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Canada Reads 2022

Canada Reads 2022 is coming up soon! Below are this year's fifteen contenders.

The shortlist will be revealed on January 26, and then the debates take place March 28-31, 2022. For more information and to find out how you can watch the debates, visit the CBC Books website.


The Spoon Stealer

- by Lesley Crewe

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Born into a basket of clean sheets--ruining a perfectly good load of laundry--Emmeline never quite fit in on her family's rural Nova Scotian farm. After suffering multiple losses in the First World War, her family became so heavy with grief, toxicity, and mental illness that Emmeline felt their weight smothering her. And so, she fled across the Atlantic and built her life in England. Now she is retired and living in a small coastal town with her best friend, Vera, an excellent conversationalist. Vera is also a small white dog, and so Emmeline is making an effort to talk to more humans. When she joins a memoir-writing course at the library, her classmates don't know what to make of her. Funny, loud, and with a riveting memoir, she charms the lot. As her past unfolds for her audience, friendships form, a bonus in a rather lonely life. She even shares with them her third-biggest secret: she has liberated hundreds of spoons over her lifetime--from the local library, Cary Grant, Winston Churchill. She is a compulsive spoon stealer. When Emmeline unexpectedly inherits the farm she grew up on, she knows she needs to leave her new friends and go see the farm and what remains of her family one last time. She arrives like a tornado in their lives, an off-kilter Mary Poppins bossing everyone around and getting quite a lot wrong. But with her generosity and hard-earned wisdom, she gets an awful lot right too. A pinball ricocheting between people, offending and inspiring in equal measure, Emmeline, in her final years, believes that a spoonful--perhaps several spoonfuls--of kindness can set to rights the family so broken by loss and secrecy. The Spoon Stealer is a classic Crewe book: full of humour, family secrets, women's friendship, lovable animals, and immense heart.

Driven

- by Marcello Di Cintio

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A Globe and Mail Book of the Year A CBC Books Best Canadian Nonfiction of 2021 In conversations with drivers ranging from veterans of foreign wars to Indigenous women protecting one another, Di Cintio explores the borderland of the North American taxi. "The taxi," writes Marcello Di Cintio, "is a border." Occupying the space between public and private, a cab brings together people who might otherwise never have met--yet most of us sit in the back and stare at our phones. Nowhere else do people occupy such intimate quarters and share so little. In a series of interviews with drivers, their backgrounds ranging from the Iraqi National Guard, to the Westboro Baptist Church, to an arranged marriage that left one woman stranded in a foreign country with nothing but a suitcase, Driven seeks out those missed conversations, revealing the unknown stories that surround us. Travelling across borders of all kinds, from battlefields and occupied lands to midnight fares and Tim Hortons parking lots, Di Cintio chronicles the many journeys each driver made merely for the privilege to turn on their rooflight. Yet these lives aren't defined by tragedy or frustration but by ingenuity and generosity, hope and indomitable hard work. From night school and sixteen-hour shifts to schemes for athletic careers and the secret Shakespeare of Dylan's lyrics, Di Cintio's subjects share the passions and triumphs that drive them. Like the people encountered in its pages, Driven is an unexpected delight, and that most wondrous of all things: a book that will change the way you see the world around you. A paean to the power of personality and perseverance, it's a compassionate and joyful tribute to the men and women who take us where we want to go.

Washington Black

- by Esi Edugyan

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Winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize

A dazzling, original novel of slavery and freedom, from the author of the international bestseller Half-Blood Blues

When two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black - an eleven year-old field slave - is horrified to find himself chosen to live in the quarters of one of these men. But the man is not as Washington expects him to be. His new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde - naturalist, explorer, inventor and abolitionist - whose obsession to perfect a winged flying machine disturbs all who know him. Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where the night sea is set alight with fields of jellyfish, where a simple cloth canopy can propel a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning - and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.

