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Fall preview 2012: Canadian non-fiction, part II

The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.


In 2009, police discovered a car in the Rideau Canal just outside of Kingston, Ontario. The car contained the bodies of three sisters – Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia – and 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad. Authorities later arrested the girls’ father, brother, and mother, all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder for their roles in the honour killings. Paul Schliesmann’s Honour on Trial (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $19.95 pa., Oct.) examines the facts behind the case that horrified Canadians.


He’s been a dragon in his den and gone to prison for his reality-television show, Redemption Inc. Now, Kevin O’Leary, businessman, pundit, and author of the hybrid memoir/business guide Cold Hard Truth, returns with The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Dec.), a guide to avoiding common financial mistakes. • O’Leary’s left-leaning opponent on CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, Amanda Lang, has a leadership book out this season. The Power of Why: Simple Questions that Lead to Success (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl., Oct.) postulates that asking the right questions leads to increased productivity.


From the internal combustion engine and cold fusion to the Internet and the artificial heart, all scientific discoveries and technological advancements are the product of human ingenuity. In the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures, Neil Turok argues that science represents humanity’s best hope for progress and peace. The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (House of Anansi Press, $19.95 pa.) appears in September. • Terence Dickinson is editor of the Canadian astronomy magazine Sky News and author of the bestseller NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. His new book, Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Images (Firefly Books, $49.95 cl., Sept.), is a visually sumptuous compendium of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.


Novelist and short-story writer Thomas King, who was also the first native person to deliver the prestigious CBC Massey Lectures, has long been a committed advocate for native rights. In The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, $34.95 cl., Nov.), King examines the way European settlers and natives have viewed each other via pop culture, treaties, and legislation. • Poet and critic Kathleen McConnell explores the portrayal of women in pop culture through the ages in Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight (Wolsak & Wynn, $19 pa., Nov.).

In A Civil Tongue, philosophy professor and public intellectual Mark Kingwell predicted the devolution of political discourse into a schoolyard-like shouting match. His new collection, Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility, and the Human Imagination (Biblioasis, $21.95 pa., Sept.), is about how incivility and bad behaviour prevent us from achieving the kind of society we desire.

Poet, publisher, and critic Carmine Starnino turns his incisive and cutting attention to CanLit in his new collection of essays, Lazy Bastardism (Gaspereau Press,  Sept.). • James Pollock believes that Canadian poetry lacks an authentic relationship with poetry from the rest of the world. His new book, You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95 pa., Nov.), attempts to situate Canadian poetry in a global context, through examinations of the work of writers such as Anne Carson, Eric Ormsby, and Karen Solie.

A new anthology from Women’s Press brings together essays addressing specific concerns of LGBT communities and individuals across the country. Edited by Maureen FitzGerald and Scott Rayter, Queerly Canadian: An Introductory Reader in Sexuality Studies ($64.95 pa., Sept.) takes up issues of education, law, and religion, among others. • For a brief moment in the 1960s, Montreal became a hotbed of Civil Rights activism, radically challenging traditional conceptions of racial hierarchies. The 1968 Congress of Black Writers included activists and spokespeople such as Stokely Carmichael, C.L.R. James, and Harry Edwards. David Austin chronicles this important gathering in Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., Nov.).

Belles Lettres (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Nov.) is a collection of postcards from authors such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, and Charlotte Brontë, collated and annotated by Greg Gatenby, the founding artistic director of Toronto’s International

Festival of Authors. • In The Other Side of Midnight: Taxi Cab Stories (Creative Book Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.), writer and anthologist Mike Heffernan chronicles the experiences of St. John’s cab drivers and their clients.


In the years following Liz Worth’s Treat Me Like Dirt, the market for books about the Canadian punk music scene has been as frenzied as the audience at a Fucked Up concert. In Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, (ECW, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Sam Sutherland looks at the historical context for Canadian punk progenitors such as D.O.A., the Viletones, and Teenage Head. • One early Canadian punk band – Victoria’s NoMeans­No – is the subject of the latest book in the Bibliophonic series from Invisible Publishing. NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere ($12.95 pa.), by Halifax author Mark Black, is due out in October.

Marc Strange, who died in May, was known for mystery novels such as Body Blows and Follow Me Down. He was also the co-creator (with L.S. Strange) of the seminal Canadian television series The Beachcombers. Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40 (Harbour Publishing, $26.95 pa., Sept.), co-written with Jackson Davies, the actor who played Constable John Constable in the series, chronicles the iconic show and its equally iconic lead actor.

Since its release in 1971, Ken Russell’s notoriously blasphemous film, The Devils, has been the subject of heavy censorship in both the U.S. and the U.K. Canadian film scholar Richard Crouse examines the history of this cult classic in Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils (ECW, $19.95 pa., Oct.), which includes an interview with the film’s director, who died in 2011.


