12 Canadian books make longlist for $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize

The $100,000 award annually recognizes the best in Canadian fiction.

This year’s longlist includes authors Eleanor Catton, Sarah Bernstein, Kevin Chong and more

A layout of 12 book covers floating against a red background.
The 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist includes authors Eleanor Catton, Sarah Bernstein, Kevin Chong and more. The (CBC, covers and logo submitted by Scotiabank Giller Prize)

Twelve writers have been longlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The $100,000 award annually recognizes the best in Canadian fiction. 

The announcement was hosted and livestreamed at an event in St. John's by author Suzette Mayr, who won the 2022 Giller Prize for her novel The Sleeping Car Porter.

Former CBC Literary Prize finalists feature prominently on the longlist. Winnipeg's David Bergen, author of Away From The Dead, won the Short Story Prize in 1999 for his story How can men share a bottle of vodka. Vancouver-based Kevin Chong was longlisted for the 2020 Nonfiction Prize for White Space. Nina Dunic, author of The Clarion has been longlisted for the Short Story Prize four times, most recently in 2023 for The Artist. The Rooftop Garden author Menaka Raman-Wilms was shortlisted for the Short Story Prize in 2019 and We Have Never Lived on Earth author Kasia Van Schaik was a finalist for the Short Story Prize in 2017 and made the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist

Two short story collections made the list: The Islands by Dionne Irving and We Have Never Lived on Earth by Kasia Van Schaik.

Bergen is the only previous winner to have made the longlist. He won the Giller Prize in 2005 for his novel The Time in Between. He was subsequently shortlisted for The Matter with Morris in 2010 and for his short story collection Here the Dark in 2020. He was longlisted for The Retreat in 2008 and Stranger in 2016. 

Two of the 2023 nominated writers have previously placed on Giller longlists: Toronto's CS Richardson in 2012 for his novel The Emperor of Paris and Calgary's Deborah Willis in 2017 for her short story collection The Dark and Other Love Stories.

Here is the full 2023 longlist:

This year the prize celebrates its 30th anniversary. The 2023 shortlist will be announced on Oct. 11, 2023 and the winner will be announced on Nov. 13, 2023.

Canadian poet and fiction writer Ian Williams is chairing the five-person jury this year. Joining him are Canadian authors Sharon Bala, Brian Thomas Isaac and international authors Rebecca Makkai and Neel Mukherjee.

"The 2023 Scotiabank Giller longlist features a party of Canadian literature! Short story collections mingle with novels, established writers with emerging ones. Writers from various parts of the country and beyond its borders share the list together. They discuss family, friendships, the climate crisis, war, privilege, good intentions. Neat, quiet, intimate, introverted stories of relationships brush against loud messy globetrotting stories," the jury said in a pres statement.

"These books made the jury think about them long afterward; sometimes they haunted us, sometimes they were like earworms we couldn't stop singing. Stylistically, they dressed up, they stripped down. They were drunk with life, they were sobering. They pushed pleasure on us even while they occasionally provoked and puzzled us. This longlist is unafraid of being censored or misunderstood. The writers ask for our patience and sophistication; they stand up against all threats, AI included, and remind us of the unmatchable power of the human imagination."

Last year's winner was Suzette Mayr for her novel The Sleeping Car Porter.

Other past Giller Prize winners include Omar El Akkad for What Strange Paradise, Souvankham Thammavongsa for How to Pronounce Knife, Esi Edugyan for Washington Black, Michael Redhill for Bellevue Square, Margaret Atwood for Alias Grace, Mordecai Richler for Barney's Version, Alice Munro for Runaway, André Alexis for Fifteen Dogs and Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch founded the prize in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, in 1994. Rabinovitch died in 2017 at the age of 87.

You can learn more about all 12 longlisted books below.

Away From The Dead by David Bergen

Away from the Dead by David Bergen. A black book cover with tattered white fabric. A portrait of a white man with glasses looking into the camera.
Away from the Dead is a novel by David Bergen. (Goose Lane Editions, Thies Bogner)

Away from the Dead follows the chaotic lives of three young people in early 20th-century Ukraine amidst revolts and war. Lehn is a bookseller south of Kiev, Sablin is a stableboy who stays with anarchists and Inna is a young peasant. Connected to the violence and politics of the time, Lehn, Sablin and Inna's narratives weave together a complex story of humanity and hope.

Bergen is a Winnipeg-based fiction writer. He is the author of eight novels and two short story collections, including his previously Giller-nominated book Here the Dark in 2020 and The Age of Hope, which was defended by Ron MacLean on Canada Reads in 2013. Bergen received the Writer's Trust Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life in 2018.

Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein

Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein. Illustrated book cover of a small dead bird on a table. Black and white photo of female writer's side profile.
Study for Obedience is a novel by Sarah Bernstein. (Knopf Canada, Alice Meikle)

Study for Obedience explores themes of guilt, abuse and prejudice through the eyes of its unreliable narrator. In it, a woman leaves her hometown to move to a "remote northern country" to be a housekeeper for her brother, whose wife recently decided to leave him. Soon after her arrival the community is struck by unusual events from collective bovine hysteria to a potato blight. When the locals direct their growing suspicions of incomers at her their hostility grows more palpable.

Bernstein is a Montreal-born author and creative writing teacher. Her other books include her 2021 novel The Coming Bad Days and her collection of prose poems Now Comes the Lightning. Study for Obedience is also longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. Bernstein was named one of Granta's best young British novelists in 2023. She currently lives in Scotland.

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

A black, white and orange book cover with stylized text and the book's author, a blond woman wearing a navy coat looking off into the distance.
Birnam Wood is a book by New Zealand author Eleanor Catton. (McClelland & Stewart)

Birnam Wood is an engaging eco-thriller set in the middle of a landslide in New Zealand. Mira, the founder of a guerilla gardening collective that plants crops amid other criminal environmental activities, sets her sights on an evacuated farm as a way out of financial ruin. The only problem is the American billionaire Robert Lemoine has already laid claim to it as his end-of-the-world lair. After the same thing for polar opposite reasons, their paths cross and Robert makes Mira an offer that would stave off her financial concerns for good. The question is: can she trust him? 

Catton is a London, Ont.-born New Zealand author. She won the 2013 Booker Prize for fiction and the 2013 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction for her second novel, The Luminaries.

LISTEN | Eleanor Catton speaks with CBC's Gloria Macarenko before her visit to the Vancouver Writer's Fest:
She speaks with Gloria Macarenko before her visit to the Vancouver Writer's Fest.

The Double Life of Benson Yu by Kevin Chong

A red book cover featuring the title with large yellow text and a photo of the author, a man with short black hair and glasses wearing a red plaid shirt.
The Double Life of Benson Yu is a book by Kevin Chong. (Simon & Schuster, Iris Chia)

The Double Life of Benson Yu recounts the difficult adolescence of the titular character growing up in a housing project in 1980s Chinatown. The story takes a metafictional twist, when Yu's grip on memory and reality falters. The unique structure provides a layered and poignant look into how we come to terms with who we are, what happened to us as children, and that finding hope and healing lies in whether we choose to suppress or process our experiences.

Chong is a Vancouver-based writer and associate professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. His other books include the nonfiction book Northern Dancer and fiction titles like The Plague and Beauty Plus Pity. He was longlisted for the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize.

LISTEN | Kevin Chong talks about his new novel with Ryan B. Patrick on The Next Chapter summer edition:
Ryan B. Patrick interviews Kevin Chong about his new novel about a writer who loses control of his narrative.

The Clarion by Nina Dunic

A blue book cover with white text with a texture treatment over it to make it look like a 1960s comics.
The Clarion is a novel by Nina Dunic. (Invisible Publishing)

The Clarion is a debut novel about two siblings struggling to find a sense of purpose and belonging. Peter is a trumpet player and kitchen staff and his sister Stasi is making her attempt to work in corporate which ultimately leads to therapy. As the siblings endure the many trials and tribulations of their generation like promotions and absent lovers, can they find their sense of self and keep their connection strong?

Dunic is a freelance writer and journalist living in Scarborough, Ont. She has been longlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize four times: in 2023 for The Artist, in 2022 for Youth, in 2020 for Bodies and in 2019 for an earlier version of Bodies. The Clarion is her first novel.

We Meant Well by Erum Shazia Hasan

A light blue book cover with an illustration of an orange flower. A black and white photo of a woman with long hair, resting her head on her hand.
We Meant Well is a book by Erum Shazia Hasan. (ECW Press, Genevieve Caron)

We Meant Well is a novel that poses a difficult moral dilemma for its protagonist, Maya, an aid worker who must decide who to believe when her coworker at the orphanage, Marc, is accused of assaulting her former protégé, Lele. Caught between worlds with protests raging outside the orphanage, Maya must also balance the fate of the organization against the accusations. Navigating around these variables provides both challenge and insight as the complexity of the situation reveals the character of everyone involved. 

Hasan is a Toronto-based writer and a sustainable development consultant for various UN agencies. We Meant Well is her debut novel.

The Islands: Stories by Dionne Irving

The Islands by Dionne Irving. Illustrated book cover of palm leaves on a metal roof sheet.
The Islands is a collection of stories by Dionne Irving. (Catapult Books, Myriam Nicodemus)

Set across the United States, Jamaica and Europe from the 1950s to present day, The Islands details the migration stories of Jamaican women and their descendants. Each short story explores colonialism and its impact as women experience the on-going tensions between identity and the place they long to call home. 

