The best Canadian books of 2022
CBC Books has rounded up all our best books of 2022 lists in one handy place! Check out the top Canadian fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comics and kids books of the year.
Our top pick: The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr
The Sleeping Car Porter tells the story of Baxter, a Black man in 1929 who works as a sleeping car porter on a train that travels across the country. He smiles and tries to be invisible to the passengers, but what he really wants is to save up and go to dentistry school. On one particular trip out west, the train is stalled and Baxter finds a naughty postcard of two gay men. The postcard reawakens his memories and longings and puts his job in jeopardy.
The Sleeping Car Porter won the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Suzette Mayr is a poet and novelist based in Calgary. She is the author of the novels Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall, Monoceros, Moon Honey, The Widows and Venous Hum.
LISTEN | Suzette Mayr reacts to winning the Giller Prize:
Our top pick: The Power of Story by Harold R. Johnson
The Power of Story reflects on the power of storytelling — from personal narratives to historical sagas — as they relate to humanity and even how humans structure societies. In this posthumous nonfiction work, Harold R. Johnson makes a case for how stories can shape and change our lives for the better if only we are willing to employ story as the world-building tool that it is.
Johnson, a member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, was a lawyer and writer whose groundbreaking book Firewater: How Alcohol Is Killing My People (and Yours) was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. He died in February 2022.
LISTEN | Harold R. Johnson reflects on his life and legacy:
Our top pick: Ducks by Kate Beaton
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, Kate 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 book Step Aside, Pops, which won 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:
Our top pick: Nomenclature by Dionne Brand
Nomenclature by Dionne Brand collects eight volumes of the celebrated poet and author's work that were originally published between 1982 and 2010. With a critical introduction by the literary scholar and theorist Christina Sharpe, the book features a new long poem, the titular Nomenclature for the Time Being, which is a thoughtful and wide-ranging reflection on location, consciousness, time and the current state of the world.
Brand is an award-winning poet and novelist from Toronto. She won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the Trillium Book Award for her 1997 collection Land to Light On. Her collection thirsty won the 2003 Pat Lowther Award. In 2009, she served as the poet laureate of Toronto. Her novel What We All Long For won the City of Toronto Book Award in 2006. She won the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries and in 2017, she was named to the Order of Canada.
LISTEN | Dionne Brand in conversation with Margaret Drabble and Andrew O'Hagan:
Our top pick: Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
Swim Team follows middle schooler Bree as she navigates swim class. Bree is excited for her first day at her new middle school until she's stuck with the only elective class that fits her schedule, Swim 101. Swimming makes Bree sick to her stomach, but she's forced to dive headfirst into her fear. With the help of Etta, her elderly neighbour and former swim team captain, Bree becomes good at swimming. Her swimming obsessed community is counting on her to guide her school's failing swim team to a state championship, but first, they have to defy all odds and beat their rival, Holyoke Prep.
Swim Team is for ages 8 to 12.
Johnnie Christmas's graphic novel Swim Team is buoyed by themes of community, perseverance and overcoming fear
Johnnie Christmas lives in Vancouver and is a #1 New York TImes bestselling graphic novelist. He's the author of the sci-fi series Tartarus and Crema, the book Firebug and is working on three middle-grade graphic novels. He's best known for creating the Angel Catbird series with Margaret Atwood and adapting the lost Alien 3 screenplay into a graphic novel of the same name.
WATCH | Meet artist Johnnie Christmas: