Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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Book Cover The Skin We're In

Black History/Black Futures

By Kerry Clare

Recent books exploring Black history, Black futures, and experiences of being Black right now.

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Book Cover Summer Feet

Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

We're excited to be looking ahead to books for young readers, including picture books, middle grade, and YA titles.

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Reconciliation Through Education: Reading Jesse Thistle's From the Ashes with Senior Grades

Reconciliation Through Education: Reading Jesse Thistle's From the Ashes with Senior Grades

By Llana Bruggemann

Jesse Thistle’s memoir, From the Ashes, took me on a heartbreaking journey of his life as a homeless Indigenous man. H …

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Book Cover Our Latest in Folktales

Poems to Return To

By Matthew Gwathmey

A playful and wide-ranging recommended reading list—with dogs, poems that talk to each other, impossible plays and fri …

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Book Cover Pallbearing

Nine Evocative Reads

By Michael Melgaard

A recommended reading list by the author of new short story collection Pallbearing.

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Book Cover BIG

Bodies and Books

By Christina Myers

A recommended reading list by the editor of BIG: Stories About Life in Plus-Sized Bodies

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Book Cover Nought

Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Poetry Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Our 2020 Spring Preview continues with a look at forthcoming poetry.

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Eight Books that Help Support Mental Wellness in Students

Eight Books that Help Support Mental Wellness in Students

By Linda Ludke

I’ve always been a worrier. In elementary school, I was afraid of speaking in class, and dreaded being called upon, ev …

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Shelf Talkers: Melting Queens, Mysteries, and More

Shelf Talkers: Melting Queens, Mysteries, and More

By Rob Wiersema

Robert J. Wiersema ponders what groundhogs might read (and offers them advice) and introduces us to the incredible recom …

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Book Cover Revery

Spring 2020 Books: What's Trending?

By Kerry Clare

Bigfoot, bees, and explosive tweets? Here's what we're seeing on the literary landscape this spring.

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In Conversation With: Tony Burgess


A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a patio when a gentleman, back lit by an early-summer sun, approached my table to boast that he recognized me from the back of my head. I shaded my eyes, Tony Burgess coming into view. "I recognize you from the front of your head," I (may have) replied, and he settled in with us for the duration of our stay. I quite liked his company. My only other dealings with Tony have come in late hours in the form of Facebook messages that read like non sequiturs. He's a prolific creator across genre and form, a master at drawing discomfort from the reader and one of the more truly interesting characters you'll have the pleasure to meet.

For my first interview as Host of Canadian Bookshelf, I hope you'll enjoy our get-to-know-you banter. I guess it's true that books really are the social object around which readers converse.

Julie Wilson: A friend recently told me of a dating site in which members are asked, alongside other questions, how they feel about horror films. Seems this is a huge signifier in terms of compatibility between prospective mates. Come to think of it, the first time I saw you from afar you were covered in fake blood at the opening party for The Scream in High Park. What's your relationship to violence and gore? Are you less …

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The Personal Book Shopper Contest #mybookshopper

personal book shopper

We know word-of-mouth is the #1 one way readers find their way to their next book. If you're on Twitter or Facebook, you've at one time asked for a recommendation, whether for yourself or as a gift. Your local bookseller can certainly help you come to a conclusion, as well as one of your library's reading advisers. You can even go direct to a host of social media savvy publishers who have people available to help you make a choice from their own list. But we also know that in many cases that decision is influenced by a person close to each reader, often someone with whom the reader keeps intimate company. To that end, we'd like to introduce you to a veritable book brothel of advisers lead by Canadian Bookshelf Host, Julie Wilson, a.k.a. @BookMadam, and her rotating cast of booksellers, librarians, authors, publishers and bloggers. (Those who have been following Julie for some time will know this is how she got the moniker "Book Madam," after a series of online contests with Indigo and McNally Robinson booksellers.)

How does it work?

Think, what if you could submit a few "choice words" to a personal book shopper—#mybookshopper—someone who wanders off into the bookish wild armed with only those words, to return sweatier and disheveled, hoisting a book over her h …

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What is a Canadian Bookshelf?


Whether a tower of milk-crates, a high-end built-in unit, or a couple of two-by-fours propped up with bricks, the Canadian bookshelf is a various thing. It contains all the CanLit you studied in school, Fifth Business and The Stone Angel. Or else it’s stocked by nonfiction fiends who can’t get enough of Malcolm Gladwell, the Franklin Expedition, or Peter C. Newman political biographies. It holds innovative and challenging works by independent presses like Coach House, Gaspereau or Biblioasis, as well as novels written by women called Margaret, or by Pierre Berton or Farley Mowat.

There is young adult fiction with adult appeal, from Anne of Green Gables to Susan Juby. Or children’s books written by Robert Munsch, Sheree Fitch, Marie-Louise Gay and Marthe Jocelyn. Short story collections by Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Alexander MacLeod, Zsuzsi Gartner and Sarah Selecky. Cookbooks, craft books and books about Canadian wine. It’s got graphic novels by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, or anything by Drawn & Quarterly. Not to mention Margaret Atwood’s Survival and Noah Richler’s This is My Country, What is Yours? Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye. Or Joy Fielding and Kelley Armstrong.

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Books to discover: The 2011 Atlantic Book Awards

tagged : features

Atlantic Canada shone a light on itself in 2010, with a great many acclaimed Canadian books coming from the region. These successes and others were recognized on May 19 at the 2011 Atlantic Book Awards in Dartmouth NS, where Kathleen Winter won the prestigious Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize for her novel Annabel.

Winter’s fellow Giller nominees Alexander MacLeod and Johanna Skibsrud were also recognized, MacLeod receiving the Margaret John Savage First Book Award for Light Lifting and Skibsrud taking the Atlantic Independent Booksellers Choice Award for The Sentimentalists.


In addition to these well-known works is a whole host of new books for Canadian readers to discover from a wide range of genres including historical writing (Rusty Bittermann for Sailor’s Hope: The Life and Times of William Cooper, Agrarian Radical in an Age of Revolution) and crime fiction (Anne Emery taking the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction for Children in the Morning). Non-fiction prizes were awarded to Jerry Lockett (writer and sailor!) for Captain J …

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Does the great Canadian cottage novel have yet to be written?


On this Victoria Day long weekend, Canadians will travel to cottage country to mark the unofficial start of summer, although many of us will only make the journey in our minds. We’ll have to be content to imagine a sunset reflected on a still lake, the smoky smell of a bonfire, and the crack of a screen-door slam. And perhaps we could be aided in our journey with the help of a little fiction, but maybe not. Could it really be that, as Globe and Mail reviewer Darryl Whetter has stated, “the great Canadian cottage novel” has yet to be written?

There are certainly candidates for the title. And though it’s not a novel, Sarah Selecky’s story “Throwing Cotton” (from her collection This Cake is for the Party) exactly fits the description of the cottage book that Whetter is calling for: “a work devoted to a friendship- and romance-sundering long weekend away in which two or more couples fight, gossip, shift allegiances and repeatedly contemplate infidelity – if not a boozy orgy”.


Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing could be loosely termed a cottage n …

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