While there are no shortages of events to check out in Toronto, sometimes it’s nice to do something a little more low-key. For example, one of my favourite things to do in the fall is to grab a blanket, find a spot in a park (weather permitting), and dive into a new book.
There’s something about being surrounded by nature while losing yourself in another person’s words that is so satisfying. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of big city living.
And yes, you can read any book, but I really love being able to support my local literary scene. Below is a quick round-up of excellent novels from Toronto-based authors. These are certified “must-reads.”
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
BuzzFeed Culture Writer Scaachi Koul is something of a social media celebrity. But she proves her wit transcends the Twitterverse with her debut book, One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. The collection of essays about growing up as the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada. It provides biting commentary on issues like gender dynamics and racial stereotypes. All with Koul’s trademark irreverent sense of humour.
I Hear She’s a Real Bitch by Jen Agg
Similar to Koul, Jen Agg is also a prominent voice in the Toronto Twitter scene. However, what Koul is to media, Agg is to the restaurant world. She offers fierce, no-holds-barred criticism of the sexism and ‘bro’ culture that is persistent in the food industry. Her memoir, tells the story of how she worked her way up through Toronto’s culinary ranks to eventually run some of the country’s most famous restaurants.
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
This novel has won the Giller Prize, the Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize, and CBC’s Canada Reads, so you know it’s going to be good. Fifteen Dogs follows the lives of a group of dogs that have been given human consciousness by two Greek gods. Would intelligent dogs with human intelligence fare better than our own kind? Would they be happier? I guess you will have to read the book to find out.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
If you’re an avid Instagram user, chances are you’ve scrolled past some poems from Kaur’s Milk and Honey. Her debut collection of poetry and prose touches on universal themes like loss and love in a way that’s so honest and powerful. It makes you feel like she’s speaking directly to you. While this book isn’t new – it came out in 2014 – her follow-up collection, The Sun and Her Flowers, was just released. Making now the perfect time to get acquainted with her work.
The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
Part thriller, Western, mystery, and part science fiction, Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds bends all the genres for a truly original read. “Imagine a place populated by criminals,” reads the book’s description. That would be The Blinds a.k.a. the rural Texas town in which the novel is situated (and named after). When a murder and a suicide occur in quick succession, the town is thrown into chaos and its many dark secrets come to light.
Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali
This YA novel by Toronto author has been described as a “modern-day My So-Called Life… starring a Muslim teen.” The coming-of-age story follows Janna, a teenage Arab-Indian-American girl. She finds herself caught between her divorced father’s new family, her mother and older brother. Saints and Misfits is much more than just a “Muslim story”. Its diverse depiction of Islam and the many ways people practice the religion sets this novel apart from its contemporaries.
Debris by Kevin Hardcastle
Another multi-award-winning novel, Debris is a collection of short stories that examines the lives of those who live on the fringe of society. From mental patients to small-town criminals. While not always the most sympathetic of characters, Hardcastle does an excellent job at offering a nuanced look at people who have gone through the worst and will do whatever it takes to survive.
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais
Not for the faint of heart, Marais’ Hum If You Don’t Know the Words novel transports readers to Apartheid-era South Africa. It tells the story of Robin Conrad and Beauty Mbali. The former a 10-year old white girl from Johannesburg, and the latter an Xhosa woman from a rural village. The two are brought together by tragedy and grow close, despite the fraught racial climate in which they reside. While it might not be the lightest of reads, it’s certainly important. Especially in light of recent events south of the border and around the world.
Fugue States by Pasha Malla
Author Pash Malla’s hometown of Hamilton falls outside of the GTA, but his novel is too good to not make an exception. Fugue States revolves around second-generation immigrant Ash, his childhood friend Matt, and a trip to India gone awry. The book is a rollicking work of fiction influenced by the author’s own experience as the son of a Kashmir father raised in Canada.
Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar
Maria Qamar is most widely known for her @HateCopy and her pop-art depictions of South Asian womanhood. In her new book, Trust No Aunty, Qamar offers readers an illustrated “survival guide” for dealing with “aunties,” aka those annoying older family members or friends who tend to meddle in your life. But don’t let the tongue-in-cheek tone and bright yellow cover fool you. This book offers real advice for young women everywhere who might feel caught between cultural expectations and their personal passions.
Do you have any other book suggestions to add to this list? Share them in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.