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Bookstores share their Canada Reads recommendations

October 16 is Independents' Day, a day where book lovers come together and celebrate their favourite independent book store. We wanted to celebrate by getting some bookstores in the on the Canada Reads recommendation action. Their choices are eclectic, exciting and represent the rich diversity Canadian fiction has to offer. Some don't even fit this year's Canada Reads criteria, which proves that good bookstores are all about pushing readers' boundaries, challenging expcetations and helping them discover something new.

Check out their recommendations below!


Lisa Doucet, co-manager of Woozles in Halifax, Nova Scotia, recommends: Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Airborn is a magnificent YA novel that offers something to entice virtually any reader of almost any age. True to form, Oppel has peopled the novel with engaging and multi-facted characters that are both sympathetic and inspiring. The alternate history that he has devised and the society that emerges in this trilogy is well-developed, and the plot keeps even the most easily-distracted reader hanging on the edge of their seat while offering much to satisfy more philosophical readers as well. It is a nuanced and multi-layered story that is fast-paced, provocative and utterly unputdownable. It is also a brilliant example of the newly-emerging genre of steampunk and deserves recognition for being innovative and encouraging a wide readership to discover a whole new genre of young adult literature.

The team at Sitka Books & Art in Vancouver, British Columbia recommends: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

A charming, interesting and overall awesome protagonist, sixteen-year-old, Nomi Nickel, deals with acceptance and rebellion, sex and family, loss and discovery in a restrictive, Mennonite community in this fantastic novel. With a wonderful attention to detail, a pulsing, tender heart, realistic dialogue and spot-on teenage, observational humour Toews paints a complex portrait of a religious community without judgement. She has written a coming of age story that isn't lame. In fact it's super. And what small town girl didn't want to escape to New York to hang out with Lou Reed?

Simone Lee, co-owner of Pages Books on Kensington in Calgary, Alberta, recommends: How to Make Love to a Negro without Getting Tired by Dany Laferriere

I first read How to Make to Love to a Negro without Getting Tired when starting in the world of books, and I thought: "Wow, this is a Canadian book? I want more of this!," but there is no one else who writes like Dany Laferriere. You could call him Canada's Baldwin, or Bukowski, or Miller, but that would be missing the point. Laferriere is uniquely Canadian, and we need him badly.

Laferrier's book, rereleased this September, now bares its full French title. It might make you sigh: "...Without Getting Tired." How is that possible? Well, we made Laferriere do all the work. HTMLTAN, an international sensation, is funny, political, poignant, postmodern ... and it's sexy - who could ask for more?

This book might offend everyone, but even-handedly. Laferriere's humour, and the good will it generated, resulted in a conversation about race around the world. It also opened the door to Canadian writers who found more readers once people were seduced by the narrator of HTMLTAN, and his critique of modern Canadian life, literature, and lovemaking.

Laferriere, the first person narrator, a wanna-be author, a refugee, wrote HTMLTAN as his salvation out of our immigrant ghetto. He hitched his wagon to the stars, and is probably better known internationally than here in Canada.

Laferriere's chapter headings alone blast stereotypes of racism, sexism and provincialism -- you could just read them and learn something (and smile.) This short novel is more than a quickie read. Long live the after glow!

Jennifer Fournier, of Chat Noir Books in New Liskeard, Ontario, recommends: Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese

Everyone thinks that winning the lottery would make them happy. What if you were homeless? Are you sure? Richard Wagamese weaves the stories of six homeless people, one lonely movie buff and a winning lottery ticket together into a novel that challenges preconceptions about the homeless, money and friendship. I couldn't put it down.


Christopher Clarke, proprietor of Argo Bookshop in Montreal, Quebec, recommends: Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

I spent a long time debating between titles. I concluded that Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road ought to win. While we wish we could forward some obscure writer no one has ever heard of we think people know his name for good reason and he deserves all the praise he can get. I think that the rise of Boyden as a voice of Canadian letters, leading a new generation of writers of which our nation can be proud, is the single most important Canadian book event of the decade.

The team from Greenley's Bookstore in Belleville, Ontario recommends: Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

Although we've thought of several choices, none fills the criteria as well as Come, Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant. It's been our impression that Canada doesn't celebrate our humorous writers and writing enough, and that CanLit often focuses on more literary, melancholy stories. Often, we take ourselves too seriously!

Defining Canadian identity is something that we as a nation seem to struggle with. Even in literary endeavours such as Canada Reads, we are always searching for what is quintessentially Canadian. Come, Thou Tortoise succeeds for us in that it celebrates the diversity of what it means to be Canadian. Along with our celebrated politeness and kindness, as individuals we can also be quirky, funny, romantic, sentimental, brash, tactless, and, most importantly, unique. Like Canada, Come, Thou Tortoise exemplifies our indefinable essence through its diverse group of characters and families that in spite of their idiosyncrasies successfully cohabit and adapt.

Come, Thou Tortoise has also proven highly accessible not only to all our staff but also to an amazing range of readers to whom we've handsold the book. For this reason, for its imaginative and skilled writing, and for all those reasons above, we submit Jessica Grant's novel as an essential Canadian read.

Russell Floren, manager of The Bookery in St. John's, Newfoundland, recommends: Conceit by Mary Novik

It's a wonderful book by a first time author, it has a great mood and tone. It's a wonderful take on 17th-century British history. Several authors have come in our store and I've recommended it them and they've loved it, and I'm sure Canada will love it too.

Anna Beddie, owner of Misty River Books in Terrace, British Columbia, recommends: The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B by Sandra Gulland

It's a fabulous book I've recommended many times to people. It tells the story of Napoleon's Josephine and it's rich in detail. A truly wonderful read.

Sandy Bielesch, the receiver at Owl's Nest Books in Calgary, Alberta, recommends: Room by Emma Donaghue

I loved Room, I loved how ambiguous it was and how it challenged me. I love books that make me feel that way, that push me outside my box and make me think like that. The point of view is very different and challenging and it;s a book that a lot of readers will want to think about and talk about, making it great for Canada Reads.

The team at Book Mark in Halifax, Nova Scotia recommends: Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

The last decade provided readers with an overabundance of magnificent Canadian novels but it is truly a rare book that immediately crystalizes into a classic. In Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden recounts the journey of two Cree youths as snipers on the WWI battlefields of Europe and the return of a physically, emotionally and culturally damaged man who is taken upriver to heal. It is as important as Atwood's Surfacing in delineating a sense of Canadian

Rupert McNally, of Ben McNally Books in Toronto, Ontario, recommends: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

Were I to choose a book for Canada Reads it would be The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler. I picked it up a couple of years ago and read it within a weekend, which is unusual for me. As soon as I finished it I threw it across the room. I was irate. "That was shit," I thought. It's taken me awhile to realize how rare it is to be so emotionally invested in a character, fictitious or not. I recognized so much of myself in Duddy and demanded so much more of him because of it. It's only recently that I have realized a lot of life's most important lessons are taught in counterpoint. How not to live (and more importantly, why not to live a certain way) can be just as enlightening and perhaps more effective than the much more widespread expression of how to live and why. Richler's balancing of comedy and erudition are unparalleled. I figure, if this is what it takes to get land, I'd rather be a nobody.

We want to thank all the book stores who sent in picks. Now it's your turn to get a say! Cast your vote below for your favorite (eligible) submission. If they were published in the last decade, we can't include it in the poll, but thought we simply had to share them all!

Now, go shopping and support your local independent bookstore!

Erin Balser is an associate producer of Canada Reads.

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