Some Indie Books for Your Book Club

Small and independent presses are real treasure troves for great stories that you won’t necessarily see splashed across ad banners and subway stations but they. are. so. good. As much as I love seeing lists like this one pop up, there are so many indie titles that I would have LOVED to discuss with my friends over guacamole and wine (and, in some cases, probably would have helped me cope with my feeling afterwards)! So I’ve decided to make up my own lists, starting today, to spread the book club love around, even though my “book club” is basically just me reading with my cat in the room. (thanks for the inspo Buzzfeed!)
Full disclosure! Some of the books I pick will be from the company I work for, BUT were published before I got here, so I’m calling it a fair loophole.

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In Da Club (Part I)

  1. Wet, Hot, and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex by Kaleigh Trace (Invisible Publishing)
    Who doesn’t want to talk about sex? But, like, in a funny, positive, honest way with no “grey” in sight.
  2. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis (Coach House Books)
    If you’ve ever owned and/or loved a pet, this is a must-read.
  3. Every Little Thing by Chad Pelley (Breakwater Books)
    Prepare to yell “What the hell happened to Cohen??” over and over in this love story + mystery.
  4. Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth (Cormorant Books)
    Dive into the Spanish Civil War alongside a killer young heroine you can really root for.
  5. Enter, Night by Michael Rowe (Chizine Publications)
    If you’re going to read a vampire book, make it a really good vampire book!
  6. Infidelity by Stacey May Fowles (ECW Press)
    Cheaters are supposed to be bad people, right? Not exactly. Let’s discuss!
  7. The Indifference League by Richard Scarsbrook (Dundurn)
    Light, fun, and truly super.
  8. Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lynn Crosbie (House of Anansi)
    Read this and then tell me you don’t want to devour this book right now.

Happy reading!

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Check it Twice: A Holiday Book List

At the first sign of snow, I’m immediately making lists of all my “to-buy-fors”. I’m a little biased, but I’ve always thought books were a great choice for gifts because there are literally SO MANY CHOICES.  Whether it’s a special interest coffee table book, a new edition classic, a silly novelty or a recommended read, it’s virtually impossible not to find something pretty perfect in a bookstore. It’s also just as easy to walk into a ChIndigo and get so overwhelmed by the selection that your palms start to sweat and the next thing you know you’re sucking back a Peppermint Mocha and staring at a 50$ pillow. That’s where judging books by their covers can really come in handy.  To ease some of your browsing blues and to avoid hyperventilating into a sparkly gift bag, here’s a list of my Canadian fiction picks for the season and their potential receivers (as demonstrated by some family and friends who I’ve pigeon-holed for clarity purposes) to get you started…

  1. For your historical fiction-loving mother: The Tale-Teller by Susan Glickman (Cormorant Books)
  2. For your horror-fan father: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper (Simon and Schuster)
  3. For your rustic burley manfriend: Doppler by Erlend Loe (House of Anansi)
  4. For the alternative urban city lifer: Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall (Cormorant Books)
  5. For your sensitive indie hipster brother: I Am My Own Betrayal by Guillaume Morrissette (Maison Kasini)
  6. For your campus queen sister: (You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki (Razorbill)
  7. For your bookish sister-in-law: Magnified World by Grace O’Connell (Random House)
  8. For the precocious pre-teen: Under The Moon by Deborah Kerbel (Dancing Cat Books)
  9. For the quirky, cat-loving pal: You Are a Cat! by Sherwin Sullivan Tija (Conundrum Press)
  10. For your pervy uncle: Pinboy by George Bowering (Cormorant Books)
  11. For the thoughtful short story collector: Pardon Our Monsters by Andrew Hood (Vehicule Press)
  12. For the snuggly bedtimer: When I was Small by Sara O’Leary (Simply Read Books)

Now, obviously, these are just little suggestions to get you started, which is why I included the publisher’s website links so you can read the descriptions of each book for yourself, check out the accolades and browse their other titles while you’re at it. There are tons of books to discover for the readers on your list and buying from Canadian publishers (hint) and independent bookstores (hint hint) is a great way to support our national literature as a whole. Sometimes all it takes is a wee nudge in the right direction and the best part is you have so much time! (you are so welcome for being so organized) But don’t take my word for it! Take a look at these other (slightly more reputable) sources for award-winning and critically acclaimed can lit!

Happy Shopping! xo

Sex, Love and a Poet Laureate

If you’ve ever wanted the truth, the real truth and nothing but the truth about the inner-workings of a teenaged boy brain, you should probably get a former Poet Laureate to describe it to you.  That way rather than cringe-worthy, this strange and messy territory can be incredibly amusing.

Pinboy is the most eloquent storytelling of a sexual awakening I’ve ever come across. It’s a fun, hilarious, artful, touching, and often surprising memoir taking place in the Okanagan Valley in the 1950s.  Starting off in the local bowling alley, 15-year-old George Bowering is working as the alley’s Pinboy, setting up pins at the end of each lane.  It isn’t long before he’s remarking – in vivid detail – which flashes of leg and glimpses of breasts he is able to catch from the regulars…

Pinboy holds a great tone for an introduction to sexytimes.  Though it revolves around a adolescent George, the voice is clearly that of a reflective adult Bowering who manages to describe his experiences without the skirt-chasing clichés that one might expect from a puberty-stricken teen.  I mean, there is still plenty of skirt-chasing, much of the book centres on it in fact, but the scoop on Bowering’s teenaged escapades are played out with nothing less than the meticulous silver-tongue of such an accomplished writer.
The focus of Pinboy is Bowering’s relationship with 3 different women at the time; his first love Wendy, his classmate Jeannette, and his high school teacher Ms. Verge.  All of these women create not one single “awakening” for George, but several, where Bowering is revealed to be 3 very different young men.  To Wendy, he is the gentle and loving boyfriend who cherishes her British accent and willowy physique.  To Jeannette he is a curious and persistent near-stalker with good, though misguided intentions; and to Ms. Verge he is the passive and inexperienced playmate to her ‘Mrs. Robinson’-like role.  In short, he had a busy year.

I think the real strength of Pinboy is Bowering’s ability to be so candid about the revolving door of thoughts that both plague and fuel his teenaged self (and probably the majority of teenaged selves at that).  We are brought back into the thick of this chaotic time and Bowering manages to write a relatable account that lets us laugh and squirm over the day-to-day fumbling of this pubescent poet.  Bowering doesn’t hold much back when it comes to this…uh, stimulating time, so also expect some explicit scenes.

George Bowering is a pretty important fellow.  He was named Canada’s first Parliamentary Poet Laureate and an Officer of the Order of Canada in the same year and he’s publishing a ton of novels, poetry and other memoirs, all of which have been a success. Like the jacket blurb on the back cover says, Pinboy reads like a novel and the fact that it is actually a confession makes it all the more enjoyable.  I can see how someone like George Bowering would have had a crazy coming-of-age experience like this.  And if this book only describes ONE YEAR of George Bowering’ life then… wow, I want to know him. Even though after reading this, I feel like I already do.

The cover features a vintage bowling sign and bubble writing that perfectly compliments the playful way of the book.  Now, I wonder if George B. would approve of my sartorial interpretation of vintage cat-eyes and a hot-red skirt? Though, based on what I just read, I have no doubt that he would.

Pinboy: George Bowering
Cormorant Books, 2012
Jacket: Angel Guerra/Archetype