1. THE HUNGRY GHOSTS (Shyam Selvadurai) Rating: NNNN
Teen-aged Shivan, half-Tamil, half-Sinhalese and struggling with his gay identity, flees 80s Sri Lanka to Canada to escape the ethnic riots, a homophobic society and his controlling grandmother, but discovers that he can't let go of his roots and family ties.
Selvadurai deftly navigates his home country's complex politics and evokes its culture and terrain in ways that dazzle all the senses. And Shivan's grandmother is a superb character - self-serving yet sympathetic.
This is the first time Selvadurai has set part of a novel in Canada, and he nails it, especially the experience of a young brown man trying to make connections in Toronto's homogeneous gay community.
It's taken the Sri Lankan-Canadian author 10 years to deliver this, his third novel. It was definitely worth the wait. $29.95, Doubleday.
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf)
Adichie has a hit novel (Half Of A Yellow Sun) and an excellent short story collection under her belt, but Americanah has much bigger ambitions. The sweeping novel tells the story of Ifemelu, who leaves Nigeria and her boyfriend for the U.S., where she writes a blog on race and learns the nuanced distinctions between being black and African in America. An intellectually exhilarating read sure to be one of spring's most talked-about books. On sale May 17.
by Elizabeth Ruth (Cormorant)
In Ruth's political potboiler (see review at nowtoronto.com/books), Spanish orphan and servant Luna trains to become a bullfighter in the face of heavy resistance from both the radicals and fascists of 1930s Spain. NOW's Susan G. Cole talks to Ruth onstage at the Toronto Reference Library on May 15 about women, bullfighting and the challenges of weaving feminist ideas into a book set in a time and place where they were in particular peril.
by Helen Humphreys (HarperCollins)
The theme of grief has become a literary growth industry; Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala's account of loss in the 2003 tsunami, has already made a huge impact. Poet and novelist Humphreys's ode to her late brother, the pianist Martin Humphreys, spins off her sibling's death to probe the creative process and the meaning of family. It's gorgeous and raw, largely because she started writing without any intention of publishing. Good thing she changed her mind.
5. UNLIKELY RADICALS: THE STORY OF THE ADAMS MINE DUMP WAR
by Charlie Angus (Between the Lines)
You never know what's going to turn someone on to politics. When Angus was the guitarist for Grievous Angels through the 90s, he thought only the stuffiest people ran for office. Then, in 2000, he caught wind of the protests against the Adams Mines project, designed to let Toronto dump its garbage in his small northern Ontario town. Here, he writes about the movement and the resisters - his neighbours - and how he was inspired to get political. Angus, who knows how to work a crowd, launches the book today (Thursday, April 11) at Supermarket
6. STUDIO ST. EX
by Ania Szado (Viking)
The love triangle involving a Montreal fashion designer, the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his wife becomes emblematic of the destructiveness of creativity in Szado's follow-up to her sensational debut, Beginning Of Was (see NOW's 5N review, nowtoronto.com/books). Buzz is so intense, there are three events supporting the book, including a Writers Trust Authors Series benefit on Wednesday (April 17), a Ben McNally Books Brunch on April 21, and an Authors At Harbourfront event with Mia Couto and Shyam Selvadurai on May 1.
7. LIFE AFTER LIFE
by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)
What if you got to relive your life - and not just once? In one of the most formally fascinating books of the year, Brit author Kate Atkinson tweaks her protagonist's story again and again so she dies in a variety of ways. She does an onstage interview with Eleanor Wachtel at Harbourfront on Monday (April 15).
8. LET'S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS
by David Sedaris (Little, Brown)
One of the funniest writers in the English language delivers another compelling combination of essays and fiction. Sedaris can turn even the most ordinary event - like his first colonoscopy, for example - into epic social commentary. But this time out, although the subjects of these pieces vary from French dentistry to a Costco in North Carolina to litterers in the English countryside, love plays a large part in all of them. Sedaris hits the Sony Centre stage Friday (April 12).
9. JACOB'S FOLLY
by Rebecca Miller (HarperCollins)
An 18th-century Jewish peddler in France is reincarnated as a housefly in present-day America so he can transform the lives of a gravely ill ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who aspires to be an actor, a young man coping with his dad's suicide and a settled married couple. Miller (The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee), who's shown a deft touch with multiple narrative strands, is a genius at portraying her characters' complicated inner lives.
by Lisa Moore (Anansi)
This year's Canada Reads winner checks in with a new book about a young pot dealer who loves his job so much, he escapes from prison and can't wait to reoffend. But he has to catch up to his partner in crime first. In her signature pristine prose, Moore tells the story of a wrong-headed guy in all the right ways. Look for a June release.
11. FULL COUNT: FOUR DECADES OF BLUE JAYS BASEBALL
by Jeff Blair (Random House)
I know, the hype machine has been blowing hot air for months and, as of this writing, the Jays haven't yet set the world on fire, but Toronto's baseball team is still the talk of the town. This history of the Jays is by one of the country's most accomplished baseball writers, so it's not just a love letter, but instead explores both the glory days and the ruthless business decisions that kept the team hovering near the bottom of the standings. Until this year. Maybe. On sale April 30.