The CBC Books fall reading list: 30 Canadian books to read now
The CBC Books fall reading list is here! Here are 30 books, from fiction to poetry to comics, to check out this season.
Ducks is an autobiographical graphic novel that recounts author Kate Beaton's time spent working in the Alberta oil sands. With the goal of paying off her student loans, Beaton leaves her tight-knit seaside Nova Scotia community and heads west, where she encounters harsh realities, including the everyday trauma that no one discusses.
Beaton is a cartoonist from Nova Scotia who launched her career by publishing the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant online. The sassy historical webcomic gained a following of 500,000 monthly visitors and was eventually turned into a bestselling book. Beaton's success continued with the book Step Aside, Pops! and two children's books, King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.
LISTEN | Kate Beaton discusses Ducks with Tom Power:
A Minor Chorus is the debut novel from Griffin Poetry Prize-winning poet and author Billy-Ray Belcourt. A Minor Chorus follows an unnamed narrator who abandons his thesis and goes back to his hometown, where he has a series of intimate encounters bringing the modern queer and Indigenous experience into focus.
Belcourt is a writer and academic from Driftpile Cree Nation in Alberta. In 2016, he became the first Indigenous person from Canada to be a Rhodes Scholar. Belcourt won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize for This Wound is a World. He is also the author of NDN Coping Mechanisms.
LISTEN | Billy-Ray Belcourt on the power Indigenous joy:
Nomenclature by Dionne Brand collects eight volumes of the celebrated poet and author's work that were originally published between 1982 and 2010. With a critical introduction by the literary scholar and theorist Christina Sharpe, the book features a new long poem, the titular Nomenclature for the Time Being, which is a thoughtful and wide-ranging reflection on location, consciousness, time and the current state of the world.
Brand is an award-winning poet and novelist from Toronto. She won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the Trillium Book Award for her 1997 collection Land to Light On. Her collection thirsty won the 2003 Pat Lowther Award. In 2009, she served as the poet laureate of Toronto. Her novel What We All Long For won the City of Toronto Book Award in 2006. She won the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries and in 2017, she was named to the Order of Canada.
Passengers is the sixth collection of poetry by Newfoundland writer and poet Michael Crummey. The work reimagines the life of Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer who has embarked on a circumnavigation journey of Newfoundland. Along the way, the poems explore geography, folklore and the human spirit.
Haven is a novel set in 7th-century Ireland in a time of plague and terror. A scholar priest named Artt has a dream in which God tells him to leave the sinful world behind. With two monks — young Trian and old Cormac — he rows down the River Shannon in search of an isolated spot in which to found a monastery. Drifting out into the Atlantic, the three men find the steep, bare island known today as Skellig Michael. In such a place, what will survival mean?
Emma Donoghue is an Irish Canadian writer. Her books include the novels Landing, Room, Frog Music, The Wonder, The Pull of the Stars and the children's book The Lotterys Plus One. Room was an international bestseller and was adapted into a critically acclaimed film starring Brie Larson.
LISTEN | Emma Donoghue discusses Haven with Tom Power:
In Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, a collection of short stories, Kim Fu turns the familiar on its head to weave tales of new worlds where strange happenings, like a girl growing wings on her legs or toy boxes that control the passage of time, are the ordinary trappings of everyday life. The stories deal with themes of death, technological consequence, guilt and sexuality and unmask the contradictions within humanity.
Fu is a Washington-based, Canadian-born fiction writer and poet. She has published two other works of fiction, For Today I Am a Boy and The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, and a book of poetry called How Festive the Ambulance.
LISTEN | Kim Fu discusses Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century with Shelagh Rogers:
The characters in Stray Dogs, a short story collection, are restless travellers, moving between nation states and states of mind, seeking connection and trying to escape the past. Set in Montreal, Beirut, Tokyo and more, these stories highlight the often random ways our fragile modern identities are constructed, destroyed and reborn.
LISTEN | Rawi Hage discusses Stray Dogs with Shelagh Rogers:
Set during the golden age of the Roman Empire, We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky follows five sisters who are abducted by soldiers from their small Portuguese village. The sisters are suddenly forced to face long-buried secrets as they find themselves at the centre of a deadly standoff. They must part ways to fight their own battles in order to survive.
