Canadian Library Month

Celebrate Canadian Library Month with a look at some Canadian books and authors that have made a difference.  We will add a new one every day.

Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley

“Each book is completely unique.”

Author info:

My favorite, Not Wanted on the Voyage, is the story of the animals on Noah's ark, told from their perspective. The Telling of Lies is a mystery. His most acclaimed books are The Wars, and Famous Last Words - realistic fiction set in WW1 and WW2. He also wrote short stories, dramas, and an autobiography.

 

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

“Utterly believable characters that pull you into their stories.”

Author info:

From the Toronto-based Mistry (Such a Long Journey, 1991), a splendid tale of contemporary India that, in chronicling the sufferings of outcasts and innocents trying to survive in the ``State of Internal Emergency'' of the 1970s, grapples with the great question of how to live in the face of death and despair.  (Kirkus Review Feb 1996)

Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson

“Adamson brought Alberta's far south to life for me, almost too much, now I get shivers driving through Frank Slide.”

Author info:

Part literary Western and part historical mystery, Ridgerunner is the follow-up to Gil Adamson's award-winning and critically acclaimed novel The Outlander.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

“I finished this book late one evening, then started reading it again the next morning.  I find something new with every reading.”

Author info:

Pi Patel, a young man from India, tells how he was shipwrecked and stranded in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger for 227 days. This outlandish story is only the core of a deceptively complex three-part novel about, ultimately, memory as a narrative and about how we choose truths.  (Booklist May 2002)

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

“When I heard Prof. Davies read his stories in person, I was swept into another world full of imaginary delights.”

Author info:

The first of three linked novels, the others being The Manticore and World of wonders.   Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave at Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross and destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide. As Ramsay tells his story, it begins to seem that from boyhood, he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious, influence on those around him. Robertson Davies, was a writer, journalist, Companion of the Order of Canada, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, and founding master of Massey College at the University of Toronto.  He is  widely acknowledged as one of Canada’s most brilliant and influential essayists and novelists.

 

Books from Oct 1 -4

Michael Ondaatje

As a Sri Lankan born Canadian novelist, Ondaatje skirts the lines in his writing between English imperialism and the New West. His poetry and prose range from work such as The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems, famous novels like The English Patient and In the Skin of a Lion to memoirs of his homeland in Running in the Family. Through his history and his writing, Ondaatje reflects the juxtaposition of new versus old; the 21st century West versus eastern colonialism, which also mirrors many themes in Canadian identity.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

“This story is funny and heartwarming with the roles reversed at the end of the story. My family still use some of the words from this story while sending texts when out of town or away from each other.”

Author bio:

Robert Munsch has published over 60 stories and his books are loved by children and adults worldwide. He discovered a gift for storytelling while working in day care centres.  Munsch is never afraid to break new ground, challenging conventions and stereotypes. For example, The Paper Bag Princess sees the princess take on the mantle of the brave and smart protagonist, as opposed to a helpless damsel. Nearly all of Munsch’s works are based on real children that he has met in his travels.   Love You Forever , which started, out as a song, was written to help cope with grief after Munsch and his wife had two stillborn babies.

Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery

“Emily Climbs was one of the first chapter books I remember reading by myself.  Emily was always a character I felt I could relate to, especially for her love of words.”

Author bio:

L.M. Montgomery's best know work is Anne of Green Gables (1908) , and the character of the red-headed Anne Shirley has achieved mythic proportions.  However, with the Emily of New Moon series,  Montgomery considered Emily to be a character much closer to her own personality  and some of the events which occur in the Emily series happened to Montgomery herself.   The global impact of her work undeniable.  Her novel, The Blue Castle, was given to Polish soldiers headed to the front during WWII.  In 1997, when the house designated as Green Gables caught fire, thousands of Japanese, some of her most ardent fans, sent money for repairs.  She was the first Canadian woman to be made a member of the British Royal Society of Arts and she was declared a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“A fascinating yet disturbing look at a dystopian society.”

Author bio:

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer best known for her prose fiction and for her feminist perspective. Role reversal and new beginnings are recurrent themes in her novels, all of them centred on women seeking their relationship to the world and the individuals around them.  Two of her novels, Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale, have been made into movies and television series.

 

Books from Oct 5 -11

Flint and Feather by Pauline Johnson

“Pauline Johnson provides a strong role model for successful female artists; her celebration of indigenous heritage and the Canadian wilderness are still relevant a century after her death.”

Author bio:

A late 19th--early 20th century poet and entertainer of mixed European and Mohawk descent. Arguably, Pauline Johnson could be called Canada’s first performance poet. “The Song My Paddle Sings,” from Johnson’s 1912 poetry collection Flint and Feather, was anthologized and included in Canadian elementary school readers for more than half a century (it was still in when I was a kid). “The Song My Paddle Sings” is also a campfire classic familiar to twentieth-century Scouts and Girl Guides worldwide. See more info on Johnson’s legacy in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

“The book is not an easy read and may elicit a strong emotional response.  I cried, more than once.”

