts me in a contemplative state of mind.

Perhaps it’s the presence of Remembrance Day, an ongoing reminder of heroism, sacrifice, and loss.

Perhaps it’s a vague sense of an ending, the end of the year in sight.

Perhaps it’s the world around me, the days growing shorter, the leaves in the gutters, the darkness seemingly all around.

Or perhaps it’s just a sugar hangover from those little tiny Halloween chocolate bars.

I’m really not sure of the cause, …


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Shelf Talkers: Read Your Way to a Relaxed Thanksgiving

There’s a hard truth that people are, rightly, reluctant to discuss: Thanksgiving can be something of a mixed bag.
Sure, it’s a long weekend, right when we need it most. With summer but a distant memory and the routines of the fall starting to weigh heavily upon us a three-day weekend, with its promise of a good dinner and some relaxed time with those closest to us, seems like the answer to the early autumn ennui.
But those three days can quickly turn from warm and relaxed to intense and ove …


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Shelf Talkers: Women, Songs, Oceans, Freedom, and Hellfire

It’s a special time of year.

September.

Even the word sounds a little magical.

The kids are back in school, some of us are taking classes, our routines are starting to settle again, after a few months of lovely summer entropy...

This month, our dedicated independent booksellers (including a couple of new folks!) have selected a set of fantastic fall reads. These are all fiction, all novels, but it’s striking just how close these picks hew to the real world, and what is going on in it. Sometimes …


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Shelf Talkers: Mid-Summer 2018

Summer.

The very word sends a shiver down the spine, carrying with it memories and echoes of those glorious months from our younger days when the world seemed limitless, and full of potential.

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For readers, the summer months have a special connotation. We remember not family trips, per …


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Shelf Talkers: Canada Day 2018 Edition!

Dear Canada,

Well, this is a little awkward...

Sorry about that, eh?

But the fact is, we’ve been watching the calendar with a bit of ... dread is too strong a word. Let’s say “worry.” Because—and here’s the awkward bit—we have no idea what to get you for your big day. Seriously. What do you get a country that has everything?

And there’s a bit of uncertainty, too. Like, is this a birthday? An anniversary? It’s so confusing. And what IS the appropriate gift for 151 years, anyway?

We d …


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Shelf Talkers: Slap On the Sunscreen and Dive Into a Book

Canadians have a strange relationship with summer.

Where is some places the season begins with the end of the school year, or the solstice (I know, I know, technically the summer solstice is midsummer, but that’s a cultural debate far too large and pedantic for this column), we Canadians kick off our summer much earlier.

Every year, the Victoria Day long weekend rolls around and the country, frankly, goes a little mad. Perhaps it’s because we’ve spent so much time in the grips of winter (I a …


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Shelf Talkers: Let's Get Bold and Call These Spring Reads

A little caution is perhaps in order.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. After a winter that was starting to seem Narnia-like in its duration, it seems as if spring has finally arrived for much of the country. Patios are filling up, convertibles are cruising the streets, and shorts and sundresses are making their annual reappearance. Heck, I walked to and from a meeting last night wearing only a t-shirt! (I was also, before you panic, wearing pants. It’s the lack of long sleeves th …


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Shelf Talkers: This Is a Read Until 3 am Book and More

Out here on Vancouver Island, the first few days of spring have been largely grey, with intermittent periods of dismal. I mention this not to complain (we had a wonderfully warm and sunny run in the late winter) nor because these conditions are unusual (spring rarely arrives with a clichéd fanfare), but as a matter of contrast. Despite the grizzled pallor of the change of season, there are bright flashes of colour: the reds and purples of tulips, the shocking green of a city park lawn, the pink …


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Shelf Talkers: Love and Thrillers to See You Through to Spring

As February slips into March, the warm-hearted booksellers of our Shelf Talkers panel have some picks to see you through to spring.

**

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

The Pick: The Rule of Stephens, by Timothy Taylor

In award-winning author Timothy Taylor’s new …


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Shelf Talkers: White Magic in the 1800s, Rock in the 90s, and the World in 1979

For a lot of Canadians, this can be a rough time of year. The stretch of late January and early February, characterized by cold temperatures and mostly grey days, can induce a wintery funk. Sure, there may be a bit of skiing, skating, or walks on those rare days when Canada’s much-loved natural world isn’t actively trying to kill you, but there’s a certain glumness to the air. The unbridled optimism (and hangovers) of the new year are behind us, and we’re left with, well, hangovers from …


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Shelf Talkers: 2017's Must-Reads

Reading through a year’s worth of Shelf Talkers columns, I am struck by a couple of details that likely have not slipped your attention: the quality of the books chosen by our panelists, and the eclectic nature of those choices.

Every month, our esteemed independent booksellers share their picks for not just the best books they have been reading, but those books which they feel merit special attention. Books that aren’t just good, but are distinct in some way, powerful enough to merit an enth …


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Shelf Talkers: Ideas for Christmas 2017!

It’s happened every December for the last few years. There will be a morning early in the month when I wake up before the alarm with a strange, unsettled feeling, a sense that there is something missing in my life. The first time it happened, it took me most of the morning to identify this absence; in subsequent years it was clear from the start: I miss being a bookseller in December.

I was a bookseller for a long, long time, a proud independent. I loved it. I loved hosting events, and making n …


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Shelf Talkers for the Dark Days of November

Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean November isn’t dark enough all on its own. Is there something inherently spooky about the autumn that lends itself to a celebration of the darker mysteries around us?

With the waning of the year, we’re surrounded by reminders of mortality, from the crunch of leaves underfoot to the snap of cold in the air in the morning to the faint whispers of smoke in the distance. And along with those reminders, the early evenings and the lengthening shadows h …


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