Read Your Way Through Montreal


For a little mystery, try Louise Penny’s popular “Three Pines” detective series. Though set in a fictional town in Quebec, her novels often feature Montreal (“Glass Housesin particular.) Kathy Reichs unearths the bones of the city in her thriller “Déjà Dead.” And Montreal’s rich queer culture is captured in the coming-of-age novels “The Geography of Pluto,” by Christopher DiRaddo, and “Bottle Rocket Hearts,” by Zoe Whittall.

Perhaps nothing will get you more excited to travel to Montreal than the dazzling work of Heather O’Neill. In novels like “Lullabies for Little Criminals” and “The Lonely Hearts Hotel,” O’Neill captures both the darkness and the dreaminess of the city in shimmering colors. O’Neill’s latest, “When We Lost Our Heads,” is a dizzying confection, offering a 19th-century glimpse of Montreal’s Golden Square Mile neighborhood with a sharp eye.

Among more contemporary books, there is an abundance of literary gems: “Our Lady of Mile End,” by Sarah Gilbert, a collection of short stories set in the neighborhood of the same name; “Ru,” by Kim Thúy, a gorgeous Vietnamese immigrant story woven out of poignant vignettes; and “The Wagers, by Sean Michaels, which evokes both the quotidian and magical elements of the city.

A host of brilliant Montreal novels both evoke place and showcase the underbelly experiences of those who, for any number of reasons, live in the margins. In the vitriolic symphony that is “Cockroach,” by Rawi Hage, a struggling Lebanese immigrant imagines himself to be a literal cockroach. “Bone and Bread,” by Saleema Nawaz, explores the tumultuous lives of two orphaned sisters who grew up in a Hasidic community in Mile End. For a dark depiction of the working life (and Montreal loves a dark depiction of the working life), consider “The Dishwasher,” by Stéphane Larue, which was adapted into a film, or the fiery and incantatory “Whore,” by Nelly Arcan.

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly is a beautiful independent bookshop in the heart of Montreal’s Plateau area. It’s also an internationally renowned publisher of comics, including work by Kate Beaton, Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry and Chester Brown, among many others. The bookstore’s idiosyncratically curated selection of titles and its gorgeous and singular interior make this a must-see. Other lovely English-language bookshops to visit along the way: Librairie Saint-Henri Books, Argo Bookshop (Montreal’s oldest indie), The Word.


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