14 Canadian books to read for Earth Day 2023
Earth Day is celebrated around the world on April 22. Here's a reading list of 11 Canadian books — fiction, poetry and nonfiction — about the environment, animals, climate change and more.
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
Birnam Wood is an engaging eco-thriller set in the middle of a landslide in New Zealand. Looking to make opportunity out of a disaster, 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?
Eleanor 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.
The Book of Rain by Thomas Wharton
The Book of Rain is a science fiction novel set in a world where ghost ore, a new minable energy source much more lucrative than gold can disrupt time and space and slowly make an environment inhospitable. In one of three ghost ore hotspots in the world, the mining town of River Meadows, residents have been evacuated, except Amery Hewitt can't seem to stay away. The former resident frequently returns to River Meadows to save the animals still living in the contaminated zone. When Amery goes on another dangerous trip and doesn't return, her game designer brother, Alex, enlists the help of his mathematician friend to help get her back. All they need to do is break the laws of physics. Amery's story is one plot line of three in this mind-bending epic by Wharton.
Thomas Wharton's novel The Book of Rain is a sci-fi epic involving time, physics & environmental catastrophe
Alberta-based author Thomas Wharton has written several books, including his first novel, Icefields, which won the 1996 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in Canada and the Caribbean. Icefields was a finalist for Canada Reads 2008, when it was defended by Steve MacLean. His novel Salamander, was shortlisted for the 2001 Governor General's Award for fiction and was also a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize the same year.
Greenwood by Michael Christie
In the novel Greenwood, it's the year 2038 and most of the world has suffered from an environmental collapse. But there is a remote island with 1,000 year-old trees and Jake Greenwood works as a tour guide there. From there, the novel takes you back in time as you learn more about Jake, her family and how secrets and lies can have an impact for generations.
Greenwood was on the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist and won the 2020 Arthur Ellis Award (now the Canadian Crime Writing Awards) for best novel. Greenwood was championed by actor Keegan Connor Tracy on Canada Reads 2023.
Michael Christie is a novelist currently living in Victoria. His 2011 short story collection The Beggar's Garden won the Vancouver Book Award and was a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His 2015 novel If I Fall, If I Die won the Northern Lit Award and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller
A memoir by Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Müller, Life in the City of Dirty Water covers his entire life: from playing with toy planes as a way to escape from domestic and sexual abuse and enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; to becoming a young man who fought against racism and violence, but also spent time in juvenile prison; to becoming a committed activist. Along the way, Thomas-Müller remained tied to his Cree heritage and spirituality. This debut is a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility.
Life in the City of Dirty Water was championed by Suzanne Simard on Canada Reads 2022.
- Clayton Thomas-Müller's Canada Reads memoir Life in the City of Dirty Water is a story of hope in action
Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6 based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation located in Northern Manitoba. He's campaigned on behalf of Indigenous peoples around the world for more than 20 years, working with numerous organizations.
Parasitic Oscillations by Madhur Anand
Parasitic Oscillations examines a variety of philosophical and ethical dilemmas to inform and question. Set against the backdrop of ecological collapse, these poems draw on Madhur Anand's work in the arts and sciences and experience living between North American and Indian culture.
Madhur Anand is a poet and professor of ecology at the University of Guelph. She is the author of the A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes and This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart, which won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.
Still Hopeful by Maude Barlow
Maude Barlow counters the prevailing atmosphere of pessimism and offers lessons of hope that she has learned from a lifetime of activism. Barlow has been involved in three major movements: second-wave feminism, the battle against free trade and globalization and the fight for water justice. She emphasizes that effective activism is about building a movement and finding like-minded people rather than making the goal the focus.
Barlow is a Canadian activist and writer. She is the bestselling author of 20 books and served as the senior water advisor to the UN General Assembly. Barlow was a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right. She lives in Ottawa.
Luschiim's Plants: Traditional Indigenous Foods, Materials and Medicine by Dr. Luschiim Arvid Charlie and Nancy J. Turner
Cowichan Tribe Elder Luschiim Arvid Charlie passes down traditional teachings he received from his own Elders as a youth, his great-grandparents and members of their generation, in this book of regional plants and medicines. Luschiim's Plants collects over 140 plants — from algae and seaweeds to fungi and mushrooms, ferns and fern-allies and more — and includes their common, scientific and Hul′q′umi′num′ names, as well as where they are found and how to conserve them.
