With apologies to Clement Moore.
'Twas the week before Christmas and all 'cross the land
The booksellers were racing, stacks of books clutched in hand.
They doled out some Ravi, Rick Mercer, and Washington Black
And if they couldn’t find it, why, they checked in the back.
They raced up the aisles, they dodged the kids’ wails,
They thrived on the bustle, they rang up the sales.
They walked and they walked, and their blisters brought a tear
Until they heard a faint voice, one they often did hear:
“You’re an indie bookseller, the best of the best.
You work before dawn, you work without rest.
You’ve read all the books, you could pass any test,
Now, could please tell me, which one was the best?”
The booksellers paused, the booksellers stilled
It was an impossible question, one that pricked like a quill.
Who could say what was best, who could even compare,
Not just apple and orange, but mango and pear!
Put two books together, and how do they rank
When one is a novel, the other history frank?
“Impossible,” they said, “that’s not how books work
To say one is the best would make me feel like a jerk.”
“All right,” said the voice, loaded with care,
“Which book is your favourite, that you want to share?”
“Ah,” said the booksellers, “this I can do,
Just give me a coffee, and a moment to stew.”
And the booksellers weighed in, with their picks of the year
It was a list most compelling, and rich with good cheer.
The voice tried to thank them, but they waved it away,
Turning back …
It’s a special time of year.
Even the word sounds a little magical.
The kids are back in school, some of us are taking classes, our routines are starting to settle again, after a few months of lovely summer entropy...
This month, our dedicated independent booksellers (including a couple of new folks!) have selected a set of fantastic fall reads. These are all fiction, all novels, but it’s striking just how close these picks hew to the real world, and what is going on in it. Sometimes we read for escape, and sometimes—like now—we read to connect to the world, to have the light of fiction shone into the shadows of the real world.
The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)
The Pick: Women Talking, by Miriam Toews
Women Talking, the fantastic new novel from Miriam Toews, tells the story of a group of Mennonite women meeting in secret to decide the fate of their community. Set over 48 hours, and told from the view of the lone male in attendance (because the women are unable to read or write but need this event transcribed), Women Talking is a powerful read about the inner strength a group of women find to take control and change their futures for the better. It is a story that is often heartbreaking but sprinkled with wit to make it bearable …
Don't you love escaping into a book where brothers, sisters, moms, and dads—not to mention freaky aunties and uncs—are crazier than yours? Where they fight more, philander more, commit more crimes, get sadder, and have their hearts broken even more than than you do? The best families in literature are wonderful because they are somehow utterly familiar—but strange enough—and thus cathartic. Here are a few greats. Of course there are many more (Larry's Party anyone? Fall on Your Knees?) so we want to hear suggestions from you. Tweet us @49thShelf with the hashtag #CanLitFamilies.
The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews
“Toews’s writing is a unique collision of sadness and humour. . . . The Flying Troutmans is a dark story but it is also a never-ending series of hilarious adventures.”—Ottawa Citizen
Days after being dumped by her boyfriend Marc in Paris—"he was heading off to an ashram and said we could communicate telepathically" —Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the childre …
What is that, in the sky? Is it spring, unfolding all around us, after what was, for much of the country, a long and brutal winter?
Is that the scent of flowers on the breeze?
May is upon us, and in the wake of the amazing experience of Authors for Indies Day, we have a selection of recommendations from a handful of Canada’s foremost independent booksellers. Fiction and poetry, adult books and a kids book, this installment of Shelf Talkers is a veritable bouquet of spring blooms. And what better way to spend an afternoon than to visit your local independent bookseller, list in hand, then find a sunny spot to spend a few quality hours with a quality book.
Enjoy! And happy spring!
The Bookseller: Mary-Ann Yazedjian, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)
The Pick: The Mountain Story, by Lori Lansens
Without a doubt, this is the best book I have read so far in 2015. It is a story of survival, friendships, family relationships, adversity, resilience, and love. Our 18-year-old narrator Wolf Truly takes the tram up the mountainside near Palm Springs with no intention of coming back. When he meets three enigmatic women on the mountain and becomes lost with them, he has to re-evaluate his priorities if any of them are going to survive. I loved this novel and I …
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 Robert Hough, author of the upcoming The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan; Nina Berkhout, author of The Gallery of Lost Species; Harry Karlinski, author of The Evolution of Inanimate Objects; Ann Dowsett Johnson, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol; and Steve Stanton, author and former president of Canada's national association of science fiction and fantasy authors.
Robert Hough picks Black Bird, by Michel Basilières
"I’m not exactly sure how I discovered my favourite Canadian novel, though I’m pretty sure I have my editor at the time, a legend named Anne Collins, to thank. In my memory, we were at some industry party—likely a sweaty Harbourfront affair—when she pulled me over and, in a slightly conspiratorial voice, said, 'There’s a book coming out I think you’re going to like.'
The year was 2003. The title was Black Bird and it was the first title by a Montreal native named …