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We asked Canadian independent bookstores to share which books they are most looking forward to reading this year. From a collection of essays on colonialism in contemporary Canada, to short fiction by trans women and calls for imaginative thinking in the face of coming climate crises, here’s what you should be reading in 2019. 

Rupert McNally of Ben McNally Books in Toronto recommends Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliot’s forthcoming book of essays, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Penguin Random House, March 26). “I found Elliott’s collection of essays to resonate in a fashion that very few books do,” McNally says. “The way she speaks about the burdens of depression is something personally recognizable, but then she uses the analogy of those burdens to describe the persistence of racism and colonialism, and its effects on individuals in this country, in a way that is both profound and heartbreaking. Throughout this book I found Elliott a remarkably clear-sighted commentator, and she uniquely shows that the personal is not just political, but the opposite is true, too.”

Andrew Hood from The Bookshelf in Guelph also recommends Elliot’s book. “It’s been a tumultuous couple of years in CanLit, in Canada, in the world,” Hood says. “Elliot, whose passion and perspicacity make her a must-read no matter her subject matter, is a writer well-equipped to both help make sense and make a difference.”

Peter Garden, the owner of Turning the Tide Bookstore in Saskatoon, recommends Darrin Qualman’s Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future (Fernwood Publishing, May). “Darrin is a long-time advocate for small farmers and sustainable agriculture who has been researching and synthesizing information for this book for a number of years,” Garden says. “He is an erudite and original thinker who takes a deep, multidisciplinary view of the issues examined in Civilization Critical. He is also an excellent public speaker. If you get a chance to see him speak on the tour for this book, we would highly recommend it.”

Jessica Walker of Munro Books in Victoria recommends Normal People by Sally Rooney (Penguin Random House, April 16), which was published in the U.K. last year and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Normal People is a novel about two teenagers from starkly different class backgrounds who come of age at Trinity College, Cambridge. Walker describes it as a “compelling, unusual love story” that is “already a staff favourite . . . it’s a novel about the inescapable challenges of friendship, family, and class, and everyone who has read it has been moved by its quiet, profound exploration of love and power.”

Walker also recommends Horizon by Barry Lopez (Penguin Random House, March 19). Lopez is an American essayist and author of the nonfiction classics Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men. Horizon “reflects on a lifetime of travel and exploration to some of the most extreme places on earth,” Walker says. “Lopez is a masterful writer, able to mix history and science with personal observation in a wonderful way. Of course, with so much of our world in imminent danger, his message about our place in a damaged world is particularly timely.”

Laura Ash from Another Story Bookshop in Toronto recommends Death Threat by Vivek Shraya (Arsenal Pulp, April 15), a haunting graphic novel about hate mail illustrated by Ness Lee, as well as Whatever Gets You Through (Greystone, April 16), a collection of essays about surviving sexual assault edited by Stacey May Fowles and Jen Sookfong Lee. Finally, for readers of short stories, Ash suggests Maiden, Mother, Crone (Bedside Press, Spring), a collection of fantastical short fiction by trans women writers edited by Gwen Benaway.

Ian Elliott of A Different Drummer Books in Burlington recommends science journalist Ziya Tong’s The Reality Bubble (Penguin Random House, May 14), which explores those aspects of our world that humans can’t see. Tong’s book “promises to be a confluence of ethical, sociological, technological and environmental insights, rigorously investigated, shared in a scintillating way,” Elliott says.

Finally, for young readers, Lisa Doucet from Woozles Books in Halifax recommends She Dreams of Sable Island: A Paper Doll Book, (Nimbus, May 31). Written and illustrated by Nova Scotian artist Briana Corr Scott, She Dreams is a picture book about the eponymous tiny island located 300 km off the coast of Nova Scotia. “Scott magnificently captures a sense of the untamed and fragile beauty of this tiny island,” Doucet says. “This is the tale of a girl who dreams of visiting this wild and wonderful place, of exploring its rocky shores and restless sand dunes and of discovering the flora and fauna that make their home there. The story is dreamy and wistful, atmospheric and pensive with illustrations that are equally so.”

What are you looking forward to reading this year? Let us know in the comments!

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Christina Turner

Christina Turner

Christina Turner grew up in Toronto and spent five years in Halifax, where she earned a BA from the University of King’s College. She then picked up and moved to the opposite side of the continent,...