Books·Reading List

5 books to read if you loved The Handmaid's Tale

If you are looking for more reads similar to Atwood's classic novel, here are five other Canadian titles you'll enjoy.
Margaret Atwood is the author of The Handmaid's Tale. (Jean Malek, McClelland & Stewart)

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was originally published in 1985 but now it's back in the spotlight as a television series of the same name. The 10-episode first season of the Toronto-shot drama, which stars Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley and Alexis Bledel, debuted on Bravo on April 30 and scored 13 Emmy nominations, including outstanding drama series.

If you can't get enough of The Handmaid's Tale, you should check out these five books by Canadian authors.

Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai

Larissa Lai is the author of Salt Fish Girl. (

What it's about: A girl with a mysteriously bad smell. A shapeshifter. Time travel. Set in both past China and a strange future Canada, Nu Wa and Miranda find out what it means to be human in a world where genetic engineering and fantasy meet.  

If your favourite themes in The Handmaid's Tale were: How the human body and politics get intertwined and female relationships.  

If you are in the mood for: The dark side of technology, poetic sci-fi fantasy and tapping into your senses.    

From the book: "In the beginning there was me, the river and a rotten-egg smell. I don't know where the smell came from, dank and sulphurous, but there it was, the stink of beginnings and endings, not for the faint of heart. I was lonely."

American War by Omar El Akkad

Omar El Akkad is the author of the novel American War. (The McDermid Agency/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: Conflict over oil throws America into a second civil war. Sarat Chestnut is born in the South; on the losing side.  

If your favourite themes in The Handmaid's Tale were: Rebellion, political conflict, oppression and strong female characters. 

If you are in the mood for: Beautifully descriptive writing, a southern American setting and a story about a family in a country of conflict.

From the book: "And that's when I see her again, rising out of the water. She is exactly as I remember her, a hulking bronzed body, her back lined with ashen scars, each one a testimony to the torture she was made to endure, the secret crimes committed against her. She rises, a flesh monolith reborn from the severed belly of the Savannah. And I am a child again, yet to be taken from my parents and my home, yet to be betrayed. I am back home by the riverbank and I am happy and I still love her. My secret is I still love her. This isn't a story about war. It's about ruin."

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Dan Vyleta is the author of Smoke. (Dan Vyleta/HarperCollins)

What it's about: Would you act differently if smoke poured out of you when you did something wrong? That's what happens in this politically unsettled world. Chaos ensues.

If your favourite themes in The Handmaid's Tale were: How restrictive rules can impact a society and rebellion.

If you're in the mood for: Hanging out in an English boarding school and contemplating power, good verses evil and accountability for your actions. 

From the book: "The laws of Smoke are complex. Not every lie will trigger it. A fleeting thought of evil may pass unseen; a fib, an excuse, a piece of flattery. Sometimes you can lie quite outrageously and find yourself spared.... At other times, the Smoke is conjured by transgressions so trifling you are hardly aware of them at all: you reach for the biscuits before they've been offered; you smirk as a footman slips on the freshly polished stairs. Next thing you know, its smell is in your nose. There is no more hateful smell in the world than the smell of Smoke."

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

Emily Schultz is the author of The Blondes, which follows a pregnant graduate student trying to survive a strange apocalypse. (Sara Maria Salamone/Anchor Canada)

What it's about: Rabid blonde women start terrorizing New York City. Pregnant Hazel Hayes tries to escape to Canada.

If your favourite themes in The Handmaid's Tale were: Motherhood, female relationships and society's influence on the body and female identity.

If you're in the mood for: An exploration of what beauty means in our society mixed with some satire and suspense. 

From the book: "Women have stupid dreams. We laud each other only to tear each other down. We are not like men; men shake hands with hate between them all the time and have public arguments that are an obvious jostling for power and position. They compete for dominance - if not over money, than over mating. They know this, each and every one. But women are civilized animals. We have something to prove too, but we'll swirl our anger with straws in the bottom of our drinks and suck it up, leaving a lipstick stain. We'll comment on your hair or your dress only to land a backhanded compliment, make you feel pathetic and poor, too fat or too thin, too young or too old, unsophisticated, unqualified, unwanted. For women, power comes by subtle degrees. I could write a thesis on such women — and I nearly did."

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is the author of Brown Girl in the Ring. (Courtesy of Nalo Hopkinson/Grand Central Publishing)

What it's about: Set in a dystopian future, this classic novel follows a character named Ti-Jeanne as she struggles to survive in an urban wasteland where the rich hunt the poor for their organs.

If your favourite themes in The Handmaid's Tale were: Spirituality, survival and motherhood.

If you're in the mood for: Feeling as if you're eavesdropping, legends and elaborate ceremonies, feminine strength and a Canadian setting.  

From the book: "Ti-Jeanne could see with more than sight. Sometimes she saw how people were going to die. When she closed her eyes, the childhood songs her grandmother had sung to her replayed in her mind and dancing to their music were images: this one's body jerking in a spray of gunfire and blood, that one writhing as cramps turned her bowels to liquid. Never the peaceful deaths. Ti-Jeanne hated the visions."


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