As the days grow warmer and the nights draw out, there are still plenty of reasons to dive between the covers.
Table of contents
FICTION THAT WILL TAKE YOU NEAR AND FAR
This spring’s new fiction takes readers from Edmonton’s spring carnival to Toronto’s Little Jamaica, from Boer War South Africa to Revolutionary Iran; it asks timely questions about Artificial Intelligence, American foreign policy, wealth and greed; and gets under the skin and into the heads of some complicated, compelling characters.
Worst Case, We Get Married (Book*hug, May 8) by Sophie Bienvenu
A precocious Montreal teen reminiscent of Baby in Heather O’Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals navigates family failure and impossible love while on the path to becoming a woman in this seductive novel from Quebec. Translated from the French by J.C. Sutcliffe.
Red Birds (Grove/Atlantic, May 24) by Mohammed Hanif
An American pilot crashes in the desert on the outskirts of the camp he was supposed to bomb in the new novel by Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti). Red Birds is a witty and keenly observed story about the truth of American “aid” on a war-torn country.
The Snakes (HarperCollins, June 25) by Sadie Jones
Newlyweds Bea and Dan rent out their cramped London flat to travel Europe. Arriving at the French hotel run by Bea’s brother, they find a ramshackle, deserted place, home only to Alex and a nest of snakes in the attic. Then, Bea’s megarich parents make a surprise visit. Why doesn’t Bea want her husband to know them? Jones (The Outcast, The Uninvited Guests) evokes the compelling discomfort and estrangement of her previous, critically acclaimed work in her latest novel, a chilling contemporary tale of family dysfunction and shedding your (s)kin.
Fatboy Fall Down (ECW Press, April 9) by Rabindranath Maharaj
The author of The Amazing Absorbing Boy and Adjacentland is back with his second novel in as many years. His new work is the heartrending story of Orbits as he travels from childhood to old age, his simple dream thwarted by the tragedies that seem to define him.
Machines Like Me (Knopf, April 23) by Ian McEwan
The author of Atonement and The Children Act turns to speculative fiction for his latest. A moral tale, a mystery and a love story with a robotic human at its centre, Machines Like Me takes place in an alternate 1980s Britain.
The Waiting Hours (Viking, April 30) by Shandi Mitchell
Ten years after her internationally lauded debut, Under This Unbroken Sky, Nova Scotia’s Mitchell is back. On a stifling summer night, as a hurricane heads for the Maritimes, three first responders under immense pressures of work are forced to make some fateful choices.
Bina: A Novel in Warnings (Knopf, May 14) by Anakana Schofield
Schofield’s debut Malarky won the Amazon First Novel award and her sophomore novel, Martin John, was shortlisted for the Giller. Now she turns her deft, dark touch to the story of a woman who has had enough. A funny, complicated, uncomfortable novel in the form of a confession, Bina has drawn effusive advance praise from Rachel Cusk, Eden Robinson and Eimear McBride.
The Dead Celebrities Club (Cormorant Books, April 27) by Susan Swan
When his hedge fund gambles land Dale Paul in jail on multiple counts of fraud, he dreams up an illegal lottery to win back his fortune: betting on the deaths of old and frail celebrities. This is a timely novel about a con man getting wrapped up in his own deceit.
Moccasin Square Gardens (Douglas & McIntyre, April 27) by Richard Van Camp
The internationally renowned storyteller’s latest collection takes a dancehall in Fort Smith, NWT, as inspiration for its title. In this literary meeting place for stories dark, loving and funny, Van Camp captures the shifting and magical nature of the North.
AND INTRODUCING … FOUR DEBUTS TO WATCH
You Will Be Safe Here (House of Anansi, May 7) by Damian Barr
Arts journalist and London literary salonniere Damian Barr’s 2013 memoir, Maggie & Me, was a compelling, heartbreaking, yet funny story of growing up gay in a tough, working-class family in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. With his debut novel, Barr returns to some of the themes of survival from his personal story to tell two connected tales – set more than a century apart – that explore our capacity for cruelty and kindness.
The Melting Queen (NeWest Press, April 1) by Bruce Cinnamon
Edmonton’s century-old traditions are upended when gender-fluid ex-frat brother River Runson is crowned Melting Queen at the annual spring carnival. Combining history and satire, this debut aims to lay a foundational mythology for Edmonton. Think Vivek Shraya meets Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg.
Aria (Knopf, June 25) by Nazanine Hozar
Published on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, this sweeping novel of love, and loss tells the rags-to-riches story of an orphan girl coming of age in Tehran. “A Doctor Zhivago of Iran,” says Margaret Atwood.
