The best books about Toronto

10 authors have picked their favorite books about Toronto and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Starting Out In the Afternoon

Your marriage is over and your child is heading off to university. What to do? Why, you get in your car and drive nearly 6,000 km from Toronto to the Yukon. This lyrical, enchanting memoir of a mid-life journey tugs at the soul. What strikes me the most about it is the courage of its author to go it alone.

Starting Out In the Afternoon

By Jill Frayne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Starting Out In the Afternoon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jill Frayne’s long-term relationship was ending and her daughter was about to graduate and leave home. She decided to pack up her life and head for the Yukon.

Driving alone across the country from her home just north of Toronto, describing the land as it changes from Precambrian Shield to open prairie, Jill finds that solitude in the wilds is not what she expected. She is actively engaged by nature, her moods reflected in the changing landscape and weather. Camping in her tent as she travels, she begins to let go of the world she’s leaving and to enter the…


Who am I?

As a kid, I hated the outdoors, hated change, hated discomfort. Imagine my surprise when, in 2004, without an iota of expertise, I decided to hike Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It was life-changing and world-opening on so many levels. Since then, I’ve written five best-selling journey memoirs, two of which have been nominated for awards. I read just about anything but I am particularly drawn to stories about those who leave the comfort of their homes to go and live another life. We all think of doing it; few of us actually do.


I wrote...

Book cover of What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago de Compostela

What is my book about?

All journeys consist of a metaphysical and a physical aspect: There’s the part of the journey that requires plane tickets, passports, various logistics, and lists of what to pack; then there’s the part that you might not have considered—the reason for the journey, the expectations loaded into your subconscious, the awe and veiled disapproval of those you’ve told about your trip. What The Psychic Told the Pilgrim is about a pilgrimage, but it’s also about prickly relationships and the politics of women; about walking a path you never knew existed much less knew that you had to walk it. It’s about trusting the goosebumps on your arm, of trusting intuition. What happens when you take the road less travelled?

Wildfire

By Annabel Allan,

Book cover of Wildfire

Wildfire starts with the protagonist Stephanie Fournier working as an assistant in a boring 9 to 5 job. Yet, this book is anything but boring. Things heat up very fast when gorgeous CEO Robert Quinlan notices her, and the two become passionate. There’s a catch…she’s a virgin. Will his sudden disinterest in Stephanie mean the end of a romance? Or, can experts be seduced by amateurs? And, there is trouble brewing when another woman’s jealousy bubbles over Quinlan. Wildfire is book one in the Smoke Chaser series. It’s packed with great dialogue, a ruthless female antagonist who drops nasty surprises in Stephanie’s path, and a fiery romance that honors the story’s title. 

Wildfire

By Annabel Allan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wildfire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephanie Fournier is an assistant at a law firm in Toronto, Ontario. Her boring 9 to 5 starts to heat up when Robert Quinlan, the gorgeous CEO of the company, takes a special interest in her. At first she responds to his obvious interest with glee... and then he finds out she's a virgin.

His sudden disinterest is not only embarrassing, but awkward around the workplace, especially with an undeniable heat still present between them. Stephanie sets out to prove she's unshaken, only to entice him back into her thrall. But can an amateur really win over an expert in…


Who am I?

I am a big fan of romance books with thrilling plots. It’s partly how I remember the stories years later. When I wrote Flowers for Kate in the Rainbow Desire anthology, it started as a pure romance, but I added a supernatural thrill. One reader admitted checking over her shoulder in case a spectral being was there while reading the story. I love writing stories with twists and turns, and surprising readers. Maybe it comes from my childhood days of being a Scooby-Doo fan—I loved the thrill of guessing the mysteries behind each character and the villain being unmasked. I’m an ex-journalist who has published romance stories from erotic to sweet.


I wrote...

Rainbow Desire

By Annabel Allan, Estelle Pettersen, Callie Carmen

Book cover of Rainbow Desire

What is my book about?

It’s 1988, a decade after video killed the radio star. Disco’s out of fashion, and pop music dominates the dance floor. At twenty-two, Kate Calloway is a bangle-loving university student finding her way in life with her friends. She’s allergic to pollen and hates flowers until she meets the mysterious Dahlia, a florist who takes her breath away. Kate wants Dahlia, but does Dahlia feel the same for Kate?

