Books

The top 10 bestselling Canadian books of 2021

CBC Books is counting down the top 10 bestselling Canadian titles of 2021, using data from close to 300 independent Canadian bookstores, courtesy of Bookmanager. Listen to the countdown special hosted by Ali Hassan!

CBC Books is counting down the top 10 bestselling Canadian titles of 2021, using data from close to 300 independent Canadian bookstores, courtesy of Bookmanager

You can listen to the countdown special hosted by Ali Hassan below or keep scrolling to see which books made the cut! 

Canada Reads host Ali Hassan counts down the top 10 bestselling Canadian books of 2021 using data from nearly 300 independent Canadian bookstores, courtesy of Bookmanager. 51:09

10. Indian in the Cabinet by Jody Wilson-Raybould

"Indian" in the Cabinet is a book by Jody Wilson-Raybould. (HarperCollins Canada, Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Based in Vancouver, Jody Wilson-Raybould is the former justice minister for Trudeau's Liberal parliament. She writes about how her optimism to make meaningful political change was eroded by issues of "inclusivity, deficiencies of political will and concerns about adherence to core principles of our democracy." She shared her story in the nonfiction book Indian in the Cabinet.

Indian in the Cabinet was a finalist for the 2021 Balsillie Prize for best Canadian public policy book.

Based in Vancouver, Wilson-Raybould is the former justice minister for Trudeau's Liberal parliament. Wilson-Raybould resigned from the cabinet after the months-long SNC-Lavalin affair. She is also the author of From Where I Stand.

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she's well aware of the importance of symbolism as Canada marks its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. But she said that symbols and words alone will not be enough to push forward true reconciliation. In an interview with Matt Galloway, she talks about the day, her time in government, and her new book, Indian in the Cabinet, Speaking Truth to Power. 19:25

9. Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Francesca Ekwuyasi is the author of Butter Honey Pig Bread. (Submitted by Francesca Ekwuyasi/CBC)

Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about twin sisters Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi believes she is 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 championed by Roger Mooking on Canada Reads 2021. It was also on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist and was a finalist for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for fiction.

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. She currently lives in Halifax.

Canada Reads 2021: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

11 months ago
Duration 1:12
Roger Mooking is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread on Canada Reads 2021. 1:12

8. Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Fight Night is the latest novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews. (Knopf Canada, Carol Loewen)

In Fight Night, nine-year-old Swiv lives in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma gives Swiv the task of writing to her absent father about what life is like in the house during her mother's final trimester. In turn, Swiv tells Grandma to write a letter to her unborn grandchild. 

Fight Night was on the shortlist for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2021 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Miriam Toews is the Toronto-based author of seven novels, including Women TalkingAll My Puny SorrowsA Complicated Kindness and The Flying Troutmans. Her 2018 novel, Women Talkingwas a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction

A Complicated Kindness won Canada Reads in 2006, when it was defended by John K. Samson. Toews lives in Toronto. Her other award wins include the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Writers' Trust Engel Findley Award.

Miriam Toews talks to Shelagh Rogers about her latest novel, Fight Night. 16:26

7. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline is the author of The Marrow Thieves. (Peter Power/CBC, Dancing Cat Books)

​In the dystopian world of Cherie Dimaline's award-winning The Marrow Thieves, climate change has ravaged the Earth and a continent-wide hunt and slaughter of Indigenous people is underway. Wanted for their bone marrow, which contains the lost ability to dream, a group of Indigenous people seek refuge in the old lands. 

In 2017, The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General's Literary Award for Young people's literature — text and the Kirkus Prize for young readers' literature. It is currently being adapted for television. The sequel, Hunting by Starswas released in 2021.

The Marrow Thieves was defended by Jully Black on Canada Reads 2018.

Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author and editor. Her other books include Red RoomsThe Girl Who Grew a GalaxyA Gentle Habit and Empire of WildThe Marrow Thieves was named one of Time magazine's top 100 YA novels of all time

Dimaline won the 2021 Writers' Trust Engel Findley Award. The $25,000 recognizes the accomplishments of a fiction writer in the middle of her career.

