2019 Awards Round-Up

2019 has been a spectacular year for Biblioasis titles on awards lists. Check out some of the recognition they got this year.


Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie — Longlisted for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize

This news is still very fresh, so excuse us while we jump up and down a little. 2020 is the last year the RBC Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction will be awarded, and we are ecstatic that Bush Runner has made the longlist. All our fingers and toes are crossed that it makes the shortlist on January 8—it completely deserves it.

The jurors for this year’s prize are Margaret Atwood, Coral Ann Howells and Peter Theroux. The jury noted that “Distilling these diverse riches, embracing the social, personal, political and historical, into a mere list of ten was a profound but rewarding challenge—our list could have been much longer, and indeed is longer than we were asked for! Readers globally can be thankful for a year of such exceptional Canadian contributions.”

Bush Runner has had an excellent year—national bestseller, rave reviews in The Globe and Mail, Washington Times, and Winnipeg Free Press, among others. Plus it was named one of the Globe and Mail books of the year!

You can listen to an interview with Mark Bourrie on CBC’s Ideas here, and you can purchase Bush Runner here.


Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann — Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize, Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal, Shortlisted for Saltire Prize

If you’ve been following Biblioasis at all this year, you’ll definitely know what a wild ride we’ve had with this title. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which brought with it a whole slew of reviews, including ones in the New York Times, New Yorker, and more. Then it won the Goldsmiths Prize, was nominated for the Andrew Carnegie Medal, and was shortlisted for the Saltire Prize.

Now it is showing up on too many year-end lists to count, and it deserves every accolade.

But the coolest part of publicizing this book hasn’t been the awards or the press, it’s been the booksellers. So many booksellers have rallied behind this book like we’ve never seen before. Lori Feathers at Interabang Books interviewed Lucy for Lit Hub and went on Minnesota Public Radio to talk about the book. Josh Cook from Porter Square Books has sold almost 100 copies, and if he makes it to 100 before the end of the year, he’s getting a Ducks, Newburyport-themed tattoo! Kyle at Type Books has legendary hand-selling skills—in fact, when we went to Word On the Street this fall, half the people we tried to sell the book to had already purchased one from Kyle. And the list goes on! So thank you, Lucy Ellmann, for writing a book that has brought us closer to our independent bookseller friends.

You can purchase Ducks, Newburyport here. Or purchase it here so Josh has to get that tattoo.


Late Breaking by K.D. Miller — Finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, Nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award, Nominated for the Toronto Book Award


Boy, has this been a year for K.D. Miller! Late Breaking has been on nearly every single major awards list in Canada, and we are so proud of this brilliant book.

People are blown away by K.D.’s “compulsively readable” (CBC Ontario Morning) stories.

When Late Breaking was named a finalist for the GGs, K.D. said, “What an honour! I am so pleased and grateful to be on the Governor General’s list. Also a little surprised. The title story of Late Breaking takes a gently satirical look at the literary prize scene. I really thought I was ruling myself out. But the Trillium, Toronto Book Awards, Giller and now the Governor General’s Awards have seemed to disagree. Thank you.”

We also get a bit of a kick out of seeing the cover—full frontal male nudity and all—on all the awards coverage. The question we always wonder is, “Will they blur it out this time?” Get your copy now!


Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page — Winner of the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize

Recognition for this book continued in 2019! You may recall that this Kathy Page’s page-turner won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize in 2018, and this year, it kept up its momentum, going on to win the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize.

The jurors called it “A flawlessly executed novel that draws the arc of a man’s life, measured by interruptions of history and the inevitable changes that the years impose on us all. Nimble, engaging and deeply perceptive, Dear Evelyn is wise and widely appealing.”

You can purchase Dear Evelyn here. Did you know we’ve also got a book club reading guide for this book? Check it out here.

Already read Dear Evelyn and itching for more Kathy Page. Her novel, The Story of My Face is the latest book in our reSet series. You can purchase it here.




Be With: Letters to a Caregiver by Mike Barnes — Shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award


One of the cool things about the Toronto Book Award is that the list is filled with so many different types of books—there is no specific required genre to be on the list. Mike Barnes’ thoughtful and heart-wrenching book Be With is a prime example of this. It is composed of short reflections, designed for consuming a bit at a time.

Mike got to participate in Word On the Street at the Toronto Book Awards tent as part of the awards promotion and he repeatedly drew a crowd. It’s impossible not to love this little yellow book (and Mike).

Plus, Mike had a blast at the winner ceremony. If you ever get the chance to meet him, ask him about his drink ticket philosophy—it’s sure to amaze.

You can purchase Be With here. Also, did you know that we have published several of Mike’s books, including his collection of poetry, Braille Rainbow, which came out this spring? Check them out here at his author page.,



They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada — Nominated for the Toronto Book Award

Alongside Late Breaking and Be With, Cecil Foster’s book, They Call Me George, was nominated for the Toronto Book Award. This incredible true story is the first in our Untold Lives series, and it has been blowing people away. It received rave reviews in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, The Washington Times, and more! As part of the promotion for this book, Cecil has done various speaking engagements, after which, everyone always wants to buy the book—Cecil is such a natural storyteller.

