The best historical books about Nova Scotia, Canada

Who am I?

I developed a love for James A. Michener’s sweeping novels as a young man, which coincided with an early stage of my career as a travel journalist. I was fortunate to find myself in places all over the globe that he had written about, and these countries were somehow made more vivid to me because of his words. It wasn’t until the onset of Covid-19 in 2020 that I switched from writing non-fiction to fiction. In doing so, I realized that the small part of the world in which I had been born and raised – Nova Scotia, Canadawas as fascinating and interesting as any place I had visited. 

I wrote...

Unconventional Daughters: An Engrossing Family Saga on Two Continents

By Bruce Bishop,

Book cover of Unconventional Daughters: An Engrossing Family Saga on Two Continents

What is my book about?

In the 1920s in eastern Canada, a budding journalist marries her youthful stepfather after her mother divorces him. Her seaside community is outraged, and it soon becomes apparent that her mother may be an even greater threat to her future wellbeing. The novel was inspired by a true incident that happened in my hometown of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

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The books I picked & why

Burden of Desire

By Robert MacNeil,

Book cover of Burden of Desire

Why did I love this book?

When Robert MacNeil’s debut novel Burden of Desire was published in 1992, it stood out to me because it offered a fresh take on the Halifax (Nova Scotia) Explosion of 1917 as a backdrop to his compelling love-triangle storyline.

The Explosion was the largest man-made disaster in the world prior to World War II, and every school child in Nova Scotia, including myself, traditionally learns of the Explosion by reading Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan’s iconic novel that was published in 1941.

But MacNeil’s novel proves that historical fiction can be spicy and entertaining as well as truthful to its time period and setting. He is well-remembered as a television journalist for his long-running PBS show, the MacNeil Lehrer Report. Mr. MacNeil is now 92 years young.

By Robert MacNeil,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Burden of Desire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set against a vived backdrop of a world at war, Burden of Desire opens with a cataclysmic explosions that provides the novel's extraordinary central metaphor. The blast and its aftermath, which devastates Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1917, rocks the lives of the three major characters, and ensures that the world as they know it will never be the same again.

Brilliantly blending suspense and eroticism with rich historical detail, Robert MacNeil sets the stage for one of the most provocative tales of desire and obsession to be found in recent fiction. Magnificent in scope, Burden of Desire is work of…

Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery,

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

Why did I love this book?

I’m convinced that many young readers in the last century (and this one) have been compelled to become writers themselves if they read Anne of Green Gables (published in 1908) and became enmeshed in the life of spunky, red-haired orphan, Anne Shirley.

The story takes place in Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, and recounts the tale of a child who is mistakenly placed in the care of a pair of middle-aged siblings on their farm.

While I became addicted to reading every Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novel when I was young, Anne of Green Gables was a book special to my heart because it was set in the same part of the world in which I was born.

By L.M. Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Anne of Green Gables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anne of Green Gables is the classic children's book by L M Montgomery, the inspiration for the Netflix Original series Anne with an E. Watch it now!

Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are in for a big surprise. They are waiting for an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables - but a skinny, red-haired girl turns up instead. Feisty and full of spirit, Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthberts' affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter. It's not long before Anne finds herself in trouble, but soon it becomes impossible for the Cuthberts to…

Fall on Your Knees

By Ann-Marie MacDonald,

Book cover of Fall on Your Knees

Why did I love this book?

This compelling family saga set on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia was published in 1996 and explores the lives of the complicated Piper family in the early 20th century.

My late mother was from Glace Bay, a mining town on Cape Breton, and I remember she was quite excited when she heard about Ms. MacDonald’s drama, and promptly bought a copy. She told me she couldn’t get beyond the first few chapters because it was far too filthy for her taste. Naturally, I then had to read the whole novel to find out just how controversial the book was!

By Ann-Marie MacDonald,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fall on Your Knees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Following the curves of the twentieth century, FALL ON YOUR KNEES takes us from haunted Cape Breton island in Nova Scotia through the battlefields of World War I into the emerging jazz scene in New York City, and immerses us in the lives of four unforgettable sisters. The children of a driven and ambitious father, the sisters -Kathleen, the oldest, a beautiful talent intent on a career as an opera diva; Frances, the drunken rogue and child prostitute; Lily, the pseudo-saint cripple; and Mercedes, the fervent Catholic and protector of the flock - are swept along by the tumult of…

Book cover of 400 Years in 365 Days: A Day by Day Calendar of Nova Scotia History

Why did I love this book?

I received this handsome hardcover book as a gift, and I’ve been entertained and educated every time I’ve opened it.

It contains over 1,000 entries and 300 visuals that not only depict notable Nova Scotians but also scandals, newsworthy events, and celebrations. I’ve been inspired by some of the daily entries to research them further, which has enhanced my three novels that are set in Nova Scotia.

By Leo Deveau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 400 Years in 365 Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

400 Years in 365 Days gives readers a fun, trivia-filled record which reflects the communities and peoples of Nova Scotia spanning the past 400+ years. Leo Deveau has assembled over a thousand entries that reflect events in the lives and histories of virtually every settlement and group in the province, covering a range of interests from military history to arts and sports. Illustrating the entries are 300+ visuals including full colour paintings, drawings, photos, and archival objects. This informative, entertaining and illuminating volume is a great reference book and a great gift for anyone interested in Nova Scotia's colourful past…

Book cover of Historic Yarmouth: Town & County

Why did I love this book?

This was my go-to resource on several occasions when I was researching for my book.

While it concentrates on the work of 19th-century photographers based in southwestern Nova Scotia, the wealth of information gleaned from the captions and the photos themselves made this paperback invaluable to me. Indeed, anyone interested in streetscapes, domestic and public architecture, shipping, transportation, and so much more in Yarmouth town and county, will certainly appreciate this compendium.

By Eric Ruff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Historic Yarmouth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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Interested in Nova Scotia, Canada, and World War 1?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Nova Scotia, Canada, and World War 1.

Nova Scotia Explore 23 books about Nova Scotia
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World War 1 Explore 825 books about World War 1