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Celebrating Short Books

During February—the shortest month—we'll be paying respects to the shortest books, short stories, novellas, and novels that do not sprawl. Because who doesn't love a slim volume, a book that reads up quick, all the literary value in half the time? With a short book too, an author is going to have more luck getting their reader to take up a challenge, partake in the experimental, and dare to read difficult. Because with a short book that is difficult, you can always read it twice or more just to puzzle it out.

And of course, as always, there are so many books and so little time (and not just in February). So to that end, we've compiled a list of award-winning Canadian fiction that clocks in at 225 pages or less—an excellent chance to meet your reading goals , or to score a Book Club pick that everyone stands a chance of actually getting through. 

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Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis (160 pages)

About the book: – I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.

– I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals—any animal you like—would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and la …

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Winning Books: Spring 2017 (Part Two)

So many winning Canadian books are celebrated every season that all of them don't fit into a single blog post. So on the occasion of summer, when the reading days still stretch oh-so-long, here are more of them, the Canadian books that have been winning judge and jurors' hearts. (See "Winning Books Part One," from May.) 

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Brown, by Kamal Al-Solaylee

Winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

About the book: With the urgency and passion of Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me), the seductive storytelling of J.D. Vance (Hillbilly Elegy) and the historical rigour of Carol Anderson (White Rage), Kamal Al-Solaylee explores the in-between space that brown people occupy in today’s world: on the cusp of whiteness and the edge of blackness. Brown proposes a cohesive racial identity and politics for the millions of people from the Global South and provides a timely context for the frictions and anxieties around immigration and multiculturalism that have led to the rise of populist movements in Europe and the election of Donald Trump. 

At once personal and global, Brown is packed with storytelling and on-the-street reporting conducted over two years in ten countries on four continents that reveals a multitude of lives and stories from destinations a …

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Winning Books: Spring 2017

Every year, as spring arrives across the country, Canadian writers and readers celebrate the best of CanLit with prizes and awards from different regions and genres, but there's nothing specialized about any of it. These books are for everyone, and we at 49th Shelf relish every second these great books get to spend in the spotlight. So much so that we want to let it shine a little longer with a look at the titles that have been big winners lately. 

(Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post in the weeks to come, once the winners of the Alberta Literary Awards have been announced, and the Trillium Book Awards, and more. The job of celebrating Canadian books is never done—which is just the way we like it.) 

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If I Were in a Cage I'd Reach for You, by Adele Barclay

Winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (BC Book Prizes)

About the book: If I Were in a Cage I'd Reach Out for You is a collection that travels through both time and place, liminally occupying the chasm between Canadiana and Americana mythologies. These poems dwell in surreal pockets of the everyday warped landscapes of modern cities and flood into the murky basin of the intimate.

Amidst the comings and goings, there's a sincere desire to connect to others, an essential need to reach out, to redraft the narra …

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Quick Hits: Historical Fiction for Tweens and Teens

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

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The Hangman in the Mirror, by Kate Cayley

Genre: Young Adult (age 12+), Historical Fiction

Publisher: Annick Press

What It's About

Françoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France (modern-day Montreal), Françoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.

Seizing her newfound opportunity, Françoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things—and of never having to beg for food. But Françoise’s relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau’s house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn’t an easy woman to work for. When Françoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress’s beautiful gloves, she faces a …

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Go Deeper With the Big Books of 2013

Another day, another lit awards list. Or at least that's how it seems at this time of year. Here at 49th Shelf, we're pretty happy with these lists, short and long, which put the spotlight on books and writers we've been looking out for lately. The following lists and posts will take you deeper inside some of the biggest books of the year. 

Journey With No Maps

Sandra Djwa has been nominated for the Governor-General's Award for Non-Fiction for her biography of P.K. Page, A Journey With No Maps. Check out her interview from February about the life of Page and her own work as biographer

 

Book Cover The Hungry Ghosts

Shyam Selvadurai's The Hungry Ghosts is nominated for the Governor-General's Award for Fiction, and also made an appearance on our Canadian Immigrant Writers list this summer. 

 

We talked to Alan Smutylo about travel painting and his book The Memory of Water last spring, before …

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Helen Kubiw: Exceptional Kids' Novels in Verse

Is it poetry, or prose in verse, or a free verse novel, or a novel in verse?  All epithets have been used for the novel-length stories told in verse form.  Writing a book is challenge enough, but to write it in verse, rhyming or not, seems almost inexecutable.  Luckily, several authors have found their voices in this writing style and they are exceptionally skilled at it.  Judging by the awards bestowed upon the ten books in this list and the young readers of both genders who consume these stories voraciously, it is a style that has a solid foothold in kidsCanLit.
 

Book Cover The Crazy Man

The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter:

After twelve-year-old Em loses her right foot in a farming accident, her father blames himself and ultimately leaves.  Her mother enlists the help of Angus, a quiet, hard-working man from the local mental hospital, to help with the farm. While dealing with her own disability, and desperately trying to find her father, Em witnesses how prejudice and abuse, particularly that levelled against Angus, has its roots in fear.

Book Cover In the Garage

In The Garage by Alma Fullerton:

Living w …

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2011 Culinary Book Award Winners, plus great links and recipes

The winners of the 2011 Canadian Culinary Book Awards were announced on November 7th at Toronto's Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Book Cover Locavore

Sarah Elton's Locavore: From Farmers' Fields to Rooftop Gardens, How Canadians Are Changing the Way We Eat took the Gold for Special Interest, English Language. Earlier this year, Locavore appeared on Margaret Webb's Canadian Bookshelf Food Books Reading List, where Webb called it, "Lively, compelling and warm-hearted journalism with a generous helping of rigorous research."

Book Cover Incredible Edibles

Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City by Sonia Day won the Silver Award. Check out Sonia Day's recent "The Real Dirt" column about growing (and taming) sorrel, and how to make it into soup.

Book Cover Flavours of Prince Edward Island

Jeff McCourt, Allan Williams and Austin Clement won Gold in Canadian Culinary Culture, English Language for Flavours of Prince Edward Isla …

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