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I was always going to write essays

Theresa Kishkan's latest book is Blue Portugal and Other Essays.

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I think I was always going to write essays. On the shelves in my childhood home, the books I gravitated to were the field guides my father collected, among them the British Columbia Provincial Museum (later the Royal British Columbia Museum) handbooks, ostensibly identification keys to birds, plants, mushrooms, barnacles, etc. I remember taking them to my bedroom and settling in to read the really wonderful and informative entries on dabbling ducks, fleshy pore fungi, and goose barnacles.

Book Cover The Birds of British Columbia Waterfowl

Even as a child, I had my favourite writers of those named on the covers; their voices were distinctive, choosing narrative over terse scientific language. C.J. Guiguet was one; he provided such lively histories of each species he was describing. Later in my life, when I was hoping to be a poet, I remember finding the section on whistling swans in Guiguet’s The Birds of British Columbia: Waterfowl: “Much has been written in folk-lore and poetry of the song of the dying swan and the term 'swan son …

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The Philosopher Kings

It's been over a decade since renowned broadcaster and indie rock musician Grant Lawrence launched his writing career with the award-winning Adventures in Solitude, yet some things never change—including the winding Sunshine Coast Highway, close calls at the BC Ferries ticket office and carsick children. But this time, Lawrence returns as a husband and father, not as the vomiting and nerdy kid dragged along by his athletic and unflappable parents.

In his inimitable, high-voltage style Lawrence interweaves the rich and harrowing history of the Desolation Sound area with his own experiences of life on the coast.

In this excerpt, he shares the story of what happens when man of many faces Russell Letawsky, meets New Zealand-born Dr. Raymond Bradley adrift in Dank Cove, neither expects the spirited friendship that will spark from the meeting. Once a farm boy turned suit-wearing Toronto yuppie and lately a hermit on BC's remote coast, Russell finds an intellectual equal in the cosmopolitan professor. Notwithstanding their animated philosophical conversations, nothing can quite compare to the raw, untamed wilderness surrounding them.

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The locals called it Dank Cove because it received barely a ray of sunshine in summer and absolutely none in winter. On one particularl …

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West of 119°

(We've got up for grabs right now! Don't miss your chance to win.)

British Columbia has a wonky, diagonal north/south borderline that falls somewhere between longitudes of 115° in the south and 120° in the north. Near Beauty Creek (the fictional setting of Cambium Blue) it's 119°. Since this geography moulded the novel (and me) as much as my lifetime of reading, I have built my list around BC books/writers. When I'm working on a novel (and when I'm not) I read a lot of nonfiction but novels are my first love, so I am always all over the place with books.

I plucked these titles from my shelves because they have shaped either my writing life and practice, or my understanding of this diverse place I call home, or both.

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Swamp Angel, by Ethel Wilson

This BC classic was first published in 1954. This was the first novel by a BC woman, about a BC woman, that I’d ever heard of. And not just any woman but a woman leaving her husband to live in the interior of BC. A woman leaving her husband to become. I snatch up old copies at yard sales and pass them on.

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Launchpad: A Match Made for Murder, by Iona Whishaw

Launchpad

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today's we're launching A Match Made in Murder, by Iona Whishaw, the latest instalment in the Lane Winslow Mystery series, which Toronto's Sleuth of Baker Street Bookstore (they know mysteries!) calls "Full of history, mystery, and a glorious BC setting . . . a wonderful series."

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Book Cover A Match Made for Murder

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Hoping for a peaceful honeymoon in Tucson, Lane and Inspector Darling get no time for sun and cocktails, and instead find themselves embroiled in an unrestful schedule o …

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Launchpad: The Wild Heavens, by Sarah Louise Butler

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The Wild Heavens, by Sarah Louise Butler, which Richard Van Camp says "is wonderfully crafted—each page is a catch of the breath, each chapter a crush of unfolding magic. This novel is why we read. I wanted to begin again as soon as I finished the last line.”

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

On a winter morning in the BC Interior, a woman steps out of her cabin to find an impossible set of tracks laid out in the snow. Her subsequent journey leads her de …

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Freshly Picked: Amazing Food Books

Freshly Picked: A Locavore’s Love Affair with BC’s Bounty, by Jane Reid, is an amusing romp through the fruits and vegetables grown in the varied soils and landscapes of British Columbia. The author covers the fascinating history and oddball growing habits of the plants we eat, and includes personal stories of love and affection plus recipes and tips to enjoy the harvest. “Packed with informative, humorous stories that celebrate the fruits and vegetables grown in local fields and orchards, Freshly Picked is an ode to the joys of eating in season,” according to Edible Vancouver & Wine Country Magazine.

