Writers’ Fed Reading Lists

UPDATED: Books That Moved Us – A Reading List

Looking for last-minute holiday gifts? Wondering what to read next? Just want a peek at other folks’ page-flipping habits? We asked members of Nova Scotia’s bookish community about the titles that moved them this year.

Our thanks to Chris Benjamin, managing editor of Atlantic Books TodayStacey Cornelius, coordinator of the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Awards; Naomi MacKinnon of Consumed by Ink; James Mullinger, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Maritime EditSarah Sawler, author and publicist at Conundrum PressAnne-Marie Sheppard and Jo Treggiari of Block Shop Books; Kailee Wakeman, editor at Insomniac Press and co-founder of long con magazine; and Linda Hudson, our very own Arts Education Officer.

Click on a button below to jump to that type of book recommendation.
Click on a book title or cover to purchase it from its publisher.

Books to make you cry

Acadian Driftwood by Tyler LeBlanc

Acadian Driftwood (Goose Lane Editions, 2020) by Tyler LeBlanc

"The most powerful, compelling, important book I’ve read for a while. Tyler LeBlanc’s story of his family’s Acadian roots, the horrors of Le Grand Dérangement and their journey to a new home is meticulously researched, expertly written and as profoundly distressing as it is inspiring. I bulk-bought copies for Christmas presents because everyone needs to read this." —James Mullinger

forgotten home child

The Forgotten Home Child (Simon & Schuster, 2020) by Genevieve Graham

"Set on the streets of 1930s London, England and based on true events, this disturbing tale lifts the lid on a forgotten and tragic part of Canadian history. Winny Ellis is placed in Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls and, when sent to Canada, unimaginable horrors await." —James Mullinger

A Long Journey - Andrea Procter

A Long Journey (Iser Books, 2020) by Andrea Procter

Survivors of residential schools in Labrador and Newfoundland received a formal apology from the Canadian government in 2017. This recognition finally brought them into the circle of residential school survivors across Canada, and acknowledged their experiences as similarly painful and traumatic. For years, the story of residential schools has been told by the authorities who ran them. A Long Journey helps redress this imbalance by listening closely to the accounts of former students, as well as drawing extensively on government, community, and school archives.

Shiny & New - Robert Chafe

Shiny & New (Breakwater Books, 2018) by Robert Chafe

Abigail Maureen Margaret-Rose Davis was the very best singer to ever grace the stage in Belbin’s Bight, Newfoundland. But this year, young Abigail would have to perform in her Christmas concert without her beloved Nan in the audience. Together with Amira, a child from a faraway land, Abigail will learn the true spirit of the holidays. An instant modern-day classic for children and parents alike, reaffirming the traditional values of the season in a thoroughly contemporary setting.

Because We Love, We Cry - Sheree Fitch

Because We Love, We Cry (Nimbus Publishing, 2020) by Sheree Fitch

As the full story of the tragedy in Portapique, Nova Scotia, was unfolding, Sheree Fitch shared her poem “Because We Love, We Cry” on social media—and it was embraced by Nova Scotians and those who love them across the country. The poem is now available in book form. Featuring colour drawings, the full poem on heavy cardstock for safekeeping, and a pull-out postcard to send to loved ones near and far, Because We Love is a mantra, a prayer, a lament, a talisman, a paper rosary, a beating heart to keep close to your own. A portion of the book’s proceeds will be donated annually to the families of victims.

In Five Years - Rebecca Serle

In Five Years (Atria Books, 2020) by Rebecca Serle

Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers, nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content. But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake.

If You Hear Me - Pascale Quiviger

If You Hear Me (Biblioasis, 2020) by Pasale Quiviger

David, deep in a coma, is visited regularly by his wife, Caroline, and their six-year-old son Bertrand. Despite their devotion, there seems to be no crossing the divide between consciousness and the mysterious world David now inhabits. Devastated by loss, the mourners face difficult questions. How do we communicate when language fails? When, and how, do we move forward? What constitutes a life, and can there be such a thing as a good death? All the while, David’s inner world unfolds, shifting from sensory perceptions, to memories of loved ones, to nightmare landscapes from his family’s past in WWII Poland.

Know My Name - Chanel Miller

Know My Name (Penguin, 2020) by Chanel Miller

Universally acclaimed, rapturously reviewed, and an instant bestseller, Chanel Miller’s breathtaking memoir “gives readers the privilege of knowing her not just as Emily Doe, but as Chanel Miller the writer, the artist, the survivor, the fighter” (The Wrap). Her story of trauma and transcendence illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicting a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shining with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life. Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing.

Books to warm your heart

Because We Love, We Cry - Sheree Fitch

Because We Love, We Cry (Nimbus Publishing, 2020) by Sheree Fitch

"The poem that Sheree Fitch wrote after the tragic events in Nova Scotia brought us together. This book features colour line drawings and the full poem printed on heavy cardstock for safekeeping, as well as a pull-out postcard. It is a thing of beauty. A portion of the book’s proceeds will be donated annually to the families of victims." —James Mullinger

Brighten the Corner Where You Are - Carol Bruneau

Brighten the Corner Where You Are (Nimbus Publishing, 2020) by Carol Bruneau

A brilliant novel reimagining the life of internationally renowned folk artist Maud Lewis by an award-winning author. One glimpse of the tiny painted house that folk art legend Maud Lewis shared with her husband, Everett, in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, during the mid-twentieth century and the startling contrast between her joyful artwork and her life’s deprivations is evident. One glimpse at her photo and you realize, for all her smile’s shyness, she must’ve been one tough cookie. But, beneath her iconic resilience, who was Maud, really? How did she manage, holed up in that one-room house with no running water, married to a miserly man known for his drinking? Was she happy, or was she miserable? Did painting save her or make her Everett’s meal ticket?

my Life as a Diamond - Jenny Manzer

My Life As a Diamond (Orca Book Publishers, 2018) by Jenny Manzer

Ten-year-old Caspar "Caz" Cadman loves baseball and has a great arm. When his family moves from Toronto to a suburb of Seattle, the first thing he does is try out for the local summer team, the Redburn Ravens. Even though Caz is thrilled when he makes the team, he worries because he has a big secret. No one knows that back in Toronto, Caz used to live life as a girl named Cassandra. And it's nobody's business. Caz will tell his new friends when he's ready. But when a player on a rival team starts snooping around, Caz's past is revealed, and Caz worries it will be Toronto all over again. Will Caz's teammates rally behind their star pitcher? Or will Caz be betrayed once more?

Annaka - Andre Fenton

Annaka (Nimbus Publishing, 2020) by Andre Fenton

Annaka has always hated her first name. That’s why, when her mother packed her up at age seven and moved from Yarmouth to Halifax, she decided she would go by Anna. Now Anna is back in Yarmouth after the death of her beloved Grampy, and sorting through memories from her younger self. She discovers a journal Grampy gifted her years ago; it is filled with snapshots of a happy childhood: sketches of Nan braiding Anna’s hair on the porch, stories about road trips Anna and Grampy took in his antique truck, and memories of her best-kept secret, who also happened to be her best friend. When she finds out her childhood imaginary friend, Clay, is not only real but waiting for her to return to Yarmouth, Anna also discovers that Clay can transport her into those journal entries. Maybe physically reliving memories can help with her Nan’s Alzheimer’s. Maybe Anna will finally piece together who her absent father is. Maybe she will discover the identity of the mysterious “other Annaka” scribbled in her Grampy’s handwriting.

