The CBC Books fall 2020 reading list: 40 Canadian books to check out this season
The CBC Books fall reading list is here! Here are 40 Canadian books to check out this season.
A Russian Sister is about a pair of siblings living in 19th century Russia, a story inspired by Anton Chekhov's 1895 play The Seagull. Masha is an aspiring painter and teacher, while Antosha is a successful writer. They are very close, until Masha invites her fellow teacher Lika to live with them, and Antosha begins a relationship with her. Things unravel as they navigate these new roles, the dynamics between men and women, brother and sister, and lovers, shift and are challenged and Masha falls in love herself.
Caroline Adderson is a novelist and children's book writer from Edmonton. Her books include The Sky is Falling, Ellen in Pieces, Norman, Speak! and the 1993 Governor General's Literary Award finalist Bad Imaginings. She received the Marian Engel Award for mid-career achievement in 2006, and is a three-time winner of the CBC Literary Prizes.
This Is Not the End of Me is the story of Layton Reid, a young man who lived a life full of adventure and risks — until he was diagnosed with cancer. He changed his life, got married and started a family. And when the cancer returned, Layton did everything he could to find a cure, including risky alternative therapies. Eventually, he comes to terms with the fact that his life is going to end sooner than he'd like and focuses on making sure his young son is ready for life without his father.
Dakshana Bascaramurty is a reporter for the Globe and Mail. Her work has also appeared in the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and on CBC. This Is Not the End of Me is her first book.
Billy-Ray Belcourt was the youngest-ever winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize. He was also the first First Nations Rhodes scholar from Canada. But he was once a young boy, growing up in Driftpile Cree Nation in Alberta. A History of My Brief Body tells his story: how his family was impacted by colonialism and intergenerational trauma and yet still hold joy and love in their hearts and lives, how he came into his queer identity and how writing became both a place of comfort and solace and a weapon for a young man trying to figure out his place in the world.
Belcourt is a poet, writer and academic from Driftpile Cree Nation in northern Alberta. He is a Rhodes Scholar and earned his PhD in English at the University of Alberta. His debut collection of poetry, This Wound is a World, won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize. He is also the author of the poetry collection NDN Coping Mechanisms.
A Family Affair is a novel that follows a 40-year-old kitchen designer named Magalie, who maintains a mutually deceptive romance with her partner Mathieu. Unexpected circumstances lead her to Guillaume, a policeman and single father. It was translated into English by Russell Smith.
Nadine Bismuth is a writer from Montreal. She has published novels and short story collections. Her 2004 novel Scrapbook was translated into English in 2009. Her 2009 short story collection Êtes-vous mariée à un psychopathe was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for French-language fiction and was translated into English in 2010.
The Good German is a reimagined history in which, in 1939, Georg Elser succeeded in assassinating Hitler. But what unfolds is an alternate history where fascism reigns in Europe, and an atomic bomb is dropped on London, and Elser must reckon with the knowledge that his act of heroism changed the course of history — and for what end?
Dennis Bock is a writer, editor and teacher from Toronto. His novel Going Home Again was a finalist for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize. His other works include the novels The Ash Garden and The Communist's Daughter and the short story collection Olympia.
Brighten the Corner Where You Are is a novel inspired by the life of folk artist Maud Lewis. Lewis lived in poverty in a tiny, colourful home in Marshalltown, N.S., with her husband Everett. But behind her sunny disposition and colourful art was a story of grief, loss, hardship and immense resilience. Brighten the Corner Where You Are, imagines Maud's life, and shares her remarkable story.
Carol Bruneau is a writer from Halifax. Her other books include the novels Purple for Sky and A Circle on the Surface and the short story collection A Bird on Every Tree.
One morning, Stacey wakes up to the police pounding on her door in All I Ask. They claim they are looking for "illegal digital material" and seize her phone and computer. Worried for her safety, Stacey bands together with her friends to seek a way to an authentic, unencumbered way of life.
Eva Crocker is a novelist and short story writer from Newfoundland. Her first book was the short story collection Barrelling Forward.
Lorna Crozier is one of Canada's most beloved and accomplished poets, as was her long-time partner, Patrick Lane. They met in 1976 and built a life together, publishing more than 40 books between them along the way. But in 2017, Lane became ill and their life changed forever, and eventually Lane died in 2019. Crozier writes about their relationship, their personal and creative partnership, and comes to terms with her grief, in the memoir Through the Garden.
