Books Business Out of Office

10 Literary Experts Offer Tips on Reading More Books in 2022

Type Books on Toronto's Queen W St.

It’s hard to believe that we are going into the second year of the pandemic. We’ve finished Netflix (and its friends, Amazon Prime, Crave, and Disney +); we’ve walked so much in our own neighbourhoods that we’ve become our own Google Maps, and we’re trying to manage our “new normals.” We’re balancing working from home, taking care of our kids, and managing the ever-changing landscape of openings and closings while we remain near yet far from our family and friends. Naturally, that can leave little time for reading and trying to get in that “me” time, especially in the wake of the ever-present New Year’s reading resolutions.

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But when it comes to self-improvement, we’re of the belief that there’s no shame in reaching out for assistance, especially when you can have the best at your disposal. So, to assist you in your quest to expand your horizons, we interviewed the best in the literary business to help you start anew for your reading goals and obtain those book challenge bragging rights on Goodreads. From bestselling authors, writers, and publishing professionals to local indie booksellers and library employees, we asked these 10 self-proclaimed bibliophiles about their favourite reads and the best advice to get you inspired and turning the page. Swipe through the gallery below for their advice on the most exciting new releases for every genre, attainable reading goals, BIPOC authors to explore, and more.

Carly Watters

Carly Watters

What is your occupation?

Senior Literary Agent and Senior Vice President at P.S. Literary Agency.

What is your advice on how to read more books?

My best advice is to get into audiobooks. You can fit them in when you’re working out, walking the dog, driving, and more. Also, shorter works are your friend. You don’t have to commit to 700-page novels, for it to be “reading.” Try essay collections and poetry to break it up.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

Instagram, Goodreads, TikTok, Book of the Month Club, and lists of award nominees like Writer’s Trust and Giller Awards.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

Reading more poetry has been my goal for the last year and I want to continue that into 2022. Also, buying books by living writers of colour because I want money to go into their pockets; support the world you want to see.

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

I’d recommend Lindsay Wong’s award-winning The Woo-Woo, Jael Richardson’s bestseller Gutter Child, and Teresa Wong’s Dear Scarlet. Yolanda Marshall also has incredible picture books for kids. 

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

How to Raise a Feminist Son by Sonora Jha and Matrix by Lauren Groff

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

Glendy Vanderah

What genre(s) do you think will be most popular through 2022? Why?

It’s a pandemic! People want to escape their lives but also want comfort reads. Our lives are very complicated and confusing right now. So, dark comedies, rom-coms, non-fiction can help us solve a problem in our lives, while sweeping love stories and multicultural fiction help us to understand each other.

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

Open by Rachel Krantz is an incredible memoir about open relationships and non-monogamy by a journalist who interviews experts and tells her own personal story. It’s a fantastic pick for the modern reader!

What is your favourite local or independent bookstore(s)?

Betty’s Bookshelf in St. Mary’s, Ontario just opened in 2021 and is adorable.

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year?

The Dave Grohl memoir, The Storyteller, is a great one. Another music pick that is incredible (because she sings in between chapters) is Brandi Carlile’s Broken Horses memoir on audio, too. 

Stacy Lee Kong

Stacy Lee Kong

What is your occupation?

Writer, cultural critic, and founder of Friday Things.

What is your advice on how to read more books?

Read what you like! I think people often have a lot of anxiety around reading “important” or “good” books, or they look at particular genres as “guilty pleasures,” but really, it doesn’t matter what you’re reading. If you like mysteries or sci-fi or romance novels, that’s what you should read. For me, the point of reading is joy, not productivity.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

Goodreads, because you can look at other users’ lists to see what their favourite books in a particular genre are. I also get a lot of recommendations from book round-ups in magazines or newspapers.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

I always want reading to be a stress-free escape, so I don’t tend to set goals. For the past few years, I have very casually thought it would be cool to read 100 books, but I never quite get there (usually I come in at about 80) and honestly, that’s fine.

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

I just read Raven Leilani’s Luster, which was so good and beautifully written. Ashley C. Ford’s debut book, a memoir called Somebody’s Daughter, was also fantastic.

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

There is no way I can choose just one! I thought about The Push by Ashley Audrain for weeks after I finished it. I also read a lot of romance this year; I highly recommend Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin, Talia Hibbert’s The Brown Sisters Series, and Helen Hoang’s The Heart Principle.

What are you reading right now?

