Episode 43: We Smell the Olives and Also the Public Toilets

My conversation with authors Michelle Butler Hallett and Joanne Soper Cook ranged widely over a lot of topics and included much classic literature, although we did make a conscious choice not to talk about Ernest Hemingway. We also discussed earning our “Lying” badge, and the way vividly written historical fiction can bring you into a time and place so clearly you can … well, it’s all in the episode title. You can listen to the episode at this link or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Books Joanne talked about:

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
All the Sad Young Men, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dubliners, by James Joyce
The Guns of Navarone, by Alistair MacLean
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
Idylls of the King, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Firelord, by Parke Godwin
The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Far Arena, by Richard Ben Sapir
The Sherlock Holmes stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Books Michelle talked about:

The Ministry of Truth, by Dorian Lynskey
Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
Beowulf, translated by Maria Dahvana Headley
The short stories of Flannery O’Connor

Books I talked about:

The Books of Jacob, by Olga Tokarczuk
My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead
The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis
The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson

If you enjoyed me and Michelle effusing over A Wrinkle in Time, have a listen to an earlier podcast episode where the two of us analyzed the movie adaptation: “A Wrinkle in the Process of Adaptation.”

Also, check out both my guests’ own work:

Michelle’s books
JoAnne’s books as JoAnne Soper-Cook and as J.S. Cook

Episode 42: We Honour the Foremothers (and Others)

My first non-family, full-episode, in-person guests since March 2020 are E.B. Reid and Mark Hunter. By total coincidence, this is Episode #42 and we are talking about the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy A LOT … among other books! We did not plan that or even notice the “42” thing, but it’s pretty danged cool.

As always, listen to the episode on SoundCloud, Apple, Spotify, or most other podcast apps.

Books We All Talked About:

The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams
As a bonus, if either your memory or imagination was stirred by hearing Mark talk about playing the text-based Hitchhiker’s Guide game on the old Commodore 64 — you can play it online now!

Books Ellen Talked About:

Phreak, by JE Solo
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice
Works by Helen Fogwill Porter, Bernice Morgan, Roberta Buchanan, Melba Rabinowitz, Joan Scott, Lilian Bouzane, and Gerry Rubia
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
Send More Tourists … The Last Ones Were Delicious, by Tracey Waddleton
Some People’s Children, by Bridget Canning
Down by Jim Long’s Stage, by Al Pittman
The Very Cranky Bear, by Nick Bland
The Dot and Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds

For the young and young-at-heart: Ellen’s “Miss Ellen” videos
You can get a great sense of Ellen’s own lovely writing on her blogs. She says this is one of her favourites, and if you click on her profile there, you will see a long list of others which are well worth reading!

Books Mark Talked About:

Timescape, by Gregory Benford
Revolt of the Masses, by Jose Ortega Gasset
The Sherlock Holmes stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Death on the Ice, by Cassie Brown
Chocolate Bars and Rubber Boots, by Doug Letto
The Book of Newfoundland, by J.R. Smallwood

You can read Mark’s own books of naval history:
A Society of Gentlemen: Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, 1845-1861
To Employ and Uplift Them: The Newfoundland Naval Reserve, 1899-1926
Policing the Seas: Anglo-American Relations and the Equatorial Atlantic, 1819-1865

A Book I Talked About:

Tales from Lindford, by Catherine Fox
(this is the book that the line “We live in precedented times” comes from)

Episode 41 (Bookswap! 4): We Demand the Book About Dylan

This month, Emma and I discuss Jennifer Weiner’s Big Summer (my pick) and Canadian author Deborah Hemmings’ Throw Down Your Shadows (Emma’s pick). Our conversation, which jumps lightly from discussions about genre to demands that a minor character get his own spin-off story, can be heard at this link, or by searching “Shelf Esteem” in most podcast apps.

Books we discussed in addition to these two included:

Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
That Summer and The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner
Even Weirder Than Before by Susie Taylor
Some People’s Children by Bridget Canning
Books by Lisa Jewell in general

Episode 40: All Our Quotation Marks Were Destroyed in The Event

For the final episode of 2021, we stay in-house with me and Emma talking about squidburgers, Robert Ludlum’s thriller “The Omicron Variant,” the apocalyptic loss of punctuation, and, of course, books we’ve read and thought about this year. You can listen to the episode here or search for “Shelf Esteem” in your favourite podcast apps.

Books Emma talked about:

Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
Good Citizens Need Not Fear, by Maria Reva
The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
The Box in the Woods, by Maureen Johnson
Take Me With You When You Go, by David Levithan and Jennifer Niven
The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Books I talked about:

The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
A Psalm for the Wild-Built and the Wayfarers series, by Becky Chambers
The Man Who Died Twice, by Richard Osman
The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles
So Many Beginnings, by Bethany C. Morrow
The Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Seamus O’Reilly
How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith III
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, by Dawnie Walton

Episode 39: Bookswap 3 — We Are Never Going To Make It in New York

For this episode, I read a recent favourite book of Emma’s, Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi, and Emma read a book that was a favourite of mine when I was around her age, Emma Who Saved My Life by Wilton Barnhardt (which I did not name her after). You can listen to the episode here or on your favourite podcast app by searching for Shelf Esteem.