Flowers for Kate is a story in Rainbow Desire, an anthology that celebrates life and love in its kaleidoscope of exotic rainbow colours. Published by Black Velvet Seductions, the stories in the book reflect its vibrant shades of romance from light and dark. The LGBTQ+ anthology features work by international and award-winning authors.

Maddox Files

By R. J. Davies,

Book cover of Maddox Files: Down The Rabbit Hole

This series is an edge of your seat page-turner that keeps readers getting till the very end. Written by the ever-talented Rhonda Davies in her first ever series, this author doesn’t hold back. As the series grows the mysteries deepen with countless twists and turns.

Maddox Files

By R. J. Davies,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maddox Files as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dice is back at it! What other way do you start off the morning with a couple of attempts on your life? Just another normal day for Dice Maddox. Except this time, in her haste to catch the sniper, she chases the shooter in a foot race through the streets of downtown Toronto. Ending with Dice Maddox falling down a rabbit hole and finding herself in another world.

Its’ Toronto but not the Toronto she has known all of her life. Dice Maddox finds herself trap in another universe with a serial killer out to end her life while trying…


Who am I?

I personally love to draw attention to not only books in women’s literature but also to encourage and support my fellow female authors whom I see as the best company a girl can ask for. Knowing that these strong individuals are living out their dreams while also filling page after page of stories varying anywhere from mystery, intrigue, love, loss, grief, etc. fills me with such gratitude and hope for the future. Because their stories are just the beginning. I'm a proud indie author and female author who enjoys writing mysteries and thrillers. I'm forever encouraging my fellow author colleagues to embrace their dreams and unique skillsets as it’s one no one else has. 


I wrote...

The Next Right Thing

By Céline Perron,

Book cover of The Next Right Thing

What is my book about?

How far would you go to do the right thing?

Twenty-seven-year-old Rena Moretti has lived her life the only way she knows how: by being a good girl and avoiding scrutiny. As the by-product of an illicit affair gone wrong, she figures she doesn't have much room for error. A budding journalist with an ambition for big things, Rena is comfortable in her own skin, enjoying the simple pleasures of her comfy apartment and the confidence of her best friend. But when Rena becomes the victim of a random hit-and-run accident, her life gets turned upside down on all fronts. The Next Right Thing is a moral crime thriller which proves to be equal parts dangerous and thought provoking.

Looking for X

By Deborah Ellis,

Book cover of Looking for X

The majority of my teaching career was in Regent Park, so the setting of Looking for X is particularly meaningful. Eleven-year-old Khyber is smart, savvy, and mature beyond her years. Told from Khyber’s POV, the story centers around the friendship she develops with X, a woman living in the parkette across from Khyber’s apartment building. When Khyber witnesses X being attacked a group of skinheads, the dangers faced by Toronto’s homeless population, especially those living with mental illness, become glaringly clear. The next day, Khyber is wrongly accused of vandalizing her school. X is the only person who can provide an alibi for Khyber, but she is nowhere to be found. In an effort to locate her friend, Khyber embarks on a a journey navigating the urban landscape of Toronto. 

Looking for X

By Deborah Ellis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Looking for X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award

In this urban adventure story, Khyber, a smart, bold, eleven-year-old girl from a poor neighborhood, sets out to find her friend X, a mysterious homeless woman who has gone missing.

The desperate search takes Khyber on a long, all-night odyssey that proves to be wilder than any adventure she has ever imagined.


Who am I?

Born the same year as Winona Ryder, Tupac Shakur, and Elon Musk, I’m a Toronto-based writer of novels, short fiction, graphic stories, nonfiction, and scripts for film and television. My YA books include the graphic novella The Lion of Africa, the supernatural, climate change-fuelled Daughters of Light trilogy, and the hard-hitting Since You’ve Been Gone. My writing gives voice to strong, diverse protagonists in urban settings who are dealing with seemingly insurmountable challenges. I’ve been a special education teacher for more than 20 years and my characters are often inspired by the amazing young people I’ve worked with. The cities in my work are living, breathing entities that shape the plot and the protagonist’s character.


I wrote...

Enough

By Mary Jennifer Payne,

Book cover of Enough

What is my book about?

Life hasn't been easy for fifteen-year-old Lizzie Jackson since her father's sudden death four years ago. Shortly after he died, her mother, Lydia, began dating and drinking herself into oblivion, leaving Lizzie to parent her younger brother, Charlie. Things go from bad to worse when Lydia marries Dean. To protect Charlie from Dean's rage, Lizzie makes herself the target of his abuse. But when Dean sexually assaults Lizzie, things change forever. Can she continue to ensure her brother's safety after she flees their home? 

