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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.

The Year-End Best-Of list has become as much a tradition as turkey dinners and fighting with your family around the table. David Gutowski has, at the time of this writing, more than a thousand such lists aggregated over at Largehearted Boy (and yes, I’m spending altogether too much time there).

But the lists, at least in their more formal iterations, are also a recurring cause of frustration. Open a newspaper, flip through a magazine, click a link, and what do you find? Writers talking about the best books of the year. Reviewers boiling a year’s work down to a handful of favourites. Media figures weighing in with their choices.  It’s as if, in the wake of the major prizes, everybody gets to contribute their voices.

Well, almost everyone.

Who don’t you find, as a rule?

Booksellers.

Sure, there’s the occasional broad-based piece: Quill & Quire usually consults with a few booksellers for an article, and Publisher’s Weekly did a great job with a survey of American booksellers last we …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum With 2015 Giller Finalist André Alexis

Hello! Trevor Corkum here again with the second installment of our spotlight on the 2015 Giller Prize finalists: each of the five finalists has been gracious enough to answer five questions about their award-nominated books (Ed: also see our interviews with Anakana Schofield, Rachel Cusk, Heather O'Neill, and Samuel Archibald). 49th Shelf will be featuring one Giller interview per day up until October 20th, accompanied by the first few pages of each book and also a chance to win the entire shortlist (see up top).

Today we have André Alexis talking about his book, Fifteen Dogs (Coach House), which has also been nominated for the Writer's Trust fiction award as well as the Toronto Book Awards.

Fifteen Dogs has the most unlikely of premises: "A bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic." The Globe and Mail's Mark Medley calls it "A remarkable book. Insightful, wildly original and beautiful."

TheChat-Giller-v3

 

THE CHAT, WITH ANDRE ALEXIS

Andre-Alexis-lores

What did you immedia …

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Shelf Talkers: June 2015

Like most kids, I always looked forward to this time of year with a keen anticipation. I loved going back to school in September, but June brought an incredible rush of joy and elation—for two months, I would be able to read whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted.

I spent the summer months in the hayloft, or in an upstairs bedroom at my grandmother’s house, curled up on the couch or perched in an apple tree, on the front step or in the backyard, but always, always, engrossed in a book. I would stage regular sallies into the library, raid the thrift shop and the second-hand store to feed my voracious literary appetite.

This month’s collection of recommendations from independent booksellers across the country is dedicated to the waning of the school year, and the chance for everyone—whether they have two months off or not—to spend a little time with a new favourite book. There are some great options for you here.

*****

The Bookseller: Carolyn Gillis, King’s Co-op Bookstore (Halifax, NS)

The Pick: Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper

I read this beautiful novel in one sitting. Etta is 82 and has never seen the ocean. She wakes up one morning and starts walking from Saskatchewan to Halifax. She leaves her husband, Otto, a note on the kitchen table. …

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On Our Radar

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet.

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Red Jacket, by Pamela Mordecai

Reviewed by Dana Hansen in Quill & Quire: 

"The first novel from Jamaican-born poet, short-story writer, and scholar Pamela Mordecai is a deliberately paced, trenchant story of one woman’s coming of age on the fictional Caribbean island of St. Chris, and her difficult journey away from the security and familiarity of her loving home to find a place for herself in the wider world...

Despite being thematically heavy, Red Jacket is an accomplished, intelligent novel. It is to be savoured for its multiple layers of meaning and—especially—its richness of language."

Read the whole review

And don't miss Pamela Mordecai's "Novels of the Caribbean" list from last month.

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Born to Walk, by Dan Rubinstein

Reviewed by Zsuzsi Gartner in The Globe and Mail

"From a group walk in Glasgow meant to boost mental health, and a pilgri …

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