You Won't Always be This Sad - Sheree Fitch

You Won’t Always Be This Sad (Nimbus Publishing, 2019) by Sheree Fitch

“You won’t always be this sad,” her mother, who also lost a son, reassures her, while a close friend encourages her to pick up the pen and write it all down. Capturing her own struggles as she emerges from shock in the wake of her son’s unexpected death at age thirty-seven, author and storyteller Sheree Fitch writes lyrically and unabashedly, with deep sorrow, unexpected rage, and boundless love. She discovers that she “dwells in a thin place now,” that she has crossed a threshold only to find herself in “the quicksand that is grief.” The result is a memoir in verse of immense power and pain, a collection of moments, and a journey of resilience. Divided into three parts, like the memorial labyrinth Fitch walks every day, You Won’t Always Be This Sad offers words that will stir the heart, inviting readers on a raw and personal odyssey through excruciating loss, astonishing gratitude, and a return to a different world with new insights, rituals, faith, and hope. Readers, bearing witness to the immeasurable depths of a mother’s love, will be forever changed.

Books to make you laugh out loud

A Great Big Night by Kate Inglis

A Great Big Night (Nimbus Publishing, 2020) by Kate Inglis and Josée Bisaillon

"The most essential children's book you need this fall is this magical, rollicking, rhyming picture book about music-making critters, community and friendship. The children storming the [EDIT] office each day at 3 pm have all devoured it more than a dozen times since we purchased a copy for everyone on the team. Kate Inglis’s playful and inventive language and Josée Bisaillon’s rich and textured illustrations bring to life this happy group of friends filling the great green forest with their music. Essential reading for kids and parents everywhere." —James Mullinger

You Might Still Be From NS If - Michael de Adder

You Might STILL be From Nova Scotia If... (MacIntyre Purcell Publishing, 2019) by Michael de Adder

You Might STILL Be From Nova Scotia If... is another delightful, illustrated romp through the province of Nova Scotia. Six years and multiple national and regional newspaper awards later, Michael de Adder is back home where he belongs. If you thought you laughed and sighed with recognition in the original, get ready for a rip-roaring snorter of a treat. As de Adder proves again, this is a province that is proud of who it is and likes nothing better than a good laugh, especially at itself.

Barry Squires, Full Tilt - Heather Smith

Barry Squires, Full Tilt (Tundra Books, 2020) by Heather Smith

It's 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O'Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John's, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he'll nail the audition. And good thing too—it'd be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry's journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents' refusal to take his dreams seriously.

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Dirty Birds (Breakwater Books, 2020) by Morgan Murray

In late 2007, as the world’s economy crumbles, the remarkably unremarkable Milton Ontario—not to be confused with Milton, Ontario—leaves his parent’s basement in Saskatchewan and sets forth to find fame, fortune, and love in the electric sexuality of Montreal, to bask in endless Millennial adolescence, to escape the infinite flatness of Saskatchewan, and to find his messiah: Leonard Cohen. Hilariously ironic and irreverent, Dirty Birds is a quest novel for the twenty-first century—a coming-of-age, rom-com, crime-farce thriller—where a hero’s greatest foe is his own crippling mediocrity, and getting out of bed before noon.

The Witches are Coming - Lindy West

The Witches are Coming (Hatchett Books, 2019) by Lindy West

In a laugh-out-loud, incisive cultural critique, West extolls the world-changing magic of truth, urging readers to reckon with dark lies in the heart of the American mythos, and unpacking the complicated, and sometimes tragic, politics of not being a white man in the twenty-first century. If there is magic in Trump’s ability to conjure reality out of hot air and spittle, there is an equally powerful magic in the opposite: in speaking the truth, unvarnished, about what we see. You think this is a witch hunt? Fine, you’ve got one.

Solutions and Other Problems - Allie Brosh

Solutions and Other Problems (Gallery Books, 2020) by Allie Brosh

For the first time in seven years, Allie Brosh—beloved author and artist of the extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller Hyperbole and a Half—returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays. Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life. This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art.

Books to sweep you into the past

Abraham Beverley Walker

Abraham Beverley Walker: Lawyer, Lecturer, Activist (New World Publishing, 2020) by Peter Little

"This beautiful and enlightening book about Abraham Beverley Walker, Canada’s first Black magazine editor who spent his entire professional career in Saint John, New Brunswick, is my favourite book this year. The ambitious tome chronicles the life and work, as well as the systemic racism Dr. Walker faced as Canada’s first Black lawyer, and first Black magazine editor. He was one of 11 children of farming parents but excelled academically studying law at the National University in Washington, D.C., law at the Saint John Law School, as well as philosophy and several languages. He was a devout Christian and his message bears a striking resemblance to that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who followed in his footsteps 50 years later. A great book about a New Brunswick hero who should to be celebrated a lot more." —James Mullinger

Quarantine - Ian Arthur Cameron

Quarantine (New World Publishing, 2008) by Ian Arthur Cameron

Historian and medical doctor Ian Arthur Cameron has produced a gripping history of quarantine in Canada, the forgotten story of those who worked to save lives and protect their fellow citizens. A story of the early years of immigration to Canada, and of marine transportation with wooden ships sailing reluctantly into the age of steam. It also details significant aspects of the history of Canada, Nova Scotia and Halifax, and recounts the story of contagious disease in the 19th-20th Centuries. But it is more than the past, dealing with the future of dread diseases we face today, including SARS, West Nile fever, and the feared influenza pandemics, such as those possible with the latest swine flu (H1N1) or potential bird flu (H5N1). It is story of immigration and the men and women who worked on the front lines to contain contagious disease from entering the country. Lawlor’s island was the largest, year-round quarantine station in Canada which served this country for over 80 years.

Brighten the Corner Where You Are - Carol Bruneau

Brighten the Corner Where You Are (Nimbus Publishing, 2020) by Carol Bruneau

A brilliant novel reimagining the life of internationally renowned folk artist Maud Lewis by an award-winning author. One glimpse of the tiny painted house that folk art legend Maud Lewis shared with her husband, Everett, in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, during the mid-twentieth century and the startling contrast between her joyful artwork and her life’s deprivations is evident. One glimpse at her photo and you realize, for all her smile’s shyness, she must’ve been one tough cookie. But, beneath her iconic resilience, who was Maud, really? How did she manage, holed up in that one-room house with no running water, married to a miserly man known for his drinking? Was she happy, or was she miserable? Did painting save her or make her Everett’s meal ticket?

