Thousands of Canadian-authored kids and YA books


Top Shelf: Recent Favourites

There is so much good stuff on 49th Shelf that we sometimes compile our favourites to keep them close at hand via this series, Top Shelf. If there's not a book for you here—nay, ten!—well, we guess there isn't but it would be very, very strange. Enjoy!


Sometimes cities pulse with energy and optimism. And sometimes they crush. Urban Grit is about the crush, with characters struggling to survive and even thrive in the face of it.

Check out Suzanne Allyssa Andrew's blog post along these lines, as well: Messes and Meltdowns in the City.


Whether or not you believe that "short is the new long" when it comes to fiction, you'd be hard-pressed to turn down a book or two on this list of hot short story collections that came out in Spring 2015. Another hugely popular list among members in this same area is Canadian Short Stories, The New Generation, a crowdsourced list of writers who may be heirs-apparent to Munro and Gallant, and who are most definitely compelling Canadian voices in the twenty-first century.


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Top Shelf: Gifts for Everyone on Your List

It is high time, given the holiday season almost upon us (aargh!), that we publish a new installment of Top Shelf, the series compiling great lists and posts on 49th Shelf. This one's all about ideas for the particular types of readers on your gift list.

Of course this can't be comprehensive, because it would take days to highlight the best lists on 49th Shelf in 2014. But here's our offer: if you're looking for another kind of book for a different kind of reader, tweet us @49thShelf and we'll help you find it!


For the chef, the 2014 Taste Canada shortlist, including books by Lynn Crawford, Nick Saul, Andrea Curtis, and Lucy Waverman.


For the science buff, nominees for the Lane Anderson Award (celebrating the best science writing in Canada today, both for adults and kids).


For the urban planner and architecture student, a list of gor …

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Top Shelf: Ep. 8: Best of the Best

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There is so much good stuff in past episodes of Top Shelf, the series where we compile great lists and posts on 49th Shelf, that this episode provides a guide. If there's not a book for you here—nay, ten!—well, we guess there isn't but it would be very, very strange. Enjoy!


Episode 1: Canadian Books You Need to Read—Okay, that's a bit presumptuous and prescriptive but ... you do. Just some (of several dozen) of the authors you'll find by following this link: Isabelle Huggan, Bronwen Wallace, Alistair MacLeod, Bill Gaston, Joan Thomas, Cassie Stocks, Miriam Toews, Trevor Cole and yes, Ondaatje, Atwood, Lawrence, and Findley.

Episode 2: Kids' Books for Any Kid You Can Think Of—We set ourselves a challenge: could we assemble a bunch of lists and blog posts that would yield a book for just about any kind of kid? The answer was a resounding YES!

the best place on earth

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Top Shelf Ep. 6: Books and Characters That Explain Us to Ourselves

Fiction is important in the real world for approximately 32,234 reasons, but one of the best is that it helps readers figure out who we are. A key way this happens is through the author's creation of unforgettable characters with idiosyncrasies, loves, challenges, faults, and triumphs. As readers we attach ourselves to these characters, often admiring them, sometimes hurting with them, sometimes laughing with them, sometimes disliking them. Along the way, we ask ourselves, "In what way am I like him/her?" or "What would I do in this situation?" 

When the book ends, characters often stay with us, sometimes for our whole lives, and we think of them as we progress along our own paths. We use them as touchstones for the people we have become and the people we want to be.

That's what this edition of Top Shelf—the series where we compile great lists and posts on 49th Shelf—is about. It's a collection of guest-contributed lists whose books explore identity via compelling characters. The stories are so good we may forget the questions at their heart, but the questions persist long after the last page. What is male? What is female? What is queer? What is changing? And, what does it mean for me?


Tired Masculinity, a list by Garth Martens: This list was inspired by Ma …

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Top Shelf: Ep. 4: Book Therapy

If you're feeling grim, you might need a book that makes you laugh out loud. If you're sick, you might have a little more time for a big read. If you've said something progressive in a bar full of drunk goons, you might want to call on some literary heavyweights (if only for comfort as you look for the best escape route). We have book balms for all your various circumstances, thanks to guest authors' lists over time.


Predicament: In Need of a Laugh

Fix: Kathleen Winter's Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud in Public. Of one book on her list, Winter writes, "When I finally started reading this story of Nomi Nickel's pilgrimage through small-town Mennonite hell, I knew I was in the hands of a writer who would carry me on mercurial wings through heartbreak and irony, with plenty of antisocial snorting."



Predicament: Bedridden

Fix: Marina Endicott's Books to Read When Sick. Endicott says of one of the short story collections on the list: "[The stories] deliver delight, fright, and wild, gangling weirdness to match your fevered post-modern malaise. If ta …

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Top Shelf, Ep. 3: Gateways Into Books You'll Love

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How do you decide which book you're going to read? However it happens—via a friend's ecstatic raves, a blurb on the front cover from another author you admire, a big award win, a glowing review, or otherwise—that book's a lucky book. Here are some blog posts from the past year that might give you some new ideas to help you choose your next read. Together, they're a mix of well-respected readers' and writers' recommendations, excerpts, trailers, and crowd-sourced favourites.


Great Books by Immigrant Writers: We popped this list up on Canada Day to recognize the incredible contribution Canadian writers born elsewhere are making to CanLit. These authors are stretching our literature further and farther—helping to freshen its image and keep it relevant, informed, and eclectic.

Couldn't Put It Down: For most of us, there is nothing more delicious than falling into a book from which we can't tear ourselves away. It's sweet surrender, and perhaps the purest testimony to the power of great books. Eight publishing insiders gave us the titles of the b …

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Top Shelf Ep. 2: Kids' Books for Any Kid You Can Think Of

For this edition of Top Shelf—our bimonthly spotlight on great 49th Shelf lists and posts—we set ourselves a challenge: could we assemble a bunch of lists and blog posts that would yield a book for just about any kind of kid? The answer was a resounding YES! So YES was it that we lost our minds a bit and far, far exceeded the 3–5-item format we promised to constrain ourselves to in the inaugural Top Shelf. Oh, well.

By consulting the lists provided below, you will find at least one book on:

*War and why we fight (e.g., Kids of Kabul, Why Do We Fight?)

*Science fiction/fantasy (e.g., Island of Doom, Seraphina)

*Changing the world for the better (e.g., Pay It Forward Kids, Our Rights)

*Bullying, discrimination (the entire Bullies Beware list)

*Anxiety disorders (e.g., Freaking Out)

*Living with a disability (e.g., Easy for You to Say)

*Homophobia (e.g., Homophobia)


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Top Shelf Ep. 1: Canadian Books You Need to Read

One of the most rewarding things we do at 49th Shelf is make themed lists—as well as commission them from authors and highlight the best of those compiled by members.

Too often, though, we find that incredible lists—and blog posts—get buried in the web’s relentless tendency to favour the new over the old. So starting today, we are launching a new bimonthly series (erm, that’s twice a month in this case) called Top Shelf that will shine a spotlight on great 49th Shelf lists and posts … newer and older. Each Top Shelf post will include three to five awesome lists and/or blog posts.


Backlist, Baby: This is the perfect pick to roll out Top Shelf because it immediately reveals the danger of getting fixated on new releases. It’s a list of Canadian books published prior to 2013 that the 49th Shelf community created, and it includes such stunners as Bronwen Wallace’s People You’d Trust Your Life To, Isabel Huggan’s Belonging, and Alistair MacLeod’s The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (which to our recollection, has never once been left off a serious “best of” list).


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