The CBC Books spring reading list: 40 great books to read this season
Looking for a good book? The CBC Books spring reading list is here! Here are 40 books to check out this season.
Constantly by GG
Constantly explores the debilitating impact of anxiety on the everyday, examining how it stretches and paralyzes daily tasks and decisions.
The graphic novel is a follow-up to GG's Doug Wright Award-nominated debut I'm Not Here.
Amnesty by Aravind Adiga
Amnesty is a novel about Dhananjaya Rajaratnam, now known as Danny. He's an illegal immigrant working at a grocery story in Sydney, Australia. But when there's a murder, and Danny knows something that could lead to finding the killer, he must decide between keeping the secret — and keeping his new life in Sydney safe — or by sharing what he knows, and risking losing everything.
Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize for his first novel, The White Tiger, at 33 years old. His subsequent books include Between the Assassinations, Last Man in Tower and Selection Day.
The Red Chesterfield by Wayne Arthurson
In The Red Chesterfield, a city bylaw officer finds a chesterfield in a ditch, along with a severed foot. The protagonist gets caught up in the investigation — and turns out to be more interested in what happens to the furniture than the origin of the missing body part. The Red Chesterfield subverts the mystery form with a story that has clues that lead nowhere and motivations that are deliberately ambiguous.
Wayne Arthurson is a writer of Cree and French Canadian descent. He is the author of five novels, including Blood Red Summer and The Traitors of Camp 133.
Talking to Strangers by Marianne Boucher
Marianne Boucher's graphic memoir Talking to Strangers describes how, in the summer of 1980, she moved to California to follow her figure skating dreams and ended up joining a cult. Boucher details how the group's sophisticated brainwashing techniques overpowered her free will — until she managed to escape.
Boucher lives in Toronto and has covered major criminal trials as a court reporter and illustrator.
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
Recipe for a Perfect Wife follows Alice Hale, a newlywed who reluctantly leaves behind a career to live with her husband in a big, empty house in the suburbs. While there, Alice stumbles onto old cookbooks left behind from the previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. That discovery leads to the uncovering of longstanding secrets, lies and truths about the traditional husband-wife dynamic.
Karma Brown is a journalist and novelist from Toronto. Her books include Come Away with Me, In This Moment and The Life Lucy Knew.
How a Woman Becomes a Lake by Marjorie Celona
In the novel How a Woman Becomes a Lake, it's New Year's Day, and in a small fishing town called Whale Bay a woman goes missing. Vera had set out on a walk with her dog, and her husband Leo took their boys on a boat to write their New Year's resolutions. In the weeks that follow, Vera's absence sets off a chain of suspicion within the town. After Leo moves south, the detective investigating the case becomes obsessed with the missing woman.
Majorie Celona is an American-Canadian writer. She is also the author of the novel Y, which won France's Grand Prix Littéraire de l'Héroïne for best foreign novel.
The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole
In The Skin We're In, journalist and activist Desmond Cole looks at what it's like to live in Canada as a black person. In The Skin We're In looks at one year, 2017, and chronicles Coles's personal journalism, activism and experiences alongside stories that made the headlines across the country, including refugees crossing the Canada-U.S. border in the middle of winter and the death of Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi at the hands of the Ottawa police.
Cole is a journalist, radio host and activist based in Toronto. His writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, Now Magazine and the Walrus. The Skin We're In is his first book.
Familiar Face by Michael DeForge
A constant flow of radical updates from the government throw citizens into turmoil. At the government's department of complaints, the narrator of Familiar Face sorts through an endless pile of citizen-reported issues that range from trivial to heartbreaking.
Michael DeForge is a Toronto-based creator who has won awards for comics like Leaving Richard's Valley, Dressing and Lose #1. Other acclaimed books include Stunt, Big Kids, Ant Colony, Sticks Angelica Folk Hero and more.
Like Rum-Drunk Angels by Tyler Enfield
Like Rum-Drunk Angels is about a 14-year-old bandit named Francis Blackstone. After falling in love with the mayor's daughter, Francis resolves to rob a Manhattan Company bank in order to win her favour. Teaming up with volatile outlaw Bob Temple, Francis begins a journey across the west searching for treasure and unrequited love. Coming into conflict with other gangs, the two have to overcome the trappings of their celebrity.