But when a man is killed one fateful night, Washington is left to the mercy of his new masters. Christopher Wilde must choose between family ties and young Washington's life. What follows is a flight along the eastern coast of America, as the men attempt to elude the bounty that has been placed on Washington's head. Their journey opens them up to the extraordinary: to a dark encounter with a necropsicist, a scholar of the flesh; to a voyage aboard a vessel captained by a hunter of a different kind; to a glimpse through an unexpected portal into the Underground Railroad. This is a novel of fraught bonds and betrayal. What brings Wilde and Washington together ultimately tears them apart, leaving Washington to seek his true self in a world that denies his very existence.

From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy plains of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness of life. This inventive, electrifying novel asks, What is Freedom? And can a life salvaged from the ashes ever be made whole?

What Strange Paradise

- by Omar El Akkad

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WINNER OF THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
From the widely acclaimed author of American War: a new novel--beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving--that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child's eyes.


More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one has made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials but of Vanna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though she and the boy are complete strangers, though they don't speak a common language, she determines to do whatever it takes to save him.

In alternating chapters, we learn the story of the boy's life and how he came to be on the boat; and we follow the girl and boy as they make their way toward a vision of safety. But as the novel unfurls, we begin to understand that this is not merely the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world, it is the story of our collective moment in this time: of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair--and of the way each of those things can blind us to reality, or guide us to a better one.

Book of Wings

- by Tawhida Tan Evanson

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In this sweeping, allusive novel, the celebrated poet, dervish, and oral storyteller Tawhida Tanya Evanson comes to terms with what it means to stand on one's own two feet in an uncertain world. The acclaimed Antiguan-Canadian artist traces a global journey from Vancouver to the United States, Caribbean, Paris, and Morocco as a relationship with her lover and travel partner disintegrates and she finds herself on a path toward personal discovery and spiritual fulfillment that leads her deep into the North African landscape.

Satellite Love

- by Genki Ferguson

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Set in 1999 Japan, Satellite Love is a heartbreaking and beautifully unconventional debut novel about a girl, a boy, and a satellite--and a bittersweet meditation on loneliness, alienation, and what it means to be human. Named CBC Radio's Q Book Pick of the Month, a CBC Books Spring Reading List Title, a Shelf Life Books Book of the Month, a Toronto Life and Nikkei Voice summer read recommendation, one of Daily Hive's 10 Essential Reads to Celebrate Asian Canadian Writers, and one of Quill & Quire booksellers' Books of the Year.

On the eve of the new millennium, in a city in southern Japan that progress has forgotten, sixteen-year-old Anna Obata looks to the stars for solace. An outcast at school, and left to fend for herself and care for her increasingly senile grandfather at home, Anna copes with her loneliness by searching the night sky for answers. But everything changes the evening the Low Earth Orbit satellite (LEO for short) returns her gaze and sees her as no one else has before.
     After Leo is called down to Earth, he embarks on an extraordinary journey to understand his own humanity as well as the fragile mind of the young woman who called him into being. As Anna withdraws further into her own mysterious plans, he will be forced to question the limits of his devotion and the lengths he will go to protect her.
     Full of surprising imaginative leaps and yet grounded by a profound understanding of the human heart, Satellite Love is a brilliant and deeply moving meditation on loneliness, faith, and the yearning for meaning and connection. It is an unforgettable story about the indomitable power of the imagination and the mind's ability to heal itself, no matter the cost, no matter the odds.

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

- by Rivka Galchen

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The startling, witty, highly anticipated second novel from the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances

It is 1618 in the German duchy of Württemberg. Plague is spreading, the Thirty Years' War has begun, and fear and suspicion are in the air throughout the Holy Roman Empire. In the small town of Leonberg, Katharina Kepler, an illiterate widow, is accused of being a witch.

Katharina is known for her herbal remedies and the success of her children. Her eldest, Johannes, is the Imperial Mathematician and the renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It's enough to make anyone envious, and Katharina has done herself no favours by going out and about and being in everyone's business.

So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of making her ill by offering her a bitter, witchy drink, Katharina is in trouble. Her scientist son must turn his attention from the music of the spheres to the job of defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and neighbour Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets.

Drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humour and intellectual fire for which Rivka Galchen is known, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch will both provoke and entertain. The story of how a community becomes implicated in collective aggression and hysterical fear is a tale for our time. Galchen's bold new novel touchingly illuminates a family and a society undone by superstition, the state and the mortal convulsions of history.

