If you're ever looking for something extra to feel a bit sad about, I recommend searching back through our archives to find the Spring Literary Festival Guide I posted in February with every expectation that 2020 was going to proceed as planned.
And were there ever plans! For these festivals, and for book launches, and book clubs, and bookstore events, and exciting new releases, and all the usual things that make up a literary year. But by now, we all know what happened next...
We know too, however, the way that so many people rose to the occasion, from booksellers working overtime and learning a whole new trade (online sales! delivery!) to get books into the hands of readers, to festivals and events moving to virtual, and authors designing innovative ways to launch their books, and publishers putting out all the stops to keep those 2020 books coming.
And are we ever glad they did, because in a year of such turmoil, books were one thing we could count on.
Personally, it was the opportunity to continue to promote and celebrate books and authors (and their readers!) here at 49th Shelf that gave me such a sustaining sense of purpose back in the spring—and so I have you all to thank for that. I'd also like to thank Kiley Turner and Craig Riggs, Kate Edwards and the ACP …
Last week, I finally finished reading a book.
And that this is even remarkable speaks volumes about the strange times we're all navigating right now. Because usually I finish books in the way that most people finish wearing pants at the end of the day, or in the way that one might finish eating their lunch. Usually it's easy, automatic, even reflexive. I read therefore I am, but last week I didn't, and I wasn't, scrolling social media feeds and news blogs instead: refresh, refresh. When will there be good news?
Last week, it seemed like words were failing on all fronts, in print, online, and especially in my head. As I was reading every bit of journalism I could get my hands on in search of answers, in search of certainty, for all the chaos to coalesce into something that made sense, but there was nothing, only noise, and fear, and questions. What is going to happen next?
And I couldn't read. Which didn't make sense when I had all the time in the world, and all the books at my fingertips, a to-be-read pile that was taller than my child, and access to e-books for days. I'd even had two new releases delivered from my local indie bookshop straight to my front door, which should have been the best thing that had ever happened to me, but the books sat unopened on a chair …
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 Sarah Selecky, author of Radiant Shimmering Light; Jennifer Robson, author of the forthcoming The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding; Alix Hawley, author of My Name Is a Knife; Deborah Willis, author of The Dark and Other Love Stories; and Kerry Clare, author of Mitzi Bytes. IMPORTANT NOTE: This week's recommendations are part of a larger series launched in 2017 where we asked 150 Canadian authors to recommend 150 Canadian books. It's pretty awesome, so do check it out!
Sarah Selecky recommends Sarah Henstra's Mad Miss Mimic
Readers of adult literary fiction might not have heard about this lovely book, because it’s officially published as teen and YA fiction. I recommend it to older readers, too! I loved getting lost in this subtle thriller about London in the 1870s, when the city was experiencing violent terror attacks and opium fever. This historical page-turner has everything: compelling characters, a love story, …
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: what’s the best new book you’ve read? All of these recommendations are hot off the presses (one of them, in fact, is still on the presses, and won’t be on the shelf until next month!). These are the cream of this year’s crop, and they all come with the Shelf Talkers’ seal of approval.
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 authors Tricia Dower (Becoming Lin); Nadia Bozak (Thirteen Shells); Teva Harrison (In-Between Days); and author, editor, and blogger Kerry Clare (The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood).
Tricia Dower recommends For Your Own Good, by Leah Horlick
I bought this poetic memoir because of the cover, featuring a gorgeous, creepy illustration by Thomas Shahan. It turns out to foreshadow the dark material within. I’m not an expert on poetry. I can’t tell you how a poem does what it does. I can only tell you the effect it has on me. Horlick’s collection of forty-nine poems grabbed me by the gut. Five poems in, I was pressing my lips together, afraid for the narrator, tense with foreboding. For Your Own Good unveils an account of abuse both devastating and redemptive. I almost hate to tell you that because part of the power for me in this collection was discovering the truth of it. Within the queer community, the word is this is an impor …
Kerry Clare, our tireless, brilliant, and somehow both sweet and trenchant editor is taking a leave from 49th Shelf next week … FOR THE SUMMER. Just for the summer, thanks to god. She’s having a baby. Baby #2, a sister for Harriet. We are very excited for her, and thought the perfect gesture with which to send her away would be to republish a little something she wrote a few years back about her initial adjustment to motherhood.
The piece is called “Love is a Let-Down,” published in the Fall 2010 issue of The New Quarterly, and Kerry has declined to let us post it here. “49th Shelf is not about me or my writing!” she said. To which we said, “Fine. Be like that, all upstanding and decent and non-whorish.”
But. I can write a little about my recollection of reading “Love is a Let-Down.” Ha!
When I first came across “Love is a Let-Down,” I was having one of those days as a mother (at the time, of just one thrilling but challenging toddler) when I could not do one thing right. I was feeling fuzzy-minded about work and feeble according to every checklist I had yet consulted about what constitutes good parenting. Thank goodness time, experience, and candid conversation with other parents has given me more confidence (and humour), but then … I felt …