The staff members at Toronto International Festival of Authors can’t wait to dig in to new books for 2021. We’ve been scoping out upcoming releases and seeing our personal reading lists grow, as more and more books are announced for the months ahead. From suspenseful fiction to the extraordinary lives of real people and more, here’s a taste of what we’ll be reading in 2021, and what we think should be on your list too. We hope these titles inspire some optimism and entertainment for a bright new year.
Amy, Head of Marketing
Return of the Trickster by Eden Robinson (March 2021, Knopf Canada)
As one of the most highly anticipated Canadian books of the season, I’m not the only one looking forward to Return of the Trickster. It’s the third book in Robinson’s Trickster trilogy, which inspired the new CBC TV series of the same name, and made waves on the CBC Canada Reads List of 2020. The story takes off again with our hero, Jared Martin, who finally knows for sure that he’s the only one of his biological dad’s 535 kids who’s a Trickster, too. Adventure is sure to ensue!
Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir by Rebecca Carroll (February 2021, Simon & Schuster)
Black culture critic Rebecca Carroll is well known for sparking crucial and thoughtful dialogue about race, through the prism of many issues. Now that the Editor of Special Projects at WNYC has announced a memoir, I can’t wait to learn more about her. Growing up the only black person in rural New Hampshire, having been adopted at birth by white parents, Carroll recounts her painful struggle to overcome a completely white childhood. This stirring portrait of belonging is at the top of my must-read list.
Women of the Pandemic: Stories from the Frontlines of COVID-19 by Lauren McKeon(April 2021, Penguin Random House)
Like so many others, I’ve been glued to news coverage about the COVID-19 pandemic, and am particularly fascinated by the social, cultural and economic effects it’s had on the world around us. Gender inequality has been a popular topic as of late, with many reports demonstrating how women are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. With women holding disproportionate roles as primary caregivers at home, and riskier public-facing positions in the workplace, the pandemic seems to be eroding a lot of progress. McKeon’s book promises hopeful real life accounts of frontline female workers during COVID-19, to remind us of women’s leadership and resilience, through the eyes of the doctors, cashiers, long-haulers, cooks and more, who have survived it.
Luisa, Executive Coordinator
We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida (February 2021, HarperCollins)
I love a good coming-of-age story and was particularly drawn to this book because of comparisons with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels (which I absolutely adored), which similarly deal with the trials and joys of female friendship. Vida’s intriguing and suspenseful new book takes place in pre-tech boom San Francisco, giving readers a look into the lives of two teenage best friends, Eulabee and Maria. When Maria starts telling a story that Eulabee knows is not true, it pulls the two friends apart. Things take a turn when Maria suddenly disappears, and a potential kidnapping threatens to expose unspoken truths.
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (April 2021, Knopf Canada)
I have read a few books by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri and was excited to hear that she has a new novel coming out this year, her first in nearly a decade. Fun fact: she wrote the novel in Italian (first published in 2018) and translated it into English. Lahiri’s unique novel paints a portrait of a complex woman living in a beautiful Italian city as she struggles with the need to belong and her refusal to form lasting ties. Though she remains nameless, the book provides an intimate view of her life through short chapters, giving a look at some of her most frequented places, such as parks, train stations, stores and home; showing readers both the struggle and enjoyment of her solitude. This character-driven novel will let readers immerse themselves in her world and see it all through a new perspective.
The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende (March 2021, Ballantine Books)
I am ashamed to admit that I have never read a book by Isabel Allende, but this meditation on what it means to be a woman – and a feminist – seems like it will be a good place to start! Isabel Allende, a Chilean novelist, feminist and philanthropist, has quite the legacy. As a recipient of the American Presidential Medal of Freedom, she is well known for her TED Talks about leading a passionate life and the work she does for the charitable foundation she established in her daughter’s honour, which has awarded grants to more than 100 non-profits worldwide that deliver life-changing care to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. Adding to her roster of over 23 books, Allende’s latest book tackles feminism and shares her personal experiences in the movement with the hopes of encouraging the younger generation to continue fighting for women’s rights and make life better for all women.
Rania, Administrative Coordinator
The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen (March 2021, Grove Press)
Nguyen’s debut novel, The Sympthizer, was described to me as a work of war literature, which is not my favourite genre, but I went for it. It turned out to be so much more than that – rich and intense and a pleasure to read. I wasn’t expecting a sequel, but here it is! The Committed follows the same character as he makes a new life for himself as a refuge in Paris. The Sympathizer and his brother try to overcome their pasts and create a future by turning to drug dealing. There are struggles as he navigates his new world that will require all his wits, resourcefulness and moral flexibility to succeed.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (March 2021, Knopf Canada)
In 2017, Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Novel Prize in Literature to celebrate his memorable and impactful novels, The Remains of the Day (1989), The Unconsoled (1995), When We Were Orphans (2000), Never Let Me Go (2005) and The Buried Giant (2015). His latest novel, Klara and the Sun, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend, observing the world around her while she waits on the shelf for someone to buy her. Through her story, Ishiguro delves into questions about humanity, love and connection. I already know that this is going to be a very emotional and heartbreaking book, but I’m ready for it.
Maxwell’s Demon by Steven Hall (February 2021, HarperCollins)
I loved Steven Hall’s first novel, The Raw Shark Texts. It was unpredictable and original with many references to film and literature, as well as aesthetically interesting with a lot of visual poetry in it. So, I can’t wait to read his second one. If you like a good mystery, his latest novel will put you right in the middle of the action! It follows Thomas Quinn’s as he tries to track down an old friend that suddenly disappeared five years earlier. He has questions that need answers and with a blend of detective fiction, ghost story and philosophical quest action, you will be on the edge of your seat waiting to find out how the story ends.
Stephanie, Content and Community Coordinator
Gutter Child by Jael Richardson (January 2021, HarperAvenue)
There is something about dystopian fiction that I find so intriguing, and when I read about Jael Richardson’s debut novel, I knew it had to be on my reading list. Gutter Child explores a nation where people are segregated and the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off a debt to society. As part of a social experiment, Elimina Dubois is provided the opportunity to be raised in the privileged Mainland, but her life is changed as a teenager when her Mainland mother dies and she is left to navigate being thrust back into a world of servitude.
The Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc (February 2021, Penguin Random House)
After having Amanda Leduc at the 41st edition of the Toronto International Festival of Authors this past fall, to talk about her book Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space, her latest work is definitely on my to-read list. The Centaur’s Wife follows a new mother, Heather, as her world is shaken up when meteors destroy the city, leaving only a few survivors. The mountain that looms over the city remains unscathed, but Heather knows who is up there and struggles with what it could mean for those that are left.
My Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir of Struggle and Triumph by Perdita Felicien (March 2021, Doubleday Canada)
My shelf is filled with memoirs as I love learning about new people and the relationships that had a profound impact on their lives. When I read the summary for Perdita Felicien’s book, I knew it was one I wanted to get my hands on. The World Championships and Pan American Games medalist’s memoir celebrates the inspiring story of her mother and the love that carried them forward. Her mother Catherine’s move to Canada to be a nanny for a wealthy white family brought many opportunities but also suffering. With an honest look at the racism, domestic abuse and homelessness they faced, the book shows readers how the love of her mother guided the Olympic athlete to great success.