The CBC Books summer reading list: 40 Canadian books to read this season
The summer of 2020 is here! It's the perfect season to read a good book by a Canadian author.
Ridgerunner is a novel about William Moreland, the notorious thief known as Ridgerunner, as he moves through the Rocky Mountains, determined to to secure financial stability for his son. His son, Jack Boulton, is trapped in a life not of his own making. Semi-orphaned and under the care of a nun, Sister Beatrice, Jack has found himself in a secluded cabin in Alberta. Little does he know, his father is coming for him.
Gil Adamson is a writer and poet. Her first novel, The Outlander, won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and was a Canada Reads finalist in 2009, when it was championed by Nicholas Campbell. She has published several volumes of poetry, including Primitive and Ashland.
This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart is the story of poet and ecology professor Madhur Anand's family. Her parents grew up in India. Her father had polio, which gives him a lifelong disability. Her mother loved education and chose it over marriage. They meet, marry and come to Canada after British India was divided in India and Pakistan. Anand grows up in Canada, but is influenced by her parents, their traumas, their values and their lived experiences. This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart poetically weaves all these narratives together to tell one story about truth, resilience, adaptation and love.
Anand is a poet and professor of ecology at the University of Guelph. She is also the author of the poetry collection A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes.
Before Bae was a comedian and a successful podcaster, he was a high school teacher in Vancouver. He recalls that time — along with the best and sometimes oddest classroom dialogues — in his memoir You Suck, Sir. The stories in You Suck, Sir range from wildly funny to incredibly touching.
Bae is a comedian, educator and podcaster. You Suck, Sir is his first book.
The Wild Heavens is a novel about the magic and mystery of nature — and our relationship to it. Over the course of one cold winter day, a young mother Sandy Langley reflects on her grandfather, who was obsessed with a mysterious creature in the woods, their relationship, motherhood and more, while finally coming to terms with the mysteries and tragedies that shaped her life and made her who she is.
Sarah Louise Butler is a writer from British Columbia.The Wild Heavens is her first novel.
In The Library of Legends, 19-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates are ordered to flee as Japanese bombs start to land on Nanking. It's not just refugees who are in danger — Lian has been entrusted with a 500-year-old collection of myths and legends known as "The Library of Legends." It's now up to Lian and her classmates to protect the collection at any cost.
Janie Chang is a historical fiction writer. Chang's first novel, Three Souls, was a finalist for the 2014 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and nominated for the 2015 International Dublin Literary Award. She published her second novel, Dragon Springs Road in 2017.
The Gospel of Breaking draws on Jillian Christmas's politics, family history and queer lineage, telling stories of love lost, friendship and community.
Christmas is an educator, activist and community organizer who focuses on increasing anti-oppression initiatives in spoken word. She is the former artistic director of Vancouver's Verses Festival of Words.
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.
The poems in Spawn come together to form a braided collection of brief, untitled pieces telling a coming-of-age story set in the Mashteuiatsh Reserve on the shores of Lake Piekuakami (Saint-Jean) in Quebec. The collection questions a narrative can be reclaimed once it has been confiscated and distorted by colonizers.
Marie-Andrée Gill combines her Quebec and Ilnu identities through her writing. Her work deals with decolonization and territory while blending kitsch and existentialism. In 2018, Gill won an Indigenous Voices Award. She is also the author of the poetry collections Béante and Chauffer le dehors.
Kristen Renee Miller is a writer and translator currently living in Kentucky. Spawn is the first book she has translated.
In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie were taken from their families and sent to a residential school when they were very small. Barely out of childhood, they are released and left to contend with the seedy world of eastside Vancouver. Fuelled by the trauma of their childhood, the five friends cross paths over the decades and struggle with the weight of their shared past.
Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Five Little Indians is her first book.
In The Swap, Low Morrison is a teenager who doesn't fit in with the rest. Nor does Freya, but she just so happens to be a beautiful and formerly famous social media influencer who now owns a pottery studio. After signing up for a class, the two quickly become friends.
