If there’s one thing the long weekend is good for, it’s taking off for the beach with a good book tucked under your arm. And so, in honour of the fast-approaching Canada Day weekend, we’re suggesting 10 books (in no particular order) that will inspire true patriot love for our home and native land. Share your own Canadian favourites in the comments below!
1. Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers. The newest book on our list (published earlier this year), with some of the oldest subject matter. This first novel from Desrochers, who grew up in the French-Canadian village of Lafontaine, Ontario, tells the story of one of France’s 17th century filles du roi, a struggling young girl who is sent to New France (as Canada was known) to help begin a new colony.
2. Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden. This Giller Prize–winning novel, the follow-up to Boyden’s Three Day Road, follows two narrators: Will Bird and his niece, Annie. Moving between Northern Ontario’s bush country and Manhattan’s club scene, this book covers mystery, the importance of family, and issues of contemporary aboriginal life.
3. The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill. A difficult but ultimately uplifting and educational novel that follows Aminata, a young African girl who was sold as a slave when she was 11 years old. We travel with Aminata to South Carolina, New York, Nova Scotia, London (England), and even to Freetown in Sierra Leone. While we learn about the horrors of slavery, we also see the courage and strength needed to overcome the psychological hardships and limitations imposed by that imprisonment.
4. Come, Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant. For something a little less intimidating, try this sweet, side-splitting novel about Audrey Flowers (or “Oddly” to her family), who leaves behind her pet tortoise and flies home to Newfoundland when she learns her father has been in an accident. Grant’s playful use of language and unique narrative choices (wherein parts of the book are narrated by Audrey’s tortoise) make for an endearing novel about family and self-discovery.
5. A Boy of Good Breeding, by Miriam Toews. The town of Algren, Manitoba has a population of 1,500 — no more, no less. In this heartwarming, funny novel (which culminates in Canada Day celebrations to boot!), the mayor becomes obsessed with maintaining the title of “Canada’s Smallest Town” (any less people and they’d be demoted to a mere village) to earn a visit from the country’s prime minister.
6. The Amazing Absorbing Boy, by Rabindranath Maharaj. What could have been just another immigrant tale about a boy who moves from his native Trinidad to Toronto is turned on its head by 17-year-old Sam, our young narrator who sees everything through the lens of his comic-loving imagination. And although we don’t advocate judging a book by its cover, the original illustration by Toronto’s talented Michael Cho adds to its appeal.
7. Holding Still For As Long As Possible, by Zoe Whittall. Considering this week’s Pride celebrations in Toronto, this book packs the one-two punch of being both CanLit and QueerLit. Whittall’s vibrant book follows a group of modern-day twentysomethings as they struggle with complicated relationships with themselves and each other, alternating the narrative perspective to offer each person’s point of view.
8. Nikolski, by Nicolas Dickner. This debut novel by Quebec author Nicolas Dickner was first published in French in 2005, and its English translation won the CBC’s Canada Reads competition last year. Beginning in 1989, we meet our three unrelated narrators — Noah, Joyce, and the unnamed bookseller — all making their way to Montreal for different reasons, but eventually intertwining along the way.
9. Extreme Vinyl Cafe, by Stuart McLean. Looking for something a little lighter this Canada Day weekend? Break out the hammock and kick back with these funny, family-friendly stories about your old friends Dave and Morley, straight from CBC Radio’s ongoing series The Vinyl Cafe.
10. M is for Moose, by Charles Pachter. And now for something completely different: this impressive alphabet book, with paintings by world-renowned Canadian artist Charles Pachter, will give your youngest kids a uniquely Canadian education from A to Zed.