Frying Plantain (House of Anansi, June 4) by Zalika Reid-Benta
This debut captures the tug of two worlds in 12 interconnected stories set in Toronto’s “Little Jamaica.” Protagonist Kara is caught between her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican. As she grows up, Kara navigates the tensions between cultures and generations, between black identity and predominantly white society, and between childhood and adulthood. An incisive debut that has already drawn praise from Lake Success author Gary Shteyngart: “an enormous voice for the coming decade," he gushes.
NEW IN NON-FICTION: ESSENTIAL GUIDES FOR UNDERSTANDING … EVERYTHING
Surviving sexual assault, the science of musical taste, national trauma and an infamous life of crime. This season’s most notable new non-fiction books are edifying, essential reading.
Wish I Were Here: Boredom and the Interface (McGill-Queen’s University Press, April 9) by Mark Kingwell
Addicted to your screens? Constantly scrolling in search of elusive mental stimulation or happiness? The University of Toronto philosophy professor and prolific author offers an antidote to our constant immersion in technology.
Losing Earth: A Recent History (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, April 9) by Nathaniel Rich
An expansion of Rich’s groundbreaking New York Times Magazine piece of the same name, this book chronicles the decade beginning in 1979 when the world could have stopped climate change – but did not. An essential work of dramatic history that looks at how we got to where we are and how we must move forward.
Whatever Gets You Through: Twelve Survivors on Life After Sexual Assault (Greystone Books, April 16) edited by Stacey May Fowles and Jen Sookfong Lee and with a foreword by Jessica Valenti
Sexual assault doesn’t end with a single act of violence; it remains with a survivor forever. Here, 12 diverse writers share their stories of trauma, endurance, adaptation and strength. This candid collection, which features contributions by writers including Gwen Benaway, Amber Dawn, Alicia Elliot, Heather O’Neill, Elisabeth de Mariaffi and Kai Cheng Thom, is a necessary expansion of the conversations becoming more public in the era of #MeToo.
Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste (Flatiron Books, April 30) Nolan Gasser
A scientific, psychological and sociological analysis of what makes people the world over identify certain types of music as happy or sad, toe-tappy or bad. Billed as a “definitive and groundbreaking examination of how your mind, body and upbringing influence the music you love,” this will appeal to readers of Daniel J. Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music or Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste.
Me, Myself, They: Life Beyond the Binary (House of Anansi, May 7) by Joshua M. Ferguson
A celebrated filmmaker, writer, artist and advocate for trans rights, Ferguson made history in 2018 when they received Ontario’s first non-binary birth certificate. This is their poignant, honest and inspiring story of transformation.
Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (Little, Brown & Company, May 7) by Jared Diamond
More than 20 years after the publication of his Pulitzer Prize-winning, internationally bestselling history of civilization, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond concludes his trilogy (which also includes 2005’s Collapse) and reveals how and why some nations recover from trauma.
The Golden Boy of Crime: The Almost Certainly True Story of Norman “Red” Ryan (HarperCollins, May 14) by Jim Brown
Notorious gangster Norman (Red) Ryan achieved infamy in the 1920s and thirties, first as an armed robber and safe-cracker and later as a model prisoner after he became the first Canadian granted parole (from Kingston Penitentiary). But on the outside, while publicly denouncing his own past, he was living a double life of gang crime. In the vein of Erik Larsen’s The Devil in the White City or Dean Jobb’s Empire of Deception, CBC radio host and reporter Brown tells Ryan’s remarkable, colourful story.
City of Omens: A Search for the Missing Women of the Borderlands (Bloomsbury, June 4) by Dan Werb
Over the past 10 years, Tijuana has become one of the world’s most dangerous cities, especially for women. Epidemiologist and investigative journalist Werb traces the multiple causes of the city’s femicide – a trail that leads through drug dens, police corruption, immigration, human trafficking and American empire-building.
CELEBRATE POETRY MONTH
The Caiplie Caves (House of Anansi, April 9) by Karen Solie
The latest collection from the Griffin Poetry Prize-winner draws on a seventh-century story to talk about transition in times of crisis.
Twitch Force (House of Anansi, April 9) by Michael Redhill
Love and loss, aging and timelessness are among the ideas explored by Scotiabank Giller Prize-winner Redhill in his first collection in close to two decades.
Hope Matters (Book*hug, April 15) by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter
This collaboration between the multiaward-winning Maracle and her daughters tells the journey of Indigenous people from colonial beginnings to reconciliation alongside the personal journey of a mother and her daughters.
