When asked about the top LGBT books of the year, Canadian booksellers offered many thought-provoking choices.
Scott Dagostino, manager of Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop, says, “I could go on and on about the great books we have in stock. And the great taste of our customers, who have rewarded these authors for their talent and risk-taking.”
Click the thumbnails below to read more about booksellers’ picks.
Q&Q contacted independent booksellers across Canada to get their picks for the top science fiction and fantasy titles of 2012.
Chris Szego, manager of Toronto’s BakkaPhoenix Books, says sci-fi and fantasy are becoming mainstream genres. She speculates the appeal is a byproduct of big-budget film franchises such as Harry Potter, Batman, and Lord of the Rings.
Over the past year, Walter Bruce Sinclair, co-owner of Vancouver’s White Dwarf Books, has observed the waning of Twilight-style fiction. “There has been a glut of paranormal romance and zombie novels, which have crowded out other genres,” he says. “This seems to be running its course, and we’re starting to see a resurgence of hard science fiction.”
Click on the thumbnails below to read more about the year’s biggest books.
In the December issue of Q&Q, Scott MacDonald asks: how do you edit one of the most precise writers working in the English language? According to Alice Munro’s long-time U.S. and Canadian editors, even a master can sometimes use a helpful nudge (but not too often)
It’s hard to imagine anyone editing Alice Munro, possibly the most precise writer in the English language. Munro doesn’t build sentences by accretion in the manner of verbose writers like Norman Mailer or Salman Rushdie – she works by paring away, by deciding what words not to use.
And yet Munro has not one, not even two, but three editors, all of whom have a hand in guiding her work: Deborah Treisman at The New Yorker, where many of Munro’s stories first see the light of day; Douglas Gibson at McClelland & Stewart, who has been Munro’s Canadian editor since her 1978 collection, Who Do You Think You Are?; and Anne Close at Knopf, her long-time U.S. publisher.
Speaking to Close and Gibson prior to the publication of Munro’s 14th collection, Dear Life, I asked them a sincere but potentially rude question: exactly what is it the three of them do?
“We don’t have to do much,” laughs Close, the hint of a southern drawl in her voice. “With many of Alice’s stories, they come in and none of us touches a word. But every now and then there are stories she’s a little stuck on and one of us will give a suggestion that proves helpful.”
According to Close, every story follows one of two editorial paths. If it’s destined for The New Yorker, it goes to Treisman first. Close and Gibson may not even see it until it’s printed in the magazine. If it’s not a New Yorker piece (or slated for publication elsewhere), it goes directly to Close and Gibson, and Treisman doesn’t read it at all. In every case, the buck stops with the two book editors. “Doug and I kinda get the final say,” says Close.
Generally, Munro needs no assistance with character, word choice, or mechanics, but she does look to her editors for advice on structure and clarity. She mails a copy of the story to each of them, and they jot down their thoughts in the margins. Annotated copies are then sent to Munro and the other editors. Munro discusses the changes via phone, often a number of times, then hammers out the final version.
As Munro’s most dedicated fans know, The New Yorker stories can be noticeably different from the versions that appear in the collections. Many of them are shorter, due to the magazine’s space restrictions. Gibson sometimes makes “Canadian corrections” to The New Yorker pieces, such as restoring Munro’s original references to “university” rather than “college.”
Some stories, like “The Progress of Love,” which appeared in a 1986 volume of the same name, get drastically rethought. Originally written in the first person, the point-of-view changed to the third person for The New Yorker. Having read both versions, Close told Munro she thought the original was better, and that was what ultimately appeared in the book.
But that’s one of the more extreme examples. More commonly, only the story endings are significantly revised. As Close explains, Munro has an enormous appetite for revision, and she’s especially prone to rethinking her final passages.
“She’ll work on those endings for a long time,” says Close, adding that this is where she and Gibson tend to be most useful. “Most writers write very ambiguous endings because they don’t want to be too obvious. So I’ll say, ‘What’s this mean?’ or ‘What’s that mean?’ I’ll keep after her until she gets it a little clearer.”
When enough stories have been amassed for a collection – generally once every three years – the next step is to decide how to order them. In some cases, Munro determines this herself in advance. Other times, such as with Dear Life, she is open to suggestions.
According to Close, Munro knew she wanted the book to begin with the story “To Reach Japan,” and wanted it to end with four largely autobiographical “not-quite-stories,” but she was unsure of the rest. After “trying things around,” as Close puts it, Gibson came up with an order that worked for everyone.
Often, there’s at least one story they aren’t able to place, and it’ll be set aside for a future collection. The story “Wood,” for instance, was held back from three different collections before finally making it into 2009’s Too Much Happiness.