Donna Bailey Nurse, in a review in the Literary Review of Canada said it well: “Foster has dissected the myth of Canadian tolerance, born of our history as a haven for refugee slaves—exposing instead a past in which the English and French elites fought to create a white nation…Blacks and other Canadians of colour are not merely the beneficiaries of multiculturalism; they are its architects.”

Buy They Call Me George here.



Dream Sequence — Nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize

It was super exciting to have TWO titles on the Giller longlist this year, Dream Sequence being one of them. This gorgeously-written novel has been compared to The Great Gatsby  by The Times of London. Wall Street Journal said, “The quality of the prose carries the book beyond conventions, as Mr. Foulds is able to conjure, with the unsettling immediacy of a person breathing against your neck, both Henry’s and Kristin’s private fixations and fantasies.”

When the longlist was announced, Adam made this statement: “I am hugely honoured that Dream Sequence has been included on this longlist. It is a particular thrill as a new Canadian to receive this recognition from one of Canada’s most storied cultural institutions.”

Check out Dream Sequence here.





We are extremely honoured to get to publish incredible books like these ones all year long, and we are proud of our authors for these accomplishments. But it’s also important to note that every Biblioasis book is a winner in our books. We believe in every book we publish and want to thank our authors for an incredible 2019!

New Biblioasis Subscription Program

This year we’re trying something new at Biblioasis: a subscription program! We wanted a way that Biblioasis supporters could get a good deal on 2020 titles, as well as have access to exclusive content and subscriber perks.

We’ve got a few different options for bundle deals and subscription programs!

Best Canadian 2019 Bundle Deal


This is the first year that the entire Best Canadian series is being published under one roof! We are so excited to share Best Canadian Poetry 2019, Best Canadian Stories 2019, and Best Canadian Essays 2019 with the world. Our editors, Rob Taylor, Anita Lahey, Amanda Jernigan, Caroline Adderson, and Emily Donaldson worked tirelessly to put these spectacular collections together this year. With the Best Canadian Bundle, for only $60, you can get all three Best Canadian books (shipping and taxes included)!

Reading these books is a great way to discover new writers that you may want to read more of. This year’s selections feature works by recent Giller-winner Ian Williams and writers such as Billy-Ray Belcourt, Lisa Moore, Zalika Reid-Benta, Richard Van Camp, and more!


Biblioasis Fiction Club


Love novels and short stories? Want to receive 5 new Biblioasis fiction titles throughout the year, plus subscriber bonuses like chapbooks, broadsides, and other ephemera? Then you might like to check out the Biblioasis Fiction Club! For $120 (shipping and taxes included), you can select 5 forthcoming Biblioasis fiction titles, and we will send them to you as soon as we have copies (even if it is before the pub date!). And if you order before January 1, 2020, we’ll throw in a year’s subscription to Canadian Notes & Queries (CNQ) at no extra cost!




Just check out some of the books you have to choose from:


Biblioasis Translation Club


Can’t get enough of reading about the experiences of people from different places, who speak different languages? You can also subscribe to the Biblioasis Translation club. Like the fiction club, you will also receive exclusive perks. For $120 (shipping and taxes included), you can receive all 5 BITS (Biblioasis International Translation Series) titles in 2020. If you order before January 1, 2020, we’ll throw in a year’s subscription to Canadian Notes & Queries (CNQ) at no extra cost! Please, note that there is some overlap between the Translation Club titles and the Fiction Club and Non-Fiction Club titles, so if you’re joining more than one club, be sure to pick non-translation titles when you make your selections for the other clubs!



Here are the books you’ll receive:



Biblioasis Non-Fiction Club


Passionate about memoirs, biographies, and essays? Well, have we got a treat for you! For $120 (shipping and taxes included), you can choose 5 non-fiction titles from our 2020 list to receive. We’ve got some really interesting titles coming up in 2020, that you won’t want to miss. Of course, this subscription also includes exclusive bonuses like the other ones, and if you order before January 1, 2020, we’ll give you a year of CNQ. So why delay? A perfect gift for the non-fiction-lover in your life (or for yourself!)




Just check out some of the books you have to choose from:


Mystery Backlist Box


Last but not least is the Mystery Backlist Box. Maybe you’re looking for some adventure this holiday season. Maybe you’re looking for a good deal. Maybe you just really trust us as curators of books (you should)! For only $80 we’ll send you five books from our backlist. Let us know what kind of books you like in the notes box when you order and we will play book matchmaker, selecting titles specifically catered to you. Or leave it blank for a complete surprise. Either way, you’ll get good books—we only publish good books. We promise.

Forthcoming from Biblioasis: The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen

This week the ARCs for The Unseen came in! We are super excited about this book here at the Bibliomanse—not only was it shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize and for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award, but acclaimed literary critic Eileen Battersby said it was “Easily among the best books [she had] ever read.”

