There’s something about November that puts me in a contemplative state of mind.
Perhaps it’s the presence of Remembrance Day, an ongoing reminder of heroism, sacrifice, and loss.
Perhaps it’s a vague sense of an ending, the end of the year in sight.
Perhaps it’s the world around me, the days growing shorter, the leaves in the gutters, the darkness seemingly all around.
Or perhaps it’s just a sugar hangover from those little tiny Halloween chocolate bars.
I’m really not sure of the cause, but it happens every year at around this time. I find myself thinking about the past, about my place in the world, about the people around me, the stories they’re carrying. And it’s not just me: pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with reports much the same mindset as the evenings begin to encroach on the day.
It’s not a bad thing at all. A period of reflection, of examination, of contemplation, is necessary, and in many ways a balm.
This month, the independent booksellers of the Shelf Talkers panel have some thoughtful choices for you, companions for your own hours of contemplation.
The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)
The Pick: The Wars, by Timothy Findley
I try to find time every fall to give Timothy Findley’s The Wars a reread. For me it is an important book on so many levels and is a standout piece of Canadian literature that should be required reading for all in this country. It is at times a heartbreaking, difficult read but ultimately so powerful that you too will likely find yourself drawn back to it time and again.
The Bookseller: Talia Freimanis, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)
The Pick: My Conversations with Canadians, by Lee Maracle
Move over and listen to what Lee Maracle has to say! She'll grab your attention with her humour and keep you enraptured with her brilliant conversational style. A must-read for all guests on Indigenous land.
The Bookseller: Shelagh Fitz of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)
The Pick: Dam Busters, by Ted Barris
Ted Barris strikes again, this time with an amazing bouncing bomb! Some of you may remember the 1955 movie Dam Busters that told how during the Second World War the Allied Forces destroyed the Ruhr Dam. Now the real story, with its solid cast of 30 Canadians who were ignored in the Hollywood version, is being told. Just as he did in The Great Escape, Ted revisits a story we think we know and shines a light on the unsung heroes of Canada.
The Bookseller: Lee Trentadue, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)
The Pick: Dear Evelyn, by Kathy Page
Kathy Page has written a story of a marriage that spans the time period between the WWI and WWII and after, a lifetime of this couple, Evelyn and Harry, whose characters are so well drawn that you feel you are inside of their story. Their relationship just barely gets started when Harry, after enlisting, is sent off to fight in Tunisia. And we follow Harry there through his letters home to Evelyn. This is not a perfect marriage, but this is a perfect telling of it!
The Bookseller: James Irvine, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)
The Pick: Seven Fallen Feathers, by Tanya Talaga
Stay informed! It was the news stories and headlines that grabbed my attention to this book. Tanya Talaga has written an excellent true story leading her readers into the heart of this sad and sadly more and more familiar story. Deeply insightful and compassionate. 2018 RBC Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction winner!
The Bookseller: Vaughn Naylor, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)
The Pick: The Curve of Time, by M. Wylie Blanchet
When I think about Canadian stories and memories there is one title that instantly comes to mind, The Curve of Time, by M. Wylie Blanchet. Now in a 50th Anniversary printing, there is no better way to experience this uniquely Canadian story. The name alone evokes the image of looking back on your journey and seeing where you have come from, but not quite seeing what's around the next bend. M. Wylie Blanchet did not foresee herself being widowed in her mid-thirties, but that did not stop her from approaching this sudden hardship and heartache with courage, imagination, and a sense of adventure that fills me with inspiration. The memories of the summers she spent with her five children sailing the BC coast makes me remember how amazing Canada and its people can be.