Published on January 29, 2024

Reading Resolutions for 2024

by Malcolm Fraser, Rebecca West, Alexandra Sweny, and Nived Dharmaraj

Happy New Year from the Read Quebec staff! 

Year after year, alongside pledges to exercise more, spend less, and recommit to hobbies old and new, “read more books” consistently ranks among the most popular New Year’s resolutions. For dedicated bookworms there are ambitious targets, like reading one book per week or month, while others are simply hoping to set aside dedicated time to make reading a part of daily life.

Whether you believe in resolutions or not, there’s no bad time to dive into a new book – and no better time than now to get to know Quebec’s English-language publishing scene. Check out our list below to learn about exciting new books, podcasts, and performances to keep an eye out for in 2024, and what our Read Quebec masthead is especially looking forward to delving into this year.  

Malcolm’s Resolutions

I’m in the midst of writing my mRb feature interview piece with Padma Viswanathan, whose memoir Like Every Kind of Love (Random House Canada) was a favourite read in late 2022. I’m currently reading Jason Guriel’s The Full-Moon Whaling Chronicles (Biblioasis), a metatextual epic sci-fi poem that partly takes place in a post-apocalyptic Montreal.

I recently reread Adrian Tomine’s 2007 graphic novel Shortcomings, which held up well, and as a lapsed filmmaker I’m always interested in behind-the-scenes movie stories, so Tomine’s Shortcomings: A Screenplay (Drawn and Quarterly), a script supplemented by drawings and stories about the upcoming film adaptation, is of high interest.

Speaking of D&Q, I recently got wind that they’ll be publishing the latest Wendy book from Walter Scott this summer. We at the mRb are big fans (see Jeff Miller’s interview with Scott on the occasion of the last Wendy book back in 2020), so we’ll be keeping an eye out. I’m also very intrigued to read Before Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press), a collection of historical writings about pre-colonial North America. 

More generally, my reading resolutions are to read more, expand my horizons to include as many voices as possible, and on the professional side, to make sure not to miss any of the interesting or important books coming out – even in our media- and promotion-saturated age, some exciting stuff can slip through the cracks if you don’t stay attentive.

Alexandra’s Resolutions

I’m kicking off my year of rest, relaxation, and reading with a highlight from 2023 that I missed the first time around. Touted as the year’s bestseller for Canadian indie bookstores, I’ve been eager to get behind the buzz of Kate Beaton’s Ducks. Set in the oil sands of Fort McMurray, the story follows Cape Bretoner Katie Beaton as she works to pay off student loans. While the environmental aspect of the book may seem at first the most salient, the story also delves into discussions about gender, class, and labour in the Canadian oil industry. Winner of the 2023 Canada Reads, Ducks is also a perfect way to drum up excitement for this year’s competition

As someone prone to motion sickness while reading, I’m unfortunately not able to put any of my commute towards my daily page-count. So, rather than read, I’m looking forward to getting some of my literary fix by listening. The How I Wrote This podcast is first on my queue for this year. Created and hosted by Pamela Hensley, the managing editor of yolk literary journal, the series features interviews with local authors like Sean Michaels, Baharan Baniahmadi, and H. Nigel Thomas. 

Looking ahead to the spring, I’m counting down the days until the May 7th release of Nour Abi-Nakhoul’s novel Supplication. Abi-Nakhoul is editor-in-chief at Maisonneuve magazine (you may remember her from our Perfect Your Pitch panel at the Read Quebec Book Fair), and Supplication marks her first foray into fiction. Described as “hallucinatory literary horror novel” and a “fever dream of a narrative,” Supplication will make for a perfect spring read as we shed our extra layers and re-emerge from the cabin fever of the winter. 

Rebecca’s Resolutions

I always end my days reading fiction, and 2023 was no exception, with an abundance of local books to choose from always kicking around the office. I loved Linda Morra’s live podcast interview with Catherine Hernandez and Eva Crocker during our fall 2023 book fair so much so that I bought a few of their books afterwards, including Eva’s Back in the Land of the Living, published by Anansi Press. I don’t think I have ever read a novel with so many intimately familiar Montreal locations, from the protagonist’s apartment in the Atlas building in Mile-Ex and the lightly disguised Glitz (Ritz) bar across the street to walking through the Plateau for hours to save bus fare, or the challenge of finding a good winter coat downtown. The protagonist Marcy reminded me of the precarity of life in your twenties, as she struggles to establish a life in a new city, forming sometimes-awkward relationships and taking on odd jobs to get by. The resulting narrative is one you won’t want to put down. Crocker’s prose is precise yet vulnerable. I found myself wanting things to work out for Marcy, along with the thousands of other young folks who move to Montreal every year, hoping to make it their home.           

In November I had the opportunity to see the documentary Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal Festival, directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, who were both on site to present the film. I didn’t know much about Giovanni going in, but was immediately fascinated by her story. A celebrated living and practising poet, she has been active in the civil rights movement since the 1960s, working and performing alongside luminaries such as James Baldwin, Nina Simone, and a young Morgan Freeman. Instead of the common biopic trope of having others gush over the subject in lengthy interviews, Brewster and Stephenson chose to let Giovanni speak in her own words. We follow her as she gives innumerable readings to packed lecture halls and festival crowds, tends to her garden, and spends time with her estranged granddaughter. The filmmakers also don’t shy away from more difficult moments in Giovanni’s past, such as when she was cancelled over her controversial stance on the South African anti-apartheid movement, before “cancel culture” was even a thing. But she persisted – kept writing, teaching, and imagining a better future for Black Americans, whether on this planet, or beyond. You can stream the doc in Canada on HBO/Crave.

In 2024, I’m looking forward to opening up all the book deliveries that we receive almost daily for review at the mRb. It will also inevitably be a time to get to books that have been on my bookshelf for a little while, like Louisa Blair’s The Calf With Two Heads: Transatlantic Natural History in the Canadas, published last fall by Baraka Books. Blair was also present at our fall book fair, and I was intrigued by this unique take on Canadian history, featuring beautiful illustrations, as well as “Indigenous mapmakers, botanical artists, bug-bitten rock fanatics, arctic explorers, and a trio of Quebec women who managed to get plants named after themselves.” 

Finally, my other favourite source of books lately, which is conveniently located in the same building as our offices, is the Atwater Library’s Used Bookstore, open afternoons Wednesday through Saturday. Most novels are $1! A great source of not exactly brand new CanLit and beyond.

Nived’s Resolutions

Having ended 2023 with Phillippe Besson’s Lie with Me (Arrête avec tes mensonges), Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo, and (re-reading) Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, it seems almost fitting that I pick up Querelle of Roberval next. Kevin Lambert’s novel, translated by Donald Winkler and recently selected for the 2024 Dublin Literary Award longlist, seems to follow a similar trajectory, woven together by the complex threads of class, violence, and lust. I also read and loved Paul Serge Forest’s Everything is Ori (Tout est Ori) last fall, which takes place on Quebec’s North Shore – having only ever lived in big cities, I’m excited to read more about small-town Quebec, moving from the fishing plants in Baie-Trinité to the sawmills of Roberval. I must also confess that Alexandra Trnka’s review of Lambert’s book as “​​reminiscent of Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, but more perverse” definitely swayed me – Carson’s novel in verse is one of my favourite Canadian reads, and I have high hopes for Querelle of Roberval joining it up there soon. 

I was recently recommended Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s previous book, This One Summer, by my college friends back in India – it was one of those lovely “small world” moments when I revealed that I’d not only read it already, but that the latest mRb issue had featured their most recent collaboration, Roaming, published by Drawn & Quarterly last fall. I spent last new year’s in NYC, my first time ever in the city, and as this one came around, I found myself reminiscing about my time in the so-called concrete jungle. And while the 2000s New York that the three protagonists encounter is arguably a very different one, I find myself wanting to reach for the book anyways, ready to relive not only my 2023 roadtrip with friends but my middle-school Big Apple dreams as well. 

Poetry has never really been my forte, and one of my New Year’s resolutions (hopefully one that I’ll keep this time) was to make more of an effort to engage with the genre. I was unsure where exactly to start though, until I remembered Nicholas Dawson’s House Within a House. The house as a concept has been a draw for me for as long as I can remember – in Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House, McGuire’s Here, and more – and Dawson’s engagement of it through his depression and queerness seems uniquely derivative in the best possible way. 

Malcolm Fraser is a writermusical entertaineroccasional filmmaker, host of the What Is This Music?! podcast, and editor of the Montreal Review of Books.

Rebecca West is executive director at the Association of English Language Publishers of Quebec, and publisher of the Montreal Review of Books

Nived Dharmaraj (he/him) is the associate editor at the Montreal Review of Books. Having recently written his MA thesis on Indian historical and science fiction, he’s now eager to spend time with literature closer to his new home.

Alexandra Sweny (she/her) is a recent graduate of Concordia’s English MA program, and is now associate publisher of the Montreal Review of Books,.

Illustration by Jem Woolidge.