This stunning novel was translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw into beautiful, lyrical English, but don’t take our word for it—read an excerpt for yourself!


Whatever is washed ashore on an island belongs to the finder, and the islanders find a lot. It might be cork or barrels or hemp or driftwood or flotage — green and brown glass balls to stop fishing nets sinking — which old Martin Barrøy disentangles from the piles of seaweed when the storm has  blown over, then sits down in the boat shed to fasten new nets around, making them look like new. There might be a wooden toy for Ingrid, there might be fish boxes and oars, gaffs, bow rollers, bailers, poles, planks and the remains of boats. One winter night a whole wheelhouse was washed ashore. They used the horse to drag it onto dry land and left it there in the south of the island so that Ingrid could sit in the skipper’s swivel chair and turn the brass and mahogany wheel as she looked out over the meadows and stone walls that roll like waves across the island.

On rare occasions they find a message in a bottle, a mixture of longing and personal confidences intended for others than the finders, but which, if they were to have reached the intended recipient, would have caused them to weep tears of blood and move all heaven and earth. Now in all their indifference the islanders open the bottles, pick out the letters and read them, if they understand the language they are written in, that is, and reflect on the contents, superficial, vague reflections — messages in bottles are mythical vehicles of yearning, hope and unfulfilled lives — and then they put the letters in a chest reserved for objects which can neither be possessed nor discarded, and boil the bottles and rill them with redcurrant juice, or else simply place them on the windowsill in the barn as a kind of proof of their own emptiness, leaving the sunbeams to shine through them and turn green before refracting downwards and settling in the dry straw littering the floor.

But one autumn morning Hans Barrøy finds a whole tree that the storm has torn up and deposited on the southern tip of the island. An enormous tree. He can’t believe his eyes.

English translation copyright © 2016
by Don Bartlett & Don Shaw


Born on the Norwegian island that bears her name, Ingrid Barrøy’s world is circumscribed by storm-scoured rocks and the moods of the sea by which her family lives and dies. But her father dreams of building a quay that will end their isolation, and her mother longs for the island of her youth, and the country faces its own sea change: the advent of a modern world, and all its attendant unpredictability and violence. Brilliantly translated into English by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, The Unseen is a profoundly moving exploration of family, resilience, and fate.

The Unseen comes out on April 7, 2020 in Canada and the U.S., so keep your eyes open for it in the New Year!





Roy Jacobsen is a Norwegian novelist and short-story writer. Born in Oslo, he made his publishing début in 1982 with the short-story collection Fangeliv (Prison Life), which won Tarjei Vesaas’ debutantpris. He is winner of the prestigious Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature and two of his novels have been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize: Seierherrene (The Conquerors) in 1991 and Frost in 2004. The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles was published in Britain in 2008. Jacobsen lives in Oslo.


Don Bartlett is the acclaimed translator of Karl Ove Knausgard’s auto-fictional sequence My Struggle, as well as of novels by Jo Nesbo and Per Petterson. He lives in Norfolk, England.


Don Shaw, co-translator, is a teacher of Danish and author of the standard Danish-Thai/Thai-Danish dictionaries.



The Best Canadian Series 2019 — Coming Soon!

For the first time, the whole Best Canadian series is under one publishing roof! This year Biblioasis has taken on Best Canadian Poetry, Stories, and Essays with the help of editors Rob Taylor, Anita Lahey, Amanda Jernigan, Caroline Adderson, and Emily Donaldson.

This year’s selections feature works by recent Giller-winner Ian Williams and writers such as Billy-Ray Belcourt, Lisa Moore, Zalika Reid-Benta, Richard Van Camp, and more!

Check out interviews with Rob Taylor, guest editor of Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and Caroline Adderson, editor of Best Canadian Stories 2019 in previous blog posts.

We are offering a special deal on our website. For only $60 (shipping and taxes included), you can get all three Best Canadian 2019 books!


About Best Canadian Poetry 2019

Guest editor Rob Taylor, author of the widely acclaimed collection The News, brings a passionate ear for rhythm, an eye for narrative compression, an appetite for vital subject matter, and an affinity for warmth and wit to his selections for Best Canadian Poetry 2019. The fifty ruggedly independent poems gathered here tackle themes of emergence, defiance, ferocious anger, gratitude, and survival. They are alive with acoustic energy, precise in their language, and moving in their use of the personal to explore fraught political realities. They emit a cloud of invisible energy, a charge.

