Books

13 buzzy books to read on International Literacy Day

Here are 13 books making waves from Canada and beyond.

Here are 13 books making waves from Canada and beyond. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half is a novel by Brit Bennett. (Twitter, @britrbennett, Riverhead Books)

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 by Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon

Memoirs and Misinformation is a book by Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon. (Random House Canada, Richard Shotwell/Invision/Associated Press)

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 himThings 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.

Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon talk about co-authoring the actor's new semi-autobiographical novel Memoirs and Misinformation, which melds fact with fiction — and turns Rodney Dangerfield into a rhinoceros. 31:46

The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole

The Skin We're In is a nonfiction book by Desmond Cole. (Doubleday Canada, Kate Yang-Nikodym)

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.

Desmond Cole's book "The Skin We're In: a Year of Black Resistance and Power" returns to the top of the best seller list in Canada. Cole joins Sam Samson on Up to Speed to share his thoughts on the current state of Black freedom in Canada and across the world. 9:41

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

The Pull of the Stars is a novel by Emma Donoghue. (Punch Photographic, HarperCollins Canada)

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.

Emma Donoghue is an Irish Canadian writer. Her books include the novels LandingRoomFrog MusicThe Wonder and the children's book The Lotterys Plus One.

Emma Donoghue can't predict the future, but her latest novel is disturbingly prescient. Set in 1918 Ireland, The Pull of the Stars follows three health-care workers at the height of the Spanish Flu pandemic. The award-winning author joined Tom Power to talk about publishing the book during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how she stays grounded in a world beset by uncertainty. 18:37

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

Samra Habib is the author of We Have Always Been Here. (CBC)

Samra Habib's debut book, We Have Always Been Hereis 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. 

Samra Habib is a journalist, photographer and activist based in Toronto. CBC Books named her a writer to watch in 2019.

Author Samra Habib and actress Amanda Brugel talk about winning Canada Reads 2020. This year's theme was "one book to bring Canada into focus." They joined guest host Talia Schlanger to tell us what they hope Canadians will take away from Habib's moving story. 10:30

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society is a novel by Natalie Jenner. (nataliejenner.com, St. Martin's Press)

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.

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Sex and Vanity is a novel by Kevin Kwan. (Doubleday Canada, Raen Badua)

The author of hit novels Crazy Rich Asians and Rich People Problems is back with Sex and Vanitya 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. 

The author of Crazy Rich Asians and Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan, returns to q to talk about his latest novel of love among the jet-setting mega-rich, Sex and Vanity. He tells us how his own life and career have changed since the huge success of the film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians. 19:32

Luster by Raven Leilani

Luster is a novel by Raven Leilani. (Bond Street Books, Nina Subin)

Raven Leilani's debut novel is Lustera 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 by David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue is a 2020 novel by David Mitchell. (Paul Stuart, Knopf Canada)

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. 

David Mitchell, bestselling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas, returns with a story set in the psychedelic music scene of 1960s London in his new novel Utopia Avenue. He’s also just co-written the screenplay for the upcoming return of The Matrix films. Mitchell joined guest host Talia Schlanger to tell us more. 20:12

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age is a novel by Kiley Reid. (Twitter, @kileyreid/G.P. Putnam's Sons)

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.

Kiley Reid's bestselling debut novel is an insightful examination of race and class, which tells the story of a black babysitter, her white employer, and how their lives become intertwined. 17:35

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

(Penguin Random House, curtissittenfeld.com)

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.

What might have happened if Hillary Clinton never married Bill Clinton and had instead set out on her own political career as Hillary Rodham? In her new novel, Rodham, best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld imagines an alternative history of one of American politics' most intriguing figures. She joined Tom Power from Minneapolis to discuss the new book. 14:39

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

Jesse Thistle is the author of From the Ashes. (CBC)

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.

Jesse Thistle talks to Shelagh Rogers about his best selling memoir, From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way. 16:27

The Answer Is... by Alex Trebek

The Answer Is... is a memoir by Alex Trebek. (Ben Hider/Getty Images, Simon & Schuster)

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.

We talk about a famous Sudburian — Alex Trebek. He just turned 80 and has a new memoir out, where he talks quite a bit about his northern Ontario childhood. CBC reporter Erik White read it and shares some of those stories. 8:13

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