The CBC Books fall reading list: 40 Canadian books to read this season
Need a good book to cozy up with this fall? Check out this list of buzzworthy Canadian titles out right now.
In her latest novel The Damages, Genevieve Scott uses the late-90s grunge and girl power movements as the backdrop for a story about consent, trauma and the cost of lies. Protagonist Ros is excited to go to university in Ontario and totally reinvent herself — but when she meets her roommate Megan, Ros knows she is a social liability. During an intense ice storm, Megan goes missing and Ros is shunned by her newfound friends.
Two decades later, Lukas — Ros's ex and the father of her young son — is accused of sexual assault and Ros is forced to face her mistakes from the past and reflect on the era she grew up in through a post-#MeToo lens.
Genevieve Scott is a Canadian author and teacher based in California. Her previous work was the novel Catch My Drift.
Set across the United States, Jamaica and Europe from the 1950s to present day, The Islands details the migration stories of Jamaican women and their descendants. Each short story explores colonialism and its impact as women experience the on-going tensions between identity and the place they long to call home.
Dionne Irving is a writer and creative writing teacher from Toronto. She released her first novel, Quint, in 2021 and her work has been featured in journals and magazines like LitHub, Missouri Review and New Delta Review. The Islands is her debut short story collection. The Islands is shortlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Emma Donoghue's latest novel, Learned by Heart, draws on years of research and the five-million-word secret journal of British diarist Anne Lister — dubbed by many as "the first modern lesbian." Learned by Heart tells the long-buried story of the romance between Lister, a brilliant young troublemaker, and Eliza Raine, an orphan heiress banished to England from India.
The two meet at a boarding school for girls called the Manor School for Young Ladies when they are 14 and fall dangerously in love as their lives become entangled.
Donoghue is an Irish Canadian writer whose 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.
The Double Life of Benson Yu recounts the difficult adolescence of the titular character growing up in a housing project in 1980s Chinatown. The story takes a metafictional twist, when Yu's grip on memory and reality falters. The unique structure provides a layered and poignant look into how we come to terms with who we are, what happened to us as children, and that finding hope and healing lies in whether we choose to suppress or process our experiences.
Kevin Chong is a Vancouver-based writer and associate professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. His other books include the nonfiction book Northern Dancer and fiction titles like The Plague and Beauty Plus Pity. He was longlisted for the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize. The Double Life of Benson Yu is shortlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Girlfriend on Mars is a satirical story about tragic love and commercial space travel. Amber Kivinen is one of 23 reality TV contestants vying for two spots on the first commercial trip to Mars aboard MarsNow, a space shuttle commissioned by the billionaire Geoff Task.
Amber is surrounded by a cast of unlikely characters, including an Israeli soldier and social media influencers, while her long-term partner, Kevin, stays at home with the plants and starts to wonder: why does his girlfriend feel such a desire to leave the planet?
Willis is a fiction writer currently based in Calgary. She debuted in 2009 with Vanishing and Other Stories which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. She followed it up with a collection of short fiction entitled The Dark and Other Love Stories in 2017, which was also longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
The Circle is the third and final book set in the world of The Strangers and The Break, featuring some of the same characters. With Phoenix set for release from prison for the assault she committed in The Break, the news is sending ripples through the community. Her sister Cedar has been both dreading and longing for her return, while M, the girl Phoenix assaulted, is triggered by the news.
When Phoenix goes missing shortly after her release, past grievances, revenge plots and accusations begin swirling — and the community and the people who live there all search for healing in their own ways.
katherena vermette is a Métis writer from Winnipeg. Her books include the poetry collections North End Love Songs and river woman, the novel The Break and the four-book graphic novel series A Girl Called Echo. North End Love Songs won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry. The Break was a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. It was defended by Candy Palmater on Canada Reads 2017.
All the Colour In the World is a story of a young boy named Henry who discovers a passion for art which carries him through the many misadventures of his life in the 20th century. From his first set of colouring pencils he is gifted at his grandmother's place to the worlds of academia, war and sweeping romance, Henry's art stays alongside his enduring story.
CS Richardson is a Toronto-based writer and award-winning book designer. His previous novels include The End of the Alphabet which won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book and The Emperor of Paris which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2012.
Birnam Wood is an engaging eco-thriller set in the middle of a landslide in New Zealand. Mira, the founder of a guerilla gardening collective that plants crops amid other criminal environmental activities, sets her sights on an evacuated farm as a way out of financial ruin. The only problem is the American billionaire Robert Lemoine has already laid claim to it as his end-of-the-world lair.
