The Best Canadian Novels by Canadian Authors
I really wanted to make a list of my favorite Canadian novels by Canadian Authors. I did not realize how difficult this would be. So many authors are distinctly Canadian because they write about Canada and the uniquely Canadian experience. However, there are so many amazing writers who are Canadian and I had no idea!
Compiling a list of talented individuals was especially difficult because of how many books I could not include on this list. The list could go on and on. I enlisted the help of trusted friends as well as my mother. After all, it is because of her that i developed my love of reading. This list of Canadian authors is just the tip of the iceberg.
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Best Historical Fiction Novels by Canadian Authors
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais
The story examines the relationship between a black woman and a white girl in apartheid South Africa in 1976. This novel is a brutally honest and emotionally compelling story, unlike anything I have ever read.
This book begins just before the 1976 Soweto uprising in which thousands of black students marched in protest of the apartheid government. Though the protest was peaceful, police open fired killing a hundred children.
This historical fiction book led to the most amazing discussions with our book club. It is powerful and poignant and one of Jackie’s all-time favorite books.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
This novel is an epic and heartbreaking saga of life in India. It is a story of love and friendship in an unnamed city in 1975. Four strangers who are fleeing the caste system try and escape their city when the government declares a State of Emergency.
People come together and are ripped apart in this memorable book. This is a must for your list of Canadian novels to read.
Someone Knows My Name: A Novel/ Book of Negroes (non-American Editions) by Lawrence Hill
This book was published in Canada and is the winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Aminata Diallo is abducted as a child in Africa and enslaved in South Carolina.
She escapes during the Revolutionary was and goes to Manhattan when she becomes a scribe- recording the names of the black slaves. This book captures a lesser-known aspect of history and is beautifully written which is such a contrast to the poignant story within.
Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
This multiple award-winning Canadian historical fiction novel follows Jakob Beer, a Polish Holocaust survivor, over the course of his life as he becomes a famous poet. The second part of the book is told from the perspective of Ben who was born to Holocaust survivors. Their stories come together through Jacob’s poetry.
This beautifully written book will have you thinking about things in an entirely different way. I have never read a Holocaust book like it.
Love Historical Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Historical Fiction carefully divided by time-period.
Best Canadian Mystery Novels
Still Life by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1)
The first in the series of Chief Inspector Gamache. I fell in LOVE with the Inspector, the town of Three Pines, and its residents. Louise Penny CAN WRITE.
The mystery was great (and I didn’t solve it) but what got me the most was Penny’s writing style and reflections on the human psyche. This first Louise Penny book has the detective searching a piece of art for clues.
This is one of the best detective books and detective series I have ever read. You will fall in love with Three Pines and the people who live there. The wonderful community in this series is the best of what feel-good novels should be. Be sure to check out Louise Penny Books in Order: Complete Guide to Inspector Gamache
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
This is the first book in the Flavia De Luce series. This 11-year-old aspiring chemist is a wonderful heroine. I love her- she is smart and precocious. This is a great mystery book that does not have violence.
It is 1950 and Flavia has a love of poisons. When she finds a man taking his last breath in a cucumber patch, she is not scared at all, rather, she delights in solving the mystery. The rest of this detective series is on my list of books to read. We also included this mystery book as a great mystery on our Book Lists for 13-Year-Olds and in our favorite books by Canadian Authors.
The Maid by Nita Prose
January 2022 Good Morning America Pick
Molly works as a maid in a grand hotel and gets joy from leaving things orderly and pristine. Molly struggles with reading social cues and has had even more trouble since her gran can no longer help.
When Molly finds a dead body in a room at the hotel, she becomes a prime suspect and will need all her friends to help her.
I loved the description of this book and I hoped it would live up to my expectations. I did that and more. I loved every minute of this feel-good book from the ultimate list of mystery books and closed the last page smiling. Definitely add this one to books for book clubs to read.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
The Glass Hotel has been on my TBR since our spring round-up was released. Ponzi schemes, ghosts, cargo ships, weird-sibling dynamics. Sounds like the game I play with my kids where I ask them to name a few random things I turn into a story. Except this story is way better (and makes way more sense) than any story I could come up with.
This tale had me captivated. It’s a dark, honest look at human nature. This was my first experience with Emily St. John Mandel, but now I want to go read Station 11.
Fun Novels by Canadian Authors
Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
When Charlie Goodwin gets a concussion, and cannot smell or taste, she doesn’t know what to do. Her job as a chef and the promotion she has been working toward is on the line.
She begs her twin sister Cass to switch places like they did when they were kids. She will take over the bakery and Cass will pretend to be her.
This adorable holiday romance is just the book to brighten your day and put a smile on your face.
For More Great Holiday Reads, you can check our post
Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron
This Bollywood retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma is a sweet and easy-to-read book that brings Emma to life in a whole new way.
Kamila Hussain lives with her dad and is trying to keep him healthy after a few health scares. She works with him at an accounting firm and spends her free time volunteering with animals and matchmaking.
When her secret nemesis comes back to town, her world is turned upside down.
For more Jane Austen Retellings, check out our post!
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
Oh, how I loved this book. What could be better than a love story set in a Paris tea shop with a little magic sprinkled on top? This is not a complicated or unexpected story. But what it is, is delightful, fun and lighthearted.
Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s future in tea leaves and spent her entire life fighting it. She also knows that this “gift” will stand in the way of having a successful relationship because she cannot stop blurting out truths whether she wants to or not.
When Vanessa’s aunt offers to bring her to Paris to hone in on her skills and get her life in order, Vanessa goes. As she finally gets to experience Paris, she wonders if she can change her destiny as well.
Be sure to check out our delectable books about tea.
