Skip to content
Recommended Reading

R
e
c
o
m
m
e
n
d
e
d
 
R
e
a
d
i
n
g
 
L
i
s
t
s

Bright Books for Sunny Days

Mark Abley

Mark Abley’s book The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mind was published by University of Regina Press in January.

Recommendations

I have been deeply moved by Susan Doherty’s new book The Ghost Garden: Inside the Lives of Schizophrenia’s Feared and Forgotten. Her indelible portraits of men and women living with severe mental illness are both clear-sighted and warmhearted. I’ve also been trying to give poetry more time in my life. Susan Glickman’s What We Carry and Shane Neilson’s New Brunswick are both new collections that ask large questions without sacrificing literary quality. And a slightly older book of poems, Miranda Pearson’s The Fire Extinguisher, contains work that is simply dazzling.

Mona Awad

Mona Awad’s novel Bunny was published by Hamish Hamilton in June.

Recommendations

I’m very excited about Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments (of course) as well as Yoko Ogawa’s Memory Police. I just picked up by Téa Mutonji’s Shut Up You're Pretty and I’m completely hooked by the voice. And finally, I’ve been dying to read Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread as I love her fabulist approach to storytelling. 

David Bezmozgis

David Bezmozgis’ collection of short stories Immigrant City was published by HarperCollins in March.

Recommendations

I am now reading Memoirs of a Revolutionary by Victor Serge, whom I recently discovered. Serge witnessed and participated in most of the major political events in Europe from before WWI to after WWII. He died in Mexico in 1947, an exile from Europe and a fugitive from Stalin. He knew practically everyone there was to know from the radical left and wrote honestly and unflinchingly about them. He reminds me of George Orwell and is admirable in the same way: a cogent thinker and clean prose stylist who prized individual liberty and called out the excesses of his own side as much of those of his political enemies. Once I finish Memoirs I plan to read his Notebooks 1936-1947 and also his two best-regarded novels, Men in Prison, based on the five years he spent in a French prison, and The Case of Comrade Tulayev about the Great Terror in Russia. 

On my bookshelf, I also have waiting Ian Williams’s Reproduction about which I’ve heard very good things. I admire a novel that plays with form and am curious to see how Williams tells his story.

Becky Blake

Becky Blake’s novel Proof I Was Here was published by Buckrider Books in May.

Recommendations

This summer I’ve got a lot of recent CanLit on my TBR pile. In nonfiction: Kate Armstrong’s The Stone Frigate, Amber Scorah’s Leaving the Witness, Yasuko Thanh’s Mistakes to Run With, and Michael Crummey’s Most of What Follows Is True. In fiction, next up is Derek Mascarenhas’ Coconut Dreams, Jen Neale’s Land Mammals and Sea Creatures, Casey Plett’s Little Fish, and the second book in Miriam Körner’s YA sled dog series, Qaqavii. I’m also excited to get my hands on a copy of My Camino, Patrick Warner’s forthcoming novel set in Spain.

Megan Gail Coles

Megan Gail Coles’ novel Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club was published by House of Anansi Press in February.

Recommendations

Warning: this summer reading list is not particularly summery. My rural-remote, northern upbringing does not encourage a wholly relaxed disposition even when the living is easy. Rather, July and August are generally reserved for ruthless refueling before a heavy, writerly fall. This year I’m starting a PhD so my reading list is a mixture of everything that is necessary to ignite that purpose. Mind you, I’ll read outside handy to an endless supply of ciders. Spontaneous hammock naps and poodles chasing each other in the yard also factor into this plan a great deal. 

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. I tore the poem Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong from a New Yorker and taped it to the fridge door ages ago. It lives there still much-favoured and tattered. I can’t wait to read Vuong’s prose.

Magical Negro by Morgan Parker. There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé is my go-to collection. I’m eagerly anticipating Parker’s follow-up.

Normal People by Sally Rooney. I just want to see what all the fuss is about. 

Bina by Anakana Schofield. We’re on a panel together in the fall so this is equal parts professional courtesy and personal curiosity. 

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott. I read it in two days the first time. A third of the way through I had to stop sending screenshots of resonant sections to my sisters. I was sending rapid, heaving chunks of text. This time I will read it with the focus and consideration it deserves. My sisters are going to read it with me. And my mom. It’s just that kind of book. 

Also: random library nonfiction offerings about opioids, immunology, mega-projects, ecological grief, and food security. Few plays. Some socialist journals. And a scatter of short stories. 

