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Shelf Talkers: Under the Tree 2016!

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 …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Teva Harrison

Harrison_Teva_portrait © David P.Leonard

TREVOR CORKUM cropped

Teva Harrison’s powerful graphic memoir, In-Between Days, traces the painful and personal journey of her diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 37. Through comic illustration and short personal essays, Teva documents what it’s like to live with the disease, inviting us to share quiet moments of joy, helplessness, sadness, and love. At times heartbreaking, always revealing, and often fiercely uplifting, In-Between Days is a book that reminds us what a precious gift it is to be alive and awake in the world.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Peter Kavanagh references Harrison’s preface to the book: “When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I have since learned that it is the unspoken that is most frightening. Shining a light on my experience takes some of the power away from the bogeyman that is my cancer. I am taking my power back.” For Kavanagh, “it is that assertion of control, that insistence of taking charge, that provides this memoir with its power.”

Teva Harrison is a writer and graphic artist. In- …

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Shelf Talkers: May 2016

Is it spring where you are, or summer ... or more of a mishmash of weather?

With the sheer size of this country, and the vicissitudes of climate change, it’s tough to get a handle on the change of seasons. In Victoria, for example, it’s been positively balmy for weeks now, and while Alberta is struggling with a tragically early summer, eastern Canadians are finally, tentatively, shoving winter coats into the darkest corners of closets in hopes they remain there.

We live in a country not of two solitudes, but of climatic blur. Book-wise, though, we are a united country, and on that is clearly in the spring. From coast to coast, the intrepid indie booksellers of the Shelf Talkers project are enthralled with what’s sprouting on the shelves, the first new growth of a fine literary year.  It’s time for renewal, and our booksellers, as always, have just the thing.

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The Bookseller: Carolyn Gillis, of King’s Co-op Bookstore (Halifax, NS)
The Pick: Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Like all of Kay's previous works, the scope is vast and the characters are incredibly well drawn. Kay always manages to make my heart ache and feel uplifted, often at the same time, for his characters. Their lives are entwined with destiny and none of them are safe from it …

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The Recommend: May 2016

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).

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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 …

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