Bellevue Square

By Michael Redhill,

Book cover of Bellevue Square

When Toronto bookstore owner Jean Mason hears she may have a doppelganger, it sets off a strange series of events that show how fragile our grip on reality really is. Equal parts psychological horror, ghost story, warm family drama, and literary look at mental illness, this dizzying and at times difficult novel asks if we genuinely know ourselves and the nature of our existence. It may leave you like its bewildered main character: full of questions about identity and struggling to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.

Bellevue Square

By Michael Redhill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bellevue Square as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize*

A darkly comic literary thriller about a woman who fears for her sanity—and then her life—when she learns that her doppelganger has appeared in a local park.

Jean Mason has a doppelganger. She's never seen her, but others swear they have. Apparently, her identical twin hangs out in Kensington Market, where she sometimes buys churros and drags an empty shopping cart down the streets, like she's looking for something to put in it. Jean's a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving bookstore in downtown Toronto, and…


Who am I?

As someone who spent his days working as a journalist and his nights writing novels and short stories, I've always been fascinated by the fine line separating fact and fiction. We live our lives conforming to the rules of our universe, yet sometimes feel brave enough to ask what’s that? and watch with delight as reality transforms into fantasy. What, exactly, is that brilliant sunset? Billions of bits of light being processed by our survival-evolved brain as a reminder to seek shelter before the perilous darkness descends? The wondrous work of God’s hand? A pleasing distraction from the brutality of our brief existence? Something else we may never comprehend? Great stories help us decide.


I wrote...

No, You're Crazy: A Novel

By Jeff Beamish,

Book cover of No, You're Crazy: A Novel

What is my book about?

When sixteen-year-old Ashlee Sutton's home life falls apart, she is beset by a rare mental illness that makes her believe she's clairvoyant. While most people scoff at her, she begins demonstrating an uncanny knack for sometimes predicting the future, using what could either be pure luck or something more remarkable. And when she helps her drug-addict father win enough casino cash to accidentally overdose, she becomes the target of violent people determined to exploit her, and she goes on the run. No, You’re Crazy is a multi-layered novel that examines the many ways a family can wound and heal us. A page-turning thriller and a sensitive look at faith and neurodiversity, it ultimately dares to ask, Who gets to decide what’s real?

Bad Move

By Linwood Barclay,

Book cover of Bad Move

Bad Move introduces us to an accidental sleuth, Zack Walker, who is a science fiction writer and over protective father who moves his family from the ‘dangerous’ city of Toronto to the peaceful suburbs, and runs headlong into the law of unintended consequence. Nothing is as it seems in this idyllic neighbourhood, and poor Zack is not the most observant of people. His life unravels when he decides to teach his wife a lesson, by pretending to steal her purse out of the grocery cart while food shopping. The problem is it’s not his wife’s purse and this leads him into uncharted territory. We’ve all had situations where we want to fix something stupid we’ve done. Zack is that guy, and I like his humour and the unexpected actions he takes. You feel for the guy, and cringe when he talks himself into trouble. 

Bad Move

By Linwood Barclay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bad Move as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Zack Walker Mystery #1

Zack Walker is a writer with an overactive imagination and two teenage children. After a murder on their street, he uproots his family from the city - insisting it's for their own good - and heads for the security of the suburbs.

However, his peaceful new life is soon shattered when he finds a body while out walking by the creek. Zack recognizes the dead man - and knows who his killer might be.

Things go from bad to worse as Zack follows a trail of deceit that leads right to his front door. To protect…


Who am I?

I've read mysteries of all types since I was young. Unfortunately for my publishers, I like to write in several different genres too. Everyone loves a mystery, a puzzle, sussing out the hidden. If you think you don’t like mysteries, then I think you just haven’t found your genre yet. Reading a mystery is like treasure hunting, we all want to find the gold. I love clever dialogue, characters you want to meet in real life, and accompany them while solving a mystery. All the books I have recommended have an overarching mystery element. I write like that too, also, one element links all my books regardless of genre. Happy treasure hunting!


I wrote...

Condo Crazy

By Yvonne Rediger,

Book cover of Condo Crazy

What is my book about?

Retirement was never supposed to be like this. Gladys Wyatt merely wanted to run her cottage bakery to make a few extra dollars to defray the costs of her brand-new condo apartment. 

