The best Canadian fiction of 2020

Here are the CBC Books picks for the top Canadian fiction of the year.

Here are the picks by CBC Books for the top Canadian fiction of 2020.

Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson

Ridgerunner is a novel by Canadian author Gil Adamson. (Jean-Luc Bertini, House of Anansi)

Ridgerunner is a novel about William Moreland, the notorious thief known as Ridgerunner, as he moves through the Rocky Mountains, determined to secure financial stability for his son. His son, Jack Boulton, is trapped in a life not of his own making. Semi-orphaned and under the care of a nun, Sister Beatrice, Jack has found himself in a secluded cabin in Alberta. Little does he know, his father is coming for him. 

Ridgerunner won the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and was on the shortlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Gil Adamson is a writer and poet. Her first novel, The Outlander, won the First Novel Award and was a Canada Reads finalist in 2009, when it was championed by Nicholas Campbell. She has published several volumes of poetry, including Primitive and Ashland

Featured VideoAndré Alexis new book is Days by Moonlight. He came into studio to answer The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire.

The Night Piece by André Alexis

The Night Piece is a short story collection by André Alexis. (Chris Young/Canadian Press, McClelland & Stewart)

The Night Piece is a collection of career-spanning stories by Scotiabank Giller Prize and Canada Reads winner André AlexisAlexis draws from his previous publications, including Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa and Beauty & Sadness, as well as works that have not been previously published. 

Alexis is the author of Fifteen Dogs, which won Canada Reads 2017 and the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Days by Moonlight, which won the 2019 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Featured VideoWinnipeg author David Bergen is on the shortlist for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his short story collection Here the Dark. This segment originally aired in 2014.

Here the Dark by David Bergen

Here the Dark is a novel by David Bergen. (David Bergen, Biblioasis)

In Here the DarkDavid Bergen delivers short stories that interweave across space, exploring faith, loss and complex moral ambiguities. From Danang, Vietnam, to Honduras and the Canadian Prairies, the book collects narratives about place and heart. Here the Dark includes the story that won the 1999 CBC Short Story PrizeHow Can n Men Share a Bottle of Vodka?

Bergen is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. In 2005, his novel The Time in Between won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. His other books include The Matter with Morris, and Stranger in 2016. His novel The Age of Hope was defended by Ron MacLean on Canada Reads in 2013.

Featured VideoDennis Bock talks about the thinking behind his alternative history novel The Good German.

A Family Affair by Nadine Bismuth, translated by Russell Smith

A Family Affair is a novel written by Nadine Bismuth and translated by Russell Smith. (Julie Perreault,, House of Anansi Press)

A Family Affair is a novel that follows a 40-year-old kitchen designer named Magalie, who maintains a mutually deceptive romance with her partner Mathieu. Unexpected circumstances lead her to Guillaume, a policeman and single father. It was translated into English by Russell Smith. 

The French edition, Un lien familial, won Radio-Canada's Combat national des livres in 2020.

Nadine Bismuth is a writer from Montreal. She has published novels and short story collections. Her 2004 novel Scrapbook was translated into English in 2009. Her 2009 short story collection Êtes-vous mariée à un psychopathe was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for French-language fiction and was translated into English in 2010.

Russell Smith is a writer, journalist and translator. His books include the novels Confidence and Girl Crazy and the memoir BlindsidedA Family Affair is his first book-length translation.

The Good German by Dennis Bock

The Good German is a novel by Dennis Bock (Jaime Hogge, Patrick Crean Editions)

The Good German is a reimagined history in which, in 1939, Georg Elser succeeded in assassinating Hitler. But what unfolds is an alternate history where fascism reigns in Europe, and an atomic bomb is dropped on London, and Elser must reckon with the knowledge that his act of heroism changed the course of history — and for what end?

Dennis Bock is a writer, editor and teacher from Toronto. His novel Going Home Again was a finalist for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize. His other works include the novels The Ash Garden and The Communist's Daughter and the short story collection Olympia.

Featured VideoThe 2021 CBC Short Story Prize juror talks to Jeff Douglas about what makes a great short story.

Cascade by Craig Davidson

Craig Davidson is the author of Cascade (Knopf Canada, Kevin Kelly)

Cascade is a collection of short stories from award-winning writer Craig Davidson. The six stories are set in Davidson's hometown of Niagara Falls, known as Cataract City, and explore what it's like to try to make a life in a town that is struggling economically, where its residents feel left behind and where the glorious, touristy waterfalls distract from deep social, economic and political problems.