The Difference - Marina Endicott

The Difference (Knopf Canada, 2020) by Marina Endicott

A sweeping novel set on board the Morning Light, a Nova Scotian merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912. Kay and Thea are half-sisters, separated in age but deeply attached. When their stern father dies, Thea returns to Nova Scotia for her long-promised marriage to the captain of the Morning Light. But she cannot abandon her orphaned young sister, so Kay too embarks on a life-changing voyage to the other side of the world. Thea, still mourning a miscarriage, forms a bond with a young boy from a remote island and takes him on board as her own son. Over time, the repercussions of this act force Kay, who considers the boy her brother, to examine her own assumptions—increasingly at odds with those of society around her—about what is forgivable and what is right.

Kid Sterling - Christine Welldon

Kid Sterling (Red Deer Press, 2020) by Christine Welldon

Sterling Crawford is a young kid living on the streets of New Orleans. It's 1906 and he's trying to support his mother who launders clothes for white people. Sterling plays trumpet, and what he'd really like is to learn from his idol, the legendary Buddy Bolden, who is playing a new kind of music that's turning New Orleans upside down. Historically, not only is Bolden regarded as one of the founders of American jazz, but through the pages of this vivid novel, you will discover others whose genius created modern music. The beat and the strains of jazz surged into life even while African Americans struggled against deep racial divisions of the time: curfews designed to keep Black people out of the streets, a loaded justice system, and racial barriers that divided a nation. For Sterling, life is not easy, but in the end he finds his way in this new and challenging musical world in this richly textured story of a culture that thrives against all odds.

Books to scare you silly

Blaze Island - Catherine Bush

Blaze Island (Goose Lane, 2020) by Catherine Bush

The time is now or an alternate near now, the world close to our own. A Category Five hurricane sweeps up the eastern seaboard of North America, leaving devastation in its wake, its outer wings brushing over tiny Blaze Island. During this wild night, a stranger washes up on the doorstep of the isolated house where Milan Wells lives with his daughter Miranda. A climate scientist whose career was destroyed by climate change deniers, Wells has fled to this remote island with his daughter years before, desperate to protect her from the world's worsening weather. Seemingly safe in her father's realm, Miranda walks the island's rocky shores, helping her father with his daily weather records. But the stranger's arrival breaks open Miranda's world, stirs up memories of events of long ago and compels her to wonder what her father is up to with his mysterious weather experiments. In the aftermath of the storm, she finds herself in a world altered so quickly that she hardly knows what has happened or what the unpredictable future will bring.

The Children of Red Peak - Craig DiLouie

Children of Red Peak (Redhook, 2020) by Craig DiLouie

David Young, Deacon Price, and Beth Harris live with a dark secret. As children, they survived a religious group’s horrific last days at the isolated mountain Red Peak. Years later, the trauma of what they experienced never feels far behind. When a fellow survivor commits suicide, they finally reunite and share their stories. Long-repressed memories surface, defying understanding and belief. Why did their families go down such a dark road? What really happened on that final night? The answers lie buried at Red Peak. But truth has a price, and escaping a second time may demand the ultimate sacrifice.

The Grey Sisters - Jo Treggiari

The Grey Sisters (Tundra Books, 2020) by Jo Treggiari

D and Spider have always been close friends, and they are further united in their shared heartbreak: they both lost siblings in a horrific plane crash two years earlier. A chance sighting of a beloved cuddly toy in a photograph of the only survivor spurs D to finally seek closure. She and Spider and their friend, Min, set off on a road trip to the mountainside site of that terrible crash. Ariel has lived on the mountain all her life. She and her extended family are looked down upon by neighboring townsfolk and she has learned to live by her wits, trusting few people outside of her isolated, survivalist community. A terrifying attack sends her down the mountain for help; on her way, she comes upon the three girls — a chance encounter that will have far-reaching consequences for them all.

Books to enlighten you

Memoir - Conversations and Craft

Memoir: Conversations and Craft (Pottersfield Press, 2020) by Marjorie Simmins

"Marjorie’s conversations with the likes of Lawrence Hill, Claire Mowat, Linden MacIntyre and many more are profoundly insightful and fascinating. They inspired and enlightened me in so many ways. She is a master interviewer, writer, conversationalist and thinker and spending time with her on these pages is pure joy." —James Mullinger

Black Matters - Afua Coooper & Wilfried Raussert

Black Matters (Fernwood Publishing, 2020) by Afua Coooper & Wilfried Raussert

Halifax’s former Poet Laureate Afua Cooper and photographer Wilfried Raussert collaborate in this book of poems and photographs focused on everyday Black experiences. The result is a jambalaya — a dialogue between image and text. Cooper translates Raussert’s photos into poetry, painting a profound image of what disembodied historical facts might look like when they are embodied in contemporary characters. This visual and textual conversation honours the multiple layers of Blackness in the African diaspora around North America and Europe. The result is a work that amplifies black beauty and offers audible resistance.

I Place You into the Fire - Rebecca Thomas

I Place You Into the Fire (Nimbus Publishing) by Rebecca Thomas

I Place You Into the Fire (Nimbus Publishing) by Rebecca Thomas In Mi’kmaw, three similarly shaped words have drastically different meanings: kesalul means “I love you”; kesa’lul means “I hurt you”; and ke’sa’lul means “I put you into the fire.” In spoken-word artist and critically acclaimed author (I’m Finding My Talk) Rebecca Thomas’s first poetry collection, readers will feel Thomas’s deep love, pain, and frustration as she holds us all to task, along the way mourning the loss of her childhood magic, exploring the realities of growing up off reserve, and offering up a new Creation Story for Canada. Diverse and probing, I Place You into the Fire is at once a meditation on navigating life and love as a second-generation Residential School survivor, a lesson in unlearning, and a rallying cry for Indigenous justice, empathy, and equality. A searing collection that embodies the vitality and ferocity of spoken-word poetry.

How to Pronounce Knife - Souvankham Thammavongsa

How to Pronounce Knife (Penguin Random House, 2020) by Souvankham Thammavongsa

A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he'll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning debut book of fiction, O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa's characters says, "All we wanted was to live." And in these stories, they do—brightly, ferociously, unforgettably.

No Visible Bruises - Rachel Louise Snyder

No Visible Bruises (Bloomsbury USA, 2020) by Rachel Louise Snyder

We call it domestic violence. We call it private violence. Sometimes we call it intimate terrorism. But whatever we call it, we generally do not believe it has anything at all to do with us, despite the World Health Organization deeming it a “global epidemic.” In America, domestic violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime, and yet it remains locked in silence, even as its tendrils reach unseen into so many of our most pressing national issues, from our economy to our education system, from mass shootings to mass incarceration to #MeToo. We still have not taken the true measure of this problem. In No Visible Bruises, journalist Rachel Louise Snyder gives context for what we don't know we're seeing. She frames this urgent and immersive account of the scale of domestic violence around key stories that explode the common myths-that if things were bad enough, victims would just leave; that a violent person cannot become nonviolent; that shelter is an adequate response; and most insidiously that violence inside the home is a private matter, sealed from the public sphere and disconnected from other forms of violence.

The Skin We're In - Desmond Cole

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power (Doubleday Canada, 2020) by Desmond Cole

Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more.

Langosh & Peppi - Fugitive Days - Veronica Post

Langosh and Peppi: Fugitive Days (Conundrum Press, 2020) by Veronica Post

While exploring out-of-the-way places in Budapest, Hungary, a vagabond named Langosh and his faithful dog, Peppi, stumble on the vestiges of the region’s war torn past. Through streets, alleys, tunnels, train stations, abandoned buildings and the countryside, they witness the effects of colliding social, political, and interpersonal situations. However, they soon discover the stark difference between choosing a transient lifestyle and being forced from one’s home and country. Langosh and Peppi meet people whose tragic personal struggles are enmeshed with the national struggles that continue to divide and destroy so many lives, and witness the disturbing global rise of nationalism. Influenced by Hideo Azuma, Guy Delisle and Joe Sacco, Veronica Post examines the modern dilemma of what it means to be human and to call a place home.

Books to awe you

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The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Poetry (Breakwater Books, 2013) edited by James Langer & Mark Callanan

"One of the best collections of poetry I have ever read. An absolutely essential Christmas gift for the poetry lover in your home. Glorious and timeless. Hilarious and profound." —James Mullinger

Humanimus - David Huebert

Humanimus: Poems (Palimpsest Press, 2020) by David Huebert

David Huebert presents a world of soiled nature, of compromised ecology, of toxic transcendence. Raising environmental precarity to the level of mythos, this book implicates readers in what Dominic Pettman calls the “humanimalchine,” where modern cyborg bodies are rewired and remixed with mechanical membranes and animal prostheses. Revelling in corporeal excess and industrial abjection, Humanimus fans the ash of the human experiment to see what strange beauty might wilt and whimper there.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue - V E Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (Tom Doherty Associates, 2020) by V.E. Schwab

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

Dominoes at the Crossroads - Kaie Kellough

Dominoes at the Crossroads (Vehicule Press, 2020) by Kaie Kellough

Dominoes at the Crossroads maps an alternate Canada—one crisscrossed by a Caribbean diaspora seeking music, futures, and portals to their past. In this collection of stories, Kaie Kellough’s characters navigate race, history, and coming-of-age by way of their confessions and dreams. Through the eyes of jazz musicians, hitchhikers, quiet suburbanites, student radicals, secret agents, historians, and their fugitive slave ancestors, Kellough guides us from the cobblestones of Montreal’s Old Port to the foliage of a South American rainforest, from a basement in wartime Paris to an underground antique shop in Montréal during the October Crisis, allowing imagination to tip the balance of time like a line of dominoes.

Books to make you sigh

Blood in the Water - Silver Donald Cameron

Blood in the Water (Penguin Canada, 2020) by Silver Donald Cameron

In June, 2013, three upstanding citizens of a small Cape Breton town cold-bloodedly murdered their neighbour, Phillip Boudreau, at sea. While out checking their lobster traps, two Landry cousins and skipper Dwayne Samson saw Boudreau in his boat, the Midnight Slider, about to vandalize their lobster traps. Like so many times before, Boudreau was about to cost them thousands of dollars out of their seasonal livelihood. One man took out a rifle and fired four shots at Boudreau and his boat. To finish the job, they rammed their own larger boat over the top of his speedboat. Boudreau's body was never found. Cameron, a resident of the area since 1971, argues that the Boudreau killing was a direct reaction to credible and dire threats that the authorities were powerless to neutralize.

Hamnet & Judith - Maggie O'Farrell

Hamnet & Judith (Knopf Canada, 2020) by Maggie O’Farrell

England, 1580. A young Latin tutor—penniless, bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an eccentric young woman: a wild creature who walks her family's estate with a falcon on her shoulder and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. Agnes understands plants and potions better than she does people, but once she settles on the Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband. His gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when their beloved twins, Hamnet and Judith, are afflicted with the bubonic plague, and, devastatingly, one of them succumbs to the illness. A luminous portrait of a marriage and shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, Hamnet & Judith is mesmerizing and seductive, an impossible-to-put-down novel.

Lovely War - Julie Berry

Lovely War (Penguin Books, 2020) by Julia Barry

A sweeping, multi-layered romance set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II, where gods hold the fates–and the hearts–of four mortals in their hands. They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect turned soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by the goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of love.

The Skin We're In - Desmond Cole

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power (Doubleday Canada, 2020) by Desmond Cole

Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more.

the Book of Selkie - Briana Corr Scott

The Book of Selkie (Nimbus Publishing, 2020) by Briana Corr Scott

Stories about the selkie have been told for hundreds of years by those who live near the North Atlantic and North Sea. Sometimes called “seal folk,” the selkie, as humans, are tall and strong with dark hair and eyes. Extremely private, they keep their seal coats hidden away until they get restless and are called to the sea, and take on their seal forms. Artist and author Briana Corr Scott explores the Selkie legend in a book of short, whimsical poems. Find out what Selkie likes to eat, where she lives, how she spends her time on land and in the sea, and learn a Selkie lullaby. Lilting and lyrical, with acrylic paintings that recall the ocean’s depths, this magical book is ideal for both bedtime and playtime. Features a paper doll, clothes, and seal.

Books to lift your spirits

Not Cancelled

Not Cancelled: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19 (Wintertickle Press, 2020) edit by Heather Down and Catherine Kenwell

"I spent two days on the beach devouring this beautiful book this summer and it brought tears to my eyes, made me laugh out loud and restored my faith in humanity at this difficult time. Not Cancelled is the book that we all need right now. The light in the tunnel. Heather Down of Wintertickle Press and Catherine Kenwell have done a truly spectacular job finding kindness and joy and inspiration amidst the madness. I highly recommend buying this delightful tome today. Wintertickle Press is Ontario-based but are moving their operations to New Brunswick in 2021." —James Mullinger

The Hermit - Jan L Coates

The Hermit (Nimbus Publishing) by Jan L. Coates

Eleven year old Danny Marsters was planning to have a fun but straightforward summer: pool parties and bike rides with his buddies, the odd game of washer toss with Grampy, and, of course, soccer camp. He didn’t count on developers threatening to build condos on the land the whole community had worked so hard to turn into the best soccer field in the county. And he definitely didn’t expect to stumble across a dishevelled man living all alone, deep in the woods behind Barnaby’s Brook. But Danny’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he slowly befriends the hermit. Just when he discovers a hidden connection between himself and the old man, disaster strikes, and more secrets are exposed that just might help Danny save the soccer field once and for all.

Red, White & Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston

Red, White and Royal Blue (St. Martin’s Group Publishing, 2019) by Casey McQuiston

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations.

Are You Kidding Me - Lesley Crewe

Are You Kidding Me?! (Nimbus Publishing, 2019) by Lesley Crewe

For the first time, bestselling novelist, columnist, and humorist Lesley Crewe’s finest newspaper columns are collected in one place. Not merely razor sharp, Lesley’s wit is also ocean wide, taking in everything from the humiliations of breast pumping to the indignities of aging, from the frantic excess of holiday preparations to the homey irritations of a long marriage. As precise in her observations as Jane Austen and as fractious on occasion as Oscar the Grouch, Crewe also has a sweet, tender centre, taking us from a hearty laugh to a good cry in a single paragraph. Readers will relate to Crewe’s ache at missing her mom, her nostalgia for her childhood, her frustrations at raising teenagers, and her impatience for terrible parking lot etiquette in equal measure.

