The best Canadian fiction of 2022
Here are the CBC Books picks for the top Canadian fiction of the year!
A Minor Chorus is the debut novel from Griffin Poetry Prize-winning poet and author Billy-Ray Belcourt. A Minor Chorus follows an unnamed narrator who abandons his thesis and goes back to his hometown, where he has a series of intimate encounters bringing the modern queer and Indigenous experience into focus.
Belcourt is a writer and academic from Driftpile Cree Nation in Alberta. In 2016, he became the first Indigenous person from Canada to be a Rhodes Scholar. Belcourt won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize for This Wound is a World. He is also the author of NDN Coping Mechanisms.
LISTEN | Billy-Ray Belcourt discusses A Minor Chorus with Shelagh Rogers:
This Time, That Place is the latest short story collection from Clark Blaise. The collection brings together 24 stories written over the course of Blaise's career, taking readers to Montreal, Florida, Pittsburgh and more. This Time, That Place demonstrates why Blaise is one of Canada's greatest short story writers.
Blaise is a Canadian American writer who has written more than two dozen books. His other books include the short story collections A North American Education and The Meagre Tarmac, the novels Lunar Attractions and If I Were Me and the memoirs Days and Nights in Calcutta and I had a Father. In 2010, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada.
Possessed is a novel that uses dark humour to reflect on sexual obsession, mental health and the supernatural. The protagonist, Josephine, has overwhelming feelings for a younger suitor who doesn't reciprocate in ways she desires. When the relationship withers and she meets someone new, things take a haunting and erotic turn.
Jowita Bydlowska is a writer and journalist based in Toronto. Her memoir, Drunk Mom, recounts her relapse into alcoholism after having her first child. She is also the author of the novel Guy. Bydlowska has written columns on popular culture and mental health for the National Post, the Globe and Mail and CBC.
Shadow Life is a novel about a man named Matthew Rice, whose life unravels after he delivered a verdict of not guilty in a trial about a murder of a child. He decides to learn more about his mother, who he never knew and ends up living off-the-grid on an island in Georgian Bay. But will this big adventure be enough for Matthew to find peace?
Michael Decter is a writer who was born in Winnipeg and currently lives in Toronto. He has written about healthcare and investment and has written a memoir. Shadow Life is his first novel.
The Animals is a fable-like narrative featuring the protagonist Dorn, who creates miniature scale models displayed in the local shops. The mild-mannered Dorn deals with an untrustworthy younger sibling and a distant father — all while trying to show his deeper feelings of love to Ravenna, the ungainly schoolteacher. Life takes a strange turn when the government-sponsored "Wild Home Project" is introduced and wild animals cohabit with the town residents. The Animals explores the nature of relationships, faunal and human, and reminds us of the challenges of finding one's place in society.
Cary Fagan is an Ontario author of several books for adults and children. His children's books include the popular Kaspar Snit novels, the two-volume Master Melville's Medicine Show and the picture book Mr. Zinger's Hat. He is also the author of the novels A Bird's Eye and The Student and the short story collection My Life Among the Apes. In 2014, Fagan received the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People for his body of work.
In Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, a collection of short stories, Kim Fu turns the familiar on its head to weave tales of new worlds where strange happenings, like a girl growing wings on her legs or toy boxes that control the passage of time, are the ordinary trappings of everyday life. The stories deal with themes of death, technological consequence, guilt and sexuality and unmask the contradictions within humanity.
Fu is a Washington-based, Canadian-born fiction writer and poet. She has published two other works of fiction, For Today I Am a Boy and The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, and a book of poetry called How Festive the Ambulance.
LISTEN | Kim Fu talks to Shelagh Rogers about Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century:
The characters in Stray Dogs, a short story collection, are restless travellers, moving between nation states and states of mind, seeking connection and trying to escape the past. Set in Montreal, Beirut, Tokyo and more, these stories highlight the often random ways our fragile modern identities are constructed, destroyed and reborn.
LISTEN | Rawi Hage talks to Shelagh Rogers about Stray Dogs:
Some Hellish is about a lobster fisher named Herring who is facing the existential dread of what he feels is a boring, mundane life. That is, until one December day when he decides to cut a hole in the living room floor and alter the course of his life as he knows it. Through a myriad of absurd and confronting experiences, including his wife and children leaving him, and Tibetan monks rescuing him after a near-death experience, Herring is forced to reckon with himself, his fear and what it means to be alive.