Davidson has published several books of literary fiction including Cataract City, which was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2013, Rust and Bone, which was made into an Oscar-nominated feature film of the same name, The Fighter, Sarah Court and The Saturday Night Ghost ClubHis memoir Precious Cargo was defended by Greg Johnson on Canada Reads 2018. 

CBC Books (Why I Write): Farzana Doctor

5 years ago
Duration 2:00
Featured VideoIn this CBC Books video series, author Farzana Doctor on why it's a great time to be a writer from a racialized or Indigenous community.

Seven by Farzana Doctor

Seven is a book by Farzana Doctor. (Dundurn)

In Seven, Sharifa accompanies her husband on a marriage-saving trip to India, and in order to research her great-great-grandfather — a business-owner and philanthropist. She is fascinated by his four wives, who are never mentioned in her family. At the same time, she tries to reach a middle ground in an ideologically-divided community. 

Farzana Doctor is a Canadian novelist and social worker. Her novels include All Inclusive and Six Metres of Pavement.

Featured VideoThe Pull of the Stars tells the story of three women — a nurse, a doctor and an activist — in war-ravaged Ireland during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Emma Donoghue spoke with Dr. Brian Goldman, host of White Coat Black Art, about the inspiration for the novel. The book was written well before the outbreak of the coronavirus, and Donoghue was surprised by the way it mirrors our current situation but relishes the opportunity to talk about the role of health-care workers in challenging times.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

The Pull of the Stars is a novel by Emma Donoghue. (Punch Photographic, HarperCollins Canada)

The Pull of the Stars, set in a war and disease-ravaged Ireland during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, tells the story of three women — a nurse, a doctor and a volunteer helper — working on the front lines of the pandemic in an understaffed maternity ward of a hospital, where expectant mothers infected with the virus are quarantined. The timely tale explores how these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways, while witnessing loss and delivering new life.

The Pull of the Stars was on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Emma Donoghue is an Irish Canadian writer. Her books include the novels LandingRoomFrog MusicThe Wonder and the children's book The Lotterys Plus One.

Featured VideoWe kick off an ongoing focus on what food can reveal about life, culture and society with Francesca Ekwuyasi, the Nigerian-Canadian novelist behind the Giller Prize longlisted novel Butter Honey Pig Bread. She speaks with Chattopadhyay about the role food plays in complex family dynamics and how cooking can be a way of expressing care, regret, desire for forgiveness, and more. For more, visit:

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel by Francesca Ekwuyasi. (Monica Phung, Arsenal Pulp Press)

Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi believes she was a spirit who was supposed to die as a small child. By staying alive, she is cursing her family — a fear that appears to come true when Kehinde experiences something that tears the family apart, and divides the twins for years. But when the three women connect years later, they must confront their past and find forgiveness.

Butter Honey Pig Bread was on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, filmmaker and visual artist. Her writing has appeared in the Malahat Review, Guts and Brittle Paper, and she was longlisted for the 2019 Journey PrizeButter Honey Pig Bread is her first book.

Featured VideoWill Ferguson's new novel The Finder follows a middle-aged travel writer.

The Finder by Will Ferguson

The Finder is a novel by Will Ferguson. (Genki Alex Ferguson, Simon & Schuster Canada)

The Finder is an adventure novel about finding things that are lost in the world. The story takes readers to Japan, Australia and New Zealand as Interpol agent Gaddy Rhodes, photographer Tamsin Greene and travel writer Thomas Rafferty unexpectedly cross paths as they track "The Finder" — a mysterious figure who believes they can find history's lost objects, such as the missing Romanov Fabergé eggs and Muhammad Ali's Olympic gold medal

Will Ferguson has written humour, travel books and fiction. He won the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his thriller 419. He has won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour three times: for his novel Generica (now titled Happiness), his Canadian travel book Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw and his travel memoir Beyond Belfast. He currently lives in Calgary. 

Featured VideoZsuzsi Gartner takes us through her award-nominated novel The Beguiling.