Tyler Enfield is a writer and photographer from Edmonton. He is the writer of several YA books, as well as the Madder Carmine.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
The Night Watchman is a novel based on the life of Louise Erdrich's grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and fought against Native dispossession in the United States. Thomas Wazhashk is a watchman at a factory in North Dakota and Pixie "Patrice" Paranteau works there, saving money to move to Minneapolis. The Night Watchman is a novel about racism, systemic oppression and poverty but also about love, dreams and fighting for what is right.
Louise Erdrich is an American writer whose novels include The Plague of Doves, The Round House, which won the National Book Award for Fiction, and Future Home of the Living God.
Albatross by Terry Fallis
A Swedish study suggesting that everybody can excel in at least one sport changes the life of high school student Adam Coryell. He discovers that he is a naturally gifted golf player, but as he racks up the trophies, he's forced to admit to himself that he doesn't really enjoy the sport.
Terry Fallis is the author of several comedic novels. He has won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour twice — for his novels The Best Laid Plans and No Relation. His first novel The Best Laid Plans won Canada Reads 2011.
Agency by William Gibson
In Agency, a gifted app tester meets her match when she is commissioned to beta test a highly social, and combat-savvy, "digital assistant." In an alternate timeline, in 2017 Hillary Clinton has won the presidential election over Donald Trump. Meanwhile, in London in the 22nd century disastrous events have led to 80 per cent of humanity being wiped out.
William Gibson is a legendary Vancouver science-fiction writer. His classic 1984 novel Neuromancer, a thriller about hacking and artificial intelligence, won sci-fi's three biggest prizes: the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award and the Hugo Award.
Bone Black by Carol Rose Goldeneagle
When her twin sister Raven goes missing, Wren StrongEagle immediately reports it to the local police. Feeling dismissed and worrying the case won't be investigated properly, Wren launches into action and decides to find justice on her own.
- When extreme emotion makes us cry, words are there to tell us why': Carol Rose GoldenEagle on the power of words
Carol Rose GoldenEagle is a Cree and Dene author whose books include the novel Bearskin Diary and the poetry collection Hiraeth.
Still by Emma Hansen
Emma Hansen was almost 40 weeks pregnant when her baby died. But since she was so far along in her pregnancy, she had to carry her son to term and deliver him. After she gave birth to her son Reid, and said goodbye to him, she wrote an essay online about her experience, and the complicated grief that came with it. The essay went viral, and inspired Still, a memoir about the same experience, and an attempt to start a conversation about a devastating loss that two million women experience annually, but is rarely talked about.
Hansen is a blogger, model and doula who writes and speaks about stillbirth and child loss. Still is her first book.
Not One of These Poems is About You by Teva Harrison
Not One of These Poems Is About You is a collection of poetry and illustrations from Toronto comics artist Teva Harrison. Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, an incurable illness, at 37. She began publishing short comics about her declining health and facing the end of her life in the Walrus. These comics were collected in the graphic memoir In-Between Days. Not One of These Poems Is About You continues to explore the same themes of living with an incurable illness, how one navigates social conventions and the medical system when one is dying and more.
In-Between Days won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. Harrison died at the age of 42 on April 28, 2019.
Cry Wolf by Harold R. Johnson
In 2005, 22-year-old University of Waterloo student Kenton Carnegie was killed in a wolf attack near his work camp in northern Saskatchewan. Harold R. Johnson, an experienced hunter and trapper, had been told to stay away from wolves. Johnson takes on wolves and the mythology around them in Cry Wolf. He explores Carnegie's death and other wolf attacks and suggests that we should take wolves more seriously.
Johnson is a former Crown prosecutor who has written several works of both fiction and nonfiction. His book Firewater: How Alcohol Is Killing My People (and Yours) was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. His other books include the novel Corvus, the genre-bending memoir Clifford and the nonfiction work Peace and Good Order.
Dominoes at the Crossroads by Kaie Kellough
In this collection of stories, Dominoes at the Crossroads, Kaie Kellough navigates Canada's Caribbean diaspora, as they seek music and a connection to their past. Through a broad cast of characters — including jazz musicians, hitchhikers, suburbanites, student radicals, secret agents, historians and their fugitive slave ancestors — Kellough stretches the stories from Montreal's Old Port to as far as the South American rainforests.
