Last year, I was determined to read more books written by Canadian authors and I did. Each year, approximately 10,000 Canadian books are released by publishers and their imprints from coast to coast. Putting together my 2017 reading list just got a wee bit more difficult, but I’m not complaining!
Here are 17 books from Canadian authors I can’t wait to read in 2017. These titles will be hitting shelves between January and June.
Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Dr. Danielle Martin, Publisher: Allen Lane
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Dr. Danielle Martin see the challenges in our health care system every day. As a family doctor and a hospital vice president, she observes how those deficiencies adversely affect patients. And as a health policy expert, she knows how to close those gaps. A passionate believer in the value of fairness that underpins the Canadian health care system, Dr. Martin is on a mission to improve medicare. In Better Now, she shows how bold fixes are both achievable and affordable. Her patients’ stories and her own family’s experiences illustrate the evidence she presents about what works best to improve health care for all.
Transit by Rachel Cusk
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: In the wake of family collapse, a writer moves to London with her two young sons. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, practical—as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.
Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed novel Outline, and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change. In this precise, short, and yet epic novel, Cusk manages to describe the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life, through a narrative near-silence that draws language toward it. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one’s life and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real.
Steal Away Home by Karolyn Smardz Frost
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: In this compelling work of narrative non-fiction, Governor General’s Award winner Karolyn Smardz Frost brings Cecelia’s story to life. Cecelia was a teenager when she made her dangerous bid for freedom from the United States, across the Niagara River and into Canada. Escape meant that she would never see her mother or brother again. She would be cut off from the young mistress with whom she grew up, but who also owned her as a slave holder owns the body of a slave. This was a time when people could be property, when a beloved father could be separated from his wife while their children were auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the son of a white master and his black housekeeper could become a slave to his own white half-sister and brother-in-law.
Cecelia found a new life in Toronto’s vibrant African American expatriate community. Her rescuer became her husband, a courageous conductor on the Underground Railroad helping other freedom-seekers reach Canada. Widowed, she braved the Fugitive Slave Law to cross back into the United States, where she again found love, and followed her William into the battlefields of the Civil War. Finally, with a wounded husband and young children in tow, she returned to the Kentucky she had known as a child. But her home had changed: hooded Night Riders roamed the countryside with torches and nooses at the ready. When William disappeared, Cecelia relied on the support and affection of her former mistress—the Southern belle who had owned her as a child.
Only five of the letters between Cecelia and her former mistress, Fanny Thruston Ballard, have survived. They are testament to the great love and the lifelong friendship that existed between these two very different women. Reunited after years apart, the two lived within a few blocks of each other for the rest of Fanny’s life.
Unbound: Finding Myself on Top of the World by Steph Jagger
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Steph Jagger had seen the ski-lift sign thousands of times—“Raise Restraining Device,” it read—but one day she took it personally as a rallying cry to shake off the life she had for the life she wanted. She had always been a force of nature, so why was she still holding herself back? Dissatisfied with the passive, limited roles she saw for women when she was growing up, Steph emulated the men in her life—chasing success, climbing the corporate ladder, ticking the boxes, playing by the rules. She was accomplished. She was living “The Dream.” But it wasn’t her dream.
In a moment, the sign on the ski lift became her mantra, and she knew she had to change her life. So Jagger walked away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a plane ticket. For the next year, she followed winter across five continents on a mission to break the world record for most vertical feet skied in a year. What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life, melt it down to its elements and get to the very centre of herself. An emotional story of courage and self-discovery that will appeal to readers of Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, Unbound will inspire readers to remove their own restraining devices, whatever they may be.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Exquisitely imagined and hypnotically told, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. Set in the early part of the 20th Century, it is an unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose fortune hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to escape one’s origins. It might also take true love.
Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their true talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing for the rich, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.
Separated as teenagers, both escape into the city’s underworld, where they must use their uncommon gifts to survive without each other. Ruthless and unforgiving, Montreal in the 1930’s is no place for song and dance. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes, the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make those dream come true. After Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls hit the stage and the alleys, the underworld will never look the same.
