The Sunday Magazine

What to read when the world has gone mad

Amidst dire forecasts about catastrophic climate change, the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, it has not been an easy year. We repeat a conversation with four writers about the books they recommend, to cope with the darkness of the news.
A man stands amidst the rubble on December 17, 2018, at a factory damaged during fighting and air strikes, as clashes raged between Yemeni Saudi-backed government forces and Iran-aligned Huthis. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Amidst dire forecasts about the effects of catastrophic climate change, the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, it has not been an easy year. 

Millions of refugees are displaced.

Wildfires and flash floods brought death and destruction. 

Here at home, justice -- let alone fresh drinking water -- seems as remote as ever for many of Canada's indigenous people.

Two and a half years ago, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we convened a panel of writers to help search for hope in the enfolding warmth of literature.

We re-broadcast that conversation on our program of December 23, 2018.

Michael's guests are:

Anakana Schofield is an Irish-Canadian novelist, literary critic and essayist. Her first book won Amazon's First Novel Award. Her second, Martin John, was on the short-list for the Giller Prize last year.

Samantha Nutt is a physician who has worked in many violent zones across Asia and Africa, and is the Founder and Executive Director of War Child Canada.  Dr. Nutt is currently on staff at Women's College Hospital in Toronto. In her spare time, she wrote the bestselling book, Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid.

Kamal Al-Solaylee is a journalist and professor at Ryerson University. His acclaimed memoir of growing up gay in the Middle East is called Intolerable, and his most recent book is Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone).

University of Toronto English professor Nick Mount was recently named one of the top ten post-secondary school teachers in Canada. His latest book is " Arrival: The Story of CanLit."



Stuart McLean Vinyl Café books

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

The Crucible by Arthur Miller 

Judy Blume books

The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Saturday by Ian MacEwan

​​Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War by Mark Danner

​Enid Blyton books

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens


Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 

A Rage for Order by Robert F. Worth

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins


Hannah Arendt books

Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

 The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride


Louis Lamour books

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Virginia Woolf books

Martin John by Anakana Schofield

 A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

The Ask: A Novel by Sam Lipsyte

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill


Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien


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