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: 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 …

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Shelf Talkers: The Mystery Edition

There’s probably been research done on this, but I think it’s a well-established enough truth as to not require footnoting: winter is the perfect time of year for mysteries. Whether it’s the punishing cold, the latent isolation, the stark quality of the light through the skeletal trees, the barren, dark ground... it’s easy to imagine the world littered with crime scene tape and evidence tags, mysteries lurking in the shadows, in the seemingly endless twilight.

As a result, it’s likely n …


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Shelf Talkers: On Family Day

By Rob Wiersema

I may be in the minority, but I've actually become quite fond of Family Day. In part, it's a practical thing: I love the way it breaks up that long stretch between Christmas and Easter, that formerly bleak, wintery run of five-day weeks with no respite. In part, I like its ramshackle nature, an invented holiday which occurs on different days across the country.

Mostly, though—and feel free to call me soft—I like it because I buy into the premise. The occasion gives me a chance, …


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Shelf Talkers: Under the Tree 2016!

It’s as seasonally inevitable as the need for warm gloves and the appearance of twinkling lights: every year, as December hits, readers are inundated with a flood of lists, each proclaiming The Best Books of the Year. It seems like everyone gets in on the game: journalists, writers, celebrities, newspapers, magazines... Everyone, it seems, except those folks who know the books best, the booksellers.

Sure, you might occasionally find a Best Of list featuring a token bookseller, but they are larg …


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Shelf Talkers: Remembrance Day 2016

We, as a nation, have grown up observing November as a time of remembrance, a quiet marking of the past (and present), and an attempt to come to an understanding of both the world around us, and our role in it, historically and today.

That search for meaning and understanding is on the minds of everyone today, even as we reel from the shock of this week's election result. From an exploration of the nature of Remembrance Day itself, to an examination of what it means to be Canadian, to a heartbrea …


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Shelf Talkers: From Outer Space to Wrestling Rings to Vietnam

I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. It’s not just the turkey dinner (though I’m always thrilled when turkey-dinner season comes around, that glorious stretch of monthly feasts incorporating Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas. Gobble, gobble, indeed.), but it’s what comes before, and what characterizes the day: a moment to take stock of our lives and offer our gratitude for what we have, for what we love, and for what, in …


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Shelf Talkers: Private Detectives, Secret Mommies, Suspicious Men, and More

Shhh...

Listen, do you hear that?

That’s the sound of hearts breaking across the country as another summer comes to a close. I know, you don’t want to talk about it, or acknowledge the reality of the situation, but it’s time. The leaves have already started to turn here in Victoria, and the nights are growing cool. There might be a renewed blast in September, but the truth is undeniable: the summer is on the wane. Fall is upon us, and winter (forgive me, Tyrion Lannister) is coming.

For some, …


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Shelf Talkers: August Is the Best Time for Reading

With record-breaking temperatures across the country, I think it’s safe to say we’re into the dog days of summer now. It really is the best and worst of the year: it’s hard to resist those blue skies, the heat, and the seemingly limitless potential outdoors—but at the same time, it’s too hot to really take much joy in moving around. It’s perfect weather for sitting in the shade, for finding a patio or a cool pool, for laying in the grass.

Or, conversely, for managing the hot walk fro …


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Shelf Talkers: Canada Day 2016 Edition

I think it’s easy, for many of us, to take the July 1 holiday for granted. I mean, what better way to kick off the heights of summer than with a stat, right? Especially when that stat is on a Friday, so you’ve got a three-day weekend. Time you can spend grilling and sipping and hiking and gardening and swimming and generally playing in the sun (though, if you’re me, the long weekend seems, traditionally, to be one of cleaning and organizing and general housework, I’m not sure why).

Too of …


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Shelf Talkers: May 2016

Is it spring where you are, or summer ... or more of a mishmash of weather?

With the sheer size of this country, and the vicissitudes of climate change, it’s tough to get a handle on the change of seasons. In Victoria, for example, it’s been positively balmy for weeks now, and while Alberta is struggling with a tragically early summer, eastern Canadians are finally, tentatively, shoving winter coats into the darkest corners of closets in hopes they remain there.

