The best books about Canada

86 authors have picked their favorite books about Canada and why they recommend each book.

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Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery,

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

I have been an eccentric my whole life. As a child, I had an adult soul. Nobody, including my parents, recognized this. So I felt as if I didn’t fit anywhere. Then I discovered Anne Shirley. The kindred spirit to my soul. She knew “big words.” Her heart was vulnerable, so her spirit was brave. I read that book so many times, the binding split. Anne Shirley was the first fictional character that resonated with me, and I have carried her with me ever since. I named my daughter Anne.


Who am I?

As a novelist, I focus on the characters in my books, and the plot is woven around them. I'm a people-watcher, and I remember bits and pieces of the folks I observe—many of which find their way into my novels. As a reader, plot pulls me in, but it is the characters that I remember. As a novelist, I always begin with a cast of characters: I start with a physical quirk, a personality flaw, an offbeat way of seeing things. Then I add a plot. For me, plot is the hardest. There are hundreds of characters swimming around in my imagination (see my first book, Characters in Search of a Novel).


I wrote...

The World Came to Us

By Molly D. Campbell,

Book cover of The World Came to Us

What is my book about?

Tommy Poole and her mother Meg have decided to become recluses together. Not forever; only for a year. And not at night when the dog needs to be walked. In the midst of their grief over the loss of Tommy’s other mother, Sam, shutting themselves away seems the only viable way to recovery. 

However, while they have decided to step away from the world, the world has not made the same decision. Soon, Tommy’s best friend is living with them. And the crotchety neighbor is making their lives miserable. And when a teenaged girl with a troubled past and an indignant future enters their orbit, life might be as full for Tommy and Meg as it has been for years. And that was before the wedding…

Roughing It in the Bush Or, Life in Canada

By Susanna Moodie,

Book cover of Roughing It in the Bush Or, Life in Canada

The gold standard source for what life was like for the hardy souls arriving in Upper Canada in the early 19th century. Although writing from a position of relative privilege, Moodie writes of hardships and deprivations that make the modern reader blanch. We wonder whether we could have survived what she and her family endure.  She writes with richness and great humanity so that we can vividly imagine what it must have been like for her to be taken from the relatively comfortable life she’d known and to make a life in the bush.  Despite her trials and tribulations, she comes to have a great love for the beauty and wildness of her adopted home.


Who am I?

When I moved to Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 2001 I was amazed to find how this city, unlike many North American cities, has preserved and celebrated its past. It’s in the architecture, the streets, the fabric, and the soil. As someone with a deep love of reading and exploring history, I immediately began to research my new home. I didn’t discover the sort of bloodless accounts often taught in school, replete with dates and facts. This history simmers and boils; full of tales of pirates and officers, gadflies and ne’er-do-wells, countless plucky frontiersmen and women. There is enough raw material for a thousand novels. 


I wrote...

Bottle and Glass

By Morgan Wade,

Book cover of Bottle and Glass

What is my book about?

Bottle and Glass is a story of survival and escape told from the barstools of two dozen boisterous Kingston taverns at the close of the War of 1812. The novel follows the fortunes of Jeremy Castor and his cousin, Merit Davey, two young men snatched from the Cornish coast by the Royal Navy in the summer of 1813. A year later, they arrive in Kingston, in Upper Canada, a town tense with the fear and deprivation of war. Paid, pent, and thirsty, their first riotous night ashore is spent at a tavern, the novel's namesake, the Violin, Bottle, and Glass.

Jeremy and Merit meet sixteen‐year‐old Amelia Barrett, newly and unhappily married to Colonel Noble Spafford, a Peninsular War veteran many decades her senior. When, later that evening, Jeremy stumbles upon a dead man linked to the Colonel, the lives of these three people seeking freedom become bound together forever.

Kingston

By James A. Roy,

Book cover of Kingston: The King's Town

Roy’s history of Kingston is a fiction writer’s dream.  It is crammed with colourful anecdotes and amazing descriptions of life two hundred years ago, each one a possible starting point for a novel.  This is not your dry, elementary school history; Roy’s account sweats and stinks, crackles and clangs, chews and spits. He writes of revolting spectacles such as “disfigured or putrified or naked human bodies lying exposed on the shores of the town, or kept afloat and fastened by a rope while the preparations for interment were being made.” Life in a frontier town was not for the faint of heart. 


Who am I?