Featuring work by:

Colleen Baran • Gary Barwin • Billy-Ray Belcourt • Ali Blythe • Marilyn Bowering • Julie Bruck • Sara Cassidy • Sue Chenette • Chelsea Coupal • Kayla Czaga • Sadiqa de Meijer • Adebe DeRango-Adem • Chris Evans • Beth Follett • Stevie Howell • Danielle Hubbard • Dallas Hunt • Catherine Hunter • Sonnet L’Abbé • Ben Ladouceur • Tess Liem • D.A. Lockhart • Jessie Loyer • Annick MacAskill • Domenica Martinello • Laura Matwichuk • Katie McGarry • Jimmy McInnes • A.F. Moritz • Alexandra Oliver • Alycia Pirmohamed • Marion Quednau • Claudia Coutu Radmore • Shazia Hafiz Ramji • Shaun Robinson • Yusuf Saadi • Rebecca Salazar • Ellie Sawatzky • David Seymour • Kevin Spenst • Mallory Tater • Souvankham Thammavongsa • Russell Thornton • Daniel Scott Tysdal • William Vallières • Katherena Vermette • Douglas Walbourne-Gough • Cara Waterfall • Gillian Wigmore • Ian Williams




About Best Canadian Stories 2019

Now in its 49th year, Best Canadian Stories has long championed the short story form and highlighted the work of many writers who have gone on to shape the Canadian literary canon. Margaret Atwood, Clark Blaise, Tamas Dobozy, Mavis Gallant, Douglas Glover, Norman Levine, Rohinton Mistry, Alice Munro, Leon Rooke, Diane Schoemperlen, Kathleen Winter, and many others have appeared in its pages over the decades, making Best Canadian Stories the go-to source for what’s new in Canadian fiction writing for close to five decades. Selected by guest editor Caroline Adderson, the 2019 edition draws together both newer and established writers to shape an engaging and luminous mosaic of writing in this country today—a continuation of not only a series, but a legacy in Canadian letters.

Featuring work by:

Frankie Barnet • Shashi Bhat • Kai Conradi • Adam Dickinson • Christy Ann Conlin • Zsuzsi Gartner • Camilla Grudova • Elise Levine • Lisa Moore • Alex Pugsley • Zalika Reid-Benta • Mireille Silcoff • Troy Sebastian • Cathy Stonehouse • Richard Van Camp





About Best Canadian Essays 2019
The eleventh installment of Canada’s annual volume of essays showcases diverse nonfiction writing from across the country. Culled from leading Canadian magazines and journals, Best Canadian Essays 2019 contains award-winning and award-nominated nonfiction articles that are topical and engaging and have their finger on the pulse of our contemporary psyches.

Featuring work by:

Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt • Ali Blythe • Larissa Diakiw • Jeffery Donaldson • Tarralik Duffy • Sue Goyette • Helen Guri • Danny Jacobs • Robbie Jeffrey • Jessica Johns • Andy Lamey • Jessie Loyer • Pasha Malla • Melanie Mah • Noor Naga • Anthony Oliveira • Meaghan Rondeau • Mireille Silcoff • Souvankham Thammavongsa • Bruce Whiteman



An Interview with Caroline Adderson, Editor of Best Canadian Stories 2019

This year is the first year that the whole Best Canadian series is under Biblioasis’ roof! Best Canadian Stories 2019 is the first book in the series (available November 19, but if you order here, we’ll send it to you early!). Best Canadian Poetry 2019 is available here, and Best Canadian Essays 2019 is coming soon!


A Biblioasis Interview with Caroline Adderson, Editor of Best Canadian Stories 2019

Best Canadian Stories 2019 cover

For those who are coming to your work for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I live in Vancouver. I’m the author of four novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice, The Sky Is Falling, Ellen in Pieces), two collections of short stories (Bad Imaginings, Pleased To Meet You) as well as many books for young readers. On the adult side, my books have received numerous award nominations including the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, two Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. I’ve won some prizes too: two BC Book Prizes, three CBC Literary Awards and the Marian Engel Award for mid-career achievement, among others.  But I think my real accomplishment is that after three decades I’m still writing fiction.


What have you done in the past that prepared you to edit Best Canadian Stories? In what ways was editing this collection different from anything you’ve ever done?

In 2015 I edited a non-fiction book of essays and photographs, Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Revival.  Besides that, my preparation has been as a mentor and a reader.  I’m the Program Director of the Writing Studio at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity so I read a lot of work by emerging writers, as well as by my more established Canadian peers.  I’ve also sat on numerous awards juries.  Best Canadian Stories is a little like the latter, except happily fifteen writers won the prize – inclusion in the collection – rather than just one.


In reading the gazillion lit mags you had to read to choose the stories in this volume, what surprises did you encounter?

The surprises are in this volume.  These were the stories that jumped out at me because of their use of language, their strangeness, the audacity of their ideas, their humour, or their sophistication.  Delight was my criterion.  It was a bit like placer mining; I kept watching for the glints in the pan.


If you could make a wish for the future of Canadian fiction, what would it be?

I wish it would be taught in schools.  When my son was in high school just a few years ago, he was assigned the same books I had to read in high school.  I’m not sure how we can develop a healthy reading culture and a thriving book economy if we don’t teach our stories to our own children.


What are you reading right now?

I just came back from eleven days in Lisbon where I read three José Saramago novels.  Now I’m preparing to host a couple of events for the Vancouver Writers Fest so have four story collections on the go (one by Zalika Reid-Benta, who is  included in this volume), as well as the latest novels by Michael Crummey, Marina Endicott and Joan Thomas.  Talk about delight!


