Canada Reads·Reading List

5 books to read if you loved Nostalgia

Nostalgia was a Canada Reads 2017 finalist.
M.G. Vassanji is the award-winning author of seven novels. (CBC)

If you enjoyed M.G. Vassanji's dystopian novel, here are five great books to check out next.

Nostalgia was defended by Jody Mitic during Canada Reads, before being eliminated on Day Two of the debates. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a novel by Emily St. John Mandel. (Dese'Rae L. Stage, HarperCollins)

What it's about: In Station Eleven, a mysterious illness wipes out much of the population, and the few that remain are left to make sense of it all. One group puts together a travelling theatre troupe, performing Shakespearean plays across the wasteland.

If your favourite thing about Nostalgia was: Literary fiction with a speculative twist. A near-future setting, with insight into how current wrongs will impact the future.

From the book: "No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars."

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

(Jean Malek/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: The Heart Goes Last follows a couple named Stan and Charmaine who are struggling to make ends meet amidst catastrophic, worldwide economic collapse. Stan and Charmaine end up joining a mysterious gated community in which residents alternate between being prison inmates and guards.

If your favourite thing about Nostalgia was: The future utopia that's not quite as great as it seems. An exploration of personal relationships in a time of futuristic weirdness. 

From the book: "Sleeping in the car is cramped. Being a third-hand Honda, it's no palace to begin with. If it was a van they'd have more room, but fat chance of affording one of those, even back when they thought they had money. Stan says they're lucky to have any kind of a car at all, which is true, but their luckiness doesn't make the car any bigger."

Stranger by David Bergen

David Bergen is the author of the novel Stranger. (UWinnipeg/HarperCollins Canada)

What it's about:  Stranger revolves around a young Guatemalan woman who works at an upscale fertility clinic, tending to rich women hoping to conceive. Íso herself becomes pregnant after a love affair with an American doctor, and her baby ends up being taken from her. She goes on a journey to find her child.

If your favourite thing about Nostalgia was: A future where the divide between the haves and have-nots has become hostile. Secrets, danger and uncertainty on every page. 

From the book: "Íso introduced herself. She said, I'll be your keeper for the next two weeks. If you need anything, simply ask. If you're unhappy, tell me. I'm here for you. Everyone at the clinic is here for you. We only want the best. She paused briefly, then asked, Should we begin, Mrs. Mann?"

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

(David Leyes/Penguin Random House)

What it's about: All Our Wrong Todays has a smarmy yet somehow sympathetic narrator who comes from a shiny, happy, classic-sci-fi reality and is left agog at the horrendously messy world that he's haplessly time-travelled his way into. 

If your favourite thing about Nostalgia was: A narrator that's trying to unravel the world he finds himself in. The idea of an unsettling utopia.

From the book: "I leave my condo on the 184th floor of a 270-floor tower connected to seven other towers by a lattice of walkways, with a transport hub at the base of the octagonal complex. My father pulled some strings because the building is owned by the same property conglomerate that manages my parents' housing unit, so at least my place faces away from Toronto's densest building clusters and I have a decent view of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment biosphere preserve in the distance, the spires of downtown Buffalo glinting morning sunlight along the arced horizon."

After James by Michael Helm

(Alexandra Rockingham/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about:  After James captures a dystopian future when drugs rewire brains and bodies. In this world, plagued by an erratic climate, a neurologist squares off with a pharmaceutical company when its creativity drug goes wrong.

If your favourite thing about Nostalgia was: Psychological manipulation in the quest for utopia. Imaginative future psychological and medical treatments. Discovering the world is always much smaller than we realize. 

From the book: "The clinical trial test subjects... were mostly students, self-described artists, screenplay writers, animators, a poet. All but one loved Alph (the love was not entered into the data), composing work faster and, in their view (not entered), better than they ever had, despite the limiting factors imposed by the controlled conditions of the early trials. Most subjects reported nothing that wouldn't pass oversight approval."

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