First, Gladys is accused by Musgrave Landing’s mayor of hanging prank banners on the water facility building, but that is harmless. It’s the thief plaguing the village that is concerning the residents. Gladys suspects it was the thief who injured her neighbour’s dog. Then Gladys is shocked to find a body, half outside of the condo building garage. Could the thief also be responsible for the murder? She reminds her granddaughter to keep the condo doors locked, but will that be enough?

Leaving Earth

By Helen Humphreys,

Book cover of Leaving Earth

This is the first novel I read of Helen Humphreys and ever since then I’ve been a huge fan of her work, which often focuses on an overlooked period of history. Written with a strong poetic voice, her writing has a deeply humane undercurrent and frequently contains strong female characters. This one especially came to mind, as it features two women aviators in the 1930s striving to break an endurance record by flying around Toronto for 25 days. Humphreys has a special talent for focusing on the details that draw us into the story, while also establishing characters and relationships that make us care deeply about what they are doing. Smart, complex women doing daring things—what’s not to like!

Leaving Earth

By Helen Humphreys,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leaving Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leaving Earth was Helen Humphreys's debut, and it brought the beauty of her poetry into the story of two women's love of flight and dream to excel, even if it took all their courage and strength and even their lives. Novice flyer Willa joins Grace, heroine of the skies, in what becomes an intimate journey of friendship. Yet the clouds that gather above are echoed by lurking dangers below for Maddy, a young fan of Grace's, and her Jewish mother and uncle. Anti-Semitism is spreading. Maddy's mother, a true fortune-teller, is beat up by thugs, and the swirl of events…


Who am I?

I became fascinated with the lives of women around the period of World War Two when I discovered the female aviators of the Air Transport Auxiliary based in England. It wasn’t until I researched the history of reproductive rights after attending the Women’s March in 2017 in Toronto, Canada that I realized the period of the 1930s was a particularly progressive time for women, a time of early feminism. As a novelist I am drawn to the social history and the impact of wars. My first novel explored PTSD, and in this one I’m exploring the lives of women who fought against the gender norms at the time.


I wrote...

As Little As Nothing

By Pamela Mulloy,

Book cover of As Little As Nothing

What is my book about?

As Little As Nothing is a literary historical novel set in the year before World War II in the south of England. This is the story of Miriam, recovering from her fifth miscarriage who looks to flight as an escape, and Audrey, a 53-year-old, upper-middle-class activist who lectures on reproductive rights, lives in a Reading caravan and whose daily ritual includes a swim in a nearby river.

This period in the 1930s was a time when, increasingly, women were learning to fly, and reproductive rights activists were making considerable gains. As Little As Nothing explores the issue of flight both literally—by highlighting an expression of early feminism—and metaphorically—as women sought to ‘take flight’ from the burden of unwanted pregnancy.

A Life of Propriety

By Katherine Mary Jean McKenna,

Book cover of A Life of Propriety: Anne Murray Powell and Her Family, 1755-1849

Most of the information on Anne Powell’s life is written by men. They invariably find her to be eccentric, bizarre, or crazy. That’s why I was pleased to discover this book by a female professor. It contains detailed, well-researched information on the Powell family and the world they lived in. The book also directed me to useful letters written by the Powell family that I was able to research in the local archives. From this book and those letters, I was able to discover a new Anne Powell.

A Life of Propriety

By Katherine Mary Jean McKenna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Life of Propriety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During this period the realms of the public and the private became increasingly separated, with increasingly separate roles for men and women. Changes in cultural values concerning gender, ideals about family relationships, and ideas of the appropriate role women brought uncertainty, confusion, and contradiction. Anne Powell's life embodied this shift in values and provides an example of how they were carried from the old world to the new. A Life of Propriety makes an innovative contribution to the literature on women in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and will also be of interest to scholars in women's studies,…


Who am I?

For a number of years, I was a historical interpreter at two of Toronto’s oldest and finest houses. While looking at the furniture, paintings, and below-stairs bells and open-hearth cooking in these upper-class mansions, I became immersed in the lives of the people who once lived in these places. I have always been interested in history, and I have a post-graduate degree in Canadian literature, but my schooling in history seemed confined to the Tudor period and Greek and Roman times. Working in Toronto’s fine homes led me to a deep understanding of the fascinating history we have right here on our doorstep!


I wrote...

A Daughter Rebels

By Ann Birch,

Book cover of A Daughter Rebels

What is my book about?

