10 Canadian Book Recommendations

My blog is pretty new, but I have read some great books in the past that deserve to be re-visited and shared.  Here are 10 great Canadian books I have read and recommend to anyone who has not read them yet:

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1.  Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I’m pretty sure most people have read this book, or at least know about it (because the movie is out now), but if you haven’t read it yet, you should seriously consider it.  I love survival stories of man versus nature, and this is a good one!  I haven’t seen the movie yet, though.  How does it compare to the book?

2.  Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – A well known author, but this book might not be as well known.  Based on true events, it’s about a nineteenth century maid who has been accused of murdering her employer, his housekeeper, and his mistress.

3.  The Birth House by Ami McKay – This book is about a girl who is born in an isolated Nova Scotian village in the early 20th century.  She becomes an apprentice to the midwife and carries on her work after the midwife dies, in a time of growing opposition to midwifery.  She fights for the preservation of traditional birthing methods.

4.  Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright – When I read this book, I hadn’t heard anything about it, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like it.  It’s about 2 very different sisters in the 1930s, who end up going their own way, but have a bond that is put to the test after some life-changing events occur.

5.  The Nymph and the Lamp by Thomas Raddall – This book was first published in 1950.  It is primarily a love story that mostly takes place on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

6.  The Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden – This book is written by the same author as The Orenda (which I loved!).  It takes place during WWI and seems amazingly real.  You will need tissue for this one.

7.  The Outlander by Gil Adamson – It is 1903 and a 19-year-old woman is on the run after having murdered her husband.  What more do I need to say?

8.  The 9 Lives of Charlotte Taylor by Sally Armstrong – This book chronicles the life of Charlotte Taylor from when she left her home in England in 1775 at the age of 20, to finding herself alone and pregnant in Jamaica, then travelling to New Brunswick and living to the age of 86 after having 3 husbands and 9 more children.  This amazing story was written by Charlotte Taylor’s great-great-great-granddaughter.

9.  Galore by Michael Crummey – I had no idea what to expect when I read this.  If someone had described it to me first, I might not have read it, but I’m glad I did.  It is a family saga that takes place in an isolated community in Newfoundland over a span of 2 centuries, but it’s the characters in the story that make it so great.  Here, I can only describe it as weird and wonderful.

10.  The Sea Captain’s Wife by Beth Powning – This book might be the least known on this list, but it is one of my favourites.  It has everything there is to love about a book – the Bay of Fundy, history, adventure, a love story, scandal, a mother-daughter relationship, a tragedy and the consequences, and a strong female heroine.  I didn’t want this book to end.

Revisiting these books to write this post has made me want to re-read all of them.  Especially numbers 2, 3, 6, 8, and 10!  I am envious of any of you who will be discovering them for the first time.

37 thoughts on “10 Canadian Book Recommendations

  1. tanya says:

    Alias Grace is my favorite of Atwood’s, though i think her more dystopian books like A Handmaid’s Tale tend to be more popular with the masses. Great list.

    • Naomi says:

      For me, it’s a toss-up between Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale. They are very different books. The Handmaid’s Tale will probably end up on list #2.

  2. Cedar Station says:

    Great suggestions! Alias Grace is on my list, and I might have to had the Three Day Road — that sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

    The movie for The Life of Pi was actually really well done. I don’t remember the book too well, but I think it follows the story pretty closely. The effects were amazing!

    • Naomi says:

      I hope you’ll like both of those as much as I did! I will have to get around to watching that movie soon. I have so many books I want to read that I don’t end up watching very many movies, even though I love them.

  3. Shauna says:

    Alias Grace is one of very few books that I’ve wanted to read more than once. Such a great book.

    I started down this list thinking I’d probably read most of them, but I haven’t! Only 4 out if 10 (the first three, and Galore)…I need to get busy! Thanks!

    Life of Pi was a visually stunning movie. You would love the ocean shots. It had been a while since we read the book but M and I both thought it followed what we remembered pretty closely.

    I can’t resist adding my own – a short, early novel by Wayne Johnston called The Story of Bobby O’Malley. Another twice read (or three times) book, funny but also tragic. And a completely light one I loved was The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for adding to my list Shauna! I also really liked The Best Laid Plans, and it will probably end up on my next list (there were many more than 10 I wanted to recommend, so I think I will be making another list soon). But I’ve never read The Story of Bobby O’Malley. It sounds like I should! I have read 2 of his other books and thought they were good. And I will have to watch that movie!

      4 out of 10’s not bad! You’re a fast reader!

      • Shauna O'Brien says:

        I would never have heard of that novel but for having read it in first year English at MUN. Not even sure how easy it is to track down – I have a copy you can borrow, though 🙂 I loved it because much is set in St. John’s and there are (barely) fictionalized versions of the two big girl and boy Catholic high schools (where I would have gone had we not moved before I started high school).

  4. Caroline says:

    Thanks a lot for this list. There are a few books I have but haven’t read yet but others are new to me and I’m always happy to read more Canadian literature.

  5. mom says:

    Nice list! I agree that Beth Powning’s “The Sea Captain’s Wife” deserved more fanfare than it appeared to receive. I have not read “Galore” or “Clara Callan”, but I recall Grammy (who of course lived during the 30s) reading Clara Callan and not seeming overly impressed (That’s possible, right? Was it published 2000-’05?) … We highly recommend the movie “Life of Pi”! It’s Very well done, really mesmerizing. (We saw it at the cinemas and I think you should try and see it in HD on a larger screen 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      Maybe that means I should watch it at your house! 🙂

      Clara Callan was written a while ago, so she could have read it. Did she not like the writing? Or did she disapprove of the goings-on?

      I LOVED the Sea Captain’s Wife!

      • mom says:

        Okay! 🙂 … She wasn’t very specific; think she moved on rather quickly to something else. But it sounds like a good story to me.

  6. mom says:

    P.S. Speaking of the 30s … have you read “Mary Coin” yet? I read it a while ago from the library. It portrays the effects of the Great Depression on many people in the US, especially those who became migrant workers in California, with the 30s story concentrating on the Coin family and a female photographer (who’s had polio(?) as a child), and the present-day narrative centred around a professor who is interested in that era and is also a son/grandson of landowners in California who were among the more fortunate at that time. The story was inspired by a famous photograph taken of a widowed mother and her children, which inspired a new sympathy for the poor who were struggling during the depression.

    • Naomi says:

      No, I haven’t read that one yet, but it’s on my list. It would be good to read it soon while The Grapes of Wrath is still pretty fresh in my mind (I read it about a year ago and I loved it).

  7. ebookclassics says:

    My friend and I considered many of the books in your list when deciding what CanLit to read this year, but some of the books I haven’t heard of and think I need to check out. I was particularly intrigued by The 9 Lives of Charlotte Taylor and The Sea Captain’s Wife. Was there a book you really love that just missed making your top ten?

    • Naomi says:

      This list is just a bunch of Canadian books that I loved, but read prior to 2013 and before starting my blog. A few books I have read and loved recently that are already on my blog are Annabel, The Orenda, February, The Empty Room, and River Thieves. A couple of others from before 2013 that aren’t on this first list are The Book of Negroes, The Best Laid Plans, and The Piano Man’s Daughter. Also, I recommend Robert J. Wiersema’s books. They are a bit different but I liked them. I think I will try to make another list as soon as I can with some more of my favourites.

  8. Cecilia says:

    Life of Pi and Alias Grace are both on my shelf and I’m really looking forward to reading them! The others sound intriguing too and I will check them out. Thanks for sharing this list!

    • Naomi says:

      You’re the only other person, except for my mother, who I have heard has read The Sea Captain’s Wife – I loved that book!

      And I have also read Come, Thou Tortoise. In fact, it will be on list #2, which will hopefully be finished soon. I was afraid if I wrote about too many at once, some would get overlooked. But I love hearing about all the great Canadian books everyone else has read! Thanks for commenting!

  9. lauratfrey says:

    What a great list. A perfect mix of well known and obscure! I’ve only read Life of Pi and The Birth House (loved both) and I’ve had Outlander on my shelf for a while.

    I want to read The Sea Captain’s Wife and Galore. I love stuff set in the maritimes!

    • Naomi says:

      I do too! I’m probably a bit biased though. It’s fun reading good books about places you’ve been or are close to. I’ve noticed you read a lot of Edmontonian books. After reading The Birth House, we went camping at Blomidon Provincial Park and took a drive to Scots Bay so I could see it. The Sea Captain’s Wife takes place across the same Bay close to another camping spot we like. I have yet to make it to Sable Island though.

      • lauratfrey says:

        I’m biased too. My parents are both from New Brunswick and it’s kind of a second home to me. Though I feel like most of the Atlantic authors I read of from Nova Scotia or Nfld… except David Adams Richards, he’s NB!

      • Naomi says:

        Then you will have to read The Sea Captain’s Wife (takes place on the Bay of Fundy) and The NIne Lives of Charlotte Taylor (takes place in the Miramichi River area). And Beth Powning has lived in NB since 1970. What part of NB are you familiar with?

        I too feel like I read a lot of NF authors, but for some reason they just seem to have a lot of good ones over there! And I really have to read a David Adams Richards book. Do you have a favourite?

  10. kmn04books says:

    This is a great list, Naomi! I have The Birth House on my shelves waiting to be read! Maybe I’ll read it this month. I haven’t read Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood yet but it sounds interesting! Is it scary though? I’m a bit of a wimp…

    • Naomi says:

      It has been a few years since I read it, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t scary. The Birth House is good to start with, though, since you have it. I really think you’ll like that one!

    • Naomi says:

      That’s good to know, Don. I have never read it, because I saw the movie first. And, even though I liked the movie fine, I hate reading a book when I know what’s going to happen. But, it’s been a while, so it might be worth a try now!

  11. Vishy says:

    Wonderful recommendations, Naomi! Thanks for sharing. From the conversation in the comments, I think I should read ‘The Sea Captain’s Wife’ by Beth Powning soon 🙂

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