Thursday, January 31, 2013

Amanda Jernigan & H.L. Hix

This just in! In addition to yesterday's post below, there's been a shoutout for Groundwork on Poetry Foundation. Thanks to Jason Guriel for the mention.


Meant to post this ages ago, but: take a look at this lovely interview with our own A.H. Jernigan on H.L. Hix's In Quire. Why are all poets Etruscan(ish)? With a cameo by Richard Wilbur. Take a look!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Number 543 Never Looked Quite So Good.

Hey folks! A couple new publicity hits for Mark Kingwell, one from UWO's Gazette, and another from our dear friends at the National Post (who seem to have at long last gone completely round the bend). From their new compilation of Top 2,012 things for 2012, we're proud to announce that our very own Mr. Kingwell is number 543. Anyone else on there we should know about? We'd read the whole thing ourselves ... but that's 2012 seconds / 33 minutes / 0.543 hours we just don't have.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Spotting Part Three

In this installment of Book Spotting, things get a little touchy-feely (and no, I'm not talking about Tara's recently curated love & lust book display at the front of the shop).

Not only visual texture, but physical, tangible, run your fingers across it, squish it, turn it over in your hands texture, has been intriguing me more and more with cover design. Maybe I'm just a tactile person, or maybe it's a book designer thing (Chris and I did engage in a serious conversation about how pleasantly substantial the cover stock on Mia Couto's Tuner of Silences is when it arrived yesterday morning).

Whatever the motivation for my choices, I found myself photographing many books in the shop today that engage the fingertips as much as the eyes.

 The Believer: The 2012 Art Issue

While it may not be as easy to tell from the photo, this issue of The Believer has one of the most interesting textural additions I've seen on a cover. That band of white covered in text on the right hand side there? That isn't printed on the cover. It's a piece of fabric, like a label in a piece of clothing. And that text on it? It's not printed either, but stitched. The first time I looked at this issue I thought there was something odd about the way that band of text looked and it took me picking it up to realize the extent of detail that had gone into the cover's production. 

How Music Works by David Byrne (McSweeney's, 2012)

McSweeney's has a reputation for creating attractive and innovative book designs, so a book like this from them should be no surprise. Except, when I pulled it out of the box when it arrived in the shop, I was surprised. More specifically, my hands were surprised because—there's no other way I can really describe it—this is a squishy book. The white vinyl feel cover compresses and springs back under your fingers sort of like a child's bathtub book, but also not at all like a child's bathtub book. The text is set into the vinyl, and the simplicity of the type treatment and the iconography of the speaker are subtle and utilitarian enough that the unexpected texture doesn't push this one over the top. This is a book that makes you want to hold it, open it, flick through it, and consequently buy it, and if a cover can do all that, I'd say it's succeeding.

A Hologram for the King by David Eggers (McSweeney's, 2012)

Another McSweeney's title, this one has the feeling of a quality vintage book with gilt lettering and in-set patterns on the cover. There's nothing fancy about it, except, you know, the shiny gold and intricate design, but it manages to feel classic as opposed to contrived. This isn't my usual taste for sure, but on a table of off-white books with minimal typographic covers, a little gold leaf never went awry.

Love and the Mess We're In by Stephen Marche (Gaspereau, 2012)

Like McSweeney's, I've kind of come to expect beautiful books out of Gaspereau, but this one particularly struck me because of the genius of swapping out the text colours. The editions are identical, except for the orange, grey, blue, or burgundy text; however, with a typographic cover, colour choice is a good portion of the book design battle (I guess the same can be said of pictorial covers as well, but when you're working solely with text, colour seems to become more of a focus). The really smart thing about this is that Gaspereau know their market and I'd assume that many people in their market (those folks who enjoy a beautiful, well-designed, well-made book) might be collectors or at the very least people who might be tempted to pick up this volume in multiple. How can you resist having a copy in every colour? I realize this one isn't so much about texture, but I had to include it as it has been catching my eye on the shelf since it arrived in all of its lovely colours.

