VWF Recommends

As we look ahead to the end of the year, Writers Fest staff share their favourite recommendations of the year. This week, Marketing Director Zoe Grams recommends three books filled with enough love to get us to the end of this difficult year and ready for the new one to come.

The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier. The story of a heartbroken, illiterate scribe in the 15th century chapel of Mont Saint Michel; an ode to books and the mysteries of life. During a year of our world’s narrowing, this book feels even more special.

Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim. Developed from a book club of the same name dedicated to Black women writers, this is essential reading. This essay collection features works from celebrated Black writers on the importance of seeing oneself in literature, and the power of storytelling to create the future.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Tuesday Next is a literary detective in a world where there’s time travel and dodos in 1985. She’s hunting “most wanted” Acheron Hades who’s killing off minor characters and jumping from book to book. Jasper Fforde’s series is a true delight; perfect holiday reading to binge on instead of a screen.


Festival Assistant Aditya Bhagirath recommends poetry collections that remind readers of the power of words when celebrating the holiday season in uncertain times.

Obit by Victoria Chang. In this unflinching and lyrical book, Chang meets her grief and creates a powerful testament for the living.

The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas. Befitting someone who “speaks things into being,” Christmas extracts from family history, queer lineage, and the political landscape of a racialized life to create a rich, softly defiant collection of poems.

Homie by Danez Smith. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer.

Development Director Andrew Forshner recommends books from the past few years that speak to some of today’s most pressing crises.

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain. From civil rights to Ferguson, Franchise reveals the untold history of how fast food became one of the greatest generators of black wealth in America.

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy. A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America.

Where the Pavement Ends by Marie Wadden. A passionate wake-up call aimed at all Canadians, this work is filled with inspiring stories gathered from journalist Wadden’s discussions with activists across Canada who are involved in the Aboriginal healing movement.

On top of the titles represented at the Festival this year, Artistic Director Leslie Hurtig (with help from Kidsbooks) shares some other highlights from children’s publishing in 2020.

Teatime Around the World by Denyse Waissbluth and Chelsea O’Byrne. This poetic picture book takes children of all ages on an adventure around the world to discover new cultures and friends through tea.

Woodland Dreams by Karen Jameson, illustrated by Marc Boutavant. This sweet bedtime book is at once a picture book and a lullaby, pairing familiar bedtime routines with nonfiction elements.

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Kenard Pak. A snowy day, a trip to Grandma’s, time spent cooking with one another, and space to pause and discover the world around you come together in this perfect book for reading and sharing on a cozy winter day.

The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers. This suspenseful, poignant and magical story about following your dreams and finding where you truly belong will draw readers into a surreal, lushly detailed world in which perfection really means being true to yourself and your friends.

The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson. Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle-grade fantasy series from this award-winning author.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. This deeply sensitive debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

Hockey Super Six series by Kevin Sylvester. This hilarious new high-action series pits six ordinary kids with super hockey skills against the forces of evil—specifically, the nefarious wannabe genius, Clarence Crosscheck.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. A hilarious and biting social commentary, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor… and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.

Aggie Morton: Mystery Queen series by Marthe Jocelyn.A smart and charming middle-grade mystery series starring young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot.

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean. An extraordinary story of eight boys stranded on a rock in the middle of the sea, left to fight for their survival.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. Becky Albertalli meets Jenny Han in a smart, hilarious, black girl magic, own voices rom-com by a staggeringly talented new writer.

A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer. A head-spinning epic about three friends on a quest to protect the world from a threat as unknowable as it is terrifying.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this electrifying novel takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life by Dani Jansen. A Valedictorian-wannabe struggles with the production of her school’s play while grappling with what it means to be “out” and what she might be willing to give up for love.

Marketing & Development Coordinator Lauren Dembicky recommends laugh out loud essay collections from three hilarious women.

Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby. From the beloved author of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, a rip-roaring, edgy and unabashedly raunchy new collection of hilarious essays.

Shit, Actually by Lindy West. West returns to her movie critic roots, re-examining beloved and iconic movies from the past 40 years with an eye toward the big questions of our time: Is Twilight the horniest movie in history? Why do the zebras in The Lion King trust Mufasa-WHO IS A LION-to look out for their best interests?

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom. From the charming and wickedly funny co-creator and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a collection of hilarious personal essays, poems and even amusement park maps on the subjects of insecurity, fame, anxiety, and much more.


Lauren Dembicky