The Worse Book Ever - Elise Gravel

The Worst Book Ever (Drawn and Quarterly, 2019) by Elise Gravel

Don’t take the title as a metaphor: it really is the worst book ever. Governor General Literary Award winning children’s book author and illustrator Elise Gravel takes readers on an unexpected journey through the world’s most boring book. The story’s characters and omniscient readers alike quickly become annoyed by the author’s bland imagination and rebel against her tired tropes and stale character choices, spouting sass in an attempt to get her attention and steer the narrative in a more interesting direction. After all, you don’t even have to buy the book, but the characters? They’re stuck in there for an eternity, and they’re going to do their best to make the most of it, or at least have a little fun where they can. As the charming and bizarre true nature of the characters overpowers the dry attributes given to them by the author, this once blasé story quickly picks up speed, transforming the story into something much more unique than originally promised. With Gravel’s signature goofy characters behind the wheel, no silly twist or rude body function is off the table!

Books to make you forget the pandemic

Peace by Chocolate by Jon Tattrie

Peace by Chocolate (goose Lane Editions, 2020) by Jon Tattrie

"Peace by Chocolate founder and CEO Tareq Hadhad moved to Canada from Syria in 2015 and settled in the beautiful town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia where he continued his career as a chocolate maker. His story, told by award-winning journalist Tattrie, is inspiring, uplifting, and essential reading for all." —James Mullinger

Boy with a Problem - Chris Benjamin

Boy With A Problem (Pottersfield Publishing, 2020) by Chris Benjamin

In sharp, insightful prose, Boy With a Problem taps into the heart of our deeply human fear of failing to truly connect with others. The fissures that erupt between us, how quickly they widen from cracks to chasms—this is the thread running through these wise, raw, and tender stories.

The Ghost Collector - Allison Mills

The Ghost Collector (Annick Press, 2019) by Allison Mills

Shelly and her grandmother catch ghosts. In their hair. Just like all the women in their family, they can see souls who haven’t transitioned yet; it’s their job to help the ghosts along their journey. Rooted in a Cree worldview and inspired by stories about the author’s great-grandmother’s life, The Ghost Collector delves into questions of grief and loss, and introduces an exciting new voice in tween fiction.

You Were Never Here - Kathleen Peacock

You Were Never Here (Harper Collins, 2020) by Kathleen Peacock

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls, the town her family founded, since she was twelve years old. Since the summer she discovered she could do things that no normal twelve-year-old could do. Since she had her first kiss with Riley Fraser. Since she destroyed their friendship. Now, five years later, she’s back and Riley has disappeared. When Noah, Riley's brother, asks for help in discovering what happened, Cat is torn between wanting to learn the truth and protecting the secret that she’s been guarding ever since that summer she and Riley stopped speaking.

Transcendent Kingdom - Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom (Doubleday Canada, 2020) by Yaa Gyasi

Gifty is a PhD candidate in neuroscience studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.

Fiction - Empire of the Wild (Cherie Dimaline)

Empire of Wild (Random House of Canada, 2019) by Cherie Dimaline



Inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogaroua werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communitiesCherie Dimaline has created a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel.

Fight Like A Girl - Sheena Kamal

Fight Like a Girl (Tundra Books, 2020) by Sheena Kamal

Love and violence. In some families they're bound up together, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha's trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha's mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner's permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Trisha doesn't know exactly what happened that night, but she's afraid it's going to happen again. Her mom has a new man, and the patterns are repeating.

The Dutch House - Ann Patchett

The Dutch House (Harper Collins, 2019) by Ann Patchett

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia that sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves. Cyril’s son, Danny, and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. A dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past.

Books to make you preheat the oven

The Simple Bites Kitchen

The Simple Bites Kitchen (Penguin Random House, 2020) by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque

"Throughout lockdown I was primarily cooking dishes from Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s cook books. She is an award-winning food writer and bestselling author based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has authored several cookbooks including the award-winning The Simple Bites Kitchen. Her blog, Simple Bites, is a family-oriented community that fosters the importance of bringing the whole family together around the table." —James Mullinger

Grandma's cookies, cakes, pies and sweets - Alice Burdick

Grandma's Cookies, Cakes, Pies and Sweets: The best of Canada's East Coast (Formac, 2020) by Alice Burdick

Delicious desserts, simply made with tasty ingredients, many of us remember fondly from our youth. Our mothers and grandmothers baked cookies, pies, cakes and desserts using recipes passed down through generations. Some lucky cooks have treasured heirloom recipes, preserved and handed down to them, but many have been lost or forgotten along the way. Among the recipes in this book are a few traditional classics that remain favourites—like blueberry grunt and Scottish shortbread. But most of these recipes are almost forgotten, yet they offer tempting and delicious ideas that home cooks will want to try. Recipes like old-fashioned molasses candy, sweet black cherry pudding and Acadian lemon buttermilk pie. Now all these delicious dishes are ready for revival. They will bring back many happy memories of treats from the past that taste as good as they always did—or better!

Out of New Nova Scotia Kitchens - Craig Flinn

Out of New Nova Scotia Kitchens (Formac, 2020) by Craig Flinn

As a champion of Nova Scotia cooking, Craig Flinn’s passion is to seek out, taste, cook, and share the very best locally sourced foods. Starting with traditional dishes, he has developed tasty contemporary versions that everyone will enjoy. The recipes are updated, contemporary versions of flavourful Maritime classics organized by season. Based on fresh, local, plentiful produce, these are dishes that Maritimers and visitors alike will love. This is a cookbook every Nova Scotian, old and young, will want in their kitchen and every visitor will want to take home.

Recipe for a Perfect Wife - Karma Brown

Recipe for a Perfect Wife (Penguin Canada, 2019) by Karma Brown

When Alice Hale reluctantly leaves a promising career in publicity, following her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. However, she is determined to become a writer—and to work hard to build the kind of life her husband dreams of, complete with children. At first, the old house seems to resent Alice as much as she resents it, but when she finds an old cookbook buried in a box in the basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook's previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she begins to settle into her new surroundings. But when she discovers that Nellie left clues about her own life within the cookbook's pages—and in a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to Nellie's mother—she quickly realizes that the housewife's secrets may have been anything but harmless.

Indigenous Writers – A Reading List

On October 28, 2020, Andrea Currie, Billy Lewis, Theresa Meuse, Shannon Webb-Campbell, and moderator Raymond Sewell shared their top picks of books by Indigenous writers to read, enjoy, and learn from. Recommendations included fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s literature, and other genres and media (ranging from historical documents to podcasts).

The Indigenous Writers to Read Right Now panel was free to attend. It was co-presented with the Elders in Residence Program at Dalhousie University.

Click on a genre above to jump to those recommendations.
Click on a book title or cover to purchase it from its publisher.

