Read excerpts from the Canada Reads 2020 books
CBC Books has excerpts from all five books to tide you over in the meantime.
What it's about: Megan Gail Coles' debut novel, revolves around a cast of flawed characters all connected to a trendy St. John's restaurant, The Hazel. Over the course of a snowy February day, they are implicated in each other's hopes, dreams and pains as they try to survive harsh economic times in the province.
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club will be defended by YouTuber Alayna Fender.
From the book: Olive hears the latch squeal before the hinges squeak. A black arm heaves garbage bags onto the sidewalk one after the other. There are so many. More waste than is normal. Food that went off during the previous day's storm is now bagged and tossed out for collectors who will not come until it fully clears. Olive worries the birds will have at it.
Omi will be blamed for the weather's interference in the city schedule if he doesn't re-collect it. Olive wills him to remember so he won't get in trouble. Omi is from Nigeria. Olive thinks he is her age but she can't be sure. She has been trying to figure out how to ask without seeming ignorant or making him angry. She has never seen him angry but is still afraid ignorant questions might jeopardize their friendship. She didn't even know they were friends until he said. One day weeks ago while she was waiting for Iris, he approached her on the sidewalk.
Girl, you okay?
Olive didn't know how to answer this honestly so shook her head.
What it's about: Radicalized is a collection of four novellas that explore the quandaries — social, economic and technological — of contemporary America. Cory Doctorow's characters deal with issues around immigration, corrupt police forces, dark web uprisings and more.
- Cory Doctorow on Radicalized, the problem with superheroes and writing speculative fiction in a jaded world
From the book: The way Salima found out that Boulangism had gone bankrupt: her toaster wouldn't accept her bread. She held the slice in front of it and waited for the screen to show her a thumbs-up emoji, but instead, it showed her the head-scratching face and made a soft brrt. She waved the bread again. Brrt.
"Come on." Brrt.
She turned the toaster off and on. Then she unplugged it, counted to ten, and plugged it in. Then she menued through the screens until she found RESET TO FACTORY DEFAULT, waited three minutes, and punched her Wi-Fi password in again.
What it's about: Samra Habib's memoir We Have Always Been Here is an exploration of the ways we disguise and minimize ourselves for the sake of survival. As a child, Habib hid her faith from Islamic extremists in Pakistan and later, as a refugee in Canada, endured racist bullying and the threat of an arranged marriage. In travelling the world and exploring art and sexuality, Habib searches for the truth of her identity.
From the book: I hadn't set foot inside a mosque since my late teens, when I broke my nikah and dissolved my marriage to Nasir. I'd been swiftly shunned by the mosque aunties, who, taking on the role of spokespersons for Islam, ruled that my actions made me a Bad Muslim. Suddenly there was no place for me in that sacred place of worship that had once been a source of comfort and stability. Worried I'd be a bad influence on their daughters, the aunties watched my friends like hawks to ensure that none of them would so much as respond to my "Assalam-o-Alaikum" greeting. Worst of all, they made my mother feel as though she'd done a bad job raising me. My rebellion had been a direct challenge to that central tenet of Muslim households: parents and elders know best.
What it's about: Son of a Trickster is a novel about Jared, a compassionate 16-year-old, maker of famous weed cookies, the caretaker of his elderly neighbours, the son of an unreliable father and unhinged, though loving in her way, mother. As Jared ably cares for those around him, in between getting black-out drunk, he shrugs off the magical and strange happenings that follow him around.
From the book: His tiny, tightly permed maternal grandmother, Anita Moody, had never liked him. As far back as Jared could remember, she'd watched him suspiciously with her clear black eyes. She never let him come closer than an arm's length from her, making him sit on the ratty blue couch while she sat in the kitchen of her small house near the Bella Bella Band Store. Once, when she was chatting with someone, she stopped when she noticed him, tensing as if she expected him to go haywire.
"Wee'git," she'd say if his parents left them alone. "If you hurt her, I will kill you and bury you where no one can resurrect you. Get, you dirty dog's arse."
"I'm Jared," he'd said.
"Trickster," she'd said. "You still smell like lightning."
What it's about: Jesse Thistle is a Métis-Cree academic specializing in Indigenous homelessness, addiction and inter-generational trauma. For Thistle, these issues are more than just subjects on the page. After a difficult childhood, Thistle spent much of his early adulthood struggling with addiction while living on the streets of Toronto. 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 will be defended by George Canyon.
- How Jesse Thistle survived addiction, homelessness and incarceration — and became a bestselling author
From the book: "Look here," Dad said as he broke open the bag and an avalanche of cigarette butts spilled onto the floor. He grabbed my brother's arm and placed him in front of the butts beside the TV. "Jerry, you roll the best. Take my Zig-Zags and do like last time."
Jerry peeled out a rolling paper and set to work ripping open the largest butts onto a sheet of paper. The smell of mouldy smokes filled the apartment. Dad then poured the contents of the tin onto the carpet. The coins were like falling treasure and Dad looked like a pirate, like Captain Hook in the Peter Pan book Mom used to read us before bed.
"Josh, count 'em up," he said. "Jesse knows what pennies are. Just let him pick them out before you get started."
Josh nodded and got my attention. "Like last time, Jesse. Remember?" He held up a penny and told me to dig. I shoved my hand in the pile and began picking out what looked to me like nuggets of gold.