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Books of the year 2008

The year that was

Notes and distinctions from the Canadian book biz in 2008

Rookie of the year

Launched by Broadview Press and headed up by editor Melanie Little (an author herself), the new literary imprint Freehand Books debuted this fall with just four titles. And one of them, Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault, has already scored Freehand its first Giller nomination – a bit of recognition plenty of more-established publishers are still waiting for.

Spat of the year

Whether you view the “Salon des Refusés” – in which two literary journals, Canadian Notes & Queries and The New Quarterly, took Jane Urquhart to task for her choices in The Penguin Anthology of Canadian Fiction – as a necessary corrective or an overreaction, it’s still heartening to see some passionate public discussion of Canadian short stories.

Hottest route to mainstream publication

Terry Fallis self-published his novel The Best Laid Plans, won a Leacock Medal, and then sold the book to McClelland & Stewart. The Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon released its own tie-in book and then sold it to Douglas & McIntyre. And a little book called The Shack, by William P. Young, became a runaway inspirational bestseller before he licensed it to Hachette.

Let’s-try-anything promotion of the year

The International Festival of Authors gave away books on the street in downtown Toronto this fall, and Tightrope Books did the same thing with a Canadian poetry anthology. Whether those efforts will echo in bookstores later is impossible to gauge, but for purveyors of Canadian literatre, there’s some good news: you can at least give it away.

Publicity department of the year

Facebook.

Hottest CanLit city

New novels from David Bergen and Miriam Toews, a breakout star in Andrew Davidson, a growing McNally Robinson empire, and a local newspaper (the Free Press) that’s actually expanding its book coverage instead of cutting it back. For Winnipeg, 2008 was an alignment of the stars.

Most lopsided partnership of the year

Amazon held up its end of the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, sponsoring the prize and the party. But since Books in Canada didn’t publish at all for most of the year, it’s unclear exactly what the literary mag brought to the table.

Least inspiring reinvention

There’ve been a lot of complaints floating around BookExpo Canada in recent years – low attendance, a dearth of orders, no apparent return on investment – but we can’t remember hearing the words “if only there was a prefab booth option” very often.

Most worrying trend

Four-way tie: A volatile loonie, uncertainty over arts funding, contraction of books coverage in media across the country, and, of course, looming global economic collapse....

Lamest timing

In the November issue, Q&Q compared in detail the respective features of  two e-book devices, Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader – just weeks before an entirely new version of the Reader hit the market.

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Go back to Q&Q's Books of the year 2008 guide

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