When I moved to Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 2001 I was amazed to find how this city, unlike many North American cities, has preserved and celebrated its past. It’s in the architecture, the streets, the fabric, and the soil. As someone with a deep love of reading and exploring history, I immediately began to research my new home. I didn’t discover the sort of bloodless accounts often taught in school, replete with dates and facts. This history simmers and boils; full of tales of pirates and officers, gadflies and ne’er-do-wells, countless plucky frontiersmen and women. There is enough raw material for a thousand novels. 


I wrote...

Bottle and Glass

By Morgan Wade,

Book cover of Bottle and Glass

What is my book about?

Bottle and Glass is a story of survival and escape told from the barstools of two dozen boisterous Kingston taverns at the close of the War of 1812. The novel follows the fortunes of Jeremy Castor and his cousin, Merit Davey, two young men snatched from the Cornish coast by the Royal Navy in the summer of 1813. A year later, they arrive in Kingston, in Upper Canada, a town tense with the fear and deprivation of war. Paid, pent, and thirsty, their first riotous night ashore is spent at a tavern, the novel's namesake, the Violin, Bottle, and Glass.

Jeremy and Merit meet sixteen‐year‐old Amelia Barrett, newly and unhappily married to Colonel Noble Spafford, a Peninsular War veteran many decades her senior. When, later that evening, Jeremy stumbles upon a dead man linked to the Colonel, the lives of these three people seeking freedom become bound together forever.

The Gentleman's Bottle Companion

By P. Harris Publishing,

Book cover of The Gentleman's Bottle Companion: A Collection of Eighteenth Century Bawdy Ballads

Bottle and Glass is set in actual, historical Kingston taverns from the early 1800’s. It is said that there was then a drinking shop in town for every seventh male adult and one visitor claimed that two thirds of the people he passed on the road were drunk. In 1812, when Kingston had a population of less than four thousand, it had about eighty taverns.  So, the Bottle Companion, published in 1768, is a perfect pairing. It is filled with all manner of ribald drinking songs and saucy lyrics, paeans to drink and revelry; it helps set the tone for what early 19th century life was really like. A number of characters in Bottle and Glass, at particular moments of high spirits and ever-expanding mayhem, belt out selections from the Companion.   


Who am I?

When I moved to Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 2001 I was amazed to find how this city, unlike many North American cities, has preserved and celebrated its past. It’s in the architecture, the streets, the fabric, and the soil. As someone with a deep love of reading and exploring history, I immediately began to research my new home. I didn’t discover the sort of bloodless accounts often taught in school, replete with dates and facts. This history simmers and boils; full of tales of pirates and officers, gadflies and ne’er-do-wells, countless plucky frontiersmen and women. There is enough raw material for a thousand novels. 


I wrote...

Bottle and Glass

By Morgan Wade,

Book cover of Bottle and Glass

What is my book about?

Bottle and Glass is a story of survival and escape told from the barstools of two dozen boisterous Kingston taverns at the close of the War of 1812. The novel follows the fortunes of Jeremy Castor and his cousin, Merit Davey, two young men snatched from the Cornish coast by the Royal Navy in the summer of 1813. A year later, they arrive in Kingston, in Upper Canada, a town tense with the fear and deprivation of war. Paid, pent, and thirsty, their first riotous night ashore is spent at a tavern, the novel's namesake, the Violin, Bottle, and Glass.

Jeremy and Merit meet sixteen‐year‐old Amelia Barrett, newly and unhappily married to Colonel Noble Spafford, a Peninsular War veteran many decades her senior. When, later that evening, Jeremy stumbles upon a dead man linked to the Colonel, the lives of these three people seeking freedom become bound together forever.

Reckless Daughter

By David Yaffe,

Book cover of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s career extended long after the 1960s, but that was the decade when she burst on the scene with her distinctive voice and incredible song-writing and musical abilities. This book provides in-depth details of how she went from being an unknown blonde girl from Saskatchewan to an undisputed folk music superstar with songs like no one else. As Leonard Cohen put it: “She was like a storm.” To present Joni’s story, the author conducted interviews with Mitchell and her childhood friends, and with the many others who played important roles in her life—including Cohen, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and David Crosby. Along the way, David Yaffe reveals the backstory behind all of Joni’s songs. It’s a fascinating book.


Who am I?

