A Book by an Author from Toronto: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge
If you are a data geek like me, you already know that the 2021 Census population data is now available by Statistics Canada. The results show that there are over 2.79 million people who call Toronto home! While only population data is currently available, data sets on age, type of dwelling, and more will be released throughout the year. I may be biased when I say Toronto is a fantastic city, so I'm eagerly awaiting more census numbers to prove my case. In the meantime, from Scarborough to Etobicoke, North York to Old Toronto, with East York and York in-between, here are some books written by authors who call Toronto home.
Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
Set in Toronto's Eglinton West Little Jamaica neighbourhood, Frying Plaintain tells the story of Kara Davis, a young adult trying to balance her Canadian identity with her Jamaican heritage. The book follows Kara as she moves from childhood to university through twelve interconnected short stories that weave together narratives of mothers and daughters, along with expectations placed on children of immigrants.
—Nalini, Senior Branch Head
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
An oldie but a goodie. This is a beautiful and poetic look at the hidden histories of the city we take for granted every day, replete with both passion and grief. It was a required read for one of my undergrad courses, but it has stuck with me throughout the years and I've never been able to look at the Bloor viaduct the same way again!
Once More, With Feeling by Sophie McCreesh
Like the TPL website states, this book is great for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh and other sharp, deadpan, novels that explore the inner experience of a character on the brink of self-destruction. It is a novel about trudging through your early twenties and navigating responsibilities while still figuring yourself out. Content Warning for addiction.
Moody Food by Ray Robertson
This is a 1960s Yorkville story about a young man from Etobicoke, and a charismatic musician (loosely based on Gram Parsons.) They form a band and embark on a quest for musical greatness that takes them on a drug-fueled tour across the continent. This book features many familiar Toronto landmarks and gives the reader a glimpse into the oft-tragic, hedonistic pursuits of the hippie era.
—Tomasz, Library Assistant
Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: Stories by Vincent Lam
This Giller prize-winning book is described as a collection of short stories, but the stories are so closely related to each other it really reads like a novel. The stories follow several students from their medical school experiences into their early careers. The emotional and thoughtful descriptions of the highs and lows of working in medicine draw directly from Lam's own lived experience as an ER doctor in Toronto!
Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Although Mariko Tamaki has a number of works under her belt, my favourite is Skim, a coming of age story about 16 year old Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka Skim). The story takes place in Toronto, where the author grew up. After the boyfriend of one of Skim's classmates kills himself, the students deal with the fallout in different ways.
What We All Long For by Dionne Brand
A richly textured contemporary novel about the universal experience of being human as experienced and seen through the eyes of 5 multi-racial, polyphonic friends trying to make a life for themselves in the city, supporting one another through their family struggles, identity, loss and longing.
—Nancy, Public Service Assistant
Kicking the Sky by Anthony Da Sa
Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa was a tough but great read. Set in Toronto in 1977 when Emanuel Jaques, a recent Portuguese Immigrant, working as a shoeshine boy was kidnapped and murdered. The writing is gritty and dealt with real issues that still exist today: working parents, holding numerous jobs, and not being able to protect their children due to time constraints. It's not an easy book to read but one of those that holds you tight once you start.
—Katherine, Library Assistant
Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez
I think what is really amazing about this book is that Hernandez is able to brilliantly handle multiple points of view in one novel! It's a page-turning story centred around three families attending a literacy program at an elementary school in Scarborough. It's an intimate snapshot of a diverse community in Toronto that we rarely get to see in literature.
Lucky by Marissa Stapley
An entertaining book about a girl named Lucky Armstrong, a con artist/grifter who just pulled off a million-dollar heist with her boyfriend. She’s ready to start a brand new life when things go a little crazy! This book was chosen to be the first-ever Canadian pick for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club! Whoo-hoo!
—Pia, Branch Head
Adventure Time Series by Ryan North
Any of Ryan North's books would be a great choice for this category. I love his Adventure Time stuff and his work on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. He's got some cool choose-your-own-path Shakespeare books that are fun. He and Albert Monteys did a terrific graphic novel adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five in 2020. Can't go wrong with Dinosaur Comics, either.
—Jen, Branch Head
Immigrant City and David Bezmozgis
Two books by one of my favourite authors, David Bezmozgis—Immigrant City and The Free World, were both inspired by and based on the author's family experience of immigration to Canada, settling in and finding their footing in Toronto. Great storytelling and opportunity to see our city through different lenses.
Recommendations from the Facebook Group
We received over 80 comments for this category from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2022 discussion group. Here are a few of those recommendations, and you can read all of the responses in the original post. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.
- Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
- Brother by David Chariandy
- Fight Night by Miriam Toews
- Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
- Consolation by Michael Redhill
- The Push by Ashley Audrain
- Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
If you're still undecided about this category, the TPL website has resources that may help:
What would you recommend for "a book by an author from Toronto”? Add your suggestions in the comments section below.