Best Books About Canada

Take an optional visit to Avonlea Village & Green Gable House | ©Tourism PEI / John Sylvester
Take an optional visit to Avonlea Village & Green Gable House | ©Tourism PEI / John Sylvester

by Robin Esrock

After a great hike or ride, rest your legs but take your curiosity and imagination for a walk. Whether travelling to or within Canada, I've compiled a list of books to inform, educate, inspire and entertain you on your journey, written by a group of authors as diverse as the country itself. 

------ Alone Against the North by Adam Shoalts

Canadian Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Adam Shoalts is a trained cartographer, historian and anthropologist with a talent for undertaking wild, remote and solo adventures. His breakthrough book, Alone Against the North, recounts an eventful 107-kilometre padding adventure from Ontario into Quebec. Battling bugs, animals, weather, companions, and conditions makes for a gripping outdoor adventure. Adam's next books, A History of Canada in 10 Maps and Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada's Arctic, have been #1 national bestsellers and continue to showcase the Canadian wilderness through the eyes of a remarkable adventurer. > Find the Book


------Souvenir of Canada by Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland has come a long way since coining the moniker for an entire generation. The author of classic slacker novels like Generation X, Microserfs and JPod, Coupland is also an accomplished visual artist. This book contains short, witty essays and intriguing art that will either make you curious or nostalgic, depending on your exposure to stubby beer bottles, ookpik, and tree planters. The two volumes aim to capture the essence of Canada's culture, history, and quirks. > Find the Book


------------An Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King / Peace Pipe Dreams by Darrell Dennis

I've put these two books together because both are essential to understanding Indigenous culture and history in Canada, written in an approachable, often humorous and always readable tone given the weighty subject matter. Renowned historian Thomas King's An Inconvenient Indian is now a Canadian classic, spanning everything from Hollywood tropes and pop culture to residential schools and the 60's Scoop. Comedian and actor Darrell Dennis's Peace Pipe Dreams answers the questions every non-Indigenous person probably thinks about and is too embarrassed to ask. Blunt, direct, brutally funny and conversational, it's like having a beer in the local pub with an Indigenous friend, sharing a safe space where no question is too stupid. Both books provide context, stories and answers that will change how you engage and understand Canada's Indigenous culture, history, stories and people. > Find the Book: An Inconvenient Indian | More about Thomas King:  Read the interview on CBC > Find the Book: Peace Pipe Dreams


------The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed by John Vaillant

People are very passionate about saving old-growth forests on the Pacific West Coast. So why would a self-described conversationist chop down a rare golden spruce, revered by Haida people for generations? In this ecological thriller, John Vaillant investigates a fascinating true-life story that cuts across the fault lines of nature, culture, conservation and history. Exploring the rich history of the Haida and their relationship to their land, the commercial objectives of modern logging, and the personal saga of an eco-vandal where not all is as it seems. The Golden Spruce is a riveting read that sheds light on humanity's fragile relationship with nature and a stunning part of the planet too. > Find the Book


------The Great Lakes by Pierre Berton

The late Pierre Berton was Canada's most celebrated historian, churning out great works of literature for over a half-century. With more than fifty books to his name, his topics ranged from Niagara to the Klondike, the building of the Great Railway to doomed explorations of the Northwest Passage. For this list, I've selected his history of the five iconic lakes that make up the largest volume of freshwater on Earth. We'll learn about early European explorers and missionaries, wars and industrialists, famous cities, and modern ecological challenges. Our Great Lakes, argues Berton, provide 35 million Canadians and Americans with their livelihood and lifestyle. It's a pity we don't treat them with more respect. > Find the Book


------------Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson / Canada by Mike Myers

Does cold equal funny? Canada has gifted the world with some of the great comedians of our time, so it does seem like there's some connection. These two books take a look at Canadian characters and landscapes from the viewpoint of two exceptionally funny people. Humourist and bestselling author Will Ferguson travels from coast to coast in search of quirks, characters, exotic destinations and vibrant communities, lacing his discoveries with history, trivia and amusing insights along the way. Check out his other book, How to Be Canadian, for a laugh-out-loud skewering of our local culture. Mike Myers has always infused some Canadiana into his blockbuster movies, from Wayne's World to Austin Powers. Part memoir, part history and all gags, Myers's Canada delves into his relationship with this home and native land, creating a national biography with a tender, offbeat and heart-warming tone. > Find the Book: Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw | > Find the Book: Canada


------The Great Canadian Bucket List by Robin Esrock

Yes, I should be ashamed of my self-promotion. Still, with over 130,000 copies sold across several editions, The Great Canadian Bucket List: One-of-a-Kind Travel Experiences continues to shine a much-needed spotlight on Canada's most unique, underrated, bizarre and incredible destinations and activities. My goal was to reinvent the guidebook, focusing on inspirational stories, emotion, characters and history without getting stuck in the information that is more current online anyway. We know how to travel to each province and territory; we just don't always know why we should. Drawing on my travels to over 110 countries on 7 continents, I personally sought out experiences that stack up the world's best. Across every province and territory, Canada has more than delivered. From legendary hikes and bike rides to weird landscapes, unique cuisine, wildlife and adventure, there's something here for every active or armchair traveller. > Find the Book


------The Promise of Canada by Charlotte Gray

"Our country owes its success not to some imagined tribal singularity but to the fact that, although its thirty-five million citizens do not look, speak or pray alike, we have learned to share this land and, for the most part, live in neighbourly sympathy." So writes award-winning historian and biographer Charlotte Gray in the preface to her critically acclaimed book that weaves the stories of nine prominent Canadians into the country's history. From Margaret Atwood to Tommy Douglas, Gray's biography of people and country is a compelling and enlightening exploration of what makes Canada one of the world's most desirable democracies. > Find the Book


------Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

If you're visiting Prince Edward Island, it will be impossible to escape the legacy of Atlantic Canada's most famous literary heroine. The pigtails and freckles of Anne Shirley grace souvenirs and soda pop, theatre shows and National Historic Sites too. It all comes down to the 1908 novel that follows the adventures of an imaginative orphan mistakenly adopted by the Cuthberts in a fictional town called Avonlea. Set in the late 19th century, the story's inspired by Montgomery's own childhood and is a period comedy-drama widely recognized as a timeless classic. The story continues to charm readers in Atlantic Canada and beyond, having sold 50 million copies and translated into 36 languages. > Find the Book

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