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Pure Canadiana

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Books that practically smell like woodsmoke, comfort food, and the wind that comes off a lake.


Set on a remote island in a northern Ontario lake, Bear is simultaneously quintessential Canadiana and one of the most controversial works of art to come from the great north. Reading this I could practically smell the sweetness of lake water and fallen acorns mingling with woodsmoke, bacon, and cottages built before the air conditioning era.

Read if you: want the book version of a Group of Seven painting; are curious to explore the outer limits of sexual awakening; need an extra push to commit to your building plans for a cottage in the backcountry.

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

A coming of age story in rural Newfoundland that explores current issues through natural and thoughtful ways. The Agony of Bun O'Keefe is a beautiful example of friendship and loyalty, and a reminder that the family that matters is not dictated by blood, but by who is in your corner when it matters. Though it is a modern young adult novel, the action takes place in 1986, revisiting appropriate amounts of Canadian nostalgia for older readers.

Read if: you have ever wondered what it would be like to live with a hoarder; you want to remember a time when VHS's and cassettes were king; you love a good ragtag bunch of misfits.

I Am a Truck

This book had the lovely, completely unexpected outcome of making the characters I expected to like the least, end up being my favourites in the story. I suggest having Google translate handy as there's a fair bit of French sprinkled in, which added a lot for me and didn't feel super disruptive (think along the lines of how ASL is used in The Shape of Water, though not to worry, French isn't used as frequently as that in the book).

Read if: you could use a push to finally learn how to drive (or get your license - lookin' at all my fellow Torontonians); French was a nuisance to study in school but you've been secretly harbouring a love for the language all this time; it's been a while since you've listened to all those classic rock tunes you love to blast with the windows down.


So much of Nikolski read like a Canadian version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Letters, maps, compasses, piracy, garbage anthropologists, used bookstores, and fish-shops intertwine in a version of Montreal that seems both familiar and new at the same time. With an expert hand, Nicolas Dickner gauges the precise amount of time to spend on a character and their storyline before switching to another thread. As soon as I started to miss a character, they would be reintroduced, and I found myself both racing towards the finish and trying to savour the story, giving myself distractions so as not to come to the conclusion as quickly.

Read if: you liked Late Nights in Montreal (or the narrative structure of Station Eleven) by Emily St. John Mandel; you like intersecting stories that span great distances and spiral to a single location;  you've ever dreamt of owning a used bookstore and want to see what it might be like through the P.O.V. of your fictional counterpart.


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