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Why We All Need Breathing Space

This is an excerpt from Kirsteen MacLeod's new book, In Praise of Retreat: Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World

I’m sitting on the old footbridge that leads to my cabin in the woods. Beaver Creek passes silently below. Ducks fly overhead. Ferns, cardinal flowers and moss grow amid grey rocks at the water’s edge. Spiders wander over my notebooks, which are spread out on the bridge’s rough planks, pages held open by stones.

This is the place that inspired In Praise of Retreat. By the creek and in the forest, I discovered a rich inner dimension I didn’t know existed. Far from my city life and work-obsessed routines, I began to see what gives my life meaning. I recognized the value of protecting a divine spark, though I’m not religious, and of amplifying the extraordinary—nature, spirit, art, creative thinking—in impoverished times. A retreat means removing yourself from society, to a quiet place where moments are strung like pearls, and after long days apart spent in inspiring surroundings, you return home refreshed and with a new sense of what you want to do with your life.

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Far from my city life and work-obsessed routines, I began to see what gives my life meaning.

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In the fraught modern era, you’d think our timeless human desire to retreat would fee …

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Launchpad: On Nostalgia, by David Berry

Book Cover On Nostalgia

Today we're launching David Berry's book On Nostalgia, a history of nostalgia—which is no small thing! Tobias Carroll writes at Literary Hub, "[Berry] pulls off the impressive feat of covering plenty of ground in a concise and compelling manner."

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

It’s a cultural history of nostalgia, an examination of why and how we’re so ceaselessly drawn back.

Describe your ideal reader.

Someone who has never met a Wikipedia hole they couldn’t fall in.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Among others, I’d hope it’s in conversation with writers like FT Marinetti, Jaron Lanier, Eric Hobsbawm, Barbara Tuchman, Steven Pinker, Bill Bryson and every tech CEO who has written a thinkpiece or memoir, although I would certainly not claim that all those conversations are polite or respectful.

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

I learned that when left to my own devices, my nostalgic thoughts tend to turn towards chocolate chip cookies. Also, I went from someone who was pretty deeply suspicious of nostalgia in general to someone who is deeply suspicious of the ways it’s used against us and profoundly …

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Black History/Black Futures

Recent titles exploring Black history, Black futures, and experiences of being Black right now.

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Portia White:  A Portrait in Words,  by George Elliott Clarke, illustrated by Lara Martina

About the book: In his unique brand of spoken word, Africadian poetry, the incomparable George Elliott Clarke explores a personal subject: his great-aunt Portia White. The result is a stirring, epic poem vibrating with energy and music that spans White's birth in 1911, a coming of age amidst the backdrop of two World Wars, and her life-long love affair with music—from singing in to directing the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church choir to her bel canto tutlege at the Halifax Conservatory of Music to her final, command performance before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1964.

Portia White is a stunning testament to the first African Canadian to become an international star. Features vibrant illustrations by contemporary artist Lara Martina.

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The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, by Desmond Cole

About the book: In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life …

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Great Companions: Because Two Books Are Better than One

As fascinating as books themselves are the connections between books, the curious ways in which books inform and echo each other, creating strange synergies completely outside their authors' purview. In celebration of these connections, we've paired recent Canadian books of note, creating ideal literary companions. Because the only thing better than a book you can't wait to read is TWO of them. 

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To Speak for the Trees, by Diana Beresford-Kroeger and Treed, by Ariel Gordon

Poetry and botany meet in these two books that celebrate the wonder and awesomeness of trees. 

About To Speak for the TreesWhen Diana Beresford-Kroeger—whose father was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and whose mother was an O'Donoghue, one of the stronghold families who carried on the ancient Celtic traditions—was orphaned as a child, she could have been sent to the Magdalene Laundries. Instead, the O'Donoghue elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, took her under their wing. Diana became the last ward under the Brehon Law. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all o …

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