July's Reading Challenge

June's Reading Challenge celebrates great Canadian Authors!  

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The art of leaving : a memoir

The art of leaving : a memoir

Tsabari, Ayelet, 1973- author
2019

An unforgettable memoir about a young woman who tries to outrun loss, but eventually finds a way home.

Ayelet Tsabari was 21 years old the first time she left Tel Aviv with no plans to return. Restless after two turbulent mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces, Tsabari longed to get away. It was not the never-ending conflict that drove her, but the grief that had shaken the foundations of her home. The loss of Tsabari's beloved father in years past had left her alienated and exiled within her own large Yemeni family and at odds with her Mizrahi identity. By leaving, she would be free to reinvent herself and to rewrite her own story.

For nearly a decade, Tsabari travelled, through India, Europe, the US and Canada, as though her life might go stagnant without perpetual motion. She moved fast and often because--as in the Intifada--it was safer to keep going than to stand still. Soon the act of leaving--jobs, friends and relationships--came to feel most like home.

But a series of dramatic events forced Tsabari to examine her choices and her feelings of longing and displacement. By periodically returning to Israel, Tsabari began to examine her Jewish-Yemeni background and the Mizrahi identity she had once rejected, as well as unearthing a family history that had been untold for years. What she found resonated deeply with her own immigrant experience and struggles with new motherhood.

Beautifully written, frank and poignant, The Art of Leaving is a courageous coming-of-age story that reflects on identity and belonging and that explores themes of family and home--both inherited and chosen.

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Chop suey nation : the Legion Cafe and other stories from Canada's Chinese restaurants

Chop suey nation : the Legion Cafe and other stories from Canada's Chinese restaurants

Hui, Ann, 1983- author
2019

In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui drove across Canada, from Victoria to Fogo Island, to write about small-town Chinese restaurants and the families who run them. It was only after the story was published that she discovered her own family could have been included--her parents had run their own Chinese restaurant, The Legion Cafe, before she was born. This discovery, and the realization that there was so much of her own history she didn't yet know, set her on a time-sensitive mission: to understand how, after generations living in a poverty-stricken area of Guangdong, China, her family had somehow wound up in Canada.

Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada's Chinese Restaurantsweaves together Hui's own family history--from her grandfather's decision to leave behind a wife and newborn son for a new life, to her father's path from cooking in rural China to running some of the largest "Western" kitchens in Vancouver, to the unravelling of a closely guarded family secret--with the stories of dozens of Chinese restaurant owners from coast to coast. Along her trip, she meets a Chinese-restaurant owner/small-town mayor, the owner of a Chinese restaurant in a Thunder Bay curling rink, and the woman who runs a restaurant alone, 365 days a year, on the very remote Fogo Island. Hui also explores the fascinating history behind "chop suey" cuisine, detailing the invention of classics like "ginger beef" and "Newfoundland chow mein," and other uniquely Canadian fare like the "Chinese pierogies" of Alberta.

Hui, who grew up in authenticity-obsessed Vancouver, begins her journey with a somewhat disparaging view of small-town "fake Chinese" food. But by the end, she comes to appreciate the essentially Chinese values that drive these restaurants--perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family. Using her own family's story as a touchstone, she explores the importance of these restaurants in the country's history and makes the case for why chop suey cuisine should be recognized as quintessentially Canadian.

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Days by moonlight

Days by moonlight

Alexis, André, 1957- author
2019

Almost a year to the date of his parents' death, botanist Alfred Homer, ever hopeful and constantly surprised, is invited on a road trip by his parents' friend Professor Morgan Bruno. Professor Bruno wants company as he tries to unearth the story of the mysterious and perhaps dead poet John Skennen. But Days by Moonlight is also a journey through an underworld that looks like southern Ontario, a journey taken during the "hour of the wolf," that time of day when the sun is setting and the traveller can't tell the difference between dog and wolf, a time when the world and the imagination won't stay in their own lanes. Alfred and the Professor encounter towns where Black residents speak only in sign language during the day and towns that hold Indigenous Parades; it is a land of house burnings, werewolves, witches, and plants with unusual properties. The novel is a darkly comic portrait of two beings: Alfred Homer and the Southern Ontario he loves. And it asks that perpetual question: how do we know the things we know are real and what is real anyway?

