23 Canadian books for the memoir lover this holiday season
Books make great gifts for everyone! Here are 23 Canadian titles for those who love reading about other people's lives.
In this collection of essays, actor, screenwriter and director Sarah Polley reflects on the pieces of her life and the fallibility of memory. From stage fright to high risk childbirth, Polley contemplates these events and how she remembers them. In struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, she must retrain her mind to find a new path forward.
Run Towards the Danger is a book about learning, changing and what it's like to live in one's body.
Polley is an Oscar-nominated Canadian actor, screenwriter and director. Her first feature-length film, Away from Her, was adapted from the Alice Munro story The Bear Came Over the Mountain and was nominated for the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Her other films include Stories We Tell and Take This Waltz.
LISTEN | Sarah Polley reflects on her life and career:
After Ed O'Loughlin hears that an old friend has died young, he begins to rethink his life. In his search for meaning, O'Loughlin reflects on his early days, young love, the journalists and photographers with whom he covered wars in Africa and the Middle East, the suicide of his brother, his new life as an author and the mysteries of memory, aging, and loss.
O'Loughlin is a Toronto-born author and journalist. His other books include the novels Not Untrue and Not Unkind, This Eden, and Minds of Winter, which was a finalist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
LISTEN | Ed O'Loughlin discusses The Last Good Funeral of the Year on The Next Chapter:
In We Were Dreamers, Simu Liu details his journey from China to Canada to Hollywood, where he becomes the star of Marvel's first Asian superhero film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Born in China, Liu's parents brought him to Canada when he was just four years old. As he grows up, he gets top marks in school, participates in national math competitions and makes his parents proud. But less than a year out of college and disillusioned with the life laid out for him, Liu is determined to carve out his own path.
Liu is an actor and writer best known for his work on Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience. He lives in Los Angeles and Toronto.
LISTEN | Why Simu Liu is sharing his story now:
In her memoir, Martha Wainwright reflects on her tumultuous public life, her competitive relationship with her brother and the loss of her mother. She writes about finding her voice as an artist, becoming a mother herself and making peace with the past. Stories I Might Regret Telling You offers a thoughtful and deeply personal look into the life of one of the most talented singer-songwriters in music today.
Wainwright is a Canadian musician and artist. She is the daughter of folk legends Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III and sister of singer Rufus Wainwright. She lives in Montreal.
LISTEN | Why Martha Wainwright is sharing her family's story:
In his memoir, Elamin Abdelmahmoud recounts his experience leaving his native Sudan and moving to Kingston, Ont. Like all teens, he spent his adolescence trying to figure out who he was, but he had to do it while learning to balance a new racial identity and all the assumptions that came with being Black and Muslim. Son of Elsewhere explores how our experiences and environments can define our identity and who we truly are.
Abdelmahmoud is the host of CBC's weekly pop culture podcast Pop Chat, co-host of CBC's political podcast Party Lines and a frequent culture commentator for CBC News. He will host the upcoming CBC Radio show Commotion. He's a culture writer for BuzzFeed News, where he also writes Incoming, the daily morning newsletter.
LISTEN | How Canada became home for Elamin Abdelmahmoud:
Namwayut follows Chief Robert Joseph — the Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk and a globally recognized peace-builder — as he takes readers on a journey, starting with his childhood surviving residential school to his current role as a leader. Chief Joseph teaches readers about honour and respect for the truth of stories, so they can discover how to dismantle the walls of discrimination, hatred and racism.
Robert Joseph is a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk People, an Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and the Chair of the Native American Leadership Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation. He received the 2016 Indspire Lifetime Achievement Award.
LISTEN | Chief Robert Joseph reflects on his life and legacy:
Ducks is an autobiographical graphic novel that recounts author Kate Beaton's time spent working in the Alberta oil sands. With the goal of paying off her student loans, Katie leaves her tight-knit seaside Nova Scotia community and heads west, where she encounters harsh realities, including the everyday trauma that no one discusses.
Kate Beaton is a cartoonist from Nova Scotia who launched her career by publishing the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant online. The sassy historical webcomic gained a following of 500,000 monthly visitors and was eventually turned into a bestselling book. Beaton's success continued with the comic book Step Aside, Pops!, which landed on the New York Times bestseller list and garnered Beaton the 2016 Eisner Award for best humour publication. Beaton has also published two children's books, King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.
LISTEN | Kate Beaton discusses Ducks with Shelagh Rogers:
The latest book from storyteller and novelist Wayne Johnston is a sad, tender and funny memoir of his childhood in Newfoundland. At seven years old, Johnston was sick and too skinny. He had insomnia and a cough that wouldn't go away, despite the doctors removing his tonsils, adenoids and appendix in an effort to cure him. Jennie's Boy, named after Johnston's mother, is his tribute to his family and a community that were incredibly protective, but also tired of making allowances for him.
