PQ Weekly Roundup: 13 Dec 2019

Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.


Happy Friday, Quill fans! Can you believe we’re already almost halfway through the month of December? Time sure flies when you’re reading, I guess.


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PQL Holiday Giveaway # 1: Snark and Silliness

PQL Holiday Giveaway 2019 Week 1

Do the holidays have you feeling frazzled, stressed out, at the end of your rope? Do the gloomy skies have you wishing for a little beauty, a little visual treat? Does the world just feel heavy? If you feel like your in need of a laugh this holiday season, you need…


The Hunting of the Snark with wood engravings by George A. Walker

This handsome volume of Lewis Carroll’s classic long poem follows a group of clueless adventurers as they embark on a quest to find the mysterious creature known as the Snark. They sally forth with a capricious list of provisions, a blank map—and no idea what they’re doing. The story gets something of a modern update with glorious wood engravings by master engraver George A. Walker, reimagining the tale through the distorted lens of contemporary American politics. With Donald J. Trump taking the lead as the bellicose bellman, Walker memorializes a baffling political climate, and gives us a sharp new way of looking at a familiar poem.

For the holidays, we’ll be giving away one free print copy of this beautiful work of art to one of our lucky Quill Fans.

For your chance to win:

1. log in to the form below using email, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
2. earn up to six entries by visiting Facebook and Instagram, following us or Tweeting on Twitter or by signing up to our newsletter. (If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, an avid social media follower, or an avid social media avoider, the bonus entry method is for you!)
3. log out of the form to submit your entry

The winner will be contacted by email next week.



portraitWe hope you’re excited to participate in this week’s holiday giveaway. Stay tuned for another great giveaway next week!

Good luck,

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PQ Weekly Roundup: 06 Dec 2019

Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.


Getting sick of the gloomy weather down here in Southwestern Ontario. Seriously—I think we had about twenty minutes of partly sunny skies for all of twenty minutes on Thursday morning. I’m going to have to insist on cozying up with a book this weekend to combat the dreariness.

Have a great weekend,

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To All the Books I’ve Loved Before, Or, News for December at PQL

At this time of the year, when the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us, and visions of sugar plums arise (to our delight or dismay), gratitude becomes almost a coping mechanism. Or if not gratitude, at least thoughtfulness—a conscious desire to look back, to appreciate what we learned or felt or experienced.

It strikes me as a perfect opportunity to think about our reading lives, and to take stock of all the books we’ve loved, or the ones that taught us something about ourselves, and the world around us.

For me, this represents an opportunity to write a love letter of sorts….

man kneeling in front of downcast woman

“I must confess, my dearest Cecelia, my most ardent devotion … to my books. What? Did You think I was going to say you? Oh, haha, so funny, dear, but no.”

It’s a love letter to my favourite childhood books. To Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy, which taught me to love confessional, journalistic entries, unique and entertaining voices, and badass female characters historical and otherwise. To Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, which showed me that magic isn’t always about wands and wizards—that it can be about desert sands and politics and duty and honour, but that it is always still enchanting. To J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which taught me that “wildly popular” doesn’t always mean “better” (though it can mean “pretty good”).

It’s a love letter to surprise discoveries. To Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind, which proved to me that books in translation do not always feel stilted, and that it’s refreshing to read outside the Anglo-centric universe in which we often find ourselves. To Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, which taught me required course readings are not always dull, dusty tomes written by dead white guys. To Adam Davies’s Mine All Mine, which is proof positive that amazing, underrated books can be found in the remainders bin for two dollars. To Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, which started off an enduring obsession with fiction about books, librarians, and literary concerns of all stripes, and to Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which further cemented it.

It’s a love letter to books that have made me feel. To M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans, in which I learned doing the wrong thing can be so right, and doing the right thing, so wrong. To Harriet Lane’s Her, in which I found out that a heavy feeling of dread and confusion can build up in my stomach page after page—and that I can love every second of it. To Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, which taught me a book written from a dog’s perspective can absolutely make me moue with cuteness, then want to throw things, then ugly cry.

