Books

33 Canadian books that won awards in the second half of 2018

Canadian writers have been busy collecting awards this fall.

Canadian writers have been busy collecting awards this fall. Here's a round-up of some prize-winning literature from the second half of 2018. You can check out the award-winning books from the first half of 2018 here.

Fiction | Nonfiction | Poetry | Children's books and YA | Cookbooks

Fiction

Descent into Night by Edem Awumey, translated by Phyllis Aronoff & Howard Scott

Descent into Night was translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott. (Talonbooks/Mawenzi)

What it's about: Descent into Night follows a playwright named Ito Baraka who, in his final days, furiously documents the hardships that have shaped him. In his native land, an unnamed West African country, Baraka was imprisoned in a camp and tortured for distributing leaflets with Samuel Beckett quotes. He owes his life to his cellmate, an wise old teacher named Koli Lem, with whom he shared a love for literature. The original French edition by Edem Awumey, Explication de la nuit, received rave reviews from literary critics. 

It won: The Governor General's Literary Award for translation, an annual $25,000 prize for the best French-to-English text of the year.

The Bone Mother by David Demchuk

David Demchuk's horror novel was on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. (David Demchuk)

What it's about: David Demchuk's debut book is a collection of connected short horror stories. Set on the Ukrainian/Romanian border, the book tells the story of the last mythical creatures of eastern Europe and the upcoming war that foretells their doom.

It won: The adult fiction category of the Sunburst Award for excellence in Canadian literature of the fantastic, an annual $1,000 fantasy prize.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan is a Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novelist. (Canadian Press, HarperCollins)

What it's about: Washington Black follows an 11-year-old boy known as "Wash" who is enslaved on a Barbados sugar plantation. His master is Englishman Christopher Wilde, who is obsessed with developing a machine that can fly. When a man is killed, Wilde must choose between his family and saving Black's life — and the choice results in an epic adventure around the world for Wash.

It won: The Scotiabank Giller Prize, a $100,000 award given to the best Canadian fiction book of the year.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Laurie Gelman is a former journalist and the author of the comic novel Class Mom. (Michael Gelman/St. Martin's Press)

What it's about: Laurie Gelman's debut novel follows the ups and downs of a mother who has signed up for class parent duty, only to get caught up with tricky school politics and endless requests for baked goods. 

It won: The fiction category of the Vine Awards, a $10,000 prize recognizing Canadian literature authored by Jewish writers or on Jewish subjects.

The Red Word by Sarah Henstra

The Red Word is Sarah Henstra's first work of adult fiction. (Grove Press, ECW Press)

What it's about: The Red Word follows Karen, a college sophomore whose closest friends and roommates — a group of strong-willed intellectual feminists — are at odds with her fraternity brother boyfriend. Karen loves the cerebral debates she has at home with her roommates, as well as the raucous parties at her boyfriend's fraternity house. Caught up in both worlds, Karen inadvertently becomes part of her roommates's elaborate plan to expose rape culture at the fraternity and is haunted by the outcome.

It won: The Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, an annual $25,000 prize given to the year's best work of Canadian fiction. 

Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page

Kathy Page's latest book is the novel Dear Evelyn. (Biblioasis, Billie Woods)

What it's about: Dear Evelyn tells the story of a wartime romance in England that leads to a long and troubled marriage. The novel was inspired by letters the author's father sent to his wife while serving in the Second World War.

It won: The Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, a $50,000 award that celebrates Canadian fiction.

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson's latest novel, Son of a Trickster, is the first title in a trilogy. (Knopf/Mark Raynes Roberts)

What it's about: Jared is many things: a compassionate 16-year-old, maker of famous weed cookies, caretaker of his elderly neighbours, son of an unreliable father and unhinged, though loving in her way, mother. As Jared ably cares for those around him — in between instances of getting black-out drunk — he shrugs off the magical and strange happenings that follow him around. 

It won: The adult fiction category of Copper Cylinder Award for Canadian literature of the fantastic, an annual award voted on by members of the Sunburst Award Society, a collective of fantasy writers and enthusiasts.

Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom by Jordan Tannahill​

Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom is a collection of two plays written by playwright, author and theatre director Jordan Tannahill. (Alejandro Santiago/Playwrights Canada Press)

What it's about: Jordan Tannahill revisits and reframes the historic and the mythic with Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom, a collection of two plays. The first work visits famed artist Sandro Botticelli as he paints the masterpiece that is The Birth of Venus, to examine the sexual and political politics that were at play. In Sunday in Sodom, Tannahill places the Biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the present day, looking at Lot's wife and what transpired during that fateful event.