In addition to the two books we were discussion, we also talked, briefly or at greater length, about

Paper Towns by John Green
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Emergency Contact and Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

And, we discussed Emma’s new project, an independent online bookstore called Salt Pages NL — follow that link to see them on all social media find out all about what they do!

Episode 38 – BookSwap 2: One of These Books is BONKERS

I skipped a couple of blog entries for the last couple of books, but over the summer, my brilliant daughter Emma and I have been doing a series we’re calling “BookSwap!”, where we each recommend a book for each other to read. This month, I recommended Emma read Ayesha at Last, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in a contemporary setting by Canadian author Uzma Jalaluddin. Emma got me to read a book she read in class last year: the 1799 novel The Natural Daughter, by English feminist, actress, and writer Mary Robinson.

You can listen to the full episode here on SoundCloud, or by searching “Shelf Esteem” in most podcast apps.

If you want to know more about the truly amazing life of Mary Robinson, you can read more about her here.

Along the way, we also talked a lot about the novels of Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice, with brief glances at Sense and Sensibility and Emma (the book Emma Cole is NOT named after).

We also talked at length about the 2012 web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a wonderful contemporary video adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which you can watch at the link above.

Still on the subject of Austen, I mentioned the Jane-Austen-variation novels written by my friend Riana Everly, of which I would recommend particularly the Miss Mary Investigates mysteries, although all her books are good!

I made a passing mention of the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell, of which the one I read most recently was Wives and Daughters.

In talking about movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice during the podcast, I made the unforgiveable (to Austen fans) error of confusing the 2005 movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, with the 1995 miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I am so very sorry. It was the movie, not the miniseries, that I thought Emma and I had watched together when she was 12 or 13.

I also mentioned Jalaluddin’s second novel, Hana Khan Carries On, which I recently read and enjoyed, and would recommend! Find out more about this up-and-coming Canadian author here.

One book I wanted to mention but did not get a chance to was Ibi Zoboi’s Pride, another great contemporary Pride and Prejudice retelling that

Episode 35: Christmas Stories

For a very special Christmas episode (though honestly, any episode of the podcast I’ve managed to record this year has been pretty special) I collected a group of people who all shared some of their favourite holiday books for reading and re-reading around Christmas, Yule, New Year’s, etc. My guests included Lori Savory, Julia Mayo, E.B. Reid, Mark Hunter, Jean Graham, Lara Maynard, Tammy Healey Drover, Paula Luby Coughlan, Martha Muzychka, and Emma Cole. You can listen to the podcast on SoundCloud, on iTunes, or wherever else you get your podcasts (except Spotify — I haven’t worked that one out yet, sorry!)

Books mentioned — and, in most cases, recommended — by my guests on this episode (Jean’s reference to Revelation may not account as exactly a “recommendation”):

Episode 34: We Can Definitely Remember Shapes and Colours (with Emma Cole)

This episode starts with me rambling about how there’s been no new podcast since the end of April because … well, Covid-19, plus I’ve discovered I don’t really enjoy recording podcasts on Zoom, so I’m rambling a bit about the future of the podcast for the foreseeable future. Then I call in my in-house book expert, my daughter Emma Cole, and we had a lively conversation about what we’ve been reading. You can listen to the podcast on SoundCloud here, or on iTunes or any of the usual podcast platforms.

Books I Talked About

The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
The Empire of Goldby S.A. Chakraborty
Pale Riderby Laura Spinney
The Pull of the Starsby Emma Donoghue
The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas
Son of a Trickster, by Eden Robinson
Some People’s Childrenby Bridget Canning

Books Emma Talked About

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, by Hank Green (we both talked about this one!)
A Tree Grows in Brooklynby Betty Smith
The Garden Partyby Katherine Mansfield
The Hand on the Wallby Maureen Johnson
The Box in the Woods, by Maureen Johnson
Again Again, by E. Lockhart
Not So Pure and Simple, by Lamar Giles

Episode 33: We Are All a Little Shack-Whacky, with Tina Chaulk, Christine Hennebury, and Jennifer Morgan.

I got three good friends together via Zoom and we talked about what we’re reading during quarantine/lockdown/pandemic, how we feel about dystopian literature at this stage, and whether people will inevitably behalf like a-holes in the apocalypse. Also, we learn a new word.  You can listen to the episode on SoundCloud here, or on iTunes or most of the other usual podcast places.

Books Christine Talked About:
The Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong
The Kate and Logan (Otherworld) books by Kelley Armstrong
Smoke Bittenby Patricia Briggs
The Incryptid series by Seanan McGuire
Swordheartby T. Kingfisher

Books Jennifer Talked About:
The Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mysteries by Deborah Crombie
Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Books Tina Talked About:
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker
The Firemanby Joe Hill

Books I Talked About:
The Weight of Inkby Rachel Kadish
Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
The City We Becameby N.K. Jemisin
The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Episode 32: We Are All Afraid to Cough Right Now

Well, maybe it’s just me who’s afraid to cough. But the cough I edited out, and this whole very strange current moment in the midst of a global pandemic, definitely did come up during this episode. Do you read about plagues during a plague, or do you read to escape the current reality? My guests were two brilliant writers: Leslie Vryenhoek and Russell Wangersky, and you can find links below to their own books as well as all the books we talked about. As always, you can listen to the episode here on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/shelfesteem/we-are-all-afraid-to-cough-in-public or on iTunes or most other podcast platforms.