The book is nominated for the 2022 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award.
Luschiim Arvid Charlie was born in Quamichan in 1942 and lives in the Duncan, B.C. area. He began learning about plants from Elders at a young age, and has dedicated his life to learning about the natural world and sharing traditional knowledge. In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate of letters degree from Malaspina University-College for his work in protecting the environment, teaching Coast Salish culture and preserving the Hul'q'umi'num' language.
Nancy J. Turner is an award-winning ethnobotanist and professor emerita with the University of Victoria. She has authored, co-authored or co-edited over 30 books, many of which are collaborations with Indigenous communities to document and preserve traditional knowledge around plants, foods, materials and medicines. She has been adopted into Haida, Kwakwaka'wakw, Songhees and Nisga'a families.
Raccoon by Daniel Heath Justice
Raccoon is a nonfiction look at the common raccoon that examines why the animal is thriving in Canadian urban environments and how the raccoon is benefiting from climate change. Raccoon explores how they have adapted to urban life and how they are seen in some Indigenous cultures as a trickster or a transformative figure.
Daniel Heath Justice is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a professor of First Nations and Indigenous studies and English at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Badger and Why Indigenous Literatures Matter.
Chemical Valley by David Huebert
Halifax author David Huebert named his latest collection of short stories after Chemical Valley, a region in Sarnia, Ont., with a large number of plants and refineries. Many of Huebert's characters make their living from the petrochemical industry, but also see the impacts of climate change.
Huebert is the author of two poetry collections and two works of fiction. His first collection of short stories, Peninsula Sinking, won the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award and was shortlisted for the Alistair MacLeod Fiction Prize. He won the 2016 Short Story Prize for his story Enigma.
Garden Physic by Sylvia Legris
Garden Physic is a poetry collection dedicated to the joy of tending to one's garden. Using florid language and poetic verse, Garden Physic revels in the pleasures of nature, weather and colour — and how the garden functions as a place of growth and healing.
Sylvia Legris is a Saskatoon poet and author originally from Winnipeg. She has published several volumes of poetry, including The Hideous Hidden and Nerve Squall, which won the 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize and the Pat Lowther Award.
Lurch by Don McKay
Don McKay invokes "the profane wonders of the wilderness" in his poetry, exploring the awe-inspiring, often "unsayable" natural wonders of the world — from rivers and trees to lichen and birdsong. The poetry lurches with complexity, astonishment and worry, as he contemplates the human complicity in mass extinction.
Don McKay is the author of 14 books of poetry, including Strike/Slip, which won the Griffin Poetry Prize, Camber, Selected Poems and Angular Unconformity. McKay has taught poetry in universities across Canada. He currently lives in St. John's.
The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed
Premee Mohamed's novel takes place long after climate disasters have wreaked havoc around the globe. The Annual Migration of Clouds is set on the abandoned University of Alberta campus, where a community of survivors cobbles together an existence as they cope with an incurable disease.
Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and author of speculative fiction in Edmonton. Her series Beneath the Rising received nominations for the Crawford Award, British Fantasy Award, Locus Award and Aurora Award.
Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard
Biologist Suzanne Simard discovered the reality of the interconnection and intelligence of the forest. She's been able to find out that the trees are indeed whispering to each other — communicating not through the wind, but through the soil. Her new scientific memoir, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, describes her life and research.
Finding the Mother Tree was the grand prize winner for the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition and a category winner for the mountain environment and natural history award. It was also nominated for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.
Simard is a B.C.-based author and academic who grew up in Canadian forests as a descendant of loggers. She is a professor in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia. Simard championed Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller on Canada Reads 2022.
My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi
A series of strange ecological phenomena begin to occur around the world: a 2.5 mile-tall volcano emerges in New York City and sends media into a frenzy, a landslide of lemons leads to a juice boom for a company in California and a human being turns into a magical green and growing thing that aims to engulf everything in its path. The stories and narrators of John Elizabeth Stintzi's novel reflect on a variety of societal responses to ecological trauma — including a desire to capitalize on it.
John Elizabeth Stintzi is a writer from northwestern Ontario, currently based in Kansas City, Mo. Their work Selections From Junebat won the 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and the Malahat Review's 2019 Long Poem Prize. Their poetry collection, Junebat, was published in spring 2020. They are also the author of the novel Vanishing Monuments, which was a finalist for the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.
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