Some Hellish won the Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
Herring is a writer and carpenter from Murray Harbour, P.E.I. Some Hellish is his debut novel. His writing has also appeared in the Puritan and the Fiddlehead.
LISTEN | Nicholas Herring reflects on his literary success:
Pure Colour follows a woman named Mira, who leaves home for school and meets a person named Annie. Annie has this power over Mira and opens her chest like a portal. Many years later when Mira is older, her father dies and his spirit passes into her. Together, they become a leaf on a tree. But when photosynthesis gets boring, Mira must choose whether or not to return to Annie and the human world she has left behind. Pure Colour is a funny exploration of the wonderful and terrible aspects of being alive.
Pure Colour won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.
Sheila Heti is a Canadian playwright and author whose work has been translated in over a dozen languages. Her novel Motherhood was on the shortlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She is also the author of the novels Ticknor and How Should a Person Be? and the self-help book The Chairs Are Where the People Go.
LISTEN | Sheila Heti talks to David Common about Pure Colour:
In the horror novel Motherthing, Abby Lamb is finally putting the darkness from her childhood to rest after meeting her wonderful husband Ralph. But when they move in with Ralph's mother Laura, Laura's depression and cruel ways start to weigh on Abby. After Laura takes her own life, her ghost haunts them and Abby must make the ultimate sacrifice to save her family.
Ainslie Hogarth is an author from Windsor. She has published two YA horror novels, The Lonely and The Boy Meets Girl Massacre, and her short fiction has appeared in Hazlitt, Black Static and elsewhere.
LISTEN | Ainslie Hogarth on how motherhood inspired her horror novel:
In the latest installment of the DreadfulWater Mystery series, Thumps DreadfulWater has finally found some peace in small-town Chinook. Although his beloved cat is still missing and his relationship with Claire is uncertain, Thumps can at least relax in the comfort of his home. But when he unintentionally discovers a body at the bottom of a canyon, the reluctant investigator becomes entangled in yet another inexplicable mystery and begins to question who he can really trust.
Thomas King was the first Indigenous person to deliver a CBC Massey Lecture in 2003. His bestselling books include Truth & Bright Water, The Inconvenient Indian, Green Grass, Running Water, The Back of the Turtle and the DreadfulWater mystery series. He has also written a poetry collection, 77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin.
LISTEN | Thomas King talks to Shelagh Rogers about Deep House:
Junie is a novel about Junie, a creative and observant child, who moves to Hogan's Alley in the 1930s with her mother. Hogan's Alley is a thriving Black immigrant community in Vancouver's east end and Junie quickly makes meaningful relationships. As she moves into adulthood, Junie explores her artistic talents and sexuality, but her mother sinks further into alcoholism and the thriving neighbourhood once filled with potential begins to change.
Chelene Knight is a writer and poet from Vancouver. She is the author of Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, which won the 2018 Vancouver Book Award.
LISTEN | Chelene Knight talks to Shelagh Rogers about Junie:
We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies is a novel that recounts a Tibetan family's struggle to create new lives of dignity, love and hope after China's invasion of Tibet in the 1950s. Readers follow sisters Lhamo and Tenkyi on a multi-decade journey through exile, from a harrowing trek across the Himalayas to a refugee camp on the border of Nepal. Decades later, the sisters are separated. Tenyki lives in Toronto with Lhamo's daughter Dolma, who has to decide if it's worth risking her dreams to help her community.
Tsering Yangzom Lama is a Tibetan Canadian author based in Vancouver. Born and raised in Nepal, she's also lived in Toronto and New York City. We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies is her debut novel. Lama was named a writer to watch by CBC Books in 2022.
LISTEN | Tsering Yangzom Lama on writing about the Tibetan diaspora in fiction:
When Lily was a child, her mother, Swee Hua, walked away from the family and was never heard from again. After becoming a new mother herself, Lily is obsessed with discovering what happened to Swee Hua. She recalls growing up in a British Columbia mining town where there were only a handful of Asian families and how Swee Hua longed to return to Brunei. Eventually, a clue leads Lily to southeast Asia to find out the truth about her mother. Dandelion is a novel about family secrets, migration, isolation, motherhood and mental illness.
Jamie Chai Yun Liew is a lawyer and law professor based in Ottawa. Dandelion is her first novel and won her the Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award from the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop.