It won: The Governor General's Literary Award for drama, an annual $25,000 award given to the best play of the year.

Nonfiction

All Things Consoled by Elizabeth Hay

All Things Consoled is a memoir by Elizabeth Hay. (Mark Fried, McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: All Things Consoled documents the decline of Elizabeth Hay's formidable parents: her mother Jean, a financially prudent painter and her father Gordon, a schoolteacher with an short fuse. As the Hays age and their eldest daughter takes on the role of primary caregiver, old resentments rise to the surface, eventually giving way to greater understanding.

It won: The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, a $60,000 award given to the year's best work of nonfiction.

Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod

Mamaskatch is a memoir by Darrel J. McLeod. (Ilja Herb, Douglas & McIntyre)

What it's about: Darrel J. McLeod's Mamaskatch is a memoir of his chaotic childhood and adolescence, mostly spent in the care of his fierce Cree mother, Bertha. McLeod describes vivid memories of moose stew and wild peppermint tea, surrounded by siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Though he experienced racism and abuse from non-Indigenous teachers, students and caregivers, McLeod learned from his mother, a residential school survivor, to be proud of his heritage.

It won: The Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction, an annual $25,000 award given to the best work of nonfiction of the year.

Our Vanishing Glaciers by Robert William Sandford

Our Vanishing Glaciers is a nonfiction book by Robert William Sandford. (Lane Anderson Awards)

What it's about: Sandford, the EPCOR Chair for Water and Climate Security at United Nations University, writes about and photographs the Columbia Icefield in his award-winning book Our Vanishing Glaciers. He estimates that as many as 300 glaciers may have disappeared in the Canadian Rocky Mountains since 1920 as a result of climate change.

It won: The adult category of the Lane Anderson Awards, an annual $10,000 science writing prize.

Siberian Exile by Julija Šukys

Siberian Exile is a nonfiction book by Julija Šukys. (University of Nebraska Press/Shane Epping)

What it's about: Julija Šukys digs into her family's complicated history with the Second World War. Her grandmother was arrested by three Red Army soldiers in June 1941 and sent to live in Siberia for 17 years, away from her husband and children. As Šukys looks deeper into her grandparents's story of separation and reunion, she discovers a dark family secret.

It won: The nonfiction category of the Vine Awards, a $10,000 prize recognizing Canadian literature authored by Jewish writers or on Jewish subjects.

The Blue Shirts by Hugues Théorêt

Hugues Théorêt, pictured above at the Vine Awards ceremony in Oct. 2018, is the author of The Blue Shirts. (University of Ottawa Press/Vine Awards/Dahlia Katz)

What it's about: Hugues Théorêt uncovers the history of fascism in Quebec, beginning with a man named Adrien Arcand and his Parti national social chrétien. Arcand was a fanatic anti-semite and led a group called The Blue Shirts, whose members wore swastikas on their military uniforms. Arcand was later sent to prison.

It won: The history category of the Vine Awards, a $10,000 prize recognizing Canadian literature authored by Jewish writers or on Jewish subjects.

The Patch by Chris Turner

Chris Turner is the author of The Patch: The People, Pipelines and Politics of the Oil Sands. (Simon & Schuster, Ashley Bristowe)

What it's about: The Patch explores the politics and people involved with the development Fort McMurray and the northern Alberta oilsands. Turner documents the history of a boomtown turned into a battleground of economic vs. environmental ideologies, examining both local and international perspectives. 

It won: The National Business Book Award, a $30,000 award for a Canadian business book of nonfiction.

Vij by Vikram Vij

Vij is a memoir by Vikram Vij. (CBC)

What it's about: Vikram Vij's culinary career began with a handful of traditional Indian spices his mother tucked into his suitcase when he left his homeland as a 19-year-old to study hotel management in Austria. He was working in a kitchen when a manager of the Banff Springs Hotel walked into the restaurant and requested a spicy meal. Vij ran upstairs, grabbed a few spices and created an unforgettable dish that would change the course of his life. The chef and restaurateur's life and career are the focus of his new book

It won: Gold in the culinary narratives category at the Taste Canada Awards, which honours Canadian food writing.

