The CBC Books fall reading list: 30 books to read now

The CBC Books fall reading list is here! Here are 30 books from Canada and around the world to check out this season.

The CBC Books fall reading list is here! Here are 30 books from Canada and around the world to check out this season.

Night of Power by Anar Ali

Anar Ali is the author of Night of Power. (Viking)

In Night of Power, Mansoor Visram, his wife Layla and son Ashif were forced to move to Canada when Idi Amin expelled South Asians from Uganda. In 25 years, Mansoor has risen from working at a used car lot to running a dry cleaner in Calgary. He has big entrepreneurial dreams for him and Ashif, who is chasing his own ambitions at a major corporation in Toronto. Layla, who runs her own home cooking business, sees her son and husband growing distant and feels herself drifting away as well.

Anar Ali is a novelist and screenwriter who lives in Toronto. Her short story collection, Baby Khaki's Wings, was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, the Trillium Book Award and the Danuta Gleed Literary Prize.

Power Shift by Sally Armstrong

Power Shift is a nonfiction book by Sally Armstrong. (Peter Bregg, House of Anansi Press)

Award-winning author, journalist and human rights activist Sally Armstrong is this year's CBC Massey Lecturer. In her lectures, titled Power Shift, Armstrong argues that improving the status of women is crucial to our collective surviving and thriving. The facts are beyond dispute, she argues: when women get an education, all of society benefits and when they get better healthcare, everyone lives longer.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is the author of The Testaments. (McClelland & Stewart)

The Testaments is set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale and includes the "explosive testaments" of three women. The book answers 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.

Atwood is a celebrated Canadian writer who has published numerous novels, poetry, nonfiction and comics.

The Testaments is on the shortlist for the 2019 Booker Prize and the longlist for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

We, the Survivors by Tash Aw

We, the Survivors is a novel by Tash Aw. (Associated Press/Alastair Grant, Hamish Hamilton Canada)

In We, the SurvivorsAh Hock, an uneducated man from Malaysia, is trying to make his fortune in a new country that falls short on its promises. Working a series of low paying jobs, Ah Hock ends up murdering a migrant worker from Bangladesh and serves time in prison for his crime. Years after his release, Ah Hock speaks to a local journalist about the murder and tries to understand how he became a killer.

Tash Aw is an award-winning writer, whose past books include the novels The Harmony Silk Factory, Map of the Invisible World and Five Star Billionaire.

NDN Coping Mechanisms by Billy-Ray Belcourt

NDN Coping Mechanisms is a poetry collection by Billy-Ray Belcourt. (House of Anansi Press)

Billy-Ray Belcourt is a writer and academic from Driftpile Cree Nation. In his second poetry collection, NDN Coping Mechanismshe uses poetry, prose and textual art to explore how Indigenous and queer communities and identities are left out of mainstream media. The work has two parts — the first explores everyday life and the second explores influential texts such as Treaty 8.

Belcourt won the Griffin Poetry Prize for his first collection, This Wound is a World.

Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Taffy Brodesser-Akner's latest novel is Fleishman is in Trouble. (Random House, Eric Tanner)

Taffy Brodesser-Akner's new novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble, is about a middle-aged doctor in New York named Toby Fleishman, who has just ended a 14-year marriage. He's pretty sure there's only one villain in his story. It's obviously his ex-wife Rachel, who always paid more attention to her high-powered career than to their family. Then one day Rachel drops their two kids off at his apartment and disappears. Toby is forced to deal with the fallout — and to consider the possibility that he never really understood the story of his own marriage.

Brodesser-Akner is a writer for the New York Times Magazine. Fleishman Is in Trouble is her first novel.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Water Dancer is a novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates. (One World, Nina Subin)

Ta-Nehisi Coates's first novel, The Water Dancer, tells the story of Hiram Walker, who is born into bondage in Virginia. His father is plantation owner Howell Walker and his mother is Rose, who has been sold away. Despite having a photographic memory, Hiram has no memories of his mother until he has a vision of her during a near-death experience. After almost drowning, Hiram resolves to escape from the Deep South and becomes involved with the Underground.

