Mark Medley is the books editor of Canada’s National Post. Here’s his guide to its largest city’s best bookshops

Toronto’s winter snowfall is fortuitous; you can follow my tracks through the city, which is home to more writers than anywhere else in the country. Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Ann-Marie MacDonald – even John Irving is a part-time resident. The country’s major publishing houses are all located here, and it’s Toronto where the industry gathers to award the Giller Prize each November.

When I leave my apartment, my shelves remain behind but the books follow me. There are no walking tours of Toronto’s literary landmarks, as in London or New York, but as the city has grown (it’s now the fourth-largest in North America), our authors have done a commendable job of translating its streets and alleyways into poetry and prose.

I live three blocks from the historic St. Lawrence Market (pictured above), an area of the city brilliantly captured by Michael Redhill in his 2006 novel Consolation, one of the finest pieces of historical Canadian fiction to be published in recent years. I board the Queen streetcar, steps from my house, which takes me west to Trinity-Bellwoods, the city’s best park and, coincidentally, across the street from Type Books at 883 Queen St. West, a cleverly curated bookstore and a champion of the city’s independent publishers.

I walk north until I reach College Street, the heart of the city’s Little Italy, where I always make sure to check out the new arrivals at Balfour Books, 468 College St. From here I walk east, passing through the University of Toronto’s historic campus, and ultimately arriving at Yonge Street, the city’s spine.

Here, I pop in to my favourite used bookstore, Eliot’s (584 Yonge St, +1 416 925 0268) whose three floors groan with dusty paperbacks. A ten-minute walk to the south is the World’s Biggest Bookstore, at 20 Edward St. My visit is bittersweet; the mammoth shop (approximately 64,000 square feet) will be closing in February, so now’s the time to browse its endless aisles one last time. I’ve lived in the city for a decade, yet every time I step inside I’m transported back to my childhood, amazed that so many books can exist in one place. At least its next-door neighbor BMV Books (10 Edward St, +1 416 977 3087) will remain open; here, I always find a book I didn’t know I was looking for.

Cutting through the Eaton’s Centre, I head towards the city’s Financial District, eerily quiet at the weekends, which is home to the city’s finest bookstore, Ben McNally Books (366 Bay St.), whose eponymous proprietor, grey hair pulled back into a ponytail, is usually found working the cash register. Say hi for me if he’s there, and ask about special events organised by the book shop.

Photo by Shutterstock

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