Canada Reads 2011

Back in the day, I used to blog a lot about books. Way way back in the day, I used to consider myself somewhat of a fan, if not an authority, on Canadian Literature. So when I heard that CBC Radio was compiling a list of the Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade, I knew it would make great blog fodder.

And then I actually looked at the list, unveiled today, and realized that I have read exactly three of them. And for an embarrassing number of them, I had heard of neither the book nor the author. Eek. Clearly I am not spending enough time with Shelagh Rogers.

But, I was so excited to have a blog post that required (a) brain use and (b) no discussion of moving, unpacking or septic systems, that I’m going to charge ahead with this one anyway. In fact, I’m going to make a meme out of it! Remember memes? They’re about as relevant as my knowledge of Canadian literature, apparently, as I can’t remember the last one I’ve seen. Let’s call this a celebration of the Canadian Blogosphere circa 2005, whaddya say?

Ahem, anyway, here’s the list. If you want to play along, copy and paste it into your own blog. The ones in bold I’ve read. The ones in bold and underlined, I’d recommend. The ones with an asterisk are on my “I swear, I will read it before 2012” list.


A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews *

Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall

Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright

Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

Conceit by Mary Novik

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Drive-by Saviours by Chris Benjamin

Elle by Douglas Glover

Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Far to Go by Alison Pick

February by Lisa Moore

Galore by Michael Crummey

Heave by Christy Ann Conlin

Inside by Kenneth J. Harvey

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill *

Moody Food by Ray Robertson

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson *

Room by Emma Donoghue

Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis *

The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre

The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Fallen by Stephen Finucan

The Girls Who Saw Everything by Sean Dixon *

The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe

The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden *

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Twenty-Six by Leo McKay Jr.

Unless by Carol Shields *

Hmmm, not a single Douglas Coupland or Alice Munro? I suppose Will Ferguson is not exactly a novelist, but I am in the delicious depths of Beyond Belfast, and loving it as much as I loved Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw and Hitching Rides with Buddha. Looks like my tenuous claim to a passing knowledge of Canadian literature is as dated as my taste in music.

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Would you recommend them for CBC’s shortlist of the ten best Canadian novels of the decade? And do you think maybe it’s time for me to wade out of the wilderness and try something from this decade on my next trip to the library?

If you decide to play along and post the list on your blog, be sure to leave a comment so I can come over and admire your taste in Canadian literature!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

26 thoughts on “Canada Reads 2011”

  1. Ooh, put an asterisk beside Ami McKay’s The Birth House, it’s really, really amazing. I should probably thank my book club for the number of these books I’ve actually read (although I’m still trying to forgive it for The Story of Lucy Gault). The Sweetness in the Belly is coming up.

  2. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve only read one of them. _A Complicated Kindness_ was ok, but not as good as I had expected. I think it didn’t have enough specific plot — it reminded me somewhat of W.O. Mitchell’s _Who Has Seen the Wind_ that way. I’d say it’s worth reading, but not top 10 material.

  3. You will be able to tell I am retired when I say I have read 20 of them. I read as much Canadian literature as I can but only if I find the story interesting. I thought The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels should have made the list. I cannot pick a favourite but would be happy to lend you the ones that I have here. My friend in Montreal has most of my books. Also I am hoping to get an e-reader for Christmas so my “lending” library will eventaully disappear.

  4. I think I counted 11 that I’ve read, and I consider myself a bit of a Canadian Author fanatic. Hmmmm, definitely some that I need to work on!

    Also – I agree with Trista, The Birth House is fantastic, as is Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly, and Lawrence’s The Book of Negroes. All 3 kept me awake into the wee hours 🙂


  5. Yup, another vote for Birth House.

    I also recently read Room. Not what I would call a classic, iconic book, however, it was a great read. It’s only around 300 pages so it’s quick, and very hard to put down.

    I would also add The Way the Crow Flies onto your list. I cannot recall too much about it, but at the time I read it, I rememeber raving about it.

  6. i am so playing this:)
    back later with my take on it and a link to the post.

    i am already thinking a little virtual trip to chapters is in order…

  7. I have read 14, and there are lots of others that are on my “to read” list. But there are also many I’ve never heard of, and I too consider myself pretty up on modern Canadian authors. Our library ran a contest (I think maybe they submitted the results as part of this national contest); we could each vote for up to 3 books, then they came up with 3 finalists on which everyone could vote, and the winner was just announced this week. My 3 picks were Three Day Road (a fantastic read – definitely put it on your list, even if the subject matter sounds really boring – I would never have read it except that my book club was reading it and every single person loved it), The Year of the Flood (which I liked a bit better than Oryx and Crake, although that was also fantastic), and The Girls by Lori Lansens, which I adored but which didn’t make the top 40 list. The top 3 finalists at our library were Three Day Road, The Book of Negroes, and Crow Lake, and The Book of Negroes won (a book I haven’t read yet).

    Anyway, thanks for posting the list – now I have a whole raft of new books to add to my library request list!! 🙂

  8. I’ve read thirteen, but there are several I can barely remember, which doesn’t really feel like a ringing endorsement! Loved Three Day Road, The Book of Negroes, The Birth House, The Stone Carvers, Late Nights on Air. Started the Bishop’s Man but couldn’t stomach it so didn’t count is as no 14! Am disappointed not to see Canoe Lake (which I liked better than Crow Lake if you want to make sure you get a Lake book in there!). I don’t have a blog (last mummy enviro in the western world, I believe!) but I’ll play along on this one at home for sure!

  9. I haven’t read Three Day Road, but I’ve read Through Black Spruce by the same author and so, so loved it. I’ve heard Day Road is even better – I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  10. Interesting! I’ve only read 10 of the books on the list. Of the ones I’ve read, I can’t say enough good things about The Book of Negroes or February.

    Happy Reading!

  11. I’ve read two of the books on that list and I have another two on my stack of “to read” books. This is really sad considering I’m an avid reader and I’ve read upwards of 50 books so far this year.

    One other book you should put on your to read list is Essex County by Jeff Lemire. It is a graphic novel by the talented Toronto writer/artist. It is three heartbreaking intertwining tales of life in rural Ontario.

  12. Omg you must add The Birth House to your must read list! It is one of my favourite books!

  13. Read lots of these, but especially loved The Birth House, The Book of Negroes, Clara Callan and Crow Lake. Would highly recommend all of the above!

  14. I’m a fellow book lover – and since I have committed to NaBloPoMo this month, I am so going to use this meme as one of my posts.

    I’ve read about half the books. I did my Masters in CanLit, but honestly have really lost interest in it in recent years, finding so much of it the same. Maybe it’s me?

    Having said that, I loved Book of Negroes, Three Day Road, and Birth House. And Come Thou Tortoise is my pick for this year because I’ve never read it, it’s never been discussed, I’ve heard interesting things about it, and it’s a quirky title.

  15. The Way the Crow Flies by Anne Marie MacDonald was a good read – challenging and of a topic that is difficult to read, as her books tend to be, but worth it. I really liked it – but I really like her writing as a whole. Her “Fall on Your Knees” is still one of my all-time favourite books.

  16. Like others here, I also enjoyed Joseph Boyden’s books, the Birth House and the Book of Negroes, but I’d also like to make a pitch for Skim to make your “Before 2012” reading list – it’s the only graphic novel on the list and a highly enjoyable coming of age story. (I’m a sucker for those.)

  17. Interesting – I’ve read ALL the novels on the list by Newfoundlanders and not many from elsewhere in the country. I guess I had better widen my horizons!

    Has anyone else noticed a regional bias in their reading?

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