Books·My Life in Books

9 books that inspired Canada Reads author Eden Robinson

Actor Kaniehtiio Horn is defending Robinson's novel Son of a Trickster on Canada Reads 2020.
Eden Robinson is the author of Son of a Trickster. (CBC)

B.C. writer Eden Robinson has published novels, poems and short stories. Robinson's work, infused with dark humour, portrays the everyday lives of Indigenous people in coastal B.C. Her Kitimat-set debut novel, Monkey Beach, was nominated for the 2000 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Son of a Trickster, a coming of age novel, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2017. Robinson also received the Writers' Trust Fellowship that year.

Robinson told CBC Books that her love of literature and reading have not only helped her cope with depression, they have inspired her over the years — setting her on the path of becoming a successful writer and novelist. 

Kaniehtiio Horn is defending Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson on Canada Reads 2020.

Canada Reads 2020 will take place July 20-23.

Here are nine books Robinson loved reading. 

The Cat from Outer Space by Ted Key

The Cat From Outer Space is a novelization of the 1978 American science fiction comedy film of the same name. (Archway Paperback)

"This was a tie-in book for the Disney movie. I don't remember how old I was, but I remember following my mom and dad around and reading parts of the book to them that I thought were hilarious.

"I then did the same with my teachers — until they had enough!"

Kaniehtiio Horn & Eden Robinson discuss Son of a Trickster

CBC Books

1 year ago
Letterkenny actress Kaniehtiio Horn will defend Eden Robinson's novel Son of a Trickster on Canada Reads 2020. Ahead of the debates, the actor and author chatted about what really lies at the heart of the award-winning supernatural novel. 5:18

The Twilight of Briareus by Richard Cowper

Richard Cowper was the pen name for British science fiction and fantasy writer John Middleton Murry Jr. (DAW Books/First THUS edition)

"I was in love with 1970s science fiction books. I was obsessed with this one. It was a story about a supernova that went off close to Earth. Some aliens soon arrive, saying that they are here to rescue humanity, but they have ulterior motives.

I was in love with 1970s science fiction books. I was obsessed with this one.- Eden Robinson

"I read this book around the time when British Columbia was doing some experimental things with their education system and were changing the way English was taught in high school. I was in Grade 8, but they put me into a Grade 10 English class due to the level I was reading at. All you had to do was read books and give a report to your teachers. I was reading about one or two books a night!

"I had never been able to talk to people about books before. So I would follow my teacher around telling them, play-by-play, what I've read before. The Twilight of Briareus broke him! He said that I didn't have to read anymore for the class. He trusted that I had met the quota!"

Carrie by Stephen King

Stephen King is a bestselling author of horror fiction. Carrie was his first published novel, released in 1974. (Bertrand Langlois/AFP via Getty Images, Anchor)

"I went through a very long Stephen King phase. The first book I read of his was Carrie. This book kicked off my love of horror. So after reading this book, I went through a long period of reading horror books and watching horror movies.

Books like this helped me through some really dark periods in my life.- Eden Robinson

"It was during my teen years when I couldn't quite grasp what depression was, but horror books were close to the mood I was experiencing. Books like this helped me through some really dark periods in my life."

Haisla and Heilsuk author Eden Robinson talks about writing her second novel in a trilogy, Trickster Drift, and what she had to overcome to get here. 32:51

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is a 1970 poetry book by Michael Ondaatje. (Vintage Canada/Daniel Mordzinski)

"I went to university assuming I'd be writing Stephen King-type books. I was on that path until I read this book. This was the first book that blew my mind just from the style. 

"I was reading it obsessively — and for the next three years wrote really bad copies of it!"

Not Vanishing by Chrystos

Chrystos is a Native American poet, writer and activist of Menominee heritage. (Press Gang Publishers)

"I met Chrystos when she came to the University of Victoria on a tour in support of this book. She was the first Indigenous author I'd ever met. I went to get my book signed and hung around afterwards. She was very generous with her time. 

This book opened my eyes to the possibilities and the emotions that I can use in my writing.- Eden Robinson

"When I read her poetry collection, what I found was that she was processing a lot of the trauma and that my family was processing. I've always been told that my writing should be angry. But she was allowing herself to have all the emotions.  

"This book opened my eyes to the possibilities and the emotions that I can use in my writing.  I could be angry about stuff — that was okay — and I could still turn that into art."

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

Charlotte Roche is a English-born novelist and television personality. (Grove Press )

"Roche is tackling subject matter that is visceral. She was approaching a novel in a way that I hadn't seen a novel approached before." 

Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

Black Water is a 1992 novella by American writer Joyce Carol Oates. (Oregon State University, Plume)

In terms of literary structure that I loved, it would have to be Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates. Black Water had a structure that I have tried to emulate and just can't quite do it yet. It has a wonderful spiral structure. ​​​​​

The Break by Katherena Vermette & There There by Tommy Orange

Katherena Vermette's The Break was defended by Candy Palmater on Canada Reads 2017. Tommy Orange's There There was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. (House of Anansi Press, KC Adams, McClelland & Stewart, CBC)

"The next writing project I'm going to tackle has multiple narrators. So I am reading a lot of novels that have multiple narrators just to see what they're doing. All of my fiction has been from a first person or third person limited omniscient — and I've tackled a multiple narrator structure a couple of times now and it just didn't work. 

The next writing project I'm going to tackle has multiple narrators. So I am reading a lot of novels that have multiple narrators just to see what they're doing.- Eden Robinson

"So I recently was reading The Break by Katherena Vermette and There There by Tommy Orange. They both have a tense sole event, but they spiral around them in different ways."

Eden Robinson's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

The Canada Reads 2020 contenders

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