After the same thing for polar opposite reasons, their paths cross and Robert makes Mira an offer that would stave off her financial concerns for good. The question is: can she trust him?
Set on a trip to New York City in 2009, Roaming is a graphic novel that follows best friends Zoe and Dani during their first year of college. As a queer romance blossoms between Zoe and Dani's classmate Fiona — who tags along — friendships get put to the test and all three girls learn more about who they are set against the backdrop of the big city.
Mariko Tamaki is a writer based in California. Her other books include the YA novels (you) Set Me On Fire and Saving Montgomery Sole. She's also the author of many superhero comics for DC Comics, Darkhorse and Marvel.
Jillian Tamaki is a Toronto-based cartoonist, illustrator and educator. With her cousin Mariko Tamaki, she co-created the YA graphic novel Skim, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text. Another collaboration, This One Summer, won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration.
Do You Remember Being Born? follows a famous poet named Marian Ffarmer, who after years of dedicating herself singularly to her art has started to question her life choices. After receiving an invitation to the Silicon Valley headquarters of one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Marian begins collaborating with a state-of-the-art poetry bot named Charlotte.
What follows is a journey of self-discovery for both Marian and Charlotte, as the two begin to form a friendship unlike any Marian has ever known.
Sean Michaels was born in Stirling, Scotland and moved to Montreal, where he currently lives, when he was 18 years old. His first novel, Us Conductors, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2014 and was nominated for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the Kirkus Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award. Michaels is also the founder of the music blog Said the Gramophone.
In Rouge, Mona Awad plays with horror and surrealist elements to tell a fairy tale about a lonely dress shop clerk who is sent down a dangerous path in pursuit of youth and beauty after her mother's unexpected death.
Drawn to the culty spa her mother belonged to by a mysterious woman in red that shows up at the funeral, Belle finds herself unravelling the frightening secret behind her and her mother's obsession with the mirror and the demons that await on the other side.
Awad is a Boston-based author whose debut short story collection 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, won the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, the Colorado Book Award and was shortlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She is also the author of the novels Bunny and All's Well.
Moon of the Turning Leaves takes place 10 years after the events of the post-apocalyptic novel Moon of the Crusted Snow and depicts an epic journey to a forgotten homeland. With food supplies dwindling, Evan Whitesky and his band of survivors need to find a new home. Evan volunteers to lead a group — including his daughter Nangohns and a great archer and hunter — to their ancestral home, the "land where the birch trees grow by the big water."
Along the way, they come across other survivors — not all of whom can be trusted.
- Waubgeshig Rice continues his Anishinaabe-inspired vision for the future with novel Moon of the Turning Leaves
Waubgeshig Rice is an Anishinaabe author, journalist and radio host originally from Wasauksing First Nation. Rice's first short story collection Midnight Sweatlodge, which was about his life growing up in his Anishinaabe community, won an Independent Publishers Book Award in 2012. His novel Moon of the Crusted Snow was on the Canada Reads 2023 longlist.
Daughter explores the regenerative power of art, and how making art is making selfhood, when Mona Dean strives to make a life and art of her own. The story is about a playwright, actress and titular daughter named Mona Dean, who is caught in her charismatic father's web — a man famous for one great novel, and whose needs and insecurities have a hold on the women in the family.
Claudia Dey is a Toronto author, playwright and actor. She is also the co-designer of women's clothing brand Horses Atelier. She is also the author of the novels Stunt and Heartbreaker. Heartbreaker was a finalist for the 2019 Trillium Book Award.
Empty Spaces is a reimagining of James Fenimore Cooper's 19th-century text The Last of the Mohicans from a modern urban perspective. Jordan Abel explores what it means to be Indigenous without access to familial territory and complicates popular understandings about Indigenous storytelling.
The Adversary features two rivals who represent the largest fishing operations on Newfoundland's northern outpost. When a wedding that would have secured Abe Strapp's hold on the shore falls apart it sets off a series of events that lead to year after year of violence and vendettas and a seemingly endless feud.
- Most of what follows is true: Michael Crummey on writing and the relationship between fact and fiction
Michael Crummey is a poet and novelist from Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also the author of the novels The Innocents, Sweetland and Galore and the poetry collections Arguments with Gravity and Passengers. Two of Crummey's novels have been shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction — Sweetland in 2014 and Galore in 2009.
Study for Obedience is a novel by Sarah Bernstein. It explores themes of guilt, abuse and prejudice through the eyes of its unreliable narrator. In it, a woman leaves her hometown to move to a "remote northern country" to be a housekeeper for her brother, whose wife recently decided to leave him.
