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10 Buzz-Worthy TIFA Books

The festival has a huge slate of Canadian and international authors, so we're highlighting a few of the best reads / BY Dene Moore / October 22nd, 2021

All the stars and upstarts of the Canadian and global literati are booked for the Toronto International Festival of Authors, which runs from Oct. 21 to 31. This year’s festival is once again a virtual affair, with more than 200 events over 11 days, including live readings, author Q&As and panels. Here are 10 buzz-worthy books you should read so you can look savvy when you start streaming

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Cloud Cuckoo Landby Anthony Doerr

This highly-anticipated third book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See tells the intertwined tales of five characters: an orphan who reads to her sister as Constantinople falls; a disfigured boy born around the same time in Bulgaria; an octogenarian library patron and an eco-grief stricken teenager in the same Idaho town in 2020; and an interstellar space traveller 65 years in the future. What links them is a 2,400-year-old Greek novel invented by Doerr about Aethon, a shepherd who longs to be turned into a bird so he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky called Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Doerr’s novel is a finalist for the 2021 U.S. National Book Award.


2Matrixby Lauren Groff

The latest offering from the U.S. author of the critically acclaimed Fates & Furies is a feminist novel set against the backdrop of 12th century England. Inspired by a real-life medieval poet, Matrix follows the life of Marie de France after she is cast out of the French royal court at 17 and sent to England to become the new prioress of an abbey of sick and impoverished nuns. Inspired by visions of the Virgin Mary, Marie religiously and ruthlessly builds an unlikely empire.

Matrix is also a finalist for the 2021 U.S. National Book Award.


3Bewildermentby Richard Powers

Powers, who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Overstory, returns with a poignant father-son love story and ode to the natural world. Theo Byrne is struggling to raise his son, Robin,  who has been diagnosed with a range of possible disorders, from Asperger’s to OCD, following the death of his wife. An astrobiologist who searches for signs of other life in the universe, Theo takes his son on fanciful voyages to these fantastical worlds as he tries to cope with Robin’s angst over environmental destruction on Earth and embarks on a journey to ease his son’s troubled mind.

Bewilderment has been shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.


4Saga Boyby Antonio Michael Downing

In his memoir, subtitled My Life of Blackness and Becoming, Toronto-based writer and activist Downing recounts his immigrant journey. It traces his path from Trinidad, where he was raised by his grandmother, to Wabigoon, a tiny community in northern Ontario, where he and his brother were sent to live with their evangelical aunt, and where they were the only Black children. The memoir includes Downing’s search for home and the dashed hopes of reunification with his birth parents.

Saga Boy is the second book from Downing, who writes and performs music as John Orpheus. His debut novel Molasses was released in 2010.


5The Lying Life of Adultsby Elena Ferrante

The global publishing phenom responsible for My Brilliant Friend and the Neapolitan series is back with one of the most hotly anticipated books of the year. The Lying Life of Adults is a coming-of-age tale centred around 12-year-old Giovanna, and the chaos unleashed when she overhears her father call her ugly. In true Ferrante fashion, though, it is about mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, and the fine line between love and hate. Books by Ferrante, the pen name of an Italian writer whose true identity has been the subject of much speculation, have sold more than 10 million copies around the world, and The Lying Life of Adults is slated to be adapted for a Netflix series.

Ferrante’s translator, New Yorker copy chief Ann Goldstein, will appear at TIFA to talk about what it’s like to be part of one of the best-kept secrets in contemporary literature.


6The Strangersby Katherena Vermette

The second novel from the author of The Break examines issues of race, class and intergenerational trauma through the women of the Stranger family. Elsie struggles with addiction, as her daughters, Cedar and Phoenix, try to survive the trials of life on their own.

Vermette, a Métis writer from Winnipeg, won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, among others, for her 2017 debut, The Break. The Strangers was longlisted for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a finalist for the 2021 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.


7Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynastyby Patrick Radden Keefe

The book that delves into three generations of the family behind Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, has been described as a blood-boiler. As the company twists through a $4-billion federal bankruptcy proceeding after pleading guilty to federal criminal charges for its illegal marketing of the addictive opioid, Keefe’s investigation into the family once lauded as great philanthropists lays bare the greed and privilege that turned the American dream into a nightmare for millions.


8The Magician by Colm Tóibín

The Irish master returns with an intimate portrait of the life and loves of German writer Thomas Mann, author of Death in Venice. Tóibín paints an intimate portrait of a complex man forced to flee Nazi Germany and live in exile in America, and the family and friends who surrounded him. Tóibín’s extensive research and fertile imagination bring to life the Nobel Prize-winning writer whose private life rivalled that of his fiction.


9The Son of the Houseby Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobi

This first novel from Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, a lawyer and scholar who splits her time between Halifax and Lagos, Nigeria, unfurls the lives of two women in a dank room where they are being held captive. Through the stories they share of their vastly different lives, the novel explores class and gender in a staunchly male culture.

The Son of the House has been shortlisted for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize and is a finalist for the 2021 Nigeria Prize for Literature.


10The Winter WivesLinden MacIntyre

The award-winning investigative journalist and winner of the 2009 Giller Prize for his novel The Bishop’s Man recounts the tale of Byron, a small-town Nova Scotia farm boy who never left home, and Allan, the enigmatic university football player who becomes his lifelong friend and business partner. Part psychological thriller, part unrequited love story, The Winter Wives follows Allan and Byron – and the sisters who become their wives – throughout their lives, and weaves together the dark pull of easy money, the frailty of memory and questions how well we really know anyone, ourselves included.



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