Reading like a Canuck

I’m baaaaack!  For the past six weeks I’ve been reading like mad for a course in Canadian children’s lit.  One of the things that struck me time and time again as we read through this often amazing works of literature is how diversely Canadians write.  Sure we can say that Canadian are born in Canada or call Canada home, but beyond these broad geographical realities: what makes a Canadian writer Canadian?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Here are some recent Canadian titles for you to enjoy:

secondsSeconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Like O’Malley’s other protagonist, Scott Pilgrim, Kate is kind of a self-absorbed jerk.  I have to admit I routed for her anyway as she continually struggled to undo past mistakes and open the restaurant of her dreams.  Named after herself, obviously.  O’Malley draws inspiration from Russian folklore for this standalone graphic novel.

saturdayThe Girl who was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

Motherless twins meet 1990s Quebecois politics in this unflinching second novel from the author of Lullabies for Little Criminals.  Kirkus Review raved, “vigorous writing makes the book; the story is surprising and satisfying, but the real star is Nouschka and how she tells it.”

rivkaAmerican Innovations: Stories by Rivka Galchen

All of the stories in Galchen’s collection are in conversation with stories we already know and love.  “The Lost Order” is hanging out with “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and the title story is chatting it up with Gogol’s “The Nose.”  If you like fiction that is rewarding in its own right and asks you to revisit past favourites, this volume of short stories is for you.





Staff Picks: Chris

ChrisandBow (2)Name: Chris Koth

Job Title: Head, Digital Services

Best book I read this year so far: Almost completed and thoroughly enjoyed Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

I will read any book by: An impossible task but . . . (Living): John Irving, Linden McIntyre, Larry McMurtry, or Charles Frazier. (Passed): John Steinbeck, Timothy Findley, Farley Mowat or John Cheever

Best place to curl up with a book on a rainy day: My ‘big chair’

Best place to lounge with a book in the sun: The hammock at the cabin

If I was stuck on a desert island, the book I’d have with me is: Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude, by Emily White

A book I know I should read, but haven’t: War and Peace

A guilty pleasure favourite: Anything by Carl Hiaasen

Favourite magazine: American Cowboy

Best beverage to pair with a good book is: Ricoré (on a rainy day), Iced Ginger Tea (summer day), Red Wine (any evening)

Best snack to pair with a good book is: Whatever is in reach

If I’m not reading, I’m: Riding my horse

The two book characters I would most love to have dinner with are: Owen Meany, and ‘Shed’ from The Man who Fell in Love with the Moon

The book I push on all my friends because it is soooooooo good: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Book News Roundup – August 1, 2014

SusanSontagWriters at work.

Zadie Smith perfectly articulates what it means to be a reader.

New literary travel destinations: these brilliant bookstores around the globe.

Looks like Warner Bros. will adapt Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch into a movie. Exciting!

How reading makes us better people.

I can’t wait to read David Sedaris’s story about this.

Supernatural collective nouns, including a bombast of devils, a yearning of Sasquatches, a gossip of mermaids, and more.

Happy long weekend! I am taking the first two weeks of August off, so the Top Shelf Blog will be on hiatus until August 18th-ish.


Image of Susan Sontag via.




Vacation Holds Haul

VacationHoldsHaulSometimes, the perfect holds haul comes in at the perfect time. This happened to me today. RIGHT BEFORE I GO ON VACATION. This is a magical and rare occurrence, and I feel so, so lucky.

I got three novels I am dying to read, that are incidentally also perfect vacation books (substantial enough to not be embarrassed seen reading them, but still gripping and/or entertaining enough to be be perfect for the beach). I got two project-y cook books, and a running guide.

Here’s the haul:

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub is being called the smart beach read of the season. (See my Summer Picks description). Yay!

Land of Love and Drowning, by Tiphanie Yanique is a novel that follows three generations of one family living through the modern history of the Virgin Islands territory. It has been getting great reviews.

An Untamed State, by Roxanne Gay is a debut novel about a Haitian-American woman’s kidnapping is being called “riveting” in its many glowing reviews.

Preserving by the Pint, by Marisa McClellan: Because I have a very small kitchen, but still want to try my hand at urban homesteading.

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauces Making, by James Peterson: Apparently, this is the Bible of sauce-making.

Complete Book of Women’s Running, by Dagny Scott Barrios: I just finished my first 5k and want to progress. Vacation running! It’s a thing.

What are you reading on vacation this Summer?


Staff Picks: Kate

Kate2Name: Kate

Job Title: Teen Services Librarian

Best book I read this year so far: Sorrow’s Knot, by Erin Bow. Erin Bow creates beautiful visuals and an utterly believable fantasy world, with many ties to the real world. This story is fascinating. I learned so much from this book about life, death, and love. It also made me want to spend more time appreciating nature.

I will read any book by: John Green, until I read them all…

Best place to curl up with a book on a rainy day: At the café with a cookie and a coffee.

Best place to lounge with a book in the sun: For sure the beach.

If I was stuck on a desert island, the book I’d have with me is: I guess if I wasn’t just spending all my time just trying to survive, I might have time to finally look at all of the art and pages in Carl Jung’s The Red Book.

A book I know I should read, but haven’t: The Harry Potter series, I know, I know..

A guilty pleasure favourite: Pretty Little Liars series

Favourite magazine: Make

Best beverage to pair with a good book is: Tea (iced, ‘cause it’s summer)

Best snack to pair with a good book is: Chocolate (ice-cream, ‘cause it’s summer)

If I’m not reading, I’m: Swimming in the ocean, or cooking and listening to podcasts or audiobooks.

The two book characters I would most love to have dinner with are: “Tiny” from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, and “Ulysses”, from Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo

The book I push on all my friends because it is soooooooo good: The Ballad of the Sad Café and other stories, by Carson McCullers

Elaine’s Picks for Mindfulness Meditation

“If you peel back the layers of your life — the frenzy, the noise— stillness is waiting. That stillness is you.” –Oprah Winfrey from Words That Matter

In today’s high paced world, anxiety and stress have become overwhelmingly prevalent in people’s lives. Thankfully there are current research-based strategies to cope with these factors and help to internalize everyday positive experiences in order to develop lasting inner strength.

Originating from Zen Buddhism, mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) have been scientifically proven to build new neural structures in the brain and change them from a state of negativity to that of calm, happiness, and well-being.

Just a few minutes per day can make a measurable difference in your life. Give some of these titles a try; it could change your life:

Peacehardwiring happinessfullypresentsearchinside





Peace is Every Breath by Thich Nhat Hanh

Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson

Fully Present by Susan L. Smalley

Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan

Mindfulness Meditations for Anxiety (DVD)

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Some techniques to help children manage stress and live more peaceful lives:

10mindfulmindful parenting





10 Mindful Minutes by Goldie Hawn

Mindful Parenting by Kristen Race

Key authors in Buddhist meditation and the practice of mindfulness:

Nhat Hanh

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Pema Chodron


Book News Roundup – July 18, 2014

FemaleThorClassic Marvel comic book characters Thor and Captain America get new identities.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Penguin is launching a golden ticket contest.

How the French sell books.

A literary atlas of Ireland.

The biggest heartbreaks in literary history.

If you have about 15 minutes, read this fascinating analysis in the New Yorker about digital reading and how it differs from print reading.

Happy weekend!

 Image via.