Immerse yourself in five award-winning releases from up-and-coming Toronto authors.
Toronto is the setting of a literary Renaissance, with a new crop of talent sharing stories about its neighbourhood experiences. Here are five page-turners, plus top bookshops and events for those seeking a better read on our city.
Scarborough, by Catherine Hernandez
Catherine Hernandez’s multi-award winning debut novel shines the spotlight on Scarborough, a diverse east-end neighbourhood that includes areas struggling with poverty and neglect. Scarborough looks at the challenges faced by various BIPOC residents as they fight the odds and make their way in this tight-knit, resilient community.
Scarborough’s recent film adaptation was a breakout hit at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
The Amazing Absorbing Boy, by Rabindranath Maharaj
Heavily steeped in comic book culture, Rabindranath Maharaj’s fourth novel tells the story of 17-year-old Samuel, a newcomer who has immigrated from Trinidad in the wake of his mother’s death. Funny and poignant, The Amazing Absorbing Boy is chockablock with molemen, chimeras and super-villains, as well as insights into Regent Park and other Toronto landscapes.
The Amazing Absorbing Boy won the 2010 Trillium Book Award and 2011 Toronto Book Award.
Brother, by David Chariandy
Set in a Scarborough housing complex and the leafy terrain of Rouge Valley (now known as Rouge National Urban Park), Brother looks at racism, class, masculinity and the dreams of upward mobility harboured by its young adult protagonist. This fast-paced novel is driven by hip hop, romance and timeliness as North American cities address issues around race and policing.
Brother won the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was a Canada Reads 2019 finalist.
The Pitiful Human-Lizard, by Jason Loo
The Pitiful Human Lizard comic book series chronicles the travails of Lucas Barrett, an office clerk with a side hustle as an evening and weekend superhero. It all begins when Barrett participates as a test subject in a pharmaceutical company’s painkiller trial… Much crime-fighting ensues, sprawling across downtown locales like Kensington Market, the Annex, College Street and iconic landmarks from yesteryear.
The Pitiful Human-Lizard was nominated for the 2015 Gene Day – Joe Shuster comic book award.
Magnified World, by Grace O’Connell
An exploration of loss and identity, Magnified World starts with a mother’s death and charts the grief—or “madness”—of Maggie, a twenty-something Torontonian. Maggie must take over the family’s New Age crystal business while navigating her own health issues and mysteries associated with her mother’s past.
Grace O’Connell won the Canadian Authors Association’s 2014 Emerging Writer Award.
Where to shop
Now that you’ve got your reading list, visit these independent bookshops—or order online to read up before your Toronto trip.
For BIPOC voices
A Different Booklist (The Annex) highlights books by authors from the African and Caribbean diaspora and global south. You’ll find literature, non-fiction, poetry, education, small press and kids/young adult lit.
For 2SLGBTQ+ lit
Glad Day Bookshop (Church-Wellesley Village), a 2SLGBTQ+-community mainstay since 1970. This café-bookshop-bar’s selection includes fiction, non-fiction, manga, education, kids/young adult and more, with a focus on diversity including marginalized communities.
For cookbooks and art
Type Books (multiple locations), which has a solid general booklist of literary fiction and a smartly curated selection of art books and cookbooks.
For comics and graphic novels
West End Comics (Parkdale) carries second-hand classics and new releases, plus games, action figures and other cool collectibles.
For kids and young adults
Mabel’s Fables (Davisville) covers an array of interests for bookworms from babies to adults (young and young at heart), including Indigenous reads for all ages.
Finally, if you’re a dedicated word nerd, bookmark these annual fall festivals celebrating print and the spoken work.
Kick off the cozy season (i.e. cozy-up-with-a-good-book season) with the Word on the Street. Toronto’s annual festival is a celebration of books, magazines and literacy, complete with gargantuan marketplace.
Next, follow contemporary literature’s brightest lights at the Toronto International Festival of Authors. International novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers and biographers participate in readings, conversations, performances and workshops.