Fiction

YA fiction - The Marrow Thieves (Cherie Dimaline)

The Marrow Thieves (Cormorant Books, 2017)

by Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline's young adult novel is set in a dystopian future where Indigenous people are being hunted for their bone marrow.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - Empire of the Wild (Cherie Dimaline)

Empire of Wild (Random House of Canada, 2019)

by Cherie Dimaline

Inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou--a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities--Cherie Dimaline has created a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Fiction - Tracks (Louise Erdrich)

Tracks (HarperCollins, 1998)

by Louise Erdrich

Tracks is the third in a tetralogy of novels beginning with Love Medicine that explores the interrelated lives of four Anishinaabe families living on an Indian reservation near the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - The Round House (Louise Erdrich)

The Round House (HarperCollins, 2012)

by Louise Erdrich

With The Round House, Erdrich transports readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - Indians on Vacation (Thomas King)

Indians on Vacation (HarperCollins, 2020)

by Thomas King

By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple's holiday trip to Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - Thomas King

the novels of Thomas King

Thomas King is one of Canada’s premier Native public intellectuals and is the best-selling award-winning author of six novels, two collections of short stories and two non-fiction books. He won the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Literature for his novel, The Back of the Turtle (Harper Collins, 2014).

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Fiction - The Way to Rainy Mountain (N Scott Momaday)

The Way to Rainy Mountain (U of New Mexico Press, 1976)

by N. Scott Momaday

"The stories in The Way to Rainy Mountain are told in three voices. The first voice is the voice of my father, the ancestral voice, and the voice of the Kiowa oral tradition. The second is the voice of historical commentary. And the third is that of personal reminiscence, my own voice. There is a turning and returning of myth, history, and memoir throughout, a narrative wheel that is as sacred as language itself."

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Fiction - Islands of Decolonial Love (Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)

Islands of Decolonial Love (ARP Books, 2013)

by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

In her debut collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love, renowned writer and activist Leanne Simpson vividly explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation. Found on reserves, in cities and small towns, in bars and curling rinks, canoes and community centres, doctor’s offices and pickup trucks, Simpson's characters confront the often heartbreaking challenge of pairing the desire to live loving and observant lives with a constant struggle to simply survive the historical and ongoing injustices of racism and colonialism.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Fiction - Johnny Appleseed (Joshua Whitehead)

Jonny Appleseed (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018)

by Joshua Whitehead

Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez"--and his former life--to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The seven days that follow are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny's life is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages--and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction

Non-fiction - The Reconciliation Manifesto (Arthur Manuel and Ronald Derrickson)

The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy (Lorimer, 2017)

by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson

Manuel and Derrickson show how governments are attempting to reconcile with Indigenous Peoples without touching the basic colonial structures that dominate and distort the relationship. They review the current state of land claims. They tackle the persistence of racism among non-Indigenous people and institutions. They celebrate Indigenous Rights Movements while decrying the role of government-funded organizations like the Assembly of First Nations. They document the federal government's disregard for the substance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while claiming to implement it. These circumstances amount to what they see as a false reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Non-fiction - Native Science (Gregory Cajete)

Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence (Clear Light Books, 1999) [out of print]

by Gregory Cajete

In Native Science, Gregory Cajete "tells the story" of Indigenous science as a way of understanding, experiencing, and feeling the natural world. He points to parallels and differences between the Indigenous science and Western science paradigms, with special emphasis on environmental / ecological studies. After discussing philosophical foundations, Cajete addresses such topics as history and myth, primal elements, social ecology, animals in myth and reality, plants and human health, and cosmology and astronomy.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Non-fiction - Halfbreed (Maria Campbell)

Halfbreed (McClelland & Stewart, 1973)

by Maria Campbell

An unflinchingly honest memoir of her experience as a Métis woman in Canada, Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed depicts the realities that she endured and, above all, overcame. Maria was born in Northern Saskatchewan, her father the grandson of a Scottish businessman and Métis woman–a niece of Gabriel Dumont whose family fought alongside Riel and Dumont in the 1885 Rebellion; her mother the daughter of a Cree woman and French-American man. This extraordinary account, originally published in 1973, bravely explores the poverty, oppression, alcoholism, addiction, and tragedy Maria endured throughout her childhood and into her early adult life, underscored by living in the margins of a country pervaded by hatred, discrimination, and mistrust.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Alicia Elliott)

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Anchor Canada, 2020)

by Alicia Elliott

In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight into the ongoing legacy of colonialism.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - Songs of Rita Joe - Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet (Rita Joe)

Songs of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet (U of Nebraska Press, 1996)

by Rita Joe

The story of an esteemed and eloquent Mi’kmaq woman whose message of “gentle persuasion” has enriched the life of a nation.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (Daniel Heath Justice)

Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2018)

by Daniel Heath Justice

This provocative volume challenges readers to critically consider and rethink their assumptions about Indigenous literature, history, and politics while never forgetting the emotional connections of our shared humanity and the power of story to effect personal and social change. Written with a generalist reader firmly in mind, but addressing issues of interest to specialists in the field, this book welcomes new audiences to Indigenous literary studies while offering more seasoned readers a renewed appreciation for these transformative literary traditions.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Non-fiction - The Inconvenient Indian (Thomas King)

The Inconvenient Indian (Penguin Random House, 2013)

by Thomas King

Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis and Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - Out of the Depths (Isabelle Knockwood)

Out of the Depths: Experiences of Mi’kmaq Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia (Fernwood Publishing, 2015)

by Isabelle Knockwood

Residential school survivor Isabelle Knockwood offers the firsthand experiences of 42 survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. In the fourth edition of this book, Knockwood connects with 21 survivors of the Shubenacadie school following the apology by the Canadian government in 2008.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - Heart Berries (Terese Marie Mailhot)

Heart Berries (Doubleday Canada, 2018)

by Therese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father--an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist--who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Non-fiction - We Were Not the Savages (Daniel Paul)

We Were Not the Savages (Fernwood Publishing, 2008)

by Daniel Paul

An Indigenous perspective on the collision between European and Native American civilizations.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse and Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - Black Water (David A Robertson)

Black Water (HarperCollins, 2020)

by David Robertson

Structured around a father-son journey to the northern trapline where Robertson and his father will reclaim their connection to the land, Black Water is the story of another journey: a young man seeking to understand his father's story, to come to terms with his lifelong experience with anxiety, and to finally piece together his own blood memory, the parts of his identity that are woven into the fabric of his DNA.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - The Language of this Land, Mi'kma'ki (Trudy Sable and Bernie Francis)

The Language of This Land, Mi’kma’ki (Cape Breton UP, 2012)

by Trudy Sable and Bernie Francis

An exploration of Mi’kmaw world view as expressed in language, legends, song and dance. Using imagery as codes, these include not only place names and geologic history, but act as maps of the landscape. Sable and Francis illustrate the fluid nature of reality inherent in its expression – its embodiment in networks of relationships with the landscape integral to the cultural psyche and spirituality of the Mi’kmaq.

