Eleven Toronto bookstores doing delivery—plus their quarantine reading recommendations

Eleven Toronto bookstores doing delivery—plus their quarantine reading recommendations

There’s only so much Netflix you can watch in a day. As Torontonians continue to hunker down in self-isolation, bookstores are seeing increased demand for reading material. Many bricks-and-mortar locations have closed to the public, but some are offering delivery around the city. Here are some of our favourites, plus a few owner-approved recommendations for escapist, instructive and feel-good reads during these crazy times.

Another Story Book Shop

Another Story took a break from deliveries and shipments for the past four weeks to assist in efforts to flatten the curve. They recently decided it was safe to resume business, and are now offering free delivery in Toronto’s west end, as well as shipping books via Canada Post for a fee (they are not doing curbside pickups). Says events coordinator Anjula Gogia, “In addition to bringing books to people’s lives, we also wanted to support our writers and the various communities that we serve.”

Anjula’s new self-isolation reads:

Accretion by Irfan Ali

“He is a local poet, and his new collection is set in Toronto against the backdrop of an ancient Persian love story. We hosted an online launch for the book on our YouTube channel on April 22. Reading poetry is always a solace, especially in times of hardship and chaos.”

BlackLife by Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi

“This book is particularly relevant now ,as activists, scholars and health professionals have raised concerns about the effect of Covid-19 on racialized communities. Rinaldo Walcott recently co-authored an article on how coronavirus discriminates against black lives through surveillance, policing and the absence of health data.”

Moonbeam Books

Humberside children’s bookstore Moonbeam Books is currently doing next-day local delivery in the west end (between Ossington and, Kipling and up to Eglinton). Says owner Katharine Tutko, “We want to provide parents and kids with resources to stay engaged and reduce screen time while everyone is at home.” They sell books, of courses, but also puzzles, games and educational workbooks. Katharine says their community has been super-supportive. “It makes my day to drop a package off on a customer’s porch and see kids rush to the window to say hi, or to have a chat from the sidewalk and catch up with customers we aren’t seeing on a regular basis anymore.”

Katharine’s self-isolation reads:

Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray by Jess Keating

“The first book in the Elements of Genius series is our favourite pick for the middle-grade crew (ages eight to 12). It’s a fast-paced, action-packed read that will appeal to every kid. Plus, it weaves in STEM elements in a way that engages the reader and makes science look cool. With kids out of school right now, it’s a fun way to keep them engaged. It was a favourite from our middle-grade book club, the Nebulas!”

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kauffman

“This is the first book in the Illuminae Files series, and is our top pick for the teen reader. It’s a completely immersive book told entirely through documents—texts, interviews, schematics, medical and government files—that will draw even reluctant teen readers into a literary world. At its core, it’s about teens finding community and building resilience through a life-changing crisis, often from far away—which probably sounds familiar. It will definitely speak to teenagers who are living through this crazy and unprecedented time.”

House of Anansi

House of Anansi continues to offer free delivery in the GTA on all orders over $35. They’re also still running their campaign, “Reading Apart Together,” where shoppers buying e-books can add a friend’s name to the order, and Anansi will send them a digital copy for free.

Programming manager Paige Lindsay’s new self-isolation reads:

Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger

“This is a lyrical, powerful and richly textured novel about three lives that intertwine across oceans and time. It’s great for travelling beyond your four walls while staying home.”

How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

“I’d recommend this one for kids aged nine to 12 years old. It’s about a world in which bees are extinct, and the quickest, bravest kids have to climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand. It’s a hopeful novel for younger readers—something we can all use in this time—and the voice of the main character, Peony, will stay with them for a while after.”

Bellwoods Books

Bellwoods Books is a pop-up bookshop that sells rare, secondhand and vintage books, specializing in female authors, vintage paperbacks and unusual collectibles. They don’t have a physical space, and normally participate in community fleas and antique markets. Right now, a team of two are operating part-time, bicycling book orders to stoops for free once a week, on Saturdays. Their delivery zone is St. Clair to Lakeshore, and Roncesvalles to Broadview. Says owner Julie Malian, “We deeply miss engaging with people in those spaces, and look forward to our next market, whenever that day comes.”

Julie’s self-isolation reads:

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

“This is a brilliant collection of cultural criticism touching on a range of contemporary issues, from an analysis of female heroines in literature, to a scrutiny of the wedding industrial complex, to an exploration of how social media shapes identity. It’s particularly striking within the context of these times, when most of us are heavily engaged online in so many aspects of our lives.”

Black Writers Matter by Whitney French

“This one is a solid and engaging anthology of non-fiction pieces written by African-Canadian writers, offering profound narratives of what it means to be black in Canada. All of the stories are written in the first-person, inviting readers to connect with each author on a personal level. During the days of limited social connection, this type of storytelling is even more essential.”

Ella Minnow

This children’s bookstore in the Beaches has been fielding tons of orders through their website, e-mail, phone and social media since the pandemic hit. Says owner Heather Kuipers, “Kids in our area have been going wild for mazes, sticker painting and complex dot-to-dot books.”They now have options for both pick-up and delivery. When picking up, look for the cute delivery chair outside the door. “The only glitch is that dogs keep wanting to pee on it, but we are experts at cleaning and disinfecting by this point,” she says. Delivery is same-day, six days a week, and is free within the neighbourhood for orders over $25 (Heather says the parameters are flexible).

Heather’s self-isolation reads:

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

“For adults, this one is fascinating and compellingly written. It’s told in many voices and over many locations, which is perfect for a time when most of our worlds are pretty small.”

The Beguiling Books and Art

This College and Spadina bookstore is no longer doing pick-up, but is still offering free delivery over courier for orders of over $50.

Manager Andrew Woodrow-Butcher’s self-isolation reads:

Bix by Scott Chantler

“I’m excited to read this brand-new graphic novel from an Ontario cartoonist. It’s the story of a jazz trumpeter in the 1920s, and chronicles his rise to fame alongside his struggles with addiction and other personal demons. Chantler’s art is perfect for this story, and I can’t wait to dive in.”

InvestiGators by John Patrick Green

“I heartily recommend this one for kids. It’s about private eyes who also happen to be alligators! It’s full of madcap fun and adventure, and is great for fans of books like Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man.”

Type Books

Type Books continues to offer contactless curbside pickup at all three of their locations (call or e-mail to place an order). If that’s not an option for some shoppers, they’ll deliver within the borders of King to Eglinton and Yonge to Jane on minimum orders of $40. Their “Mystery Bag” program—where $100 gets buyers a curated stack of books chosen by staff—has proven especially popular.

Co-owner Joanne Saul’s new self-isolation reads:

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

“This is 102 short essays on delight. He describes the practice of developing a ‘delight muscle’—something that seems particularly crucial right now. He finds delight in his garden, in his relationship with his mother, in his friends and students, and the bond between trees and mushrooms. This gorgeous book is a timely reminder that even in the midst of confusion and fear, there can reside, at the same time, great wonder and joy.”

A Forest in the City by Andrea Curtis

“This beautiful new book for kids of all ages asks us to pay attention to our often-overlooked urban forest and the delights therein. Curtis celebrates the essential role trees play in the city, outlines their history and puts out a call to protect them, reminding us how we are all connected to this complex ecosystem and to each other.”

Zoinks Music and Books

This Bloorcourt shop intended to start delivery for a while, and finally found the time during lockdown. Owner Philippa Pires says, “It’s not enough to promote shopping local. We have to make sure we are giving people the option to get items delivered if they are unable to visit in person.” They have a $5 flat rate for delivery within their delivery zone (everything west of the DVP, east of Parkside and south of St. Clair West). Outside the zone, they’ll ship using Canada Post.

Philippa’s self-isolation reads:

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

“In this novel, something tragic happens and a group of women have to decide what comes next. This pandemic is giving us the time and space to do the same thing—it’s a chance to think about our values and the type of society we want to live in when this is over.”

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

“This is a gem of a book with beautiful poetic descriptions of nature that are in fact about a spiritual journey. In times of crisis, we see the true nature of things, and this book will definitely get you in the right frame of mind to pause and reflect.”

A Novel Spot Bookshop

Owner Sarah Pietroski has been running the shop on her own for the last month, doing deliveries twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Delivery is free for all M8 and M9 postal codes purchasing orders over $50. For those orders, there’s a $5 fee that’s being donated to the Daily Bread food bank in Etobicoke. If you’re outside M8 and M9 postal codes, the store offers curbside pickup.

Sarah’s new self-isolation reads:

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

“This is a novel based on the life of a socialite spy named Nancy Wake. She went by many names, and her story is a riveting one about sacrifice and resolve—two things we are all dealing with right now.”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

“Even though this book has been out for a while, it’s especially relevant to our situation right now. It’s about an aristocrat placed under hotel arrest during the Russian Revolution. He can’t leave for many years, and during his stay grapples with becoming a man of purpose. If we think we have it bad self-isolating, this novel will put things in perspective.”

Queen Books

This Leslieville bookshophas an online store that’s open Monday to Friday, and they offer $3 delivery around the city. They also have a subscription service, for both children and adults, where the recipient receives one personalized book selection at their door every month.

Co-owner Alex Snider’s new self-isolation reads:

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

“This new book about a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, is riveting, and a real hybrid. True crime mixes with a beautiful and tragic human story—which runs alongside commentary on the compelling history of schizophrenia treatment and research.”

In the Woods by Tana French

“I’ve been recommending Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series to anyone looking to distract themselves during these times. They’re big, meaty character-driven mysteries set in Ireland that will keep you busy for weeks. I suggest starting at the beginning with In the Woods, although you can read them in whatever order you like.”

A Different Book List

This indie bookstore in Mirvish Village specializes in titles from the African and Caribbean diaspora. They’re currently focusing on online orders through their website and are offering free shipping across Canada. Says co-owner Miguel San Vincente, “A silver lining of the pandemic has been an emphasis on books and reading, and we love how people are using reading as an opportunity to manage the challenges of the pandemic and engage with others.”

Miguel’s self-isolation reads:

Shame on Me by Tessa McWatt

“We did a webinar with the author this week. This book looks at the questions of race and identity, and the challenges faced by people with different cultural identities—particularly those who don’t identify with a specific culture. It’s particularly relevant in multicultural Canada during these times.”

They said this would be fun by Eternity Martis

“We will be doing a webinar with this author this month. It’s a great novel for young adults, as it looks at the author’s experience in navigating the challenges faced by moving from high school to university.”

My Trouble with Books by Roger McTair

“This is a collection of short stories from a Trinidadian-Canadian writer that’s both poignant and funny. It’s about the author’s experience growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, immigrating to Canada and starting a professional life as a filmmaker.”