The arrival of Jamie at the studio disrupts the friendship. Jamie and her partner have moved to the area in order to conceive and become fast friends with Freya and her husband. The suggestion of couple-swapping on a drunken evening has devastating consequences.
In her 2009 book, Soap and Water & Common Sense, Dr. Bonnie Henry documented her interest in public health and preventative medicine, along with the three decades spent chasing microbes all over the world — including Ebola, polio, SARS and the H1N1 influenza outbreak. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Soap and Water & Common Sense has been reissued in 2020.
Dr. Henry is an epidemiologist and is currently the provincial health officer for British Columbia.Soap and Water & Common Sense is her first book.
A few years ago, Gemma Hickey did a 908-kilometre walk across the island of Newfoundland. They did it to raise awareness and money for survivors of institutional religious abuse. Their memoir, Almost Feral, describes that journey and the equally hard road of coming to terms with their identity throughout the journey — digging into the good and bad in their past along the way with an eye on motivating others to accept themselves and what they stand for.
Hickey is a writer and activist based in St. John's. Almost Feral is their first book.
Eva Holland explores fear in her first book Nerve. After losing her mother suddenly, Holland decides it's time to face her fears and dives headfirst into tackling them. Along the way, she explores the science of fear and tries to get answers to questions like: Can you really smell fear? What causes fear? Is it possible to be truly fearless?
Holland is a writer and editor based on Whitehorse. Her work has appeared in Outside, Wired, the Walrus and Canadian Geographic.
The Jane Austen Society is a novel about unexpected community, and the quiet triumph and tragedies of every day life in post-Second World War Britain. In Chawton, an English village that was the last home of iconic novelist Jane Austen, a small group of locals decide to do what they can to preserve Austen's home and legacy, and hopefully revitalize the town in the process. The group comes together in surprising ways and, despite being very different, unite through their common goal.
Natalie Jenner is a novelist based in Oakville, Ont. The Jane Austen Society is her first book.
The Last High is a thriller inspired by the opioid crisis. Dr. Julie Rees is shocked when a number of teenagers from the same party arrive at the ER. She suspects the adolescents took fentanyl, but this case is unusual. Teaming up with Detective Anson Chen, Rees is determined to tackle the underground drug world and find out the source of these dangerous drugs.
Daniel Kalla is an emergency room doctor, as well as an international bestselling author of 10 books, including We All Fall Down.
In No Going Back, the latest Nora Watts crime thriller by Sheena Kamal, Nora finds herself trying to protect Bonnie, the daughter she had given up for adoption. Two years previously, Bonnie had been kidnapped by the ruthless Zhang family. She has made an enemy in Dao, the intimidating triad enforcer for the Zhangs. From Canada to southeast Asia, Nora finds herself pursuing her adversary.
Kaie Kellough plays with geography and self-determination in Magnetic Equator, his third poetry collection. Drifting between South and North America, Kellough digs into ancestral belonging, exploring the Canadian Prairies, Guyana, the Amazon rainforest and the Atlantic Ocean. It looks at the nature of language and dialect in the works of Caribbean and Canadian writers, seeking origin, identity and understanding.
Magnetic Equator won the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Kellough is a Montreal-based artist and poet. He is also the author of the novel Accordéon, which was a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award.
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.
Sarah Kurchak has autism. While she was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, she realized she was different from her peers — and did everything to overcome it. She changed everything about herself to fit in. It worked, but along the way, she developed anxiety and depression. I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder is a memoir about how Kurchak became an "autism" success story, how it almost ruined her life, and what she did to reclaim her identity and her health.
Kurchak is a writer whose work has appeared in the Guardian, CBC, Vox and Electric Literature. I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder is her first book.
For more than 10 years, Julie S. Lalonde kept a terrifying secret: she was being stalked by her ex. At 20 years old, Lalonde left an abusive relationship, and he would go on to stalk her for the following decade. While Lalonde rose to national prominence as a women's rights advocate, writer and speaker, she would ask herself the same question at every event, rally or conference: Was he here? Resilience is Futile is about this terrifying experience, and also about how we handle trauma and find the strength to not only survive, but thrive.