Soon after her arrival the community is struck by unusual events from collective bovine hysteria to a potato blight. When the locals direct their growing suspicions of incomers at her, their hostility grows more palpable.
Study for Obedience is shortlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The $100,000 prize is the richest in Canadian fiction. Study for Obedience is also longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. Bernstein was named one of Granta's best young British novelists in 2023. She currently lives in Scotland.
Yasuke was a 16th-century samurai. He was Japan's first foreign-born samurai, and the only samurai of African descent. His story is special, and little known. Canadian writer Craig Shreve, hopes to change that with his novel The African Samurai.
The African Samurai tells Yasuke's story. As a boy, he is sold as a slave to Portuguese mercenaries. A series of unlikely events results in Yasuke in Japan, now imprisoned by the powerful warlord Oda Nobunaga. From there, the two forge an unlikely bond, and Yasuke begins his journey to becoming a samurai, and the power that comes with it. But with this power comes attention, risk, danger — and the chance to make history.
- Yasuke was a samurai of African descent. Craig Shreve's new novel will give him the attention he deserves
Craig Shreve is a writer originally from North Buxton, Ont. He is also the author of One Night in Mississippi.
Siblings Peter and Stasi are struggling to find their place in the world in the novel The Clarion. Peter is a trumpet player who also works in a kitchen and Stasi is trying to climb the corporate ladder. The Clarion looks at themes of intimacy and performance — and how far one must go to find or lose their sense of self.
Nina Dunic is a freelance writer and journalist living in Scarborough. She has been longlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize four times: in 2023 for The Artist, in 2022 for Youth, in 2020 for Bodies and in 2019 for an earlier version of Bodies. In 2023, she was named to the CBC Books Writers to Watch list. Her debut novel, The Clarion, was longlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.
The Defector is a follow-up to astronaut Chris Hadfield's debut novel, the space thriller The Apollo Murders. The Defector follows NASA flight controller and former U.S. test pilot Kaz Zemeckis as he takes to the sky in aerial combat to hunt down a high-level defector and uncover Soviet secrets.
Hadfield was a military pilot and astronaut for 35 years. He was the first Canadian to walk in space and served as commander of the International Space Station. He received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 2002 and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2014. He is also the author of the memoir An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, the children's book The Darkest Dark, which was illustrated by the Fan Brothers, and the photo book You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes.
Writer and filmmaker Astra Taylor delivers the 2023 Massey Lectures in The Age of Insecurity. She explores the pervasive insecurity in our current reality and how the institutions that promise to make us more secure actually contribute to this feeling. Throughout the book, Taylor argues that embracing this vulnerability is the key to more caring, sustainable notions of security.
Taylor is a writer, filmmaker and political organizer who was born in Winnipeg and currently lives in New York. Her other books include The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age and Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions.
In Doppelganger, Naomi Klein explores the concept of Mirror World. This includes the presence of far right movements and how they attempt to appeal to the working class, anti-vaxxers, implications of artificial intelligence in content curation and the additional identities that we create on social media. Through referencing thinkers such as Sigmund Freud and bell hooks, Klein also connects to greater social themes to share how one can break free from the Mirror World.
Klein is a Montreal-born journalist, bestselling author, political thinker and advocate regarding climate change and the ills of corporate globalization. She is associate professor in geography at the University of British Columbia, and the author of This Changes Everything, The Shock Doctrine, No Logo, No Is Not Enough and On Fire.
The Jerome family have an historic record in Canadian sports with the grandfather being the country's first Black Olympian and siblings Harry and Valerie also competing and setting world records in the 1960s. In the book Races, Valerie Jerome details those heroic moments for her family and the nation that came alongside the racism they simultaneously had to face.
Valerie Jerome is the granddaughter of Canada's first Black Olympian John "Army" Howard and a Canadian Olympian herself. She has previously represented the Green Party of British Columbia and her work in conservation garnered her a 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal and a City of Vancouver Heritage Award.
One Sunny Afternoon is a memoir about facing one's trauma head on. Rowan Jetté Knox writes about his recovery from the violent events that have haunted him for years, but it's also a story of resilience and hope for the future.
Rowan Jetté Knox is a Toronto-based journalist, writer and human rights advocate. He is also the author of the memoir Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family.