With extraordinary storytelling, musical language, and an extravagantly realized world, acclaimed author Heather O’Neill enchants us with her best novel yet — one so magical there is no escaping its spell.
The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Maybe it was the sting of remarks from a relative or friend. Maybe a miscarriage ended your hopes for a family. For all of your heartbreaks, maybe you wished there was someone to help you through. For Wilma Derksen, letting go of the 15 misconceptions about grief led her back to hope. In this book she tells how you can do the same.
Wilma’s world collapsed when her teenage daughter, Candace, was taken hostage and murdered. Wilma now shares her choices to “let go” of heartbreak, which gave her the courage to navigate through the dark waters of sorrow. Like Wilma, maybe your heartbreak forced you to retreat from happy expectations, of believing that life is fair, of finding closure for every circumstance. She encourages patiently: let go of the happy ending, let go of perfect justice, let go of fear, and let go of closure. Wilma’s wisdom will help you overcome your broken heart, and her advice will enable you to break free of pain to live a life of true joy.
Men Walking on Water by Emily Schultz
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Men Walking on Water opens on a bitter winter’s night in 1927, with a motley gang of small-time smugglers huddled on the banks of the Detroit River, peering towards Canada on the opposite side. A catastrophe has just occurred: while driving across the frozen water by moonlight, a decrepit Model T loaded with whisky has broken the ice and gone under–and with it, driver Alfred Moss and a bundle of money. From that defining moment, the novel weaves its startling, enthralling story, with the missing man at its centre, a man who affects all the characters in different ways. In Detroit, a young mother becomes a criminal to pay down the debt her husband, assumed dead, has left behind; a Pentecostal preacher brazenly uses his church to fund his own bootlegging operation even as he lectures against the perils of drink; and across the river, a French-Canadian woman runs her booming brothel business with the permission of the powerful Detroit gangsters who are her patrons.
The looming background to this extraordinary story, as compelling as any character, is the city of Detroit–a place of grand dreams and brutal realities in 1927 as it is today, fuelled by capitalist expansion and by the collapse that follows, sitting on the border between countries, its citizens walking precariously across the river between pleasure and abstinence. This is an absolutely stunning, mature, and compulsively readable novel from one of our most talented and unique writers.
So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When Catherine Reindeer vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Moving back and forth from her outer circle of acquaintances to her closest intimates, So Much Love reveals how an unexpected disappearance can overturn the lives of those left behind: Catherine’s fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother seeks comfort in saying her name over and over again. Her professor finds himself thinking of her constantly. Her husband refuses to give up hope that she will one day return. But at the heart of the novel is Catherine’s own surprising story of resilience and recovery. When, after months of captivity, a final devastating loss forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows.
A riveting novel that deftly examines the complexity of love and the power of stories to shape our lives, So Much Love confirms Rebecca Rosenblum’s reputation as one of the most gifted and distinctive writers of her generation.
The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep by Steven Heighton
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Elias Trifannis is desperate to belong somewhere. To make his dying ex-cop father happy, he joins the military – but in Afghanistan, by the time he realizes his last-minute bid for connection was a terrible mistake, it’s too late and a tragedy has occurred.
In the aftermath, exhausted by nightmares, Elias is sent to Cyprus to recover, where he attempts to find comfort in the arms of Eylul, a beautiful Turkish journalist. But the lovers’ reprieve ends in a moment of shocking brutality that drives Elias into Varosha, once a popular Greek-Cypriot resort town, abandoned since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Hidden in the lush, overgrown ruins is a community of exiles and refugees living resourcefully but comfortably. Thanks to the cheerfully corrupt Colonel Kaya, who turns a blind eye, they live under the radar of the Turkish authorities.
As he begins to heal, Elias finds himself drawn to the enigmatic and secretive Kaiti while he learns at last to “simply belong.” But just when it seems he has found sanctuary, events he himself set in motion have already begun to endanger it.
Mitzi Bytes by Kerry Clare
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Sarah Lundy has a secret online life, and it might all come crashing down.
