Welcome back to the next segment of the Second Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards! Again, this is a highly subjective award, based only on what I’ve read in 2019 and my own preferences. I really wanted to make today’s category Best Canadian Book. Meaning, the best book that expressed something of what Canada is, the nature of who Canadians are. But when I started to put my list together, I noticed that that the books weren’t really about Canada. Some that I winnowed out of my final list, like The Innocents, focused too specifically on one region to be rightly called Canadian. Others didn’t even take place in Canada at all. So instead this is the best book written by a Canadian author. After all, Canada is a country made up of many diverse parts, so perhaps this list will reflect that.
All the Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
If I had to choose a title from my shortlist that best said something about Canada as a whole, it might well be this one. Immigrants, family relationships, and the circus. It has an entirely unique plot and wonderfully realized characters.
Carry Me by Peter Behrens
Or it could have been this one. The World Wars are deeply entrenched in our nation’s history and every Canadian school child learns how we took an important step to independence at the beginning of World War One. Behrens takes us all over the world with his characters and presents a wide scope of early twentieth century history but never does get to Canada.
Aria by Nazanine Hozar
In some ways, this book that takes place entirely in Iran felt very Canadian to me, simply because I know it tells the story of many current Canadians. This book is an epic, spanning decades and telling Iranian history in a compelling and highly readable way. This is one that will stay with you.
A Mind Spread out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott
Or it could be this book which casts a harsh and unflattering but truthful light on things many Canadians would prefer not to look too closely at. Elliott writes with honesty and anger and it was, in all honesty, hard to not feel defensive at times as I read. At the same time, I will continue to recommend this book to my fellow Canadians because I think many of us need to remember our own privilege and how often it comes at the expense of another.
Lampedusa by Steven Price
In the end, I chose the book I enjoyed the most. The one with the words that I found most beautiful and the book that I savoured as I read, transported to both another time and place. It’s not particularly Canadian but it’s written by a Canadian and I loved reading it. If you’ve read Lampedusa you are either appalled by my choice or understanding of the beauty I see in it. It seems there is not much middle ground when it comes to this book.
This was a hard category to narrow down but it reminded me of how diverse the voices of Canada are and how many wonderful Canadian writers there are. I would happily recommend any one of the books on this list.
Do you read Canadian authors? What’s the best Canadian book you’ve read this year?
If you don’t delve into Canadian writing much, what’s the best book from your own country that you’ve read this year?
Next Category: Best Non-Fiction (coming Wednesday)