Kellough is a writer based in Montreal. His novel Accordéon was a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award in 2017. He is also the author of the poetry collection Magnetic Equator, which is currently a finalist for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Obsidian by Thomas King
Thomas King's sly investigator Thumps DreadfulWater returns in Obsidian. After the famed producer of a true-crime documentary turns up dead, Thumps is forced to look into an old cold case he had tried to forget: the Obsidian murders. When someone starts leaving reminders of the case around Chinook, Thumps is compelled to confront the incident that left his girlfriend and her daughter dead.
King is a Canadian-American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry. He delivered the 2003 Massey Lectures, The Truth about Stories. His books include Truth & Bright Water, The Inconvenient Indian and The Back of the Turtle. The Back of the Turtle won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 2014.
Disfigured by Amanda Leduc
In most fairy tales, characters who have disabilities or look different are often mocked or are the villain. In Disfigured, Amanda Leduc looks at fairy classics, from the classic Brothers Grimm to the modern Disney films, and explores how the representation of disability has informed how we see the world around us from a very young age and makes a case for a new set of tales, ones that celebrate difference and inclusivity.
Leduc is the communications and development coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, Ont. She is also the author of the novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men. She was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize.
Nobody Talks about Anything but the End by Liz Levine
In 2016, Liz Levine's sister Tamara committed suicide. In the memoir Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End, Levine tells the story of her sister alongside the story of another death that had a huge impact on her life: that of her childhood sweetheart Judson to cancer. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is a book about grief, and it's messiness, but it's also a book about life and its beauty.
Levine is a television and film producer who has worked on Story of a Girl and jPod. Her writing has appeared in the National Post, The Walrus and the Vancouver Sun. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is her first book.
Successful Aging by Daniel Levitin
As a neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin found himself stumped by something: why is it that some people in their 90s maintain all their mental sharpness, while others find their cognitive abilities start to dull in their 50s and 60s? When he couldn't find any books about the subject, he decided to write one himself. Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives looks at the science and psychology of growing older and uses that to explore what aging really means — and offers advice for living your best life as you get older.
Levitin is a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist and bestselling author. His books include This Is Your Brain on Music, The World in Six Songs, The Organized Mind and A Field Guide to Lies.
The Dyzgraphxst by Canisia Lubrin
The Dyzgraphxst is set against the backdrop of contemporary capitalist fascism, nationalism and the climate disaster, where Jejune, the central figure, grapples with understanding their existence and identity.
Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor and teacher. Her debut poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis was longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award and was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award.
Field Notes for the Self by Randy Lundy
Field Notes for the Self is a series that takes inspiration from the poetic structuring of Patrick Lane, John Thompson and Charles Wright, but their closest cousins may be Arvo Pärt's. This collection deals with the idea of liberation from personal and inherited trauma and memories of violence inflicted on Lundy's Indigenous ancestors which continue to haunt him. Similar to Randy Lundy's past works, this collection is rooted in observations of the natural world.
Lundy is a Saskatchewan-based short story writer and award-winning poet. He has published three previous books, Under the Night Sun, Gift of the Hawk and Blackbird Song, which won the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award in 2019.
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
When We Were Vikings is a novel about Zelda, a 21-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother Gert. The pair have some basic rules to guide their lives, such as "A smile means thank you for doing something small that I liked" and "Strange people are not appreciated in her home." When Zelda finds out that Gert has been resorting to questionable means to make money for the both of them, Zelda decides to launch into her own quest: to become a living legend.
Andrew David MacDonald is a writer from Edmonton. When We Were Vikings is his first book.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel's new book, The Glass Hotel, interweaves several complex narratives. Vincent is a bartender in a prestigious hotel on Vancouver Island. When the owner — Jonathan Alkaitis — passes Vincent his card, it becomes the beginning of their story together. Meanwhile, a hooded figure scrawls a cryptic note on a wall in the hotel, and a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis — Leon Prevant — sees the note and is shaken. Thirteen years later, Vincent disappears from a Neptune-Avramidis ship.