Former model and current stay-at-home mom Kelly Oxford has found her largest measure of fame as a result of her sarcastic Twitter feed (@kellyoxford), which features such Oscar Wildean witticisms as “IDEA: ‘Bless This Mess’ novelty period panties” and “Some parents in China get their kids to work in factories and I can’t get my kid to pass me some Twizzlers.” The essays in Everything’s Perfect When You’re a Liar (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99 cl., Sept.) promise more of the same. • If you prefer your humour with a larger dollop of political satire, you’ll be pleased to know that Rick Mercer has a collection of brand new rants on the way. A Nation Worth Ranting About (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Oct.) includes the author’s description of bungee jumping with Rick Hansen, and a more serious piece about Jamie Hubley, a gay teen who committed suicide after being bullied.

If you want to know whether you might be a redneck, ask Jeff Foxworthy. If you want to know whether you might be a native of Saskatchewan, check your birth certificate or consult the new book from author Carson Demmans and illustrator Jason Sylvestre. You Might Be from Saskatchewan If … (MacIntyre Purcell/Canadian Manda Group, $12.95 pa.) appears in September.


Rob Feenie is the latest Food Network Canada celebrity chef with a new cookbook. The host of New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie, who famously defeated Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America, offers innovative approaches to classic, family-friendly fare in Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends (D&M, $29.95 pa., Sept.). The recipes have undergone stringent quality control, each one having been approved by Feenie’s children, aged 3, 6, and 7.

Camilla V. Saulsbury’s 500 Best Quinoa Recipes: Using Nature’s Superfood for Gluten-free Breakfasts, Mains, Desserts and More (Robert Rose, $27.95 pa., Oct.) provides more healthy recipes based on the reigning superstar ingredient. • Aaron Ash, founder of Gorilla Food, a Vancouver restaurant that features vegan, organic, and raw cuisine, has achieved popularity among celebrity fans including Woody Harrelson and Katie Holmes. His new book, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp, $24.95 pa., Oct.), collects 150 recipes, all of which are made without a heat source.


Rocker Dave Bidini returns to his other passion – hockey – in A Wild Stab for It: This Is Game Eight from Russia (ECW, $22.95 cl., Sept.), in which the author talks to various Canadians about the influence of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. The release of the book is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the iconic series. • The man who made that series so memorable also has a book out this fall. Co-written with sports commentator Roger Lajoie, The Goal of My Life (Fenn/M&S, $32.99 cl., Sept.) traces Paul Henderson’s route through the OHL and the NHL, on his way to scoring “the goal of the century.”

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, ex–CFL quarterback and coach Frank Cosentino has penned the appropriately titled The Grey Cup 100th Anniversary (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Oct.). • Crime fiction writer Michael Januska offers his own take on 100 years of Canadian football history in Grey Cup Century (Dundurn, $14.99 pa., Sept.).

Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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Book links roundup: E.L. James’s husband writes YA novel, Stuart Ross slams Canada’s spoken-word community, and more

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Shit Girls Say scores book deal with Harlequin

Following in the footsteps of Justin Halpern’s Shit My Dad Says, the popular Twitter feed and YouTube series Shit Girls Say is the latest Internet meme to be turned into a book.

Created by Toronto comics Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard, the book Sh*t Girls Say will be published by Harlequin in October, almost a year after the series hit the height of its Internet popularity. By December 2011, it was nearly impossible for anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account to avoid the hundreds of knockoffs the videos spawned (including “The Inevitable Sh*t Agents and Editors Say”).

Today, the Shit Girls Say Twitter feed has over a million followers and the YouTube video channel has over 28 million views, although not everyone is a fan. Last year, Humphrey and Sheppard faced accusations of misogyny and sexism for their cross-dressing comedy.

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Amazon, the iPad, and the culture of reading in an age of distraction

“It’s like trying to cook when there are little children around.” That’s the assessment of one David Myers, a 53-year-old system administrator in Atlanta, regarding the experience of reading a book on the Kindle Fire. Myers is quoted in a New York Times article about the qualitative aspects of reading on multimedia, Internet-enabled devices. The article finds, unsurprisingly, that devices such as the iPad or the Kindle Fire, which are capable of surfing the Internet or streaming video, promote heightened distractibility among readers.

People who read ebooks on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.

Email lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.

The argument is not a new one, having been well rehearsed in volumes such as Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry. Nor is it likely to gain much traction with technophiles who envision a not-so-distant future in which even dedicated e-readers will feature enhanced books that link to external multimedia content.