Crozier is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet who has written more than 15 books. Her poetry collections include The House the Spirit Builds, God of Shadows and What the Soul Doesn't Want.
Christa Couture has lost a lot over the course of her life: her leg was amputated, her first child died when he was one-day old, her second child died as a baby after a heart transplant, her marriage ended in divorce and a thyroidectomy threatened her music career. But through it all, she has found hope, joy and love and maintains a perspective filled with compassion and understanding. She shares her journey, and what she's learned along the way, in her memoir, How to Lose Everything.
Couture is a writer, musician and broadcaster who is currently based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in CBC Arts and CBC Parents and she has been a columnist on CBC Radio's The Next Chapter. How to Lose Everything is her first book.
Attack Surface is the latest novel from sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow, set in the same world as his books Little Brother and Homeland. Attack Surface is about counterterrorism expert Masha Maximow whose day job is working on technology that helps regimes track down dissidents. On the side, she sometimes helps out the same bad guys she is chasing down — only if they are fighting for a good cause. But when her double-agent duty hits too close to home, she realizes she has to pick a side, before it's too late.
Cory Doctorow is a bestselling sci-fi novelist whose past books include Little Brother and Walkaway. His novella collection Radicalized was defended on Canada Reads 2020 by Akil Augustine. He is also the editor of the blog Boing Boing.
The Pull of the Stars, set in a war and disease-ravaged Ireland during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, tells the story of three women — a nurse, a doctor and a volunteer helper — working on the front lines of the pandemic in an understaffed maternity ward of a hospital, where expectant mothers infected with the virus are quarantined. The timely tale explores how these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways, while witnessing loss and delivering new life.
Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi believes she was a spirit who was supposed to die as a small child. By staying alive, she is cursing her family — a fear that appears to come true when Kehinde experiences something that tears the family apart, and divides the twins for years. But when the three women connect years later, they must confront their past and find forgiveness.
Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, filmmaker and visual artist. Her writing has appeared in the Malahat Review, Guts and Brittle Paper, and she was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Butter Honey Pig Bread is her first book.
The Finder is an adventure novel about finding things that are lost in the world. The story takes readers to Japan, Australia and New Zealand as Interpol agent Gaddy Rhodes, photographer Tamsin Greene and travel writer Thomas Rafferty unexpectedly cross paths as they track "The Finder" — a mysterious figure who believes they can find history's lost objects, such as the missing Romanov Fabergé eggs and Muhammad Ali's Olympic gold medal
Will Ferguson has written humour, travel books and fiction. He won the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his thriller 419. He has won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour three times: for his novel Generica (now titled Happiness), his Canadian travel book Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw and his travel memoir Beyond Belfast. He currently lives in Calgary.
In The Beguiling, a young woman named Lucy had dreamed of being a saint as a child. This dream may actually come true after the death of her cousin Zoltan, and Lucy becomes someone people come to in order to confess their sins. But when the confessions seem connected, Zoltan's death doesn't seem so random anymore. Lucy must then confront her own lapses as a Catholic and a human being, and figure out what is happening, before it's too late.
Zsuzsi Gartner is a writer and journalist who currently lives in Vancouver. Her short story collection Better Living Through Plastic Explosives was a finalist for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She was a panellist on Canada Reads 2004, when she defended Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler.
The Forgotten Daughter is about a surprising love affair set against the backdrop of the Quebec separatist movement of the early 1990s. Veronique is the daughter of a prominent separatist activist, who was convicted of kidnapping and murdering a politician in the 1970s. Veronique has passionately taken up her father's cause. And James is a journalist who opposed separation, and whose sister, Elodie, was one of the Duplessis Orphans, and was wrongly declared mentally ill as a child and sent to an institution. As Veronique grows closer to James and Elodie, all three must reckon with Quebec's past and their own role in shaping its future.
Joanna Goodman is a novelist originally from Montreal and now living in Toronto. She is also the author of The Home for Unwanted Girls.
In 2015, writer Steven Heighton made a sudden decision: he would travel to Greece and volunteer at the frontlines of the Syrian refugee crisis. Once there, he found himself working in a transit camp offering support to refugees who recently made the harrowing journey across the sea from Turkey, and alongside the refugees and the aid workers stationed there, finds himself overwhelmed. Heighton shares this story in the memoir Reaching Mithymna.
