Seven Toronto bookstores doing delivery—plus their their quarantine reading recommendations
There’s only so much Netflix you can watch in a day. As Torontonians hunker down in self-imposed isolation, bookstores are seeing increased demand for reading material. Many bricks-and-mortar locations have closed to the public, but some are offering delivery or curbside pickup. Here are some of our favourites, plus a few owner-approved recommendations for escapist, instructive and feel-good reads during these crazy times.
Type Books, which has three locations in the city, is offering free delivery and curbside pickup, and encouraging people to purchase gift certificates for a friend in need. “Indie bookstores are incredibly vulnerable right now,” says co-owner Joanne Saul. “We need all the help we can get, frankly. We don’t have an online platform to help us out. This is our equivalent.” They’re mostly servicing the west end at the moment, but are willing to go anywhere in the GTA for deliveries.
Joanne’s self-isolation reads:
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
“It’s what I would be reading if I weren’t so busy with deliveries. I love her writing so much—it brings you into a whole other world. Her Wolf Hall trilogy traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, and she manages to write historical fiction in a way that seems contemporary. It’s also very long, and we need long books right now. The trilogy as a whole would be a perfect reading project to embark upon.”
Weather by Jenny Offill
“I loved her first book, Dept. of Speculation, and would highly recommend buying them both at once. This one is about climate change, being a mother and how to navigate the end of the world, all of which seem all-too-relevant at this moment in time.”
House of Anansi closed their office as well as their bricks-and-mortar store, but continue to offer free delivery within Canada on orders over $35. They recently released a campaign called Reading Apart Together. When shoppers buy an e-book online, they have the option to add a friend’s name, and House of Anansi will send them a digital copy of the book for free. “Books are such a nice way to take time for yourself and explore another reality,” says programming and bookshop manager Paige Lindsay.
Paige’s self-isolation reads:
Soap and Water and Common Sense by Dr. Bonnie Henry
“The author is a leading epidemiologist and British Columbia’s provincial health officer, so she’s currently on the front lines of Covid-19. Her book is the most topical we have at the moment. It provides insight as to what ails us and provides three simple rules to live by: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and stay at home when you have a fever.” Available on e-book now and in print on March 31.
Violet Shrink by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Carmen Mok
“This one is great for kids four to eight years old. Violet’s natural introversion and feelings of social anxiety are normalized when she and her father reach a solution together. It’s a valuable tool for discussing mental health with your kids.”
On March 15, Another Story closed their doors to the public; the next day they started offering free deliveries and curbside pickups. “We can’t live on our computers, so offering people physical books is a way for them to have some respite from everything that’s going on,” says events coordinator Anjula Gogia. They had to cancel many book launches in the coming weeks, but plan to organize online events via YouTube. “We have a commitment to our authors as well—it’s a strange time if you’ve spent years working on a book and are so excited to have it out in the world and then this happens,” she says.
Anjula’s self-isolation reads:
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
“If you’re looking for dystopian fiction related to what’s going on right now, this is perfect. It’s a recent best-seller about the effects of climate change in a small northern Anishinaabe community.”
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
“This is one of my favourites. It’s set in India, and is about a group of young kids who take action when other children start disappearing from their community. It’s an absorbing novel that will transport you into a different world.”
How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
“This was one of the authors we were going to launch in the coming weeks. It’s a collection of short stories about class, which looks at the people who do the grunt work in our world—the labourers, cleaners and farmers who keep our economy going. It’s especially pertinent to the current moment.” Available April 7.
The Beguiling and Little Island Comics are doing free delivery via courier for purchases over $50 across the GTA. They’re also doing free curbside pick-ups for anyone comfortable venturing outside, with contactless payment at car windows. Manager Andrew Woodrow-Butcher says staff are worried about how long the shop can last without being physically open, but they’re grateful for the support from their community. “It’s been great to hear how much bookstores are valued as important threads in the fabric of the city,” he says.
Andrew’s self-isolation reads:
Familiar Face by Michael Deforge
“This bizarre dystopian romp will seem both fantastical and too real. It’s perfect reading for these strange times from a celebrated local cartoonist.”
Lumberjanes: Indoor Recess! by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Dozerdraws and Maarta Laiho
“For younger folks, this new graphic novel in the Lumberjanes series is a standalone story about being stuck indoors during a huge storm, which seems very pertinent this week!”
A Novel Spot will be offering curbside pickup every day, and will do free delivery in the GTA about twice a week. “I’m a very small store, so it’s hard to do social distancing here,” says owner Sarah Pietroski. Sales reps from Penguin Random House Canada in Toronto have offered to help with deliveries.
Sarah’s self-isolation reads:
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley
“This book is about the chain of good deeds. We’re all trying to help each other right now, whether it’s checking in on older neighbours or picking up groceries for a friend. We see the true human spirit in times like this. Hopefully this book will make you reflect on how you can think about others.”
Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde
“This one is about finding meaningful friendships as a result of getting outside your comfort zone. It’s about a young boy who stops to help an older lady and the friendship that evolves between the two generations.”
Glad Day is in the process of changing their online sales platform, and in the meantime, they are planning to introduce a program for Torontonians called Blind Date With a Book. Readers will submit some general criteria, and Glad Day will choose a book for them and deliver it to their house. Not only will it be faster, says co-owner Michael Erickson, but people will get a reading experience they might not have expected. Glad Day is also a bar and restaurant, both of which have closed. “We’ve never experienced a loss of income so dramatically before, without any ability to plan and prepare,” says Michael. They launched an emergency fund for LGBTQ artists, performers and tip workers in the community. Fifteen per cent will go towards help keeping Glad Day alive. “We know the community wants us to be here when it’s all over,” says Michael.
Michael’s self-isolation reads:
Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez
“It’s a great time to read this and think about how this crisis might be affecting people in different communities across Toronto. I’m not sure if everyone in Toronto understands how dire it is for some, depending on their job and class level.”
Murder at the World’s Fair by M.J. Lyons
“This murder-mystery is set in a fantastical version of Toronto in 1893. It’s playful and fun and imagines a Toronto in a very different way, providing a real escape from these times.”
Queen Books’s Leslieville location has closed for now, but they are taking orders over the phone and through email and their newly launched online shop. There will be a flat $3 fee for all city-wide deliveries, and they offer a pickup option at their front door. Co-owner Alex Snider is heartened by the community support she’s seen for Queen Books and other local businesses. “A silver lining is that we will have the opportunity to do a deep clean, inventory, and get things as organized as possible for when this is all over,” she says.
Alex’s self-isolation reads:
I Used to Be Charming by Eve Babitz
“Eve Babitz’s books are like rays of sexy sunshine, which I’m sure we could all use right now. I Used to Be Charming was released in 2019 and includes non-fiction pieces she wrote from the 1970s to the 1990s.”
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
“This is about the absolute outrageously bonkers Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes saga, and offers some schadenfreude for distraction during these times. It’s also a good time to read or reread classics—books that have withstood the test of time and have seen their readers through many traumas.”