Wayne Johnston is a writer from Newfoundland. His novels include The Divine Ryans, A World Elsewhere, The Custodian of Paradise, The Navigator of New York and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. His 1999 memoir Baltimore's Mansion won him the RBC Taylor Prize. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a 2003 Canada Reads finalist, when it was defended by now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His most recent novel is The Mystery of Right and Wrong.
LISTEN | Wayne Johnston talks to Shelagh Rogers about Jennie's Boy:
In this comedic memoir, Canadian comedian Ali Hassan looks back at growing up as a chameleon. He had friends from multiple different countries and religions, but also played hockey and knew Neil Young songs. He could blend in everywhere. But the world — and his Muslim Pakistani family and community — has a funny way of reminding you who you are. In Is There Bacon in Heaven?, Hassan shares his life-long journey to becoming a cultural Muslim, learning to embrace his heritage while following his passions.
Ali Hassan is a Canadian actor, comedian, host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud and frequent guest host of Q and As It Happens. He is also the host of Canada Reads. He has recurring roles on the television series Run the Burbs, Odd Squad and Working Moms. He's performed at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and Toronto and his solo show, Muslim, Interrupted, was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
LISTEN | Why Ali Hassan is sharing his story:
Known to the world as Chandler Bing from the beloved sitcom Friends, Matthew Perry reflects on his life, from his childhood in a less-than-perfect family to behind the scenes of the hit sitcom to his struggles with addiction and eventual recovery in his memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. Now, having found peace in his sobriety, Perry uses humour and heart to share stories about the lessons and people he's come across along the way, including a closer look at the real-life friendships he maintains with his Friends cast mates.
Perry is a Canadian American actor, executive producer and comedian. He is best known for playing Chandler Bing on the hit television sitcom Friends.
LISTEN | Why Matthew Perry wants to be known for more than Friends:
The co-creator and executive producer of the long-running television series Degrassi, Linda Schuyler shares her personal stories about what it took to make it as a woman entrepreneur in the independent Canadian television industry of the early 1980s in her memoir The Mother of All Degrassi. Through sharing stories, insights and some behind-the-scenes memories from the Degrassi set, Schuyler reflects on the lessons she learned along the way.
Linda Schuyler is the executive producer and co-creator of over 500 episodes of the multi-award-winning Degrassi television franchise. She is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. She lives in Toronto.
LISTEN | Linda Schuyler reflects on the lasting influence of Degrassi:
Wes Hall's memoir No Bootstraps When You're Barefoot traces his childhood in Jamaica where he was raised by his grandmother and experienced abuse at the hands of his mother to his move to Canada where he eventually went on to become a major entrepreneur and philanthropist. Starting out in a law firm mail room, Hall's resilience paved the way for his life as a business leader while the roadblocks he faced, including racism and discrimination, forged his commitment to justice.
Hall is a Jamaican-Canadian business leader and business school instructor. His podcast, Between Us with Wes Hall, features conversations on systemic racism with leaders of colour. He is the founder of the anti-Black racism initiative BlackNorth and one of the investors on the hit CBC series Dragons' Den.
LISTEN | Why it's important for Wes Hall to give back to the Black business community:
William Shatner, the beloved star of Star Trek, reflects on nearly nine decades of exploring the world with a sense of wonder and awe. In heartfelt, often funny essays, Shatner shares the stories of his life and the insights he has gleaned along the way.
Shatner is the author of nine Star Trek novels, including The Ashes of Eden and The Return. He is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Get a Life! and I'm Working on That.
Joshua Brandon is a director, producer and writer.
LISTEN | William Shatner reflects on life at 90:
Dancing in Small Spaces is the story of a marriage. In 2011, Leslie Davidson and her husband, Lincoln Ford, were finding adventure in their retirement through the outdoors, travelling and preparing to be grandparents. Then, when Lincoln started experiencing confusion and Leslie experienced tremors in her body, a double diagnosis of Lewy body dementia and Parkinson's disease transformed the couple's lives. In Dancing in Small Spaces, Davidson documents the years following the diagnoses, including navigating how to care and be cared for, reckoning with the physical symptoms and community support. In Dancing in Small Spaces, she writes her way through the emotional turmoil, sharing the lessons she learned along the way about herself and the man she loved, in a bid to move toward understanding and acceptance.
Residential school survivor Eli Baxter is among the last fluent speakers of Anishinaabemowin, an Anishinaabe language. In Aki-Wayn-Zih, Baxter looks at the history of the Anishinaabeg and their relationship with the land since the beginning of their life on Turtle Island. He brings together thousands of years of history with his personal story, growing up on the land, trapping and fishing, and his experience being forced to attend residential school. Aki-Wayn-Zih is about the importance of spirituality, language, history and of sharing stories.
Baxter is a residential school survivor and certified Ontario teacher. Aki-wayn-zih is his first book.
LISTEN | Eli Baxter reacts to winning the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction:
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.
LISTEN | Maude Barlow reflects on a life of activism:
Suzanne Barr began her journey to become a chef when she was 30 years old. After her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Suzanne moved home to Florida to care for her, but she didn't know how to cook. My Ackee Tree tells the story of a woman who battles the stereotypes of being a Black female chef to become a culinary star. It is a celebration of creativity, soul searching and motherhood.
