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25 Reasons to be Hopeful

In difficult times, sometimes hope is maligned as something frivolous, a symptom of one's inability to engage with reality and look trouble in the face. But of course, the certainty of hopeless is its own kind of limitation. As Rebecca Solnit writes, "To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.”

The following books are infused with hope—that what we do and who we are really matters, that second chances are possible, and so too is a better world.

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This is Not the End of Me, by Dakshana Bascaramurty

About the book: Layton Reid was a globe-trotting, risk-taking, sunshine-addicted bachelor—then came a melanoma diagnosis. Cancer startled him out of his arrested development--he returned home to Halifax to work as a wedding photographer—and remission launched him into a new, passionate life as a husband and father-to-be. When the melanoma returned, now at Stage IV, Layton and his family put all their stock into a punishing alternative therapy, hoping for a cure. This Is Not the End of Me recounts Layton's three-year journey as he tried desperately to stay alive for his young son, Finn, and then found purpose in preparing Finn for a world without him.

Wit …

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Alberta, Today

Katie Bickell’s first novel, Always Brave, Sometimes Kind features a cast of Albertan characters whose lives intersect through the years 1990 - 2016. Set in the urban and rural reaches of Alberta, “Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.” Here, Bickell lists 18 novels that pay homage to the contemporary stories, landmarks, events, people, and communities associated with the land and larger community now known as Alberta.

(Author's note: All books are novels set in and referencing Alberta, and all take place within —or can be assumed to take place—within the last 50 years. Sorry in advance to any I might have missed!)

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A Rhinestone Button, by Gail Anderson Dargatz

In the rough-and-tumble farming community of Godsfinger, Alberta, Job Sunstrum lives a solitary existence, raising cattle and farming the land, like his father and grandfather before him. Yet the surrounding pasture do not old much attraction for him. Instead he prefers his humble farmhouse kitchen, where cooking …

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Fiction We Can't Wait to Read This Fall

In which we give you a list of amazing fall fiction along with the REAL reasons we're looking forward to these books in order to demonstrate that human-generated lists beat algorithm-generated lists any and every day. And we also liberally employ the royal we....

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Book Cover The Lightning of Possible Storms

The Lightning of Possible Storms, by Jonathan Ball

About the book: Aleya's world starts to unravel after a café customer leaves behind a collection of short stories. Surprised and disturbed to discover that it has been dedicated to her, Aleya delves into the strange book...

A mad scientist seeks to steal his son's dreams. A struggling writer, skilled only at destruction, finds himself courted by Hollywood. A woman seeks to escape her body and live inside her dreams. Citizens panic when a new city block manifests out of nowhere. The personification of capitalism strives to impress his cutthroat boss.

The more Aleya reads, the deeper she sinks into the mysterious writer's work, and the less real the world around her seems. Soon, she's overwhelmed as a new, more terrifying existence takes hold.

Jonathan Ball's first collection of short fiction blends humour and horror, doom and daylight, offering myriad possible storms.

Why we're taking notice: Because CanLit legend Gary Barwin writes that Ball is "not only …

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Launchpad: CROSSHAIRS, by Catherine Hernandez

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today, Carrianne Leung is championing Catherine Hernandez's much anticipated second novel, Crosshairs.

Leung writes, "Crosshairs is a blistering page-turner. One can describe it as dystopic fiction, but Catherine Hernadez is presenting us with something much more prescient to consider. Through the richly drawn characters of Kay, Liz, Bahadur and others, the novel acts as a provocation and a challenge for readers to locate ourselves. Crosshairs offers a glance into a world that is possible if we continue on a trajectory that is frightfully present. Most importantly, Crosshairs asks us what we will do to resist and build a better future when faced with such momentous and dangerous times."

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Book Cover Crosshairs

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Launchpad: THE GHOST IN THE HOUSE, by Sara O'Leary

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today, Christy-Ann Conlin is championing The Ghost in the House, by Sara O'Leary.

Conlin writes, "This beguiling page turner of a novel is a story for all seasons—the seasons of the year, and yes, the seasons of our lives. Fans of Virginia Woolf, Henry James, and Emily Dickinson will love this tale of Fay, told in a seamless cresting wave of a narrative which breaks in an unexpected ending. The book opens with Fay at home, but nothing is quite right, not what she’s wearing, or that she’s lying on top of the piano. I don’t want to give away the surprising plot and its twists, so trust me when I say that Fay is not quite at home in this world, and not quite sure who has invited her back.

Book Cover The Ghost in the House

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5 Books for World Alzheimer's Month

In fiction and nonfiction, these authors whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer's Disease bear witness and weave stories about the complexity of memory, identity, and love.