Nancy Jo Cullen

Nancy Jo Cullen’s novel The Western Alienation Merit Badge was published by Buckrider Books in June.

Recommendations

This summer, some of the books that are piled mostly under my coffee table waiting for me to get to are: The Melting Queen by Bruce Cinnamon, Coconut Dreams by Derek Mascarenhas, Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq. Some of the poetry that I’m looking forward to digging into this summer includes, Dunk Tank by Kayla Czaga, Cluster by Souvankham Thammavongsa, and American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins by Terence Hayes.

Anthony De Sa

Anthony De Sa’s novel Children of the Moon was published by Doubleday Canada in May.

Recommendations

After the publication of my newest novel, Children of the Moon, I can now get to the pile of books by my bedside. I’m very excited to dig into Todd Babiak’s The Empress of Idaho. A long admirer of his work, I’m looking forward to delving into what Robert Wiersema called “a powerful and unsettling novel.” Next up will be the highly anticipated The Innocents by Michael Crummey. Every time I read his work, I am profoundly moved. And then there’s Susan Swan’s intriguing The Dead Celebrities Club. There’s nothing like a well-written, salacious read under a blistering sun. Cocktail in hand, of course. I’m also beginning to think about my next novel and to that end I’ll be rereading three books by Nadia Bolz-Weber: Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, and Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. All of these books are told in her trademark confessional style and I’m fascinated by her work and the life she lives.

Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott’s book A Mind Spread Out on the Ground was published by Doubleday Canada in March.

Recommendations

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
I started to read the first few pages of this book shortly after I bought it last summer and I wanted to keep reading it, but I had to read other things at the time. Kimmerer’s prose is beautiful and her approach to the topic is brilliant, even in the few pages I’ve read.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh
I’m reading Eileen right now and I’m loving it, so I’m eager to start this one. The idea of a book written about a woman who essentially wants to sleep for a year excites me as a writer, as I really want to see how Moshfegh manages to pull it off. She’s a unique writer with a mastery of character and perspective that marvels me.

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly
I met Soraya Chemaly at FOLD this year on a panel on women’s anger. Everything she said was brilliant. I just wanted to keep listening to her... then I realized I could basically do that by reading her book. This book takes a more sociological approach to the topic, separating it from other books on women’s anger which have come out recently. Should be good.

Every Little Piece of Me by Amy Jones
I was just on a panel with Amy at a literary festival and, listening to her read, I was enthralled. There was such a strong sense of character, voice, and humour that I knew I had to buy her book as soon as we were done, which I obviously did.

I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom
I’ve been waiting to read this book since it was announced last year. Kai Cheng is one of my favourite writers and thinkers. She’s so smart and generous; it really is a gift that she is willing to give so much of her wisdom to us. This book of essays is probably my most anticipated book of the year and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. 

Cary Fagan

Cary Fagan’s novel The Student was published by Freehand Books in May.

Recommendations

I’m in the middle of reading Susan Swan’s engrossing novel, The Dead Celebrities Club. Her creation of the white-collar prison inmate Dale Paul’s unnaturally calm, almost chilling voice is a real tour de force.

And I’ve just picked up Susan Glickman’s new book of poetry, What We Carry. These are beautifully written, intelligent, accessible poems.

For me, a really good bookstore is a place where I discover books that I've never heard of. Such is Ben McNally Bookshop in Toronto where I recently bought Quarrels by Eve Joseph. I was drawn to the wonderfully surreal cover and then to the equally wonderful, surreal prose poems inside.

Finally, I’ve just caught up with Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn, a devastating novel about a marriage which is simply one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Amy Fung

Amy Fung’s collection of essays Before I Was a Critic I Was a Human Being was published by Book*hug in May.

Recommendations

I’m in the middle of moving, so I’m actually in the process of book-culling right now. But once I land on the other side of this move, I plan on pre-ordering:

NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field by Billy Ray Belcourt
I loved his voice in his debut book, and I want more.

Vancouver for Beginners by Alex Leslie
Since People Who Disappear, I have been really into how she remembers and rewrites the stories of the city.

Last Days at Hot Slit: The Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin edited by Johanna Fateman and Amy Scholder
This book is already out, and it will be my reward for moving.  

Don Gillmor

Don Gillmor’s book To the River: Losing My Brother was published by Random House Canada in December.

Recommendations

My Name is a Knife by Alix Hawley, sequel to her wonderful, lyrical All True Not a Lie in It which chronicles the life of Daniel Boone. I can still sing the first verse of the TV show theme song. 

Mistakes to Run With, a memoir by Yasuko Thanh. Her novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains was beautifully written. 

Women Talking
by Miriam Toews, for that enviable voice.

And, time permitting, War and Peace.

Ann Hui

Ann Hui’s book Chop Suey Nation was published by Douglas & McIntyre in February.

Recommendations

Whether she’s unravelling the propaganda machine behind Shen Yun, or exploring the love affair between millennials and their houseplants, The New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino always brings wit and razor-sharp insight to her writing. I can’t wait for her first book, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion. After that, I’ll be reading Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo?, by my Globe and Mail colleague Robyn Doolittle. Robyn’s reporting on police handling of sexual assault in Canada has been groundbreaking, and I can’t think of anyone better qualified to take on the subject of sexual politics in the era of #MeToo.

Kaie Kellough

Kaie Kellough’s collection of poetry Magnetic Equator was published by McClelland & Stewart in March.

Recommendations

I am very interested in Chantal Gibson’s examination of how she was shaped by her reading—in how her frustrations with and rebellions against the English language and the canon parallel or diverge from my own. I am equally interested in Hasan Namir’s investigation of religion and masculinity. Both books meet my interest in how we construct self when faced with a dearth of representation. The books also engage the infinite play of language as a strategy to escape confinement and outwit limitation.

Black Abacus by Ian Keteku
This Is How We Disappear by Titilope Sonuga

Both Black Abacus and This Is How We Disappear are debuts published by a press that is also making its auspicious debut. Write Bloody North emerges out of the spoken word community. Both authors are prominent performers who are in the process of broadening their practice, moving into the world of print. Having long worked in the oral tradition, I appreciate seeing dub, slam, and spoken word performers develop as writers. I also congratulate them on their new books and on the next steps in their careers.

Alexandra Kimball

Alexandra Kimball’s book The Seed: Infertility is a Feminist Issue was published by Coach House Books in April.

Recommendations

While writing The Seed: Infertility Is a Feminist Issue, something I did partly while parenting my newborn son—different experiences, but both very much “work”—I became fixated on the idea of work and how work makes us as we labour. Since then, I’ve been reading everything I can about jobs: jobs (like parenting!), lauded jobs, thankless jobs, jobs that encapsulate the villainy that is the modern gig economy—jobs done by different people in different eras, with varying obstacles and rewards. These nonfiction books are still on my to-read list, and I’m excited to find out what they have to say about work and how it changes us and the culture around us.

Work!: A Queer History of Modeling by Elspeth H Brown
Queer labour is the hidden generator of most pop culture, and while the work of gay male fashion designers has been lauded, the innovations and sheer labour of queer models, many of them models of colour, remains invisible. Brown brings their stories into the public eye, showing how not only queer models, but queerness itself, shaped current ideas about glamour and sexuality.

They Call Me George: The Untold Story of The Black Train Porters by Cecil Foster
I’m always interested in intimate stories that point to larger shifts in society and politics, so I’m stoked for this one. Cecil Foster unearths the hidden histories of Canada’s black pullmen, or train porters, and explores how their employment on the country’s rail lines reflected—and eventually changed—national policies and attitudes towards Blackness, immigration, and multiculturalism.

Dirty Work: My Gruelling, Glorious, Life-changing Summer In the Wilderness by Anna Maxymiw
This book is about the author’s summer job as the housekeeper of a fishing lodge in Northern Ontario when she was 23, so I expect it will have a lot of the colourful characters and lush flora/fauna I remember from my own summers in rural Northern Ontario when I was a kid. Physical-job-as-personal-transformation is something of a genre now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Maxymiw spins the conventions.

Sister Writes, Issue 3.2 (The Work Issue)
Toronto not-for-profit Sister Writes, which provides free writing instruction and mentorship to new and low-income women in the city, does a magazine of student work, and their newest issue is about work. Women’s labour has always been undercompensated and acknowledged (if at all) and I think younger women have been hit particularly hard by the rise of the gig economy, so I’m interested in seeing what this group of lesser-known writers have to say about their experiences with work and gender.

Shandi Mitchell

Shandi Mitchell’s novel The Waiting Hours was published by Viking in April.

