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2005 Toronto Book Awards


When was the last time you read a book set in Toronto? You might want to consider writing one - the City of Toronto's annual Toronto Book Awards gives a generous prize to authors of "books of literary or artistic merit that are evocative of Toronto."

How generous? Well, each finalist chosen from the submissions (there were 73 this year) $1,000, and the winner receives whatever's left of the $15,000 set aside for the prize (obviouisly, the final kitty depends on how many finalists there are).

The finalists this year are :
The Heiress vs. The Establishment: Mrs.Campbell's Campaign for Legal Justice by Constance Backhouse and Nancy L. Backhouse (biography)
Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis (short stories)
Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-city Shantytown by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall (memoir)
Doctor Bloom's Story by Don Coles (novel)
Muriella Pent by Russell Smith (novel)

The Awards were established way back in 1974 (so Margaret Atwood's won twice).

The authors will read from their books at the Word on the Street festival (Sept 25), and will doubtless stick around to chat/sign/answer snarky questions if you've read the book and show up.

I've not read any of the books yet, though I suspect Natasha is the most accessible. My money's on Down to This though - how can a city committee resist the true-life tales from the tent-city that was so recently demolished? It's gritty yet humorous, it reflects a social conscience, and of all of them is the most entrenched in a genuine Toronto experience.

While I'm impressed with the breadth of subject matter, I am a little disappointed in the lack of diversity in publishers. Most of the books are from Random House (or one of their subsidiaries), one is from Harper Collins, and only The Heiress springs from UBC Press. Hopefully as time goes by more small publishers will be represented on the list - they're usually the ones that need attention.


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