OTTAWA -- If you have done your share of pandemic binge-watching and would like to shift to binging on books, the artistic director of the Ottawa International Writers Festival has reads to recommend.

Sean Wilson jokingly encourages giving the remote a break, “Netflix is running out of content,” he says.

“People are reading and beautifully supporting independent bookstores. That’s a great thing.”

All of the festival’s events are now virtual and free.

“It’s free, one hundred percent free, obviously were hoping people will donate and just as important as donating to the festival is going and buying books because now more than ever writers can’t get out on the road. They can’t do that hand-selling, so it’s so important that we support them.”

The festival’s next event “The World as We Know It”, steaming live Monday at 7:30 p.m. features authors who seem “eerily prescient” in this pandemic era.

“Clearly the smart women have been looking ahead, and seeing this coming. It was a shock to me but they clearly can tell us what’s in store for us,” says Wilson.

Giller Prize finalist Thea Lim will host a conversation with Catherine Hernandez and Saleema Nawaz. 

Writers festival books

Sean Wilson says their novels, imagining near-futures of social upheaval and conflict, are timely and on point.

“It has been a great time for people who’ve been imagining dystopias because we all find out now how spot on they were.”

Wilson says Ottawa born Saleema Nawaz, started writing “Songs for the End of the World” years ago.

It was released this spring during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s remarkable how much she got right in this great book.”

Nawaz is sharing the livestream with Catherine Hernandez.

“Her book, 'Crosshairs', is dystopian. She’s looking at what the future is like when fascism begins to blossom and we start going after people we consider 'others'”, says Wilson.

And the host for the event, Thea Lim also wrote about a love story set during a pandemic in “An Ocean of Minutes”. 

The event is live Monday at 7:30 p.m., or you can watch the link at any time.

Here’s a list of Sean Wilson, our Book Guy’s, other suggested “must-reads”:

Back to School

I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder by Sarah Kurchak

They Said this would be fun: Race Campus Life and Growing Up by Eternity Martis


Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake 


Indians on Vacation by Thomas King

The Certainties by Aislinn Hunter


Dark August by Katie Tallo (Local)

The Residence by Andrew Pyper

Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

The House of Styx by Derek Künsken (Local)

Kids (Grades 5-8)

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

The Silver Train by Lev Grossman

The Barren Grounds by David A Robertson


Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril

The Last Goldfish by Anita Lahey (Local)