I grew up with the music of the 1960s. Going to packed, pheromone-heavy dances featuring The Lincolns—Nova Scotia’s most popular and most soulful band—were a huge part of my teenage years. Those experiences implanted a deep love of R&B, and somehow or other pointed me in the direction of becoming a writer. It’s a bit of a mystery how it all works. In any case, of all my books, none was as much fun to work on as Kings of Friday Night. It has received lots of love, including from readers who grew up far from the time and place I write about. Long live local bands! And live music everywhere!


I wrote...

Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

By A.J.B. Johnston,

Book cover of Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

What is my book about?

At its core, this is a book about a quest. The story begins in the late 1950s in Truro, Nova Scotia, where a group of young, aspiring musicians want to play the new rock ‘n’ roll. At the time, their town was divided by race, religion, and class. One thing only brought people together: the new music. Over a span of ten years, The Lincolns, the local "kings of Friday night," played trademark rock 'n' roll, R&B, and soul at dances and campuses across Nova Scotia and into New Brunswick. Along the way, The Lincolns changed the lives of small-town kids clamoring for music to move their feet, their hips—and ultimately their hearts. It’s a touching, true-life, universal tale filled with personal recollections and nostalgic delight. The book features a foreword by former Lincoln John MacLachlan Gray and an afterword by the band’s singer, Frank MacKay.

Joni

By Selina Alko,

Book cover of Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell

“Joni Mitchell painted with words,” begins this beautifully lyrical book on the well-known singer/song-writer. The colorful and imaginative collage illustrations jump off the page, telling the story of the girl from a small town in Canada who vanquished polio to go on to become a household name. Joni Mitchell used poetry to paint her feelings into song. We know her music and lyrics as a familiar soundtrack to our lives; now children can learn about the enigmatic spirit behind all that creative musicality.


Who am I?

As a picture-book writer and illustrator as well as a mother and teacher, the most important goal I can think of is fueling a child’s imagination with possibilities by providing true stories of trailblazing women. My reviews highlight remarkable women in the arts, government, sports, social work, and history. I hope you enjoy these books!


I wrote...

Steadfast: Frances Perkins, Champion of Workers' Rights

By Jennifer Merz,

Book cover of Steadfast: Frances Perkins, Champion of Workers' Rights

What is my book about?

When Frances Perkins witnessed New York City’s Triangle Factory fire in 1911, her desire to help the American worker transformed into a lifelong mission. Determined to fix workplace injustices at a time when women were discouraged from speaking up let alone having careers, she became the first woman in a U.S. Presidential Cabinet and the force behind the New Deal, vast programs that protect workers to this day.

In Steadfast: Frances Perkins, Champion of Workers’ Rights, writer/illustrator Jennifer J. Merz introduces readers to Frances Perkins’ extraordinary life and legacy. This book will delight children and adults alike with handcrafted art and an engaging true story. Fully annotated back matter provides a perfect opportunity to learn more. This is the inspiring story of a heroic trailblazer, the most important woman you may not have heard of—yet!

2021 Night Sky Almanac

By Nicole Mortillaro,

Book cover of 2021 Night Sky Almanac: A Month-By-Month Guide to North America's Skies from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

One of the challenges with stargazing books is that the sky is always changing. The planets are in a different place every night, new comets are discovered, and the timing of eclipses varies from year to year. This is why the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) produces an annual night sky Almanac. This simple guide details exactly which astronomical events will occur during each month of the current year! Also, the author, Nicole Mortillaro, is just a super cool person. Be sure to follow her on social media for the latest news about everything space!


Who am I?

My journey into astronomy began with a small and rickety telescope purchased at a local pharmacy. I found it fascinating to observe the Moon and Saturn with their rings using such meager equipment. I decided to share these views with others by writing my first book, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, an easy-to-understand beginner’s guide which I self-published and sold through Amazon starting in 2013. I have since published a number of other books on space for children. Besides writing, I work as the telescope operator at Burke-Gaffney Observatory. In 2020 I was awarded the Simon Newcomb Award for excellence in science communication.


I wrote...

50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

By John A. Read,

Book cover of 50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

What is my book about?

50 Things to See with a Telescope covers everything you need to know to identify constellations, planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. Beginner stargazers will find star hopping easy with clearly plotted routes on images of the sky and detailed views from a backyard telescope. 

This easy-to-read, fully illustrated stargazing book will enrich your experience of the skies above. For those living south of the equator, a Southern Hemisphere edition of this book is also available. This book is part of an award-winning series, including: 50 Things to See on the Moon, 50 Animals that have been to Space, 50 Space Missions that Changed the World, and 110 Things to See with a Telescope (coming July 2021).

