Canada Day 2020: Our Roundup of The Top Five Canadian Authors
Celebrate Canada Day at Home Exploring the Works of These Canadian Gems
This Canada Day we’re rounding up our top picks of some of the best authors our country has to offer. It’s obviously near impossible to narrow down the amazing breadth and depth of Canada’s talent, but we’ve done our best!
Whether you’re in the mood for something reflective, challenging, or out of this world, there’s something for everyone and every mood. Read on to discover who’s on tap as we toast to some of the best of the best.
Happy Canada Day, and Happy Reading!
1. Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson (288 pages)
Holiday Vibe: mythical, contemporary, sharp
Canada Reads 2020 might be postponed, but that’s no reason to put the nominees on the back burner. Eden Robinson is an award-winning author of Haisla/Heiltsuk heritage whose novel Son of a Trickster made this year’s list.
This first installment in a planned trilogy mixes regular teenage issues with the particular hardships facing Indigenous youth today, all with a healthy dose of otherworldliness. If you like your YA novels no-holds-barred with splotches of dark humour this one’s for you. There are also plans for a TV series due to air on CBC this year. If you like Son of a Trickster, check out the second in the trilogy, Trickster Drift, or more of her work below:
Monkey Beach — her first novel, set against the mountains and the sea, deals with a mysterious disappearance and dark secrets. Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Traplines — four short stories about the lives of Indigenous youth told with gritty realism and splashes of humour. The New York Times named it a Notable Book of the Year.
2. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje ( 269 pages)
Holiday Vibe: historical, Dickensian, adventurous
Celebrated author Michael Ondaatje, royalty of Canadian literature, is known for his award-winning prose. If you’re looking for the well-written and familiar, something to spend long, lazy days within a hammock or lawn chair, Michael’s your guy.
His most recent offering, Warlight, made Barack Obama’s list of favourite books of 2018 and was longlisted for the Booker Prize. The plot includes two teens in post-WWII London, flighty parents, a bizarre living situation with a strange man nicknamed the Moth, and a cast of other equally strange characters who influence and shape the teens’ lives. Years later the memory of this time is re-examined in order to separate fact from fiction, and make sense of a time shrouded in mystery. See below for more of Michael’s best works:
In the Skin of a Lion — a stay-cation pick set in Toronto in the 1920s.
3. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell ( 337 pages)
Holiday Vibe: thoughtful, curious, engaging
Up for some compelling stories and a dash of science? Malcolm Gladwell, wildly successful journalist and entertaining explainer of big ideas, offers us food for thought in a variety of best-selling works.
In Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know he examines how we read the people we don’t know and the resulting implications. Considering the recent wave of unrest stemming from police interactions in Black communities, this last pick is particularly appropriate for our times.
In The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, he considers the threshold where a little spark turns into a massively popular product or social trend. If you’re hungry for more engrossing non-fiction check these out:
Outliers: The Story of Success — looking at a career change or new venture? This pick takes a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of successful people.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking — investigates the science behind our thinking and decision-making processes, an eye-opener on how we interpret situations and people with limited background information.
4. We Have Always Been There by Samra Habib (272 pages)
Holiday Vibe: intimate, edgy, feminist
Samra Habib is the creative mind behind the Lambda Literary Award-winning We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir. Through her life experiences, Samra shares her struggles to form and express an identity within the confines of tradition and cultural expectations when it’s unsafe to do so, and the courage it takes to finally be seen as your true self.
This pick, a window into the life of a queer, Muslim POC, invites us to deepen our knowledge of perspectives rarely seen and heard in the mainstream. But don’t stop there. Samra is also a photographer and activist. Her writings have appeared in Vice, The New York Times and The Guardian, with exhibits appearing at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and SOMArts in San Francisco (to name a few). For more of her creations check out:
Just Me and Allah: A Queer Muslim Photo Project — photos and interviews sharing the stories of queer Muslims.
Her journalism — insightful articles about some of the topics close to her heart: art, culture, faith and inclusivity.
5. Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese (140 pages)
Holiday Vibe: meditative, heartwarming, graceful
Rounding out our top five is the late author Richard Wagamese. One of his last literary gifts to us, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations, is a collection of reflections exploring some big themes including joy, grief and spirituality. Inspired and personal, the soothing balm of Richard’s words grace each page, inviting us into a life filled with light, darkness and the wisdom gleaned from everyday moments.
It’s no wonder that Canadians made this pick a top ten bestselling book of 2019. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for something to pick up and put down again throughout the course of your holiday, laid out on a blanket in your backyard or at home in your comfy chair.
Gone but not forgotten, Richard’s legacy leaves us with a number of acclaimed novels spanning the course of his career. Take a look at these picks for more from this masterful storyteller:
Indian Horse — his award-winning account of an Indigenous boy’s journey of survival and success from boyhood to hockey stardom. A stellar pick if you enjoy sports and coming-of-age stories; a must-read for a fictional yet educational account of the effects of the Residential School system.
Medicine Walk — this story about a father and son takes us on an inner and outer journey. As the two men travel together and traverse the rocky paths of their relationship, the past is illuminated — along with the secrets that lie there. A great pick if you’re looking for a story about imperfect families and redemption. If you like it, check out the follow-up, Starlight, Richard’s last novel.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup of the top five Canadian authors. It’s always a challenge to narrow down the best of the best, so if you have recommendations of your own, feel free to share them with us!
And we’re always on the lookout for more great picks and great hosts, so if you’d like to run a book club of your own head this way.
Keisha Paterson is a lifetime writer of sticky-note poetry who enjoys comfort foods, self-care holidays, and Hawaiian dance. A prolific wanderer, she loves to discover and take home old orphaned books and eclectic records. She is an office manager, private yoga instructor, and freelance editor in Toronto.
Favourite Book: Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now by Maya Angelou
Favourite brunch spot: Sisters and Co.