Month: August 2014

Book News Roundup — August 29, 2014

HeartofDarknessIllustrationGreat books you won’t read in school.

How book lovers react to people who don’t read.

Congratulations to Dee Robinson on her retirement after 34 years in the independent bookselling business! Dee and her husband, Chuck, own one of my all-time favourite bookstores — Village Books — in Bellingham. (A fantastic day-trip destination!)

New clips from the movie adaptation of the chilling psychological thriller (some might call it the precursor to Gone Girl) Before I Go to Sleep!

Check out these illustrations from around the world of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

If you are like me and enjoy reading in the bathtub and at the beach, you’ll probably want to get your hands on one of these.

Happy weekend!


Image by Kit Russell via.

Which Book is Begging to be Made Into a Movie?

I recently came across this piece in the NYT by one of my favourite film critics, Dana Stevens, on which book she thought was begging to be made into a movie. She says:

“Envisioning the movie version of a beloved book is at once an act of tenderness and of violence. Even as you recognize that the thought experiment is likely to end in failure, you find yourself mentally casting the main characters, finessing the details of costume and production design, maybe even framing the opening shot. No film that commits the crass act of existing could compare with the one that takes shape in your mind as you read, a project unbeholden to the demands of budget or box-office draw or, indeed, the laws of time and space. (Want to cast Cary Grant opposite Cate Blanchett in a screwball update of Pride and Prejudice? Have at it.)”

customofthecountryShe goes on to envision an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country, starring either Amy Adams or Busy Philipps, and directed by either Sofia Coppola or Todd Haynes, (or “maybe a time traveling Douglas Sirk“).

You should read the article — it’s great. And it got me thinking, which book do I think is begging to be made into a movie?

womanwholosthersoulThe Woman Who Lost Her Soul, by Bob Shacochis is an epic, sprawling geopolitcal thriller in the vein of a John le Carré novel that sweeps across time and places such as Haiti, Turkey, Washington DC and Croatia. It was a long, stunning novel about love, war, and family, and I remember thinking it would be a fantastic movie.

In my fantasy producer role, I’d hire Fernando Meirelles, of The Constant Gardner and City of God fame, to direct. Lawyer Tom Harrington would be played by Bryan Cranston. Sargeant Eville Burnette would be played by Taylor Kitsch. (Okay, I admit this might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m currently obsessed with him as broody Riggins on Friday Night Lights, which may be coloring my choice here.) The titular “Woman,” beautiful and secretive photojournalist Jackie Scott, would be played by Elizabeth elizabetholsenOlsen, who I think is one of the most interesting actresses working in Hollywood right now. (Case in point: Did you see Martha Marcy May Marlene? You should.) And Christoph Waltz (you might remember him as the extra-evil Nazi from Inglorious Basterds) was born to play Jackie’s father.

Now it’s your turn: What book do you think is begging to be made into a movie?



Books on the Big Screen – September & October 2014

Books are a powerful source of inspiration for movie makers.  This seems especially true in late 2014.  If you are the kind of reader who loves saying, “I loved the movie, but it wasn’t as good as the book”, here’s what you’ll want to read before you head to the movie theatre:


The Drop (September 12)

Dennis Lehane’s story “Animal Rescue” has become The Drop.  Two down on their luck people find something to believe in in an abused puppy.   It sounds like a story of faith and love — and it is — albeit one with the Chechen mafia in it too.

The Maze Runner (September 19)

In this Hunger Games read alike, sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up inside a maze with no idea how he got there or how he’ll get out.

This is Where I Leave You (September 19)

Talk about good casting!  When I read this book, I vividly imagined Jason Bateman as Judd, the loveable son whose life is in ruins.  This is Where I Leave You is a comedy about an absurdly dysfunctional family mourning the loss of their patriarch.


Gone Girl (October 3)

Amy Dunne is missing.  It’s presumed she’s been kidnapped.  Is her husband, Nick, responsible?

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (October 10)

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Alexander has been commiserating with children since it was first published in 1972.  The film version promises modern upgrades (like texting) and enlarges its focus to include Alexander’s entire family including his parents (played by Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner).

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks (October 17)

I’m only faintly embarrassed to be anticipating this undoubtedly schmaltzy tale of first love rekindled.

Before I Go To Sleep (October 31)

It’s possible that I’m in the minority in not liking this thriller at all.  Heidi devoured it.  Either way, I’m looking forward to the film because the acting from Nicole Kidman and Mr. Darcy (umm… sorry… Colin Firth) is bound to be something worth watching.

Which fall film are you most looking forward to?  Let us know in the comments below.



Watch This, Read That: The 2014 Emmy Awards Edition

Did you watch the Emmy Awards last night? It may have been the dullest, most unsurprising awards show ever, but it still is a remarkable time for good television. Could it have something to do with the fact that four of the biggest winners have book connections?

SherlockSherlock: Benedict Cumberbatch (actor, miniseries or movie), Martin Freeman (supporting actor, miniseries or movie) and Stephen Moffat (writing, miniseries, movie or dramatic special





AllisonJanneyMasters of Sex, based on Thomas Maier’s book Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love: Allison Janney (outstanding guest actress in a drama series).


UzoAdubaOrange Is the New Black, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison: Uzo Aduba (outstanding guest actress in a comedy series)





NormalHeartThe Normal Heart, adapted by Larry Kramer from his Tony award-winning play: Best television movie.




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.