Anne Powell is a real historical figure who lived in York, now called Toronto, in the early 1800s. As the protagonist of my novel, she challenges the rules laid down for upper-class women in those days: live a life of propriety, marry a rich husband, raise his family, and be a figure at important social events that will promote his status. Anne Powell craves a more useful existence that will make the larger world a better place, especially for women in childbirth.

Toronto in 1810

By Eric Wilfrid Hounsom,

Book cover of Toronto in 1810

When you write historical novels, you have to place your characters in a certain real setting. Hounsom’s book let me step right onto the streets and into the houses of Toronto in 1810. As well as wonderful information on the way people lived at the time, Hounsom includes maps and drawings of Toronto and its important buildings. For example, I actually found a drawing of the house that my novel’s main character lived in.

Toronto in 1810

By Eric Wilfrid Hounsom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Toronto in 1810 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

For a number of years, I was a historical interpreter at two of Toronto’s oldest and finest houses. While looking at the furniture, paintings, and below-stairs bells and open-hearth cooking in these upper-class mansions, I became immersed in the lives of the people who once lived in these places. I have always been interested in history, and I have a post-graduate degree in Canadian literature, but my schooling in history seemed confined to the Tudor period and Greek and Roman times. Working in Toronto’s fine homes led me to a deep understanding of the fascinating history we have right here on our doorstep!


I wrote...

A Daughter Rebels

By Ann Birch,

Book cover of A Daughter Rebels

What is my book about?

Anne Powell is a real historical figure who lived in York, now called Toronto, in the early 1800s. As the protagonist of my novel, she challenges the rules laid down for upper-class women in those days: live a life of propriety, marry a rich husband, raise his family, and be a figure at important social events that will promote his status. Anne Powell craves a more useful existence that will make the larger world a better place, especially for women in childbirth.

Book cover of Charlotte Gray, The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Nation

This is a compelling Canadian true-crime tale that captures the atmosphere of early 20th-century Toronto and explores the intersection of class, ethnicity, and societal expectations of proper moral conduct by men and women during wartime. The Masseys were a wealthy Ontario family that amassed a fortune manufacturing agricultural equipment. In 1915 Carrie Davies was an 18-year old English maid working in the home of C.A. “Bert” Massey. She killed her married employer with a revolver in front of a witness and freely admitted carrying out the crime, explaining that he had been making sexual advances towards her. I enjoyed this book as it reminds us of how legal rules and arguments in the past could be overwhelmed by public pressure and cultural expectations. Davies, who many viewed as a heroine, was acquitted of murder by an all-male jury in less than 1 hour.       

Charlotte Gray, The Massey Murder

By Charlotte Gray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Charlotte Gray, The Massey Murder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Non-Fiction
Winner of the Toronto Book Award
Winner of the CAA Lela Common Award for Canadian History
Winner of the Heritage Toronto Book Award
A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year
Finalist for the RBC Taylor Prize, the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, the Ottawa Book Award, the Libris Award, the OLA Evergreen Award

A scandalous crime, a sensational trial, a surprise verdict—the true story of Carrie Davies, the maid who shot a Massey

In February 1915, a member of one of Canada’s wealthiest families was shot and…


Who am I?

As an academic, I have been researching Canadian police and criminal justice history since the 1980s and I teach courses on the history of policing, crime, drugs and homicide, and capital punishment. In 2014 I began to cover a high-profile murder trial in my region of Canada and ended up writing a best-selling book on the case. The Oland case reinforced my interest in true crime, both as a research topic and a cultural phenomenon. True crime, whether set in the distant past or contemporary times, offers writers and readers alike fascinating forays into specific societies and communities as well as human nature.


I wrote...

Truth & Honour: The Oland Family Murder Case That Shocked Canada

By Greg Marquis,

Book cover of Truth & Honour: The Oland Family Murder Case That Shocked Canada

What is my book about?

Truth and Honour explores the 2011 murder of Saint John businessman Richard Oland, of the prominent family that owns Moosehead Breweries, the ensuing police investigation, and the arrest, trial, and conviction of the victim's son, Dennis Oland, for second ­degree murder.

Oland's trial would be the most publicized in New Brunswick history. What the trial judge called "a family tragedy of Shakespearian proportions," this real­life murder mystery included adultery, family dysfunction, largely circumstantial evidence, allegations of police incompetence, a high-powered legal defence, and a verdict that shocked the community. Truth and Honour explores this question: was Dennis Oland responsible for the death of his father?

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