Leslie is the author of:

We All Will Be Received
Ledger of the Open Hand

Russell is the author of:

Whirl Away
Burning Down the House
The Path of Most Resistance
The Glass Harmonica
The Hour of Bad Decisions

Books Leslie Talked About:

Minus Timeby Catherine Bush
Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies
Swann and The Orange Fish, by Carol Shields
The Poisonwood Bibleby Barbara Kingsolver
Sweet Savage Love, by Rosemary Rogers
Go Set a Watchman and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Boat People, by Sharon Bala
The Innocents and Sweetland, by Michael Crummey
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Melt by Heidi Wicks

Books Russell Talked About:

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Lost Salt Gift of Blood, by Alastair Macleod
Day Out of Days
, by Sam Shepard
Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy
Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome
Tramp in Armor, by Colin Forbes
We All Expected to Dieby Anne Budgell
The Wakeby Linden MacIntyre
My Camino, by Patrick Warner
Galoreby Michael Crummey

Books I Talked About:

Five Wives, by Joan Thomas
Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel

Episode 31: We Should Start Wearing Purple Now

I had a great conversation with writer/researcher Michelle Porter, and community outreach worker/roller-derby-ist Jane Bannister. We touched on poetry, writing by indigenous writers, science fiction, and why we should not wait till we are old ladies to wear purple. (You’ll need to forgive the audio quality on this one: due to a microphone error on my part there’s some background noise and echo that’s distracting, though my fabulous sound technician Chris Cole did a great job of cleaning it up as much as possible to make it listen-able). Don’t miss Michelle’s poetry collection Inquiries! You can listen to the episode here or on most other podcast platforms.

Books Michelle talked about:
I Knew Two Metis Women, by Gregory Scofield
The Just-So Stories and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, by Rudyard Kipling
When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, by Sandra Martz
The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline
Son of a Trickster & Trickster Driftby Eden Robinson
The Truth About Stories, by Thomas King
The Mouse Woman Trilogy, by Christie Harris
The Breakby Katherena Vermette
Hope Mattersby Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb, and Tania Carter
Northwest Resistanceby Katherena Vermette
The Northwest is our Mother, by Jean Teillet
Probably Ruby, by Lisa Bird-Wilson
Women Talkingby Miriam Toews
Some People’s Children, by Bridget Canning
Paint the Town Pink and other children’s books by Lori Doody

Books Jane talked about:
A Well-Behaved Women: A Novel of the Vanderbilts, by Therese Ann Fowler
Books by Lucy Maud Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure
Radicalized and Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow
Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass and Take Us To Your Chief, by Drew Hayden Taylor
Tales of the Cityby Armistead Maupin
Shades of Magicby V.E. Schwab
Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
All the Light We Cannot Seeby Anthony Doerr
Dig, by Terry Doyle

Books I talked about:
Empire of Wild, by Cherie Dimaline
Five Wives, by Joan Thomas
Crow Gulch, by Douglas Walbourne-Gough
The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, by Bridget Canning

Episode 30: We Love a Good Literary Pilgrimage (with Olivia Robinson and Elizabeth Hicks)


This is it — the 30th episode of Shelf Esteem, and the first of 2020, the year in which I have vowed to stick to an actual schedule of producing one podcast per month. WE’LL SEE HOW THAT GOES. I had two avid readers in studio this month — Olivia Robinson and Elizabeth Hicks. Both are writers as well as readers, and Elizabeth is also an actor. As always, you can listen to the episode on SoundCloud, on iTunes, or on most of your other podcast platforms. Here are the books we talked about:

Books Olivia Talked About:
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
The Haunting of Hill Houseby Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Ducks, Newburyportby Lucy Ellman
A Complicated Kindnessby Miriam Toews
To the Lighthouseby Virginia Woolf
The Saddle Club books, by Bonnie Bryant
The Thoroughbred series, by Joanna Campbell
The Secret Historyby Donna Tartt
To the Riverby Olivia Laing
The Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore
The Idiot, by Elif Batuman
Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata
Ocean, by Sue Goyette
Poetry by Elizabeth Bishop
Year of the Monkey, by Patty Smith

Books Elizabeth Talked About:
Fleabag, by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, by Megan Gail Coles
The Innocentsby Michael Crummey
Anil’s Ghostby Michael Ondaatje
The Babysitters Club series, by Ann M. Martin
How I Survived Being a Girlby Wendelin van Draanen
The Twilight series, by Stephanie Meyer
The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke
The Vision Tree, by Phyllis Webb
The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl, by Sue Goyette
Digby Terry Doyle

Books I Talked About:
A Good House, by Bonnie Burnard
A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
The Difference, by Marina Endicott
The Canterwood Crest series