Books

Cherie Dimaline's Empire of Wild selected as Indigo's best book of the year

The Canadian bookstore chain announced its 50 favourite books of the year.
Cherie Dimaline is the author of Empire of Wild. (CBC, Random House Canada)

The Canadian bookstore chain Indigo has released its top 50 books of 2019.

Cherie Dimaline headlines the list with her latest novel Empire of WildInspired by the Métis legend of the werewolf-like Rougarou, the book follows Joan, a broken-hearted woman whose husband disappeared a year ago — only to return with a new name and with no memory of his past.

Empire of Wild was Dimaline's follow-up to her breakout YA novel The Marrow Thieves.

The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text, the Kirkus Prize for young readers, the CODE Burt Award for Indigenous young adult literature and the young adult category of the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. It is currently being adapted for television.

It was defended by singer Jully Black on Canada Reads 2018. 

The Marrow Thieves was also the #1 bestselling Canadian book in independent booksellers across Canada in 2018, according to data collected by Bookmanager.

Fifteen Canadian books made the top 50 in total, with three Canadian titles at the top of the list. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood came in at #2  and Jesse Thistle's memoir From the Ashes was the #3 pick.

The Testaments is set 15 years after the end of The Handmaid's Talewhich left the fate of the oppressed narrator Offred unknown. It has set Canadian sales records since being released on Sept. 10 and co-won the 2019 Booker Prize alongside the novel Girl, Woman, Other by British author Bernardine Evaristo ​​.

Thistle's memoir From the Ashes chronicles his difficult childhood, his struggle with addition and the 10 years he spent homeless.

Notable international titles on the list include Colson Whitehead's novel The Nickel Boys, Sally Rooney's novel Normal People and Ta-Nehisi Coates's novel The Water Dancer.

The complete top 10 is:

  1. Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
  2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  3. From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle
  4. The Huntress by Kate Quinn
  5. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
  6. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  7. The Body by Bill Bryson
  8. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  9. 26/6 by Tiffany Shlain
  10. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Canadian titles in the top 50 are:

      1. Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
      2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
      3. From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle
     13. Someone We Know by Shari Lapena
     17. Truth be Told by Beverley McLachlin
     18. Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun by Paul Seesequasis
     19. Beyond the Trees by Adam Shoalts
     30. Things No One Else Can Teach Us by Humble the Poet
     32. Akin by Emma Donoghue
     33. Aria by Nazanine Hozar
     34. Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
     38. The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
     40. Love Lives Here by Amanda Jetté Knox
     43. Anthropocene by Edward Burtynsky with Jennifer Bachiwal and Nick de Pencier
     45. The Handmaid's Tale: the graphic novel by Margaret Atwood & Renee Nault  

Raina Telgemeier's graphic novel Guts is number one on the kids' list and Margaret Rogerson's fantasy YA novel Sorcery of Thorns tops the list for teens.

Read more about the three #1 picks, as well as the Canadian books that made it on the top 50 adult list below.

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline is the author of Empire of Wild. (CBC, Random House Canada)

Empire of Wild is about one woman's search for her missing husband. Though he has been missing for nearly a year, Joan hasn't given up on finding her husband Victor, who disappeared after their first serious fight. One morning, hungover Joan finds herself in a packed preacher's tent on a Walmart parking lot. The charismatic Reverend Wolff is none other than Victor, who claims to have no memory of Joan or their life together.

Empire of Wild is #1 on Indigo's top 50.

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Guts is a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. (goraina.com, Scholastic)

Raina Telgemeier's new graphic novel tells the true story of a terrible stomachache that wouldn't go away. In Guts, young Raina and her mom both have upset stomachs. When she goes back to school, where life's ups and downs await, Raina grows worried that her stomach will never get better.

Guts is #1 on Indigo's top kids books list.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Sorcery of Thorns is a YA fantasy novel by Margaret Rogerson. (Sara Megibow, Simon & Schuster)

This fantasy novel tells the story of Elisabeth, a warden-in-training who aspires to protect her kingdom from evil sorcerers. When Elisabeth becomes implicated in a centuries-long conspiracy, she is forced to join forces with her great enemy, a sorcerer named Nathaniel Thorn, in order to set things right.

Sorcery of Thorns is #1 on Indigo's top teen books list.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is the author of The Testaments. (Alastair Grant/Canadian Press, McClelland & Stewart)

The Testaments novel is set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale and includes the "explosive testaments" of three women. The book answers readers' questions on the inner-workings of Gilead, the oppressive dystopia where Offred, the novel's original narrator, was stripped of her freedoms and forced to be a handmaid for powerful men.

The Testaments is #2 on Indigo's top 50.

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

From the Ashes is a memoir by Jesse Thistle. (Lucie Thistle, Simon & Schuster)

Jesse Thistle has earned many honours for his work in academia, including the 2016 Governor General's Silver Medal. He specializes in Indigenous homelessness, a subject he has first-hand knowledge of. Abandoned by his parents and raised by his difficult grandparents, Thistle struggled with addiction as an adult and spent 10 years homeless. He shares his story of overcoming his circumstances in the memoir, From the Ashes.

From the Ashes is #3 on Indigo's top 50.

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Someone We Know is a novel by Shari Lapena. (Doubleday Canada, Tristan Ostler)

In the novel Someone We Know, a quiet well-to-do community in upstate New York is rocked by a series of break-ins. Somebody in their neighbourhood has not just been breaking into their homes, but their computers, and sharing the scandalous secrets they've uncovered. As tension mounts, a woman is found dead.

Someone We Know is #13 on Indigo's top 50.

Truth Be Told by Beverley Mclachlan

Truth Be Told is a memoir by Beverley McLachlin. (Jean-Marc Carisse, Simon & Schuster)

Beverley McLachlin became the first woman to hold the office of Canada's chief justice in January of 2000. Throughout her 17 years as chief justice and 28 years on the Supreme Court, McLachlin helped shape Canadian law and governance, including legislation on sex work and mandatory minimum prison sentences. She shares her story in the memoir Truth Be Told.

Truth Be Told is #17 on Indigo's top 50.

Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun by Paul Seesequasis

Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun is a nonfiction book by Paul Seesequasis. (Knopf Canada)

After Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission report was released, writer and journalist Paul Seesequasis felt compelled to do something to contribute and understand what his mother, a residential school survivor, went through. He began to collect and share archival photos of Indigenous communities, and learned the stories of those photographed. Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun shares some of the most compelling images and stories from this project. 

Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun is #18 on Indigo's top 50.

Beyond the Trees by Adam Shoalts

Beyond the Trees is a memoir by Adam Shoalts. (Allen Lane)

In 2017, explorer Adam Shoalts decided to undertake a journey that had been deemed impossible: he would traverse Canada's Arctic from west to east. Beyond the TreesShoalts' third book, chronicles this adventure and captures the majestic beauty and very real danger of Canada's north. 

Beyond the Trees is #19 on Indigo's top 50.

Things No One Else Can Teach Us by Humble The Poet

Things No One Else Can Teach Us is a nonfiction book by Humble the Poet. (CBC, HarperCollins Canada)

Things No One Else Can Teach Us is a book by Humble the Poet about finding personal happiness. Humble the Poet, a pseudonym for Kanwer Singh, is an MC, rapper, poet and spoken word artist. He has previously written two books, Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life and Beneath the Surface: 101 Honest Truths to Take Life Deeper. He won Canada Reads 2017, when he successfully defended André Alexis's novel Fifteen Dogs

Things No One Else Can Teach Us is #30 on Indigo's top 50.

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Akin is a novel by Emma Donoghue. (HarperCollins Canada)

Emma Donoghue's latest novel follows Noah, an elderly man, who is planning a trip to Nice when a social worker calls out of the blue. The caller asks if he'll take in an 11-year-old great nephew he's never met. Noah agrees to bring the boy, Michael, to France and the two immediately clash. But in working together, Noah and Michael discover an old family secret.

Akin is #32 on Indigo's top 50.

Aria by Nazanine Hozar

Aria is a novel by Nazanine Hozar. (Tenille Campbell, Penguin Random House Canada)

The novel Aria is the story of a young orphan girl, growing up in the midst of the mounting dissent that preceded the Iranian revolution. Discovered on the side of the road by a soldier, Aria is shaped by three very different women as she grows up, falls in love and becomes a mother. Aria is B.C. writer Nazanine Hozar's debut novel.

Aria is #33 on Indigo's top 50.  

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

Frying Plantain is a short story collection by Zalika Reid-Benta. (House of Anansi Press)

Frying Plantain follows Kara Davis through elementary school to her high school graduation, as she comes of age while being perennially caught between her Canadian nationality and Jamaican heritage. Over a series of 12 stories, Davis visits her great aunt in Jamaica, endures a cruel prank by close friends and deals with her stubborn grandparents. Frying Plantain is Zalika Reid-Benta's first book.

Frying Plantain is #34 on Indigo's top 50.

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Shilpi Somaya Gowda is the author of The Shape of Family. (Stacy Bostrom, HarperCollins Canada)

Shilpi Somaya Gowda's third novel follows an idyllic family of four. Keith and Jaya love their headstrong teenage daughter Karina and young son Prem, but a terrible tragedy creates a rift between the family members. No one, besides Prem, seems to have any interest in repairing it.

The Shape of Family is #38 on Indigo's top 50.

Love Lives Here by Amanda Jetté Knox

Amanda Jetté Knox is the author of Love Lives Here. (Submitted by Amanda Jetté Knox, Viking)

Amanda Jetté Knox chronicles the making of her loving family in the memoir Love Lives HereHappily married with three children, Knox noticed that her middle child was struggling with depression and skipping school. After Alexis came out as transgender at the age of 11, Knox dove headlong into trans rights research and advocacy. Just over a year later, Knox's spouse came out as transgender, marking another, ultimately triumphant, transition for the family.

Love Lives Here is #40 on Indigo's top 50.

Anthropocene by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier

Anthropocene collects photographs by acclaimed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. (Steidl, Birgit Kleber)

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky documents the ways in which humanity has fundamentally altered the planet in this book of photos. The project is inspired the work of the Anthropocene Working Group, an international group of scientists. Filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal, who provided the text to the book, and Nick de Pencier have created the documentary companion to this book.

Anthropocene is #43 on Indigo's top 50.

The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel by Renee Nault & Margaret Atwood

The graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was done by Renee Nault. (Liam Sharpe, McClelland & Stewart, Submitted by Renee Nault)

Published to great acclaim in 1985, Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale continues to resonate with audiences around the world. Adapted for television, film, ballet, opera and more, the classic dystopian novel is now a graphic novel adapted by Victoria-based artist Renee Nault. The book tells the story of a Handmaid known as Offred who is trapped in a society where her only purpose is to conceive and bear the child of a powerful man. The original novel won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

The Handmaid's Tale graphic novel is #45 on Indigo's top 50.

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