Heighton is a novelist, short story writer and poet from Toronto. His other books include the poetry collection The Waking Comes Late, which won the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry, and the novel The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep.
Crosshairs is a dystopian novel about a near-future where a queer Black performer named Kay and his allies join forces against an oppressive Canadian regime that is rounding up those deemed "Other" in concentration camps. A near-future Toronto is ravaged by climate change. It is a situation that has led to massive floods, rampant homelessness, unemployment and starvation. In this chaos, a government-sanctioned regime called the Boots seizes the opportunity to force communities of colour, the disabled and the LGBTQ2S into labour camps called workhouses in the city.
Catherine Hernandez is a former theatre professional and daycare provider from Scarborough, Ont. She is also the author of the novel Scarborough, which is being adapted into a feature film. CBC Books named Hernandez a writer to watch in 2017.
Rabbit Foot Bill is a novel that tells the story of a Saskatchewan murder that happened 73 years ago, through the eyes of a young boy who witnessed it. In 1947, 30-year-old William Hislop was trimming a hedge in the town of Canwood, Sask., when 74-year-old William Young — also known as Rabbit Foot Bill — walked by. The two got into an altercation and Young stabbed Hislop with a pair of shears. Hugh LeFave, a young boy at the time, witnessed the murder. It is LeFave's life story told in Rabbit Foot Bill.
Helen Humphreys is a novelist and poet from Kingston, Ont. Her novels include The Evening Chorus, which was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award, The Lost Garden, which was defended on Canada Reads in 2003 by Mag Ruffman, Afterimage, Leaving Earth and Machine Without Horses. She is also the author of the memoir Nocturne and the book of essays The Ghost Orchard. She is a past recipient of the Harbourfront Festival Prize for literary excellence.
Indians on Vacation is about a couple named Bird and Mimi, who decide to travel through Europe after discovering postcards from Mimi's long-lost Uncle Leroy, who sent them while on his own European adventure almost 100 years ago.
Thomas King is a Canadian-American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry. His books include Truth & Bright Water, The Inconvenient Indian, Green Grass, Running Water and The Back of the Turtle. He also writes the DreadfulWater mystery series.
Petra is a novel inspired by the life of German activist Petra Kelly. Kelly was a force in Germany in the 1980s, and was a founding member of the German Green Party, which was one of the first Green Parties to rise to prominence. It was through her work that she met her partner, a NATO general named Emil Gerhardt. It was Gerhardt who eventually murdered Kelly in 1992. Petra is the story of Kelly's rise to prominence, her influence on global politics and policy and how her relationship with Gerhardt helped her international influence but was ultimately what ended everything.
Shaena Lambert is a novelist currently living in Vancouver. Her novel Radiance was a finalist for the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. She is also the author of the short story collection Oh My Darling.
The End of Her, a novel set in upstate New York, follows Stephanie and Patrick, a couple adjusting to life with their colicky twin babies. While Stephanie stays at home to take care of them, Patrick works 9-to-5 to pay the bills. Their life is turned upside down when a woman from Patrick's past pays an unexpected visit, raising questions and suspicions about his late first wife, who died in a supposed car accident many years ago. With the woman threatening to go to the police, Patrick's livelihood is put at risk. As the police start digging, Stephanie's trust in her husband begins to unravel, as does their marriage.
Missing from the Village is the story of serial killer Bruce MacArthur, and the eight men he killed over nearly a decade in Toronto's gay village. When the cases of three men who went missing in 2013 — Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan — were left unsolved, journalist Justin Ling decided to investigate, believing the cases could be linked. What unfolded was a tragic story about a serial killer going undetected, a police investigation that failed, and about a community on edge and left to grieve when Bruce MacArthur was finally arrested in 2018, and his horrendous crimes became public.
When Canadian journalist Ethan Lou left Toronto in January 2020, the novel coronavirus had barely registered in the minds of North Americans and others in the West. Everything was fine — and then it wasn't. In Field Notes from a Pandemic, Lou details witnessing the earliest stages of the COVID-19 crisis when visiting China to see his ailing grandfather — and then unexpectedly travelling to other hot zones around the world, where he repeatedly relives the lockdown he left behind and sees the raw effects of the crisis.