Five Little Indians

- by Michelle Good

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WINNER: Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

WINNER: Amazon First Novel Awards

WINNER: Kobo Emerging Author Prize 

Finalist: Scotiabank Giller Prize

Finalist: Atwood Gibson Writers Trust Prize

Finalist: BC & Yukon Book Prize

Shortlist: Indigenous Voices Awards

Finalist: Kobo Emerging Author Prize

National Bestseller; A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year; A CBC Best Book of the Year; An Apple Best Book of the Year; A Kobo Best Book of the Year; An Indigo Best Book of the Year

Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.

Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn't want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.

Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations. Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can't stop running and moves restlessly from job to job--through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps--trying to outrun his memories and his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together. After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew.

With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward. 

Scarborough

- by Catherine Hernandez

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Trillium Book Award and City of Toronto Book Award finalist; Edmund White Debut Fiction Award finalist; A Globe 100, National Post and Quill and Quire Best Book of the Year; Longlisted for Canada Reads Scarborough is a low-income, culturally diverse neighbourhood east of Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America; like many inner-city communities, it suffers under the weight of poverty, drugs, crime, and urban blight. Scarborough the novel employs a multitude of voices to tell the story of a tight-knit neighbourhood under fire: among them, Victor, a black artist harassed by the police; Winsum, a West Indian restaurant owner struggling to keep it together; and Hina, a Muslim school worker who witnesses first-hand the impact of poverty on education. And then there are the three kids who work to rise above a system that consistently fails them: Bing, a gay Filipino boy who lives under the shadow of his father's mental illness; Sylvie, Bing's best friend, a Native girl whose family struggles to find a permanent home to live in; and Laura, whose history of neglect by her mother is destined to repeat itself with her father. Scarborough offers a raw yet empathetic glimpse into a troubled community that locates its dignity in unexpected places: a neighbourhood that refuses to be undone.

All the Quiet Places

- by Brian Thomas Isaac

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Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads
An Indigo Top 100 Book of 2021
An Indigo Top 10 Best Canadian Fiction Book of 2021


"What a welcome debut. Young Eddie Toma's passage through the truly ugly parts of this world is met, like an antidote, or perhaps a compensation, by his remarkable awareness of its beauty. This is a writer who understands youth, and how to tell a story." --Gil Adamson, winner of the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Ridgerunner

Brian Isaac's powerful debut novel All the Quiet Places is the coming-of-age story of Eddie Toma, an Indigenous (Syilx) boy, told through the young narrator's wide-eyed observations of the world around him.

It's 1956, and six-year-old Eddie Toma lives with his mother, Grace, and his little brother, Lewis, near the Salmon River on the far edge of the Okanagan Indian Reserve in the British Columbia Southern Interior. Grace, her friend Isabel, Isabel's husband Ray, and his nephew Gregory cross the border to work as summer farm labourers in Washington state. There Eddie is free to spend long days with Gregory exploring the farm: climbing a hill to watch the sunset and listening to the wind in the grass. The boys learn from Ray's funny and dark stories. But when tragedy strikes, Eddie returns home grief-stricken, confused, and lonely.

Eddie's life is governed by the decisions of the adults around him. Grace is determined to have him learn the ways of the white world by sending him to school in the small community of Falkland. On Eddie"s first day of school, as he crosses the reserve boundary at the Salmon River bridge, he leaves behind his world. Grace challenges the Indian Agent and writes futile letters to Ottawa to protest the sparse resources in their community. His father returns to the family after years away only to bring chaos and instability. Isabel and Ray join them in an overcrowded house. Only in his grandmother's company does he find solace and true companionship.

In his teens, Eddie's future seems more secure--he finds a job, and his long-time crush on his white neighbour Eva is finally reciprocated. But every time things look up, circumstances beyond his control crash down around him. The cumulative effects of guilt, grief, and despair threaten everything Eddie has ever known or loved.

All the Quiet Places is the story of what can happen when every adult in a person's life has been affected by colonialism; it tells of the acute separation from culture that can occur even at home in a loved familiar landscape. Its narrative power relies on the unguarded, unsentimental witness provided by Eddie.