Coates won the National Book Award in 2015 for his nonfiction book Between the World and MeHe is a MacArthur fellow and writes Marvel's Black Panther and Captain America comic book series.

The Water Dancer is the latest selection for Oprah's Book Club.

Greenwood by Michael Christie

A composite photo of a book cover featuring a green forest and the book's author, a man white short hair looking straight at the camera.
Michael Christie is the author of Greenwood. (McClelland & Stewart, Cedar Bowles)

In Greenwood, it's the year 2038 and most of the world has suffered from an environmental collapse. But there is a remote island with 1,000 year-old trees and Jake Greenwood works as a tour guide there. From there, the novel takes you back in time as you learn more about Jake, her family and how secrets and lies can have an impact for generations.

Greenwood is on the longlist for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Christie has been longlisted Prize twice before — in 2015 for If I Fall, If I Die and in 2011 for The Beggar's GardenHe lives in Victoria and Galiano Island, B.C. 

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

The Innocents is a novel by Michael Crummey. (Doubleday Canada)

In Michael Crummey's new novel, The Innocents, a young brother and sister live in isolation in Newfoundland, surviving alone on the bits of knowledge their parents left behind. Their loyalty to one another is the reason they are able to persist through storms and illness, but their relationship is tested as they grow older.

Crummey is a poet and novelist from Newfoundland and Labrador. Two of Crummey's novels have been shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction — Sweetland in 2014 and Galore in 2009.

The Innocents is longlisted for the Scotianbank Giller Prize.

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

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

Empire of Wild follows a woman named Joan, who hasn't given up on finding her husband, even though he's been missing for a year. One morning, a 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.

Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author whose novel The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General's Literary Award for Young people's literature — text and was defended by Jully Black on Canada Reads 2018.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Amal El-Mohtar (right) and Max Gladstone (left) are the authors of This Is How You Lose the Time War. (@maxgladstone/, Gallery/Saga Press, @tithenai/

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a debut fantasy novel co-written by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. When two time-travelling agents from warring factions begin a clandestine correspondence, they're each determined to make sure their side has the best hope for the future. But when they fall in love, their secret may have deadly consequences.

El-Mohtar's short story Seasons of Glass and Iron won Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Gladstone is the author of the Hugo-nominated series Craft Sequence.

Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Break in Case of Emergency is a YA novel by Brian Francis. (HarperCollins, Samuel Engelking)

Break in Case of Emergency follows Toby Goodman, a teen whose father left their small town before she was born and whose mother dies by suicide when she's a young girl. When she finds out that her estranged father is coming back to town and wants to meet her, Toby must try to make sense of her life amid surprising revelations about her family history.

Brian Francis is a writer and columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio. His first novel, Fruit, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2009. He is also the author of the novel Natural Order.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell Talking to Strangers (Celeste Sloman, Hachette Book Group Canada)

Talking to Strangers explores how we interact with people we don't know, and the impact of the assumptions we bring to these conversations. As with his previous books, Malcolm Gladwell uses anecdotes and a narrative voice to examine how societal structures shape human behaviour, including decision-making and the spread of ideas. 

Gladwell is the author of several books, including BlinkOutliers and The Tipping Point.

There Has to Be a Knife by Adnan Khan

There Has to Be a Knife is a novel by Adnan Khan. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Transatlantic Agency)

When Omar Ali is informed his ex-girlfriend Anna has died, he resolves to retrieve her suicide note from her parents. Filled with grief and unable to cope, the 27-year-old line cook spirals out of control, participating in break-ins and online terrorism.

Adnan Khan was the recipient of the 2016 RBC Taylor Prize for Emerging Writers and was a reader for the CBC Nonfiction Prize in 2017. There Has to Be a Knife is Khan's first book.