Back at the beginning of the new millennium, when the Internet was still unknown territory, Sarah Lundy started an anonymous blog documenting her return to the dating scene after a devastating divorce. The blog was funny, brutally honest and sometimes outrageous. Readers loved it. Through her blog persona, “Mitzi Bytes,” Sarah not only found her feet again, but she found her voice.
Fifteen years later, Sarah is happily remarried with children and she’s still blogging, but nobody IRL—not even her husband or best friends—knows about Mitzi. They don’t know that Sarah’s been documenting all her own exploits, as well as mining the experiences of those around her and sharing these stories with the world. Which means that Sarah is in serious trouble when threatening emails arrive from the mysterious Jane Q. Time’s up, the first one says. You’re officially found out.
As she tries to find out Jane Q’s identity before her secret online self is revealed to everyone, Sarah starts to discover that her loved ones have secrets of their own, and that stronger forces than she imagined are conspiring to turn her world upside down.
A grown-up Harriet the Spy for the digital age, Mitzi Bytes examines the bonds of family and friendship, and the truths we dare tell about ourselves—and others.
Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: The capacity to be alone–properly alone–is one of life’s subtlest skills. Real solitude is a contented and productive state that garners tangible rewards: it allows us to reflect and recharge, improving our relationships with ourselves and, paradoxically, with others. Today, the zeitgeist embraces sharing like never before. Fueled by our dependence on online and social media, we have created an ecosystem of obsessive distraction that dangerously undervalues solitude. Many of us now lead lives of strangely crowded loneliness–we are ever-connected, but only shallowly so.
Award-winning author Michael Harris examines why our experience of solitude has become so impoverished, and how we may grow to love it again in the frenzy of our digital landscape. Solitude is an optimistic and encouraging story about discovering true quiet inside the city, inside the crowd, inside our busy and urbane lives. Harris guides readers away from a life of ceaseless pings toward a state of measured connectivity, one that balances solitude and companionship.
Rich with true stories about the life-changing power of solitude, and interwoven with reporting from the world’s foremost brain researchers, psychologists and tech entrepreneurs, Solitude is a beautiful and prescriptive statement on the benefits of being alone.
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: When Sharon Butala’s husband, Peter, died unexpectedly, she found herself with no place to call home. Torn by grief and loss, she fled the ranchlands of southwest Saskatchewan and moved to the city, leaving almost everything behind. A lifetime of possessions was reduced to a few boxes of books, clothes, and keepsakes. But a lifetime of experience went with her, and a limitless well of memory—of personal failures, of a marriage that everybody said would not last but did, of the unbreakable bonds of family.
Reinventing herself in an urban landscape was painful, and facing her new life as a widow tested her very being. Yet out of this hard-won new existence comes an astonishingly frank, compassionate and moving memoir that offers not only solace and hope but inspiration to those who endure profound loss.
Often called one of this country’s true visionaries, Sharon Butala shares her insights into the grieving process and reveals the small triumphs and funny moments that kept her going. Where I Live Now is profound in its understanding of the many homes women must build for themselves in a lifetime.
Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine by Dr. James Maskalyk
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: In this deeply personal book, humanitarian doctor and activist James Maskalyk, author of the highly acclaimed Six Months in Sudan, draws upon his experience treating patients in the world’s emergency rooms. From Toronto to Addis Ababa, Cambodia to Bolivia, he discovers that although the cultures, resources and medical challenges of each hospital may differ, they are linked indelibly by the ground floor: the location of their emergency rooms. Here, on the ground floor, is where Dr. Maskalyk witnesses the story of “human aliveness”–our mourning and laughter, tragedies and hopes, the frailty of being and the resilience of the human spirit. And it’s here too that he is swept into the story, confronting his fears and doubts and questioning what it is to be a doctor.
Masterfully written and artfully structured, Life on the Ground Floor is more than just an emergency doctor’s memoir or travelogue–it’s a meditation on health, sickness and the wonder of human life.
