Autumn Editor’s Picks

Snuggle down with 18 Atlantic Canadian books that are generating buzz this autumn

Poetry:

Salt Fires
Janet Barkhouse
Pottersfield Press

Barkhouse’s seasoned poems are Nova Scotia—evocative of the land, sea and culture. Her work evokes the peninsula and its islands, forests and farms. She slices out a small piece of the planet, representative of the whole, a microcosm of the Earth.

Afraid of the Dark
Guyleigh Johnson
Pottersfield Press

Dartmouth’s Guyleigh Johnson melds poetry and prose to tell the tale of a teenaged Black girl struggling with her identity. Her character wants to hide herself, her appearance, heritage and culture—yet she is drawn to these things. Poetry is her escape.

I Heard Something
Jaime Forsythe
Anvil Press

The most fun description of Haligonian Jaime Forsythe’s sophomore collection is that it’s “a Rube Goldberg machine,” from multi-award winning poet Sandra Ridley. There’s a surrealist, dreamy quality to these poems. Atlantic Canadians will appreciate her advice in “Instructions for Heavy Weather”: Watch the porch light’s seizure, silver mothers. / Wait for everything to stop.

Young Readers:

The Lady from Kent
Barbara Nichol
Pedlar Press

The subtitle almost says it all: “A story for girls and boys and raccoons and grown-ups and ants dressed as bees. And elves.” Subsequent pages are part poem, part tall tale and part illustrated comedy routine. The whole fandango centres around a joyful, wild and wacky character.

Long Fiction:

One for the Rock
Kevin Major
Breakwater Books

Governor General Award winner Kevin Major is best known for his YA fiction, though he’s published fiction, non-fiction and poetry. One for the Rock is his first book of crime fiction. The action is driven by the energetic and feisty recent divorcee, Sebastian Synard, and a couple quick slips—of a tourist visiting St. John’s and of Sebastian’s ethics.

Killing Pace
Douglas Schofield
Minotaur Books

Nova Scotia author Douglas Schofield is back with a fast-paced thriller about a woman suffering amnesia, being cared for—and held captive by—a man who claims to be her boyfriend. Lisa Green is not your clichéd damsel in distress. She’s strong, fearless, impulsive and more dangerous than her captor.

Memoir:

Fishing the High Country
Wayne Curtis
Goose Lane Editions

Wayne Curtis and the Miramichi vibrate at the same frequency. He writes of the place as one would a beloved partner. Characters are folksy but authentic and fully realized. Fishing the High Country is an ode to roots, place and connection, by an author who is right where he belongs.

A Man of My Word
Beaton Tulk with Laurie Blackwood Pike
Flanker Press

Beaton Tulk was briefly the seventh premier of Newfoundland and Labrador after Brian Tobin jumped to federal politics. It was a job Tulk says he didn’t want but loved. This is a tell-all political memoir covering a lot of personal ground too.

Graphic Memoir:

Flawed
Andrea Dorfman
Firefly Books

Adapted from Haligonian Andrea Dorfman’s Emmy-nominated film, Flawed is a sophisticated, profound and personal probe into self-acceptance, simply told and illustrated. It conveys the difficulty of appreciating one’s own uniqueness in societies judging how we look compared to everyone else.

Food and Beverage:

From Palette to Palate
Lynda Shalagan (art) and Dale Nichols (food)
SSP Publications

This book is a gorgeous marriage of still-life art by the Sacred Heart School’s art teacher and 50 signature recipes (using fresh, local ingredients) by the head chef at Digby Pines. The design lives up to the high quality artwork, providing enticing dishes you’ll want to bring to life.

The Overcast’s Guide to Beers of Newfoundland
The Overcast
Breakwater Books

This 100-page guide is surprisingly thorough and conveys a quick and fascinating history of Newfoundland beer, the establishments of local tastes and the commercial interests that catered to them. Fourteen local breweries are profiled and their wares sampled. The tight writing and design make for a quick reference or lively read.

Music:

Put Your Hand in My Hand
Harvey Sawler
Nimbus Publishing

Beside the obvious genetic connection between the two subjects, music and more specifically songwriting is the real tie that binds here. Gene was a known master of the craft. Catherine is not yet as iconic, though she’s been widely lauded. She also talks openly about her father’s struggle with depression.

Politics and Society:

No Place to Go
Lezlie Lowe
Coach House Books

Finally someone asked the question: what’s up with the shitty public-bathroom situation in the city? Wait, I have to pay to poo? Or buy a crap cup of your coffee? What if I were sick? Or homeless? Or transgendered? Surely we can do better. Lezlie Lowe went there and we’re all better for it.

Conspiracy of Hope
Renée Pellerin
Goose Lane Editions

Four years ago, Renée Pellerin broke the story of a major study finding that mammography results in over-diagnosis of breast cancer. Pellerin, a recent King’s MFA grad, was not prepared for the angry response. Her first book explores the controversy around mammography and why is pervades even as evidence shows it does more harm than good.

Cops in Kabul
William C Malone
Flanker Press

The former Canadian deputy-police commander in Kabul (May 2011 to May 2012) provides a gripping personal account of an impossible effort to establish security in a lawless situation: a country at war.

No Choice
Kate McKenna
Fernwood Publishing

Growing up on Prince Edward Island, Kate McKenna was angered by the unjust lack of access to abortion. Here she documents how the Catholic Church and other anti-choice groups stacked hospital boards to deny access, and how women fought back for their rights.

First Degree
Kayla Hounsell
Nimbus Publishing

“There’s times for whatever reason that things don’t go quite as planned,” a Halifax police officer told Will Sandeson shortly after he was arrested for the first-degree murder of fellow Dalhousie student Taylor Samson. Award-winning journalist Kayla Housell unearths the full and tragic story of two young men who had appeared destined for bright futures.

Folklore:

The Flanker Dictionary of Newfoundland English
Garry Cranford
Flanker Press

Newfoundland English comes from a fascinating mix of the West Country in England, southeast Ireland and a dash of Scottish. It’s enough to make an outsider’s head spin, but Flanker Press owner Gerry Cranford has you covered with this comprehensive resource.

Written By

Chris Benjamin is the managing editor of Atlantic Books Today. He is also the author of three award-winning, critically-acclaimed books: Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School; Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada and Drive-by Saviours; as well as several short stories in anthologies and journals.

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