The Beguiling by Zsuzsi Gartner

The Beguiling is a novel by Zsuzsi Gartner. (Hamish Hamilton, Imogen Broberg-Hull)

In The Beguiling, a young woman named Lucy had dreamed of being a saint as a child. This dream may actually come true after the death of her cousin Zoltan, and Lucy becomes someone people come to in order to confess their sins. But when the confessions seem connected, Zoltan's death doesn't seem so random anymore. Lucy must then confront her own lapses as a Catholic and a human being, and figure out what is happening, before it's too late.

The Beguiling was on the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist.

Zsuzsi Gartner is a writer and journalist who currently lives in Vancouver. Her short story collection Better Living Through Plastic Explosives was a finalist for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She was a panellist on Canada Reads 2004, when she defended Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler.

Featured VideoMichelle Good on her debut novel Five Little Indians, which follows five characters after they leave residential school.

Agency by William Gibson

William Gibson is the author of several sci-fi novels, the most recent being Agency. (AP Photo, G.P.Putnam's Sons, Michael O'Shea/Berkley)

In Agencya gifted app tester meets her match when she is commissioned to beta test a highly social, and combat-savvy, "digital assistant." In an alternate timeline, in 2017 Hillary Clinton has won the presidential election over Donald Trump. Meanwhile, in London in the 22nd century disastrous events have led to 80 per cent of humanity being wiped out. 

William Gibson is a legendary Vancouver science-fiction writer. His classic 1984 novel Neuromancer, a thriller about hacking and artificial intelligence, won sci-fi's three biggest prizes: the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award and the Hugo Award.

Featured VideoCatherine Hernandez's second novel, Crosshairs, takes place in a chilling dystopian future where a fascist regime seeks to eliminate all those deemed "Other."

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Michelle Good is a writer of Cree ancestry and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. (Kent Wong, Harper Perennial)

In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie were taken from their families and sent to a residential school when they were very small. Barely out of childhood, they are released and left to contend with the seedy world of eastside Vancouver. Fuelled by the trauma of their childhood, the five friends cross paths over the decades and struggle with the weight of their shared past. 

Five Little Indians was on the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Five Little Indians is her first book.

Featured VideoThomas King talks about the autobiographical inspiration by his novel Indians on Vacation, which is longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez

Crosshairs is a book by Catherine Hernandez. (Yeemi Tang, HarperAvenue)

Crosshairs is a dystopian novel about a near-future where a queer Black performer named Kay and his allies join forces against an oppressive Canadian regime that is rounding up those deemed "Other" in concentration camps. A near-future Toronto is ravaged by climate change. It is a situation that has led to massive floods, rampant homelessness, unemployment and starvation. In this chaos, a government-sanctioned regime called the Boots seizes the opportunity to force communities of colour, the disabled and the LGBTQ2S into labour camps called workhouses in the city. 

Catherine Hernandez is a former theatre professional and daycare provider from Scarborough, Ont. She is also the author of the novel Scarboroughwhich is being adapted into a feature film. CBC Books named Hernandez a writer to watch in 2017.

Featured VideoShaena Lambert imagines the life of German politician Petra Kelly, an electrifying progressive figure in the 1980s, in her novel Petra.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society is a novel by Natalie Jenner. (, St. Martin's Press)

The Jane Austen Society is a novel about an unexpected community, and the quiet triumph and tragedies of everyday life in post-Second World War Britain. In Chawton, an English village that was the last home of iconic novelist Jane Austen, a small group of locals decide to do what they can to preserve Austen's home and legacy, and hopefully revitalize the town in the process. The group comes together in surprising ways and, despite being very different, unite through their common goal.

Natalie Jenner is a novelist based in Oakville, Ont. The Jane Austen Society is her first book.

Dominoes at the Crossroads by Kaie Kellough

Dominoes at the Crossroads is a novel by Kaie Kellough. (Pablo Riquelme, Esplanade Books/Véhicule Press)

In this collection of stories, Dominoes at the CrossroadsKaie Kellough navigates Canada's Caribbean diaspora, as they seek music and a connection to their past. Through a broad cast of characters — including jazz musicians, hitchhikers, suburbanites, student radicals, secret agents, historians and their fugitive slave ancestors — Kellough stretches the stories from Montreal's Old Port to as far as the South American rainforests. 

Kellough is a writer based in Montreal. His novel Accordéon was a finalist for the First Novel Award in 2017. He is also the author of the poetry collection Magnetic Equatorwhich is currently a finalist for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Featured VideoNovelist Annabel Lyon tells the parallel stories of two sets of sisters in her new book Consent.