And there is something to be said for the devices’ insistence that a book hold a reader’s attention. As Erin Faulk says in the NYT piece: “Recently, I gravitate to books that make me forget I have a world of entertainment at my fingertips. If the book’s not good enough to do that, I guess my time is better spent.”

Still, what Cory Doctorow referred to as an “ecosystem of interruption technologies” embedded in devices such as the iPad may be partly to blame for the reason Carr is able to quote Clay Shirky as writing, “No one reads War and Peace.… It’s too long and not so interesting.” Or maybe the lure of YouTube is just too great.

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Book links roundup: Transgender children’s books, famous gay writers, and more

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Vancouver Public Library opens new branch in Winter Games venue

The first full-service library branch in Vancouver’s Riley Park­ and Little Mountain neighbourhoods opened last week, thanks to the city’s Olympic legacy planning. Vancouver Public Library’s new Terry Salman Branch is located in the Hillcrest Community Centre, site of the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Centre during the 2010 Winter Games. The building also houses an NHL-size ice rink, curling club, preschool, field house, fitness centre, plus indoor and outdoor aquatics facilities.

Branch manager Cathy Wang (front row, centre) and library staff opened VPL's new Terry Salman Branch on Oct. 13.

According to VPL chief librarian Sandra Singh, the new branch will finally allow the library to offer a range of children’s and teen’s programming, additional technological materials and Internet terminals, and community-specific services and collections, such as Chinese-language resources, to this service area. “We just weren’t able to do it [all] in the previous branch,” Singh says.

The 7,500 sq. ft. branch, named after the chair of the VPL Foundation Board who recently donated $300,000, is six times bigger than the VPL’s former Riley Park Storefront Branch, which closed its doors on Sept. 17.

Terry Salman branch manager Cathy Wang says the timing of the opening couldn’t be better. “In the near future they’re talking about developing a market and low-cost housing nearby, so it’s a good time to replace our little storefront branch with a bigger facility because [the area is] going to be more densely populated.”

In June, city council voted unanimously to increase VPL’s 2011 operating budget by $391,000 in order to ensure the fall opening, as well as a $957,100 increase in the 2012 budget to staff and operate the branch 78 hours a week (up from 43 hours a week at the storefront location).

A grand opening celebration will take place on Oct. 29.

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Wattpad pulls in $3.5 million in new investment

Wattpad, the Toronto-based Internet company that allows readers and writers to connect and share their work online, has completed a new round of funding, including an investment from Union Square Ventures, the New York company whose online investments include heavyweight websites such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare. The investment from Union Square is part of $3.5 million for Wattpad that also includes money from Toronto’s Golden Venture Partners and Vancouver’s W Media Ventures, which has worked in the past with AbeBooks.

Although Wattpad clocked its one millionth user this past summer, a company press release states that the additional capital will allow the company to grow even more quickly:

We can hire more great people to create an even stronger mobile presence and user experience … We think we’re in a great position to fully take advantage of the growing number of mobile users, social networks, the rise in eReading, the global Internet, and cloud services to continue to build Wattpad into the best platform.

Calling it “the world’s most popular ebook community,” the W Media Ventures website predicts that Wattpad will have “the same disruptive effect on reading and creating books that AbeBooks had for finding and buying hard-to-find books.”

For the past decade the book industry has been pretty sheltered from the disruption the music and the film verticals have seen. But this is about to change dramatically. The distribution of books is rapidly moving digital as eReaders have gone mainstream. And now we can see for the first time how social is impacting the way books are created and consumed.

Citing the trend toward “disintermediation,” Union Square partner Albert Wenger, who will now sit on Wattpad’s board, says the Wattpad community removes traditional barriers keeping artists from reaching a larger market:

With [the Internet] story tellers can both reach the largest possible audience and can do so without intermediaries. While they can do so using blogs and web sites those aren’t ideally suited to stories (e.g., blogs tend to run backwards) and don’t form a larger community dedicated to stories as each author has to build their own community.

Whether the push toward disintermediation will supercede the role of publishers and editors, who have traditionally been charged with quality control, is an open question, but it appears to be one that Wattpad and its investors are willing to spend quite a bit of money interrogating.


Ontario designer turns David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” into a digital kids’ book

Andrew Kolb’s digital prototype

David Bowie’s 1969 song “Space Oddity” isn’t the most likely source for a children’s book, given that its main character, Major Tom, ends up alone, stuck in space while floating in his tin can (also, some music fans believe it’s an ode to heroin). But when Andrew Kolb, a freelance illustrator and design instructor from Kitchener, Ontario, wanted to create a children’s storybook as a portfolio piece for his website, he gravitated toward the classic tune.

“There are a lot of songs that have that clear visual flow from start to finish for me, but I really like the imagery of this song in particular,” he says.

