It’s as seasonally inevitable as the need for warm gloves and the appearance of twinkling lights: every year, as December hits, readers are inundated with a flood of lists, each proclaiming The Best Books of the Year. It seems like everyone gets in on the game: journalists, writers, celebrities, newspapers, magazines... Everyone, it seems, except those folks who know the books best, the booksellers.
Sure, you might occasionally find a Best Of list featuring a token bookseller, but they are largely overlooked. Which, as I have mentioned before, is ridiculous. Who better to be able to winnow the thousands of books published each year down to a list (or a single pick) than those people who spend their lives literally surrounded by books?
Of course, a lot of booksellers do provide lists, for their customers. They may not appear in the newspaper or in a magazine, but across the country there are table displays and printed sheets, featured shelves and, you guessed it, shelf talkers.
Which is terrific. A good independent bookseller is worth their weight in gold, an invaluable resource when it comes to your next great read, or in finding the perfect gift.
But geography has a sad role to play. It would be nearly impossible to visit every bookseller in this country (though if I had a bucket list, that would surely be on it).
Thankfully, you have the booksellers of the Shelf Talker community to turn to, a country’s worth of erudite, well-read bibliophiles who have, this month, provided t …
Normally in this space, I try to write something a little clever by way of an introduction to the current round of recommendations from our panel of independent booksellers. (I say “try”—cleverness isn’t something that one can rely on, as my fourth-grade teacher often told me, usually before sending me out into the hallway to think about what I had done.) This month, though, I’m going to go with something a little different: sincerity. Sincerity and gratitude.
I spent more than two decades—the greater part of my adult life—as a bookseller. I know their concerns, the pressures upon them, the constant flurry and flux they face as the industry shifts and heaves around them.
And as a writer, I want to say, simply, thank you.
What independent booksellers do isn’t easy. They face frequently overwhelming odds and strains, long days, and recurring doubts. It isn’t an easy life. And yet, every day, they find time to read. The booksellers I know read incessantly; the backrooms and sales floors of every independent bookstore I’ve ever been to are a hum of “Have you read this?” and “What did you think of that?” No matter the financial pressures and the ongoing stresses, booksellers find time to immerse themselves in books new and old, to read deeply and passionately.
They are also, it has to be said, some of the most critical readers you are ever liable to meet: if they feel strongly enough about a book to recommend it, you know it’s a good one. They won’t dis …
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 …
Oh, my, what a month! April marks the first anniversary of this column, which offers monthly recommendations from independent booksellers across the country—the books you need to read, from people who know reading best.
(Waiting a moment, looking around ... Where’s the balloon drop?)
To celebrate, we have something even better than a balloon drop. We have an entire national movement! This month we have an extra-special, jumbo-sized edition of Shelf Talkers, wherein some of Canada’s finest authors weigh in with their recommendations. We’re not only celebrating the anniversary of this column, we’re pitching in and helping out with the Authors for Indies program.
On May 2, under the auspices of the Authors for Indies program, writers from across the country will be serving as volunteer booksellers at their local independent bookstore, helping out customers with their picks, throwing their support behind Canada’s independent booksellers.
In this month’s column, we’ve asked some of those volunteer, one-day booksellers for their picks, a sneak preview of what you can expect next month.
May 2: Mark that date on your calendar, and make a point of visiting your favourite authors at your favourite indie.
Until then, enjoy these picks, and thank you for reading this year. We’re just getting started.
It’s a brand new year which means that booksellers across this fine nation are picking themselves up and dusting themselves off after the blur and chaos of December. They’re both looking back and looking ahead, giving a sense and perspective to the year and the books just past, and gazing hopefully, always hopefully, at the year and books just ahead.
Here are five of our finest booksellers, ready again to help you fill your shelves with the best books this country—and its bookstores—have to offer.
The Bookseller: Mary-Ann Yazedjian, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)
The Pick: Anatomy of a Girl Gang, by Ashley Little
"This is a dark and gritty story of a girl gang in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. It is told from five points of view, and Little has managed to give each character a unique voice. This is the perfect book for girls aged 15 and older who are tired of reading teen fluff books and want to read something real and important."
The Bookseller: Heather Kuipers, Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore (Toronto, Ontario)
The Pick …
The beginning of November always feels like a moment of transition, that sudden shift of time making the autumn nights come earlier, that charge to the air that brings your scarf up over your mouth, the seemingly overnight switch between pumpkin spice and eggnog ...
It’s many booksellers' favourite time of year, a thrilling month of new books read, prizes awarded, and an ever-increasing number of readers coming in to the store. Yes, the countdown to the festive season is upon us, but booksellers, no matter how busy, always have time to read. Here are a few of their recommendations for November.
"I just read The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by the author of Lullabies For Little Criminals and I will be immediately re-reading it! Yes, it was that good! Heather astonishes with her grasp of language and her ability to allow her shady characters to soar above adversity and yes, also crash as reality hits them.
I gobbled this one down with greedy delight. Nicolas and Nouschka Tremblay are trying to escape the chaos of their lives with Etienne their father, a notorious Quebecois folksinger, and they land themselves in messes of their …
It’s not just that booksellers sell books (well, hopefully...), it’s that they read. They read not only with a voraciousness and attention unrivalled in the trade, but with a passion and a hope that remains, for the best of them, undiminished, despite years, sometimes decades, of season after season of new books, and new favourites.
The best of those books are the ones they share with their fellow readers in-store, and here, on Shelf Talkers. Here are some bookseller favourites for June.
The Bookseller: David Worsley, Words Worth Books, Waterloo, Ontario
The Pick: Infidelity, by Stacey May Fowles
"Infidelity is emblematic of a new and entirely welcome breed of Canadian fiction. It's a deceptively simple story of an affair between a working-class woman and a tweedy professor in present-day Toronto. Ronnie and Charlie are very different people, but both are in rather prosaic relationships. A meeting at a faculty party results in a goodly number of trysts and the pressure of balancing their secrets with the increasing weight of both of their daily …
When you’re considering adjectives to describe Canada’s independent booksellers, “eclectic” has to be near the top of the list. And this month’s installment of Shelf Talkers reflects that, with cookbooks, kids books, fiction and fantasy and more from booksellers from across the country.
The Bookseller: Chadwick Ginther from University of Manitoba Bookstore, Winnipeg, Manitoba
The Pick: This Strange Way of Dying, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
"There is plenty to enjoy in This Strange Way of Dying, not just for the gourmet of death, but for anyone who loves a good story, even for those ready to dismiss horror fiction as 'butcher’s work.' If you hunger as Moreno-Garcia’s 'Death Collector' does 'for the delicious, the delicate, the more refined crimes rather than clumsy trails of corpses,' then you will devour them in each wonderful story."