Indians on Vacation by Thomas King

Indians on Vacation is a novel by Thomas King. (CBC/Sinisa Jolic, HarperCollins Publishers)

Indians on Vacation is about a couple named Bird and Mimi, who decide to travel through Europe after discovering postcards from Mimi's long-lost Uncle Leroy, who sent them while on his own European adventure almost 100 years ago.

Indians on Vacation was on the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist and was on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Thomas King is a Canadian-American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry. His books include Truth & Bright WaterThe Inconvenient IndianGreen Grass, Running Water and The Back of the Turtle. He also writes the DreadfulWater mystery series.

Featured VideoEmily St John Mandel on The Glass Hotel, her follow-up to her breakout novel Station Eleven.

Petra by Shaena Lambert

Petra is a novel by Shaena Lambert. (, Random House Canada)

Petra is a novel inspired by the life of German activist Petra Kelly. Kelly was a force in Germany in the 1980s, and was a founding member of the German Green Party, which was one of the first Green Parties to rise to prominence. It was through her work that she met her partner, a NATO general named Emil Gerhardt. It was Gerhardt who eventually murdered Kelly in 1992. Petra is the story of Kelly's rise to prominence, her influence on global politics and policy and how her relationship with Gerhardt helped her international influence but was ultimately what ended everything.

Shaena Lambert is a novelist currently living in Vancouver. Her novel Radiance was a finalist for the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. She is also the author of the short story collection Oh My Darling.

Featured VideoSilvia Moreno-Garcia's novel Mexican Gothic follows an heiress's investigation into her cousin's hasty marriage and mysterious illness.

Consent by Annabel Lyon

Consent is a book by Annabel Lyon. (Random House Canada, Phillip Chin)

In Consent, Sara becomes her intellectually disabled sister Mattie's caregiver after their mother dies. But when Sara returns home, she surprisingly finds Mattie married to her mother's handyman, Robert. Sara gets the marriage annulled, driving a wedge between herself and Mattie. When Robert re-enters their lives, Sara and Mattie get entangled with another set of sisters and their difficult relationship: twins Saskia and Jenny.

Consent was on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Annabel Lyon is a writer from Vancouver. Her novel The Golden Mean won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. Her other books include the short story collection Oxygen, the novella collection The Best Thing for You and the young adult novels All-Season Edie and Encore Edie.

Featured VideoJohn Elizabeth Stintzi talks about their novel Vanishing Monuments, which follows a photographer's return to their mother's home in Winnipeg after a 27-year absence.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel is a novel by Emily St. John Mandel. (HarperCollins, Sarah Shatz)

Emily St. John Mandel's new book, The Glass Hotelinterweaves several complex narratives. Vincent is a bartender in a prestigious hotel on Vancouver Island. When the owner — Jonathan Alkaitis — passes Vincent his card, it becomes the beginning of their story together. Meanwhile, a hooded figure scrawls a cryptic note on a wall in the hotel, and a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis — Leon Prevant — sees the note and is shaken. Thirteen years later, Vincent disappears from a Neptune-Avramidis ship. 

The Glass Hotel was on the shortlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

St. John Mandel is a New York-based Canadian writer. Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the 2015 Toronto Book Award. 

Featured VideoCordelia Strube, author of Misconduct of the Heart, takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A composite photo of a book cover featuring the silhouette of a woman in an off the shoulder marron dress and the book's author, a young woman with long hair and glasses looking at the camera.
Mexican Gothic is a novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (Del Ray, Martin Dee)

Mexican Gothic is a gothic horror novel set in 1950s Mexico. It tells the story of a young woman named Noemi who is called by her cousin to save her from doom in her countryside home, the mysterious and alluring High Place. Noemi doesn't know much about the house, the region or her cousin's mysterious new husband, but she's determined to solve this mystery and save her cousin — whatever it takes.

Mexican Gothic is in development to become a TV series for Hulu.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Canadian author, who was born and raised in Mexico. She is also the author of the novels Signal to Noise, which won the 2016 Copper Cylinder Award, Gods of Jade and Shadow and The Beautiful Ones. She is also a critic and has edited science fiction anthologies. 