It’s a love letter to books that have brightened my day. To Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which has instilled in me a great appreciation of British humour—and a partiality for the number 42. To Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, which taught me it’s OK to laugh on public transportation, even if people look at you funny. To Susan Juby’s The Woefield Poultry Collective and Christopher Moore’s Fool and Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! and Mary Ann Shaffer’s and Annie Barrows’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, all of which have inspired chuckles, guffaws and numerous re-reads.

Finally, this post is a love letter to books that have inspired me. To Jane Urquhart’s Stone Carvers and Away, which first instilled in me an appreciation for the beauty and power of Canadian literature, and to Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, which reminded me of the fact years later. To Jason Guriel’s The Pigheaded Soul, the book of criticism I wish I had encountered as an undergraduate, or as a graduate student, and which I still treasure to this day. To books like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, whose simple elegance occasionally gives me the idea that I could, someday, maybe, write something of value. To Alistair McLeod’s Island (and in particular, his story “The Boat”), which I have read and reread with bittersweet pleasure because the true mastery of every beautiful, carefully considered line makes me despair of writing anything good, and certainly nothing that could compare, ever, at all.

So many books, over so many years, have contributed not only to my literary tastes, but to who I am as a person. To look upon my bookshelves, at all the spines on display, is, I think, to know something about me. To know my favourites is to get a glimpse inside my heart.

Spoiler alert: there are lots of books there.

boy and girl reading a book

(And if you’re very lucky, I do share my favourites.)

What’s happening this month…


Enough drippiness and on to business! The shop is a-hum with the sounds of printing, as the 85th issue of the Devil’s Artisan coming down the pipe. DA 85 will feature a spotlight George A. Walker’s reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. It also has a feature on small press publishing in 1960s Ottawa as well as one on experimental comics. My personal favourite is Tim Inkster’s “The Thing about Major Street”, which tells the fascinating origins and behind-the-scenes details of the publication of Leon Rooke’s The House on Major Street.

Next on the press is Nick Tooke’s debut novel, The Ballad of Samuel Hewitt, a lyrical and beautiful adventure story full of profound insight about identity, home and family. Look for copies soon!

In London.

Casting into Mystery

Rob Reid will be presenting a talk on “Tom Thomson as Canada’s Most Famous Fly Fisherman”, based on a chapter in the upcoming book Casting into Mystery, at the Forest City Fly Fishing Club on December forth at London’s Western Ontario Fish.

In Toronto.

The Porcupine’s Quill will be participating in this year’s Bound Book Arts Fair at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto on December 6. The annual fair will be full of one-of-a-kind books, prints and ephemera, perfect for the literary lover in your life.

In the world.

December 5 is Bathtub Party Day. Reader, I have questions.

December 12 is Gingerbread House Day, which sounds like an excuse to nibble on candy and make yourself sick on icing to me. And if that’s the case, count me in.

December 28 is Card Playing Day. Who’s coming over to play cards at my house? Euchre? Pepper? Rummy? Crazy Eights? I’m game!


From the porcupette’s corner…

The Porcupine's Quill Holiday Giveaway--Coming Soon!

You’ve waited long enough. I’ll put you out of your misery and just announce it. It’s December, so it’s officially the start of the PQL Holiday Giveaway season! If you’ve followed us for the last few years, you know we like to give away some nice freebies to our loyal Quill Fans. This year, we’ve got three great gifts planned for you, so keep checking back on the blog, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media so you don’t miss a contest!

PortraitThanks for checking in to see what’s happening at PQL during this most festive of months. We hope you enjoy all the pleasures December has in store!

Cheers, and good luck,Steph

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PQ Weekly Roundup: 29 Nov 2019

Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.


Hope all our American friends had a happy Thanksgiving. Now everyone, stay safe on Black Friday. We also encourage you all to participate in Small Business Saturday and to “shop small” with your local indies. (And, if you’re so inclined, we’re pretty small and indie, too. Just sayin’!)


