The Book

Imagining Toronto book cover

Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, fall 2010) is available at most bookstores and online through Mansfield Press, Amazon or Chapters.

Imagining Toronto was shortlisted for the 2010 Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism and won the Award of Merit, the highest honour given to a book at the 2011 Heritage Toronto Awards.

Upcoming Events

25-26 February 2012: "Going Native: Reclaiming Aboriginal Identity in Toronto Literature," “Landscapes of Difference, Espaces de Difference, Raume der Differenz” conference (Session: The Politcs of Place: Urban Sites of Contestation), Canadian Studies Association in German-speaking countries (GKS). Grainau, Germany.

Thursday 15 March 2012: Guest lecture, "The Imagined City," ARC 120, Contemporary Architecture. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto; Isabel Bader Theatre, 9:45-11:00 am.

Wednesday 4 April 2012: "Representing Toronto: Mapping the Role of the Artist in the Contemporary City. Panel discussion. Presented by Koffler Gallery in partnership with Diaspora Dialogues. 80 Spadina Ave., Suite 503; 7:00 pm.

Sunday 22 April 2012: Reading from Acts of Salvage at the Draft Reading Series. Details TBA.

Thursday 3 May 2012: "Literary Bodies." Panel discussion as part of Bodies in the City, a symposium of the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto.

Thursday 17 May 2012: "Imagining Toronto the Wild" at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Inaugural lecture of the TBG's new HortiCULTURE salon series.

Recent Events

Tuesday 18 October 2011, 7:00-8:30 pm: Will the Real Cabbagetown Please Stand Up?: Regent Park, St. Jamestown and Cabbagetown in the Literary Imagination. Parliament Branch (269 Gerrard St. E.)

Saturday 1 October 2011, 2:00-3:30 pm: The Masseys and the Masses: Social and Spatial Ascendency in Rosedale and Forest Hill. Forest Hill Branch (700 Eglinton Ave. W.)

Tuesday 27 September 2011, 7:00-8:30 pm: From Streetcar Suburb to Multicultural Community: Riverdale in the Literary Imagination. Riverdale Branch, Toronto Public Library (370 Broadview Ave.)

Click here for past events.

Toronto Books You Should Read Part II: 77 Essential Non-Fiction Reads

In the first part of the “Toronto Books You Should Read” series I introduced 100 literary works that are essential reading for anyone interested in the imagined city. In the second part, presented herewith, I list 75 77 non-fiction books about Toronto that should form part of every Torontophile’s reading library.

In researching and writing the Imagining Toronto book I learned beyond any doubt that it was not enough simply to read literature set in the city: it was also imperative to understand the full range of social, spatial, economic and ecological processes that have shaped Toronto. As a result, I also began to read and amass a library of non-fiction works engaging with the city. Among the books listed below are some sources that played critical roles in shaping the book, as well as my perceptions of Toronto.

I have favourites, of course, among them Matthew Hayes’ fantastically beautiful Historical Atlas of Toronto and Percy Robinson’s excellent Toronto During the French Regime (a rare example of accessible history and the best book I have come across on Toronto prior to 1800; not to mention an important source in my next project). I’m also fond of Robert Thomas Allen’s When Toronto Was For Kids, a sort of memoir about a Toronto that has nearly vanished from memory.

This list isn’t the complete story of Toronto, of course: I maintain a much larger database of non-fiction works engaging with Toronto here, and many of these (and other) works make an appearance in Imagining Toronto. I’m always interested in hearing about new sources, so if you would like to suggest additions (here or to the Library itself), I’ll be happy to hear about them.

Please note that while the list is numbered, it is not meant to convey any order of importance. I’ve also listed my own book here, and hope personal vanity will be excused.

Architecture and Urban Design

1. William Dendy, 1993. Lost Toronto (McClelland & Stewart, 1993).

2. Margaret Goodfellow and Phil Goodfellow, A Guidebook to Contemporary Architecture in Toronto (Douglas & McIntyre, 2010).

3. Michael McClelland and Graeme Stewart (eds.), Concrete Toronto: A Guide to Concrete Architecture from the Fifties to the Seventies (Coach House, 2007).

4. Osbaldeston, Mark, Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been (Dundurn, 2008).

5. John Sewell, The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning (University of Toronto Press, 1993).

Art and Cultural Production

6. Don Cullen, The Bohemian Embassy: Memories and Poems (Wolask & Wynn, 2007).

7. Edith Firth, Toronto in Art: 150 Years Through Artists’ Eyes (Fitzhenry & Whitside in cooperation with the City of Toronto, 1983).

8. Amy Lavender Harris, Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, 2010).

9. Geoff Pevere (ed.), Toronto On Film (Toronto International Film festival, 2009).

10. John Warkentin, Creating Memory: A Guide to Outdoor Public Sculpture in Toronto (Becker Associates / The City Institute at York University, 2010).

11. Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, and Jonny Dovercourt (eds.), The State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto (Coach House, 2006).

12. Liz Worth, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, 1977-1981 (Bongo Beat, 2009).

Heritage and History

13. Robert Thomas Allen, When Toronto was for Kids (McClelland & Stewart, 1961).

14. Carl Benn, Historic Fort York: 1793-1993 (Natural Heritage / Natural History, 1993).

15. Frank A. Dieterman and Ronald F. Williamson, Government On Fire: The History and Archaeology of Upper Canada’s First Parliament Buildings (eastendbooks, 2001).

16. Mike Filey, Toronto Sketches Volumes 1-9. Toronto: Dundurn. [Although I must note that the terrible typesetting and un-illuminating essay titles irk me considerably.]

17. Sally Gibson, Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors, 1880-1920 (Cormorant, 2006).

18. Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of Toronto (Douglas & McIntyre, 2008).

19. Eric Wilfrid Hounsom, Toronto In 1810 (Ryerson, 1970).

20. Kilbourn, William, 1984. Toronto Remembered. Toronto: Stoddart.

21. Michael Kluckner, Toronto The Way It Was (Whitecap Books, 1988).

22. Steve MacKinnon, Karen Teeple & Michele Dale, Toronto’s Visual Legacy: Official City Photography from 1856 to the Present (James Lorimer & Company, 2009).

23. J. Ross Robertson, The Diary of Mrs. John Graves Simcoe, Wife of the First Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Upper Canada, 1792-6 (Coles, 1973). facsimile edition.

24. Percy J. Robinson, Percy J., Toronto During the French Regime, 1615-1793 (University of Toronto Press, 1933; 1965).

25. Henry Scadding, [edited and abridged by Frederick H. Armstrong], Toronto of Old (Dundurn, 1987).

26. Ronald F. Williamson (ed.), Toronto: An Illustrated History of its First 12,000 Years (James Lorimer & Company, 2008).

Multicultural Toronto

27. Paul Anisef and Michael Lanphier (eds.), The World in a City (University of Toronto Press, 2003).

28. Frances Henry, The Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto (University of Toronto Press, 1994).

29. Franca Iacovetta, Such Hardworking People: Italian Immigrants in Postwar Toronto (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003).

30. Cyril Levitt and William Shaffir, The Riot at Christie Pitts (Key Porter Books, 1987).

31. Stephen A. Speisman, The Jews of Toronto: A History to 1937 (McClelland & Stewart, 1979).

32. Carlos Teixeira and Victor M.P. Da Rosa (eds.), The Portuguese in Canada: Diasporic Challenges and Adjustment. (University of Toronto Press, 2009).

33. Richard H. Thompson, Toronto’s Chinatown: The Changing Social Organization of An Ethnic Community (AMS Press, 1988).

34. John E. Zucchi, Italians in Toronto: Development of a National Identity, 1875-1935 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988).

Nature and Environment

35. Nick Eyles, Toronto Rocks: The Geological Legacy of the Toronto Region (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004).

36. Wayne Grady, Toronto The Wild (Macfarlane, Walter & Ross, 1995).

37. Wayne Reeves Christina Palassio (eds.), HTO: Toronto’s Water from Lake Iroquois to Lost Rivers to Low-Flow Toilets (Coach House, 2008).

38. Charles Sauriol, Remembering the Don (Amethyst, 1981), Tales of the Don (Natural Heritage, 1984), A Beeman’s Journey (Natural Heritage, 1984), Green Roots: Recollections of a Grassroots Conservationist (Hemlock, 1991), Trails of the Don (Hemlock, 1992), Pioneers of the Don (1995).

39. Murray Seymour, Toronto’s Ravines: Walking The Hidden Country (Boston Mills, 2000).

40. Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio and Jonny Dovercourt (eds.), 2007. GreenTOpia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto (Coach House, 2007).


41. William Burrill, Hemingway: The Toronto Years (Doubleday, 1994).

42. John Davidson / Laird Stevens, The Stroll: Inner-City Subcultures (NC Press, 1986).

43. Joe Fiorito, Union Station: Love, Madness, Sex and Survival on the Streets of the New Toronto (McClelland & Stewart, 2006).

44. James FitzGerald, What Disturbs our Blood: A Son’s Quest to Redeem the Past (Random House of Canada, 2010).

45. W.E. Mann (ed.), The Underside of Toronto (McClelland & Stewart, 1970).

46. Richard Poplak, KENK: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandox, 2010).

47. Kenneth H. Rogers, Street Gangs in Toronto: A Study of the Forgotten Boy (Ryerson, 1945).

Places and Neighbourhoods

48. F.R. Berchem, The Yonge Street Story, 1793-1860 (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1977).

49. Jack Batten, The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood (Boston Mills Press, 2004).

50. Robert R. Bonis, (ed.), A History of Scarborough (Scarborough Public Library, 1968).

51. Jon Caulfield, City Form and Everyday Life: Toronto’s Gentrification and Critical Social Practice (University of Toronto Press, 1994).

52. Jean Cochrane, Jean; photographs by Vincenzo Petropaolo, Kensington (Boston Mills / Stoddart, 2000).

53. Penina Coopersmith, Cabbagetown: The Story of a Victorian Neighbourhood (James Lorimer, 1998).

54. Stuart Henderson, Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming spring 2011).

55. Denis De Klerck and Corrado Paina (eds.), College Street, Little Italy: Toronto’s Renaissance Strip (Mansfield Press, 2006).

56. Rosemary Donegan, Spadina Avenue. (Douglas & McIntyre, 1985).

57. Robert Fulford, Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto. Boston (Peter Davidson / Houghton Mifflin, 1996).

58. Sally Gibson, More Than An Island: A History of the Toronto Island (Irwin, 1974).

59. James Lorimer and Myfanwy Phillips, Working People: Life in a Downtown City Neighbourhood (James Lewis & Samuel Ltd, 1971).

60. Macfarlane, David, ed., 2008. Toronto: A City Becoming. Toronto: Key Porter.

61. Albert Rose, Regent Park: A Study in Slum Clearance (University of Toronto Press, 1958).

62. Carolyn Whitzman, Suburb, Slum, Urban Village: Transformations in Toronto’s Parkdale Neighbourhood, 1875-2002. (University of British Columbia Press, 2009).

63. Lorraine O’Donnell Williams, Memories of the Beach: Reflections on a Toronto Childhood (Dundurn, 2010).

64. Leonard Wise and Allan Gould, Toronto Street Names: An Illustrated Guide To Their Origins (Firefly, 2000).

Politics and Governance

65. Julie-Anne Boudreau, Roger Keil and Douglas Young, Changing Toronto: Governing Urban Neoliberalism (University of Toronto Press, 2009).

66. Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, Municipal Mind: Manifestos for the Creative City (Mansfield Press, 2007).

67. Jason McBride and Alana Wilcox (eds.), Utopia: Towards a New Toronto (Coach House, 2005).

68. Dave Meslin, Christina Palassio and Alana Wilcox (eds.), Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engagement in Toronto (Coach House, 2010).

69. John Sewell, John, Up Against City Hall (James Lewis & Samuel, 1972).


70. Sean Micaleff, Stroll (Coach House, 2010).

71. Ninjalicious, Access All Areas: A User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration (Infiltration / Coach House, 2005).

72. John Bentley Mays, Emerald City: Toronto Visited (Viking, 1994).


73. S.D. Clark, The Suburban Society. Toronto (University of Toronto Press, 1966).

74. Richard Harris, Unplanned Suburbs: Toronto’s American Tragedy, 1900 to 1950 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).

75. John R. Seeley, R. Alexander Sim and Elizabeth W. Loosley, Crestwood Heights: A Study of the Culture of Suburban Life (Basic Books / Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968).

76. Sewell, John, The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl (University of Toronto Press, 2009).

77. Lawrence Solomon, Toronto Sprawls (University of Toronto Press, 2007).

Amy Lavender Harris is the author of Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, 2010).

2 comments to Toronto Books You Should Read Part II: 77 Essential Non-Fiction Reads

  • Andy L.

    This is really a great list. Another book that may interest you is Philip Marchand’s biography, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger. McLuhan spent much of his career in Toronto and the book often evokes the city. It talks a lot about the intellectual scene in the city during the 1960s, for example, as well as McLuhan’ rivalry with another Toronto intellectual, Northrop Frye.

  • Hi Andy;

    You are totally right: Marchand’s biography of McLuhan — which is not only meticulously well researched and fascinatingly written, but also details the life and times of one of Canada’s most important cultural contributors to the world of ideas — should definitely be on this list.

    I’ve remembered (or been reminded) about several other works deserving of mention here, and when I find the list a permanent place on the website, will add them and make the list a round 100.

    Thank you for the suggestion!

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please leave these two fields as-is:

Protected by Invisible Defender. Showed 403 to 233,559 bad guys.