Thousands of Canadian-authored kids and YA books


Shelf Talkers: 2017's Must-Reads

Reading through a year’s worth of Shelf Talkers columns, I am struck by a couple of details that likely have not slipped your attention: the quality of the books chosen by our panelists, and the eclectic nature of those choices.

Every month, our esteemed independent booksellers share their picks for not just the best books they have been reading, but those books which they feel merit special attention. Books that aren’t just good, but are distinct in some way, powerful enough to merit an enthusiastic response.

You’ve likely experienced this directly, in-person, during a visit to an independent bookstore: the bookseller leading you through the aisles, all-but-tugging you to a special shelf, or a slot on a table, picking up a book and pressing it into your hands, saying, almost breathlessly, “You must read this!”

For this year-end column, we’ve combed through the dozens of recommendations, a year of reading, to create a double-handful of special books, a stack of a dozen or so books to fill your carry-bag, to fill your winter nights with sheer reading pleasure.

Simply put, you must read these.

We’ll be back in January to begin another year of books, another year of discoveries.

Until then, though, we wish you warm nights, full bellies, and the happiest of reading.



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The Chat With 2016 Giller Prize Finalist Mona Awad

Next up in our special 2016 Giller Prize coverage, which is generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU, is our conversation with finalist Mona Awad. She’s the author of the acclaimed debut novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl.

The Globe and Mail says the book is “beautifully told, with a profoundly sensitive understanding of the subject matter.” The Literary Review of Canada, meanwhile, hails Awad’s debut as “a brilliant and disturbing first novel.”

Mona Awad was born in Montreal and received her MFA in fiction from Brown University. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Walrus, Joyland, Post Road, St. Petersburg Review, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing and English literature at the University of Denver.




How did 13 Ways of Looking At a Fat Girl find life as a book?

Awad, Mona

I first started with the image of a young woman in a dressing room staring at a piece of clothing she already knew wouldn’t fit while her mother and a saleswoman waited outside. She actually sort of appeared to me duri …

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On Our Radar

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet and elsewhere. 


Book Cover White Elephant

White Elephant, by Catherine Cooper

Reviewed by Sarah Murdoch in The Toronto Star

Dr. Richard Berringer has long dreamed of bringing his medical skills to the poor of Africa. So now he, his sick and unhappy wife, Ann, and their difficult 13-year-old son, Tor, have pulled up stakes in Nova Scotia and settled in Sierra Leone, on the cusp of civil war... This self-assured debut novel, with its difficult characters operating at cross-purposes, can be hard to read. Yet it is so deftly executed that it’s impossible to turn away.

Read the review here


Book Cover Tell

Tell, by Soraya Peerbaye

Winner of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Prize for Poetry:

From the Griffin Judges' citation: The true miracle of Tell is not merely its choice to sing of such things, but its ability to sing in such a way as to urge the rea …

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Shelf Talkers: April 2016

With any luck (and owing entirely to the incredible effort put in by the organizers), the end of April will become known as well for books as it is for being the early days of spring. Authors for Indies, now in its second year, draws attention to Canada’s independent booksellers with the best of Canada’s writers working shifts on the country’s independent sales floors, meeting customers and making recommendations. It’s a beautiful synergy, a living representation of the ecosystem that underlies Canada’s book trade.

If I had my way, it would be a national holiday.

Canada’s independent booksellers aren’t just retailers; they’re cultural resources, the face of our rich literary heritage. For Canada’s indies, it’s less a job than it is a calling: the hours are long, the financial rewards limited, the stress sometimes overwhelming. And yet, every day of the year, they’re there, critical parts of their communities, literally spreading the word.

When this column started, two years ago, our intent was to give voice to those booksellers, a platform for them to do what they do best: to recommend books they love to readers who will love them. And don’t they do a fine job?

Happy Authors for Indies Day, everyone. And please join me in raising a glass for our independent booksellers, every day.


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Top Shelf Ep. 1: Canadian Books You Need to Read

One of the most rewarding things we do at 49th Shelf is make themed lists—as well as commission them from authors and highlight the best of those compiled by members.

Too often, though, we find that incredible lists—and blog posts—get buried in the web’s relentless tendency to favour the new over the old. So starting today, we are launching a new bimonthly series (erm, that’s twice a month in this case) called Top Shelf that will shine a spotlight on great 49th Shelf lists and posts … newer and older. Each Top Shelf post will include three to five awesome lists and/or blog posts.


Backlist, Baby: This is the perfect pick to roll out Top Shelf because it immediately reveals the danger of getting fixated on new releases. It’s a list of Canadian books published prior to 2013 that the 49th Shelf community created, and it includes such stunners as Bronwen Wallace’s People You’d Trust Your Life To, Isabel Huggan’s Belonging, and Alistair MacLeod’s The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (which to our recollection, has never once been left off a serious “best of” list).


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