I always have several books on the go. Right now, it’s The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker, which is a historical fantasy novel set in early-1900s New York City, and The Mismatch by Sara Jafari, which is a cross-generational contemporary romance novel that moves between modern-day London and revolutionary Iran.

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

N.K. Jemisin for sci-fi feels extremely relevant right now, Jasmine Guillory for smart, satisfying romance, and Leigh Bardugo for super readable youth-adult literature.

What genre(s) do you think will be most popular through 2022? Why?

Romance is a popular genre at any time but it tends to do especially well during difficult times, so that would be my guess.

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

The Push, Such a Fun Age, Luster, and The Loneliest Girl in the World by Lauren James. Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots is a witty, thought-provoking novel about a very competent admin to a supervillain. 

What is your favourite local or independent bookstore(s)?

A Different Booklist, Another Story, and Type, all in Toronto.

Ashley Audrain

Ashley Audrain

What is your occupation?

Writer. My debut novel, The Push, was published last year.

What is your advice on how to read more books?

I think it’s important to read what you really want to read, and not what you think you should read. I’m an advocate of putting down a book if you’re not enjoying it or not compelled to turn the pages. Reading should always nourish or fulfil you in some way that feels like time well-spent.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

I find the best resource for recommendations are from trusted book lover friends whose tastes I share. This includes my long-time writing partner, Ashley; the talented Toronto author Harriet Alida-Lye; and my mom. If they love a book, I’m pretty sure I’ll love it too.

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

There are three debut novelists with books coming out now that I’m most excited about: Wahala by Nikki May, Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson, and The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan. 

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

Notes on an Execution by Dayna Kukafka is exceptional. It deconstructs the story of a serial killer on death row, told primarily through the eyes of the women in his life, and it’s beautifully written. I loved it.

What are you reading right now?

Oh, I’m reading a fantastic literary crime novel that you’ll have to wait for June to get your hands on: More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez. On my nightstand, I have Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout and The Strangers by Katherena Vermette.

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

Pick up something by a Canadian writer who you haven’t yet read, from a Canadian book retailer, as it’s such an important time to support local arts and culture.

What genre(s) do you think will be most popular through 2022? Why?

I think we all might be looking for uplifting entertainment as we navigate a tough start to the year. Nita Prose is a Toronto author whose novel The Maid is taking the world by storm, and for good reason. It’s a murder mystery with charm and heart, and I devoured it. Another Toronto-based author, Carly Fortune, has a feel-good debut coming in June called Every Summer After (set in Ontario cottage country) which will be the perfect summer read.

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

Two of the books I’ve recommended to friends most recently are The Harpy by Megan Hunter and Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam.

What is your favourite local or independent bookstore(s)?

I have many favourites, but I most frequently pop into Type Books on Queen Street because I live in the neighbourhood and it’s always a treat to poke around and discover something new. Flying Books has opened a new location at College Street and Shaw Street.

Michelle Leung

Michelle Leung

What is your occupation?

Former librarian now working in communications for the Toronto Public Library. As a fun side gig, I run a weekly online book club via Zoom called the Extra Credit Book Club.

What is your advice on how to read more books?

I would say, first of all, that if you haven’t been doing this most of your life, it will take time to “train” yourself to get up to speed, so to speak. I think most people would be able to read 15-20 minutes at night. Don’t underestimate this time. Do it daily and I would wager that most people could finish an average-sized book in less than a month. I would also suggest scheduling time and making it a priority.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

I’m lucky enough to have an inner circle of friends that read just as much as me, so they would be my main source of information on new and upcoming reads or backlist classics I have missed. Other resources I am obsessed with include: Literary Hub, New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Granta, London Review of Books, The Guardian Books, the Twitter literati, and all the wonderful book publicists and editors I work with.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

I would like to continue to read books from countries that I’ve never heard of, let alone been to. There is so much translated literature from around the world that is far from the widely covered Asian/European countries.

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

I adore the work of T Kira Madden who has introduced me to many authors whose words I’ve really fallen in love with. I think Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s writing is so revelatory, and K-Ming Chang and Jenny Zhang’s short stories astound me.

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

Chelsea Bieker has a new short story collection coming out this spring called Heartbroke, and it is truly one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. This is my most anticipated book of 2022 and I can’t wait for new readers to discover her.

What are you reading right now?

Tampa by Alissa Nutting is just one of those wild rides not for the faint of heart.

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

I adored Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat as a book that truly achieved something different. This is a blend of essay and autofiction, and the poet explores her childhood obsession with an 18th Century Irish poem and the parallels to her own life in the throes of motherhood.

What genre(s) do you think will be most popular through 2022? Why?

Mysteries and crime are a consistent favourite as I think many find them very entertaining and escapist literature.

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

In the last couple of months, I’ve discovered the works of Melissa Febos and Maggie Nelson, two brilliant memoirists that have written about pain and trauma so beautifully. Their work always combines scholarly research, journalism, and personal storytelling.

What is your favourite local or independent bookstore(s)?

Ben McNally Books in Toronto, Ontario is always worth the visit! Two other small-town bookstores I just love are Jessica’s Books in Thornbury, Ontario and Curiosity House Books in Creemore, Ontario. 

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year?

Seek You by Kristen Radtke is such a timely and moving graphic novel about loneliness and isolation. I found it deeply empathetic for our current times and was moved by the gorgeous illustrations. But I also love a good adventure and travel book, so I enjoyed Jimmy Chin’s latest coffee table book, There and Back.

Shinan Govani

Shinan Govani

What is your occupation? Long-time social columnist, currently with the Toronto Star, and pop culture decoder.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads? In terms of general discovery, #Bookstragram, on Instagram, has become a useful tool. Town & Country does a monthly list which I find interesting. AirMail Weekly, the Graydon Carter site that I subscribe to has good recommendations, too. I always pay attention to what books Reese Witherspoon is recommending as part of her very successful monthly book club – the woman has taste, and has an instinct for zeitgeist-y novels. So many of her books have been bang-on: Little Fires Everywhere, The Paper Palace, Something in the Water, The Henna Artist, etc.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022? I am hoping to tackle some books by American historian Doris Kerans Goodwin.

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?  Bryan Washington is a young, gay, and Black writer whose novel, Memorial, had such a distinct voice and specific sense of place when it came to both Houston and Tokyo. Diksha Basu’s novel, Destination Wedding, set in Mumbai was so fun and wistful! Frances Cha’s book, If I Had Your Face, is a good, moody exploration of modern Seoul, from the perspectives of four women.

What was your favourite book you read this past year? The novel We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza was as topical as it was tender.

What are you reading right now? I just finished Not All Diamonds and Rosé by David Quinn, an exhaustive oral history of the Real Housewives.

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year? Everyone should read more Ann Patchett. She is a genius of the human condition.

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends? A memoir that I read early last year that has definitely stayed with me is Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad.  It is about the life we design and the life we are handed.

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year? If you like something with some bite,  try the Irish novelist, Liz Nugent.

Paul Dotey

Paul Dotey

What is your occupation?

Bookseller, graphic designer, illustrator, typesetter, and window designer for Type Books. Known for “Book of the Week of the Day on the Type Books Instagram account. 

What is your advice on how to read more books?

Buy more of them! Having a stack on hand always means you have new books nearby. It’s like having a stocked pantry.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

Ask your friendly neighbourhood bookseller. Also, follow publishers on social media. Both are great sources for what’s coming soon, what’s just been released, and what might pique your interests.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

I want to finish Moby Dick. In my defence, I think it’s more important that I started reading Moby Dick. 

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

Venita Blackburn’s second story collection How to Wrestle a Girl came out in the fall and I thought it was great. 

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

It would have to be Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. I told my manager that if mankind was ever facing annihilation, I hoped that someone would have the foresight to place all of Ishiguro’s books in a box with a tight-fitting lid; so that future life forms can learn what it is to have a human heart.

What are you reading right now?

Paul Monette’s memoir Becoming a Man was a Christmas gift and I’m enjoying it very much. I’m also reading the advance copy of Hanya Yanagihara’s next novel, To Paradise, which is scheduled for release this winter.

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

Derek McCormack. His collection of fashion writing, Judy Blame’s Obituary, is out now. 

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

Nina Simone’s Gum by Warren Ellis. Ellis saved a piece of gum in a towel left behind by the High Priestess of Soul after a 1999 performance. The gum, the towel, fandom, artistic muses, and the art that came from the gum makes for a wild ride.

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year?

Memoirs are great. Even if you’re not a big reader, you’ll find someone whose story interests you. Seth Rogen’s Yearbook is as hilarious as he is; Stanley Tucci’s Taste brings you along to Italy, and Gay Bar by Jeremy Atherton Lin is a very personal memoir that unfolds into a history of queer bars since early Victorian times.

Hannah Sung

Hannah Sung

What is your occupation?

Co-founder of Media Girlfriends, a podcast company, and the newsletter At The End Of the Day

What is your advice on how to read more books?

Create a book club. Peer pressure can be delightful.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

I use word of mouth and jotting down notes on my phone when I read book reviews in the New York Times, Globe and Mail, and through Twitter.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

I just want to read more, even books I don’t like. 

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

A few I’ve enjoyed recently include Kiley Reid, Cathy Park Hong, and Joshua Whitehead.

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong blew my mind. The End of Craving by Mark Schatzker gave me perspective on food.

 What are you reading right now?

I’m about to start the new Gary Shteyngart, Our Country Friends and want to dirty up my copy of The Korean Vegan by using it in the kitchen. On my pile is Unreconciled by Jesse Wente. 

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

I recently found my old copy of All About Love by Bell Hooks and laughed when I saw that I’d pretty much highlighted the whole thing. I’m grateful that I read it all those years ago and want to revisit it. Wisdom about love is always necessary. 

What genre(s) do you think will be most popular through 2022? Why?

Anything that helps us escape.

 Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

I recently recommended Brother by David Chariandy to a friend and she devoured it right away.

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year?

Probably a graphic novel. My kids are laughing their way through Calvin and Hobbes and tearing through anime series. My own favourite graphic novelist is Jillian Tamaki, who is a friend and award-winning artist.

Alison Lawler-Dean

Alison Lawler-Dean

What is your occupation?

VP Marketing, Indigo

 What is your advice on how to read more books?

Vary what you read – I always have a mix of fiction, non-fiction, biography, business, etc. on the go so that there is always something I’m in the mood to read close by. Also, challenge yourself, read regularly. I do at least 15 mins every night before bed as it helps me unplug from screens and sleep better. And give up bad books. Trudging through books that weren’t holding my interest only stopped me from reading so I now just move on to the next. 

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

I love curated lists and staff recommendations at favourite stores like Indigo, following people whose recommendations I like.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

I want to work through 52 books. I have been pacing just over a book a week when including some shorter reads like chapter books for my kid.

 Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

 Some favourite recent reads are The Strangers by Katherena Vermette, Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr, Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, and From the Ashes Jesse Thistle.

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

It’s so hard to choose just one! For fiction,  Five Little Indians by Michelle Good has stuck with me long after I read it. It was equally heartbreaking and beautiful. For non-Fiction – Think Again by Adam Grant is great. I have not recommended a book more. It’s focused on how we keep an open mind to keep learning, growing, and evolving in thought. In terms of classics, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I have no idea why it took me so long to read but all the hype is warranted; what a compelling story about a woman finding herself and her power.

What are you reading right now?

I started the year with the timely read of Wintering by Katherine May and now loving Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, both of which had been recommended to me by several people.

 Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo both explore what makes us human in very unique ways.

What is your favourite local or independent bookstore(s)?

Indigo, Type Books, and the Toronto Public Library are my favourites.

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year?

I would recommend Lucky by Marissa Stapley as a super fun page-turner by a Canadian author. Other than that, anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid. She writes incredibly fun novels set back in some of the most iconic decades that are beloved by many.

Natalie Taylor

Natalie Taylor

What is your occupation?

Writer and content specialist.

 What is your advice on how to read more books?

Join a book club where everyone reads more than you. I’m constantly in awe of my fellow readers due to their passion and interest. As a result, they pushed me to hit a personal best this year in my reading goal and read books I normally wouldn’t have. Audiobooks helped me immensely, especially in the non-fiction realm. 

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

My book club is always on the pulse of what’s new plus they have such diverse tastes. In addition to the popular book club picks like Oprah and Reese Witherspoon, I like getting Goodreads and Instagram recommendations. I love the serendipity of finding a new book in a Little Free Library

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

I’d like to continue to read more overall and pick books I haven’t read, whether it’s more of one author like Joan Didion, or classics like To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

Canada has such an eclectic mix of up-and-coming talent. Pik-Shuen Fung’s Ghost Forest is a poetic tour-de-force, Souvankham Thammavongsa’s How to Pronounce Knife – which won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize – taught me empathy to the immigrant experience, and in Butter Honey Pig Bread, Francesca Ekwuyasi weaves magical realism into the delicious stories of a Nigerian family. The food descriptions in this book are worth it alone and it’s no wonder it was a Canada Reads contender in 2021. 

 What was your favourite book you read this past year?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid completely transports you to the world of Old Hollywood, telling an unexpected love story. I could not stop turning the page. 

 What are you reading right now?

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton tells the tale of a food writer who gets ghosted but it’s also the tale of friendship. Fiona and Jane by Jane Chen Ho is about an evaporated friendship that leads to the unpredictable reconnection a decade later. 

 Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

I think Amanda Montell is a fresh voice in the non-fiction genre, analyzing the etymology of language in her books, Wordslut and Cultish. I would also highly recommend her entertaining podcast, Sounds Like a Cult.

What genre(s) do you think will be most popular through 2022? Why?

I think that celebrity memoirs, especially in audiobook format, will continue to thrive. Listening to a book by a talented actor or musician is such an entertaining gift that really adds another texture to the book format. There have been great additions in the past few years with contributions from Colin Jost’s A Very Punchable Face, Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, and Jessica Simpson’s Open Book. Will Smith jazzed up the genre by adding musical soundtracks and effects to his storytelling in his memoir, Will. 

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

I think everyone should read Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain, the story of a family dynasty at the helm of the opioid crisis.

What is your favourite local or independent bookstore(s)?

Book City, located on Toronto’s Danforth, will always have a special place in my heart for its friendly service and discount tables. During the height of the pandemic, they hand-delivered a book to my door after 9:00 PM. Let’s not forget about our used bookstores. Circus Books is one of the best. 

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year?

I think that book interest is subjective. My tastes may differ from someone else so my advice is to read something that piques your interest because that’s how you’ll stay engaged. Check out “best-of” lists through popular newspapers and magazines and websites/apps like Goodreads, and talk to like-minded friends or people you trust to pick your next book.

Martha Sharpe

Martha Sharpe

What is your occupation?

I’m an editor by training, and now a publisher and bookseller at Flying Books, which I started in 2015.

What is your advice on how to read more books?

Carry paperbacks to read when you’re caught waiting, or listen to audiobooks while walking or driving. Enjoying small slices of a book throughout the day enriches life.

What are your favourite resources for finding future reads?

Other people — friends, colleagues, writers I know. I also read about books constantly online and in magazines and newspapers and newsletters: The Literary Review of Canada, the New Yorker, the NYT Book Review, LitHub, Publishers Weekly, etc.

Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

I want to get back to reading one poem every morning, as soon as I get up. Etel Adnan’s work is perfect for this — this is reminding me to put Shifting the Silence on my bedside table!

Which emerging BIPOC authors should readers engage with?

Marlowe Granados, author of Happy Hourpublished by Flying Books in Canada. Marlowe writes characters with strength, smarts, and moxie.  

What was your favourite book you read this past year?

Pure Colour, by Sheila Heti — I read an advance copy and it took my breath away. It comes out in February. I also found Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe, totally absorbing and brilliant. I listened to that one in audio. It’s about the Sackler family, who brought the world OxyContin.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading A Hero of Our Time, by Naben Ruthnum — a brilliant satire.

Which author should everyone add to their queue this year?

Marlowe Granados! And in May, Anna Fitzpatrick’s Good Girl — a very funny Bildungsroman that is also a sly comment on our messy media culture.

What book(s) do you think will be most popular through 2022?

The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow — it makes revisiting and revising the historical record feel urgently necessary. Also Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer — a gorgeous book that shows no signs of slowing down.

Which book(s) are you currently recommending to your friends?

Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam, which came out at the end of 2020, and is now out in paperback — perfectly portable!

What is your favourite local or independent bookstore(s)?

Flying Books at 784 College St, of course! In Montreal, I love Drawn & Quarterly, and I haven’t visited Librairie St Henri in person, but I am a devoted follower on Instagram. Same with the Glass Bookshop in Edmonton and Books Are Magic in Brooklyn. Other Toronto indie bookstores I love and admire: Queen Books, Type, Another Story Bookshop, Ben McNally Books, Book City, Bakka-Phoenix, and the Beguiling.

What is the one book you would select to entice non-readers this year?

Happy Hour, by Marlowe Granados! And Good Girl, by Anna Fitzpatrick! Both have lots of appeal for all kinds of people. I always recommend Elena Ferrante’s books, too — another author with an incredibly diverse fan base.