Lalonde is a women's rights advocate and public educator. Her writing has appeared on CBC, Wired and Flare. Resilience is Futile is her first book.
The story of the Black Donnellys has become a fabled piece of Ontario history. The Donnelly family emigrated from Ireland to the township of Lucan Biddulph in the Ontario countryside. They found themselves, after a few years, in conflict with the local people. In February 1880, an armed mob descended on the family, burned their farm and killed the family members. The life and death of the infamous family has been the subject of TV programs, plays and books. Keith Ross Leckie's novel Cursed! Blood of the Donnellys is a fictional account of the notorious family and that time in Canadian history.
Leckie is a Toronto-based author and screenwriter who has worked in the film and television business as a dramatic scriptwriter for more than 30 years.
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.
Tessa McWatt was born in Guyana and came to Canada when she was three years old. She grew up in Toronto and spent years living in Montreal, Paris, Ottawa and London. Her heritage is Scottish, English, French, Portuguese, Indian, Amerindian, African and Chinese. Shame on Me is a memoir about identity, race and belonging by someone who spent a lot of time trying to find an answer to the question, "Who are you?" and who has endured decades of racism and bigotry while trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs.
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McWatt is the author of several works of fiction. Her novels include Dragons Cry, Vital Signs and Higher Ed. She is also the co-editor of the anthology Luminous Ink: Writers on Writing in Canada. Shame on Me is her first work of nonfiction.
Untamed Shore is set in California in 1979. Viridiana lives in Baja, and is deeply bored by her lack of things to do. She spends most of her time watching fishermen piling sharks on the shore. When three enigmatic tourists come to Baja, Viridiana becomes infatuated with their seemingly alien lives. But, after a family member dies, Viridiana finds herself having to lie to protect her friends.
In her memoir, Falling for Myself, Dorothy Ellen Palmer makes a passionate case for disability justice. She was born with congenital anomalies in both feet. In Falling for Myself, she depicts her coming to terms with the past — and describes her discovery and embrace of activism.
Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a writer, educator, accessibility consultant and activist. She is also the author of the novel When Fenelon Falls.
Alone: a Love Story is a successful CBC podcast about learning to love yourself in the wake of an unexpected breakup. CBC Radio producer Michelle Parise had it all: a career, a house, a husband, a kid. But when her husband ends things, Parise's world is turned upside down and she questions everything she knew about life, love and success. Alone: A Love Story is the unpublished book that inspired the podcast, now available for the first time.
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Parise has worked at CBC, in radio and television for more than 20 years. The film and TV rights to Parise's story were sold to Sienna Films in 2018. Alone is her first book.
The sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning Witchmark, Stormsong follows Dame Grace Hensley as she deals with the aftermath of helping her brother to undo the atrocities within their nation: Aeland. However, as the power disappears throughout the land, Grace has to guide her parents to safety. With a powerful queen standing in her way, Grace faces an insurmountable obstacle.
C.L. Polk is a writer of fantasy fiction based in Calgary.
Aubrey McKee is the the first in a series of five autobiographical novels by Alex Pugsley. Aubrey McKee tells the story of a boy growing up in 1970s and 1980s Halifax. The second novel, which follows the narrator's arrival in Toronto as a young man, is forthcoming.
Pugsley is a filmmaker and writer from Nova Scotia. He is the co-author of the novel Kay Darling.
Pluviophile is a mix of longer sonnets and shorter meditations, all which explore humanity's relationship with divinity and how we value our bodies, our language and how we connect with each other and the greater world.
Yusuf Saadi is a poet from Montreal. Pluviophile is his first collection. He won the Malahat Review's 2016 Far Horizons Award for Poetry for the poem The Place Words Go to Die, which is in Pluviophile.
