Canada Reads

7 things to read, watch and listen to if you loved American War

If you're inspired by the Canada Reads finalist Omar El Akkad, here are some books, movies and music to check out.
Omar El Akkad's novel American War will be defended by Tahmoh Penikett on Canada Reads 2018. (CBC)

American War by Omar El Akkad follows Sarat Chestnut, a character who grows up during a second American Civil War spurred by a ban on fossil fuels. 

American War will be defended by actor Tahmoh Penikett on Canada Reads 2018. The debates, which will be hosted by Ali Hassan, take place March 26-29, 2018.

If you've read American War, here are seven books, films and albums you should also check out. 

Read: The Mercy Journals by Claudia Casper

The Mercy Journals is Claudia Casper's third novel. ( Pulp Press)

Claudia Clasper's novel takes readers to a third world war where an environmental apocalypse has left few survivors. A former soldier begins to doubt his moral code as he journeys deeper into this hostile setting to rescue his children, who are rumoured to be alive. The Mercy Journals won the 2016 Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction. 

Read: Embassytown by China Miéville

Embassytown is China Miéville's fifth stand-alone novel. (Kate Eshelby/Del Rey)

Language is a colonial weapon in China Miéville's award-winning novel Embassytown. The way characters speak determines their rank in a complex society where humans coexist with Indigenous races. Things change when the Indigenous population learns to speak the way colonizers do and realizes the society has been ruling through a language built on lies. 

Read: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for his novel The Sympathizer. (Bebe Jacobs, Grove Press)

The story of a double-agent navigating the aftermath of the Vietnam War won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The plot centres on a captain whose political loyalties begin to unravel along with his sense of identity once he becomes ensnared in the world of espionage. 

Read: CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline is a collection of stories by Man Booker Prize-winning author George Saunders. (David Crosby/Random House)

George Saunders's CivilWarLand in Bad Decline is a collection of six short stories and a novella that bizarrely imagines the future as one taken over by theme parks for the upper class while the poor are paraded as the main attractions. 

Watch: Incendies

As a film, Incendies unfolds as a human drama. The Canadian story, based on Wajdi Mouawad's similarly-titled play, uncovers a mother's radical past during a civil war between Christian nationalists and Muslims. As her children piece together this personal plot, they realize the family ties they shared are no longer what they once were. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for foreign language film in 2011.

Watch: Last Night

The apocalypse comes to Canada in director Don McKellar's Last Night. In this film, after people get over the initial chaos, a group of Toronto locals use the end times to either explore lifelong fantasies or continue their daily routine until time runs out. This low-key, human approach to the 'what if' situation was celebrated at the 1998 Cannes International Film Festival with the Award of the Youth, Foreign Film.

Listen: Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

What does doom sound like? The Canadian group Godspeed You! Black Emperor offers Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! as an answer. The album, which won the 2013 Polaris Music Prize, uses stringed instruments to create a melancholic mood that would not be out of place in any of the fictional worlds listed above. Above listen to Their Helicopters Sing, the second song on their album.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?