Poetry

Wayside Sang by Cecily Nicholson

Cecily Nicholson is the author of the poetry collection Wayside Sang. (Liam Britten/CBC/Talonbooks)

What it's about: Cecily Nicholson takes a researched look at the landscape of the African diaspora in this poetic account of economy travel on Canadian and U.S. roadways. Crossing bridges and passing through tunnels in the Great Lakes region and beyond, Nicholson explores how migration, trauma and her own family history were shaped by transportation infrastructure and geography.

It won: The Governor General's Literary Award for poetry, an annual $25,000 prize given to the year's best work of poetry.

YA/Children's literature

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier

Jonathan Auxier is the author of Sweep. (Puffin Canada)

What it's about: Set in Victorian London, Sweep revolves around a young orphan girl named Nan who sweeps chimneys for a dangerous and hardscrabble living. Nan nearly perishes in a deadly chimney fire, but is saved when a piece of charcoal comes to life as a mysterious golem-like creature. Together, the two hatch a plan to rescue young orphan chimney sweeps from losing their lives on the job for cruel masters.

It won: The Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text, an annual $25,000 prize.

Scion of the Fox by S.M. Beiko

Scion of the Fox is a novel by S.M. Beiko. (Teri Hofford/ECW Press)

What it's about: S.M. Beiko's novel is about an orphaned high school student named Roan Harken whose life is changed when a fox spirit saves her life. Roan must master an ancient mysterious power in order to take on a snake-monster named Zabor, who lives in the frozen Assiniboine River and craves a blood sacrifice.

It won: It tied for the young adult category of Copper Cylinder Award for Canadian literature of the fantastic, an annual award voted on by members of the Sunburst Award Society, a collective of fantasy writers and enthusiasts.

Biometrics by Maria Birmingham, illustrated by Ian Turner

Biometrics is a nonfiction children's book by Maria Birmingham, illustrated by Ian Turner. (Lane Anderson Awards)

What it's about: Written for readers aged 8 to 12, Biometrics is about the science of using the body to identify a person. This includes well-known techniques like fingerprinting and retinal scanning, but also unusual methods that rely on ear shape, scent, vein pattern and more. 

It won: The children's category of the Lane Anderson Awards, an annual $10,000 science writing prize.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale

#NotYourPrincess is an anthology of art, essays, interviews and poetry edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. (lisacharleyboy.com/Annick Press/marybethleatherdale.com)

What it's about: #NotYourPrincess highlights the voices of Native American women across North America, using poetry, essay writing, interviews and art to explore their experiences. Writers look back at the past, clouded by colonial trauma, and envision a hopeful future through the lens of their own lives.

It won: The Norma Fleck Award for Canadian children's nonfiction, a $10,000 prize.

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

The Hanging Girl is a novel by Eileen Cook. (eileencook.com)

What it's about: Skye Thorn may not be a real psychic, but she has a gift for understanding people well enough to give them a believable tarot card reading. When the police seek out her help, Skye is happy to oblige — until a kidnapping prank goes horribly wrong.

It won: The John Spray Mystery Award, an $5,000 prize for mystery books for young readers.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline's YA novel The Marrow Thieves will be defended by Jully Black. (CBC)

What it's about: Cherie Dimaline's dystopian novel follows an Indigenous teen named Frenchie and his found family, as they dodge residential school recruiters in a climate change-ravaged future North America.

It won: The YA category of the Sunburst Award for excellence in Canadian literature of the fantastic, an annual $1,000 fantasy prize, the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, a $5,000 YA book award, and the CODE Burt Award, an yearly $12,000 literary prize given to the best YA book by a First Nations, Inuit or Métis writer.

When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James

When The Moon Comes, written by Paul Harbridge and illustrated by Matt James, is about a group of kids who play hockey by moonlight on a frozen lake. (Matt James/Penguin Random House/Paul Harbridge)

What it's about: In this visually arresting tale of an evening spent playing hockey on a frozen beaver flood, creators Paul Harbridge and Matt James bring the forest to life. Readers are transported into a night filled with perfect ice, a crackling fire and the sense of anticipation that accompanies that trek into the woods for some shinny. The adventure unfolds under the magic of a full moon that will leave you craving the year's first snow fall. 

It won: The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, a $20,000 prize recognizing Canadian picture books.

Rare is Everywhere by Deborah Katz

Rare is Everywhere is a picture book by Deborah Katz. (rareiseverywhere.com)

What it's about: Deborah Katz's picture book highlights different kinds of rare animals.

It won: The children's/young adult category of the Vine Awards, an annual $10,000 prize recognizing Canadian literature by Jewish writers or on Jewish subjects.