Author Bio:

The Book of Negroes is a sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London.  It introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex. Lawrence Hill is the son of American immigrants — a black father and a white mother — who came to Canada the day after they married in 1953.  Growing up in the predominantly white suburb of Don Mills, Ontario in the sixties, Hill was greatly influenced by his parents’ work in the human rights movement and much of his writing touches on issues of identity and belonging.

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

“The author is a masterful writer - I've had a hard time finding another book as well written as this one.”

Author info:

Fall On Your Knees takes us from haunted Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, through the battle fields of World War One, to the emerging jazz scene of New York city and into the lives of four unforgettable sisters in the Piper family.  Published in 1996,  McDonald's first novel was a critically acclaimed international best seller, was short-listed for the Giller Prize and became an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

How to be Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson

“I gave this book to my new-to-Canada husband and he read every word and still refers to the content - it had a strong impact on his view of our culture and reminded me of things as well.”

Author info:

When Margaret Atwood suggested Will Ferguson follow up his runaway best-seller Why I Hate Canadians with a "tongue-in-cheek guidebook for newcomers on how to be Canadian," Will thought it was a great idea, and he quickly recruited his brother, comedy writer Ian Ferguson, creator and executive producer of the television series Sin City. Together, the Ferguson brothers have created the ultimate guide to Canadian cultural quirks.  Will Ferguson is also the author of the Giller-prize winning novel, 419.

 

Deadly Appearances by Gail Bowen

“Smart ladies kicking it on the Prairies.”

Author info:

In 1990, Gail Bowen introduced us to her character Joanne Kilbourn,  a widowed mother, political analyst and university professor who finds herself occasionally involved in criminal investigations in various parts of Saskatchewan.  Deadly Appearances was the first title, but there are twenty books in the series, with the most recent being 2021's An Image in the Lake.

 

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

“This brilliant and illuminating read attempts to explain the reasons for the often strange sociological changes that happen in society.”

Author info:

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers — The Tipping Point, Blink,Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath and has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list. His newest book is The Bomber Mafia. The Tipping Point explains how ideas spread like epidemics and which few elements need to come together to help an idea reach the point of critical mass, where its viral effect becomes unstoppable

Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan

“This story of the Halifax Explosion really brought history class to life as I walked the same streets.”

Author info:

Barometer Rising was MacLennan's first published novel, and is a compelling romance set against the catastrophic events of the Halifax Explosion, which occurred on December 6, 1917. Prior to this novel, there was no tradition of Canadian literature, and it was a huge success,  becoming a staple on school reading lists. Penelope Wain believes that her lover, Neil Macrae, has been killed while serving overseas under her father. That he died apparently in disgrace does not alter her love for him, even though her father is insistent on his guilt. What neither Penelope or her father knows is that Neil is not dead, but has returned to Halifax to clear his name.

Books from Oct 12 - 17

The Nymph and the Lamp by Thomas H. Raddall

“Nymph and the Lamp – Made me realize how beautiful the harsh ocean can be.”

Author info:

This book is the story of heroine Isabel Jardin and her life  living on the harsh Nova Scotia island Sable Island, also known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.” This love story pits Isabel between the man she married and brought her to the island and the man she met and fell in love with on the island. Raddall was a prolific, award-winning writer. He received the Governor General's Awards for three of his books, The Pied Piper of Dipper Creek (1943), Halifax, Warden of the North (1948) and The Path of Destiny (1957). He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971. Raddall is best known for his historical fiction, but he also published numerous non-fictional historical works. His interest in historical research grew when he was stationed at historical locations as a wireless operator.

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

“The Inspector Gamache series is full of Canadian references like butter tarts and makes you believe in the goodness of people, despite using current events to highlight the darkness in all of us. She makes art visible with words, has the best bistro ever, and the duck swears!”

Author info:

An award winning author with 18 mysteries in the series from Still Life to the most recent The Madness of Crowds.  Like the author, the series is based in Quebec's Eastern Townships, but various titles venture further across Canada and abroad.  On October 12, her collaboration with Hillary Rodham Clinton on a political-mystery thriller, State of Terror, was published.

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

“A raw and touching coming-of-age story for a young girl in a strict religious community.”

Author info:

Toews' 2004 novel "A Complicated Kindness" was her breakthrough work, spending over a year on the Canadian bestseller lists and winning the Governor General's Award for English Fiction. The novel, about a teenage girl who longs to escape her small Russian Mennonite town and hang out with Lou Reed in the slums of New York City, was also nominated for the Giller Prize and was the winning title in the 2006 edition of Canada Reads.   Her most recent book, Fight Night, was published in August.

 

Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese

“I love this little book and its division into short ‘chapters’ interspersed with short conversations between writer and ‘Old Woman.’”

