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The Recommend: Squatters, Classics, Stories, and Violence

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of writers Becky Blake (Proof I Was Here), Kathy Page (Dear Evelyn), Sally Cooper (With My Back to the World), Missy Marston (Bad Ideas), and Rabindranath Maharaj (Fatboy Fall Down).


Becky Blake recommends Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown

While researching my novel about squatters and street-involved folks, I read Genet and Orwell’s accounts of living on the street. Then I stumbled on Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown. This nonfiction book is set in Tent City, a squatted community that existed on Toronto’s Lakeshore Boulevard from the late 90s to 2002. I remember the area well, having ridden my bike past it many times, always slowing a little, as though the faces I saw through the fence somehow added weight to my back wheel.

Bishop-Stall lived in Tent City for the last year of its existence and his book chronicles his heartbroken, hard- …

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The Chat with Kathy Page

Kathy Page high res credit Billie Woods

Last November, Kathy Page won the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award for her compelling and thoroughly entertaining novel Dear Evelyn.

The tender story of a decades-long romance between Harry and Evelyn, the novel explores how time transforms our most intimate relationships. The Writers’ Trust jury writes, “By integrating themes that are universally understood by readers and skilfully crafting endearing characters that surprise and delight, Page has created a poignant literary work of art.”

Kathy Page is the author of ten previous books, two of which, Paradise & Elsewhere (2014) and The Two of Us (2016), were nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Other works include Alphabet, a Governor General’s Award finalist in 2005, The Story of My Face, longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2002, and Frankie Styne and the Silver Man. Born in the UK, she moved to Salt Spring Island with her family in 2001, and now divides her time between writing and teaching at Vancouver Island University.



Trevor Corkum: Dear Evelyn is a gorgeous, complicated portrayal of the 70-year relationship between Harry, a World War Two veteran, and his wife, Evelyn. Can you speak more about how these characters came to life for you?

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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, but it happens every year at around this time. I find myself thinking about the past, about my place in the world, about the people around me, the stories they’re carrying. And it’s not just me: pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with reports much the same mindset as the evenings begin to encroach on the day.

It’s not a bad thing at all. A period of reflection, of examination, of contemplation, is necessary, and in many ways a balm.

This month, the independent booksellers of the Shelf Talkers panel have some thoughtful choices for you, companions for your own hours of contemplation.


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

The Pick: The Wars, by Timothy Findley

I try to find time every fall to give Timothy Findley’s The Wars a reread. For me it is an im …

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Quick Hits: From Paradise to Pop Culture

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.



Trauma Farm, by Brian Brett

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Greystone Books

What It's About

An irreverent and illuminating journey through a day in the life of writer and poet Brian Brett, as he tends a small island farm on Salt Spring Island, affectionately named Trauma Farm, with numerous side trips into the natural history of farming.

Brian Brett moves from the tending of livestock, poultry, orchards, gardens, machinery, and fields to the social intricacies of rural communities and, finally, to an encounter with a magnificent deer in the silver moonlight of a magical farm field. Brett understands both tall tales and rigorous science as he explores the small mixed farm—meditating on the perfection of the egg and the nature of soil while also offering a scathing critique of agribusiness and the horror of modern slaughterhouses. Whether discussing the uses and misuses of gates, examining the energy of seeds, or bantering with his family, farm hands, …

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