LISTEN | Jamie Chai Yun Liew on turning her experience in law into fiction:
Fayne is about Charlotte Bell, a young woman growing up in the 19th century. She lives at Fayne House, a vast and lonely estate straddling the border between England and Scotland. When a mysterious artifact is found, Charlotte's passion for knowledge and adventure will take her to the bottom of family secrets — and to the heart of her own identity.
Ann-Marie MacDonald is a writer now lives between Toronto and Montreal. Her novels include Fall on Your Knees, The Way the Crow Flies, and Adult Onset. Fall on Your Knees was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and was a finalist for Canada Reads in 2010, when it was defended by Perdita Felicien. In addition to writing, she was the host of CBC's Doc Zone for eight years.
LISTEN | Ann-Marie MacDonald reflects on her long literary career and new novel:
The stories in Alexander MacLeod's latest collection explore the struggle for meaning and connection in an age where many of us feel cut off from so much, including ourselves. From two sisters having a petty argument to a family on the brink of a new life, these stories pick at the complexity of our shared human experience.
Alexander MacLeod is a short story writer and academic from Cape Breton and raised in Windsor, Ont. MacLeod's debut short story collection Light Lifting was shortlisted for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the 2011 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and the Commonwealth Prize. It won the Atlantic Book Award. In 2019, he won an O. Henry Award for his short story Lagomorph. He currently lives in Dartmouth, N.S.
LISTEN | Alexander MacLeod discusses Animal Person with Shelagh Rogers:
In 2017, Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a confession in an old stack of mail. Determined to find the recipient, Angela's search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of women operated an underground abortion network in Toronto known by the code name: Jane. Weaving together the lives of three women, Looking for Jane is a story about the devastating consequences that come from a lack of choice and the enduring power of a mother's love.
Heather Marshall is a writer from Toronto, Ontario. Before turning her attention to storytelling, Marshall worked in politics and communications. Looking for Jane is her first novel.
LISTEN | Heather Marshall on the true history behind her novel Looking for Jane:
In this collection of linked stories, Janice Lynn Mather introduces us to the women and girls of The Bahamas. Searching for identity and belonging during moments of upheaval, these complex characters are intimately familiar. From the responsibilities of parenthood to grief, longing and betrayal, the stories of Uncertain Kin grapple with what it means to be a woman.
Janice Lynn Mather is a novelist and short story writer born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, who now lives in Vancouver. Her other books include Learning to Breathe, which was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
LISTEN | Janice Lynn Mather talks to Shelagh Rogers about Uncertain Kin:
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.
LISTEN | Suzette Mayr reacts to winning the Giller Prize:
This is How We Love is the latest novel from award-winning writer Lisa Moore. The novel is set in St. John's, delves into the complexities of familial relationships — asking questions about what makes a family, how family shapes us and whether we really choose who we love.
Lisa Moore is a writer from Newfoundland. Her other books include Caught, February, Alligator, Open and Something for Everyone. She has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize three times: in 2002 for Open, in 2005 for Alligator and in 2013 for Caught. Her novel February won Canada Reads in 2013, when it was defended by comedian Trent McClellan.
LISTEN | Lisa Moore talks to Shelagh Rogers about This is How We Love:
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, the latest novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, is set in 19th-century Mexico and has elements of the supernatural as it reimagines the classic work The Island of Doctor Moreau. Carlota Moreau is a young woman who lives in an estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. Carlota's father is the eccentric Doctor Moreau, a man whose scientific experiments have created the hybrids — part human, part animal monstrosities. Living in the jungle, Carlota is caught up in this world filled with secrets and horror.
LISTEN | Silvia Moreno-Garcia talks to Shelagh Rogers about The Daughter of Doctor Moreno:
Finding Edward is a novel about a man, Cyril Rowntree, who discovers letters from the 1920s that reveal the story of a white mother who gave up her mixed race son, Edward, for adoption. Cyril has recently moved to Toronto from Jamaica and was abandoned by his own white father, so Edward's story intrigues him, and he begins to search for Edward, and the truth about what happened to him. This journey of personal discovery is also one of Canada's Black history.
Finding Edward was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.
Sheila Murray is a writer born and raised in England who now lives in Hamilton, Ont. Finding Edward is her first novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Descant, The Dalhousie Review, and The New Quarterly.