In Breaking and Entering, Beatrice is a 49-year-old dealing with a stale marriage and a strained relationship with her son Thomas, who is away at university. She is the primary caregiver for her mother who is in the early stages of dementia and she has trouble getting along with her older sister Ariel. Reflecting on her life and feeling unfulfilled, she discovers a talent — and passion — for picking locks.
Breaking into other people's homes quickly becomes a thrilling hobby that makes her feel alive again as she begins to analyze the lives of strangers — and her own.
Don Gillmor is a Toronto journalist and author of novels and nonfiction books, including Canada: A People's History. He has twice been nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award in the young people's literature — text category for The Fabulous Song and The Christmas Orange.
In My Name is Not Harry, Harron Siddiqui shares his experiences within the media as a brown and Muslim reporter, especially following the events on 9/11 and how Islamophobia grew both in his native India and North America. Siddiqui compares his native and adopted lands and shows how things can go wrong, but can also be made right.
Siddiqui is editorial page editor emeritus of the Toronto Star, a senior fellow at Massey College and a member of the Order of Canada.
Ignite: Unlock the Hidden Potential Within is a book about Andre De Grasse's journey to becoming the most decorated male summer Olympian in Canadian history. It tells De Grasse's story while sharing the lessons he has learned about achieving success and finding happiness along the way.
De Grasse is a six-time Olympic medallist and World champion sprinter, and the founder of the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation. He is also the author of the picture book Race with Me!.
The Grimmer is a YA horror novel about a high schooler named Vish who loves heavy metal and literature, but who is uncertain about his future. With his father recently out of treatment for addiction, he can feel the eyes of the town focused on his family — one of few brown families there. After Vish is attacked by a pale, decaying monster, he finds himself drawn into a world of witches, undead creatures and magic.
With the help of an eccentric local bookstore owner and his teenage employee Gisela, Vish tries to stop an inter-dimensional threat that could destroy his whole town.
The Grimmer is for ages 13 and up.
Naben Ruthnum is a Toronto-based author and screenwriter who has written everything from short fiction and crime fiction to thrillers, memoir and literary criticism. He is the author of the memoir Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race and the novels Helpmeet and A Hero of Our Time. Under the pen name Nathan Ripley, he is the author of two thrillers: Find You In the Dark and Your Life is Mine.
My Effin' Life is the long-awaited memoir from Rush bassist Geddy Lee. He writes candidly about his childhood, the history of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Canadian band Rush and their success after some struggles early on, as well as intimate stories about his friends and bandmates Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.
Lee is the vocalist, bassist, and keyboard player for the group Rush, with drummer Neil Peart and guitarist Alex Lifeson. Lee was ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the top bassists of all-time. Lee is also the author of the best-selling Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass.
Acclaimed Canadian poet Lorna Crozier lost her longtime partner, fellow poet Patrick Lane, in 2019. In her latest collection, After That, Crozier examines immense grief and loss and highlights the beauty of sorrow and the magic you find in everyday life.
When you can read it: Sept. 5, 2023
Crozier is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet who has written more than 15 books. She won the 1987 CBC Poetry Prize for Angels of Silence. Her other poetry collections include God of Shadows and What the Soul Doesn't Want.
LISTEN | Lorna Crozier discusses The Quiet in Me by Patrick Lane:
Songs of Irie is a historical coming-of-age YA novel set in 1976. Irie and Jilly are from two different worlds — Jilly lives in the hills, safe in a mansion, while Irie is from the heart of Kingston, where fighting on the streets is a regular occurrence. Tension is building on the streets and there is civil unrest in the lead-up to an important election. Irie and Jilly bond at Irie's dad's record store over their love of Reggae music and must fight for their friendship, and budding romance, to survive.
Songs of Irie is for ages 13 and up.
Asha Ashanti Bromfield is a writer, actress, singer and producer of Afro-Jamaican descent. She is known for starring as Melody Valentine, drummer for the band Josie and the Pussycats, in the television show Riverdale and as Zadie Wells in the Netflix show Locke and Key. Her YA novels include Hurricane Summer and Songs of Irie. She is from Toronto. CBC Books named Bromfield a Black Canadian writer to watch in 2022.
LISTEN | Asha Ashanti Bromfield discusses Songs of Irie on The Next Chapter:
A collection of vulnerable and poetic love letters, Falling Back in Love with Being Human is a lyrical journey of self-acceptance. Kai Cheng Thom writes poems to those she describes as "lost souls" both within and far from her own lived experiences. Thom meditates on her own identities as a Chinese Canadian transgender woman in this collection about healing and love.
Thom is a Chinese Canadian writer, artist and activist. Her poetry collection a place called No Homeland was named an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her other books include Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars and I Hope We Choose Love.
