The best books to explore brilliant writing from Canada

Who am I?

I moved to Canada because I fell wildly in love eighteen years ago. It wasn’t Canada I loved, but a man, and it’s taken me years to get over my homesickness for the country of my birth. I've found as I’ve grown older that the stories of this place have given me a sense of home and belonging—perhaps that’s why so many of the books I’ve recommended are about identity and what it means to the authors. I’m lucky enough to share my favourite books every month on CTV here in Saskatoon, and I focus almost exclusively on Canadian and local books. I hope you love these books as much as I do!

I wrote...

Always Smile: Carley Allison's Secrets for Laughing, Loving and Living

By Alice Kuipers,

Book cover of Always Smile: Carley Allison's Secrets for Laughing, Loving and Living

What is my book about?

Always Smile is a memoir of teen Carley Allison, a creative and inspiring young woman who was diagnosed with an incredibly rare form of cancer. Through her story, her friends and family share their love and experiences of Carley, and everything she taught them and the world. Writing this book taught me so much about listening to other people’s stories. The generosity of the people who loved Carley in sharing their words helped make this book keep Carley’s memory alive.

The books I picked & why

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How to Pronounce Knife: Stories

By Souvankham Thammavongsa,

Book cover of How to Pronounce Knife: Stories

Why this book?

I’ve always been a big reader of short stories (I have four children and can pretty much tune them out for a short story, whereas reading a novel requires me to actually go into hiding.) These stunning stories took me out of place and time to the lives of many other people, all of them dislocated in the world. Souvankham explores the immigrant experience so artfully, and I love how she titles these works—bringing so much extra to the story, the way that artwork in a gallery is enhanced for me by the title on the wall.

Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory

By David A. Robertson,

Book cover of Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory

Why this book?

David Robertson is well known as an author for young readers, with two stunning picture books, a pile of graphic novels, and several amazing middle-grade novels to his name. All of those are also amazing! Yep, all of them. This book is the memoir of his experiences growing up in Canada, all explored through the lens of visiting his father’s trapline. Although a Swampy Cree man, he was initially taught to hide his identity, and what I most love about this work and all of Robertson’s work, is how his sense of identity now roots all of his writing. His message is urgent, necessary, and powerful; his words easy to read yet profound. The raw honesty of this memoir make it a terrific read.

Gutter Child

By Jael Richardson,

Book cover of Gutter Child

Why this book?

This book pick is a dystopic novel about a young woman in a world that separates between those who are from the Gutter and those who are not. I love the intensity of this coming-of-age story, and the compelling writing and voice, for sure. But most of all I love the main character Elimina. She is smart and passionate, fierce and loving, and I defy any reader not to fall a bit in love with her. The world she’s born into pushes her down, and yet she rises above stigma and subverts society to become a beacon for those around her. Gutter Child is a heart-breaking and haunting book, filled with moments of beauty and brilliance.

The Centaur's Wife

By Amanda Leduc,

Book cover of The Centaur's Wife

Why this book?

Not-so-secretly I wish I lived in a fairy story (maybe other writers feel like this too?) This novel is a fairy story for adults in the bravest and most beautiful way. The book begins with a meteor shower and features a real centaur and a love story at its heart that spirals out and impacts the survivors of the end of the world. At least, it’s the end of one world. The characters in The Centaur’s Wife are vivid and true, and the gorgeous, strange story lingers with me all the time, reminding me to be braver on the page and in the world.

Probably Ruby: A Novel

By Lisa Bird-Wilson,

Book cover of Probably Ruby: A Novel

Why this book?

I’d be remiss if I shared books from Canada with you and didn’t point you towards some of the amazing writing coming out of Saskatoon, Treaty 6 Territory, and the Homeland of the Métis. Lisa-Bird Wilson's newest book is a beautiful novel about an Indigenous woman’s search for identity after her adoption. Living in Saskatchewan as Canada wrestles with truth and reconciliation, books like Probably Ruby give me a path to understanding and learning. The voice of this novel is searing and gorgeous, filled with heart and light, and I believe anyone who reads it will feel changed by the experience.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Canada, immigrants, and refugees?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Canada, immigrants, and refugees.

Canada Explore 216 books about Canada
Immigrants Explore 84 books about immigrants
Refugees Explore 90 books about refugees

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Midnight's Children, A House for Mr. Biswas, and The Mosquito Coast if you like this list.