13 buzzy books to read on International Literacy Day
Here are 13 books making waves from Canada and beyond.
The Vanishing Half is the second novel by Brit Bennett and is a decades-spanning epic about twin sisters who are forever shaped by their Black identity, their family and their life in the American South. They both run away from home at the age of 16 and live separate lives: one sister lives with her daughter in the South, the other passes for white in an affluent California neighbourhood with her husband and daughter. The Vanishing Half explores family relationships and the lasting effect of intergenerational trauma.
Brit Bennett is an American essayist, novelist and short story writer based in Los Angeles. Her 2016 debut novel The Mothers was a New York Times bestseller.
Memoirs and Misinformation is a semi-autobiographical novel about Hollywood, privilege, friendship, romance and addiction to relevance. Co-written by Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon, the book follows Jim Carrey, a very successful and beloved movie star drowning in wealth, privilege and loneliness. Even advice from his best friend, actor and dinosaur skull collector, Nicolas Cage, isn't enough to help him. Things start to look up when Jim meets Georgie, the love of his life, and gets a role in a boundary-pushing new film that could help him uncover a whole new side to himself.
Jim Carrey is an award-winning Canadian comedian, actor and writer.
Dana Vachon is a Brooklyn-based writer. His essays and reporting have appeared in The New York Times, Slate and Vanity Fair. He is also the author of novel Mergers and Acquisitions.
In The Skin We're In, journalist and activist Desmond Cole chronicles a year of being Black in Canada. He looks at the practice of carding, the treatment of Black refugees and Cole's own activism in regards to the Toronto police and their treatment of Black citizens. CBC Books named Cole a 2020 writer to watch.
Desmond Cole's writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, the Walrus and several other publications. The Skin We're In is his first book. It was inspired by his 2015 magazine essay The Skin I'm In, which was published in Toronto Life. The Skin We're In was also a CBC documentary. You can watch it on CBC Gem.
The Pull of the Stars, set in a war and disease-ravaged Ireland during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, tells the story of three women — a nurse, a doctor and a volunteer helper — working on the front lines of the pandemic in an understaffed maternity ward of a hospital, where expectant mothers infected with the virus are quarantined. The timely tale explores how these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways, while witnessing loss and delivering new life.
Samra Habib's debut book, We Have Always Been Here, is a memoir that chronicles her early childhood in Pakistan, her experience with religious persecution, her arrival to Canada as a refugee and her journey of coming out as a proud queer Muslim woman. We Have Always Been Here is an exploration of the ways we disguise and minimize ourselves for the sake of survival. Amanda Brugel won Canada Reads 2020 defending We Have Always Been Here.
The Jane Austen Society is a novel about unexpected community, and the quiet triumph and tragedies of every day life in post-Second World War Britain. In Chawton, an English village that was the last home of iconic novelist Jane Austen, a small group of locals decide to do what they can to preserve Austen's home and legacy, and hopefully revitalize the town in the process. The group comes together in surprising ways and, despite being very different, unite through their common goal.
Natalie Jenner is a novelist based in Oakville, Ont. The Jane Austen Society is her first book.
The author of hit novels Crazy Rich Asians and Rich People Problems is back with Sex and Vanity, a comedic tale of wealth, sex, class and decadence. Sex and Vanity follows a young woman named Lucie who becomes entangled in relationships with two men — one that her wealthy family approves of, and another that she finds herself falling in love with.
Kevin Kwan is a Singaporean-American writer who became a bestselling author when he published his debut novel, Crazy Rich Asians, in 2013. The follow-up sequels include 2015's China Rich Girlfriend and 2017's Rich People Problems. The film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians was released in 2018.
Raven Leilani's debut novel is Luster, a story about a Black woman in her twenties named Edie who is feeling unfulfilled with her life and desires to be an artist. When she goes on a date with an older white man named Eric, she learns he is currently in an open marriage. She soon moves in with Eric and his family, becoming his lover, a confidante to his wife and a role model to his adopted daughter. Luster is a darkly comedic novel that looks at sex, race and identity.
Raven Leilani Baptiste is a New York City-raised writer who publishes under the name Raven Leilani.
Utopia Avenue tells the story of a British band of the same name that emerged from London's psychedelic scene in 1967 and their brief, yet blazing journey through the city's music scene to the international stage. The novel features detours to parallel dimensions and cameos from the era's biggest stars, from Brian Jones to Diana Ross, Francis Bacon to Bill Evans.
Two-time Booker Prize-nominated novelist David Mitchell is also the author of bestselling novel Cloud Atlas, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2004, and The Bone Clocks, longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2014. Utopia Avenue is his first full-length novel in five years.
Such a Fun Age is the debut novel from American author Kiley Reid. The novel weaves together weighty issues like race and privilege through the eyes of a young Black babysitter, her well-intentioned white employer and the secrets and lies between them. Such a Fun Age was a New York Times bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work nominee.
Kiley Reid is an American writer and creative writing instructor based in Philadelphia by way of Los Angeles. Such a Fun Age was published in 2019 and is her debut novel.
In her new novel Rodham, American author Curtis Sittenfeld imagines what might have happened if Hillary Clinton never married Bill Clinton and had instead embarked on her own political career. Rodham creatively imagines an alternative history of one of American politics' most intriguing figures.
Curtis Sittenfeld is an Ohio-born novelist and story story writer. She is the author of several novels, including Prep, American Wife, Sisterland and the bestselling 2016 novel Eligible, which takes the classic tale of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and places it in modern-day Cincinnati.
In From the Ashes, Jesse Thistle combines poetry and memoir to chronicle his intimate journey of overcoming addiction and homelessness to become a decorated Indigenous academic. Told in short chapters interspersed with poetry, his memoir From the Ashes details how his issues with abandonment and addiction led to homelessness, incarceration and his eventual redemption through higher education. From the Ashes was defended by George Canyon on Canada Reads 2020.
Jesse Thistle is a Métis-Cree author, a Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Vanier Scholar and PhD candidate specializing in Indigenous homelessness, addiction and inter-generational trauma. CBC Books named Thistle a 2020 writer to watch.
The Answer Is... is a memoir by Alex Trebek, best known as the host of venerable TV quiz show Jeopardy. The book combines personal anecdotes and Trebek's ideas on a variety of topics, including marriage, parenthood, spirituality and philanthropy. He answers popular questions asked by Jeopardy! fans, such as why he shaved his signature mustache, and shares his insights on legendary players like Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer and his opinion of Will Ferrell's Saturday Night Live impersonation.
Born in Sudbury, Ont., Alex Trebek is a Canadian-American star that has been entertaining millions of television viewers five nights a week, since debuting as the host of quiz show Jeopardy! in 1984.