An Interview with Rob Taylor, Guest Editor of Best Canadian Poetry 2019

This year is the first year that the whole Best Canadian series is under Biblioasis’ roof! Best Canadian Poetry 2019 is the first book in the series (available now!), and Best Canadian Stories 2019 and Best Canadian Essays 2019 will be available later this month. Get your copy of Poetry now!


A Biblioasis Interview with Rob Taylor, guest editor of Best Canadian Poetry in English 2019


For those who are coming to your work for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I’m a poet, short fiction writer and editor. I teach creative writing part-time at Simon Fraser University. and live in Port Moody, BC, with my wife and two children.

My recent collection, The News (Gaspereau Press, 2016), is a sequence of 36 poems, one per week during my wife’s pregnancy with our first child. The poems weave together the “news” of the pregnancy, the political news of the day, and quotes from literature (“the news that stays news”). I like to look for big ideas that are hidden away inside small things, especially the political inside the personal.

I also have a strong interest in sound in poetry—rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, repetition—and in humour (including, perhaps especially, humour in the face of difficulty).


You recently edited What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation. In what ways did that prepare you to edit Best Canadian Poetry? How are those two projects completely different?

The two were very different. With What the Poets Are Doing I was soliciting as-yet-unwritten material from poets and then editing it into its published form. With Best Canadian Poetry the material was already written and submitted (in a sense), and the editing work on the poems themselves had been completed by the various magazine editors. One was like planting trees and trusting they’d bear fruit, the other was like wandering around an orchard someone else tended and filling my basket with whatever caught my eye.

Though it followed a rather different process, What the Poets Are Doing prepared me for Best Canadian Poetry by establishing a spirit of collective generosity in which to work. Both books are a celebration of poetry as practiced in this country, and the compiling of each involved the work of a great number of talented and tireless writers and editors. My enthusiasm in being able to publish writing by such remarkable poets in What the Poets Are Doing, and their willingness to make something new and vibrant with me, fueled me to do the same in Best Canadian Poetry 2019.


In reading the gazillion lit mags you had to read to choose the fifty poems in this volume, what surprises did you encounter?

Every one of the fifty poems was a surprise! That was the only way they were ever going to stand out amidst the gazillion lit mags (in reality, a mere 82 magazines [~300 issues], and over 2,100 poems). Each of these poems contains something—an image, a scene, an idea, a joke, a line of dialogue, a structure, a voice—which grabs you and demands your attention.

More generally, I was surprised to find that no magazine (or handful of magazines) has a monopoly on these “surprises.” The poems that I was drawn to came from magazines across the country, small and large, online and print, upstart and well-established. It made me appreciate a series like Best Canadian Poetry all the more—nowhere else could even a fraction of these poems have been gathered in one place.


You’ve been editing your poetry blog, Roll of Nickels, for thirteen years now. Could you comment on any trends, movements, or big-picture changes you’ve seen in Canadian poetry during that time?

As I note in my introduction to Best Canadian Poetry 2019, the biggest change to the poetry published in Canada has been a move away from prioritising style and towards prioritising content. In Best Canadian Poetry 2008, the inaugural edition of this series, guest editor Stephanie Bolster observed that, “Quirky, noisy, dense, disjunctive poems seem to be on the increase” and that “there is almost no overtly political work.” One could say the opposite is now true. The poems of 2019 are easier to understand than those of 2007, and are more explicitly engaged with the questions of our political moment (and—oof—what a moment it is).

That said, the majority of poetry in this country is as idiosyncratic as the poets themselves, and removed from conversations of “trends” and “movements”—just singular poets working away at their singular desks. I very much believe it’s mostly the magazines that are changing: what gets published from year to year varies far more than what gets written.

One way magazines have been changing has been to open themselves to a wider range of voices. This has partly been spurred by new online magazines, founded and edited by younger and more diverse editorial teams, but editorial boards at our print magazines have been slowly diversifying as well, and special issues (or whole magazines) devoted to Indigenous, racialized, or LGBTQ+ writing are now rather commonplace. It’s no small thing.


If you could make a wish for the future of Canadian poetry, what would it be?

I don’t want anything different from the poems themselves. They need to be what they need to be, for both their poets and their readers. To ask poems to transform to my preferences (or any one person’s) would rob the art of one of its greatest powers: to speak directly to a particular you in a particular now. I can’t predict what you’d like or what you’d need (and you probably can’t either!), so I welcome everything, even if much of it doesn’t “do it” for me.

For the culture of the poetry world (and for poetry in our wider culture), my one request is to read the poems. Don’t talk about reading poems, don’t scan lists of award winners and best-sellers, don’t scroll briskly through bookstore shelves or Instagram feeds, don’t just see who “made it” onto the list of contributors to this year’s Best Canadian Poetry, don’t run around worrying about the future of Canadian poetry, just read the damn poems! They are all that really matters. Make a quiet space, here or there during your busy days, in which a poem can do its work. Make that a practice in your life. You will be rewarded for that devotion many times over.


