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Books That Helped Me Heal

It takes me a long time to write a book. Whether it’s poems or a novel, I feel like I’m at it over a lifetime. Death Becomes Us contains poems written mostly after my late husband died, and during that time I read a lot of books that helped me to heal. Survival wells inside us all, and whether a book is exploring how to survive life or death, it is comforting to read other writers’ experiences with that survival.

Here are a few books that I read that helped provide me with context, with compassion, as I grappled with my own loss.

*****

St. Boniface Elegies, by Catherine Hunter

I find something strangely intimate in reading poems that are set in my hometown. This lovely volume of poetry, separated into four sections, explores death and loss with a gentle humour, all the while describing places I know well but feel I have never seen properly. Hunter has a clear vision, and is a master at depicting the scene. Her writing puts me in mind of the director of a movie, walking around with a whirring camera, capturing images with precision, each given its o …

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Launchpad: The End of Me, by John Gould

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 End of Me, by John Gould, of which Bill Gaston writes, "John Gould's skill with the short form is miraculous in the way of bonsai, the grand made to bloom within the small. And who knew death could be so wise, invigorating, playful—so richly alive?"

*****

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

A collection of 56 sudden stories—funny, sad, absurd—about mortality.

Describe your ideal reader.

Likes to wonder more than assert, and to inhabit different points of vie …

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Novelist Ali Bryan on Gender-Neutral Domestic Humour

Ali Bryan, author of Roost (Freehand Books).

Working in the space "hilarity and humiliation" (Todd Babiak), Roost (Freehand Books), by Ali Bryan is about family tragedy and the moments for which we hadn't planned. Roost plays with the absurd nature of forced transition, resulting in a truly laugh-out-loud debut novel, something The Toronto Star picked up on calling Bryan an "amusing writer who has mastered the voice of the self-deprecating female, amusing without being annoying."

We contacted Bryan for comment, and to ask the question, is domestic humour a many-gendered thing?

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Julie Wilson: Let's start with The Toronto Star quote. I read it and had a kind of knee-jerk reaction. Were they commenting on gender? Domestic narratives? Writers who pull from life?

First, how does humour fit into your life?

Ali Bryan: I’m fascinated by how laughter tends to evolve from a simple involuntary reaction—a baby playing peek-a-boo—to a complex coping mechanism. Charlie Chaplin said “laughter is the tonic, the relief the surcease for pain.” I love the notion of laughter as tonic. Something wet and consumable and physical. It’s hot yoga for your mental and emotional junk drawer.

Personally, I use humor as a vice to cope with the everyday. Baby spitting up milk puke on husband’s side of the bed is made funny b …

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