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Shelf Talkers: Books for Christmas Eve Shoppers

With apologies to Clement Moore.


'Twas the week before Christmas and all 'cross the land

The booksellers were racing, stacks of books clutched in hand.

They doled out some Ravi, Rick Mercer, and Washington Black

And if they couldn’t find it, why, they checked in the back.

They raced up the aisles, they dodged the kids’ wails,

They thrived on the bustle, they rang up the sales.

They walked and they walked, and their blisters brought a tear

Until they heard a faint voice, one they often did hear:

“You’re an indie bookseller, the best of the best.

You work before dawn, you work without rest.

You’ve read all the books, you could pass any test,

Now, could please tell me, which one was the best?”

The booksellers paused, the booksellers stilled

It was an impossible question, one that pricked like a quill.

Who could say what was best, who could even compare,

Not just apple and orange, but mango and pear!

Put two books together, and how do they rank

When one is a novel, the other history frank?

“Impossible,” they said, “that’s not how books work

To say one is the best would make me feel like a jerk.”

“All right,” said the voice, loaded with care,

“Which book is your favourite, that you want to share?”

“Ah,” said the booksellers, “this I can do,

Just give me a coffee, and a moment to stew.”

And the booksellers weighed in, with their picks of the year

It was a list most compelling, and rich with good cheer.

The voice tried to thank them, but they waved it away,

Turning back to their stores, and their chaotic day.

But he could hear in the distance, as they faded from sight,

“Happy reading to all, and to all a good night


The Bookseller: Sue Saunderson  of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)

The Pick: A Newfoundlander in Canada, by Alan Doyle

One of my favourite books that I loved and loved sharing this year was Alan Doyle’s A Newfoundlander in Canada.  What a wonderful, hilarious read about a travelling across our vast country and discovering what it is to be a Canadian! 



The Bookseller: Jan Lindh of Mulberry Bush Book Store (Parksville, BC)

The Pick: Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature, by Margreit Ruurs & Robert Bateman  

This is a children’s book of hope and encouragement that would appeal to people of all ages. It tells Bateman’s story, from young child fascinated with nature to mature, world-renowned artist. The story is illustrated with family photos, examples from his sketchbooks and full-colour, full-page, gorgeous images.


The Bookseller: Chadwick Ginther of University of Manitoba Bookstore (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

The Pick: Children of the Bloodlands, by S.M. Beiko

Beiko really upped the ante in the follow-up to her wonderful Scion of the Fox. I can't wait to see how the series plays out for Roan and her friends. 


The Bookseller: Shelley Macbeth of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)

The Pick: An Ocean of Minutes, by Thea Lim

When I received a signed, finished copy of An Ocean of Minutes this summer I had a quick look and put it down. We get so many books sent to us, and I'm not a big reader of dystopian fiction. But later ... something about it spoke to me, and I started it. I was hooked from the first page – an overworked expression, perhaps, but completely true. A compelling story, great characters, a satisfying conclusion. Everything about it worked! I was delighted when Thea received the Giller nod.  here's a bright future ahead for this young author.


The Bookseller: Lee Trentadue, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: In Other Words, by Anna Porter

I have Anna Porter’s In Other Words: How I Fell in Love with Canada One Book at a Time on my bedside table and have very much enjoyed Anna’s take on her time in the book industry since arriving in Canada in 1968. Gossipy, thoughtful, and fun to read, Anna’s love for publishing, authors, and Canada is there on every page. As a bookseller, this book will stay by my bedside for some time to come.



The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: Women Talking, by Miriam Toews

Out of all the great Canadian books I read this year, the one that has prompted the most thought and discussion is Women Talking, by Miriam Toews. While it is filled with Toews’ typically wonderful and strong characters, it is often a difficult read due to its subject matter, compounded by the realization that the novel is based in fact. It draws the reader into a community which exists almost in another time than our own, and is the type of book you will want all your friends to read so you have people to discuss it with. Women Talking would be a fantastic gift to give, or receive, over the holiday season. 


The Bookseller: Cedar Bowers, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: Heartbreaker, by Claudia Day

Claudia Dey’s Heartbreaker kills. Her prose is photographic, nostalgic, and searing. The novel takes place in the territory: northern, isolated, and stuck in 1985. It’s a terrifying place. Full of rules, nicknames, glitter, trucks, raging bonfires, and tracksuit-glamour that will leave your heart racing. And the characters that live there are on fire with need and love, and they are struggling, and they know no other way. From the first page I believed. I feared for their safety and their freedom and I never knew what was coming until the very end. I return to this book again and again, open the pages, read at random, and am entranced all over again. Heartbreaker is a haunting literary bruiser like no other. One of the best and bravest novels of the year.

December 23, 2018
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