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Dear Scarlet : the story of my postpartum depression

Dear Scarlet : the story of my postpartum depression

Wong, Teresa, 1976- author
2019

In this intimate and moving graphic memoir, Teresa Wong writes and illustrates the story of her struggle with postnatal depression in the form of a letter to her daughter Scarlet. Equal parts heartbreaking and funny, Dear Scarlet perfectly captures the quiet desperation of those suffering from PPD and the profound feelings of inadequacy and loss. Dear Scarlet is a poignant and deeply personal journey through the complexities of new motherhood, offering hope to those affected by PPD, as well as reassurance that they are not alone.

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The field guide to the North American teenager

The field guide to the North American teenager

Philippe, Ben, author
2019

A hilarious YA contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clichés, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience--including falling in love. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi, and John Green.

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don't bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it's time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris...like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life--along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

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Guestbook : ghost stories

Guestbook : ghost stories

Shapton, Leanne, author
2019

"Reading [ Guestbook ] feels akin to walking through an art exhibit, each piece linked in ways that are ineffable but clear. . . yearning, like a ghost, lingers long after the stories are done." --NPR

One of our most imaginative writers and artists explores the visitations that haunt us in the midst of life, and reinvents the very way we narrate experience.

A tennis prodigy collapses after his wins, crediting them to an invisible, not entirely benevolent presence. A series of ghosts appear at their former bedsides, some distraught, some fascinated, to witness their unfamiliar occupants. A woman returns from a visit to Alcatraz with an uncomfortable feeling. The spirit of a prisoner has attached himself to you, a friend tells her. He sensed the sympathy you had for those men. In more than two dozen stories and vignettes, accompanied by an evocative curiosity cabinet of artifacts and images, Guestbook beckons us through the glimmering, unsettling evidence that marks our paths in life.

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Immigrant city : stories

Immigrant city : stories

Bezmozgis, David, 1973- author
2019

David Bezmozgis, the writer who brought us the "pointed, emotionally resonant tales" (The Globe and Mail) of Natasha and Other Stories, brings us a new collection, his first in more than a decade.

In the title story, a father and his young daughter stumble into a bizarre version of his immigrant childhood. A mysterious tech conference brings a writer to Montreal where he discovers new designs on the past in "How it Used to Be." A grandfather's Yiddish letters expose a love affair and a wartime secret in "Little Rooster." In "Roman's Song," Roman's desire to help a new immigrant brings him into contact with a sordid underworld. At his father's request, Victor returns to Riga, the city of his birth, and has his loyalties tested by the man he might have been in "A New Gravestone for an Old Grave." And, in the noir-inspired "The Russian Riviera," Kostya leaves Russia to pursue a boxing career only to find himself working as a doorman in a garish nightclub in the Toronto suburbs.

In these deeply-felt, slyly humorous stories, Bezmozgis pleads no special causes but presents immigrant characters with all their contradictions and complexities, their earnest and divided hearts.

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A mind spread out on the ground

A mind spread out on the ground

Elliott, Alicia, author
2019

A bold and profound work by Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a personal and critical meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression and racism in North America.

In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight and understanding to the ongoing legacy of colonialism. What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language--both figurative and literal? How does white privilege operate in different contexts? How do we navigate the painful contours of mental illness in loved ones without turning them into their sickness? How does colonialism operate on the level of literary criticism?

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is Alicia Elliott's attempt to answer these questions and more. In the process, she engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, writing and representation. Elliott makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political--from overcoming a years-long history with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft dinner to how systematic oppression is linked to depression in Native communities. With deep consideration and searing prose, Elliott extends far beyond her own experiences to provide a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present and a powerful tool for a better future.

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Mistakes to run with

Mistakes to run with

Thanh, Yasuko, author
2019

A NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A devastatingly frank memoir that tears open the past to examine how circumstances--and the choices we make--dictate the people we become, for fans of Educated and The Glass Castle .

Mistakes to Run With chronicles the turbulent life of Yasuko Thanh, from early childhood in the closest thing Victoria, BC, has to a slum to teen years as a sex worker and, finally, to her emergence as an award-winning author. As a child, Thanh embraced evangelical religion, only to rebel against it and her equally rigid parents, cutting herself, smoking, and shoplifting. At fifteen, the honour-roll runaway develops a taste for drugs and alcohol. After a stint in jail at sixteen, feeling utterly abandoned by her family, school, and society, Thanh meets the man who would become her pimp and falls in love.

The next chapter of her life takes Thanh to the streets of Vancouver, where she endures beatings, arrests, crack cocaine, and an unwanted pregnancy. The act of writing ultimately becomes a solace from her suffering. Leaving the sex trade, but refusing to settle on any one thing, Thanh forges a new life for herself, from dealing drugs in four languages to motherhood and a complicated marriage, and emerges as a successful writer.

