To mark the 2021 edition of The Globe 100, our annual guide to the most noteworthy books of the year, we asked booksellers across the country how this year shaped up for them, what customers were buying and what should be on everyone’s holiday gift-giving or reading lists.
Librairie St-Henri Books, Montreal
How was 2021?
“People were asking for light, fun, but still impactful books. A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan, Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid, 100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell. Canadians also wanted to learn about truth and reconciliation in a big way. This was also the year of BookTok – we saw so many backlist titles coming back: Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us. It’s been really cool to see teens coming in and getting excited about literature.”
– Alex Nierenhausen
“Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong.”
Type Books, Toronto
How was 2021?
“Thanks to our incredible community, we’ve finally remembered what it’s like to be a living, breathing bookstore once again – and it’s so good. 2020 was filled with so much doubt and uncertainty and we often didn’t know what kind of a future we were facing. It’s been interesting to see how books are really resonating with readers, period. Literature can be such a powerful way to connect with people and we love being a space that helps make that happen.”
– Kyle Buckley and Claire Foster
“A book we know we’re going to be recommending is Natasha Brown’s Assembly. It’s slim enough to be a great stocking stuffer and it can be read in a single winter’s evening. Books are frequently the best gift you can give yourself, too. Maybe you need a little alone time this holiday season? Start reading Claire Vaye Watkins’ novel I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. The title alone should let everyone around you know that you’re enjoying a little quiet time right now.”
Munro’s Books, Victoria
How was 2021?
“We’re not back to normal yet, but some of the changes that we’ve seen have been positive ones that we think will continue, such as customers using our website more to put books on hold or place orders – people are realizing they can have the convenience of shopping online while supporting local businesses. This fall, like so many sectors, we are seeing some supply-chain disruptions as publishers struggle to fill orders.
“I would say that books that foster a sense of connection and community have been the most important this year. Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass have been our bestselling titles this year, followed closely by Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree, Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library. We are also currently selling many, many copies of Mushrooms of British Columbia, a new field guide published by the Royal BC Museum, as well anything with mushrooms on it – tote bags, socks, playing cards, you name it! Throughout the pandemic there has been lots of interest in gardening, particularly kitchen gardens and food security, and also field guides of all kinds. Connecting with nature, and unplugged activities that families can do together, like birdwatching and foraging, have been really popular.”
– Jessica Walker
“My pick is Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land – a big sumptuous novel with multiple storylines set at different points in time, it’s rich and satisfying and completely compelling!”
Octopus Books, Ottawa
How was 2021?
“For a left-leaning political bookstore, it may seem odd but the book that probably defines the year best for us is Michael Haynes’s Hiking Trails of Ottawa. It spoke to people who needed to get out and explore nature for their mental health, it spoke to people who are worried about the environment, people who couldn’t travel and were looking for ways to connect with friends, family and nature. It also helped people discover their city. We are also selling lots of books on trauma and grief. That’s new for us, and we think it’s a reflection of all that people have been through in the last 18 months.”
– Lisa Greaves
“Hunting By Stars by Cherie Dimaline will be one we turn to over and over. Her first book, The Marrow Thieves was very popular, and people from 13 to 113 were very moved by it so I think the sequel will do well. One that I think people might be surprised by is Bernie Saunders’s Shut Out. Bernie is an affable guy with a great voice. It hits all the marks for us.”
Pages on Kensington, Calgary
How was 2021?
“We lost the constant shifts of uncertainty and witnessed what I imagine bookselling was like pre-Amazon. I’ve only been with the store for 10 years, so “The Big A” has always been a nefarious being looming behind my shoulder. People have come in all year with a “eff-Amazon” mentality, and have been more than willing to deal with the slightly more clunky distribution of publishers than fund more trips to space.
“We’re definitely a little antsy to pull down the plastic barriers and see our customer’s faces again. Some of the best recommendations for the shelves come from our extremely well-read regulars, but the personal touch of bookselling and making new friends is surprisingly difficult when we spend all day masked up and scared to get too close. I definitely take many cues from people’s expressions, and not all of us can smize like Tyra Banks.”
– Richard Young
“I’m going to recommend David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs to every mom, dad, sister, great aunt and stepdaughter I can. From what we’re currently witnessing in the States with regards to work – “The Great Resignation” as it’s being dubbed – I think this book provides a large amount of insight towards the feelings of a substantial proportion of the global developed population.”
Flying Books, Toronto
How was 2021?
“In a word: transformative. After publishing Marlowe Granados’s Happy Hour in the fall of 2020, it has continued to sell steadily throughout 2021, requiring a reprint. Meanwhile its spectacular launch in the U.S. and U.K. has rightly made Marlowe a star, which has been a dream to witness. At the Flying Books School of Reading & Writing, program manager Ceri Marsh’s brilliant recruiting of instructors – including Liz Renzetti, Steve Almond, Thea Lim, Helen Knott, and Fonda Lee, among others – for our online classes transformed a year stuck at home into the school’s best year yet. Through it all, our amazing, loyal, and big-hearted customers regularly ordered so many books, keeping us going and inspiring us to find new ways to serve them. This year, of all years, has been our best ever, and it’s allowing us to dream even bigger. [But it won’t feel normal again] until we all dance our butts off at launch parties. I remember dancing like crazy at the launch of Claudia Dey’s Heartbreaker, and I long for parties like that again.”
– Martha Sharpe
“I will never stop recommending Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados! I’m also recommending Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You, Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle, Julietta Singh’s The Breaks and I think Best Wishes, Warmest Regards is a great gift book for Schitt’s Creek fans. And I’m strongly recommending that people pre-order Anna Fitzpatrick’s Good Girl, which comes out in May; it’s funny, sexy, smart and endearing.”
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