Toronto Life’s most popular memoirs of 2023

Toronto Life’s most popular memoirs of 2023

Including the story behind Craig’s Cookies, a shocking DNA test and a fertility tale with a joyful ending

This year, transformative personal stories captured readers’ attention, including tales about Torontonians who launched new businesses (cookies, popcorn, hospital kits) under challenging circumstances, discovered life-altering family secrets, survived harrowing abuse, fought bravely for justice and started a family in the most unexpected of ways. Here, our 10 most popular memoirs of 2023.


Lauren Manning, who spent five years in a white-power gang before realizing the absurdity of her beliefs

No. 10 “I spent five years in a white-power gang”: Inside the twisted world of Toronto’s white supremacist movement

After Lauren Manning’s dad died, she started repeating racist rhetoric, dressing like a skinhead, picking fights with strangers and committing petty crimes. Then she realized the absurdity of her beliefs | By Lauren Manning | January
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When Wing Fung Chong came to Toronto from China as a young man, Chinese produce was scarce. So he saved up, bought a farm and started importing and cultivating fruits and vegetables to supply the city’s growing Chinese population

No. 9 “I started growing hard-to-find Chinese vegetables in 1950s Toronto and helped shape Chinatown into what it is today”

When Wing Fung Chong came to Toronto from China as a young man, Chinese produce was scarce. So he saved up, bought a farm, and started importing and cultivating fruits and vegetables to supply the city’s growing Chinese population | By Wing Fung Chong | October 18
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Graydon Lau, who left his marketing career to farm hops and open Quayle's Brewery
MRacco Photography

No. 8 “I was a successful marketing exec in Toronto. I gave it all up to farm hops and open a brewery”

Graydon Lau had a decades-long career in the marketing industry, working for big-name alcohol brands. When his best friend approached him with a wild idea, he left his job and dove in. Then, just as everything was coming together, tragedy struck | By Graydon Lau | October 17
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Craig Pike of Craig's Cookies, who turned his homegrown business into a five-location cookie empire in Toronto

No. 7 “I started Craig’s Cookies out of my tiny one-bedroom in Parkdale. A decade later, we have five locations across the city”

Craig Pike used to bake cookies by the dozen in his home oven, delivering orders around the city on his bike. Now, he’s running a cookie empire—and fostering an inclusive workplace for queer and trans employees | By Craig Pike | June 15
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Geoff Church spent lots of time in hospitals and realized that nobody knows what to buy for a sick person. So he started making his own hospital kits

No. 6 “I spent lots of time in hospitals and realized that nobody knows what to buy for a sick person. So I started making my own hospital kits”

Geoff Church had cancer twice, which involved major surgeries and many rounds of chemotherapy. For his second go-around, he packed a bag of items to make his recovery more comfortable—and it made such a difference that he decided to launch his own brand of customized kits | By Geoff Church | August 1
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In late July 2020, Canada’s tax collectors got hacked: an unknown attacker managed to log in to thousands of online tax account using usernames and passwords stolen elsewhere on the web. One of the victims, Stephen Real, is now a member of a class action lawsuit that alleges a glitch in the CRA’s system was at fault. Here, he tells us about three years of stolen identity mayhem.

No. 5 “My online tax account was hacked, turning my life upside down. Now, I’m suing the CRA”

Stephen Real was one of thousands of Canadians affected by a massive security breach at the CRA in 2020. Three years later, he can’t pay his taxes, fraudsters are attempting to buy cars in his name and he fields more than 20 spam calls a day | By Stephen Real | June 8
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When Emily O’Brien was 26, she was convicted of drug smuggling. While serving a four-year sentence at a Hamilton prison, she came up with the idea for a popcorn business. Her mission: to show people that everyone deserves a second chance

No. 4 “I started my popcorn business from behind bars. It gave me a second chance at life”

When Emily O’Brien was 26, she was convicted of drug smuggling. While serving a four-year sentence at a Hamilton prison, she came up with the idea for a new business. Her mission: to show people that everyone deserves a second chance | By Emily O’Brien | June 20
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Ciro Muiruri suffered harrowing abuse at the hands of her husband. After he tried to kill her, she fled. Eight years later, she's still fighting for justice

No. 3 After my husband tried to kill me, I was forced to flee Kenya. Eight years later, I’m still fighting for justice”

Nobody believed that Ciro Muiruri’s charming husband was secretly abusive. Then, one harrowing night, he almost killed her. She knew he’d try again, so she ran, finding refuge in Toronto. Now, she’s still fighting for justice | By Ciro Muiruri | January 31
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Alisha Rollinson underwent 10 rounds of fertility treatment and miscarried four times in four years. She was shattered, exhausted and losing hope when the unthinkable happened—twice

No. 2 “After 10 rounds of fertility treatment and four miscarriages, we became parents in the last way we expected”

Alisha Rollinson underwent 10 rounds of fertility treatment and miscarried four times in four years. She was shattered, exhausted and losing hope when the unthinkable happened—twice | Interviews by Alex Cyr | February 16
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Noam Tomaschoff grew up as an only child in a tight-knit family of three. At 31, he discovered that his parents had been keeping a shocking secret—and the surprises just kept coming

No. 1 “At 31, I discovered that my parents had been keeping a shocking secret—and the surprises just kept coming”

Noam Tomaschoff grew up as an only child in a tight-knit family of three with strong ties to Toronto’s Jewish community. Last fall, at age 31, Tomaschoff took a DNA test on a lark—and the story of his life unravelled | Interviews by Andrea Yu | June 30
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