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain is a book by C.L. Polk. (Erewhon Books, Mike Tan)

As Beatrice makes her debut at "bargaining season" — an annual event where wealthy young men and women gather from all over the world to make advantageous marriages — she harbours secret plans that will upend society. Rather than get married, Beatrice plans to bind a greater spirit and become a full magician. Performing the secret ritual goes against the rules of her world, which prohibits women from practicing magic while they can still bear children. With the help of the wealthy Lavan siblings, fiery Ysbeta and her handsome brother Ianthe, Beatrice searches for a way to change old patriarchal traditions. 

C.L. Polk concocts a page-turning fantasy with love, magic and rebellion swirling at the centre. The Calgary writer's previous books include the award-winning novel Witchmark and it's sequel Stormsong.

Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi

Vanishing Monuments is a book by John Elizabeth Stintzi. (Melanie Pierce, John Elizabeth Stintzi, Arsenal Pulp Press)

In Vanishing MonumentsAlani Baum has not seen their mother since they were 17 years old — almost 30 years ago. The non-binary photographer ran away from home with their girlfriend, but when their mother's dementia worsens Alani is forced to run back to her. In the face of a debilitating illness, Alani has to contend with painful memories from the past.

John Elizabeth Stinzi is a novelist, poet, teacher and visual artist. They won the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers for their work Selections From Junebat. The complete poetry collection, Junebat​​​​, was published in spring 2020. 

Misconduct of the Heart by Cordelia Strube

Misconduct of the Heart is a novel by Cordelia Strube. (Mark Raynes Roberts, ECW Press)

In Misconduct of the Heart, Stevie is a recovering alcoholic and kitchen manager who is trying hard to stop her world around her from collapsing. Her son, who is a veteran, might be succumbing to PTSD, while she tries to manage the eccentrics who work in her kitchen and acclimatize to the idea that she might have a granddaughter she never knew she had. 

Cordelia Strube is a Toronto-based writer. She has been nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award, the Trillium Book Award and longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She has written numerous books, including On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Souvankham Thammavongsa is a 2020 finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. (Scotiabank Giller Prize, McClelland & Stewart)

How to Pronounce Knife is a collection of idiosyncratic and diverse stories. Capturing the daily lives of immigrants, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures their hopes, disappointments, trauma and acts of defiance. From a young man painting nails in a salon, to a housewife learning English from soap-operas, How to Pronounce Knife navigates tragedy and humour. 

How to Pronounce Knife won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Thammavongsa is a writer and poet. Her stories have won an O. Henry Award and appeared in Harper'sGrantaThe Paris Review and NOON. She has published four books of poetry, including 2019's Cluster

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Hench is a book by Natalie Zina Walschots. (HarperCollins Canada, Max Lander)

Hench is the story of a woman who pays the bills by doing administrative work for villains. But then an incident involving the world's most popular superhero leaves her injured and gets her fired. She ends up realizing what happened to her isn't unique — and she might have the means to take down the so-called hero who hurt her. How? With every office workers's secret weapon: data.

Natalie Zina Walschots is a writer and journalist from Toronto. She is also the author of the poetry collections DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains and Thumbscrews.

We Two Alone by Jack Wang

We Two Alone is a book by Jack Wang. (Mike Grippi, House of Anansi Press)

Set over a century and spanning five continents, We Two Alone traces the evolution of the Chinese immigrant experience. Tracing various people, families and professionals across the globe, Jack Wang creates a tapestry of experience that encompasses the trials and tribulations of a diaspora trying to find its place in the world. 

Wang's short stories have been published in Joyland Magazine, The Humber Literary Review and The New Quarterly. We Two Alone is his first book.

Love After the End, edited by Joshua Whitehead

Love after the End is an anthology edited by Joshua Whitehead. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Joshua Whitehead)

Love after the End is an anthology of speculative fiction that imagines a utopian future for LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people, curated and edited by poet and novelist Joshua Whitehead.

Contributors include Nathan Adler, Darcie Little Badger, Gabriel Castilloux Calderon, Adam Garnet Jones, Mari Kurisato, Kai Minosh Pyle, David Alexander Robertson, jaye simpson and Nazbah Tom.

Whitehead is an Oji-nêhiyaw, two-spirit writer, poet and Indigiqueer scholar from Peguis First Nation. His book, full-metal indigiqueer, is a collection of experimental poems that aim to provoke discussion and debate. Jonny Appleseed, his debut novel, is about a two-spirit person trying to put his life back together following the death of his stepfather. 

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