Best Classic Novels by Canadian Authors
Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery
My mother was the first person to read this book to me and I was immediately drawn to Anne. She was smart, precocious, and has a way of making everyone love her while simultaneously finding new ways to get into trouble.
I read the book again when I was a teenager and then again as an adult. I will be reading this to my daughter next. Every time I read it, I am able to capture more of the nuances that are hidden within the pages. I am not sure if this book is more popular in Canada but, one day I hope to visit Prince Edward Island. This is one of my all-time favorite books.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant because, in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.
Offred remembers when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge, her husband Luke, and her daughter But all of that is gone now….
The contemporary fiction book is scary because of how convincing it is. There is a reason this book by Canadian Author, Margaret Atwood, has won awards in addition to being made into a Netflix Series.
Must Read Novels by Canadian Writers
Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
This is one of my all-time favorite books of fiction. After reading it I told everyone I knew to READ this book. You must savor this book and don’t rush the reading.
I felt a connection to each character and their tragic narrative.
The writing is truly captivating in the oral storytelling tradition. The beliefs and spirituality of First Nations shine through the narrative of these characters.
I know that I have not touched the plot but I want you to read and experience this book for yourself. (Written by Carolyn Robins)
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
This was the first book that I read by Michael Ondaatje. I found it particularly fascinating as it combined true stories and fictionized stories based on facts about the early immigrants to Toronto in the 1930’s, their living conditions, and their importance in building the landmarks of Toronto…The Bloor Street viaduct and the Harris Water Treatment Plant.
This was a beautifully written story that has stayed with me these many years. His more famous book” The English Patient” was a much more difficult book for me to read. His love of poetry is more evident in that book and its format was unusual. I have to say that I liked watching the film The English Patient more than I did reading the book. (Written by Carolyn Robins)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
When a boat sinks in the Pacific, the only survivors are a 16-year-old boy named Pi, an orangutan, a hyena, a Bengal tiger, and a zebra. And while this book was written less than 20 years ago, it is already a modern classic.
This is not a book that once read can be forgotten. I know that some people look at the story as an extended metaphor in which each animal represents a person but personally, I like the book exactly the way it was written. There is magic in the pages of this book in all meanings of the word.
Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald
I read this book when it was first published in 2002. Needless to say, I needed to remind myself of some of the plot details but, the emotions in this book remain.
This book is a multigenerational saga that deals with the effect of trauma. This book will bring you to your knees.
Dear Life by Alice Munro
Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013. She has won numerous awards including the Mann Booker for her short stories.
I have read a few, everyone I know from Canada has read some of her work and I would be remiss if I did not include her on this list; however, I should add that I do not like her writing. She is a brilliant writer who makes you feel the way her characters feel. Unfortunately, this is often completely depressing.
Best Fiction Novels by Canadian Authors
The Secret daughter by Ship Somaya Gowda
This is a powerful novel about two families and the daughter that ties them together. One poor family in India has a daughter that they cannot take care of so they take her to an orphanage.
One American family adopts a child from India who grows up to win an internship that would allow her to live in India for a year. The story is beautifully written and poignant as it examines two mothers and the love they have for their children. It looks at the economic disparity in India and how people’s lives are shifted and shaped.
From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle
Winner, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Nonfiction
Winner, Indigenous Voices Awards
Winner, High Plains Book Awards
Finalist, CBC Canada Reads
A Globe and Mail Book of the Year
An Indigo Book of the Year
A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year
There is a reason this book has won so many prestigious awards. It is the memoir of a Métis Cree man who was abandoned as a toddler and placed in foster care with his two brothers. This book is a powerful look and family, prejudice, racism, and fighting to overcome it all to find happiness.
Room by Emma Donoghue
This is a haunting story about a woman held captive in a shed for years with her five-year-old son. She tries to teach him and entertain him in their tiny room until they have a chance to escape. This is an unforgettable pick from books that will emotionally wreck you.
Following their escape, they find acclimating to normal life to be challenging, especially for the little boy. This story will pull on your heartstrings and leave you in tears.
Even though the saying is “the book is better”, the movie adaptation of this contemporary fiction book was really good. There are only a few other book adaptations I would add to that list. If you haven’t read this book about motherhood yet, you need to add it to your list.
More Amazing Canadian Novels by Canadian Authors
Canada Reads 2022 Finalists:
Kids Books by Canadian Authors
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch
Robert Munch and his collection of smart and mostly hilarious children’s books are a household name in Canada. I have the entire collection of books which was given to me when my oldest was born.
The Paper Bag Princess is an unlikely princess story (which is one of my favorite kinds of story). The Princess rescues the Prince and finds her own way. Its amazing. While I Love You Forever may be Munch’s most famous book, this one is my Favorite
Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler
Is there anyone who is not Canadian that has heard of this book? Im honestly curious because it is a household name in Canada.
Jacob Two-Two is two plus two plus two years old. He must say everything twice since nobody listens to him the first time and he is a prisoner of the Hooded Fang because he insulted a grown-up. It is dark and humorous a happy ending. It is more than what is seems by an award winning and acclaimed author Mordecai Richler
The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier
Every child in Canada has read this book. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit but, there is no book that is more quintessentially Canadian than this one.
Hockey Legend Maurice Richard….Check
Rivalry between the Habs (The Montreal Canadiens) and the Leaf…..Double Check
Raven Brings the Light by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd
This book is new to be but, I think it will be a Canadian classic one day. This is a story that has been traced back 3,000 years and passed on through generations.
This version of the story was told to the author by Chester Bolton, Chief of the Ravens, from the village of Kitkatla in 1975 (approx). This beautiful story was brought to life by the gorgeous art of Robert Budd. Fun fact: Robert and I went to school together until third grade and I and lucky to call him friend.