- Emma Hooper reimagines the stories of Roman Empire-era female saints in We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky
LISTEN | Emma Hooper discusses We Should Not Be Afraid Of The Sky:
Novelist Wayne Johnston tells the sad, tender and funny story of his childhood in Newfoundland in the memoir Jennie's Boy. At seven years old, Johnston was sick and too skinny. He had insomnia and a cough that wouldn't go away, despite the doctors removing his tonsils, adenoids and appendix in an effort to cure him. Jennie's Boy, named after Johnston's mother, is his tribute to his family and a community that were incredibly protective over him but were tired of making allowances for him.
- Wayne Johnston reflects on the wisdom, wit and tough love of his mother and grandmother in Jennie's Boy
Johnston is a writer from Newfoundland. His novels include The Divine Ryans, A World Elsewhere, The Custodian of Paradise, The Navigator of New York and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a 2003 Canada Reads finalist, when it was championed by now prime minister Justin Trudeau.
LISTEN | Wayne Johnston discusses Jennie's Boy with Shelagh Rogers:
Namwayut follows Chief Robert Joseph — the hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk and a globally recognized peacebuilder — as he takes readers on a journey, starting with his childhood surviving residential school to his current role as a leader. Chief Joseph teaches readers about honour and respect for the truth of stories, so they can discover how to dismantle the walls of discrimination, hatred and racism.
Joseph is a hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk People, an ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and the chair of the Native American Leadership Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation. He received the 2016 Indspire Lifetime Achievement Award.
LISTEN | Chief Robert Joseph reflects on his life and sharing his story:
Junie is a novel about Junie, a creative and observant child, who moves to Hogan's Alley in the 1930s with her mother. Hogan's Alley is a thriving Black immigrant community in Vancouver's east end and Junie quickly makes meaningful relationships. As she moves into adulthood, Junie explores her artistic talents and sexuality, but her mother sinks further into alcoholism and the thriving neighbourhood once filled with potential begins to change.
Chelene Knight is a writer and poet from Vancouver. She is the author of Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, which won the 2018 Vancouver Book Award.
LISTEN | Chelene Knight discusses Junie with Shelagh Rogers:
We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies is a novel that recounts a Tibetan family's struggle to create new lives of dignity, love and hope after China's invasion of Tibet in the 1950s. Readers follow sisters Lhamo and Tenkyi on a multi-decade journey through exile, from a harrowing trek across the Himalayas to a refugee camp on the border of Nepal. Decades later, the sisters are separated. Tenyki lives in Toronto with Lhamo's daughter Dolma, who has to decide if it's worth risking her dreams to help her community.
Tsering Yangzom Lama is a Tibetan Canadian author based in Vancouver. Born and raised in Nepal, she's also lived in Toronto and New York City. We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies is her debut novel. Lama was named a writer to watch by CBC Books in 2022.
LISTEN | Tsering Yangzom Lama discusses We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies with Piya Chattopadhyay:
In The Myth of Normal, Gabor Maté examines why chronic illness and general health problems are on the rise in Western countries with good healthcare systems. Maté explains how Western medicine, while technologically advanced, fails to treat the whole person and ignores cultural stressors. With his son Daniel, Maté untangles common myths about what makes us sick and offers a guide on health and healing.
Gabor Maté is a doctor and an expert on topics such as addiction, stress and childhood development. He's the author of several other books, including In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, When the Body Says and The Cost of Hidden Stress.
Daniel Maté is a composer and lyricist whose musicals include The Longing and the Short of It, Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Gunter and Middle School Mysteries. He's received the Kleban Prize for Lyrics and the ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award.
LISTEN | Gabor Maté and Daniel Maté discuss our 'toxic culture' with Matt Galloway:
The Sleeping Car Porter tells the story of Baxter, a Black man in 1929 who works as a sleeping car porter on a train that travels across the country. He smiles and tries to be invisible to the passengers, but what he really wants is to save up and go to dentistry school. On one particular trip out west, the train is stalled and Baxter finds a naughty postcard of two gay men. The postcard reawakens his memories and longings and puts his job in jeopardy.
Please Join Us is a thriller with themes of identity, belonging and the power of community. Soon to be 40, a woman named Nicole is at a crossroads. Her career and marriage are both ending and she is faced with being evicted from her home. But an invitation from a secret organization leads her to a retreat in Colorado, where she soon discovers the group might be a cult.
Catherine McKenzie is a former Montreal lawyer and author of several bestselling books, including the thrillers Forgotten, Hidden, Smoke and The Good Liar.
Abandoned by her best friend and ignored by her hypochondriac mother, 16-year-old Katie finds herself in an online world where women aren't ashamed of what they want in the novel Sharp Edges. As Katie becomes enmeshed in this virtual playground, she realizes that her newfound power may just be an illusion.