What are you reading right now?

Poetry! I fell behind in my poetry reading when I was reading all that poetry for Best Canadian Poetry . . .

I recently finished Matthew Walsh’s These are not the potatoes of my youth, Karen Solie’s The Caiplie Caves, Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic and Emily Davidson’s Lift, and I’m about to start in on Shazia Hafiz Ramji’s Port of Being and Al Rempel’s Undiscovered Country.

Biblioasis Is Hiring!

Biblioasis is hiring an enthusiastic and organized full-time bookkeeper and office manager for its publishing company and bookshop. The successful candidate will be responsible for all bookkeeping at both organizations, as well as payroll, author royalties and payments, sales projections and financial reporting, helping to manage author contracts, and basic office administrative responsibilities. This position will require a close working relationship with the press publisher and managing editor, and the bookstore manager.

Key responsibilities:

1. Bookkeeping for both the press and bookstore
2. Payroll and source deductions for all employees
3. Working with the publisher to produce financial reports and projections, as well as cost analyses for titles
4. Managing author royalties and payments
5. Working with the accountant on year-end
6. Managing author contracts
7. Basic office administration
8. Other tasks as assigned


1. Degree or certificate in bookkeeping and/or accounting
2. Strong background in Microsoft office suite, especially Excel
3. Strong organizational skills
4. Ability to prioritize and meet deadlines
5. Knowledge of key bookkeeping software (Simply Accounting, Quickbooks…etc.)
6. Experience with Filemaker and Moneyworks an asset

Resumes can be sent to dwells@biblioasis.com, and will be accepted until Friday, November 29th, with interviews to follow over the following two weeks, in the hopes that the new hire can begin the position in January 2020.

An Interview with Pauline Holdstock, Author of Here I Am!

Buy Here I Am! now.

MyMum said sometimes refugees don’t eat anything for days and days. Sometimes weeks and months so I am really lucky. I think she exaggerates. But I think she is right about the lucky bit. Or maybe not.

Sometimes I forget that MyMum is dead. But that is probably better than remembering.

When Frankie’s mother dies, he tells his teacher, of course. But he can’t seem to get anyone at his school in southern England to listen to him. So the six-year-old comes up with a plan: go to France, find a police station, and ask the officers to ring his father. Thus a stowaway’s view of the sea opens Giller-nominated Pauline Holdstock’s eighth novel, narrated in turns by Frankie—who likes cheese, numbers, the sea when it’s pink and “smooth like counting,” and being alone when he feels bad—and a cast of characters that includes his worried Gran, his callous teacher, and his not-so-reliable father. Set in the summer of Annichka the Soviet space dog, Here I Am! is a mesmerizing story about the lucidity of children and the shortsightedness of adults.


A Biblioasis Interview with Pauline Holdstock, author of Here I Am!


For those who are coming to your work for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I was born and raised in the UK and immigrated to Canada in my twenties.

I’m primarily a fiction writer—novels and short stories—though I also write essays and occasionally short shorts, my closest approach to poetry.

I’m drawn to subjects that offer a chance to explore the deepest shadows, but I’ve always steered clear of material too close to home. For that reason I’ve set my novels far afield, in time or in place. In Here I Am! I’ve decided to work closer to home, giving my protagonist, Frankie, a background not so far from my own very ordinary childhood in England, but subjecting him to a place of extremity.


Three of your books have had child protagonists. What is it that draws you to children’s points of view?

Possibly two influences at work there. The first is that, like most people, I’m always on the side of the underdog, consistently drawn to the plight of the most vulnerable and interested in having them find the wherewithal to overcome their situation.

The second is that I believe the quality we revere in children—that ability to experience life unreservedly, to the utmost—is a quality that once belonged to us all, before adulthood eroded it. Children have the power to reawaken that ability and also perhaps to reveal facets of ourselves long-hidden to us.


How is Frankie different from other child protagonists you’ve written?

The others have been marginal characters on the very fringes of society, dispossessed yet yearning to belong. Frankie belongs to the mainstream, yet is set apart by his exceptional abilities and his own singular response to the world.

He’s the only child protagonist of mine to tell his own story.


Your novel is quite humorous, but it deals with serious themes: death, loss, and grief, for example, and our tendency to dismiss what vulnerable people tell us. Talk a little bit about the value of humour when exploring serious topics.

Well I think no one is open to the bald message: Death is the pits and we’re all gonna die. That message doesn’t lead to compassion or empathy for ourselves or anyone else. But humour has the potential to take us closer to fellow feeling, to summon a little compassion for all of us sharing this predicament.

And humour’s a valuable tool when you’re working with unpleasant characters. It proved invaluable for the David and Goliath situations that cropped up throughout the book. Definitely the sharpest tool in the box…


What are you reading right now?

Three books currently at my bedside: Find You In the Dark by Canadian writer Nathan Ripley, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, and Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, whose sense of the absurd is boundless.

