Canadian Literature: 5 Down, 5 Provinces to Go

Canada landscape
Canada landscape. Photo by Michael Dr Gumtau from Flickr, creative commons.

A reader asked for a recommendation for books regarding the Canadian Rockies and Western Canada, and I was stumped.  Reviewing what we have on Canadian literature at A Traveler’s Library, I found the list was pretty skimpy, so have made a resolution to cover Canadian literature in the next few months. I’m seeking out really good books that will add some value to travel, and I’m starting with two for that Western region and one general interest.

Green Grass, Running Water (1993) by Thomas King, Cherokee writer . This one is set in Alberta, Canada.

Canada (2012) by Richard Ford . Set in Saskatchawan.

The Last Spike: The Great Railway 1881-1885 (2010) by Pierre Berton, about the building of the cross-Canada railroad. I’m looking forward to reading this when it arrives from my inter-library loan request.  Berton is an acclaimed Canadian writer and railroads are a perfect subject for travelers. I’ve always wanted to ride across Canada on the railroad.

I put out a request through social media for suggestions and got ideas from Lisa,  who talks about all things family travel including books at  Gone with the Family. She suggested Green Grass and The Last Spike and the following Canadian Literature:

Tay John (1883) by Howard O’hagan–the Rockies and western Canada.

The Studhorse Man (1969) by Robert Kroetsch, Setting: Alberta


Lisa also pointed me to a useful site for people wanting to discover Canadian literature. The Canadian Book Review has the mission of making people aware of Canadian literature and includes a helpful guide to Canadian literary prizes as well as an eclectic collection of reviews. Of course his site concentrates on Canadian authors, whereas A Traveler’s Library is interested in Canada as a subject, and many if not most of the authors he lists are more concerned with the universality of their work.

Also on My List

Islands : The Complete Stories (2002) by Alistair MacLeod. Although I mentioned this book in one of my reports on my trip to Nova Scotia, I still have not read it completely and reviewed it here.

From Richard Ford’s Afterword to the novel, Canada

He credits Dave Carpenter, Elliott Leyton, Guy Vanderhaeghe (who has written eloquently about the border region of Saskatchewan and Montana, as did the great Wallace Stegner).

Specific books that helped For with writing about Canada:

Saskatchewan: A History by John H. Archer

Saskatchewan: A New History by Bill Waiser

Without Reserve by Lynda Shorten, interviews with native people.

And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrison’s memoir.


Canada Books Previously Reviewed

Three Among the Wolves (2004), by Helen Thayer. Setting: Yukon and Arctic Circle. Review by Pamela Douglas Webster

Trick of the Light (2011) by Louise Penny. Penny’s mystery series is set in and around Montreal, Quebec Province.

My Famous Evening (2004) by Howard Norman. Setting: Nova Scotia.  This is one of my favorite books and eerily paralleled my trip with my sister.

If you are interested in the music of Canada, search through the “Where Do You Want To Go?” search box on the right hand side of the main page at A Traveler’s Library. Kerry Dexter of Music Road has written many times about music of Canada.

See why I need more Canadian literature?  Provinces I don’t have covered (now or in scheduled reading): Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island. In addition there are three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut,Yukon.

Your recommendations are welcome for books we should check out for Canada–particularly NEW books. Let’s travel to Canada


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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

8 thoughts on “Canadian Literature: 5 Down, 5 Provinces to Go

    1. Montique: Thank you so much. This is a great recommendation, and the map is invaluable to me. I can see I have just doubled my reading list, and I can waste/spend hours on that site. And you modestly didn’t mention your own site as a good resource–which it is. I encourage people to check out So Misguided for all things relating to Canadian books.

  1. Glace Bay Minor’s Museum by Sheldon Currie (Cape Breton, N.S.)
    The Perfection of Morning by Sharon Butala (Saskatchewan)
    Fall on your knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald (N.S.)
    A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (Manitoba)
    The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (Newfoundland)
    Crow Lake by Mary Lawson (Ontario)
    You have to read something by Robertson Davies – Fifth Business, I think it is set in Ontario…

    Also, the complete Canadian reading experience is not complete without reading something by Timothy Findley and Margaret Atwood…

    1. Thanks, Stella. Great list. I read The Shipping News a very long time ago, and for some reason forgot about it as food for thought on Newfoundland.

      I don’t know the work of Timothy Findley, and certainly agree about Margaret Atwood being wonderful representative of Canada. I’ve read many of her books. However, I would class her books as more universal in nature rather than adding the specific sense of place I’m looking for that helps readers relate to a particular destination.

      Really appreciate your help!

      1. You’re right. Now I understand better what you are looking for. Timothy Findlay is more universal too. The Pilgrim is a magical book. Timothy Findlay spent a part of every year in a small town in Provence where we have a home…

          1. He doesn’t go into Provence in his writing but he wrote from there a lot. His novels are complex and well written. He mentions our town here and there in his his works of non fiction.

  2. you’re right, I do write quite often about the music of Canada, here at A Traveler’s Library and elsewhere. There’s family as well musical history for me in several provinces. look forward to returning.

    speaking of the Canadian Rockies, Ian Tyson is the classic western Canada poet in song (think Four Strong Winds — he wrote it), and his autobiography and books written about him might be of interest to your readers as well as his music.

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