We asked five of our favourite independent booksellers across Canada to share their top titles of 2020.
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
“Twin sisters return to Lagos to visit their mother, and confront familial and personal trauma,” says Massy about this gorgeous debut. “It traverses continents and genres, with sensuous language that pulls readers into the midst of old family wounds.”
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Pulitzer winner Wilkerson examines caste in the U.S., drawing parallels to India and Nazi Germany. Its power, says Massy, comes from “Wilkerson’s ability to trace the emergence of often unseen structures in beautiful, bracing language.”
Luster by Raven Leilani
This highly anticipated debut novel—about a twentysomething artist who moves in with her married lover’s family—lives up to the hype, says Langille, who points to its “sensuality, despair, loneliness and ever-shifting dynamics between the characters.”
The Contradictions by Sophie Yanow
A charming, relatable graphic memoir about the messy business of growing up. “While studying abroad in Paris, a young, queer Sophie searches for community and pur- pose,” Langille says. “It’s a compelling story, as she tries to forge connections with radical girls who seem to have it all figured out.”
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
McCann’s latest is inspired by the real-life friendship of two men whose daughters were murdered in the Middle East. “Two fathers, one Israeli and one Palestinian, try to reason through the years of conflict and their shared experience,” says Hamm. “This may be McCann’s magnum opus.”
This Is Not the End of Me by Dakshana Bascaramurty
Layton Reid is 33 years old, a new dad, and has terminal cancer. “It’s an affirmation of the tremendous power of human connectedness,” says Hamm of this non-fiction account spanning four years, “as well as a celebration of using time and love wisely.”
Black Matters by Afua Cooper and Wilfried Raussert
In this rich collection, Cooper, Halifax’s poet laureate, takes inspiration from Raussert’s photographs. “This beautiful book provides a call and response,” says Sadu (who Chatelaine profiled in September). Together, the duo explores the complexities of everyday Black lives.
They Said This Would Be Fun by Eternity Martis
“Martis reveals the dark spaces of Canadian society that are hidden, buried and masked,” says Sadu. This refreshing, skilful memoir about a young Black woman navigating university life is also a guide to resistance and resilience.
Angel Wing Splash Pattern by Richard Van Camp
There are two new stories in this 20th anniversary collection. Van Camp, who is from the Northwest Territories, “writes difficult stories with humour and compas- sion,” Drinnan says. Here, he weaves themes of loss and redemption through tales of contemporary Indigenous life.
Paying the Land by Joe Sacco
The cartoonist and journalist considers both the benefits and costs of mining in the North. “Joe Sacco spent years collabo- rating with the Dene people to tell this story,” Drinnan says. “This is a unique visual depiction of pain, conflict—and also hope that language and culture can be reclaimed.”