Leah Mol is a writer and editor who graduated from the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. Her story Lipstick Day won the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize. She also won the 2020 Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers. Sharp Edges is her debut novel.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, the latest novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, is set in 19th-century Mexico and has elements of the supernatural as it reimagines the classic work The Island of Doctor Moreau. Carlota Moreau is a young woman who lives in an estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. Carlota's father is the eccentric Doctor Moreau, a man whose scientific experiments have created the hybrids — part human, part animal monstrosities. Living in the jungle, Carlota is caught up in this world filled with secrets and horror.
LISTEN | Silvia Moreno-Garcia discusses The Daughter of Doctor Moreau with Shelagh Rogers:
Set shortly after the events of the Arab Spring, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is a novel that traces the relationship between two people — a wealthy Egyptian American woman and an unemployed man from the village of Shobrakheit — who meet in a cafe in Cairo. The pair fall in love but must contend with issues of identity, class and violence as they try to build a lasting relationship.
Noor Naga is an Egyptian Canadian writer. She won the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award for her poem The Mistress and the Ping. She also won the Disquiet Fiction Prize in 2019. In 2020, Noor was named a writer to watch by CBC Books. Her first book, the poetry collection Washes, Prays, was published in 2020. Noor is an instructor at the American University in Cairo.
LISTEN | Noor Naga discusses the need for more diversity in representations of Muslims in CanLit:
It's 1986 and Muna Heddad has left behind a civil war in Lebanon and is living in Montreal in the novel Hotline. The only work she can find is as a hotline operator at a weight-loss centre where she fields calls from people responding to ads in magazines or on TV. These strangers have so much to say about their challenges, from marriages gone bad to personal inadequacies. Although her life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers, Muna is privy to her clients' deepest secrets.
Dimitri Nasrallah is a writer from Lebanon. He is the author of novels The Bleeds; Niko and Blackbodying. Nasrallah lives in Montreal and is the fiction editor at Esplanade Books.
LISTEN | Dimitri Nasrallah reflects on his novel Hotline and being longlisted for the Giller Prize:
In the novel What We Both Know, protagonist Hillary Greene's father, a famous author, is losing his memory in his old age — and with it, his ability to write. As an aspiring author and his full-time caretaker, Hillary agrees to ghostwrite his memoir — but delving into his past leads to unearthing buried memories of the abuse of her late sister Pauline, who took her own life not long ago.
Fawn Parker is a writer based in Toronto and Fredericton. She is also the author of the novels Set-Point and Dumb Show. Her story Feed Machine was longlisted for the 2020 McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Parker was named a writer to watch by CBC Books in 2022.
LISTEN | Fawn Parker discusses What We Both Know with Shelagh Rogers:
The novel Utopia is about a mysterious death in the 1970s California art world. When Romy, one of the only women to break into the male-dominated art scene, dies, a young and ambitious artist named Paz is drawn into the world Romy left behind. Soon Paz finds herself in a love triangle with Romy's art-star husband, Billy, and as Paz becomes more obsessed with Romy's life, a disturbing picture begins to emerge.
Heidi Sopinka is a Toronto-based writer, editor and designer. Her debut 2018 novel, The Dictionary of Animal Languages, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. She is a former environment columnist at the Globe and Mail and the co-founder of the clothing line Horses Atelier.
LISTEN | Heidi Sopinka discusses Utopia with Shelagh Rogers:
The Foghorn Echoes is a novel about forbidden love and finding home in the midst of war. Set in war-torn Syria in 2003, two boys act on their feelings for one another and in an instant, their lives are changed forever. Ten years later, as they struggle to find peace and belonging, the past continues to reverberate and both men must face heartache and history.
- Danny Ramadan's second novel The Foghorn Echoes traces the fallout from forbidden queer love in war-torn Syria
Danny Ramadan is a Syrian Canadian author, public speaker and advocate for LGBTQ+ refugees. His debut novel, The Clothesline Swing, was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award and was longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. He currently lives in Vancouver.
LISTEN | Danny Ramadan talks to Shelagh Rogers about The Foghorn Echoes:
In the thriller We Spread, Penny, an artist, finds herself in a long-term care residence after she's had one too many incidents. Initially surrounded by peers, conversing and painting, Penny begins to lose her grip on time and her place in the world.
Iain Reid is an Ottawa-born author. His debut novel, the 2016 psychological thriller I'm Thinking of Ending Things, was adapted into a film by American writer and director Charlie Kaufman for Netflix. He is also the author of the memoirs One Bird's Choice and The Truth About Luck.