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The True Story of an Unrepentant Literary Sinner: Being an Account of the Porcupette’s Confessions of Bookish Sin

I found one of those fire-and-brimstone religious pamphlets in my mailbox today. It was good for a chuckle (the thing played fast and loose with grammatical rules and made conspicuous use of bold, italic and underlined text, sometimes all at once) and it made me think about sins. In a moment of clarity (and well aware of my need for some blogging inspiration) I sat down and looked inward—and discovered that many of my sins are unsurprisingly book related….

Adam, Eve and serpent in the Garden of Eden

Switch the fruit for a book and this would be about right.

I’m not by nature prone to envy, but throw books in the mix and the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head. I find myself jealous of people who are able to devour books by the reading-themed tote bag. How do they find the time to dedicate to all that pleasure reading, not to mention the mental ability to actually comprehend so much writing at the end of a long workday? Hearing about someone reading an entire book—or multiple books!—in a night is enough to send me into a tailspin of jealousy.

Perhaps this is related to my second bookish sin—sloth. While I surely envy those reading wildly outpaces my own, I have only myself to blame. There are times when my genuine desire to read is outweighed by the convenience of the television remote and the lack of brainpower needed to consume trash British reality TV. My laziness takes hold, and despite my best intentions to read a chapter or two, I’ll allow my brain to leak out my ears from a boob-tube marathon rather than hoist a book in front of my tired eyeballs.

On the other hand, when I overcome my bookish sloth, I can be an utter glutton for reading. Sometimes I get on such a roll, I start another book and gulp it down immediately, without even savouring it, after closing the covers on the last one. I’m one of those weirdos who likes to keep track of what she reads, and the pleasure of ticking a box gives me an immediate high.

Like many book lovers, I feel an inordinate amount of pride of my home library. I have been known to sit in my wingback chair, feet propped on the ottoman, and do nothing but stare at my bookshelves. It’s not even about choosing a book to read, or determining which books I have. It’s about enjoying the simple pleasure of tracing my eyes along the colourful spines. It’s about remembering snippets of great prose, or feelings engendered by certain scenes, or the time and place in my life I most associate with a given book. Pride in book ownership is definitely one of my sins.

antiques, including handsome bookcases

Who wouldn’t be proud of bookcases like this, I ask you?

Of course, related to this is my bookish greed. Can I resist buying new books even though I know I have dozens of unread volumes at home? Not a chance. Will I purchase new releases even though I’ve already run out of bookshelf space and have no reasonable place to store them? You bet your boots. More is better, right? I draw the line at procuring new editions of titles I already own, though I’ve been sorely tempted when the new cover is especially pretty.

The physical beauty of the book is something most book lovers recognize. Who among us hasn’t experienced a lust for those Instagram-perfect images of perfect home libraries or indie bookshops? And of course, we all drool over particularly beautiful cover images. Lovely design of a book interior gives me a rush as well. And if you’re a reader of romance, well, that’s another form of bookish lust, especially if you find yourself ‘thirsty’ for the characters!

And finally, I have, indeed, experienced literary wrath. You know when you read a book and you hate the characters so much you want to tear your hair out? (Ahem, Wuthering Heights.) Or perhaps you invested a tonne of time into a much touted “modern classic” only to find you hated it with a passion. (Looking at you, A Confederacy of Dunces.) Or maybe the author went and broke your heart by killing off a character. (I will never forgive J. K. Rowling for Fred.) Face it, most of us book lovers have encountered their fair share of book-induced wrath.

The verdict is in. I’m officially a literary sinner. There’s no hope for recovery. But seeing as there is much reading to do for us sinners of a bookish sort, I think I’m going to be just fine.


PortraitWhat about you, PQL friends? Are you literary sinners, too? Or are you far more virtuous than me? Feel free to leave a comment below!Steph

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.