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Non-fiction - There's Something in the Water (Ingrid R B Waldron)

There’s Something in the Water (Fernwood Publishing, 2018)

by Ingrid R.G. Waldron

In “There’s Something In The Water”, Ingrid R. G. Waldron examines the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada, using Nova Scotia as a case study, and the grassroots resistance activities by Indigenous and Black communities against the pollution and poisoning of their communities.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - The Book of Hopi (Frank Waters)

The Book of Hopi (Penguin Books, 1977) [out of print]

by Frank Waters; illustrated by Oswald White Bear Frederick

In this "strange and wonderful book," some thirty elders of the ancient Hopi tribe of Northern Arizona freely reveal for the first time in written form the Hopi world-view of life. The Hopis have kept this view a secret for countless generations, and this book was made possible only as a result of their desire to record for future generations the principles of their "Road of Life." The breaking of the Hopi silence is significant and fascinating because for the first time anthropologists, ethnologists, and everyone interested in the field of Indian study have been given rich material showing the Hopi legends, the meaning of their religious rituals and ceremonies, and the beauty of a conception of life within the natural world that is completely untouched by materialistic worlds.

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Non-fiction - The Elements of Indigenous Style (by Gregory Younging)

The Elements of Indigenous Style (Brush Education, 2018)

by Gregory Younging

Elements of Indigenous Style offers Indigenous writers and editors—and everyone creating works about Indigenous Peoples—the first published guide to common questions and issues of style and process. Everyone working in words or other media needs to read this important new reference, and to keep it nearby while they’re working.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry

Poetry - The Wound is a World (Billy-Ray Belcourt)

This Wound is a World (Frontenac House, 2017)

by Billy-Ray Belcourt

Part manifesto, part memoir, This Wound is a World is an invitation to 'cut a hole in the sky to world inside.' Billy-Ray Belcourt issues a call to turn to love and sex to understand how Indigenous peoples shoulder sadness and pain like theirs without giving up on the future. His poems and essays upset genre and play with form, scavenging for a decolonial kind of heaven where 'everyone is at least a little gay.'”

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell and Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent (Liz Howard)

Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent (McClelland & Stewart, 2015)

by Liz Howard

In Liz Howard’s wild, scintillating debut, the mechanisms we use to make sense of our worlds – even our direct intimate experiences of it – come under constant scrutiny and a pressure that feels like love. What Howard can accomplish with language strikes us as electric, a kind of alchemy of perception and catastrophe, fidelity and apocalypse. The waters of Northern Ontario shield country are the toxic origin and an image of potential. A subject, a woman, a consumer, a polluter; an erotic force, a confused brilliance, a very necessary form of urgency – all are loosely tethered together and made somehow to resonate with our own devotions and fears; made “to be small and dreaming parallel / to ceremony and decay.” Liz Howard is what contemporary poetry needs right now.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Lnu and Indians We're Called (Rita Joe)

Lnu and Indians We’re Called (Women’s Press, 1991) [out of print]

by Rita Joe

With this collection, celebrated poet Rita Joe expands upon her desire to communicate gently with the Mi’kmaw people, and reach out to the wider community of Canadians.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Poetry - The Blind Man's Eyes (Rita Joe)

The Blind Man’s Eyes (Cape Breton Books, 2015)

by Rita Joe

A committed social activist, rooted in First Nation and Christian spirituality, Rita Joe’s efforts to represent and inspire have earned her honorary degrees, the Aboriginal Achievement Award, and the Order of Canada. Rita Joe’s role as a daring “gentle warrior” shines through the poetry of The Blind Man’s Eyes.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Poetry - Flint and Feather (E. Pauline Johnson)

Flint and Feather (first published in 1912)

by E. Pauline Johnson

This volume contains Johnson's collected poems, and it is doubtful if any other volume of Canadian poetry has ever had so glowing a reception or so widely sustained and continuous an appeal.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Generations Emerging (Shalan Joudry)

Generations Re-merging (Gaspereau Press, 2014)

by Shalan Joudry

A collection of poems which explores the complex tangle of intergenerational relationships and cultural issues encountered by a Mi’kmaw woman in the modern context, “where every moment / is the loss of something.”

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Waking Ground (Shalan Joudry)

Waking Ground (Gaspereau Press, 2020)

by Shalan Joudry

Waking Ground connects the social and ecological challenges our communities face with the unresolved legacy of Canada’s settlement and its ongoing impact on the lives of Indigenous people. Attuned to language, landscape, and legacy, Shalan Joudry’s insightful and candid poems bring forward stories that speak to the resilience of Mi’kmaw culture and the collective work of healing and reconciliation that lies before us all.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Hope Matters (Maracle, Bobb, Carter)

Hope Matters (Book*hug Press, 2019)

by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter

The wide-ranging poems in Hope Matters focus on the journey of Indigenous peoples from colonial beginnings to reconciliation. But they also document a very personal journey—that of a mother and her two daughters. Written collaboratively, Hope Matters offers a blend of three distinct and exciting voices that come together in a shared song of hope and reconciliation.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Clay Pots and Bones (Lindsay Marshall)

Clay Pots and Bones (Cape Breton University Press, 2014)

by Lindsay Marshall

Poetry is Lindsay Marshall’s way of telling stories, of speaking with others about things that matter to him. His heritage. His people. His life as a Mi’kmaw. For the reader, Clay Pots and Bones is a colourful journey from early days, when the People of the Dawn understood, interacted with and roamed the land freely, to the turbulent present and the uncertain future where Marshall envisions a rebirth of the Mi’kmaq. The poetry challenges and enlightens. It will, most certainly, entertain.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

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Inquiries (Breakwater Books, 2019)

by Michelle Porter

In poems that risk the comingling of anger and elegy, poetry and documentation, humour and the dark spectre of poverty, Michelle Porter’s Inquiries oscillates at its edges, and amplifies the presence of human strength as it keeps company with our enigmatic and ever-present nemeses. This is a startling debut where the line between reality and reality television blurs, where a simple trip to the grocery store unifies mother and daughter in struggle, and where an economics of iniquity proves the existence of love as equality. With wit, poise, raw emotion, and versatility, Inquiries announces the emergence of an impressive new talent.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Noopiming - The Cure for White Ladies (Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies (House of Anansi, 2020)

by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Award-winning Nishnaabeg writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson returns with a bold reimagining of the novel that combines narrative and poetic fragments through a careful and fierce reclamation of Anishinaabe aesthetics.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Kiskajeyi - I Am Ready (Michelle Sylliboy)

Kiskajeyi — I Am Ready (Rebel Mountain Press, 2019)

by Michelle Sylliboy

This hieroglyphic poetry book is the first of its kind. Aboriginal artist and writer, Michelle Sylliboy blends her poetry, photography, and Mi'kmaq (L'nuk) hieroglyphic poetry in this unprecedented book.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Disintegrate Dissociate (Arielle Twist)

Disintegrate/Dissociate (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019)

by Arielle Twist

In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Crow Gulch (Douglas Walbourne-Gough)

Crow Gulch (Goose Lane, 2019)

by Douglas Walbourne-Gough

From the author: “I cannot let the story of Crow Gulch—the story of my family and, subsequently, my own story—go untold. This book is my attempt to resurrect dialogue and story, to honour who and where I come from, to remind Corner Brook of the glaring omission in its social history.”