Author Jane Reid continues to read and write about eating and growing local food. She is constantly inspired by others. Her favourite books (for now) are described below. 

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The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

It was the flavour of local harvests that first made me a locavore, but now I know there are multiple reasons to seek out food grown nearby —and this book was one of the first that told me so. The …

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BC Artists: On or Under the Radar

On the Curve: The Life and Art of Sybil Andrews, by Janet Nicol, joins a growing list of biographies and memoirs of BC artists who have dedicated their life to creativity, experiencing an array of struggles and successes along the way. 

In this list, Nicol recommends eight other reads, all beautifully illustrated with the artists’ work.

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Apples, etc.: An Artist’s Memoir, by Gathie Falk with Robin Laurence

Gathie Falk (1928—) has transformed many ordinary scenes into remarkable art, from her stack of luminous ceramic apples to panels representing variations on men's shirt fronts with ties. Falk was still at work from her east Vancouver studio, aged 90, when Apples, etc.was published. Her memoir is told in the first person, assisted by seasoned art critic Robin Laurence. Seamlessly unfolding in short chapters, tales of Falk’s award-winning performance art, ceramics, sculpture and paintings are chronicled alongside insightful remembrances of her life journey.

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The Chat with Daniel Griffin

Daniel Griffin

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It’s been twenty-five years this summer since the famous War in the Woods, the epic battle on Vancouver Island between environmentalists and loggers that resulted in one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history. In all, over 900 protestors were arrested for attempting to block forestry company Macmillan Bloedal from clear-cutting Clayoquot Sound.

Daniel Griffin’s debut novel, Two Roads Home, reimagines this period of Canadian history, following a small group of environmentalists who aim to take their protest tactics to the next level. Author Steven Price (By Gaslight) says Two Roads Home "is a blistering examination of modern-day radicalism, a society’s collective guilt, and the possibility of redemption. As propulsive as a thriller, with characters so real they draw blood, this is a powerful novel that never lets up.” 

Daniel Griffin grew up in Kingston with hippie parents. He went to primary school then high school then university all within sight of each other. When he realized that, he knew he had to get out. He taught …

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First We Brunch: The Summit Restaurant Pumpkin Pancakes

Photo Credit: Rebecca Wellman

While First We Brunch is part guidebook to the best places to eat in Victoria, but it's also all cookbook, with more than sixty recipes from the Brunch Capital of Canada. As befits this time of year, we're thrilled to feature the book's recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes from The Summit Restaurant. Bon appetit! 

 

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The Summit Restaurant Pumpkin Pancakes

Serves 4

 

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup finely chopped roasted chestnuts (or any other roasted nut)

1 tsp finely chopped orange zest

2 cups buttermilk

1/3 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

11/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

11/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1/4 tsp pumpkin spice blend (or combine equal amounts of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves)

Vegetable oil, for frying

Maple syrup, for serving

Orange marmalade, for serving

Icing sugar, for serving

 

Book Cover First We Brunch

This recipe puts me in mind of cool, sunny autumn mornings, but using canne …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Brett Josef Grubisic

Grubisic (49th Shelf)(1)

TREVOR CORKUM cropped

This week on The Chat, we’re in conversation with Brett Josef Grubisic. His novel From Up River and For One Night Only follows the lives of four dreamy, music-loving teenagers living in the fictional community of River Bend City in BC’s Fraser Valley in the early 1980s.

Writing in Quill & Quire, Becky Robertson says “rich in language and metaphor, From Up River and for One Night Only tells a very specific coming-of-age story, highlighting how the characters’ small-town adolescence is representative of human life and dreams.”

Brett Josef Grubisic is a lecturer of English literature residing in Vancouver. He is the author of the novels The Age of Cities and This Location of Unknown Possibilities. Previous publications include Understanding Beryl Bainbridge, Contra/diction, Carnal Nation (co-edited with Carellin Brooks), American Hunks (co-authored with David L. Chapman), National Plots (co-edited with Andrea Cabajsky), and Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase (co-edited with Giséle M. Baxter and Tara Lee).
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THE CHAT WITH BRETT JOSEF GRUBISIC

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