Shelf Talkers: Indie Booksellers' Fall 2019 Picks

Weeks like this – the transition between seasons – serve as a strong reminder of just how huge and far-flung this country truly is. And no, I’m not talking about the federal election campaigning.

As I write, meteorologists are predicting heavy snow for parts of the prairies. Meanwhile, the temperature is in the twenties in Toronto, it’s twelve degrees in St. John’s, four degrees in Yellowknife, and fourteen degrees outside my front door in Victoria.

You might be expecting something pithy right now, something like “thankfully, we’re united in our love of books.” While this might be true – I certainly think it is – I’m reminded regularly through this column just how disparate Canadians are as readers. There’s no better reflection of this than the choices of the independent booksellers of the Shelf Talkers panel. They're recommending fiction and nonfiction, books for adults and books for kids, books about caves and trees, art and literature, current events and timeless novels of connection; something for everyone, really.

Sometime soon, before the snow hits, you’d be well-advised to make your way to your local independent bookstore and ask your favourite bookseller what they’re reading; you never know what they might have in store. In the meantime, here are some of their favourite books of the year.

**

The Bookseller: Christie Shaw Roome, (Salt Spring Island, BC)

The Pick: This Little Light, by Lori Lansens

This Little Light is a powerful book with so much to say about race, female sexuality, rape culture, privilege, resistance and hypocrisy. Please tell me that young women are not as hooped as this book suggests. Yet another amazing voice in dystopian feminist literature.

**

greenwood

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

The Pick: Greenwood, by Michael Christie

Michael Christie’s new book, Greenwood, is a rich saga of several generations of a family forged from a violent beginning, all members of which have unique relationships to the fragile forests that surround them. Michael explores these relationships – sometimes nurturing , sometimes damaging – between the five main characters at different points in time. This is a writer who clearly can keep several strands of a narrative going without losing the reader, who can engage the reader in the understanding of flawed human beings without judging their actions with a cold eye. And who can make us fall in love with the beauty and fragility of humans. At the same time, we cannot look away from the other very important theme running through Greenwood, the devastation of our forests that is happening in our world and the impact this is having on the environment and, subsequently, the future of the world for all living things. I hope you love this book as much as I did.

**

lampedusa

The Bookseller: Olivia Cunningham, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: Lampedusa, by Steven Price

Beautifully written and completely engrossing, this melancholic story follows the creative journey of Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa as he writes his novel The Leopard. Filled with love, loss and the everyday struggles of family, Lampedusa had me hooked and unable to stop reading.

**

potatoonbike

The Bookseller: Hilary Atleo, Iron Dog Books (Tsleil-Waututh, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Musqueam territories - Vancouver, BC)

The Pick: A Potato on a Bike, by Elise Gravel

Elise Gravel, bestselling author of the misanthropic middle-grade graphic novel Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere, has created a joyful, absurd, hilarious board book that not only charms the tiny humans who are its intended audience, but engages the cynical adult brain as well. A Potato On A Bike is a collection of anthropomorphized objects and animals that prompt imagination and laughter.  A perfect addition to the bookshelf that already includes Sandra Boynton and Mo Willems.

**

theframe-up

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

The Picks: The Frame-Up, by Wendy McLeod MacKnight

I really enjoyed reading The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight. This is a middle-grade novel that takes place in Fredericton, New Brunswick, at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (and yes I Googled it). I love the fact that the story centres around the gallery and its art. On the inside of the cover are colour photos of the art that is featured in the story. The author has done a wonderful job of bringing the characters in the paintings to life, creating a world for them in the landscapes and masterpieces hanging in the Beaverbrook. The residents can move about the gallery by entering each other’s paintings when the gallery is closed, that is until Sargent, the art director’s son, notices Mona Dunn, a portrait by William Orpen, stick out her tongue at a visitor! This story quickly becomes a fast paced mystery: someone is trying to steal the valuable paintings and the paintings need help!

I loved the unexpected friendships, kindness, and loyalty that are found throughout the book and while immersed in the story, I learned about the artists and their work showcased at the Beaverbrook Gallery. The Frame-Up was a fun and fantastic read for anyone willing to believe in the magic of what you think you’re seeing!

**

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

The Pick: Every Little Scrap and Wonder: A Small-Town Childhood, by Carla Funk

Carla Funk's first work of nonfiction, Every Little Scrap and Wonder takes an interesting memoir of childhood in small-town British Columbia and turns it into a joyous treat for the senses that readers will want to savour. On its own, Every Little Scrap and Wonder would be a wonderful read, but the extra layers added by Funk's masterful use of language turn this into a must-read for fall.

**

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

The Pick: Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver, by Jill Heinerth

A beautiful, breathtaking sometimes harrowing, look at the life and experiences of one of the few female cave divers.  She has been deep under the earth in Mexico, Siberia, and deep inside a glacier in Antarctica. A fascinating read.

**

haditcoming

The Bookseller: Michelle Berry, Hunter Street Books (Peterborough, ON)

The Pick: Had it Coming: What's Fair in the Age of #MeToo?, by Robyn Doolittle

Robyn Doolittle, Globe and Mail reporter, author of Crazy Town: the Rob Ford Story and the Globe's Unfounded Series – which investigated how police deal with rape accusations and convictions – now tackles the #MeToo movement. This book is a logical, factual, horrifying and eye-opening look at what it means to be... well... basically just living today. And it's also personal. Doolittle deals with her own feelings about who she is as a feminist, what she believes and what she finds tricky. She tackles the famous men being accused and the complainants being disbelieved. She looks into brain chemistry and statistics. She looks into lies. There are cases discussed here in detail and a lot of it is hard reading, but Doolittle manages, with her tone and her intelligence, to educate her reader. And to make her reader think.  

**

turbulence

The Bookseller: Shelagh Fitz of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)

The Picks: Turbulence, by David Szalay

In his latest novel, Turbulence, Canadian-born David Szalay takes us on an express journey around the world. With beautiful yet spare prose, Szalay inhabits his various protagonists and shares only that which is necessary, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks. The perfect read to accompany your next flight.

October 3, 2019
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