As we look back on a garbage 2020, it becomes even more important to note the bright lights; in this case some stellar reads. Books are ultimately about ideas, and these 10 have us talking and paying attention.
A novel about the coming of age in the midst of #MeToo, My Dark Vanessa follows a bright, ambitious and eager to grow up 15-year old Vanessa Wye as she navigates complex feelings and an entangled affair with her forty-two-year old English teacher. The teacher now stands accused of sexual abuse by a former student who reaches out to Vanessa. Called thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this novel doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, asking thoughtful questions along the way.
In the first volume of his highly-anticipated presidential memoirs, Barack Obama traces his journey from a young man searching for his identity to holding the highest seat in American politics. Candid and highly personal, Obama dives into the roots of his political education and the landmark moments of his historic presidency.
While on the surface the Vignes twins are identical, their lives take them on very different paths. Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Brit Bennett tells the story of two sisters who grow up in a small southern Black community before running away at age 16. As adults, it’s not just their daily lives that are vastly different; it’s their families, their communities, and their racial identities. One sister lives with her daughter in the same town she once left, while the other, white-passing, has built a family who knows nothing of her past. Still, the sisters’ paths remain intertwined and are bound to intersect, even those many years later.
Always in touch with the times while remaining timeless, Kaur is out with another fan-favourite – this time a collection of reflections on the past, the present, and the potential of the self.
After making the stunning announcement that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer last year, the host of Jeopardy! and Canadian legend Alex Trebek received an outpouring of love and support. While he resisted requests to pen a memoir for years, it was this outpouring of kindness that moved him to write a book about his life.
If you’re in the mood for darker reads for those bone-chilling winter nights, New York Times bestselling author Silvia Moreno-Garcia penned just the thing. Set in glamorous 1950s Mexico, this gothic horror plot unfolds in an isolated mansion with a preternaturally charismatic aristocrat. Brave socialite Noemí Taboada heads to High Place mansion after receiving a disturbing letter from her newlywed cousin, even as she is unsure of what waits for her there.
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Highlight the social injustice and racism felt by many Black Canadians, Desmond Cole’s latest work builds on his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life. Even focused on just one year – 2017 – Cole was able to document numerous instances of racism in a country that likes to pride itself on being more progressive than its southern neighbour.
Another work of non-fiction that ought ought to be relegated to the realm of “too unbelievable to be true,” Missing From the Village walks readers through the tragic disappearance of eight men from Toronto’s gay village – each whom fell victim to serial killer Bruce McArthur. Even as the formal police investigation was shut down and as police continued to deny that there was a threat to the community, journalist Justin Ling began piecing together evidence of the opposite.
Another witty and poignant work by Indigenous author and broadcast presenter Thomas King, Indians on Vacation follows couple Bird and Mimi as they traverse some of Europe’s most famous capitals while on vacation, revealing a complicated past – both their own and political.
A blunt look at America’s own hidden caste system, author Isabel Wilkerson breaks down how power shapes real lives – throughout history and today. Researched and immersive, Caste goes beyond the markers of race, and class to examine how the levers of power shape a nation behind-the-scenes and in everyday lives.
See also: Reading recs: 20 books by Canadian women writers that will inspire women to be their best selves.