An Interview with Taras Grescoe, Author of Possess the Air

Possess the Air: Love, Heroism, and the Battle for the Soul of Mussolini’s Rome by Taras Grescoe came out on October 15th!

Whoever you are, you are sure to be a severe critic of Fascism, and you must feel the servile shame. But even you are responsible for your inaction. Do not seek to justify yourself with the illusion that there is nothing to be done. That is not true. Every person of courage and honour is quietly working for a free Italy. Even if you do not want to join us, there are still TEN THINGS which you can do. You can, and therefore you must.

These unsayable words, printed on leaflets that rained down on Mussolini’s headquarters in the heart of Rome at the height of the dictator’s power, drive the central drama of Possess the Air. This is the story of freedom fighters who defied Italy’s despot by opposing the rising tide of populism and xenophobia. Chief among them: poet and aviator Lauro de Bosis, firstborn of an Italian aristocrat and a New Englander, who transformed himself into a modern Icarus and amazed the world as he risked his life in the skies to bring Il Duce down. Taras Grescoe’s inspiring story of resistance, risk, and sacrifice paints a portrait of heroes in the fight against authoritarianism. This is an essential biography for our time.

Here is a Biblioasis interview with Taras Grescoe, author of Possess the Air.



For those who are coming to your work for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I’m the son of writers. My parents started out as journalists, and became editors (they founded magazines in Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton) and authors. I grew up having every sentence I uttered analyzed, every story I told at the dinner table questioned and edited—for clarity, for logic, for good story-telling qualities. I loved to read, was curious about the world, and attended alternative schools where I was encouraged to write and research projects. In my teens and twenties, I resisted my apparent destiny—to be a writer—but around the age of 30, my background and training, perhaps my genes, kicked in. Since then, I’ve written seven books, and a whole lot of features for magazines and newspapers. I can’t stop myself. I alternate between turning my own experiences into stories—non-fiction narratives, for want of a better term in the English-speaking world—and, when I can’t get out into the world to have more experiences, looking for true stories that I think would make great books.

How did you first hear about Lauro de Bosis? What was your research process like?

Before Lauro, there was Rome. I visited it for the first time on assignment, following in the footsteps of Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday for a travel article for National Geographic Traveler. I had gone through a bad break-up in Montreal, it was February, and a week in Rome snapped me out of my heartbreak and torpor. Since then, I’ve been able to explore the city deeply, through repeat visits and obsessive reading.

I first encountered Lauro’s name while reading Iris Origo’s extraordinary memoir A Need to Testify. (Origo was an Anglo-American expat who bore witness to the rise of Fascism from her farm in a Tuscan valley.) Lauro’s courage and intelligence spoke to me, and when I learned he was a child of Rome, and his life was deeply entangled with the city’s history, I knew I’d found a story that would bring a lost city—Rome as it was before Mussolini and the Fascists remade it in their image—back to life.

The research involved on-the-ground visits to all the sites associated with the life of Lauro de Bosis—including the palazzo where he lived in Rome, now converted into the offices of an architectural firm. The book tells the parallel story of Gilbert and Mary Stewart Bagnani, a pair of Canadian archaeologists who witnessed the transformation of Rome under the Fascists, and I visited the places where they lived in Rome—including Gilbert’s childhood apartment, now the heavily-guarded German embassy. And I spent weeks in archives at Harvard, in New York, in Toronto and Peterborough poring over the letters and documents that helped me to tell their stories. The most remarkable of these institutions was the Archivio Centrale dello Stato in the Fascist-built Roman suburb of EUR, which houses the files of Mussolini’s political police, and where I found stories that shed light on what happened to Lauro after his successful attempt to bombard Mussolini’s palazzo in the center of Rome.

You called Possess the Air “an important story for our time” in light of our current political climate. Can you elaborate on that?

We’re living in a time when the strongman—the authoritarian, the autocrat, the dictator—is once again on the rise. Instead of radio and newsreels, the modern version of Mussolini is communicating through Twitter and cable-news networks. And people in the Western world once again seem willing to “voluntarily abandon free institutions”—which scholars agree is a crucial precondition of Fascism and authoritarianism. (I’m very much thinking of Trump and his disturbingly successful attacks on the free press, the judiciary, the rule of law, and all standards of decency, but also Bolsonaro in Brazil, Orbán in Hungary, and the figures of the xenophobic right on the rise in France, Italy, and Austria.) This is happening because the generation that remembers the sacrifices it took to defend these institutions—the generation that fought the Second World War, and oversaw the decades of peace and international cooperation that followed the war—is dying off.

When the Italian Fascists were seizing power through the use of violence, and Il Duce was giving that violence legitimacy by winking at the brutality invading everyday life, Lauro de Bosis chose to resist. He did it not in the name of Communism or Socialism, but in accordance with his own deep patriotism and love of liberty. His is the story of a principled individual took a courageous stand for liberty, reason, and peace at a time when his fellow citizens seemed all too willing to embrace irrationality and belligerent nationalism.