Dominoes at the Crossroads

- by Kaie Kellough

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In Dominoes at the Crossroads Kaie Kellough maps an alternate nation--one populated by Caribbean Canadians who hopscotch across the country. The characters navigate race, class, and coming-of-age. Seeking opportunity, some fade into the world around them, even as their minds hitchhike, dream, and soar. Some appear in different times and hemispheres, whether as student radicals, secret agents, historians, fugitive slaves, or jazz musicians. From the cobblestones of Montreal's Old Port through the foliage of a South American rainforest; from a basement in wartime Paris to a metro in Montréal during the October Crisis; Kellough's fierce imagination reconciles the personal and ancestral experience with the present moment, grappling with the abiding feeling of being elsewhere, even when here.

Velvet Was the Night

- by S. Moreno-garcia

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GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK o From the bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a riveting noir about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they're both desperate to find.

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, New York Public Library, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, BookPage, She Reads, Library Journal o "An adrenalized, darkly romantic journey."--The Washington Post

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman--and journeying deeper into Leonora's secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock 'n' roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he watches Maite from a distance--and comes to regard her as a kindred spirit who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora's disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora's secrets--at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.

Life in the City of Dirty Water

- by Clayton Thomas-muller

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LONGLISTED FOR 2022 CANADA READS
 
NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 

A gritty and inspiring memoir from renowned Cree environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, who escaped the world of drugs and gang life to take up the warrior's fight against the assault on Indigenous peoples' lands--and eventually the warrior's spirituality.


There have been many Clayton Thomas-Mullers: The child who played with toy planes as an escape from domestic and sexual abuse, enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; the angry youngster who defended himself with fists and sharp wit against racism and violence, at school and on the streets of Winnipeg and small-town British Columbia; the tough teenager who, at 17, managed a drug house run by members of his family, and slipped in and out of juvie, operating in a world of violence and pain.

But behind them all, there was another Clayton: the one who remained immersed in Cree spirituality, and who embraced the rituals and ways of thinking vital to his heritage; the one who reconnected with the land during summer visits to his great-grandparents' trapline in his home territory of Pukatawagan in northern Manitoba.

And it's this version of Clayton that ultimately triumphed, finding healing by directly facing the trauma that he shares with Indigenous peoples around the world. Now a leading organizer and activist on the frontlines of environmental resistance, Clayton brings his warrior spirit to the fight against the ongoing assault on Indigenous peoples' lands by Big Oil.

Tying together personal stories of survival that bring the realities of the First Nations of this land into sharp focus, and lessons learned from a career as a frontline activist committed to addressing environmental injustice at a global scale, Thomas-Muller offers a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility.

From My Mother's Back

- by Njoki Wane

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In this warm and honest memoir, celebrated academic Njoki Wane shares her journey from her parents' small coffee farm in Kenya, where she helped her mother in the fields as a child, to her current work as a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

Moving smoothly between time and place, Wane uses memories, painful and tender, to show how her early lessons and the support given by her family allowed her to succeed as a woman of colour in the academy, and to later lift up her students facing their own difficult journeys.

We Two Alone

- by Jack Wang

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A masterful collection of stories that dramatizes the Chinese diaspora across the globe over the past hundred years, We Two Alone is Jack Wang's astonishing debut work of fiction.

Set on five continents and spanning nearly a century, We Two Alone traces the long arc and evolution of the Chinese immigrant experience. A young laundry boy risks his life to play organized hockey in Canada in the 1920s. A Canadian couple gets caught in the outbreak of violence in Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The consul general of China attempts to save lives following Kristallnacht in Vienna. A family aspires to buy a home in South Africa, during the rise of apartheid. An actor in New York struggles to keep his career alive while yearning to reconcile with his estranged wife.

From the vulnerable and disenfranchised to the educated and elite, the characters in this extraordinary collection embody the diversity of the diaspora at key moments in history and in contemporary times. Jack Wang has crafted deeply affecting stories that not only subvert expectations but contend with mortality and delicately draw out the intimacies and failings of love.