St. John Mandel is a New York-based Canadian writer. Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the 2015 Toronto Book Award.
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
The Mirror and the Light is the final novel of Hilary Mantel's popular Thomas Cromwell trilogy. The Mirror and the Light traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell in 16th-century Tudor England, the true story of a boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power and becomes chief deputy to King Henry VIII.
Mantel is the author of 14 books and is one of the few writers who has won England's Man Booker Prize twice. She won the awards for the first two books in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy — first in 2009 for Wolf Hall, and again in 2012 for its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies.
They Said This Would Be Fun by Eternity Martis
Eternity Martis was smart, bookish and excited to go to university. But once she got to campus, life wasn't what she imagined. She was often the only student of colour in classes, at parties and in dorms, and had to face racial slurs, students in blackface at parties and more on a regular basis. They Said This Would Be Fun is a memoir about the difficulty of navigating through white spaces as a student of colour and asks us to confront the systemic issues that define the college experience for racialized and marginalized students.
Martis is a Toronto-based journalist, author and senior editor at Xtra. Her work focuses on issues of race and gender and has been featured in Vice, Salon, Hazlitt, TVO.org, The Walrus, Huffington Post and CBC. They Said This Would Be Fun is her first book.
No More Nice Girls by Lauren McKeon
In No More Nice Girls, journalist Lauren McKeon looks at how far we still have to go when it comes to gender equality. She highlights how social and economic systems are designed to keep women out while highlighting those who are creating spaces for women both within patriarchal systems and outside them. McKeon's core argument is that we need to stop trying to play a game that's designed for women to lose, and start breaking the rules in order to get ahead.
McKeon is an editor at the Walrus and is also the author of the book F Bomb: Dispatches on the War on Feminism. Her writing has appeared on CBC, Toronto Life, Hazlitt and Chatelaine.
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
In The Shadow King, Maaza Mengiste draws on surprising discoveries about the role of women during Italy's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia — a conflict that many consider to be the start of the Second World War. The story revolves around Hirut, a young Ethiopian woman who takes up arms to join the fight against Mussolini's brutal occupation. In the course of writing the book, Mengiste discovered that her own great-grandmother had been on the front lines. The novel also features a sensitive portrait of Emperor Haile Selassie, who ruled Ethiopia for more than 40 years.
Mengiste fled the country with her family during the Ethiopian Revolution, moving to Nigeria and Kenya before being sent alone to the United States at age seven. She now makes her home in New York. She is also the author of the novel Beneath the Lion's Gaze.
Never Forget by Martin Michaud
The latest in Martin Michaud's ongoing Victor Lessard detective series finds Lessard and his partner, Jacinthe Taillon, on the trail of a deadly killer in Old Montreal. Never Forget begins with a homeless man jumping to his death, an incident that leaves behind baffling evidence — two wallets. One belonged to a dead psychiatrist, who was murdered in a bizarre ritual, the other to a missing corporate lawyer. As the bodies begin to pile up, can Lessard and Taillon crack the case before the next murder?
Michaud is a Montreal-based writer, musician and former lawyer. His Victor Lessard series has won the Arthur Ellis award and the Prix Saint-Pacôme for Crime Fiction. The book series is also the basis for the critically acclaimed French TV show Victor Lessard.
Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo
Abandoning the city for the picturesque countryside, Priya and Alexandra attempt to give themselves a new lease on life in the novel Polar Vortex. That is, until Priya reveals that she is running from a fraught relationship with a friend who kept pursuing her: Prakash. After Priya feels safe enough to once again establish an online presence, Prakash communicates with her. Inexplicably, Priya asks Prakash to visit them.
Shani Mootoo is a writer and visual artist who has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her debut novel was 1997's Cereus Blooms at Night.
Stay Where I Can See You by Katrina Onstad
In Stay Where I Can See You, Gwen Kaplan wins $10,000,000 in the lottery. But she already considers herself lucky. She has a perfect family life as a stay-at-home mother who is dedicated to providing a perfect adolescence for her kids. Having become upper-class, the family decides to move into the city. In the transition, cracks in the family unit start to emerge, and Gwen is forced to confront her troubled past.