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Children's Literature

Child lit - Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters (Harris, Marshall, and Marshall)

Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters (Cape Breton Books, 2011)

by Prune Harris, Lilian Marshall, Murdena Marshall; illustrated by Cheryl Bartlett

The story of Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters is a very old Mi'kmaw legend. It happens in the North Sky as the stars that show the story of Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters move around Tatapn, the North Star.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - How the Cougar Came to be Called the Ghost Cat (Michael James Isaac)

How the Cougar Came to be Called the Ghost Cat/Ta’n Petalu Telui’tut Skite’kmujewe (Roseway, 2010)

by Michael James Isaac

This is the tale of a young cougar, Ajig, who makes this sacrifice – and pays dearly. A curious and adventurous cougar, Ajig decides to build a new home in a strange forest. When he finds that all of the animals in the forest are afraid of him, Ajig agrees to stop behaving like a cougar so that he can make friends. But when Ajig tries to return to his birthplace, he learns that he is no longer welcome. Lost between two worlds, the young cougar becomes a “ghost cat.” This beautifully illustrated book, written in both Mi’kmaw and English, reflects the experiences of First Nations peoples’ assimilation into the Euro-Canadian school system, but speaks to everyone who is marginalized or at risk.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - For the Children (Rita Joe)

For the Children (Breton Books, 2008)

by Rita Joe

With the young person in mind, these strong, clear and encouraging poems from Rita Joe speak directly to all of us, a testament to her hope for a better world. Down-to-earth and often humorous, these poems tell stories of Mi'kmaw life, and of the concrete and spiritual world of this determined Eskasoni writer.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - I Lost My Talk (Rita Joe)

I Lost My Talk (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

by Rita Joe

One of Rita Joe’s most influential poems, “I Lost My Talk” tells the revered Mi’kmaw Elder’s childhood story of losing her language while a resident of the residential school in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - The Sharing Circle (Theresa Meuse)

The Sharing Circle (Nimbus Publishing, 2003)

by Theresa Meuse

The Sharing Circle includes seven children's stories about First Nations culture and spirituality practices. All seven stories—The Eagle Feather, The Dream Catcher, The Sacred Herbs, The Talking Circle, The Medicine Wheel, The Drum, and The Medicine Pouch—explore First Nations cultural practices and teach children about Mi'kmaq beliefs and heritage.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Child lit - L’nuk, the Mi’kmaq of Atlantic Canada (Theresa Meuse)

L’nu'k: The People (Nimbus Publishing, 2016)

by Theresa Meuse

In L’nu'k: The People, Theresa Meuse traces the incredible lineage of today’s Mi’kmaq people, sharing the fascinating details behind their customs, traditions, and history. Discover the proper way to make Luski (Mi’kmaw bread), the technique required for intricate quillwork and canoe building, what happens at a powwow, and how North America earned its Aboriginal name, Turtle Island.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Child lit - I'm Finding My Talk (Rebecca Thomas)

I’m Finding My Talk (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

by Rebecca Thomas

From sewing regalia to dancing at powow to learning traditional language, I'm Finding My Talk is about rediscovering community and finding culture. The book features stunning, vibrant illustrations by Mi'kmaw artist Pauline Young.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Child lit - The Thundermaker (Alan Syliboy)

The Thundermaker (Nimbus Publishing, 2018)

by Alan Syliboy

Mi'kmaw artist Alan Syliboy's The Thundermaker is based on Alan's spectacular mixed-media exhibit of the same name. In the book, Big Thunder teaches his son, Little Thunder, about the important responsibility he has making thunder for his people. Little Thunder learns about his Mi'kmaw identity through his father's teachings and his mother's traditional stories.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Other Genres and Media

Other - Peace and Friendship Treaty

Peace and Friendship Treaty Between His Majesty the King and Jean Baptiste Cope (1752)

The Treaty of 1752, signed by Jean Baptiste Cope, described as the Chief Sachem of the Mi'kmaq inhabiting the eastern part of Nova Scotia, and Governor Hopson of Nova Scotia, made peace and promised hunting, fishing, and trading rights.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Other - translations of Robert Munsch books

Translations of Robert Munsch books into the Mi’kmaq language (2014) [out of print]

published by Eastern Woodland Publishing

An advisory committee of MK educators has translated seven Robert Munsch books into the Mi’kmaq language. The books were distributed to students in every Mi’kmaw community in 2014. The seven translated books are Thomas’ Snowsuit, Love You Forever, Mud Puddle, I Have To Go, I’m So Embarrassed, Andrew’s Loose Tooth, and A Promise is a Promise.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Ku’ku’kwes News

by Maureen Googoo

Ku’ku’kwes News is the only independent news website that covers Indigenous news in Atlantic Canada. It relies on monthly subscriptions to provide news coverage to readers.

(Recommended by WFNS President Lorri Neilsen Glenn)

Anthologies - The Mi'kmaq Anthology (Pottersfield)

The Mi’kmaq Anthology (Pottersfield Press, 1997)

edited by Rita Joe and Lesley Choyce

A varied and spiritual collection of work by the Mi'kmaq writers of Atlantic Canada. Both young and old stories and storytellers combine talents to produce short stories, poetry, and personal essays.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Other - Elapultiek (Shalan Joudry)

Elapultiek (Pottersfield Press, 2019)

by Shalan Joudry

Set in contemporary times, a young Mi’kmaw drum singer and a Euro-Nova Scotian biologist meet at dusk each day to count a population of endangered Chimney Swifts (kaktukopnji’jk). They quickly struggle with their differing views of the world. Through humour and story, the characters must come to terms with their own gifts and challenges as they dedicate efforts to the birds. Each “count night” reveals a deeper complexity of connection to land and history on a personal level.

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Storytelling - The Truth About Stories (Thomas King)

The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (House of Anansi, 2003)

by Thomas King

In his 2003 Massey lecture, award-winning author and scholar Thomas King looks at the breadth and depth of Native experience and imagination. Beginning with Native oral stories, King weaves his way through literature and history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest, in an effort to make sense of North America's relationship with its Aboriginal peoples. An audio version of the lecture is available for free on the CBC Radio website.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Graphic novel - On Loving Women (Diane Obomsawin)

On Loving Women (Drawn and Quarterly, 2014)

by Diane Obomsawin

On Loving Women is a new collection of stories about coming out, first love, and sexual identity by the animator Diane Obomsawin. With this work, Obomsawin brings her gaze to bear on subjects closer to home-her friends' and lovers' personal accounts of realizing they're gay or first finding love with another woman. Each story is a master class in reaching the emotional truth of a situation with the simplest means possible. Her stripped-down pages use the bare minimum of linework to expressively reveal heartbreak, joy, irritation, and fear.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Podcast - Kiwew (David Robertson)

Kiwew (CBC)

by David Robertson

Kīwew is a five-part podcast in which Governor General award-winning author David A. Robertson dives into his family's history and mysteries as he discovers and connects with his Cree identity.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Other - The Healers, Mary Webb (David Roberston and Donovan Yaciuk)

The Healers: Mary Webb (Portage & Main Press, 2017) [out of print]

by David Robertson and Donovan Yaciuk; illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

Graphic novel

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

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