Canada (Next) Reads: Follow-ups for your faves

Our preferred kind of March Madness is CBC’s annual battle of the books, Canada Reads. Did you catch this week’s debates? Whether your favourite book came out on top or you’re devastated by an early upset, we chose your next read based on this year’s finalists.

Follow-up Reads for this Year's CBC Canada Reads Contenders


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If you liked Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune,
try Molly of the Mall by Heidi L.M. Jacobs (NeWest Press)

A photo of Mirian Njoh holding Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune. A labelled arrow points to Molly of the Mall by Heidi L.M. Jacobs.

Mirian Njoh pointed to the accessibility of the romance genre in general, and her Canada Reads pick Meet Me at the Lake in particular, during the first day of the Canada Reads debates. Folks who dipped their toe back into the (lake) waters of reading might find pleasing parallels in our recommended follow-up: Heidi L.M. Jacobs’s Molly of the Mall. This book has a strong sense of place – the West Edmonton Mall in the 90s – just as Meet Me at the Lake took readers to 00s Toronto. And as a winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour, readers will find the laughs, romance, and plucky protagonist Molly equally transporting.

If you liked Denison Avenue by Christina Wong and
Daniel Innes (ECW Press), try
Reimagining Chinatown: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction,
edited by Linda Zhang (Mawenzi House)

A photo of Naheed Nenshi holding Denison Avenue. A labelled arrow points to Reimagining ChinaTOwn.

We loved how Christine Wong and Daniel Innes’ Denison Avenue catalogues Toronto’s Kensington Market / Chinatown neighbourhood and all of its familiar faces and places, allowing readers to discover or rediscover them. By shining a light on that which is often passed by, this writer-illustrator duo gives us a chance to cradle these characters, and dwell in these places. The anthology Reimagining Chinatown turns the familiar into the aspirational. Nine Chinese-Canadian writers created speculative fiction pieces about what Chinatown represents now – a place of identity, culture, and gathering – and how it can grow further into these representations into the future.

If you liked Bad Cree by Jessica Johns, try
Blue Bear Woman by Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau,
translated by Susan Ouriou and Christelle Morelli
(Inanna Publications)

A photo of Dallas Soonias holding Bad Cree. A labelled arrow points to Blue Bear Woman.

Jessica Johns writes a circle of strong, loving Cree women around the reader, so that you are enveloped by their care and concern, just as main character Mackenzie is in the novel. The main character in Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau’s Blue Bear Woman, Victoria, is also a Cree woman returning to her roots. Her family members – aunts, uncles, and cousins – regale her with stories about her family and childhood. As she seeks to release the weight on her own spirit, it comes to pass that she might be able to help her Great Uncle’s soul, as well – just as Mackenzie seeks to free the spirit of her sister in Bad Cree.

If you liked The Future by Catherine Leroux,
translated by Susan Ouriou (Biblioasis), try
Send More Tourists…the Last Ones Were Delicious by
Tracey Waddleton (Breakwater Books)

A photo of Heather O'Neill holding The Future. A labelled arrow points to Send More Tourists...the Last Ones were Delicious.

Heather O’Neill’s Canada Reads pick The Future by Catherine Leroux asks the reader to imagine growth after devastation, instead of more devastation. The miniature utopias – a community of children, a shared garden – that spring up after a disaster in the imagined city of Fort Détroit speak to hope in The Future, even when present-day conditions feel bleak. The short stories in Tracey Waddleton’s collection Send More Tourists, the Last Ones Were Delicious also speak to survival and surreal conditions, but also leave the reader laughing, hoping, and yearning for more whip-smart writing.

If you liked Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji
(Arsenal Pulp Press), try Feel Ways: A Scarborough
Anthology, edited by Adrian De Leon, Téa Mutonji, and
Natasha Ramoutar (Mawenzi House)

A photo of Kudakwashe Rutendo holding Shut Up You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji. A labelled arrow points to Feel Ways: A Scarborough Anthology.

Téa Mutonji’s debut, the linked collection of stories Shut Up You’re Pretty, allows the reader to walk the back paths and culturally-diverse neighbourhoods of Scarborough, through the eyes of Lowly, the stories’ main character. The city-within-a-city is a perfect backdrop for her character’s self-discovery and growth. Scarborough is also the inspiration for the stories, poems, and essays in Feel Ways, an anthology by Scarborough writers (and co-edited by Mutonji, too!). Brother writer David Chariandy calls the anthology an “original tribute to the ache and love of a place.”

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What was your fave read from this year’s Canada Reads bout? What will you read next? Let us know on social @alllitupcanada.