Barr is a chef, restaurateur, social advocate and author. She was one of the judges on Food Network Canada's new series, Wall of Chefs, and has a passion for local community and food security. Barr lives in Toronto.
Suzanne Hancock is the Toronto-based host and producer of Sunday Night Dinner, a podcast about cooking, food and that last meal of the weekend. She received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan.
LISTEN | Suzanne Barr on what it will take to fix the hospitality industry:
Half-Bads in White Regalia traces Cody Caetano's unique upbringing living in a rural house with his siblings after his parents split up and left them behind — his mother trying to discover her Anishinaabe roots after finding out her Sixties Scoop origin story and his Portuguese immigrant father drifting aimlessly.
Cody Caetano is a Toronto-based writer of Anishinaabe and Portuguese descent and an off-reserve member of Pinaymootang First Nation. Half-Bads in White Regalia is his first book.
LISTEN | Cody Caetano discusses Half-Bads in White Regalia with Shelagh Rogers:
Invisible Boy is a memoir by Harrison Mooney that details his adoption into an evangelical white family and navigating zealotry, paranoia and prejudice. Born to a West African mother, he was merely an infant when he was adopted. He grew up as a Black child in a fundamentalist revivalist church and was constantly abused for the colour of his skin. Twenty-five years later, his biological mom told her son the truth: she wanted to keep him. This book examines the controversial practice of transracial adoption.
Mooney is a writer and journalist who has worked for nearly a decade at the Vancouver Sun. He was born to a West African mother and adopted as an infant by a white family in British Columbia's Bible belt. He has also been published in the National Post, the Guardian, Yahoo and Macleans. Mooney lives in East Vancouver.
LISTEN | Why Harrison Mooney is sharing his story of interracial adoption:
Anais Granofsky is a Canadian woman of mixed Black American and Jewish heritage. Her parents met in the early 1970s: her father is the son of a very wealthy Toronto Jewish family; her mother is one of fifteen children from a poor Black Methodist family. The Girl in the Middle reveals how Granofsky is forced to navigate her way through issues of race, class and social standing. When she became a star on the TV series Degrassi Junior High, she came to a better understanding of her place in the world.
Granofsky is an actor, director, producer and writer. Best known for her role as Lucy Fernandez on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, she has directed and starred in a number of films. She is also developing a fictional TV series loosely based on her childhood. The Girl in the Middle is Granofsky's first book.
LISTEN | Anais Granofsky reflects on her life and career:
Chasing Rivers takes readers headfirst into the life of female whitewater guide, Tamar Glouberman, who has traversed some of the most difficult rafting rivers in North America, including in the Grand Canyon. At home on the water, Glouberman's love for rafting and paddling brought her community, friendship, romance, increasing self-confidence to overcome challenges and unfortunately, tragedy in the form of a fatal accident for one of her passengers. Navigating her guilt and love for the water, Glouberman's memoir asks deep questions about how to make a meaningful life, the potential for self-sacrifice and self-forgiveness and what it means to chase adventure around every corner.
Glouberman is an outdoor guide and a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of British Columbia. When she's not off exploring the wilderness, she can often be found in Whistler, B.C., Montreal or on Vancouver Island, B.C.
Running Down a Dream is Palmater's story about the highs, the lows, the gut instincts and the pitfalls that led her to live a unique, multi-hyphenate life, often exceeding expectations and finding success through self-belief and community support. She described herself as "a queer Mi'kmaw lawyer-turned-comic raised by bikers in rural New Brunswick" and found major success across mediums and careers. After practicing law and landing a government job, Palmater left to pursue comedy and later starred in five successful seasons of her own national TV show, hosted many radio shows, among many other appearances.
Candy Palmater was a band member of Ugpi'ganjig, a Mi'kmaw First Nation in northern New Brunswick formerly called Eel River Bar. Palmater created and hosted The Candy Show on APTN, was a regular co-host on CTV's afternoon talk show The Social and acted in various shows, including Trailer Park Boys. She also hosted The Candy Palmater Show on CBC Radio One and championed The Break by Katherena Vermette on Canada Reads 2017.
LISTEN | Remembering Candy Palmater:
Olympic soccer gold-medallist Christine Sinclair provides an in-depth look into what led her to become the top international goal scorer of all time and one of Canada's greatest athletes. She tells the stories behind some of her brightest successes and heartbreaking failures. In Playing the Long Game, Sinclair shares the wisdom gleaned from a career spent changing the game of women's sport.
An Olympic gold medallist, Sinclair is the long-time forward and captain of Canada's national soccer team and the Portland Thorns FC of the National Women's Soccer League. Born and raised in Burnaby, B.C., she now lives in Portland, Oregon.
Stephen Brunt is a Canadian writer and broadcaster with Rogers Sportsnet and the author of multiple books including Facing Ali, Searching for Bobby Orr and Gretzky's Tears.
LISTEN | Christine Sinclair reflects on life in soccer: