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Reading Lists on Canadian Bookshelf (Featuring Stacey May Fowles!)

In these days of overstimulation, distraction, and time constraints, finding ways to downsize and simplify feels pretty good. Maybe that’s why we love lists so much.

Lists of things to do or check out are oases in the midst of information chaos—especially when they’re made by people we admire and trust. When they include ten or so items, they are soothingly finite and doable—easy to bookmark, act upon, and feel excited about investigating. Just think of playlists from industry insiders (e.g., Kate Carraway’s mixtape, CHICKS, for the new Burner Magazine), awards shortlists, or numbered magazine cover lines.

Lists can provide a helpful and meaningful filter for search activities, which is why we’re making Recommended Reading Lists a prominent feature on Canadian Bookshelf. There will be lists by Canadian Bookshelf editors, lists readers create, and lists contributed by writers and subject experts. For example, here’s a list we’ve just received from one of Canada’s hottest new authors, Stacey May Fowles (author of Fear of Fighting and Be Good):

Unconventional Heroines, Lives, and Loves
A Reading List by Stacey May Fowles


Bottle Rocket Hearts, Zoe Whittall

A refreshing take on the typical coming-of-age narrative, Whittall submerges us in the frantic, yearning world of teenage Eve and the political strife of Canada’s 1995 referendum. The book is uniquely sensitive to the precarious cusp of adulthood and what it means to lose your youth while facing the real world head on. Whittall generously and ingeniously provides a new take on the "sex, drugs and rock and roll" trope in a thoughtful, insightful, and kick-ass debut novel.



Sub Rosa, Amber Dawn

In this innovative and haunting debut novel, Amber Dawn thoughtfully explores the missing and the marginalized via a teenage runaway named Little. Little embarks on a kind of subversive hero’s quest through a dark underground (and perhaps an allegory of Vancouver’s seedy underbelly.) A stunning exploration of innocence, sexuality, and the sinister forces that corrupt and entrap us.


Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O’Neill

O’Neill gives us a gritty, stark portrait of Baby, a young Montrealer who sees the seedy city around her not through the disillusioned lens of her father’s heroin addiction, but rather as a fantastic wonderland ripe for her exploration. O’Neill provides us with a cast of the down-and-out; junkies, pimps, the abused and the ignored, in a book that is part dream, part nightmare, and entirely groundbreaking.


Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro

The classic coming of age story of outsider Del Jordan and the small, southern Ontario town of Jubilee she lives in. Dissatisfied and suffocated, Del comes to life in a cycle of short stories that together are a dog-eared staple for girls coming into inspiring Canadian fiction.




Lie With Me, Tamara Faith Berger

Love and lust frantically collide in this hyper-sexualized explosion of rabid female desire. So much more than mere fodder for arousal, this slight book fearlessly explores what it means to find love so difficult to endure and sex so easy to acquire.



Lemon, Cordelia Strube

Strube proves that striking intelligence comes from the mouths of babes with her teenage heroine, Lemon. Gems of wisdom litter each page, offering insight on everything from historical atrocities to everyday, mind-numbing malaise. The novel bravely and authentically allows the reader to crawl inside the head of a teen girl who sees the world with more clarity than any adult.


We So Seldom Look on Love, Barbara Gowdy

In a story collection that treads true Gowdy territory, a diverse collection of unconventional characters are thrust into strange and occasionally comical situations. The author bravely takes us to the very fringes of acceptable behaviour and challenges our notions and norms with deft skill and zero shame.




Forms Of Devotion, Diane Schoemperlen

A beautifully constructed and illustrated set of mini-essays take on the seemingly insurmountable ideas of Faith, Memory, Knowledge, Innocence, Strength, Imagination, Prayer, Abundance, Wisdom, and Hope. Meticulously detailed, both surreal and scientific, the collection is both manically precise and a work of high wit. An unconventional and highly rewarding take on the obsessions that drive us and the reasons we love.


She Would Be the First Sentence of My Next Novel, Nicole Brossard

Brossard blurs the line between fiction and autobiography, between essay and novel, with this moving, romantic narrative on the power of prose. She Would Be the First Sentence of My Next Novel is an inventive experiment in the explanation of this love affair that is fiction.


Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery

No exploration of revelatory Canadiana would be complete without everyone’s favourite redheaded upstart. When the orphan arrives at Green Gables she’s certainly not the boy the Cuthberts had hoped for, but with charm and imagination she manages to defy expectations and win hearts by simply being her exceptional self. The original heroine of the unconventional.


As you can see, lists don’t have to be genre-based. Any grouping rationale that’s interesting and helpful works. If you’re interested in submitting a reading list to Canadian Bookshelf, contact us at

Huge thanks to Stacey May Fowles (@MissStaceyMay on Twitter) for the killer list.

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