Irving is a writer and creative writing teacher from Toronto. She released her first novel, Quint in 2021 and her work has been featured in journals and magazines like LitHub, Missouri Review and New Delta Review. The Islands is her debut short story collection.

Wait Softly Brother by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

A yellow book cover featuring a glass doorknob. A photo of the book's author, a woman with shoulder-length gray hair.
Wait Softly Brother is a book by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer. (Wolsak & Wynn, Ken Woroner)

After Kathryn leaves her long and tumultuous marriage she returns to her childhood home to write about her stillborn brother. Wait Softly Brother is a novel which weaves together family histories and traumas as Kathryn unearths the story of an ancestor who fought in the American Civil War. As she begins to question her memory and that of her parents, Kathryn weaves together stories of surprising beauty and hope. 

Kuitenbrouwer is a writer and teacher at the University of Toronto. Her other novels include All Broken Things and The Nettle Spinner which was shortlisted for the 2005 Amazon First Novel Award. She currently lives in Prince Edward County, Ont.

The Rooftop Garden by Menaka Raman-Wilms

The Rooftop Garden by Menaka Raman-Wilms. Illustrated book cover of a tall apartment building with greenery on the roof. Portrait of the author.
The Rooftop Garden is a novel by Toronto based writer and journalist Menaka Raman-Wilms. (Harbour Publishing, Fred Lum)

The Rooftop Garden follows Nabila and her childhood friend Matthew, who played on Nabila's rooftop garden in an imaginary world that has flooded from climate change. Nabila comes from an educated, middle-class family, while Matthew had been abandoned by his father and was often left to deal with things on his own. Their childhood experiences reveal how their lives are on different trajectories, even at an early stage.

Raman-Wilms is a writer and journalist based in Toronto. She's the host of The Decibel, the daily news podcast from the Globe and Mail. She's also worked as a parliamentary reporter for the Globe and as an associate producer at CBC Radio One. Raman-Wilms was shortlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize for her story Black Coffee.

All The Colour In The World by CS Richardson

All the Colour in the World by CS Richardson. Book cover shows a black and white image of people walking by a building on a road in the snow. Black and white portrait of the author wearing glasses and a scarf.
All the Colour in the World is a novel by CS Richardson. (Knopf Canada, Jeff Cheong)

All the Colour In the World is a story of a young boy named Henry who discovers a passion for art which carries him through the many misadventures of his life in the 20th century. From his first set of colouring pencils he is gifted at his grandmother's place to the worlds of academia, war and sweeping romance, Henry's art stays alongside his enduring story.

Richardson is a Toronto-based writer and award-winning book designer. His previous novels include The End of the Alphabet which won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book and The Emperor of Paris which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2012. 

LISTEN | CS Richardson takes The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire:
C.S. Richardson, author of the novel All the Colour in the World, takes The Next Chapter Proust questionnaire.

We Have Never Lived on Earth by Kasia Van Schaik

We Have Never Lived on Earth by Kasia Van Schaik. Illustrated book cover of a sculpted white face. Portrait of the author.
We Have Never Lived on Earth is a short story collection by Kasia Van Schaik. (University of Alberta Press, Greg Sides)

We Have Never Lived on Earth is a short story collection following the tale of Charlotte Ferrier, raised by a single mother in small town B.C. after immigrating from South Africa. Focusing on themes of ecological crisis and womanhood, Charlotte and her mother endure forest fires, disappearances and memories which transform them.

Van Schaik is a South African poet and writer living in Montreal. We Have Never Lived On Earth is her first story collection. In 2021, she was named one of the CBC Quebec Writers' Federation writers-in-residence.

Girlfriend on Mars by Deborah Willis

A composite photo of a book cover featuring an astronaut standing on the surface of Mars and the book's author, a blond woman in a black blazer staring into the camera.
Girlfriend on Mars is a novel by Deborah Willis. (Hamish Hamilton,

Girlfriend on Mars is a story about love in the age of commercial space travel. Amber Kivinen is one of 23 reality TV contestants vying for two spots aboard the first commercial trip to Mars aboard MarsNow, a space shuttle commissioned by the billionaire Geoff Task. Amber is surrounded by a cast of unlikely characters, including an Israeli soldier and social media influencers, while her long-term partner, Kevin, stays at home with the plants and starts to wonder: why does his girlfriend feel such a desire to leave the planet?

Willis is a writer from Calgary. She debuted in 2009 with Vanishing and Other Stories which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award. She followed it up with a collection of short fiction entitled The Dark and Other Love Stories in 2017, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Georges Bugnet Award for best work of fiction published in Alberta.

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