Recommendations

The Overstory by Richard Powers. Reading underway. Awed. A work that makes me see and listen to the world again.

Something for Everyone by Lisa Moore. To be dazzled.

Don’t Try This At Home: One Family’s (Mis)adventures Around the World by Daria Salamon and Rob Krause. To laugh and be inspired to leap. 

Notes for the Everlost: A Field Guide to Grief by Kate Inglis. To hold the most private.  

The Big Seven by Jim Harrison. Because it’s Jim Harrison.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. Because I’m late to hold her words.

Death is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa. Syrian author. Because I should know.

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. Because of Train Dreams.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Because a friend, who chooses work to take my breath away, said: “You must”.

Alix Ohlin

Alix Ohlin’s novel Dual Citizens was published by House of Anansi Press in June.

Recommendations

The book I’m reading this summer is The Body of the Beasts by Audrée Wilhelmy. Based in Montreal, Wilhemy has won France’s Sade Award and has been a finalist for a Governor General’s Literary Award; The Body of the Beasts is her third novel and the first to be translated into English. It’s the story of a family living in isolation on a remote boreal shore whose lives are suddenly, irrevocably changed by the arrival of a woman named Noé. It’s a vivid and atmospheric novel and Wilhemy’s writing is strange, beautiful, and wild.

Sara Peters

Sara Peters’ book I Become a Delight to My Enemies was published by Strange Light in May.

Recommendations

CANADIAN
Foxfield by Anastasia Jones

Norma Jeane Baker of Troy by Anne Carson

Cluster by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Theory by Dionne Brand

Slip Minute by Anne-Marie Turza

 

INTERNATIONAL
A Sand Book by Ariana Reines

The Eleven by Pierre Michon

The Collected Stories of Diane Williams 

All Around Atlantis by Deborah Eisenberg

Zalika Reid-Benta

Zalika Reid-Benta’s novel Frying Plantain was published by House of Anansi Press in June.

Recommendations

Shut Up You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji

Coconut Dreams by Derek Mascarenhas

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Rouge by Adrian De Leon

Adam Sol

Adam Sol’s book How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers of Poetry was published by ECW Press in March.

Recommendations

I just finished reading Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis, which I loved—I feel like the title story should be required reading for all Torontonians. Next up is Waubgeshig Rice’s Moon of the Crusted Snow, which I’ve been hearing very good things about. But of course what I read most is poetry—I just completely devoured Ali Blythe’s new collection, Hymnswitch, which I think is terrific. And I am excited to dig into new books by Karen Solie, Dionne Brand, Cassidy McFadzean, Kayla Czaga, Doyali Islam, Shane Neilson, Dominica Martinello, and about fifteen others. I will run out of summer before I run out of books to read, of that I have no doubt.

Souvankham Thammavongsa

Souvankham Thammavongsa’s collection of poetry Cluster was published by McClelland & Stewart in March.

Recommendations

I am reading The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector. It is difficult to read anything besides her because when you begin to read her you become obsessed with her sentences—how they unfold, how she will bring to you what comes next. Her writing makes you love her with your whole life—the one you have and the one you don’t have and the one you can’t even wish for—and you cannot help but be completely devoted. I love what she did with tone and sound and rhythm and conceit. And I wish I could have that magic for myself.

Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari’s memoir The Art of Leaving was published by HarperCollins in February.

Recommendations

This summer I have a list of books on my virtual bedside table (and some on my actual bedside table) that I cannot wait to delve into, preferably while lying on the beach:

Aria by Nazanine Hozar

The Western Alienation Merit Badge by Nancy Jo Cullen

The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji

Richard Van Camp

Richard Van Camp’s collection of short stories Moccasin Square Gardens was published by Douglas & McIntyre in April.

Recommendations

I’m currently reading the following comics and I can’t wait to see where these titles will take me: The Walking Dead (ten plus years), The Realm (Dungeons & Dragons meets The Walking Dead), and Black Badge (‘Scouts’ with throwing knives and espionage, pressure points and counter forces).

I’m excited to read Helen Knot’s biography In My Own Moccasins. I’m also excited to read Wayne Hussy’s biography Salad Daze. He’s the front man of The Mission UK and they lit my life on fire in 1989 when I discovered them, or they discovered me. Cherie Dimaline has a new book coming out: Empire of Wild. Yippee! 😊

And has everyone read Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice and That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung? WOW!! Both are unforgettable and you deserve the very best.