A Montreal Reading List

Recommended reads from Montreal blog post image

With spring just around the corner, we’re excited for the launch of 26 Knots by Bindu Suresh, chosen by CBC Books and Quill & Quire as one of their hotly anticipated reads of spring. 26 Knots is a series of interconnected love stories set against the backdrop of Montreal. It got us thinking about other books based in Montreal—fiction, LGBTQ+, award-winning, foodie, short stories, coming-of-age, noir and more—and we’re here to share some of them with you!

Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall (Cormorant Books)
Welcome to 90s Montreal. It’s been five years since the OKA crisis and the sex garage riots; the queers are rioting against assimilation, cocktail AIDS drugs are starting to work, and the city walls on either side of the Main are spray-painted with the words YES or NO. Revolution seems possible to eighteen-year-old Eve, who is pining to get out of her parent’s house in Dorval and find a girl who wants to kiss her back.

Cockroach by Rawi Hage (House of Anansi Press)
The novel takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal’s restless immigrant community, where a self-described thief has just tried but failed to commit suicide. This sets the story in motion, leading us back to the narrator’s violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky emigre cafes where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen night-time streets of Montreal.

26 Knots by Bindu Suresh (Invisible Publishing)
Araceli and Adrien are two journalists who meet while covering a fire. From that moment, she is unable to forget him. Adrien then falls in love with Pénélope, who, in turn, is torn between him and Gabriel. Centred in Montreal and spiralling out into Ontario as Gabriel searches for the father he never knew, 26 Knots is a series of interlocking love stories that deftly reveal the devastating consequences of betrayal and commitment, of grief and hope.

Break On Through by Jill Murray (Penguin Random House Canada Teen)
Blending Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Fame for the hip-hop generation, this coming-of-age tale is Bring It On with a street edge, introducing a contemporary heroine for every kid who has ever fallen for the wrong person, or got off on the wrong foot with the high school principal, or was a passionate and devoted student—of the wrong thing, according to their parents.

The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen (McClelland & Stewart)
Set amidst the dazzling aesthetics of the 1960s, The Favourite Game is Leonard Cohen’s unforgettable coming-of-age novel about the painful confusion accompanying our journey into adulthood, and the friendships, wars and lovers that are our guides. Lawrence Breavman belongs to the upper echelons of Montreal’s Jewish community, the only son of a wealthy Jewish family. As Breavman enters into adulthood, his quest to understand the world and himself takes him from acclaimed poet to repentant labourer, before ultimately seeking sanctuary in New York

Miss Montreal: Jonah Geller #4 by Howard Shrier (Penguin Random House Canada)
Jonah Geller knew Sammy at summer camp when they were twelve. When Sammy is brutally murdered years later in what looks like a hate crime, his dying grandfather begs Jonah to set things right. Montreal is only five hours away in Dante Ryan’s new hemi-powered Charger, but Jonah and Ryan soon find it’s a different world, with its own language and culture, tensions and conflicts, belligerent cops — and a new set of rules waiting to be broken.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (HarperCollins)
Baby, all of thirteen years old, is lost in the gangly, coltish moment between childhood and the strange pulls and temptations of the adult world. Her mother is dead; her father, Jules, is scarcely more than a child himself and is always on the lookout for his next score. Channeling the artlessly affecting voice of her thirteen-year-old heroine with extraordinary accuracy and power, Heather O’Neill’s heartbreaking and wholly original debut novel blew readers away when it was first published ten years ago.

Montreal Noir, edited by Jacques Filippi and John McFetridge (Akashic Books)
Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America and seems to be in a constant state of flux. Today, the city has its own language: Franglais (or Frenglish). Maybe the first word spoken in that language was noir… Each neighborhood in Montreal is different, and of course, each Montrealer (Montrealais) is different, making up the pieces of the mosaic of our city. Some are bright and shiny, others are darker and somber, but all have a shadow in the noir.

Balconville by David Fennario (Talonbooks)
Three families and Thibault, the neighbourhood “rubbie,” sit on their balconies in the heat of a Montreal summer. It is election time and Gaétan Bolduc is running for re-election for the Liberals. His broadcast truck roams the streets making election promises in English and in French, and playing the music of Elvis Presley. The English and the French-Canadian working class take on the Establishment in this award-winning play.

Sweet Affliction by Anna Leventhal (Invisible Publishing)
A pregnancy test is taken at a wedding, a bad diagnosis leads a patient to a surprising outlook, and a civic holiday becomes a dystopian nightmare. By turns caustic, tender, and creepily hilarious, Sweet Affliction reveals the frailties, perversions, and resilience of Anna Leventhal’s cast of city-dwellers.

The Dears: Lost in the Plot by Lorraine Carpenter (Bibliophonic, an imprint of Invisible Publishing)
Over a decade after the release of their first album, The Dears have weathered the indie fringes, the collapse of the music industry as we knew it and the near implosion of the band itself, with their creative vision and gang dynamic intact. The Dears: Lost in the Plot looks at how The Dears survived the fallout, and helped launch the acclaimed mid-aughts music scene in their hometown of Montréal.

Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz (House of Anansi Press)
Beena and Sadhana are sisters who share a bond that could only have been shaped by the most unusual of childhoods — and by shared tragedy. Orphaned as teenagers, they have grown up under the exasperated watch of their Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic community of Mile End. Together, they try to make sense of the rich, confusing brew of values, rituals, and beliefs that form their inheritance. Yet as they grow towards adulthood, their paths begin to diverge.

The Original Face by Guillaume Morissette (Vehicule Press)
Twenty-nine-year-old Daniel is an under-employed internet artist who’s struggling as much with money and inspiration as he is in his relationship with Grace. Against a backdrop of a digital economy that rewards online platforms instead of content creators, with climate-change anxiety hanging in the air, the resolutely contemporary Morissette immerses readers into a year of modern love.

Yellow Crane by Susan Gillis (Brick Books)
A long look at the changing landscape of a Montreal neighbourhood becomes at once a lament and a love poem. A sequence of poems inspired by Japanese tanka take on the cultural weather, core-drilling into the contradictions and uncertainties of the everyday. Writers, artists, thinkers, cooks, and others congregate in a hammock on the edge of a hayfield to compare notes on what we value.

Griffintown by Marie Hélène Poitras, translated by Sheila Fischman (Cormorant Books)
Loaded with grit, heart, murder, and desire, Griffintown harnesses the style of a Spaghetti Western to tell the exhilarating story of the calèche drivers of Old Montreal, the city’s urban cowboys. Winter has taken some of their number. Some men, like John, pick up the reins like a bad habit. For others, past lives trail behind them, and Griffintown is their last chance.

Black Bird by Michel Basilieres (Knopf Canda)
Holed up in a shambling house at the base of Mount Royal is the family Desouche: three generations of English- and French-Canadians caught in the gears of a national emergency. Their world is dark and hard, but alive with hope and expectation. When one of the eldest, an Anglo Montrealer, dies at the hand of one of the youngest, a militant separatist, so begins a year of turmoil and change that culminates in the October Crisis.

Montreal Cooks: A Tasting Menu from the City’s Leading Chefs by Jonathan Cheung and Tays Spencer (Figure 1 Publishing)
With the established food scene being joined by an explosion of new, globally minded, locally focused restaurants, Montréal has evolved into a city of unparalleled culinary excellence. Montréal Cooks presents 80 recipes from 40 of Montreal’s most talented and unique chefs. Written with the home cook in mind, this cookbook is designed to make recipes from fan-favorite restaurants achievable for everyone.

Another Book About Another Broken Heart by Julia Tausch (Conundrum Press)
Twenty-one year old Katy self-consciously, obsessively processes the dissolution of love, resulting in this fast-paced monologue filtered through the consciousness of a clever, albeit self-obsessed and miserable young woman. After moving from Toronto to Montreal, Katy is forced to forge new friendships, some providing new strength, others resulting in disaster. Originally intended as a one-woman show, the voice-driven nature of this novel allows it to “perform” for the reader, inviting us to participate fully in Katy’s often hilarious take on life.

Nellcott Is My Darling by Golda Fried (Coach House Books)
Alice Charles has just moved to Montreal to go to McGill University. She’s never had a boyfriend and doesn’t know how to do laundry. She joins the Film Society and hangs out in the library. And, most of all, she thinks about how she’s still a virgin and how she’ll never figure it all out. Then she meets Nellcott Ragland, a 23-year-old who works at Basement Records and wears black eyeliner. She won’t admit it to her parents, but Nellcott has become her darling.

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