In the Land of Punctuation by Christian Morgenstern, illustrated by Rathna Ramanathan 
(Tara Books, 2009)

Again, this book doesn't really fit into my texture theme, but I couldn't help but include it in today's post because design is such a huge part of the book's appeal and function. Looking at the cover on its own, it has the three-colour graphic boldness that really makes it stand out. It incorporates a variety of punctuation in a subtle way (exclamation and period being the most obvious, but the white space suggests commas and quotation marks as well). The type treatment doesn't compete with the geometric design and the whole thing comes together to make a pattern that makes sense, as opposed to looking like a bunch of punctuation thrown on a page. And that's just the cover. Open this one up and you won't want to put it down...

I'll be in the shop doing more Book Spotting.
Until next time—

Monday, January 28, 2013

SO many fun things.

It's a sock-soaker of a day here in Windsor, but we're endeavouring to keep warm dry & toasty just by thinking about all the Fun Stuff that's happening in the next couple of weeks. Losing track? Mid-week we've got C.P. Boyko, whose Psychology and Other Stories was just called "one of the most unfairly slept-on books of 2012" in the Georgia Straight, appearing at the Vancouver Public Library as part of Incite on Wednesday at 7. He'll be reading alongside Barbara Lambert and Bradley Somer. And tomorrow night, here at the shop, we have our "Windsor in the Stacks" panel discussion on the role of libraries in Windsor. In town? Join Chris Woodrow (CEO of the WPL), Jennifer Franklin-McInnis (Deputy-Chief Librarian, Essex County), Brian Owens (Rare Books Librarian and Archivist, Leddy Library), and moderator Brian Busby for a discussion of what our public libraries are and should be doing in the community.

NEXT week, of course, Ray Robertson's here. My My. Stay tuned for news about readings in-store and at the University (and clear your calendars for the 5th, the 7th, and the 12th)!

Friday, January 25, 2013

UK Keeps Up the Love for A. MacLeod

What not to keep on your night-
stand, according to Britain?
Afternoon, Ls&Gs, and happy Friday! We just got word from across the pond that Alex MacLeod has a short review in today's Independent. Here's what they had to say:
"Short stories aren't usually known for boosting adrenalin levels, but Canadian author Alexander MacLeod's debut collection isn't one for the bedside table … Firmly rooted in work and family, Macleod's relaxed story-telling will make you feel anything but."
Short, sweet, cold sweats. Who could ask for more? Till soon, folks. Murphy out. 

For those who can't get enough of Ray Robertson...

For those of you who can't get enough of Ray Robertson, we're happy to announce another event during his tenure at the University of Windsor as their 2013 Writer-in-Residence this February.

The UWindsor Department of English, will be hosting a reception for Ray, author of the recent novels David and Moody Food and the essay collection, Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live, Thursday, February 7th from 2pm-4pm at the Katzman Lounge in Vanier Hall.

For more information you can contact the English Department at 519-253-3000 ext. 2288 or email

This event is sponsored by the office of the University of Windsor President.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A CNQ Party and a Double Dose of Ray Robertson

Today is Blue Monday, allegedly the most depressing day of the year. It's cold out. It's snowing. The sun will go down earlier than usual and it will probably get colder and snowier. Blue indeed.

Despite all that, we here at Biblioasis HQ have happy news of upcoming events to warm your cockles and put a spring in your step (but be sure to watch out for ice!) on this January afternoon.

First off, this month we will host the launch of Canadian Notes & Queries issue 86, the library issue. Doing it Quietly: Windsor in the Stacks, will feature a panel on the state of libraries locally. Moderated by critic Brian Busby, the panel will feature Brian Owens, Chief Archivist from the University of Windsor's Leddy Library, Chris Woodrow, Acting CEO and Director of Strategic Planning from the Windsor Public Library, and Jennifer Franklin-McInnis, Deputy Chief Librarian and Manager of Branches from the Essex County Public Libraries (our apologies for any confusion, as our original posters list the Essex County Libraries representative incorrectly). Join us January 29th at 7pm at the Biblioasis bookshop (1520 Wyandotte St. E., Windsor, ON) for this sure-to-be fascinating discussion and launch party for CNQ.

