Books

15 Canadian books Margaret Atwood and Adrienne Clarkson are looking forward to this spring

In the first event in the #CanadaPerforms series by the National Arts Centre, the Canadian novelist and former Governor General of Canada sat down to discuss their love of reading.

The National Arts Centre (NAC) has added writers to their #CanadaPerforms initiative

#CanadaPerforms is designed to support artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first event in the #CanadaPerforms series by the National Arts Centre, which kicked off on April 2, Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood and former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson sat down to discuss their love of reading via livestream.

The two shared the books they're looking forward to reading this spring. You can watch part one of their conversation above and part two at the bottom of this list.

You can see all the literary #CanadaPerforms events here.

Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson

Ridgerunner is a novel by Gil Adamson. (Boréal, House of Anansi Press)

Ridgerunner is a novel about William Moreland, the notorious thief known as Ridgerunner, as he moves through the Rocky Mountains, determined to secure financial stability for his son. His son, Jack Boulton, is trapped in a life not of his own making. Semi-orphaned and under the care of a nun, Sister Beatrice, Jack has found himself in a secluded cabin in Banff, Alberta. Little does he know, his father is coming for him. 

When you can read it: May 12, 2020

Gil Adamson is a writer and poet. Her first novel, The Outlander, won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and was a Canada Reads finalist in 2009, when it was championed by Nicholas Campbell. She has published several volumes of poetry, including Primitive and Ashland.

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Five Little Indians is a novel by Michelle Good. (HarperCollins Canada)

In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are taken from their families and sent to a residential school when they are very small. Barely out of childhood, they are released and left to contend with the seedy world of eastside Vancouver. Fuelled by the trauma of their childhood, the five friends cross paths over the decades and struggle with the weight of their shared past. 

When you can read it: April 14, 2020

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Five Little Indians is her first book.

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

The Library of Legends is a novel by Janie Chang. (HarperCollins Canada)

In The Library of Legends, 19-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates are ordered to flee as Japanese bombs start to land on Nanking. It's not just refugees who are in danger — Lian has been entrusted with a 500-year-old collection of myths and legends known as "The Library of Legends." It's now up to Lian and her classmates to protect the collection at any cost. 

When you can read it: April 28, 2020

Janie Chang is a historical fiction writer. Chang's first novel, Three Souls, was a finalist for the 2014 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and nominated for the 2015 International Dublin Literary Award. She published her second novel, Dragon Springs Road in 2017.

Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Probably Ruby is a novel by Lisa Bird Wilson. (CBC Books, Coteau Books)

In Probably Ruby, Ruby, who was adopted, has little knowledge of her Indigenous roots. Her parents' separation sparks a chain reaction of events and her life is beset by alcohol, drugs and bad relationships. Left with no support network, Ruby searches for her unknown roots in the most destructive of places. 

When you can read it: April 23, 2020

Lisa Bird-Wilson is a Saskatchewan Métis and nêhiyaw writer. Her book Just Pretending won four Saskatchewan Book Awards. She is also the author of the poetry collection The Red Files.

Obsidian by Thomas King

Obsidian is a novel by Thomas King. (HarperCollins Canada)

Thomas King's sly investigator Thumps DreadfulWater returns in Obsidian. After the famed producer of a true-crime documentary turns up dead, Thumps is forced to look into a cold case he had tried to forget: the Obsidian murders. When someone starts leaving reminders of the case around Chinook, Thumps is compelled to confront the incident that left his girlfriend and her daughter dead.

When you can read it: Jan. 28, 2020

King is a Canadian-American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry. He delivered the 2003 Massey Lectures, The Truth about Stories. His books include Truth & Bright Water, The Inconvenient Indian and The Back of the Turtle. The Back of the Turtle won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 2014.

Forest Green by Kate Pullinger

Forest Green is a novel by Kate Pullinger. (Doubleday Canada, Bath Spa University)

Forest Green is the story about a homeless man and how he got there. As a boy, Arthur Lunn roamed the hills and lakes of the Okanagan Valley. His life is idyllic, but soon he finds himself in the middle of a dispute between the town and the vagrants flowing in. Immediately after, Arthur finds himself on the frontline of the Second World War — another catastrophe that will shape Arthur's life. 

When you can read it: Forest Green has been delayed

Kate Pullinger is a writer and academic based in London. She has written numerous books of nonfiction and fiction, including The Mistress of Nothing — which won the 2009 Governor General's Literary Award.

The Night Piece by André Alexis

The Night Piece is a short story collection by André Alexis. (Chris Young/Canadian Press, McClelland & Stewart)

The Night Piece is a collection of career-spanning stories by Scotiabank Giller Prize and Canada Reads winner André Alexis. Alexis draws from his previous publications, including Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa and Beauty & Sadness, as well as works that have not been published before. 

When you can read it: Aug. 4, 2020

Alexis is the author of Fifteen Dogs, which won Canada Reads 2017 and the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Days by Moonlight, which won the 2019 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The Baudelaire Fractal by Lisa Robertson

The Baudelaire Fractal is a book by Lisa Robertson. (Coach House Books)

In The Baudelaire Fractal, the debut novel from acclaimed poet Lisa Robertson, a writer called Hazel Brown wakes up in a mysterious hotel room to discover she has written the complete works of Charles Baudelaire. Shifting between locations like London, Vancouver, Paris and the French countryside, the book discusses issues like modernity and poverty across multiple time periods. 