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Reverberations: A Daughter's Meditations on Alzheimer's, by Marion Agnew

About the book: Most people think Alzheimer's Disease is the same as memory loss, if they think about it at all. But most people prefer to ignore it, hoping that if they ignore it hard enough, it will go away. That was certainly Marion Agnew's hope, even after she knew her mother's diagnosis. Yet, with her mother's diagnosis, Marion's world changed. Her mother—a Queen's and Harvard/Radcliffe-educated mathematician, a nuclear weapons researcher in Montreal during Word War II, an award-winning professor and researcher for five decades, wife of a history professor, and mother of five—began drifting away from her. To keep hold of her, to remember her, she began paying attention, and began writing what she saw. She wrote as her mother became suspicious on outings, as she lost even the simplest of words, as she hallucinated, as she became frightened and agitated. But after her mother's death, Marion wanted to honour the time of her mother's life in which she had the disease, but she didn't want the illness to domin …

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Filling the Gaps, Minding the Gaps: the Unconventional (Mostly) Small Town Girls of CanLit

My latest poetry collection, Gaptoothed, is about my own bashful, lusty Wife of Bath smile. Yet it is also about gaps in identity, memory, history—flaws, holes, spaces and absences, that when looked at from a certain angle, become powerful instruments of poetic expression. The collection, released by Gaspereau Press this past spring, is also about gender, girlhood, and the unconventional and vulnerable girls who too often fall through the cracks—or gaps—in a system that was never built to help the likes of them. The collection is dedicated to my late grandmother; she was supposed to be one of forgotten, cast-aside girls, but her tremendous wit, her razor-sharp tongue, her vitality made her unforgettable. The book is about the beauty of the one-of-a-kind that tells you off for not noticing sooner.

The books listed below have filled in the gaps for me over the years on a literary landscape that so often seemed full of holes—that still seems to be short so many vibrant and vital stories and poems and voices.

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Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson

This is …

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Summer Reading Starts Here

Summer is not cancelled, and summer reading isn't either. We've got thrillers, epics, drama, historical fiction, and so much more. There is something for every kind of fiction reader on our 2020 Summer List.

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Ridgerunner, by Gil Adamson

About the book: November 1917. William Moreland is in mid-flight. After nearly twenty years, the notorious thief, known as the Ridgerunner, has returned. Moving through the Rocky Mountains and across the border to Montana, the solitary drifter, impoverished in means and aged beyond his years, is also a widower and a father. And he is determined to steal enough money to secure his son’s future.

Twelve-year-old Jack Boulton has been left in the care of Sister Beatrice, a formidable nun who keeps him in cloistered seclusion in her grand old house. Though he knows his father is coming for him, the boy longs to return to his family’s cabin, deep in the woods. When Jack finally breaks free, he takes with him something the nun is determined to get back—at any cost.

Set against the backdrop of a distant war raging in Europe and a rapidly changing landscape in the West, Gil Adamson’s follow-up to her award-winning debut, The Outlander, is a vivid historical novel that draws from the epic tradition and a literary Western brimming wi …

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Launchpad: Good Mothers Don't, by Laura Best

Today we're launching Good Mothers Don't, by Laura Best, which Christy Ann Conlin calls, "An unlikely page turner replete with hushed surprises, unexpected crescendos, endless love and boundless vitality."

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

It’s a literary novel set in both 1960 and 1975 Nova Scotia about one woman’s journey through mental illness and the ripple effects of her illness on those around her.

Describe your ideal reader.

Enjoys character driven stories, a glass of wine at the end of the day, walks along the beach and dark chocolate—maybe an occasional Mars bar.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Alistair MacLeod, Kathleen Winter, Syr Ruus, Christy-Ann Conlin, Ami McKay, Donna Morrissey and Carol Bruneau.

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/ your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?

I was surprised by my ability to feel compassion for a character whose actions totally contradicted my preconceived ideas of what makes a good mother.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?

My hope is that readers will gain a better understanding of people suffering from mental illness, that they will not just see the illness but the person behind that …

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Big Fiction

Fall book season is exciting with its televised ceremonies and fancy galas, but spring is just as interesting, with regional and specialized prizes highlighting fantastic authors and books from across the country. As you make your summer reading plans, make sure to add some of these great books to the mix.

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Season of Fury and Wonder, by Sharon Butala

Nominated for the 2020 Alberta Literary Awards

About the book: “There are things that it is impossible to learn when you are young, no matter how much you read and study.” The season of fury and wonder, in Sharon Butala’s world, is the old age of women. These stories present the lives of old women—women of experience, who’ve seen much of life, who’ve tasted of its sweetness and its bitter possibilities, and have developed opinions and come to conclusions about what it all amounts to. These are stories of today’s old women, who understand that they have been created by their pasts.

But there’s another layer to this standard-setting example of “cronelit.” Not content to rest on her considerable literary laurels, Sharon Butala continues to push the boundaries of her art. The stories in Season of Fury and Wonder are all reactions to other, classic, works of literature that she has encountered and adm …

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Launchpad: In Veritas, by C.J. Lavigne

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 new novel In Veritas, by C.J. Lavigne, which Tanya Huff has called “The perfect mix of incandescent writing and enthralling storytelling. C.J. Lavigne has given us something we can believe in. Learn to see the dragons.”

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

It’s a literary urban fantasy about an Ottawa woman whose synaesthetic senses allow her to perceive multiple worlds, and maybe save a dying reality.

Describe your ideal reader.

Someone who loves fantastic …

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Launchpad: Speechless, by Anne Simpson

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 novel Speechless, by Anne Simpson, of which Alexander Macleod (Light Lifting) writes, "A global narrative about gender and race, about words and actions and reactions, with tough female characters who will not back down and instead stand together against injustice. Simpson is a beautiful writer and this is a bold, brave book."

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

Speechless is the story of a young Canadian journalist and a Nigerian teenager whose lives inte …

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