Mad Long Emotion, (Coach House Books, April 9) by Ben Ladouceur
The winner of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Best Emerging LGBTQ Writer “wants to talk flora to fauna like you” in his second collection, where every species is looking for love.
Inconvenient Skin (Theytus Books, May 25) by Shane L. Koyczan
The celebrated spoken-word artist publishes – in a dual-language English-Cree edition – his powerful piece about reconciliation and healing originally released in 2017. Now with art by Kent Monkman, photography by Nadya Kwandibens and illustrations by Joseph M. Sanchez and Jim Logan.
FOR YOUNG READERS
Eleven new books take young readers on journeys of self-discovery and first love, introduce concepts of conservation and quiet time, and educate about music, fashion, and the engineering that put a man on the moon and a woman at the helm of building the Brooklyn Bridge.
Love from A to Z (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, April 30, Age 14+) by S.K. Ali
Activist teen Zayneb is starting spring break early after a suspension from a hateful teacher. She’s decided to try out a “nicer” persona on vacation. Adam, recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is intent on protecting his grieving father and keeping his mother’s memory alive for his younger sister. What ensues is romance starring two Muslim teens both hiding their real selves.
Kings, Queens and In-Betweens (Simon Pulse, May 7, Age 12+) by Tanya Boteju
Billed as “Judy Blume meets RuPaul’s Drag Race,” this debut is the poignant and funny story of a queer teen asking questions about identity and experimenting with the exciting world of drag.
We Contain Multitudes (Penguin Teen, May 14, Age 14+) by Sara Henstra
Winner of the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for adult fiction, Henstra is better known to younger readers as the author of Mad Miss Mimic. In her second novel for teens, she tells the story of a growing relationship between two teenage boys through the letters they write to one another.
Operatic (Groundwood Books, April 1, Age 10-14) by Kyo Maclear; illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
This highly anticipated debut graphic novel combines music history and contemporary middle-school drama in a story that conveys the power of art, music and opera.
KIDS’ PICTURE BOOKS
Albert’s Quiet Quest (Tundra Books, May 7, Ages 4-8) by Isabelle Arsenault
The multiaward-winning children’s author-illustrator shares the adorably relatable story of a quiet Montreal kid who wants to be left alone with his books and his imagination – a reminder for children and grown-ups alike that it’s good to find some quiet time.
The Pencil (Inhabit Media, April 16) by Susan Avingaq, Maren Vsetula; illustrated by Charlene Chua
Three siblings who have learned the importance of using things wisely experience a rare treat while their Anaana (mother) is out for the day and their Ataata (father) lets them play with the family’s only pencil and piece of paper. Based on author Avingaq’s memories of growing up in an iglu, this is a captivating story about making the most of what you have. Also available in Inuktitut.
Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden (Kids Can Press, May 7) by Andrew Larsen; illustrated by Anne Villeneuve.
A friendship blooms between two young boys in the city when they accidentally plant a garden in an empty grey lot. As the garden blossoms, so does the community around it in a story that highlights the importance of connecting with nature and civic engagement.
NON-FICTION FOR KIDS AND TEENS
Moon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11 (Kids Can Press, May 7, Age 10-14) by Sigmund Brouwer
Expect to see a meteor shower of books this spring that nod to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Told from the point of the view of the Apollo 11 astronauts, this book is packed with math, engineering, science and technology lessons for readers for whom 1969 seems ancient history.
Follow That Bee! A First Book of Bees in the City (Kids Can Press, April 2, Age 4-7) by Scot Ritchie
Five friends visit the hives in their neighbour’s garden and learn everything there is to know about honeybees in this sweet, illustrated lesson in why the world needs bees and how humans can help them to thrive.
Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History (Owlkids, April 15, Ages 9-12) by Dr. Alison Matthews-David and Serah-Marie McMahon; illustrated by Gillian Wilson
A fashion historian and the founder of WORN Fashion Journal reveal the sinister side of fabulous fashion and make connections between trends ancient and Instagram. Based on Matthews-David’s adult book Fashion Victims.
How Emily Saved the Bridge: The Story of Emily Warren Roebling and the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge (Groundwood Books, May 1, Age 7-10) by Frieda Wishinsky; illustrated by Natalie Nelson.
Behind every great man, there has to be … When the chief engineer on the Brooklyn Bridge fell ill with compression sickness, his wife, Emily, stepped in. This is her inspirational story.
Becky Toyne is the “Should I Read It?” columnist for Day 6 on CBC Radio and a regular contributor to Globe Books.
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