LISTEN | Why you should read Finding Edward:
It's 1986 and Muna Heddad has left behind a civil war in Lebanon and is living in Montreal in the novel Hotline. The only work she can find is as a hotline operator at a weight-loss centre where she fields calls from people responding to ads in magazines or on TV. These strangers have so much to say about their challenges, from marriages gone bad to personal inadequacies. Although her life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers, Muna is privy to her clients' deepest secrets.
Dimitri Nasrallah is a writer from Lebanon. He is the author of novels The Bleeds; Niko and Blackbodying. Nasrallah lives in Montreal and is the fiction editor at Esplanade Books.
LISTEN | Dimitri Nasrallah reflects on being longlisted for the Giller Prize:
Set shortly after the events of the Arab Spring, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is a novel that traces the relationship between two people — a wealthy Egyptian American woman and an unemployed man from the village of Shobrakheit — who meet in a cafe in Cairo. The pair fall in love but must contend with issues of identity, class and violence as they try to build a lasting relationship.
Noor Naga is an Egyptian Canadian writer. She won the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award for her poem The Mistress and the Ping. She also won the Disquiet Fiction Prize in 2019. In 2020, Noor was named a writer to watch by CBC Books. Her first book, the poetry collection Washes, Prays, was published in 2020. Noor is an instructor at the American University in Cairo.
LISTEN | Noor Naga discusses If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English:
When Marie, the spoiled daughter of a sugar baron living in 19th-century Montreal, meets the brilliant Sadie, the two are immediately inseparable. Marie has bubbly charm and sees the pleasure of the world, whereas Sadie's obsession with darkness is all-consuming. Class and circumstance lead them down different paths, while each woman plays an unexpected role in the events that upend their city. When We Lost Our Heads is a story that explores gender, power, sex, desire, class and status.
Heather O'Neill is a writer and author from Montreal. O'Neill's debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, was a finalist for a Governor General's Literary Award and won Canada Reads 2007. The Montreal-based writer was the first back-to-back finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize: her novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night was a finalist in 2014 and her short story collection Daydreams of Angels was a finalist in 2015. Her latest books are the novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel and the nonfiction book Wisdom in Nonsense.
LISTEN | Heather O'Neill discusses When We Lost Our Heads:
In the thriller We Spread, Penny, an artist, finds herself in a long-term care residence after she's had one too many incidents. Initially surrounded by peers, conversing and painting, Penny begins to lose her grip on time and her place in the world.
Iain Reid is an Ottawa-born author. His debut novel, the 2016 psychological thriller I'm Thinking of Ending Things, was adapted into a film by American writer and director Charlie Kaufman for Netflix. He is also the author of the memoirs One Bird's Choice and The Truth About Luck.
LISTEN | Why Iain Reid turned to writing thrillers:
The Theory of Crows is a novel about a disconnected and distant relationship between a man named Matthew and his teenage daughter Holly. Following a tragic event, Matthew and Holly head out onto the land in search of a long-lost cabin on the family trapline, miles from the Cree community they once called home. When things go wrong during the journey, the father and daughter must rely on each other and the challenges they face eventually heal them in ways they never thought possible.
David A. Robertson is an author and graphic novelist of Swampy Cree heritage. Based in Winnipeg, he has published several books across a variety of genres, including picture books On the Trapline and When We Were Alone, the graphic novel Breakdown, and his memoir Black Water. Robertson was the winner of the 2021 Freedom to Read Award.
LISTEN | David A. Robertson talks to Shelagh Rogers about The Theory of Crows:
The Island of Forgetting is an intimate saga spanning four generations of one family who run a beachfront hotel. Starting in the 1960s and moving from Barbados to Canada, the story examines complex relationships, race, sexuality and the many ways a family's past can haunt its future.
Jasmine Sealy is a Barbadian-Canadian writer based in Vancouver. She won the 2020 UBC/HarperCollins Best New Fiction Prize and was longlisted for the 2017 CBC Short Story Prize. The Island of Forgetting is her debut novel.
LISTEN | Jasmine Sealy discusses The Island of Forgetting:
Mansions of the Moon traces the life of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as the Buddha, and his marriage to the intelligent and spirited Yasodhara. From their early life together to their crumbling partnership as Siddhartha's spiritual calling takes over, Mansions of the Moon paints a rich portrait of a marriage and illuminates a woman who has remained in the shadows of history.