Lou has written for the Guardian, the South China Morning Post, the Washington Post, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Maclean's and The Walrus. He is also the author of another forthcoming book, Once a Bitcoin Miner.
Arborescent is a novel about three neighbours who, as they become further and further entrenched in the community in their apartment complex, experience increasingly strange things. Nohlan Buckles, Hachiko Yoshimoto and Zadie Chan start to question what is real and what's in their heads — and what reality in our contemporary lives really is to begin with.
Marc Herman Lynch is a writer currently living in Calgary. He is a first-generation French-Chinese immigrant. Arborescent is his first novel.
In Consent, Sara becomes her intellectually disabled sister Mattie's caregiver after their mother dies. But when Sara returns home, she surprisingly finds Mattie married to her mother's handyman, Robert. Sara gets the marriage annulled, driving a wedge between herself and Mattie. When Robert re-enters their lives, Sara and Mattie get entangled with another set of sisters and their difficult relationship: twins Saskia and Jenny.
Annabel Lyon is a writer from Vancouver. Her novel The Golden Mean won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. Her other books include the short story collection Oxygen, the novella collection The Best Thing for You and the young adult novels All-Season Edie and Encore Edie.
To Know You're Alive is a collection of comics by Dakota McFadzean that explores the ways adulthood is disappointing when compared to how one imagines it would be when you're a kid. It takes mundane daily life and renders it absurd to explore loneliness, connection and finding one's purpose.
McFadzean is a cartoonist from Toronto. He is the author of two other books, Other Stories and the Horse You Rode in On and Don't Get Eaten by Anything.
Mexican Gothic is a gothic horror novel set in 1950s Mexico. It tells the story of a young woman named Noemi who is called by her cousin to save her from doom in her countryside home, the mysterious and alluring High Place. Noemi doesn't know much about the house, the region or her cousin's mysterious new husband, but she's determined to solve this mystery and save her cousin — whatever it takes.
Mexican Gothic is in development to become a TV series for Hulu.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Canadian author, who was born and raised in Mexico. She is also the author of the novels Signal to Noise, which won the 2016 Copper Cylinder Award, Gods of Jade and Shadow and The Beautiful Ones. She is also a critic and has edited science fiction anthologies.
Dirty Birds is a humorous coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of the 2008 global recession. A young man named Milton Ontario (yes, it's also a place) leaves his small hometown in Saskatchewan to pursue fame and fortune in Montreal and to find his idol, the iconic singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.
Morgan Murray is a writer from Alberta who now lives in Nova Scotia. Dirty Birds is his first novel.
Songs for the End of the World is a novel about living through a global pandemic, written before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. A cast of characters, including a first responder named Elliot, a pregnant singer named Emma and a bestselling writer named Owen, who wrote a book eerily similar to what was unfolding before them, try to navigate the changing world and define how to live and move forward among so much death and uncertainty.
Charming as a Verb is a YA novel about Henri "Halti" Haltiwanger, a teen with swagger who is convinced he can charm just about anyone. As one of the most popular kids in his prestigious high school — and as the operator of a highly successful dog walking business — Henri has it made and his dream of attending his dream college awaits. But when Henri meets Corinne Troy, a girl who sees right through his charms and exposes his less-than-ethical business practices, it becomes a battle of wits — with potential love looming on the horizon.
Charming as a Verb is for ages 12 and up.
Ben Philippe is a writer who was raised in Montreal and currently lives in New York. He published his debut novel The Field Guide to the North American Teenager in 2019. He has contributed to publications like Vanity Fair, the Guardian and Playboy. CBC Books named Philippe a writer to watch in 2019.
In the thriller The Residence, the White House is haunted by the dead son of the president. It's 1853 and president-elect Franklin Pierce's son Bennie dies tragically in a train accident. Pierce and his wife Jane grieve as they transition into their roles as president and first lady. But the ghost of their son won't let them rest. When Jane tries to end the haunting with a seance, it instead opens a barrier between this world and the world of the dead, and now all of America is at risk.
Andrew Pyper is known for his spine-tingling novels like Lost Girls, which won the Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel in 2000, The Demonologist, The Only Child and The Homecoming. He currently lives in Toronto.
Tatouine is about what life would be like on another planet, one of your own making. In his humorous novel, the unnamed narrator dreams of a life on Tatouine, instead of his mundane one in Montreal. Instead of writing poems and working at a grocery store, he would be making sand angels and playing video games.