A National Post review for your previous book, Straphanger¸ called it “a book by somebody who loves cities for people who love them.” You’ve written about public transit, overfishing, and the underbelly of old China—all of your books have covered vastly different topics so far. How does Possess the Air fit into your body of work?

There is method to—or at least a rational explanation for—my apparent madness. I started out as a travelling writer, which I saw as a way of rubbing up against the world as a way of challenging and expanding my own worldview. After moving to Montreal from Vancouver, I explored my new home, Quebec, in Sacré Blues. For my second book, The End of Elsewhere, I put my belongings in storage and set out on a year-long voyage across Europe and Asia to look at the way mass tourism is changing the world. Three more polemical travelogues followed, in which I looked at issues that fascinated me: in The Devil’s Picnic, I explored the negative impact of prohibition; in Bottomfeeder, I looked at the devastating effect of human appetite and greed on our lakes, rivers, and oceans; in Straphanger, I made the case, through trips to 14 cities around the world, that our urban future is better

All of these books involved a lot of travel. When I became a father in my 40s, and decided to spend as much time as possible with my family in Montreal, I realized I could still travel—in time, and in my imagination. Shanghai Grand took me—and I hope my readers—to a lost world, the Treaty Port of Shanghai before the Communists took power in 1949. Possess the Air is a voyage to another lost world, the atmospheric Rome of the 1920s and 1930s, even as it was being transformed into the pretentious Third Rome of the Fascist imagination.

If there’s something that links all my books, though, it is writing about place. I fall in love with a spot on the globe—more often than not, a city—and strive to find a way to explore that place, and bring it to life on the page.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron’s record of a voyage through Persia and Afghanistan in the 1930s. It’s an unjustly neglected masterpiece—Paul Fussell rightly calls it the Ulysess or Waste Land of modern travel writing—and the richest of texts imaginable. Discovering this prolific and intellectually challenging writer, whose pen was stilled when his ship was torpedoed in the Second World War when he was en route to Cairo, is an unexpected delight.


Possess the Air is available for purchase here.

Next Week at Biblioasis: We Welcome Benedek Totth, author of DEAD HEAT

The winner of Hungary’s Margó Award for Best First Book of Prose soon to be available in English:


Written by Stephen King’s Hungarian translator, Dead Heat shocks and then stays with you. It’s like Lord of the Flies meets Friday Night Lights. 

Next week Benedek will be at the bookstore (1520 Wyandotte St E) on Friday, October 25 at 7 PM. Come on out for an unforgettable reading! 

Can’t make Friday? He will be in Ann Arbor at Literati Bookstore the night before! Here are the details.

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Born in Hungary in 1977, Benedek Totth studied American literature and now works as an editor and translator in Budapest. His translations into Hungarian include works by Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs. Dead Heat, his first novel, caused a sensation in Hungary, where it won the Margó Prize for best first novel of the year. It has been published in translation in France and Slovakia.


In a nameless Hungarian town, teenagers on a competitive swim team occupy their after-training hours with hard drinking and fast cars, hash cigarettes and marathons of Grand Theft Auto, the meaningless sex and late-night exploits of a world defined by self-gratification and all its attendant recklessness. Invisible to their parents and subject to the whims of an abusive coach, the crucible of competition pushes them again and again into dangerous choices. When a deadly accident leaves them second-guessing one another, they’re driven even deeper into violence.

Brilliantly translated into breakneck English by Ildikó Noémi Nagy, Dead Heat is a blistering debut and an unforgettable story about young men coming of age in an abandoned generation.

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“This is a satire of the bleakest strain: there is scarcely a page that does not offend. And yet the result is utterly enthralling…As savage, reckless, and abhorrent as the world Totth delivers is, what’s worse is how frighteningly real it all feels. Dead Heat is an undeniably uncomfortable novel, but so too is the truth it’s trying to get at.”—Quill and Quire, starred review

“Totth’s novel and its translation from the Hungarian by Nagy both excel… in conveying the banality and numbness as its narrator proceeds through this parade of horrors.The juxtaposition of transgressive behavior with competitive sports recalls nothing quite so much as Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries. Like that book, the way in which this narrative is told makes for compelling reading even as the acts it describes can inspire shudders. Totth’s debut is a harrowing experience but also a frequently gripping one.”—Kirkus

“Let’s say it up front: reading Dead Heat, the Hungarian writer Benedek Totth’s first novel, is a shock . . . [like] the cry of love and desperation flung out by a generation that’s finished before it can begin, before it can even reach maturity.”—Yann Perreau, Les Inrockuptibles

A brilliant novel, but brilliant like a black diamond and cursed so that you don’t want to hold it, a tale that never lets you go, no matter how much repugnance you may feel.”—Encre Noire

Intense, brutal and relentless. As on a mad merry-go-round, you’re delighted not to be able to get off before it’s over. But watch out: the harsh form and subject matter will leave more modest readers shaken.”—TéléStar