TV & Movies

How to Read CanLit (and Like It!)

Canada Reads, the Random House Reading Bingo challenge, and other fun ways to read Canadian books

Your winter hibernation resolution: refrain from yet another Netflix marathon, and instead get stuck into some (really great) CanLit. Luckily, there’s plenty to choose from.


(Photo: Courtesy of Arsenal Pulp Press)

If you need something like a book-club atmosphere to get in the mood, start your must-read long list by scanning Canada Reads’ 2015 slate. This year’s battle-of-the-books roster includes:

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, defended by Elaine “Lainey” Lui, author, gossip columist and co-host on The Social

And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyn Saucier, defended by musician Martha Wainwright

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee. defended by actress Kristin Kreuk

Ru by Kim Thuy, defended by Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, defended by Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger

Alternatively, self-starters may opt for a more playful, spontaneous approach to bedside table (or e-reader) stocking. Random House is again challenging Canadians to make a game of their literary enrichment by taking part in the Reading Bingo Challenge (the grid subs “B-7,” etc., for types of CanLit, e.g. “A book by Margaret Atwood”). Fill a line and you’ve hit the cultural jackpot! (Download the Bingo sheet here.)


Here are five Bingo-inspired suggestions:

A book by Alice Munro:
Dear Life (2012)
Reason to read: The iconic author’s latest collection of short stories (she’s threatening it may even be her last) is a testament to the perpetual evolution of her talent. Even at 83 and with a Nobel Prize under her belt, Munro is not content to coast on past victories but continues to reinvent and reinvigorate the form.

Free square:
Based on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti (2014)
Reason to read: The Globe and Mail columnist’s novel about washed-up former soap star/boozer Augusta Price is as deceptively appealing as its lead character. Based begins as one of those funny light-touch novels, but slowly morphs into a complex, richly nuanced character study.

A Giller Prize nominee:
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (2014)
Reason to read: Toews’s latest work also happens to be her most poignant and funny. Through sisters Elfrieda and Yolandi, the former desperate to die, the latter struggling to live, Toews mines the sorrow and the joy of shared DNA. It’s Toews at her bittersweet best. (Read our 2014 profile on Toews for the book’s heartbreaking backstory.)


(Photo: Courtesy of Knopf Canada)

Governor General’s Award winner:
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (2013)
Reason to read: Catton’s 800-plus-page novel set in Victorian New Zealand won the Man Booker Prize in 2013. The Luminaries is a mystery story rich with unforgettable characters; above all, it’s a literary achievement.

A Canadian thriller:
The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper (2009)
Reason to read: If you’re unfamiliar with the Toronto-based writer then it’s wise to start with his 2009 thriller about a grieving widower who catches on to a serial killer stalking Toronto. A guilty, grisly pleasure and then some, The Killing Circle is Pyper’s most compelling read.

Want more suggestions? Check out FLARE’s favourite non-boring CanLit classics.