The latest book from D.M. Bradford, Bottom Rail on Top, is a collection of poems which embodies the Black histories of antebellum life and emancipation in America. Bottom Rail on Top meditates on lineage and legacy through poetic fragments.
Bradford is a Montreal-based poet and translator. His other books include Dream of No One but Myself, which won the 2022 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry and was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and his translated book House Within a House.
Building a Nest from the Bones of My People begins with the speaker realizing their experience with sexual abuse in their family. In this poetry collection, Cara-Lyn Morgan writes about first-time motherhood, generational trauma and colonization.
Cara-Lyn Morgan is a Métis and Trinidadian poet and writer from Oskana, or Regina, Sask. Her other poetry collections include What Became My Grieving and Cartograph.
People You Know, Places You've Been is a collection of poetry and illustrations that focuses on those everyday interactions that leave a lasting impression on your own identity. Hana Shafi gives insight into the liminal spaces of waiting rooms, checkout counters, public transit and more.
Shafi is a visual artist and poet also known as Frizz Kid. Her writing often explores feminism, race, body politics and popular culture. Her previous poetry collections include It Begins With The Body and Small, Broke, and Kind of Dirty. She is currently based in Toronto.
And Then She Fell follows a young woman named Alice who is struggling to navigate the early days of motherhood and live up to the unrealistic expectations of those around her.
Alicia Elliott is a Mohawk writer living in Brantford, Ont. Her writing has been published most recently in Room, Grain and The New Quarterly. She is the author of the nonfiction book A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, a columnist for CBC Arts and CBC Books named her a writer to watch in 2019. She was chosen by Tanya Talaga as the 2018 recipient of the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award.
Faiza Hosseini is a ruthless executive trying to circumvent the old boys club in the novel Enough. Sameera Jahani has a passion for equity but can't get her girlfriend to care as much as she does. And Goldie Sheer has just landed her first job but work drama is making her question herself. Enough chronicles the lives of these three women of colour as they navigate the cubicles and courtyards of Toronto's City Hall.
Born in Iran, Kimia Eslah spent her early childhood in New Delhi before immigrating to Toronto with her family. She is a feminist, queer writer and the author of the novels The Daughter Who Walked Away and Sister Seen, Sister Heard.
Away from the Dead is set in early 20th century Ukraine as anarchists, Bolsheviks and the White Army come and go — all claiming justice and freedom. The book follows the lives of Lehn, Sablin and Inna, three Ukranians dealing with the chaos violence around them as the best and worst of humanity are on display.
David Bergen is the author of 11 novels and two collections of stories. His work includes The Time in Between, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, The Matter with Morris and The Age of Hope, which was championed by Ron MacLean on Canada Reads 2013. He currently lives in Winnipeg.
Her Body Among Animals is a genre-bending collection of short stories that merges sci-fi, horror, fairy tales and pop culture to examine the challenges and boundaries society places on women's bodies.
Paola Ferrante is a poet and fiction writer from Toronto. Her books include the poetry collection What to Wear When Surviving A Lion Attack and the poetry chapbook The Dark Unwind. She was longlisted for the 2020 Journey Prize and won Room's 2018 prize for fiction.
When her marriage falls apart, a woman and her son move back into the ramshackle home in the Romanian countryside where her parents once lived in the novel A Ramshackle Home. Struggling with feelings of isolation she escapes into her imagination where her memories are interwoven with stories from ancient mythology.
- Her parents survived the Holocaust. Family heirlooms help Judith Weisz Woodsworth connect past and present
Felicia Mihali is a translator, editor and author living in Montreal. She is the founder and president of Montreal publishing house Éditions Hashtag.
Judith Weisz Woodsworth is a Canadian translator and recently retired professor at Concordia University. Her translation of Pierre Anctil's History of the Jews in Quebec won the 2022 Governor General's Literary Award for French-to-English translation.
Semi-Detached is part ghost story, part love story with a murder mystery twist. Laura Keys is a Toronto real estate agent looking to sell a one-of-a-kind house on behalf of its comatose owner, but she is being haunted by a mysterious teenage girl with a Scottish Terrier tucked in her coat. After some digging she uncovers the story of its owner Edna's ill-fated affair with her boss's daughter and a decades-old murder mystery.
Elizabeth Ruth is an author, poet and professor living in Toronto. She is the author of the novels Ten Good Seconds of Silence, Smoke and Matadora. Her debut poetry collection, This Report Is Strictly Confidential, is forthcoming in 2024.