Weave a Round Circle by Kari Maaren

Weave a Round Circle is a fantasy YA novel by Kari Maaren. (Raincoast Books)

What it's about: Freddy Duchamp puts her woes of being a high school misfit aside when her new neighbours, Josiah and Cuerva, take her on a time travelling adventure. Josiah and Cuerva are actually immortal incarnations of chaos and order in search of Three, a mortal with an important and mysterious cosmic destiny.

It won: It tied for the young adult category of Copper Cylinder Award for Canadian literature of the fantastic, an annual award voted on by members of the Sunburst Award Society, a collective of fantasy writers and enthusiasts.

Picture the Sky by Barbara Reid

Barbara Reid is an award-winning author and illustrator of children's books. (Ian Chrysler)

What it's about: Celebrated plasticine artist Barbara Reid imagines the sky above us is all its varied beauty. From sunrise to sunset, to the theatrics of northern lights and brewing storms, Picture the Sky will inspire young readers to think differently about a sight they share with other kids all over the globe. 

It won: The CBC's Fan Choice Contest, an award voted on by young readers across Canada. The winner is selected amongst the finalists of the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award.

The Assassin's Curse by Kevin Sands

The Assassin's Curse is the third in a series by Kevin Sands, featuring a resourceful, rebellious apothecary's assistant. (kevinsandsbooks.com/Aladdin)

What it's about: Christopher Rowe, an apothecary-in-training, breaks an assassin's coded message. He is sent to Paris to investigate a curse that's plagued the French throne for centuries.

It won: The Geoffrey Bilson Award for historical fiction for young people, a $5,000 prize.

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Town Is by the Sea is a picture book written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith. (Groundwood Books/Steve Farmer)

What it's about: Town Is by the Sea beautifully depicts a day in the life of a young boy living in a coastal town. Over the course of the day, the book's narrator keeps a close eye on the sea that surrounds him, while his imagination turns to the mines deep beneath it, where his father works as a coal miner. 

It won: The TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, a $50,000 prize that is the richest in Canadian children's literature.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

They Say Blue is Jillian Tamaki's first picture book. (Groundwood, Reynard Li)

What it's about: They Say Blue is an exploration of colour told from the perspective of a curious and inquisitive little girl.

It won: The Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration, an annual $25,000 prize given to the year's best picture book.

Cookbooks

Feast by Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller

Lindsay Anderson & Dana VanVeller are the writers of Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip. (Submitted by Lindsay Anderson & Dana VanVeller)

What it's about: What is Canadian cuisine? Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller travelled to every province and territory and tasted some of the unique dishes that make up this country. Their new book, Feast, compiles over 110 recipes from chefs, farmers and home cooks across Canada, as well as several of their own.

It won: Gold in the regional/cultural cookbooks category at the Taste Canada Awards, which annually recognize Canadian food writing.

Farm to Chef by Lynn Crawford

Farm to Chef is a cookbook by acclaimed Toronto chef Lynn Crawford. (Penguin Canada/Frantic Films)

What it's about: Crawford, a chef and Food Network host based in Toronto, offers 140 original recipes that incorporate fresh farmer's market fruits and vegetables divided by season. Recipes include Harvest Apple Pie, Primavera Pizza with Ramp Pesto and Zucchini Bread with Walnut-Honey Butter.

It won: Gold in the general cookbooks category at the Taste Canada Awards, which annually recognize Canadian food writing.

All the Sweet Things by Renée Kohlman

All the Sweet Things is a recipe of pastries and baked goods by Sweet Sugar Bean food blogger Renée Kohlman. (sweetsugarbean.com)

What it's about: Renée Kohlman's book of baked goods collects recipes to satisfy every sweet tooth, from muffins, cookies, cakes and pies to custards, pastries, truffles and ice cream.

It won: Gold in the single-subject cookbooks category at the Taste Canada Awards, which annually recognize Canadian food writing.

Yum & Yummer by Greta Podleski

Yum & Yummer is an award-winning cookbook by bestselling author Greta Podleski. (yumyummer.com)

What it's about: Greta Podleski's cookbook is all about flavour-packed healthy meal recipes made with ingredients easily found in grocery stories. Recipes include Honey Mustard & Herb Roasted Chicken, Peanutty Sesame Noodle Bowl and Double Chocolate Mousse Cake.

It won: Gold in the health and special diet cookbooks category at the Taste Canada Awards, which annually recognize Canadian food writing.

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