February kicks off Ray Robertson's tenure as the 2013 University of Windsor Department of English writer-in-residence. Ray will be in town for the beginning of February providing creative writing consults to students and the broader community, as well as holding two events, both focusing on recent releases from Biblioasis.

The first celebrates the U.S. and paperback release of his most recent novel, David. On February 5th, at 7pm join us at the Biblioasis shop for an evening with Ray Robertson, featuring readings from David. Born a slave in 1847, but raised as a free man by the Reverend William King, David has rebelled against his emancipator and his predestined future in the church. He's taken up residence in the nearby town of Chatham, made a living robbing graves, and now presides-in the company of a German ex-prostitute named Loretta-over an illegal after-hours tavern. These days that final, violent confrontation with Reverend King seems like a lifetime ago. The residents of Chatham know David as a God-cursing, liquor-slinging, money-having man-about-town, famously educated and fabulously eccentric. And he seems to be more-or-less happy O that is, until the death of Reverend King brings his past crashing down upon him. Inspired by the Elgin Settlement, which by 1852 housed 75 free black families and was studied by Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe, David is a fiery look at one man's quest for knowledge and forgiveness, and a moving portrait of life after the Underground Railroad. 

This event is also sponsored by the UWindsor English Department and the Northstar Cultural Community Centre.

Finally, if that isn't enough excitement to get you through the cold winter months, Ray has another event, this time taking place at the University of Windsor in Vanier Hall's Katzman Lounge, surrounding his collection of essays Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live (also a Biblioasis book!) Presented by the University of Windsor's Departments of English, Psychology and Philosophy, Why Live? Depression, Writing, and Finding Reasons to Live takes place February 12th at 2pm and features discussions on the big questions in life with Ray, Dr. Jeffrey Noonan (head of the Department of Philosophy), Dr. Annette Dufresne (Clinical Supervisor, Psychological Services & Research Centre), and Jennie Boyd (Manager, City Centre Health Care). 

For more information on any of these events, feel free to give us a shout at 519-968-2206 or email  For Why Live? contact the University of Windsor English Department at 519-253-3000 ext. 2288 or email


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Spotting 2: More great covers in the Biblioasis shop

It seems as though every time I walk into the Biblioasis storefront, I get sidetracked from my task at hand by my need to examine some new book cover or layout. Useful when my task at hand is to grab a cookie or a chocolate. Perhaps not so useful when I can no longer remember what it was I was supposed to pack up for the mail run.

Given my inability to resist an attractive book cover, I've come up with a few more recent favourites to share with our Bibliofriends, all of which are, at the time of writing, available for purchase in the shop (so stop by and pick one up would you?)

 May Day by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Art of the Novella Series, Melville House Books, 2009)

A couple books in this series came in a little while ago (the other was Joyce's The Dead, same format but an attractive grey background instead of pink) and I was struck by the clean simplicity of the design and the quality of the execution. This is the kind of design that makes people want to re-buy books they already own, just to have the matching set. It's not enough for a series just to match; they have to be interesting and beautiful as well, and this set accomplishes that as far as I'm concerned. In fact, there are 43 books to date in the Art of the Novella collection, all with the same basic typesetting and layout, but each with a striking different colour, and I imagine they'd all look quite nice lined up together on a bookshelf.

 In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe (The Dial Press, 2012)

While I haven't read Roiphe and most of what I've read of her has been the controversies around her work in the '90s, I can't deny the appeal of the cover of her latest book In Praise of Messy Lives. It reminds me a lot of another book cover I love, loneliness by John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick. While Norton may have done it before Dial, the shifting of the dots on the letter "i" is subtle and quite lovely. I admit, I like typographic covers. I like minimal designs. And reflecting "messy" in slightly misplacing the dots on the letter "i" on a book cover is a messy I can get behind. Changing the colour of the dot on "Lives" is a nice touch as well.

Straight Razor and Other Poems by Salvatore Ala (Biblioasis, 2004)

I remember seeing this title at Windsor's BookFest years back and thinking it was the most attractive book being sold. Amongst hundreds of others, this one stood out, and for good reason. Yes, I know it's a Biblioasis book so of course I'm going to praise it, but in the spirit of full disclosure, this book came out eight years before I joined the staff so I think my assessment of it still counts. Classic type treatment, crisp white background, a well-photographed image that is striking all on its own and a hint of shadow (no, not the shadows from my poor photographing of the cover, the shadows on the razor), to give the image depth. To this day this is one of my favourite Biblioasis covers.

Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers 
by John J. Ross, M.D. (St. Martin's Press, 2012) 

Finally, this book has a bunch of design elements that I think are really working. The silhouettes, especially the more recognizable one of Shakespeare at the top are clean looking and give the book a contemporary yet traditional feeling. The bright orangey colour, contrasted with sparse black and white and a touch of teal on the subtitle catches the eye and is a bit unexpected. The handwritten typeface surprises me, because usually I can't stand script fonts. This one is somewhere between a schoolroom handwriting type and a more formal script, and coupled with the lines from Shakespeare's quill, it makes sense. Orwell coughing up typewriter letters (they're tiny, I know, and hard to see, but they are typewriter letters) is fantastic, tying the body into the writing process in a physical way. Great idea. Finally, possibly my favourite aspect of this cover is the way the designer incorporated the subtitle and author's name onto a file folder. It's subtle, it's clean (see a trend happening here with my design-related praise?) and it's a clever way to add some contrast and make this text stand out without having people wonder, why is there a stripe down there for no reason? 

More beautiful books to come in the next installment of Book Spotting. 
Feel free to comment with your favourite designs!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Alice Petersen on 12 or 20 questions

rob mclennan's "12 or 20 questions" blog feature has become a fixture in Canada's literary conversation, giving readers a look inside the writing lives of Canadian authors.

This month, Alice Petersen, author of the QWF winning short story collection All the Voices Cry, took on questions about the smells that remind her of home, and her reaction to seeing her first book in print.

Read the full article on rob's blog, here.

Book Spotting: Tracking Great Design at the Biblioasis Shop

Happy Monday Bibliofriends!

Because no one really likes Mondays (least of all our pal Bob Geldof), we've put together a special treat that will, with our best intentions, become a regular feature here on Thirsty.

As one of our resident typography nerds / paper lovers / book designers, I've started photographing the most striking book designs that I come across in the shop. These are books I pick up and think, "wow, what a fantastic idea" and then spend a few hours grumbling about how I wish I had thought of it first. They are books that use type, image, paper stock and a variety of other elements to grab my attention and remind me to consider design differently next time I sit down at the computer.

As we have a wealth of beautiful and well-designed books coming through the doors every day, I have an abundance of material with which to bombard our kind readers.

For now, I'll restrain myself and limit my post to a few covers I've been admiring lately (all of which are, at the time of blogging, available in store at Biblioasis):

Carnival by Rawi Hage (House of Anansi, 2012)
This one may be a bit obvious, but I couldn't leave it out of my post just because so many "best book designs of the year" lists have included this cover. Designed by Brian Morgan with illustration by Lorenzo Petrantoni, this cover is complicated without confusing the eye. The kaleidoscopic feel is at once chaotic and extremely well-ordered and balanced. The red and blue on the white background, combined with the overlap of semi-transparent images add to the optical illusion effect, giving the impression of some sort of 3D without the glasses that tie everything together. Plus, the choice of images is intriguing enough to make me wonder what spiders, cars, and guns have to do with the novel, which, by book cover standards, sounds like a success to me.

Building Stories by Chris Ware (Pantheon Books, 2012)
 When this "book" (more accurately a set of books, pamphlets, and newspapers, among other exciting bits of ephemera), arrived in the shop, the entire Bibliostaff stopped what we were doing to take a closer look and open up our display copy. Packaged in a large box (pictured here), Building Stories is a like a graphic shuffle text on an extreme scale. When you open the box, you find tiny comic strips bound in miniature book form, full-sized newspaper fold outs, maps, pamphlets and other "book objects" (14 in total). These can be read and experienced in any order and, with their forces combined, create a sprawling, non-linear plot. Not only is this a super ambitious project, the execution is impeccable. The art is striking and colourful but also at times sparse and quiet, and the production values on this set are high. Everything in the package is clean, crisp, and neatly put together for an experience that makes opening the box and examining its pieces part of the fun of following the story.

 Ariel by Sylvia Plath (Faber, 2010)
I bought this edition of Ariel when I was studying it in a grad class a couple years back despite owning several copies of the text already. And why? Because it is a truly gorgeous edition of the book. The matte illustrated cover in white, teal and black definitely has Faber's signature all over it, and that is not a bad thing. It is busy, when I usually favour simplicity and clean lines, but the way the images flow together along with the minimal colour palette make this a cover that really stands out. Beyond the cover design, the book feels great to hold. It's a sturdy little hardcover that feels like it will last long enough to read, re-read, re-read again and maybe pass along to someone else twenty years from now.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
A bit of a change of gears here, as this one caught my eye in the children's section. Although, there's something about this cover that, while it is clearly a children's book, with its traditional fairy tale characters and soft landscape, suggests a maturity and darkness that certainly exists in fairy tales. I think my favourite aspect of this is the interaction of type treatment and image. The way the ominous black birds sort of cut in and out of the text really brings the two design elements together, while at once keeping the book from appearing too soft and sweet. The type treatment alone is also quite contemporary and stark, not something we often see on a children's book, but in this case, it works. The designer has pulled together a cover that makes sense for fairy tales, stories we've told to children for hundreds of years, with an underlying darkness that adults will even find a bit chilling. 

The Blondes by Emily Schultz (Doubleday, 2012)
Again, this one has appeared on quite a few "best of" lists for book design this year, but with good reason. I am a sucker for a repeated but slightly altered pattern. I like symmetry and grids. But I also know that without the right treatment, these elements can come off a little flat. Not so with the design for The Blondes. Though it may be hard to tell from my instagram photo here, the swatches of hair are gloss, while the rest of the cover is matte. Just this choice takes the repeated pattern to a completely other level in terms of visual interest (and texture, when you run your hand over the cover). The distressed almost daytime sky background gives a sense of erosion and falling apart, but the colour choice also suggests (at least to me) a sort of typical happy suburban film set, where the sky is always bright blue. Changing the colour of the hair from blonde to a selection of multi-coloured jewel tones as the blue fades to brown gives the impression that while things may seem pretty normal and together, that feeling is not going to last. Pair this great visual with a clean and plain typeface that doesn't compete for attention, and you've got one of the best covers I've seen all year.

More to come in the next Book Spotting!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bookish Types Wanted to Join Exclusive Holy Order

“Zounds!” was the cry that so oft arose from the weeping crowds. What a melancholy crop you were in those days! We remember how you paced, scarlet-cloaked, dusty-footed, moaning your oh miseries and your alacks, your well-a-days and woe-betides, as you trod in endless weary circles around the Bibliomanse. How you bathed with tears the shrubbery. How you polished the air with your sighs! How you verily swooned to glimpse the tender heels of chaste maid Fiction, and how you jockeyed amongst yourselves for glance of Poesy’s ever-burning brow! 
Such is the pain, we gather, of standing before the gate. Of peering in. Of wondering what, by Jove, goes on at Parnassus’s peak, at Olympus’s high table, or even (almighty Zeus!) in the Biblioasis back office. But stopper your tears, beloveds, and lay waste your sighs, for this year the gates shall open and the trumpets ring forth! Either purchased by dint of hard coin or spun by the sweat of your brows, the most devoted among you shall claim appointment to a Sacred and Holy Order, to be known henceforth as
THE BIBLIOASIS BOON FELLOWS (for the archaic), or
THE BBFs (for short).
Boon: an adjective (close, intimate, favourite) from the Middle English (jolly, congenial), in turn derived from the Old French (bon) and the Latin (bonus, good).  A boon fellow? A favoured colleague. A privileged peer. In essence, a knight of the realm.
Upon their induction all Book Fellows shall receive:
Heraldic buttons and ensigns
Swag and bounty of indescribable richnesse
A Yuletide gift item, exclusive to BBFs,
A 20% discount on all backlist orders, and
—most crucially—
New Titles, of a type of their choosing,
in advance of publication,

How does it work, gaspeth the crowd. AttentionEcoutez-moi!  

Become a BBF: Order Your Subscription Today!

Biblioasis is now offering several subscription packages in order to help you save a little money on what, let's face it, you're probably going to buy anyway. (Yes? Yes?) The subscription plan allows you to purchase a whole year's worth of fiction (or poetry, or translation, or non-fiction) for a single flat fee. All set prices are based on our average yearly output at a 40% discount, with shipping included.* Plus you don't pay tax! 
  • $125.00/year: receive all Biblioasis new fiction releases (7/year)
  • $80.00/year: receive all Biblioasis new non-fiction releases (5/year);
  • $50.00/year: receive all new poetry titles (3-4/year);
  • $32.00/year: receive all new Biblioasis International Translation Series titles (2/year);
  • $250.00/year: receive the entire year’s worth of books (16/year).
*There may be a small surcharge for international or overseas shipments.

You can purchase subscriptions for yourself or as gifts for friends. Email to discuss the package that's right for you. Combinations are available. Plus, as a thank-you gift for ordering, you'll receive a free copy of Biblioasis's Book of the Month

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Ray Robertson in the Border City and Beyond

One of Canada's most acclaimed novelists, Ray Robertson, will be heading to the border city next month for the writer-in-residence gig at the University of Windsor.

With a view of the iconic Detroit skyline, UWindsor seems an apt place for Ray's brief tenure, as his latest novel, David, is now available in the U.S. for the very first time.  

David, which follows the life of the eccentric title character, born a slave in the mid-1800s and living as a free man and saloon keeper in Chatham, Ontario, is now also available for the first time in paperback in Canada and the U.S., and has been receiving a great deal of positive attention since its re-release by Biblioasis this winter.

Library Journal wrote, "This beautifully written novel with its discontinuous narrative, complex characters, and references to poets, philosophers, and other great thinkers is a challenging read that is well worth the effort. Although Robertson (Home Movies; Heroes; Moody Food; Gently Down the Stream) has won many Canadian literary awards, his work is unfamiliar to American readers. With this novel he has beautifully brought to life a segment of African-American history that is largely unknown in this country."

If that tickles your fancy and you're in the Windsor area in February, look out for a few Ray Robertson events (details to come!) in the city.

Interesting New Books

For a more-exhaustive-than-most, focussed-on-the-international-with-a-penchant-for-the-heady-postmodern-and-complex list of exciting reads for 2013, I'd point you towards Scott Esposito's Interesting New Books list for 2013. Just up on And oh? What's that there in January? Is that Mia Couto? Yessir: The Tuner of Silences is just off the presses and will be trundling across the continent any day now. Keep an eye out for this Important and Gorgeous book in stores near you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

It's a whole new year ... but we're up to the same old malarky.

Good morning, bibliobustlers, bibliohustlers, and welcome to 2013. Lots of stuff from the Oasis coming up for you this month: subscription plans (oh yes! so cheap!), January's newsletter (hey you! sign up!), some fan-tabulous previews from our spring list, and goodness knows what else. But before we get into all that we have two final tips of the hat from 2012, both doffed at—yes, you guessed it—Malarky. When Brian Francis was asked by the CBC's Year-in-Review committee which Canadian author made the biggest splash this year, guess who he picked? (Okay so first he picked Tanis Rideout, but then he picked Our Woman. You can read about it here.) Then not a day later Ian McGillis and our good friends over at the Montreal Gazette listed Malarky on their Rewind 2012 panel, declaring: 
"Anakana Schofield’s Malarky introduced an indelible heroine into our national literature, no less so for the fact that she’s Irish. Inhabiting the sometimes confused but always indomitable mind of the grieving and randy Dublin housewife Our Woman, Schofield has created a note-perfect literary joyride, a “voice novel” in the best sense. An unaccountable collective oversight saw Malarky left off all the major prize short lists, but Amazon and other Internet indicators show that Irish-Canadian Schofield is finding readers regardless, and that’s as heartening a story as 2012 has provided."
Heartening indeed. It was a good year. More soon, my friends. With love from blustery Windsor-town.