In Wendy, Master of Art, Wendy is a serious art student at the University of Hell in a small Ontario town. As she works toward her Master Fine Arts, Wendy confronts her ever-ballooning insecurities, fears and doubts with therapy, excessive drinking and partying.
Walter Scott is a Kahnawá:ke-born artist who lives in Toronto. He's published two other Wendy books, including Wendy's Revenge, and has appeared in The New Yorker and the Best American Comics anthology.
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.
Leslie Stein's memoir, I Know You Rider, begins at an abortion clinic and takes readers through a year in her life, as she questions the decision to reproduce. Stein speaks to a childhood friend about raising twins in an environmentally-conscious household, to a man undergoing a vasectomy so his wife can stop using birth control and to her mother, who longs to be a grandmother.
Stein is a Canadian creator based in New York. Her previous books include Present and Bright-Eyed at Midnight. She's been featured in The New Yorker and the Best American Comics anthology.
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. The complete poetry collection, Junebat, was published in spring 2020.
In Misconduct of the Heart, Stevie is a recovering alcoholic and kitchen manager who is trying hard to stop her world around her from collapsing. Her son, who is a veteran, might be succumbing to PTSD, while she tries to manage the eccentrics who work in her kitchen and acclimatize to the idea that she might have a granddaughter she never knew she had.
Cordelia Strube is a Toronto-based writer. She has been nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award, the Trillium Book Award and longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She has written numerous books, including On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light.
In Still Here, private investigator Malcolm is gone. Colleague and fellow P.I. Clare is determined to find him, and goes to the oceanside city where he has disappeared without a trace. Not only is Malcolm gone, but so is his wife. Everyone thinks Malcolm is responsible, except for Clare — who believes there's a shady connection to his wife's family business and her father's murder. Clare needs to dig up the dark history the community would rather forget.
If you haven't done your Canada Reads 2020 reading, there's still time. The battle of the books takes place July 20-23. Pick up one of the contenders before show week to add to your summer reading pile!
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, Megan Gail Coles's debut novel, revolves around a cast of flawed characters who are implicated in each other's hopes, dreams and pains as they try to survive harsh economic times in the province.
Coles is a playwright from St. John's. She previously published the short story collection Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome.
Radicalized is a collection of four novellas that explore the quandaries — social, economic and technological — of contemporary America. Cory Doctorow's characters deal with issues around immigration, corrupt police forces, dark web uprisings and more.
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Samra Habib's memoir We Have Always Been Here is an exploration of the ways we disguise and minimize ourselves for the sake of survival. As a child, Habib hid her faith from Islamic extremists in Pakistan and later, as a refugee in Canada, endured racist bullying and the threat of an arranged marriage. In travelling the world and exploring art and sexuality, Habib searches for the truth of her identity.
Son of a Trickster is a novel about Jared, a compassionate 16-year-old, maker of famous weed cookies, the caretaker of his elderly neighbours, the son of an unreliable father and unhinged, though loving in her way, mother. As Jared ably cares for those around him, in between getting black-out drunk, he shrugs off the magical and strange happenings that follow him around.
Son of a Trickster was on the shortlist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It is being adapted into a TV series set to premiere on CBC in 2020. It will be defended by Kaniehtiio Horn on Canada Reads 2020.
Eden Robinson is an award-winning author from Kitamaat, B.C. She is also the author of the novels Monkey Beach and Trickster Drift. Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift are the first two books of a planned Trickster trilogy.
Jesse Thistle is a Métis-Cree academic specializing in Indigenous homelessness, addiction and inter-generational trauma. For Thistle, these issues are more than just subjects on the page. After a difficult childhood, Thistle spent much of his early adulthood struggling with addiction while living on the streets of Toronto. Told in short chapters interspersed with poetry, his memoir From the Ashes details how his issues with abandonment and addiction led to homelessness, incarceration and his eventual redemption through higher education.
Thistle is a recipient of the Governor General's Silver Medal in 2016. From the Ashes is his first book.