When you can read it: The Baudelaire Fractal is available now

Robertson is a poet who currently lives in France. Her books include XEclogue, Debbie: An Epic and The Weather.

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

How to Pronounce Knife is a novel by Souvankham Thammavongsa. (Sarah Bodri, McClelland & Stewart)

How to Pronounce Knife is a collection of idiosyncratic and diverse stories. Capturing the daily lives of immigrants, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures their hopes, disappointments, trauma and acts of defiance. From a young man painting nails in a salon, to a housewife learning English from soap-operas, How to Pronounce Knife navigates tragedy and humour.  

When you can read it: April 7, 2020

Thammavongsa is a writer and poet. Her stories have won an O. Henry Award and appeared in Harper's, Granta, The Paris Review and NOON. She has published four books of poetry, including 2019's Cluster.

Kill the Mall by Pasha Malla

Kill the Mall is a novel by Pasha Malla. (Pasha Malla, Knopf Canada)

After writing a letter in praise of "malls," the narrator of Kill the Mall is invited to take up a residency in one. His mission: to occupy the shopping mall for several weeks, all the while engaging the public as well as creating progress reports. As mysterious events begin to take place, it is up to him to discover the mall's hidden areas. 

When you can read it: July 28, 2020

Pasha Malla's debut short story collection, The Withdrawal Method, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize and longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. His first novel, People Park, was a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award.

The Certainties by Aislinn Hunter

The Certainties is a book by Aislinn Hunter. (Knopf Canada)

A group of starving travelers walk into a village in Spain in 1940 in The Certainties. They have the appearance of Parisian intellectuals, but are fatigued by their illegal crossing into the Pyrenees. Over the next 48 hours, one of the men narrates the tense beginning and end to their harrowing fate, all the while striking up a friendship with a child named Pia. Forty years later, a woman named Pia reflects on her tumultuous childhood in Spain, as migrants struggle on a boat offshore. 

When you can read it: Aug. 8, 2020

Aislinn Hunter is a Vancouver-based writer and academic. Her 2002 novel Stay was adapted for film by Wiebke Von Carolsfeld in 2013. The World Before Us, set in a British museum, was awarded the 2015 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.

Successful Aging by Daniel J. Levitin

Successful Aging is a book by Daniel J. Levitin. (Arsenio Corôa, Allen Lane)

As a neuroscientist, Daniel J. Levitin found himself stumped by something: why is it that some people in their 90s maintain all their mental sharpness, while others find their cognitive abilities start to dull in their 50s and 60s? When he couldn't find any books about the subject, he decided to write one himself. Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives looks at the science and psychology of growing older and uses that to explore what aging really means — and offers advice for living your best life as you get older.

When you can read it: Successful Aging is available now

Daniel Levitin is a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist and bestselling author. His books include This Is Your Brain on Music, The World in Six Songs, The Organized Mind and A Field Guide to Lies.

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)

The Skin We're In zeros in on one year, 2017, and chronicles Desmond Cole's personal journalism, activism and experiences alongside stories that made the headlines across the country, including refugees crossing the Canada-U.S. border in the middle of winter and the death of Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi at the hands of the Ottawa police. It examines the practice of carding, the treatment of black refugees, and the treatment of black citizens by the Toronto police. The Skin We're In is Cole's first book.

When you can read it: The Skin We're In is available now

Desmond Cole is a journalist, radio host and activist based in Toronto. Cole's writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, NOW Magazine and the Walrus.

Gideon's Bible by Gideon Salutin and Rick Salutin, illustrated by Dušan Petričić

Gideon's Bible is a book by Gideon Salutin and Rick Salutin, illustrated by Dušan Petričić. (ECW Press)

Gideon's Bible grew out of a conversation between Rick Salutin, and his son, Gideon, who as a child asked why he was given his name. Rick tells him it's from the Bible and Gideon asks, "What's the Bible?" The illustrated book, featuring an introduction by Atwood, is an exploration of the Hebrew Bible, modeled on classical Jewish biblical commentaries.

When you can read it: May 5, 2020

Gideon Salutin is the founder of Contemporary Review of Genocides. He is a student at McGill University.

Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright and journalist.

Dušan Petričić is a Serbian illustrator and caricaturist. His books include Bagels from Benny, The Enormous Potato and In the Tree House. His cartoons and illustrations have also appeared in Politika, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Scientific American and the Toronto Star.

Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End by Liz Levine

Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is a book by Liz Levine. (@thelizlevine/Twitter.com, Simon & Schuster)

Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is a memoir by Liz Levine that explores the realities of grief and mourning that are rarely discussed. In November of 2016, Levine's younger sister, Tamara, passed away after years of living with a mental illness. In the dark hours before dawn, she sent a final message to her family then killed herself. Levine writes about what happened to her sister in parallel to the death of her childhood love, Judson, to cancer. She opens up about her relationship with Judson, Tamara's struggles, the conflicts that emerge in a family of clashing personalities, and the long shadow cast by death. Levine notes that in the midst of death, life — albeit messy — is worth celebrating. 

When you can read it: Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is available now.

Liz Levine is a television and film producer who has worked on Story of a Girl and jPod. Her writing has appeared in the National Post, The Walrus and the Vancouver Sun. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is her first book.

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