The Toronto Book Garden, in front of Queen’s Quay Terminal (207 Queens Quay W.), features paving stones engraved with the names of every winning author and title since the Toronto Book Awards were founded in 1974.

Moving the Museum bookjacketMoving the Museum
Wanda Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik
Goose Lane Editions

What the Judges Said . . .

Moving the Museum is revelatory. The book challenges and provokes readers to question and re-establish their relationships with Indigenous art by presenting new ways for museums to present and interact with Indigenous communities and artists. This book kicks the colonial gaze to the curb, insisting instead that museums and galleries radically shift what they’ve been doing and offers page after page enacting the potential of Indigenous art to empower, inspire, and create community. Wanda Nanibush has taken up her role as a steward of Indigenous art at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario and uses it here to present deeply grounded and transformative Indigenous knowledge in an accessible way, while Georgiana Uhlyarik, and other AGO colleagues, offer support essential to enacting real change. Moving the Museum is an art book that is practical, radical, and necessary.

Book jacket, Run Towards the Danger by Sarah PolleySarah Polley
Run Towards the Danger
Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Random House

What the Judges Said . . .

Sarah Polley’s work as an actor, screenwriter and director is celebrated for its honesty, complexity and deep humanity; she brings all of those qualities and her strong storytelling abilities to the six essays that comprise Run Towards the Danger. Polley contemplates stories from her own life ranging from stage fright to high-risk childbirth to endangerment and more. After struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, Polley was advised by a specialist to engage her fears and run towards the danger. She does so with riveting clarity in this fine memoir, proving that she is as fierce as she is technical, as vulnerable as she is malleable, as strong as she is critical.

Kim EchlinBook jacket, Speak Silence, Kim Echlin, Penguin Random House Canada
Speak, Silence
Penguin Random House Canada

What the Judges Said . . .

Through a story of tragedy and community rebuilding, Speak, Silence hooks the reader from the beginning to the last page. A Toronto journalist travels to war-torn Europe to reunite with her former lover and report on a festival in Sarajevo. What she finds is a network of women determined to move beyond their country’s shame. In an impeccably well-research text, Kim Echlin portrays the horrors of the Bosnian war through the stories of systemic sexual assault in three generations of a Muslim family. With prose that portrays both horror and hope, Echlin takes the reader on a journey that follows women of all ages as they force the world to acknowledge for the first time that rape is not only a crime against an individual, it is also a crime against humanity.

Book jacket, The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole, published by Doubleday CanadaDesmond Cole
The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power
Doubleday Canada

What the Judges Said . . .

A skillful blend of history and reportage, The Skin We’re In punctures any illusions Torontonians may harbour about race relations in their city, and provides a local front-line perspective on Black Lives Matter. Desmond Cole describes his progression from journalist to activist on behalf of Toronto’s black residents fed up with mistreatment at the hands of the police, lip service from politicians and media and indifference from the community at large. Accomplished, timely and powerful, The Skin We’re In is a potent and urgent reminder that there is no place for complacency in the battle against racism.

Theory by Dionne BrandDionne Brand
Knopf Canada

What the Judges Said . . .

In this novel of ideas, Dionne Brand dazzles with smart, jazz-like storytelling and the utterly engrossing voice of its narrator. Theory delivers a potent dose of meticulous attention to both humour and the seriousness of its subject, so that Toronto comes to each page anew. What many will recognize as love is turned into a dissertation, and by turns, the other way around. This protagonist is playful, cunning, honest, and self-aware and the book surprises from cover to cover. With this wry, beautiful, profoundly philosophical novel, Brand accomplishes something reserved for the most masterful writers of our time.

Brother, book jacketDavid Chariandy
McClelland and Stewart

What the Judges Said . . .

In a near flawless piece of writing, David Chariandy brings readers to a story that may very well feel both foreign and familiar. Brother, his second novel, is a lean masterwork driven by spare, painstakingly-crafted prose. No word is wasted in this book, and every word leaves a mark. In this world-building, or perhaps world-revealing novel, Chariandy casts off tropes that readers may expect from a story about family, violence, loss, and survival, and lets the heart of the novel, and its fully-drawn characters, dictate the course of the narrative. This book has already become part of the Toronto literary canon, and should reside there for ages.

B. Denham JollyIn the Black: My Life, cover art
In the Black: My Life
ECW Press

What the judges said . . .

Black rights activist and entrepreneur Denham Jolly should be a household name. With humour and colourful anecdotes, In the Black shines a light on many of the hurdles faced by immigrants trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. From politicians to community leaders, no punches are pulled as Jolly recounts the hurdles that littered his path to business, personal, and community success. In the Black recounts Jolly’s journey from a happy boyhood in Jamaica to business success in Toronto publishing Contrast and founding FLOW 93.5, Canada’s first Black-owned radio station.

Toronto Book award winner cover art On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light ECW Press by Cordelia StrubeCordelia Strube
On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light
ECW Press

What the judges said . . .

Driven by the wry and wrenching voice of eleven-year-old Harriet, Cordelia Strube’s On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light, pitches us full-tilt into the heart of human relationships. In spite of hapless adults failing her on every front, Harriet charts her own course with the materials at hand. Like her scavenged-object art projects, her sensibility manifests the collision of absurdity, pain, and resilience in her own family portrait. This singularly moving novel faces both the depths and the heights without flinching.

Toronto Book award winner cover art Station Eleven Harper Avenue by Emily St. John MandelEmily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven
Harper Avenue

What the judges said . . .

Station Eleven is a brilliant meditation on what makes us human.  It begins with a performance of King Lear at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, in the final days before a pandemic destroys the world as we know it.  Fifteen years later, we follow a ragtag troupe of actors and musicians as they travel around the devastated landscape, performing for whomever has managed to escape the plague.  The group’s motto — “Because survival is insufficient” – is also the cri de coeur of this beautiful and haunting novel.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, And the Trial That Shocked a Country published by Harper Collins written by Charlotte GrayCharlotte Gray
The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, And the Trial That Shocked a Country
Harper Collins

What the judges said . . .

The Massey Murder tells the story of a domestic servant who shot and killed her employer, Albert Massey, (of the famed Massey family) in Toronto in 1915. The trial of the young girl, a recent immigrant from Britain, was a media sensation, and opinions about her guilt or innocence were reflected through the lens of social class, political party and country of birth. Charlotte Gray’s detailed account places the reader in the courtroom alongside the larger-than-life legal figures of the time, and uses the perspectives of two rival newspapers to explore the tensions bubbling beneath the surface of a young city absorbing huge numbers of immigrants, while losing thousands of its citizens in a war far from home. Gray’s masterful depiction of the prevailing attitudes in Toronto during this tumultuous period is beautifully crafted and full of insight about the social landscape. Enlivened with rich historical detail, The Massey Murder is an absorbing exploration of the plight of an unfortunate young woman caught in a new and alien world, and of a city still in the painful process of self discovery.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes published by Harper Collins written by Kamal Al-SolayleeKamal Al-Solaylee
Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes
Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.

What the judges said …

Intolerable (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.) is a story of prejudice, dislocation, courage and extraordinary achievement. It is a moving portrayal of the inner turmoil and emotional complexities that Kamal Al-Solaylee experiences being gay and leaving his Arab family and culture behind to pursue a life free from religious and social stigmas. His arrival in Canada is marked by a nervous optimism but he finds his new life is “enriched by many other things; from public libraries, to public broadcasting to the many parks and free art galleries.”

In Toronto he finds a sense of acceptance, community and place. Set against the backdrop of conflict in the Middle East, he vividly portrays the sense of loss and sadness he feels as a result of the difficult choices he has had to make. It is a captivating and sensitively written memoir that explores the dynamics of family relationships, and the political and cultural influences that shape one’s life.

Copernicus Avenue by Andrew J. Borkowski Andrew J. Borkowski
Copernicus Avenue
Cormorant Books

What the judges said …

Copernicus Avenue is Toronto’s Roncesvalles Avenue reimagined. Borkowski writes what he knows and so brings us deep into the heart of Toronto’s diverse and storied Polish community. Copernicus Avenue speaks with a voice that rings true across the generations; to those forced to leave a life behind, to those who live under the shadow of the past, and those unsure of their place in the future. The clarity and economy of Borkowski’s language conjures every familiar smell and streetscape in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. This collection of subtly interwoven short stories reaches into the soul of all who have struggled through adversity and continued to persevere.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - The Amazing Absorbing Boy published by Knopf Canada written by Rabindranath MaharajRabindranath Maharaj
The Amazing Absorbing Boy
Knopf Canada

What the judges said …

Seventeen-year-old Samuel, naïve and inexperienced, leaves his home in Trinidad for Canada following the death of his mother. He hasn’t seen his father since he was six and now, thrust into a new life together, Samuel soon realizes that he is considered a burden. Undaunted, though still wide-eyed, and propelled by a comic-book sensibility, Samuel begins to explore the vast foreign landscape that is Toronto. With his fourth novel, Rabindranath Maharaj gives us a powerful and funny story of a naïve young immigrant who is wise in the culture of comic books, and a unique portrait of big-city Canada.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - The Carnivore published by ECW Press written by Mark SinnettMark Sinnett
The Carnivore
ECW Press

What the judges said …

“Sinnett takes what would be a cliché in lesser hands Hurricane Hazel’s devastation of Toronto in 1954 yoked to an affair that silently undermines a young marriage to produce a novel of adventure and sorrow. Sinnett’s taut prose, sense of the era and the city, and ear for the words and silences of a marriage brings the storm, the city, and the characters fully to life.”

More by Austin ClarkeAustin Clarke
Thomas Allen Publishers

What the judges said …

“Don’t call us visible minorities. I am not any damn minority. Visible or invisible,” Idora tells her white friend as they cruise Kensington Market in search of Caribbean food. Austin Clarke’s More paints a vivid and powerful portrait of a black woman’s four-day journey as she relives her life in Canada as an immigrant from the West Indies. Her enduring sorrow balanced by hard work, and short bouts of gaiety and joy ensure her presence as a memorable and powerful figure in Canadian literature.”

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Loyalty Management published by Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd. written by Glen DownieGlen Downie
Loyalty Management
Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd.

What the judges said …

“Undeniably Torontonian, Downie’s poems travel nimbly through our old Victorian homes, up the trees in our yards, down our streets and into other lands. This book evokes vibrant images of objects and relationships, filtered through layers of immense kindness, a shrewd eye for deceit, and an established technical skill. These poems are richly textured and utterly readable.”

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Consolation published by Doubleday Canada written by Michael RedhillMichael Redhill
Doubleday Canada

What the judges said …

An impressively researched and beautifully realized novel, Consolation bridges 150 years in the life of the city through the deaths of two Torontonians: J.G. Hallam, an English apothecary-turned-photographer, who seeks to establish himself in mid-19th century Toronto, and Professor David Hollis, a ‘forensic geologist’ who drowns in the city’s harbour at the end of the 20th century. This is an intriguing story, written with grace and clarity — that slips gently in and out of time but holds fast to the details of its Toronto setting and its genuinely-moving exploration of the complexities of memory, truth and love.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - What We All Long For published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada written by Dionne BrandDionne Brand
What We All Long For
Alfred A. Knopf Canada

What the judges said …

“Toronto is a vivid central character in this multi-layered novel that gives voice to the experiences of four young second-generation Torontonians as they struggle to make their way in the city. Brand explores themes of identity, displacement, desire, and loss with potent language that is both lyrical and precise. What We All Long For sparkles with the many rhythms and textures of the city – from the grit of its downtown alleyways to the driveways of Richmond Hill.”

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould and Other Stories published McClelland & Stewart Ltd. written by Kevin BazzanaKevin Bazzana
Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould
McClelland and Stewart Ltd.

What the judges said…

In Wondrous Strange, Kevin Bazzana vividly recaptures the life of Glenn Gould. He sheds new light on such topics as Gould’s family history, his secretive sexual life, his hypochondria and mental health, and dispelshealth, and dispels the myth of Gould as a self-taught and emotionally damaged recluse who “burst out of nowhere” onto the international music scene. Bazzana places Gould’s distinctive traits – his eccentric interpretations, his garish onstage demeanour, his resistance to convention – against the backdrop of his religious, middle-class Toronto childhood, and offers a fresh appreciation of Gould’s high-profile but illness-plagued concert tours, his adventurous work for Canadian music festivals and the CBC, and his musical and legal problems with Steinway & Sons.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Mme. Proust and the Kosher Kitchen published by Doubleday Canada written by Kate TaylorKate Taylor
Mme. Proust and the Kosher Kitchen
Doubleday Canada

What the judges said…

Kate Taylor entwines the stories of three women to create a haunting story that spans the twentieth century.

In fin de siècle Paris, Jeanne Proust writes in her diaries of everything, personal and political. But mostly she writes of her son, Marcel, who is plagued by grandiose social ambitions and unfulfilled literary aspirations.

In mid-century Toronto, Sarah Bensimon, who fled the Nazis asa child, now feels alienated from her husband and son, and seeks solace in her kitchen.

And at the turn of the millennium, Marie Prévost pores over Mme. Proust’s diaries, finding in them a refuge from unrequited love.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - The Song Beneath the Ice published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. written by Joe FioritoJoe Fiorito
The Song Beneath the Ice
McClelland and Stewart Ltd.

What the judges said…

A year after concert pianist Dominic Amoruso’s mysterious disappearance during a private recital in Toronto, his friend, the journalist Joe Serafino, receives a package of Dom’s tapes and notebooks from a place called Wolf Cove on Baffin Island. By transcribing the tapes and matching them with entries in the notebooks, Joe slowly pieces together the story of what happened to his friend.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Courage My Love published by Stoddart Publishing Co., Limited written by Sarah DearingSarah Dearing
Courage My Love
Stoddart Publishing Co., Limited

What the judges said…

Philippa Maria Donahue is an Irish-American newcomer to Toronto whose response to her predictable marriage is to throw aside her antiseptic condominium life in upscale Yorkville for total immersion in the brash, artistic, odorous streets of Kensington Market. Changing her name to Nova Philip, she remakes her life, setting up house in a rented room over a store, shaping her appearance to match her new identity, learning the unique rhythms of Kensington society and its colourful characters.

When events push Nova to the brink of physical danger, will she return to the safety of her old life, or continue to embrace the risks of the new?

Toronto Book award winner cover art - The Spinster & The Prophet published by Macfarlane Walter & Ross written by A.B. McKillopA.B. McKillop
The Spinster & The Prophet
Macfarlane Walter & Ross

What the judges said…

In The Spinster and The Prophet, A.B. McKillop unfolds the parallel stories of two Edwardian figures: H.G. Wells, the celebrated writer of autobiographical fiction and futuristic fantasy and Florence Deeks, a modest teacher and amateur student of history in Toronto. In 1925, Miss Deeks launched a $500,000 lawsuit against Wells, claiming that in an act of “literary piracy”; Wells had somehow come to use her manuscript history of the world in the writing of his international bestseller The Outline of History. Miss Deeks’ manuscript was submitted to the venerable Macmillan Company in Canada but was rejected and never published. Wells’ manuscript, completed in an astonishingly short period, was released by the same firm in North America the year following.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Mouthing the Words published by Pedlar Press written by Camilla GibbCamilla Gibb
Mouthing the Words
Pedlar Press

What the judges said…

Mouthing The Words (Pedlar Press, 1999) is Toronto author Camilla Gibb’s acclaimed first novel. Listed as one of the Best Books of 1999 by The Globe and Mail, it tells the story of the lost, neglected and often mute Thelma Barley, an English girl who emigrates to Toronto during the 1970s with her hapless parents and younger brother. In order to cope with life’s sometimes violent and uncertain contingencies, Thelma develops rich and intimate friendships with three imaginary characters whose love throughout her adolescence protects Thelma’s vulnerable but extraordinary inner landscape. A darkly comic novel of great power and resonance.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Benedict Abroad published by St. Thomas Poetry Series written by Richard OutramRichard Outram
Benedict Abroad
St. Thomas Poetry Series

What the judges said…

Benedict Abroad is a sequence of poems relating the various carryings-on of Benedict – Torontonian and “man of the world” to a fault – with his curious friends and intricate loves. These include: Portland, a sometime hospital orderly; the restive Bert and Victoria Mantrovia; Carbuncle, their jaundiced chauffeur; Amanda, an actress of chaste parts, and Gorbals, her lecherous ginger tomcat; Bella Czekely-Bardossy, a dab hand with a mop or a pilfered Kalashnikov; and various unremarkable off-stage deities. The sequences have, like life, a beginning (death) and an end (birth); the middle rather ambles along, like life, being joyously unpredictable.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Leaving Earth published by HarperCollins written by Helen HumphreysHelen Humphreys
Leaving Earth

What the judges said…

Leaving Earth is a fascinating account of a publicity stunt, the sort of thing that was common during the Depression when people would do just about anything to make a little money and escape from their otherwise dreary lives. It is also a tender look at the characters involved and a glimpse of a part of Toronto that has changed immeasurably since that era. Humphreys describes people, places and an interesting period in Toronto’s history with a fine deliberate hand in this first-rate first novel.

Toronto Book award winner cover art - Fugitive Pieces published by McClelland & Stewart written by Anne MichaelsAnne Michaels
Fugitive Pieces
McClelland and Stewart

What the judges said…

In 1940 a boy bursts from the mud of a war-torn Polish city, where he has buried himself to hide from the soldiers who murdered his family. His name is Jakob Beer. He is only seven years old. And although by all rights he should have shared the fate of the other Jews in his village, he has not only survived but been rescued by a Greek geologist, who does not recognize the boy as human until he begins to cry. With this electrifying image, Anne Michaels ushers us into her rapturously acclaimed novel of loss, memory, history, and redemption.

Toronto Book award winner cover art 1996 Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwenRosemary Sullivan
Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwen
HarperCollins Canada

Sir Ernest MacMillan, The Importance of Being by Ezra Schabas Ezra Schabas
Sir Ernest MacMillan, The Importance of Being Canadian
University of Toronto Press

Toronto Book award winner cover art 1994 HeadhunterTimothy Findley
HarperCollins Canada

Voice-Over by Carole Corbeil Carole Corbeil

Toronto Book award winner cover art 1993 China BluesDavid Donnell
China Blues
McClelland and Stewart

Toronto Book award winner cover art 1992 Hearts of FlameKatherine Govier
Hearts of Flame

Toronto Stories: Streets of Attitude by Cary Fagan and Robert MacDonald Cary Fagan and Robert MacDonald
Toronto Stories: Streets of Attitude
Yonge and Bloor Publishing

Toronto Book award winner cover art 1990 Double TakeHilary Russell
Double Take
Dundurn Press

Homesick by Guy Vanderhaeghe Guy Vanderhaeghe
McClelland and Stewart

Toronto Book award winner cover art 1989 The Cat's EyeMargaret Atwood
Cat’s Eye
McClelland and Stewart

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje Michael Ondaatje
In the Skin of a Lion
McClelland and Stewart

William Dendy and William Kilbourn, Toronto Observed: Its Architecture, Patrons and History

Morley Callaghan
Our Lady of the Snows

Robertson Davies
What’s Bred in the Bone

Aska Warabe
Who Goes to the Park

J.M.S. Careless
Toronto To 1918

Joseph Skvorecky
The Engineer of Human Souls

Edith G. Firth
Toronto in Art

Gerald Killan
David Boyle: From Artisan to Archaeologist

Eric Wright
The Night the Gods Smiled

Michael Bliss
The Discovery of Insulin

Lucy Booth Martyn
The Face of Early Toronto

Claude Bissell
The Young Vincent Massey

Marian Engel
Lunatic Villas

Timothy Colton
Big Daddy: Frederick G. Gardiner and the Building of Metropolitan Toronto

Mary Larratt Smith
Young Mr. Smith in Upper Canada

Helen Weinzweig
Basic Black with Pearls

Raymond Souster
Hanging In

Stephen A. Speisman
The Jews of Toronto: A History to 1937

Michael Bliss
A Canadian Millionaire

William Dendy
Lost Toronto

John Morgan Gray
Fun Tomorrow

Christopher Armstrong and H.V. Nelles
The Revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company

Timothy Findley
The Wars

Margaret Atwood
Lady Oracle

Margaret Gibson Gilboord
The Butterfly Ward

Robert Harney and Harold Troper
Immigrants: A Portrait of the Urban Experience Shadow Maker, 1890-1930

Hugh Hood
The Swing in the Garden

Claude Bissell
Halfway Up Parnassus

The Labour History Collective
Women at Work

Loren Lind
The Learning Machine

William Kurelek
O Toronto

Desmond Morton
Mayor Howland

Richard Wright
In the Middle of a Life