Shyam Selvadurai is an award-winning Sri Lankan Canadian novelist. His novel Funny Boy won the 1995 Books in Canada First Novel Award, now known as the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It was also adapted into a film by Indian Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, which is available on CBC Gem. His other books include The Hungry Ghosts and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea.
LISTEN | Shyam Selvadurai takes The Next Chapter questionnaire:
The novel Utopia is about a mysterious death in the 1970s California art world. When Romy, one of the only women to break into the male-dominated art scene, dies, a young and ambitious artist named Paz is drawn into the world Romy left behind. Soon Paz finds herself in a love triangle with Romy's art-star husband, Billy, and as Paz becomes more obsessed with Romy's life, a disturbing picture begins to emerge.
Heidi Sopinka is a Toronto-based writer, editor and designer. Her debut 2018 novel, The Dictionary of Animal Languages, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. She is a former environment columnist at the Globe and Mail and the co-founder of the clothing line Horses Atelier.
LISTEN | Heidi Sopinka discusses Utopia with Shelagh Rogers:
From Vancouver Island in 1912 to a colony on the moon 500 years later, Sea of Tranquility is a novel about time travel and metaphysics. When detective Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended — from an exiled son driven mad by beauty and mystery in a Canadian forest to a writer living in a colony on the moon as a pandemic ravages Earth. Through his work, Gaspery has the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
Emily St. John Mandel is a bestselling Canadian author currently based in New York. Her other novels include The Glass Hotel, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and selected by President Barack Obama as a favourite book of 2020; and Station Eleven, a bestseller adapted for HBO and a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.
LISTEN | Emily St. john Mandel discusses The Sea of Tranquility with Piya Chattopadhyay:
In Ezra's Ghosts, a collection of fantastical stories, Darcy Tamayose introduces a cast of characters whose lives intersect in a quiet prairie town called Ezra. From a seeker of truth trapped in Ezra after her violent death, to the oldest man in town who came to Canada to escape imperial hardships, the stories in Ezra's Ghosts are linked by language, culture and grief.
Darcy Tamayose is a writer and graphic designer from southern Alberta. Her work includes the novel, Odori and the YA book Katie Be Quiet. Tamayose lives in Lethbridge, Alta.
Her First Palestinian is a debut collection of short stories revolving around the Palestinian immigrant experience in Canada. The stories explore themes of identity, loss, power and belonging as they look at the diverse and layered experiences of the Palestinian diaspora. One of the stories in the collection, the titular Her First Palestinian, was shortlisted for the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize.
Saeed Teebi is a writer and lawyer based in Toronto. He was born to Palestinian parents in Kuwait and, after some time in the U.S., has lived in Canada since 1993. Her First Palestinian is his first book.
LISTEN | Saeed Teebi on writing about Palestinian Canadians:
Mouth to Mouth is a novel that explores themes of money, fate and morality through the eyes of an art dealer who confesses the real story behind his success. In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, the book's narrator listens as a former classmate he vaguely remembers shares the story of his adult life — a life that forever changed course when he saved a man from drowning.
Mouth to Mouth was on the former U.S. president Barack Obama's summer reading list of his favourite books of 2022.
Antoine Wilson is a Canadian American novelist, editor and short story writer born in Montreal and based in California. Wilson's work has appeared in The Paris Review, Story Quarterly, Best New American Voices and the Los Angeles Times. His novels include Panorama City and The Interloper.
In the short story collection Buffalo is the New Buffalo, Chelsea Vowel explores science fiction tropes through a Métis lens. From a rougarou (shapeshifter) in the 19th century trying to solve a murder in her community to a Métis man who's gored by a radioactive bison and gains super strength, these stories seek to understand the impact of colonization, remove its psychological baggage and recover ancestral traditions. Buffalo is the New Buffalo explores Indigenous existence and resistance and rewrites our shared history.
Vowel is a Métis writer and educator whose work focuses on language, gender identity and cultural resurgence. She is also the author of Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada, which addresses stereotypes and assumptions about Indigenous issues and offers insight into the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. She also contributed to graphic novel, This Place, which was adapted into a 10-episode podcast for CBC Books.
LISTEN | Chelsea Vowel discusses Buffalo is the New Buffalo with Shelagh Rogers: