Torontoist Love/Hate 2006: Reading
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Torontoist Love/Hate 2006: Reading

Torontonians are, to say the least, an opinionated bunch. So instead of a simple “Best Of” list to cap 2006 off, the Torontoist staffers have racked their brains about everything (books, songs, restaurants, people, places, stores, newspapers, politicians, musicians, and a lot more) to bring you their choices for the very best and the very worst of our city this past year. It’s Torontoist Love/Hate 2006, and you can find a new one every day at noon from December 26th until January 1st.
Today, on day one, Torontoist reads! We pick our favourite books, authors, magazines, newspapers, and book stores — as well as a few that we weren’t so fond of.


DC Comics’ Absolute New Frontier is the single-volume reprinting of Toronto native Darwyn Cooke’s audacious and brilliant reimagining of the DC canon. It is big and glorious and expensive and worth every penny – Cooke makes Hal Jordan (the Green Lantern) an interesting character for quite possibly the first time ever, and his takes on 60s DC staples like the Martian Manhunter, the Flash, the Suicide Squad, and the Challengers of the Unknown are completely readable and do not require you to be a comics nerd at all to thoroughly enjoy them. Get it now before the animated movie version comes out on DVD and be ahead of the superhero fanboy curve. – CHRISTOPHER BIRD
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. A 61-year-old man retires, tries to cut off part of his abdomen skin, and is worried by his daughter’s upcoming marriage and her use of the word “clitoris” in casual conversation. Awesome. – VANESSA CALDWELL
Bitter Chocolate by Carol Off. The host of CBC’s As It Happens travelled to Cote D’Ivoire to find out the real story behind our favourite treat, and she found some scary truths. Best part is when she is threatened by high ranking officials for asking the same questions as another journalist, one who mysteriously disappeared during research. – AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
The best book I read this year by a Toronto author was Consolation by Michael Redhill. I don’t think it would have the same impact if I didn’t live here, though. It really is a celebration of Toronto. – MARK MEDLEY
Consolation by Michael Redhill. A fine meditation on Toronto’s past and how we treat it (badly!). Shamelessly overlooked for the major awards. – RON NURWISAH
Guy Delisle’s graphic travel memoir Shenzhen was a delight. The tale of a business traveller working in China is peppered with subtle commentary on the politics and people of the emerging superpower. Comic book or otherwise, it was the best book I read all year. – GARY CAMPBELL
Wide slumber for lepidopterists by a.rawlings. A stunningly beautiful first book of poetry that graced The Globe and Mail’s 100 Best Books of 2006, WSFL migrated from page to stage with performances across TO in 06. Rawlings performed with a varying roster of actors at beloved venues like Harbourfront’s Hatch and Nuit Blanche; and even livened up the not-so-beloved Dundas Square. With ethereal treated photographs of butterflies by Matt Ceolin, it is likely the first book of poetry to be reviewed by The Entomologist’s Society of Ontario. – SHARON HARRIS
It’s a comic book series, actually, but Y: The Last Man has had me visiting The Silver Snail several times a week. – KAREN WHALEY


While he may now live in Iowa City, my vote for author of the year goes to Toronto-transplant Craig Davidson. He gets the nod in part for his fight against Michael Knox – an event which has already gone down in this city’s literary history – and also because he pulled no punches – no pun intended – and wrote one of the year’s kick-ass novels, The Fighter. – MARK MEDLEY
Bill Kennedy is the writer’s writer — he creates opportunities for other authors to create, and provides writers with venues to showcase their work. Selected 2006 gigs: Artistic Director of The Scream Literary Festival, Word Magazine Columnist, and Co-Creator of The Lexiconjury Reading Series. He’s the guy who authors thank in the back pages of their books. This year, Kennedy launched his own book, Apostrophe (ECW Press, with Darren Wershler-Henry), after coding a computer program to write it! – SHARON HARRIS
Vincent Lam, the Toronto doctor who won the $40,000 Giller prize with his first book, a collection of short stories called Bloodletting and other Miraculous Cures. When not writing, or hanging out on cruise ships with Margaret Atwood, he’s saving lives. What a guy! – AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
Earlier this year Torontoist covered Dr. Vincent Lam, author of short story collection Bloodletting and other Miraculous Cures. The collection was a solid, well crafted work of fiction that delved into the emotional complications of medicine and being a doctor. We hoped that the book would do well enough to encourage the still-young doctor (Lam is 31) to keep writing. We don’t think anyone could’ve foreseen what was going to happen. Lam’s debut book was nominated and won the Giller prize and has been optioned for a TV series. It seems that the Canadian reading public, fed on a diet of Gray’s Anatomy, House and ER, really likes its medically inspired literature. All of this couldn’t have happened to a nicer and more humble guy. But it all makes us just a little bit jealous. – RON NURWISAH
I finally got around to reading a Margaret Atwood book this year and was baffled by her empty yet utterly self-indulgent prose. It was really awful, I had no idea! Sure, maybe I’d heard some rumours, but nobody had ever told me, “Margaret Atwood’s novels are terrible. Do not read her novels.” Why didn’t they speak up? – KAREN WHALEY


Eye, but I used to say NOW. But NOW is sort of like my metaphorical spouse who reliably sits at home and gets angry about politics, while Eye is the sexy latin dance teacher I sleep with while Now is away on business. Both have their benefits, but I know which one to turn to when I’m looking to relax and enjoy myself. – KAREN WHALEY
Eye. NOW, of course, still trumps them for readership and is consistently twice as thick, but Eye seems like it actually wants you to like them, instead of doing ridiculous stuff like publishing a disgusting Love and Sex column about bloody fisting. I’ll still read them both, but NOW is quickly becoming the kind of weekly that you skim and dump rather than the one you actually sit and read. Too bad Eye’s still connected to the pile of garbage that The Star is becoming. Honourable mention for “love” goes to the National Post, which just can’t shake that it’s thought of as a right-leaning paper, even though their staff is young, hungry, and less conservative than The Star’s new Editor-in-Chief. – DAVID TOPPING
The Globe and Mail. Again, not because I write for them. Because it’s the closest thing that Canada has to the Guardian, really (i.e. a paper for people who can think critically). – MATHEW KUMAR
The Metro. It’s free, unpretentious, widely available and small enough to read on the subway. Now Magazine is 3 of those 4 things; you guess which three. – PATRICK METZGER
I will always remain faithful to NOW, although I do think Eye looks very lovely with its recent redesign. Still, Dan Savage cleans the floor with Sasha Von Bon Bon. – JOHNNIE WALKER
The Star for its coverage of the terror arrests in the summer. The Star dug deep into its pool of reporters and found a bullpen full of hungry writers that could cover that story magnificently. – RON NURWISAH
U of T’s two big newspapers, The Varsity and The Independent. The Varsity, the big student paper at the University of Toronto, is so unaware of itself that people couldn’t even tell that their recent joke issue was a joke – the same thing that happens every year. Too often a mouthpiece for certain student organizations on campus, the thing’s an enormous, biased mess. No wonder that, a few years ago, the Toike Oike, the Engineers’ newspaper, made their own version of the paper called The Varshitty and distributed it throughout campus. As for The Independent, the only saving grace is a few really, really good writers – otherwise, every issue has been bad to the point of being cringe-worthy. For good student publications at U of T, look elsewhere, like Vic’s new Wa, UC’s Gargoyle, and UTSC’s Underground. – DAVID TOPPING


Broken Pencil. I don’t say that because I write for it and there’s a great issue coming up, or anything. I say it because it’s dedicated to the indie arts and zine culture. Which is an awesome thing to be dedicated to. – MATHEW KUMAR
Spacing. Yes, I work for them. But honestly, they stepped up during the municipal election and kept publishing amazing work issue after issue after issue. No contest. – RON NURWISAH
I hate it when people group Toro in the same category as magazine’s such as Maxim. The comparison is completely unfair. Derek Finkle’s baby features some of the best long-form journalism in the country and a roster that includes some of the best writers in the country, from Gare Joyce to Timothy Taylor. – MARK MEDLEY
Toronto Life. Funnily enough, the snobbiest magazine around has a dirt-cheap subscription price that also includes a subscription to Fashion Magazine and all the City Guides (where do I go when I need a good pair of last season’s Prada boots cheap????). – VANESSA CALDWELL
The Walrus. Intelligent and altogether fascinating, beautiful accompanying photos and graphics for articles, and issue after issue of terrific content means that I loooveee The Walrus, even if I’m still putting off buying a subscription. – DAVID TOPPING

Book Store

Please support your local independent bookstore. My neighbourhood shop is Another Story (315 Roncesvalles), where the staff is kind, the kids’ books are thoughtfully chosen (not an As-Seen-On-TV sticker in sight), and the cultural studies selections amaze. I also love Pages, This Ain’t The Rosedale Library, BookCity, and others. Just say no to book chains that pursue “the Wal-Mart level of excellence” (thanks to Sandra Alland for the quote). – SHARON HARRIS
Babel Books and Music on Ossington. Browsing and buying books in this store is like raiding all my cool friends’ bookshelves. – VANESSA CALDWELL
BMV. Specifically, the one right next to the World’s Biggest Bookstore. This isn’t meant to piss about the new BMV near Bloor and Spadina, that one’s all right, but the original BMV is the one where all the best deals are, where all the coolest selections are, and it’s the one that’s not ashamed to admit it’s a used bookstore (as opposed to the new one, which has a bad case of Chapters-itis). If you want to find old magazines, this is where you go (the new one has barely any). If you want to find actual comics or trade paperbacks rather than rooting through an assortment of suitable-for-yuppies coffee table books about comics (*cough* Bloor and Spadina *cough*), this is where you go. If you want to hunt through the shelves for oddities and gems rather than just looking through the latest round of publisher castoffs, this is where you go. And it’s one of the best places in the city to buy used DVDs, too. – CHRISTOPHER BIRD
It just opened, but I love that BMV Books on Bloor. It’s like Toronto’s answer to NYC’s The Strand. Don’t forget to check out the basement for sleazy VHS tapes and slightly stained paperbacks! – JOHNNIE WALKER
Chapters/Indigo. Guilty pleasure doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the big bad wolf. A Chapters took over when the Runnymede theatre (around the corner from my house) shut down when I was a kid, and has been endangering indie bookstores ever since. Still, though it’s a quick and dirty fix, it’s not nearly as evil as other big bad retailers like Wal-Mart, and it works for just about anything you’d look for, the prices are decent, and most of the staff know their stuff. Evil? What evil? – DAVID TOPPING
While I probably spend more time and money at BMV, my vote for best bookstore in the city is Eliot’s (584 Yonge). It just has the look and smell of a real English bookstore, with plenty of old leather-bound volumes, creaky bookcases, and rickety wooden ladders for those top-most shelves. – MARK MEDLEY
The Eternal Moment, a new age type book store on Yonge north of Lawrence. They’ve got a full range of books and metaphysical paraphernalia, and it’s conveniently located beneath the Transcendental Arts Centre in case you want to upgrade your aura reading skills or similar. – PATRICK METZGER
Silver Snail gets all the celebrities because it’s the most well-known, Grey Region gets all the collectors looking for the biggest deals, and 1,000,001 Comics is still the best place to buy weekly issues – but the best place in Toronto to buy trade paperbacks, hardcover comics and manga is the Hairy Tarantula on Yonge. An enormous selection, an in-store discount program, and titles marked down from Canadian cover to begin with (because US importers aren’t recognizing the lessened difference between exchange rates which means the comic stores can stiff you if they feel like it) means that it’s the best bang for your comics buck. And they also have a metric fuckton of role-playing and board games, for those so inclined. – CHRISTOPHER BIRD
Pages, dudes. They have a nice small press section and friendly staff. They could be cheaper, but, man, books just cost so frickin’ much here anyway. Compare the current value of the US and Canadian dollars and then look at the compared prices of the books and weep. – MATHEW KUMAR
The Silver Snail. It’s a little less high-art than The Beguiling, so I don’t feel as uncomfortable buying adventure comics instead of autobiographical erotic drama graphic novels. – KAREN WHALEY
Type, for bringing a little bit of literature to Queen St. West and doing it in such a stylish fashion. Also, kudos on supporting small independent presses everywhere with their small press of the month feature. – RON NURWISAH
Chapters/Indigo. I’m not sure that the chain deserves to be found in the “book store” category, as they seem to specialize in lifestyle products — not books — these days. They lost my patronage when the books were replaced by smelly candles, baby booties, and fizzy bath paraphernalia. My kids like to play with their cute puppets and Thomas-The-Tank-Engines, but can’t be convinced to read a single book there; when we go to our local BookCity, my little voracious readers demand to be read stories. So Heather, here are my “picks” for 2007: treat publishers fairly (no gouging with unreasonable discount demands; set some ethical returns policies), give decent display space to Canadian words (a recent visit to your website showed you listed American, Continental European, British and Irish categories in your “Poetry” section, but didn’t list Canadian poetry at all), and lose the aforementioned baubles. Canadian readers are smarter than you think. – SHARON HARRIS

We also totally love the following Flickr Pool members, whose shots we used for this edition: BMV by pink hats, red shoes, Indigo by jzakariya, and Spacing Magazine from *mute. Our staff pitched in, too: photo of Craig Davidson from Ron Nurwisah, Hairy Tarantula from Sharon Harris, and Type from Vanessa Caldwell.