CBC Books' winter reading list: 17 books you should read this season

Looking for a new read to keep you warm as the temperatures get cold? Here are 17 must-read books.

Looking for a new read to keep you warm as the temperatures get cold? Here are 17 must-read books.

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

Michael Redhill is the author of Bellevue Square. (Amanda Withers/Doubleday)

What it's about: Bellevue Square plays with literary tropes — specifically within the genres of psychological thriller, science fiction and historical narrative — to tell the story of Jean Mason, a woman who finds out that she may have a doppelgänger in the bohemian Toronto neighbourhood known as Kensington Market. Jean decides to investigate, setting off a chain of events that puts the protagonist through the proverbial emotional and mental wringer. Bellevue Square won the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Brother by David Chariandy

Brother is David Chariandy's second novel. (Joy van Tiedemann/Penguin Random House Canada)

What it's about: Brother takes us inside the lives of two brothers, the mixed-heritage sons of Trinidadian immigrants. Their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple, shifts so her boys might fulfil the elusive promise of their adopted home in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. Brother won the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Strangers by David Alexander Robertson

In the novel Strangers, a young man returns home to find his community in shambles. (David A. Robertson/Highwater Press)

What it's about: Strangers follows Cole Harper who is called back to Wounded Sky First Nation a decade after a terrible event forced him out. The community he returns to is reeling from a series of recent murders and a terrible plague is ripping through the streets. Harper gets help from his oldest friends, plus an unhelpful spirit, to find his purpose.

Pemmican Wars by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson & colouring by Donovan Yaciuk

Pemmican Wars is Katherena Vermette's first graphic novel. ( Press/

What it's about: The first in a three-part series, Pemmican Wars follows Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl starting at a new school and in a new foster family. One day in history class, Desjardins is transported back in time to a Saskatchewan bison hunt. Over the next few weeks, Echo travels back and forth, from past to present, and gets caught up in conflict and war.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

What We Lose is Zinzi Clemmons' first novel. (Nina Subin/Penguin Random House)

What it's about: Thandi — who is of mixed race descent, with a South African mother and American father — must pick up the pieces of her life and discover who she is after her mother dies of cancer. What We Lose is an exploration of how race, class and identity collide in modern-day America.

Game Change by Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden speaks at the "We Can Do Better" Governor General's Conference on Concussions in Sport in 2016. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press/Signal)

What it's about: NHL Hall of Famer Ken Dryden investigates the serious consequences of concussions in hockey and tells the tragic story of enforcer Steve Montador, a former defenceman who played for the Calgary Flames and the Boston Bruins. Montador died in 2015, when he was 35 years old, and arranged to have his brain sent for examination to see if he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from his time as a professional hockey player.

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home Of The Living God is the 16th novel by the National Book Award-winning author. (Canadian Press/HarperCollins)

What it's about: Louise Erdrich explores female agency, self-determination, biology and natural rights in a modern world in Future Home of the Living God. It's a tale of science run amok as women give birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans.

An Odyssey by Daniel Mendelsohn

Among the students in Daniel Mendelsohn's class on Homer's Odyssey is his father, 81-year-old mathematician Jay Mendelsohn. ( Press)

What it's about: An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic is a moving and illuminating account of what happened when Daniel Mendelsohn's elderly father sat in on his university seminar on Homer's epic poem, and the cruise they later took together, tracing the journey of the Greek hero.

Demi-Gods by Eliza Robertson

Demi-Gods is Eliza Robertson's debut novel. (Ellie Gillard/Penguin Canada)

What it's about: Set in the 1950s over the long, nostalgic days of summer, Demi-Gods is narrated by a striking young woman who describes a series of brief, highly charged encounters with her stepbrother. Willa first meets her stepbrother Patrick when she's nine years old and the pair continue to have memorable encounters as she moves from childhood into adult life.

In the Cage by Kevin Hardcastle

Kevin Hardcastle's debut novel is called In The Cage. (Biblioasis/Katrina Afonso)

What it's about:  In the Cage follows Daniel, a mixed martial artist who was on the rise until an injury ends his career. Daniel is reluctantly pulled into the criminal underworld when he starts working for a local gangster because he desperately wants to provide a better life for his wife and 12-year-old daughter.

All We Leave Behind by Carol Off

Carol Off is the host of CBC's As It Happens and author of All We Leave Behind. (CBC)

What it's about: All We Leave Behind is a memoir from the CBC Radio host that outlines her efforts to help bring an Afghan man and his family to Canada. In 2002, Off and a television crew encountered Asad Aryubwal, who risked his life to talk to her about the local warlords. She spent years helping protect him and his family and trying to bring them to freedom in Canada.

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga

Tanya Talaga highlights the lives of seven Indigenous teachers in Seven Fallen Feathers. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star/House of Anansi)

What it's about: Award-winning journalist Tanya Talaga shines a spotlight on the lives of seven Indigenous high school students in Thunder Bay, Ont., who lost their lives between 2000 and 2011 while separated from their families. The students were hundreds of kilometres away from home, forced to attend school in the northern city. Talaga's book is a factual, comprehensive and emotional read about the injustice Indigenous communities face on a daily basis. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

(Kevin Day Photography, Penguin Random House Canada)

What it's about: Elena Richardson and her perfect family live a quiet life in Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland. That is, until a charismatic artist and her young daughter move to town and move into Elena's rental home, and a custody battle ensues between one of Elena's best friends and the birth mother of a Chinese-American baby. Little Fires Everywhere explores motherhood, race, family and how what we think we know can hurt ourselves and the ones we love.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is the author of Sing, Unburied, Sing. (Beowulf Sheehan, Simon & Schuster Canada)

What it's about: Sing, Unburied, Sing explores three generations of a poor Mississippi family and the tragic choices they make to survive in the American South. Jojo and his baby sister Kayla live with their grandparents. Sometimes their mother, a drug addict who is haunted by memories of her dead brother, comes by. But when their father is released from prison, their mother decides to take her children, once and for all.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach is Jennifer Egan's first novel since her 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit From The Goon Squad. (Pieter M. van Hattem/ & Schuster)

What it's about: It's New York City during the Great Depression. In this noir thriller, teenager Anna Kerrigan is forced to become the sole provider for her family when her father goes missing, and ends up becoming a diver who repairs ships used in battle during the Second World War. Anna ends up reconnecting with a mysterious man from her father's past, and begins to understand what happened to her dad — and how deep his secrets might go.

The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson, an accomplished humour writer, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his first thriller, 419. (Alex Ferguson/Simon & Schuster Canada)

What it's about: A psychologist insists on having three men — who each believe they are the second coming of Jesus Christ — confront their delusional identities through a scientific study that places them in direct contact with each other. But he must face his own issues when he learns that his father has been meddling with his experiment.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

American writer Alice Hoffman has published over 30 novels, including The Rules of Magic. (Deborah Feingold/

What it's about: The Owens siblings, Franny, Jet and Vincent, discover their magical heritage over a summer with their formidable aunt. However, their inheritance also includes a curse: harm will befall anyone they fall in love with. Franny and Jet grow up to be the aunts in Hoffman's bestseller Practical Magic. 


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