LISTEN | Iain Reid shares why he became a thriller writer:
The Theory of Crows is a novel about a disconnected and distant relationship between a man named Matthew and his teenage daughter Holly. Following a tragic event, Matthew and Holly head out onto the land in search of a long-lost cabin on the family trapline, miles from the Cree community they once called home. When things go wrong during the journey, the father and daughter must rely on each other and the challenges they face eventually heal them in ways they never thought possible.
David A. Robertson is an author and graphic novelist of Swampy Cree heritage. Based in Winnipeg, he has published several books across a variety of genres, including picture books On the Trapline and When We Were Alone, the graphic novel Breakdown, and his memoir Black Water. Robertson was the winner of the 2021 Freedom to Read Award.
LISTEN | David A. Robertson discusses The Theory of Crows with Piya Chattopadhyay:
In Ezra's Ghosts, a collection of fantastical stories, Darcy Tamayose introduces a cast of characters whose lives intersect in a quiet prairie town called Ezra. From a seeker of truth trapped in Ezra after her violent death, to the oldest man in town who came to Canada to escape imperial hardships, the stories in Ezra's Ghosts are linked by language, culture and grief.
Darcy Tamayose is a writer and graphic designer from southern Alberta. Her work includes the novel, Odori and the YA book Katie Be Quiet. Tamayose lives in Lethbridge, Alta.
Her First Palestinian is a debut collection of short stories revolving around the Palestinian immigrant experience in Canada. The stories explore themes of identity, loss, power and belonging as they look at the diverse and layered experiences of the Palestinian diaspora. One of the stories in the collection, the titular Her First Palestinian, was shortlisted for the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize.
Saeed Teebi is a writer and lawyer based in Toronto. He was born to Palestinian parents in Kuwait and, after some time in the U.S., has lived in Canada since 1993. Her First Palestinian is his first book.
LISTEN | Saeed Teebi discusses Her First Palestinian with Tom Power:
In The Long Road Home, Debra Thompson traces the roots of Black identities in North America and the routes they took across the Canada-U.S. border — the world's longest undefended border — in search of freedom and belonging. She starts in Shrewsbury, Ont., then revisits her four homes in the U.S. and at last, settles in Montreal. The places Thompson visits each reveals something about racism, democracy and the myth of multiculturalism.
Thompson is an associate professor of political science at McGill University and one of only five Black women in a political science department in Canada. She's also the author of The Schematic State: Race, Transnationalism, and the Politics of the Census.
LISTEN | Debra Thompson discusses anti-Black racism with Piya Chattopadhyay:
In the short story collection Buffalo is the New Buffalo, Chelsea Vowel explores science fiction tropes through a Métis lens. From a rougarou (shapeshifter) in the 19th century trying to solve a murder in her community to a Métis man who's gored by a radioactive bison and gains super strength, these stories seek to understand the impact of colonization, remove its psychological baggage and recover ancestral traditions. Buffalo is the New Buffalo explores Indigenous existence and resistance and rewrites our shared history.
Vowel is a Métis writer and educator whose work focuses on language, gender identity and cultural resurgence. She is also the author of Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada, which addresses stereotypes and assumptions about Indigenous issues and offers insight into the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. She also contributed to graphic novel, This Place, which was adapted into a 10-episode podcast for CBC Books.
LISTEN | Chelsea Vowel discusses Buffalo is the New Buffalo with Shelagh Rogers:
Making Love with the Land is a personal work of nonfiction that employs a range of genres — essay, memoir, notes and confession — to explore queerness, Indigeneity and community work, as well as mental and physical health.
Joshua Whitehead is a two-spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw Indigiqueer scholar, poet, nonfiction writer and novelist from Peguis First Nation. His debut novel Jonny Appleseed won Canada Reads 2021, after being successfully championed by actor Devery Jacobs.
LISTEN | Joshua Whitehead reflects on how we can be more respectful storytellers and story sharers:
Mouth to Mouth is a novel that explores themes of money, fate and morality through the eyes of an art dealer who confesses the real story behind his success. In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, the book's narrator listens as a former classmate he vaguely remembers shares the story of his adult life — a life that forever changed course when he saved a man from drowning.
Antoine Wilson is a Canadian American novelist, editor and short story writer born in Montreal and based in California. Wilson's work has appeared in The Paris Review, StoryQuarterly, Best New American Voices, and the Los Angeles Times. His novels include Panorama City and The Interloper. Mouth to Mouth, his third novel, was on the former U.S. president Barack Obama's summer reading list of his favourite books of 2022.