Dark Matters

By Simone Browne,

Book cover of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness

She really gets at the heart of how Brown and Black bodies are seenand what is fascinating to me is the approach through current “technical art” and a good discussion of architecture. I had a class focus on her discussion—lengthy—about surveillance and race. It’s extremely poignant, and something whites especially just don’t think about. I will never again go through an airport without thinking about her book. 


Who am I?

I am a professor of music at the University of Michigan, where I have taught theory, jazz, music composition, and music technology for 34 years. 


I wrote...

Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman

By Stephen Rush,

Book cover of Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman

What is my book about?

Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman discusses Ornette Coleman's musical philosophy of "Harmolodics," an improvisational approach deeply inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. Falling under the guise of "free jazz," Harmolodics can be difficult to understand, even for seasoned musicians and musicologists. This book contains a long interview with Ornette Coleman, as well as many musical examples illustrating the principles that were behind his wonderful music.  

Animal Metropolis

By Joanna Dean (editor), Darcy Ingram (editor), Christabelle Sethna (editor)

Book cover of Animal Metropolis: Histories of Human-Animal Relations in Canada

This book is full of engaging and thoughtful essays focusing on the ways that human-animal histories have shaped so many aspects of life in Canada. From the horses on the streets of Montreal in the 19th century to more recent exploration of captive animals in Vancouver, this book presents an important range of topics that ask the reader to think differently about the histories, spaces, and species they may think they know. I also really appreciate that the University of Calgary Press has published an open access version of this book.


Who am I?

I am a historian of visual culture, and my work explores the ways images can shape and challenge dominant ideas about other species. The ways we choose to represent certain animals (or not) can have important consequences, both in terms of environmental issues but also in terms of the wellbeing of individual animals. Digging deeper into these histories can make us aware that the categories we like to put animals in can shift and change depending on the time period and place. As we confront increasingly urgent climate and environmental issues, understanding these dynamics will be even more important than ever.


I wrote...

Art for Animals: Visual Culture and Animal Advocacy, 1870-1914

By Keri Cronin,

Book cover of Art for Animals: Visual Culture and Animal Advocacy, 1870-1914

What is my book about?

This book looks at the ways in which those working to make the world a better place for animals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries used art and imagery in their campaigns. Today we expect that activist campaigns are highly visual, but my book goes further back in time to try to understand some of the ways that reformers saw visual culture as an integral part of animal advocacy at this earlier point in history. 

There are some similarities--much like today, debates over the appropriate use of graphic imagery existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, there were some aspects of these early campaigns that aren’t as widely considered today: the role of art education as a way to foster kind and humane behavior in children, for example, or the ways in which some of the most famous paintings of the day were repurposed as campaign material.

North of Normal

By Cea Sunrise Person,

Book cover of North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both

The full title of this memoir by Cea Sunrise Person is North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Counter Culture Family, and How I Survived Both, which basically sums up this fascinating and wild ride through Cea’s unconventional upbringing in a pot-smoking, free-loving, clothing-optional, canvas tipi-sleeping, non-conforming family in the Canadian wilderness. Gaining this unique view into the psychology and emotional fallout of the eccentric family lifestyle was shocking, heart-breaking, and inspirational all at once. You will never read another book quite like it.


Who am I?

I’m a Canadian psychotherapist who worked as a social worker for nearly a decade before going into private practice for the next two decades. I dabble in history and literature and when I find a Canadian book that combines elements of social justice, historical wrongs, heart-wrenching human experience, feminism, and Canadian wilderness I want to share it with everyone. As a bonus, if one of the characters happens to be a young person who is coming of age, the book will earn a very top position on my bookshelf. I hope you enjoy this small list of what I consider hidden gems by Canadian authors.


I wrote...

All We Left Behind

By Danielle R. Graham,

Book cover of All We Left Behind

What is my book about?

As the war rages around the world, Hitler’s fury is yet to be felt on the peaceful shores of Mayne Island, Canada. Sweethearts Hayden and Chidori are in love. But everything changes after Pearl Harbor. Now seen as the enemy, Chidori and her family are forced into an internment camp for Japanese Canadians. Powerless to help them, Hayden joins the Royal Canadian Air Force to bring about an end to this devastating war. Will they both survive long enough to be reunited? Or will the war rip away all that they left behind?

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