Katrina Onstad is a writer and journalist. Her bestselling novel Everybody Has Everything was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Toronto Book Award. She is also the author of the nonfiction book The Weekend Effect.
Overdose by Benjamin Perrin
Overdose looks at today's opioid crisis, and attempts to understand why and how people become addicted to fentanyl, how our medical system has failed them, and what solutions will actually work. Benjamin Perrin interviews those at the front lines of the crisis — police officers, health care workers, prosecutors and more — to paint a portrait of a crisis that not only needs to be dealt with, but is poorly understood by the public.
Perrin is a law professor at the University of British Columbia. He is also the author of two other works of nonfiction, Invisible Chains: Canada's Underground World of Human Trafficking and Victim Law: The Law of Victims of Crime in Canada.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Such a Fun Age is an insightful and compelling examination of race, class and work in the 21st century — and it's already been purchased for a big screen adaptation. The story begins with a 25-year-old black woman named Emira Tucker, who's accused of kidnapping a white child in a high-end Philadelphia grocery store. A passing shopper films Emira's exchange with the store's security guard on his phone, and the young woman is only allowed to leave the store after the child's white father arrives and explains that she's the babysitter.
Kiley Reid is an American writer from Arizona who now lives in Philadelphia. Such a Fun Age is her first book.
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
In The Subtweet, Neela Devaki's song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini. When the two musicians meet, a transformative friendship begins. But, as Rukmini's star rises, jealousy creeps in, and Neela sends out a highly-destructive tweet that blows up their friendship.
Vivek Shraya is a writer, artist and musician from Alberta. Her books include the novel She of the Mountains, the poetry collection even this page is white, the essay I'm Afraid of Men and the comic book Death Threat.
Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi
In Vanishing Monuments, Alani Baum has not seen their mother since they were 17 years old — almost 30 years ago. The non-binary photographer ran away from home with their girlfriend, but when their mother's dementia worsens Alani is forced to run back to her. In the face of a debilitating illness, Alani has to contend with painful memories from the past.
John Elizabeth Stinzi is a novelist, poet, teacher and visual artist. They won the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers for their work Selections From Junebat, which will be published in spring 2020.
How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavonga
How to Pronounce Knife is a collection of idiosyncratic and diverse stories. Capturing the daily lives of immigrants, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures their hopes, disappointments, trauma and acts of defiance. From a young man painting nails in a salon, to a housewife learning English from soap-operas, How to Pronounce Knife navigates tragedy and humour.
Thammavongsa is a writer and poet. Her stories have won an O. Henry Award and appeared in Harper's, Granta, The Paris Review and NOON. She has published four books of poetry, including 2019's Cluster.
All We Knew But Couldn't Say by Joanne Vannicola
Joanne Vannicola is a successful actor and an advocate of LGBTQ rights, fighting against stereotypes in the entertainment industry. But along with all of those accomplishments, Vannicola has lived through trauma. Their memoir, All We Knew But Couldn't Say, describes enduring physical and emotional abuse and how they moved on and shaped an identity with resilience and determination.
Vannicola landed their first professional TV acting gig on Sesame Street. They wrote their first play at 17, made their 1994 film debut with Denys Arcand's Love And Human Remains and has starred on television shows such as Slasher, Rookie Blue and CBC's Being Erica. All We Knew But Couldn't Say is their first book.
Northwest Resistance by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, colour by Donovan Yaciuk
The next chapter in Katherena Vermette's graphic novel series follows time-travelling teen Echo Desjardins as she witnesses the return of Louis Riel. The first two books in the A Girl Called Echo series were Pemmican Wars and Red River Resistance.
Vermette is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet and bestselling novelist based in Winnipeg. Her books include North End Love Songs, The Break and river woman.
Artists Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk were contributors to the first two books in the graphic novel series.
Moments of Glad Grace by Alison Wearing
When Alison Wearing's father, Joe, is diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, he decided to travel to Ireland to learn about his family's heritage, and invites his daughter along. Their trip ends up not only being an exploration of their family history, but also their own relationship as they grapple with Joe's declining health. Moments of Glad Grace is a memoir that chronicles this pivotal moment in both their lives.
Wearing is playwright, performer and author. Her other books include Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian Journey and Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter. Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter was shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize.
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