Kolb’s clean, vintage-inspired imagery has struck a chord with music and design fans, too. On Saturday he posted the prototype Space Oddity as a free, downloadable PDF on his website. By Tuesday, it had received more than 30,000 unique visitors, and had been covered on various high profile websites, including Slate, i09, and Wired, causing Kolb’s website to occasionally crash.

“I usually get a slow, steady pace of hits, but this is like a monsoon,” says Kolb, laughing.

The 28-page book concept – the first kids’ title he’s worked on – took Kolb three to four months to design in his spare time. “I could have done half a dozen pages and put it up on my website to show people if they were interested,” he says, “but I did the whole thing just on a whim thinking maybe one day this will catch on.”

Kolb’s dream is to see Space Oddity turned into an actual print book, something his new fans are already asking for. But that, of course, will depend on Ziggy Stardust himself. Kolb hasn’t been able to get the book to the iconic rock star, yet. He says, “By pure saturation of the Internet, hopefully we can reach him.”

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Publishing: not always a downer

There’s some funny book stuff floating around the internets today. Lest the trolls be confused or angered by humour, this is indeed an attempt to offer some Friday afternoon levity:

Eye Weekly columnist Sarah Nicole Prickett defends Chapters as her favourite bland non-space to rest without people judging her:

They don’t complain about how many magazines I’ve read for free and possibly ripped things from. They don’t look askance at my taste. Their eyebrows don’t say, “Oh, you’re just getting into Murakami now?” They make no suggestions, having nothing to prove; they work at Chapters. “Are you sure you want The Paris Review?” says absolutely nobody to me. “What about The Believer?” I never feel like I have to buy anything, the way I do everywhere else books are sold, as though upon walking in I’ve been handed a bucket, and now I must scoop out my share of the water to prevent us all from drowning. Not here. This ship will float on.

Those crazy kids at CBC Radio’s Day Six provide us with an audio track of Giller winners reading from Snooki’s debut novel, A Shore Thing:

Linden “Giller Gorilla” MacIntyre is a journalist with CBC’s The Fifth Estate, the winner of eight Gemini Awards, an International Emmy, and the 2009 Giller Prize for his novel, The Bishop’s Man.

Johanna “Skib-WOWW” Skibsrud is the 2010 Giller winner for The Sentimentalists, and the author of several collections of poetry.

The New York Times points to a project by a group of history teachers with an inventive and bizarre way to engage students. They produce music videos for altered versions of their favourite songs that replace the original lyrics with lyrics based on classic books and historical figures. Witness – for serious -  “Jenny From the Block” as Mary, Queen of Scots.

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Aussie readers asked for input about future of publishing

Last week, the Internet behemoth Google launched its e-book sales site, Google eBooks, in the U.S. The e-book market is now crowded with offerings from Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Sony, which in turn has spawned a cottage industry for articles about the future of reading and the future of publishing. Amid all this cacophony, it’s small wonder publishers have responded to the rapidly diversifying marketplace with a mixture of fear and confusion.

In Australia, a consortium called the Book Industry Strategy Group is directly petitioning readers about their reading habits, desires, and preferences as a way of gaining clearer insights into the way forward. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Barry Jones, chair of the BISG, states that the group is “seeking ideas from all Australians on how to face the challenges of the digital age, and to turn them into opportunities.” Jones suggests that opportunities lie in the flexibility and ready availability of e-books as against their print counterparts:

Where Amazon and Apple have got it right is the immediacy of purchasing an eBook. Both the Kindle and the iPad come with wireless connectivity to the Amazon and Apple stores, respectively. In the case of the Kindle, if you have an Amazon account, the Kindle comes preconfigured with your details so you can buy a book at 3am if you so desire. New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton calls this Me Economics, which is really just instant gratification in book buying. But it beats late-night television.

And although Jones throws a bone to those of us who still enjoy reading printed books (which he refers to as “pBooks”), it is clear that the digital arena is where he and his group are most invested:

And what about people who like the smell of books or the feel of books, or the cover artwork, or who just want to scribble over the pages? No, these sorts of people will mix up their reading habits and buy both pBooks and eBooks.

Public libraries are starting to offer access to eBooks via downloads or by access, by borrowers, to subscriptions taken out by the library. We want to hear about these initiatives and your experiences with them.

School kids will agree that carrying an eReader with all their textbooks on it beats carrying a heavy school bag with all their textbooks in it. And textbooks form a large part of the book industry in Australia. Can we hear your thoughts?

The public can submit comments and suggestions to the BISG until Jan. 31, 2011. One hopes that they will be slightly more innovative and nuanced than the sort of shopworn analysis Jones allows himself above.

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