Jean-Christophe Réhel is a poet and novelist from Quebec.
Katherine Hastings is a translator and copy editor from Quebec. She also translated the novels The Electric Baths and The Unknown Huntsman, both by Jean-Michel Fortier.
Peter McCambridge is an editor and translator from Quebec. His translation of Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont was a finalist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation, but grew up not knowing much about his Indigenous heritage. His father, Don, grew up on the trapline in northeast Manitoba, but lost his connection to his Indigenous roots, language and culture after his family was moved to a reserve, and Don wasn't allowed to speak Cree at school. David decides to go traplining with his father as an adult, as a way to connect to his own Cree heritage and the land, but to also better understand his father. Black Water is the story of these journeys: a father and son heading into the wilderness, and of a son connecting with his father, but also with heritage and, ultimately, himself.
Robertson is a writer based in Winnipeg. He has published more than 25 books across a variety of genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls, a Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book called When We Were Alone, illustrated by Julie Flett, and the YA book Strangers. He is also releasing a middle-grade novel, The Barren Grounds, in fall 2020. He hosts the CBC Manitoba podcast Kiwew.
Noopiming combines prose and poetic forms to create an original narrative form, and to reclaim and reframe Anishinaabe storytelling. It's a story told by Mashkawaji, who is frozen in a lake, and who, in turn, tells the story of seven connected characters, who are each searching for a connection to the land and the world. Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for "in the bush," and the title is a response to Susanna Moodie's 1852 memoir about settling in Canada, Roughing It in the Bush.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, activist, musician, artist, author and member of Alderville First Nation. Her other books include Islands of Decolonial Love, This Accident of Being Lost, Dancing on Our Turtle's Back and As We Have Always Done. Simpson was chosen by Thomas King for the 2014 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award.
Aftershock is a novel about a mother and a daughter, who were torn apart by a tragedy. The daughter, Chloe, has dropped out of university while her mother, Jules, is struggling with an opioid addiction. When Chloe decides to go find her estranged father and Jules can't find her, the two both must face their past in order to reconcile with each other and face their demons.
Alison Taylor is a writer from New Brunswick. Aftershock is their first novel.
I place you into the fire is the first collection from former Nova Scotia poet laureate Rebecca Thomas. I place you into the fire explores what it means to be a second-generation residential school survivor and is a call for Indigenous justice and empathy.
Thomas is a Mi'kmaw writer living in Nova Scotia. She was the Halifax poet laureate from 2016 to 2018. She is also the author of the children's book I'm Finding My Talk, which is a poem responding to the iconic Rita Joe poem I Lost My Talk.
Kimiko Tobimatsu was 25 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her life instantly changed and became filled with doctors' appointments, medical treatments and difficult conversations. She shares her story in the comic Kimiko Does Cancer. The comic is a frank and moving look at what it means to have cancer, and how your life can change once you become a cancer survivor.
Tobimatsu is a lawyer from Toronto. Kimiko Does Cancer is her first book.
Keet Geniza is a comic artist who was born in Manila and now lives in Toronto. Kimiko Does Cancer is her first book.
Hench is the story of a woman who pays the bills by doing administrative work for bad guys. But when an incident leaves her injured and gets her fired, she ends up realizing what happened to her isn't unique — and she might have the means to take down the so-called hero who hurt her. How? With every office workers's secret weapon: data.
Natalie Zina Walschots is a writer and journalist from Toronto. She is also the author of the poetry collections DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains and Thumbscrews.
Set over a century and spanning five continents, We Two Alone traces the evolution of the Chinese immigrant experience. Tracing various people, families and professionals across the globe, Jack Wang creates a tapestry of experience that encompasses the trials and tribulations of a diaspora trying to find its place in the world.
Wang's short stories have been published in Joyland Magazine, The Humber Literary Review and The New Quarterly. We Two Alone is his first book.
Word Problems is the latest poetry collection by Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning writer Ian Williams. The collection uses unusual tools, such as math and grammar to tackle issues facing contemporary society, such as racial inequality, alongside more universal problems, like how people connect to and relate to each other.
Williams is a poet, novelist and professor from Brampton, Ont., who is currently teaching at the University of British Columbia. His debut novel Reproduction won the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is also the author of the poetry collection Personals, which was a finalist for the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize.