A great read is a portal into another universe, and curling up with a good book can transport you into another world.
But sometimes, when the novel in question is already on our doorstep, we get a view of the city we see everyday — told from a totally different perspective.
Many authors have drawn inspiration from the city of Toronto, but the forms it takes in their books differs wildly.
From origin stories that tell us how this metropolis was built, to tales that highlight its rich, multicultural history; each novel takes us on a journey through the streets — page by page.
Here are just a few of the best books that were set in, or feature, our very own Toronto.
In the Skin of a Lion
by Michael Oondatje
This novel is in part a sequel to Oondatje’s famous novel, The English Patient, which tells the story of fictionalized immigrants constructing Toronto landmarks and incorporating real life news stories of the time.
Girl Falls Down
by Maggie Helwig
The novel opens when a woman faints on a subway in Toronto – that’s nothing new, right? But when others complain of a strange smell on the subway and more quickly begin to fall sick, panic ensues as word of a pandemic breaks out.
by Robertson Davies
The first installment of the Deptford Trilogy follows the life of Dunstan Ramsey, a student at the University of Toronto, told through a letter written by the protagonist to his headmaster upon retirement.
by Emily St. John Mandel
OK, so it’s only really the opening gambit that’s set in Toronto., but this critically acclaimed dystopian novel was a huge hit, and it opens during a production of King Lear at the Elgin Theatre on Yonge.
The Robber Bride
by Margaret Atwood
The list wouldn’t be complete with at least one of Atwood’s novels. This 1993 novel set in Toronto follows friends Roz, Charis and Tony, who get together and remember the ways in which they were betrayed by former classmate Zenia.
by Tim Findley
Apparently Toronto equals dystopian futures to many great authors. This spooky novel shows a futuristic 6ix, ruined culturally and politically after a destructive bird-flu – and eerily the book was written ten years before Toronto actually dealt with a real-life SARS epidemic.
by Andrew Pyper
A TV critic for a Toronto newspaper finds that truth is stranger than fiction when the line between a real-life crime spree in the city and the story told by a writer in his book circle begins to blur.
The Amazing Absorbing Boy
by Rabindranath Maharaj
Seventeen year old Samuel trades home in Trinidad for a new life in Regent’s Park in Toronto when he’s forced to live with his father. He spends his days trying to make sense of this strange new city by viewing it through the comic books he adores.
by Hugh Garner
Set in the east-end neighbourhood of Toronto, this novel tells the story of Ken Tilling, who has just left school and is trying to make a name for himself in the 1930s. His struggles to make a dime (and get laid) are set against a backdrop of political challenge in the Great Depression.
What We All Long For
by Dionne Brand
A tale about Toronto and its modern identity, this novel sees the twenty-something children of migrants struggle against the life their parents sought out for them when they emigrated from Vietnam in the 1970s.