In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

In My Own Moccasins is a memoir by Helen Knott. (Tenille K. Campbell/, University of Regina Press)

Helen Knott is a poet and writer of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw and European descent. Her memoir, In My Own Moccasins, is a story of addiction, sexual violence and intergenerational trauma. It explores how colonization has impacted her family over generations. But it is also a story of hope and redemption, celebrating the resilience and history of her family.

In My Own Moccasins is Knott's first book.

Agnes, Murderess by Sarah Leavitt

Agnes, Murderess is a graphic novel by Sarah Leavitt. (Freehand Books, Jackie Dives)

Agnes, Murderess is inspired by the local legend of serial killer Agnes McVee, a 19th-century B.C.-based roadhouse owner who allegedly killed miners for gold during the Cariboo Gold Rush. The tale of Agnes McVee has never been verified, but in this graphic novel, her life is imagined as one filled with ghosts, betrayal, passionate love affairs and, of course, murder.

Sarah Leavitt is a Vancouver comics creator and writing teacher. Her debut book was Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me.

Frogcatchers by Jeff Lemire

Frogcatchers is a comic by Jeff Lemire. (Jaime Hogge, Simon & Schuster Canada)

In Frogcatchers, a man wakes up without his memory, and finds himself in a strange hotel room with an old-fashioned keychain. He thinks the building is empty until he comes across a young boy, who begs him not to use the key for fear of releasing whatever else is locked away.

Jeff Lemire is an acclaimed Toronto comics creator who recently won an Eisner Award for the comic book series Gideon Falls. Some of his previous graphic novels include Roughneck and Essex County.

Daughter of Family G by Ami McKay

Daughter of Family G is a nonfiction book by Ami McKay. (Ian McKay, Knopf Canada)

Ami McKay's family has a history of dying early, thanks to a a genetic disorder called Lynch syndrome. This discovery began with McKay's great-aunt Pauline Gross, who, in 1895, went to a doctor with the expectation she would die at a young age. What followed was a decades and generations-long study of one family and their relationship to cancer. It would become the longest and most detailed cancer genealogy study ever.

In Daughter of Family GMcKay explores this family history while grappling with the fact she tested positive for the gene while raising a family of her own.

Inland by Téa Obreht

Inland is a novel by Téa Obreht. (AP Photo/Sang Tan, Random House)

Inland takes place in 1893, as a drought chokes the lands of Arizona Territory. Nora is a strong-willed frontierswoman awaiting the return of her husband, who is out in search of water. Lurie is a former outlaw on a dangerous journey west. Their stories unfold alongside one another, until eventually colliding.

Téa Obreht is a writer based in New York. Her first book, The Tiger's Wife, won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction (now known as the Women's Prize for Fiction).

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a memoir by Anna Mehler Paperny. (Random House Canada)

Anna Mehler Paperny is a journalist who has struggled with depression her entire life. After a suicide attempt in her 20s, she decided to look into her disease: how it's caused, treated and talked about. Part memoir, part investigation, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a examination of an illness that is far too common and far too little understood. 

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is shortlisted for the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

High School by Tegan Quin & Sara Quin

High School is a memoir by Tegan Quin and Sara Quin. (Trevor Brady, Simon & Schuster)

Indie pop band Tegan and Sara have written a memoir. The book, titled High School, will share the life story of the famous identical twins and LGBTQ icons. Tegan and Sara Quin grew up in Calgary at the height of grunge and rave culture in the 1990s. High School is written in chapters alternating between Tegan's point of view and Sara's and will explore how they coped with their parents' divorce and how they navigated issues around love, drugs, sexuality, queer identity and academic pressures during their high school years. 

Turbulence by David Szalay

Turbulence is a novel by David Szalay. (McClelland & Stewart, Julia Papp)

David Szalay's novel Turbulence links the stories of 12 passengers on a series of flights around the world. The narrative passes from one character to the next, each chapter exploring a new personal crisis — whether it's a mother worrying about her son's cancer treatment or a journalist heading out on a delicate assignment.

Szalay was born in Montreal, but grew up in London and now lives in Budapest. His previous novel, All That Man Iswas shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Three Women is a nonfiction book by Lisa Taddeo. (Simon & Schuster, J. Waite)

For Three Women, journalist Lisa Taddeo spent eight years travelling across the U.S., hearing the stories of ordinary women from a variety of backgrounds and learning about their complicated perspectives on desire. Three women are featured in this book: Lina, a suburban mom from Indiana who ends up having an affair after her husband refuses to kiss her on the mouth, Maggie, a 17-year-old high school student from North Dakota who describes having a physical relationship with her married teacher, and Sloane, a successful business owner whose husband enjoys watching her have sex with others.

Taddeo lives in New England. Her writing has been published in New York Magazine, Esquire, Elle, Best American Sports Writing and best American Political Writing.

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 is also a Trudeau and Vanier Scholar. He specializes in Indigenous homelessness, a topic he understands all too well. 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.

I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom

I Hope We Choose Love is a nonfiction book by Kai Cheng Thom. (Rachel Woroner, Arsenal Pulp Press)

I Hope We Choose Love is a collection of essays and prose poems from writer, performer and social worker Kai Cheng Thom. Thom explores several social movements and the issues that complicate them, such as violence, complicity and forgiveness. She calls for respect, nuance, understanding and love as we work toward making the world a better place.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Trick Mirror is an essay collection by Jia Tolentino. (Random House, Elena Mudd)

Trick Mirror is a collection of insightful and humourous essays from New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino. With each essay, Tolentino tackles some phenomenon of popular culture — from social media to female literary characters — and explores the way they interact with our own self-delusions.

Tolentino was born in Toronto, but grew up primarily in the U.S. Trick Mirror is her first book.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved is a novel by Cara Wall. (Ken Hamm, Simon & Schuster Canada)

The Dearly Beloved tells the story of two clergymen and their wives over several decades. Charles intended to follow his father into academia, but joined the church after an inspiring lecture. He falls in love with Lily, a fiercely independent woman who doesn't believe in God. James grew up in a poor family in Chicago, resentful of his father's alcoholism and mother's anxiety. Nan, the dutiful daughter of a beloved Mississippi minister, changes his life. The lives of the two couples intersect in Greenwich Village in 1963, as Charles and James are chosen to shepherd the Third Presbyterian Church through dark times.

Cara Wall is a New York-based writer. The Dearly Beloved is her first novel.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys is a novel by Colson Whitehead. (Madeline Whitehead, Doubleday Canada)

Based on a real reform school in Florida that operated for over a century, The Nickel Boys is the chilling tale of a young black man named Elwood Curtis who is sent to live at a juvenile reformatory after an innocent mistake. The Nickel Academy bills itself as a place of "physical, intellectual and moral training," but in reality it is a place where young boys are subject to physical and sexual abuse. Coming of age in the early 1960s, Elwood struggles to hold onto the words of his idol, Dr. Martin Luther King, in the face of cruelty.

Colson Whitehead is a celebrated American writer whose previous book, The Underground Railroadwon the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Carnegie Medal for fiction and many other honours.

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. by Jenny Heijun Wills

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related is a memoir by Jenny Heijun Wills. (McClelland & Stewart)

Jenny Heijun Wills was born in Korea, but was adopted by a Canadian family and raised in a small town. When she was in her early 20s, she decided to travel back to Korea to meet her extended birth family and other young people who were adopted from Korea and raised abroad. 

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. shares Wills's journey and also explores the impact of being raised by a family of a different ethnicity and culture.

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. is on the shortlist for the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Red at the Bone is a novel by Jacqueline Woodson. (Riverhead Books)

Red at the Bone begins in 2001, as 16-year-old Melody appears for her coming of age ceremony in front of her loving family. The event brings forth painful and joyous memories from before Melody's birth, and how her unexpected arrival brought two families from different social classes together.

Jacqueline Woodson is an American fiction writer and poet whose acclaimed work includes Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn.


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