Author Info:

As a toddler,  Wagamesee and his three siblings were abandoned as children near Kenora, Ontario. They were found by a policeman and taken by the Children’s Aid Society to be raised in foster homes. Richard was adopted at age nine by a family that would not allow him contact with First Nations people.  The beatings and abuse her suffered led him to leave home at age 16 and he lived on the street in St. Catharines, Ont. where he became a drug and alcohol addict and spent time in prison.  One winter day seeking shelter, he found  himself in a library and became interested in books with the help of a librarian. He returned there many times reading widely and slowly educating himself.  This led to his first job as a journalist in 1979 and  Wagamese later wrote columns for the Calgary Herald which led to him winning a National Newspaper Award in 1991, the first indigenous writer to get such recognition.  He is best known for his novel "Indian Horse" but Embers was his last book before his death in 2017.

Family Furnishings - Selected Stories, 1995-2014 by Alice Munro

“I typically only read novels… and Alice Munro's short stories.”

Author info:

Alice Munro is a short story writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013.  As the Nobel Prize presentation speech reads in part: "Reading one of Alice Munro's texts is like watching a cat walk across a laid dinner table. A brief short story can often cover decades, summarizing a life, as she moves deftly between different periods. No wonder Alice Munro is often able to say more in thirty pages than an ordinary novelist is capable of in three hundred."   Recurring plots and themes in Munro’s work include growing up female in small-town Ontario during the 40’s and 50's, the tension between intellect and rural life, familial relationships, and sexuality. Her stories, as the title of her first published collection suggests, are largely focused on the Lives of Girls and Women. Munro's work is characterized by humour, poignancy, and excellence.

Stories from the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean

“All of the stories are wonderful, and make me laugh.  I never eat turkey without thinking of "Dave cooks the turkey.”  These stories are great audio books, and I still hear Stuart Mclean voice narrating  when I read them in print.”

Author info:

The radio show was written and hosted by the late Stuart McLean and featured stories, essays and music, often recorded at live concerts from across Canada and the US.  The Vinyl Cafe stories are about Dave, owner of a second-hand record store called "The Vinyl Cafe". The stories also feature Dave's wife, Morley, their two children, Sam and Stephanie, and assorted friends and neighbours. First read on air in 1994, many of the stories were eventually compiled in book form, followed by audio recording compilations from the program (Vinylcafe.com)

 

Books from Oct 18 - 25

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

“Very eye opening to the systemic issues in our society. This smart, poignant, shocking at times book is a must read for everyone that wants a better understanding.”

Author info:

Thomas King, one of the top contemporary Indigenous writers in North America, is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, screenwriter, and photographer. As an activist, his stories portray the challenges faced by indigenous peoples in Canada. His writing combines traditional Western narratives with an informal tone as well as strong and humorous characters. In this nonfiction work, he takes the reader through Canadian and American history post-contact and talks about the actions these governments took over the years and ramifications both direct and indirect for the Indigenous communities already living there. His most recent novel, Indians on Vacation, has recently been nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award. 

 

 

The Englishman’s Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe

“History tells us what people do; historical fiction helps us imagine how they felt.”   Guy Vanderhaeghe.  Historical fiction also helps us love history.

Author info:

An Englishman's Boy, the first novel in his Western trilogy, covers the Cypress Hills Massacre, and won the author his second of 3 Governor General's awards.  The Final Crossing, second in the trilogy, was selected for the 2004 edition of Canada Reads as the book that should be read by all Canadians. 

A Good House by Bonnie Burnard

“It reminded me of my mother's home-town on Lake Ontario and visits there in my childhood:  big, old brick houses and maple tree-lined streets.”

Author info:

Giller Prize in 1999.  It was set in a town on Lake Huron and spans nearly 50 years of the Chambers family -- so relatable in terms of setting and everyday lives in Canada in the post-war years, very real and warm.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy KravitzMordecai Richler

Author info:

The dazzling tale of a clever young rogue who makes good (or at least makes money), The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz established Mordecai Richler as one of the great comic writers of the twentieth century. Determined to claw his way out of Montreal’s Jewish ghetto, young Duddy takes to heart his grandfather as maxim that "a man without land is nobody." In his relentless pursuit of property and a big-time reputation, the cynical dreamer lies, cheats, and hurts everyone who loves him. Amoral, yet oddly endearing, Duddy Kravitz is one of the most charismatic anti-heroes of all time -- a man who learns the hard way that dreams are not exactly what they seem, even when they do come true.

Perfection of the Morning: An Apprenticeship in Nature, Sharon Butala

“This was the first time I enjoyed reading non-fiction!”

Author info:

Sharon Butala's memoir chronicles her midlife marriage and move away from the city to an isolated cattle ranch on the Great Plains. Evocative and moving, Perfection of the Morning articulates Butala's struggle to adapt, her spiritual rebirth as woman and writer, shaped by the landscape and guided by Nature's healing power.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer by William Gibson

“When I first read this in 1984, Gibson's world seemed like a wild, glowing, fantastical future…  Now, it seems wildly prescient.”

Author info:

Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer is a science fiction masterpiece--a classic that ranks as one of the twentieth century's most potent visions of the future.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

“I never knew an octopus could be so symbolic.”

Author info:

This runaway slave narrative has the titular Washington Black travel across the commonwealth as he searches for a real home.

 

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