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 EditSal Sawler, author and publicist at Conundrum PressAnne-Marie Sheppard and Jo Treggiari of Block Shop Books; Kailee Wakeman, 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


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.

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that each workshop’s participants share a level or range of writing / publication experience. This is to ensure that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their current writing priorities.

To this end, the “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions developed by WFNS:

  • New writers: those with no professional publications (yet!) or a few short professional publications (i.e., poems, stories, or essays in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with numerous professional publications and/or one book-length publication.
  • Established writers/authors: those with two book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short publications.
  • Professional authors: those with more than two book-length publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for participant-to-participant feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed.

For all other workshops, the recommended experience level is just that—a recommendation—and we encourage potential participants to follow their own judgment when registering.

If you’re uncertain of your experience level with regard to any particular workshop, please feel free to contact us at