The Weekend Effect by Katrina Onstad
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Synopsis from HarperCollins: A persuasive, practical, and much needed manifesto that makes the case for reclaiming our weekends to increase joy, creativity, productivity, and success in our lives.
Award-winning journalist Katrina Onstad’s The Weekend Effect asks us to reconsider the role of the weekend in our lives—often lost to overbooked schedules, domestic chores, shopping, pinging devices, and encroaching work demands—debunking the belief that you have to be on 24/7 in a 24/7 economy to be successful, and revealing the extensive benefits of a well-lived weekend.
We’re working more hours that we did a decade ago, and worse, we allow those hours to slide over seven days a week, leaving no space or time to tune out and recharge. We don’t need the research to tell us that this is hurting us. Our health is deteriorating, our social networks (the face-to-face kind) are weak, and our productivity is down. It wasn’t long ago that working less and living more was considered an American virtue. So what happened?
Digging into the history, the positive psychology, and the cultural anthropology of the great, missing weekend, Onstad, herself suffering from Sunday-night letdown, pushes back against the all-work-no-fun ethos, and follows the trail of people, companies and countries who are vigilantly protecting their weekends for joy, adventure, and most importantly, for meaning.
Onstad offers real-world strategies for wrestling back this lost time with how-to practices in making the most of the weekend. Readers of The Happiness Project, All Joy and No Fun, and Thrive will find personal and business inspiration in this well-researched argument to save the weekend, and as a result, save ourselves. A well-lived weekend, filled with face-to-face socializing, idleness, and nature, is the gateway to a well-lived life.
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Publication Date: April 15, 2017
Synopsis from Dundurn Press: A daughter’s search for her mother reveals her family’s past in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.
Lily Takemitsu goes missing from her home in Toronto one luminous summer morning in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Rita, a high-school art teacher, knows her mother has a history of dissociation and memory problems, which have led her to wander off before. But never has she stayed away so long. Unconvinced the police are taking the case seriously, Rita begins to carry out her own investigation. In the course of searching for her mom, she is forced to confront a labyrinth of secrets surrounding the family’s internment at a camp in the California desert during the Second World War, their postwar immigration to Toronto, and the father she has never known.
Epic in scope, intimate in style, After the Bloom blurs between the present and the ever-present past, beautifully depicting one family’s struggle to face the darker side of its history and find some form of redemption.
The Slip by Mark Sampson
Publication Date: May 20, 2017
Synopsis from Dundurn Press: In this wickedly funny novel, one bad afternoon and two regrettable comments make the inimitable Philip Sharpe go viral for all the worst reasons.
Dr. Philip Sharpe, absentminded professor extraordinaire, teaches philosophy at the University of Toronto and is one of Canada’s most combative public intellectuals. But when a live TV debate with his fiercest rival goes horribly off the rails, an oblivious Philip says some things to her that he really shouldn’t have.
As a clip of Philip’s “slip” goes viral, it soon reveals all the cracks and fissures in his marriage with his young, stay-at-home wife, Grace. And while the two of them try to get on the same side of the situation, things quickly spiral out of control.
Can Philip make amends and save his marriage? Is there any hope of salvaging his reputation? To do so, he’ll need to take a hard look at his on-air comments, and to conscript a band of misfits in a scheme to set things right.
The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan
Publication Date: June 24, 2017
Synopsis from House of Anansi Press: Warren Botts is a disillusioned Ph.D., taking a break from his lab to teach middle-school science. Gentle, soft-spoken, and lonely, he innocently befriends Amanda, one of his students. But one morning, Amanda is found dead in his backyard, and Warren, shocked, flees the scene.
As the small community slowly turns against him, an anonymous narrator, a person of extreme intelligence and emotional detachment, offers insight into events past and present. As the tension builds, we gain an intimate understanding of the power of secrets, illusions, and memories.
Nicole Lundrigan uses her prodigious talent to deliciously creepy effect, producing a finely crafted page-turner and a chilling look into the mind of a psychopath.
Which books are you dying to read in 2017? I’d love to hear in comments!