The Greatest "Toronto" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

    The novel is a complex narrative that weaves together the story of two sisters in early 20th century Canada, one of whom publishes a scandalous novel that leads to her suicide. The surviving sister, now an elderly woman, reflects on their lives, revealing family secrets, heartbreak, and the truth behind the scandalous novel. The narrative is interspersed with excerpts from the controversial book, a science fiction story within a story, adding layers of intrigue and mystery.

  2. 2. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

    This novel revolves around the life of a controversial painter, Elaine Risley, who returns to her hometown, Toronto, for a retrospective of her art. Haunted by her past, she reminisces about her childhood and the complex relationships she had, especially with her best friend Cordelia. The story delves into themes of memory, identity, and the often painful experiences of childhood and adolescence. The protagonist's journey is one of self-discovery, as she navigates through the complexities of female friendship, bullying, and the struggle to fit in.

  3. 3. Unless by Carol Shields

    The novel is a narrative about a middle-aged, successful writer who is grappling with the sudden and inexplicable decision of her eldest daughter to drop out of college and live on the streets. The daughter communicates only one word, "Goodness", which she writes on a cardboard sign. The story explores the protagonist's struggle to understand her daughter's choice, while also delving into themes of feminism, the nature of goodness, and the power of words.

  4. 4. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

    This historical fiction novel centers around the true story of Grace Marks, a 19th-century Irish-Canadian maid who was convicted of the brutal murders of her employer and his housekeeper. The narrative is told from the perspective of Grace herself, as well as a young psychiatrist who is trying to determine whether Grace is truly guilty. The book explores themes of memory, culpability, and the treatment of women in society.

  5. 5. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

    "Station Eleven" is a post-apocalyptic novel that revolves around the lives of several characters before and after a devastating flu pandemic wipes out most of the world's population. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, exploring the interconnectedness of the characters' lives through their shared memories and experiences. The story also follows a traveling Shakespearean theatre company as they navigate the dangers of a collapsed civilization, emphasizing the importance of art and human connection in times of crisis.

  6. 6. The Engineer of Human Souls by Josef Škvorecký

    The novel is a semi-autobiographical narrative of a Czechoslovakian writer who has become a professor at a Canadian university, teaching American literature. The narrative switches between his current life in Canada and his memories of the past in Czechoslovakia, including the Nazi occupation and the Communist regime. The book presents a complex portrayal of the life of an intellectual in exile and the challenges of cultural assimilation, while also exploring themes of love, politics, and the power of literature.

  7. 7. Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

    Set in a dystopian future Toronto that has been abandoned by the government and cordoned off from the rest of Canada, the novel follows a young, spirited woman of Caribbean descent who must navigate the perilous, gang-ruled cityscape while harnessing her newfound, ancestral spiritual powers. As she grapples with her identity and the demands of the community that relies on her, she is drawn into a dangerous quest to save her dying grandmother and confronts a malevolent spirit. The story is a rich tapestry of Afro-Caribbean culture, folklore, and tradition, exploring themes of resilience, heritage, and the transformative power of love and family.

  8. 8. The Glenn Gould Reader by Glenn Gould

    "The Glenn Gould Reader" is a compilation of writings by a renowned Canadian pianist, known for his unique and insightful perspectives on music and culture. This collection offers a window into the artist's mind, featuring a diverse range of essays, articles, reviews, and interviews that explore his philosophies on performance, the intricacies of musical interpretation, and the role of technology in the arts. His articulate and often provocative commentary extends beyond classical music to touch upon a variety of subjects, reflecting his broad intellectual interests and distinctive voice in the world of music and beyond.

  9. 9. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

    This novel is a semi-autobiographical exploration of friendship, art, and the question posed by the title. The protagonist, a young playwright, struggles with her art and personal life, navigating complicated relationships and seeking answers about how to live a good and meaningful life. The narrative blends elements of fiction, memoir, self-help, and philosophy, resulting in a unique and thought-provoking exploration of identity, creativity, and the human condition.

  10. 10. The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies

    The novel is a satirical and erudite exploration of the clash between the spiritual and the carnal, set within the hallowed halls of a Canadian university. It follows the lives of a group of scholars who become embroiled in a series of events sparked by the death of a wealthy art collector. As the academics vie for the deceased's valuable collection, the narrative delves into themes of gnosticism, alchemy, and the complexities of human desire. The story weaves together the personal ambitions, romantic entanglements, and intellectual pursuits of its characters, revealing the moral and ethical dilemmas that often accompany the quest for knowledge and power.

  11. 11. In The Skin Of A Lion by Michael Ondaatje

    Set in the early 20th century, the novel paints a vivid picture of the lives of immigrants and workers in Toronto, weaving together their personal stories with the city's historical events. The narrative follows the protagonist, a young man from rural Ontario, as he moves to the bustling city and becomes entangled in the lives of a diverse cast of characters, including a wealthy industrialist, a love interest with a mysterious past, and a group of bridge builders. Through his interactions and relationships, the novel explores themes of love, labor, and the unsung contributions of immigrants to the building of a city, all while the protagonist embarks on a personal journey of self-discovery and connection within the urban landscape.

  12. 12. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

    All My Puny Sorrows is a poignant exploration of the complex relationship between two sisters, one a successful concert pianist battling severe depression and the other a struggling writer trying to support her. The narrative delves into themes of mental illness, suicide, love, and the power of familial bonds. It grapples with the moral and ethical questions surrounding assisted suicide, the struggle to understand a loved one's pain, and the lengths to which one might go to help them find peace.

  13. 13. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

    The graphic novel follows the life of a slacker and part-time musician, Scott Pilgrim, who falls for an enigmatic American delivery girl named Ramona Flowers. However, to win her heart, Scott must defeat her seven evil exes in a series of surreal video game-inspired battles. Set in Toronto, Canada, the story combines elements of romance, comedy, and fantasy, as Scott navigates the complexities of relationships, self-identity, and adulthood, all while showcasing the unique visual style and cultural references that have made the series a cult favorite.

  14. 14. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

    The novel centers on a mysterious event in which the Earth is encapsulated by an alien barrier that drastically slows down time on the planet's surface compared to the rest of the universe. As stars disappear from the night sky, three childhood friends confront an altered reality where humanity must grapple with its insignificance in the cosmos. The narrative follows their personal journeys and the global response to this existential crisis, exploring themes of time, space, and the human condition, while scientists work fervently to understand and potentially reverse the effects of the time distortion before the outside universe ages eons, leaving Earth far behind.

  15. 15. Experimental Film by Gemma Files

    In this horror novel, a former film history teacher and struggling journalist discovers a mysterious early 20th-century film that may be the work of a reclusive and enigmatic female filmmaker. As she delves deeper into the history of the film and its creator, she finds herself entangled in a web of occult secrets and supernatural forces that threaten her sanity and the safety of her family. The protagonist's quest to uncover the truth behind the film leads her on a harrowing journey through the shadowy fringes of the silent movie era and into the realm of ancient folklore, where the line between reality and myth becomes dangerously blurred.

  16. 16. Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

    In "Flashforward" by Robert J. Sawyer, a mysterious global event causes everyone on Earth to simultaneously lose consciousness for two minutes and seventeen seconds. During this blackout, people experience vivid visions of their lives six months into the future. As scientists scramble to uncover the cause and implications of this phenomenon, personal relationships, careers, and the fate of humanity are put to the test. The story follows a group of individuals as they navigate the aftermath of the flashforward, grappling with the knowledge of what awaits them and the choices they must make to shape their futures.

  17. 17. The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer

    The book explores the ethical and existential ramifications of life after death and artificial intelligence through the story of a scientist who creates three electronic simulations of his own personality. These simulations are designed to test theories of the afterlife and morality, but things take a dark turn when one of the simulations becomes sentient and starts affecting the real world, leading to a series of mysterious deaths. As the scientist struggles to control his creations and unravel the mystery, the novel delves into themes of consciousness, identity, and the implications of technological advancements on the human soul.

  18. 18. Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton

    This memoir offers a unique and introspective look into the world of competitive swimming and how it shapes one's identity and life beyond the pool. The author, a former Olympic trial swimmer, uses her experiences in the water to explore broader themes of discipline, memory, and the passage of time. Through a blend of personal narrative, vivid watercolor illustrations, and photographs, the book delves into the minutiae of swimming - from the smell of chlorine to the textures of different pools - and how these sensory experiences and the rigorous demands of training have influenced her artistic career and personal growth. It's a reflective and beautifully crafted exploration of the intersection between athleticism and artistry, and how past passions can continue to influence and inform our lives in unexpected ways.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.