“It was in good enough shape to publish, but it just never seemed to fit,” says Close, adding that Munro reworked the story a little more each time. “It kept getting better, of course, so by the time it got published it was quite a wonderful, exceptional story.”
From there, all that’s left are the basics: typesetting the book, copy editing, and writing the flap copy. Thinking back on the process, both Gibson and Close agree their most valuable contribution is reassuring Munro that a story is done.
Close recalls how, a few years ago, when the 1990s story “The Love of a Good Woman” was being reprinted in a best-of collection, Munro mused aloud about shifting some of its elements again.
“I had to keep telling her, ‘No, it’s fine the way it is.’”
Q&Q contacted booksellers across Canada to uncover the most popular crime and mystery titles of 2012.
Click on the thumbnails to discover the booksellers’ top titles.
Last week, Q&Q asked readers to submit their favourite Canadian titles of 2012, and the votes came pouring in.
In the fiction category, Tanis Rideout’s Above All Things (McClelland & Stewart), about George Mallory’s fatal attempt to climb Mount Everest, is a clear favourite, as is Corey Redekop’s zombie novel, Husk. Many of you also love CS Richardson’s romantic The Emperor of Paris (Doubleday Canada) and Missy Marton’s debut novel, The Love Monster (Véhicule Press).
When it comes to poetry, the top titles are Don McKay’s ecologically minded collection Paradoxides (M&S) and Mathew Henderson’s Lease (Coach House Books) inspired by his time working in the Western oil fields.
The Mother Corp receives some love in the non-fiction category, with three books by CBC personalities voted best of the year: Rick Mercer’s A Nation Worth Ranting About (Doubleday Canada), Amanda Lang’s The Power of Why (HarperCollins Canada), and Nahlah Ayed’s A Thousand Farewells: A Reporter’s Journey from Refugee Camp to the Arab Spring (Viking Canada). Another favourite is Jael Ealey Richardson’s memoir, The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lessons, a Father’s Life (Thomas Allen Publishers), chronicling her football-playing father’s past.
In November, Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations for Kyo Maclear’s latest picture book, Virginia Wolf (Kids Can Press), won her the Governor General’s Literary Award. Q&Q readers were also impressed by the title, which overwhelmingly received the most votes in the children’s category.
Series titles rule in the YA category with Such Wicked Intent (HarperCollins Canada), the sequel to Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, and Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure (Simon & Schuster), the latest boy-chef mystery by Kevin Sylvester.
Which 2012 books would you add to the list? Leave your picks in the comments below.
Among Canadian booksellers contacted by Q&Q, there was a general consensus that 2012 was a conservative year for non-fiction.
David Worsley, co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ontario, observed: “The big titles are spread out across genres. But there has been lots of interest in biographies, especially rock ’n’ roll biographies.”
Mike Hamm, manager of Bookmark in Halifax, found his customers gravitating toward more austere non-fiction narratives. “This year featured strong sales for titles that were very contemplative and ultra-serious in tone,” he says.
Click on the thumbnails to view booksellers’ picks for the top non-fiction titles of 2012.
According to booksellers contacted by Q&Q, graphic novels continue their move into the mainstream.
Jason Grimmer, manager of Montreal’s Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, says, “People are starting to look at graphic novels as literature.”
Calum Johnston, owner of Halifax’s Strange Adventures, observes: “Libraries, bookstores, schools, and universities keep adding comics to their curriculum and shelves. So the chance of people coming into contact with graphic novels is improving.”
Click on the thumbnails below to explore booksellers’ picks for best graphic novels of the year.
According to booksellers contacted by Q&Q, cookbooks that focus on ingredient-based specialty cooking have made a major resurgence.
Mika Bareket of Toronto’s Good Egg says, “Some of the biggest and best books of the year have been very focused on regional authenticity, some as specific as to a particular province or region within a nation. This trend replaces the more worldly chef-driven trends of previous years, which tend to yield culturally broad cookbooks.”
Click the thumbnails below to explore booksellers’ picks for the top cookbooks of 2012.
Tell us your favourite Canadian titles of the year and we’ll share the results next week.
When Q&Q spoke to independent booksellers across Canada to get their fiction picks of the year, it became apparent that while seasoned favourites like Ian McEwan and J.K. Rowling dominate the list, local titles are favourites in all regions.
Simone Lee, co-owner of Pages on Kensington in Calgary, attributes the popularity of Will Ferguson’s 419 to hometown pride. “He’s a local celebrity,” she says.
Click on the thumbnails below to discover Canadian booksellers’ top picks for fiction.