But even as publication and awards bolster her, she remains haunted by her past.

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Radicalized

Radicalized

Doctorow, Cory, author
2019

From New York Times bestselling author Cory Doctorow, Radicalized is four urgent SF novellas of America's present and future within one book

Told through one of the most on-pulse genre voices of our generation, Radicalized is a timely collection consisting of four SF novellas connected by social, technological, and economic visions of today and what America could be in the near, near future.

Unauthorized Bread is a tale of immigration, the toxicity of economic and technological stratification, and the young and downtrodden fighting against all odds to survive and prosper.

In Model Minority , a Superman-like figure attempts to rectifiy the corruption of the police forces he long erroneously thought protected the defenseless...only to find his efforts adversely affecting their victims.

Radicalized is a story of a darkweb-enforced violent uprising against insurance companies told from the perspective of a man desperate to secure funding for an experimental drug that could cure his wife's terminal cancer.

The fourth story, Masque of the Red Death, harkens back to Doctorow's Walkaway , taking on issues of survivalism versus community.

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Reproduction

Reproduction

Williams, Ian, 1979- author
2019

A hilarious, surprising and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams' own, Reproduction bangs lives together in a polyglot suburb of Toronto.

Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia's mother dies and Edgar's "Mutter" does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter's caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don't quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short.
Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids--the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army's fascination with his absent father--and his absent father's money--begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar's unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family.
Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn't a matter of blood.

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Shut up you're pretty : stories

Shut up you're pretty : stories

Mutonji, Téa, 1995- author
2019

In Tea Mutonji's disarming debut story collection, a woman contemplates her Congolese traditions during a family wedding, a teenage girl looks for happiness inside a pack of cigarettes, a mother reconnects with her daughter through their shared interest in fish, and a young woman decides to shave her head in the waiting room of an abortion clinic.These punchy, sharply observed stories blur the lines between longing and choosing, exploring the narrator's experience as an involuntary one. Tinged with pathos and humour, they interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.

Shut Up You're Pretty is the first book to be published under the imprint VS. Books, a series of books curated and edited by writer-musician Vivek Shraya featuring work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of colour.

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Still life

Still life

Penny, Louise
2012

The CWA Dagger-winning first novel from worldwide phenomenon and number one New York Times bestseller Louise Penny, introducing Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.

The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines - a place so free from crime it doesn't even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets...

'Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache of the Quebec police is one of the most interesting detectives in crime fiction ' The Times

' A cracking storyteller , who can create fascinating characters, a twisty plot and wonderful surprise endings' Ann Cleeves

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This woman's work

This woman's work

Delporte, Julie, author, artist.
2019

A profound and personal exploration of the intersections of womanhood, femininity, and creativity. This Woman's Work is a powerfully raw autobiographical work that asks vital questions about femininity and the assumptions we make about gender. Julie Delporte examines cultural artifacts and sometimes traumatic memories through the lens of the woman she is today--a feminist who understands the reality of the women around her, how experiencing rape culture and sexual abuse is almost synonymous with being a woman, and the struggle of reconciling one's feminist beliefs with the desire to be loved. She sometimes resents being a woman and would rather be anything but. Told through beautifully evocative colored pencil drawings and sparse but compelling prose, This Woman's Work documents Delporte's memories and cultural consumption through journal-like entries that represent her struggles with femininity and womanhood. She structures these moments in a nonlinear fashion, presenting each one as a snapshot of a place and time--trips abroad, the moment you realize a relationship is over, and a traumatizing childhood event of sexual abuse that haunts her to this day. While This Woman's Work is deeply personal, it is also a reflection of the conversations that women have with themselves when trying to carve out their feminist identity. Delporte's search for answers in the turmoil created by gender assumptions is profoundly resonant in the era of #MeToo.

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The unexpected cop : Indian Ernie on a life of leadership

The unexpected cop : Indian Ernie on a life of leadership

Louttit, Ernie, 1961- author
2019

The cop who blew the whistle on Saskatoon's notorious "Starlight Tours", Ernie Louttit is the bestselling author of two previous "Indian Ernie" books. He demonstrates in this latest title that being a leader means sticking to your convictions and sometimes standing up to the powers that be. One of the first Indigenous officers hired by the Saskatoon Police, he was an outsider who became an insider, with a difference. A former military man with a passion for the law, he was tough on the beat, but was also a role model for children on the streets.

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