We live in a country not of two …


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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 un …


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Shelf Talkers: March 2016

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious

ee cummings knows what he’s talking about. While parts of the country are still struggling with the last lingering vestiges of winter, spring is upon us, with new buds, new mud, new puddles, new books...

You knew where that was going, right?

One of the great things about Canada’s independent booksellers is their depth of knowledge, internal databases spanning decades, incorporating hundreds of titles and authors, thousands of characters. …


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Shelf Talkers: February 2016

Despite being the shortest month of the year, February can often feel like the longest, a month of dark days and cold nights, suffused with a sense that winter may have set so deeply, it may never end.

There is, however, much brightness and joy.

Say what you will about manufactured holidays (and I’m perhaps more of a cynic about Valentine’s Day than most), there’s something, well, wonderful, about the combined force of Valentine’s Day and Family Day. Sure, Valentine’s Day seems to exist …


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Shelf Talkers: January 2016

Winter, with its long nights and its forced sequestration, is a perfect time for books. Whether you take on a big reading project, or use the time to catch up with old favourites, or merely try to keep up with the new releases, winter is ... well, it’s basically peak season for book geeks. None of that feeling “I should really be outside” nonsense.

And here to help minister to your winter reading needs, our dedicated independent booksellers weigh in with some of their picks for the darkest …


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Shelf Talkers: December 2015

It’s that time of year again, that most wonderful time, when the evenings are long, and the air is full of the sound of Year-End Best-Of lists. What, you were expecting carolling?

Sure, the holidays are swell and everything, but as a booklover, the turning of the year is a time to look back, to recall what books brought me joy and, more significantly, to look at other peoples’ lists and see what I missed.

My book budget goes out the window in December, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.

T …


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Shelf Talkers: November 2015

It’s that most wonderful time of the year. The air is crisp, the world outlined in the sharpness that only a Canadian cold brings. In the distance, you can hear the sound of sleigh bells...

Wait, no.

Sorry. Those are cash registers.

This IS the most wonderful time of year, but it is also the most intense retail season of the year (as someone who spent more than two decades behind the till, I promise you those things can and do exist simultaneously. Surreptitious Baileys helps). Everyone is out lo …


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Shelf Talkers: Thanksgiving 2015 Edition

The experts say (well, let’s put “experts” in quotation marks here—the “experts” in the Self-Help section say) that an understanding and expression of gratitude in our daily lives is one of the keys to greater happiness and a more thorough sense of well-being in our own existence.

It’s a good suggestion, and likely a valuable process, but an ongoing sense of gratitude is something I have never quite been able to integrate into my generally more cynical days.

Which is why, every year, …


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Shelf Talkers: September 2015

You would think that school would be paradise for a bookish, nerdy kid, like I was. But as any former bookish, nerdy kid will tell you, that was hardly the case. Sure, there was always lots to read, new books to discover, stories to talk about (and sometimes even write!). But there was a downside as well. So often, the books we had to read were old hat, or overly familiar. Things I’d read long before, or things I had no interest in reading.

I lost track, early on, of the number of times I got c …


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Shelf Talkers: August 2015

Normally in this space, I try to write something a little clever by way of an introduction to the current round of recommendations from our panel of independent booksellers. (I say “try”—cleverness isn’t something that one can rely on, as my fourth-grade teacher often told me, usually before sending me out into the hallway to think about what I had done.) This month, though, I’m going to go with something a little different: sincerity. Sincerity and gratitude.

I spent more than two deca …


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Shelf Talkers: July 2015

It’s become a familiar cliché, a trope we’ve all seen all too often in movies, TV, and books... Strangely, though, when I was growing up, I was never, not once, asked to write an essay about what I did on my summer vacation. It would have been a pretty easy essay to write: as a kid, I spent my summer holidays exactly the same way I’m spending this one: reading. Sure, now I’m reading in my comfy chair in my office (usually with a cold beverage of the adult variety) rather than in a tree …


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