The Marrow Thieves Trailer

4 years ago
Duration 0:49
Canada Reads trailer for Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves. 0:49

6. State of Terror by Louise Penny & Hillary Rodham Clinton

State of Terror is a novel by Louise Penny, left, and Hillary Clinton, right. (Jean-Francois Berube, Simon & Schuster, Joe McNally)

State of Terror is a thriller co-written by Canadian writer Louise Penny and former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. The president of a newly sworn in administration has chosen Ellen Adams, a political enemy, as his secretary of state. As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with the secretary in attendance, a young foreign service officer receives a baffling text. The terrorist attacks that follows is revealed to involve the volatile politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, the Russian mob and an American government weakened on the world stage. Now, it's up to Adams and her team to defeat it.

Penny is the author of the bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She's won numerous prestigious literary awards focused on mystery fiction. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture.

Clinton served as the 67th U.S. secretary of state and was the first woman in United States history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She has been in public service for nearly four decades advocating for children and families as an attorney, first lady and senator.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny on their political thriller, State of Terror

3 months ago
Duration 2:43
Good friends Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny talk about their first novel together, State of Terror, which follows newly appointed U.S. secretary of state Ellen Adams and her race to stop a series of international terrorist attacks. 2:43

5. Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Jonny Appleseed is a novel by Joshua Whitehead. (Submitted by Joshua Whitehead/CBC, Arsenal Pulp Press)

Jonny Appleseed is a novel about a two-spirit Indigiqueer young man who has left the reserve and becomes a cybersex worker in the city to make ends meet. But he must reckon with his past when he returns home to attend his stepfather's funeral. 

Jonny Appleseed won Canada Reads 2021, when it was championed by actor Devery Jacobs.

The novel was on the longlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the shortlist for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and was a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It also won the Lambda Literary Award for gay fiction and has been optioned for a screen adaptation.

Joshua Whitehead is a two-spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw member of Peguis First Nation, currently pursuing his PhD. He is also the author of the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer and is the editor of the anthology Love after the EndJonny Appleseed is his first novel.

Canada Reads champions Devery Jacobs and Joshua Whitehead joined Tom Power to talk about winning this year's battle of the books with Whitehead's debut novel Jonny Appleseed. 12:39

4. The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

The Madness of Crowds is a novel by Louise Penny. (Raincoast Books, Jean-Francois Berube)

The Madness of Crowds is the latest book in Louise Penny's popular Armand Gamache series. This time, the Chief Inspector's family holiday is interrupted by a simple request. He's asked to provide security for a visiting professor of statistics who will be giving a lecture at a nearby university. But he soon discovers the professor's agenda, one so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture, to no avail. They accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, the professor's views start seeping into conversations and it becomes nearly impossible to tell truth, reality and delusion apart.

Penny is the author of the bestselling Armand Gamache mystery novels. She's won two Arthur Ellis Awards, seven Agatha Awards, five Anthony Awards and three Macavity Awards. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Penny lives in Knowlton, Que., a small village outside of Montreal.

Louise Penny talks to Shelagh Rogers about her latest book, The Madness of Crowds. 14:21

3. Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Finding the Mother Tree is a memoir by Suzanne Simard. (Bill Heath, Allen Lane)

Biologist Suzanne Simard discovered the reality of the interconnection and intelligence of the forest. She's been able to find out that the trees are indeed whispering to each other — communicating not through the wind, but through the soil. Her new scientific memoir, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, describes her life and research. 

Finding the Mother Tree was the grand prize winner for the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition and a category winner for the mountain environment and natural history award.

Simard is a B.C.-based author and academic who grew up in Canadian forests as a descendant of loggers. She is a professor in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia. 

Suzanne Simard talks to Shelagh Rogers about her book, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. 19:36

2. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph is a guide to understanding the Indian Act, created in 1876, and its ongoing impact on Indigenous people in Canada. (ictinc.ca)

Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the 1876 Indian Act and its repercussions on generations of Indigenous Peoples. It also explores how the legal document's legacy has shaped the lives of Indigenous people from 1876 until now.

Bob Joseph is a member of the Gwawaenuk Nation and is an initiated member of the Hamatsa Society. He is the founder of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. and is the author of several books about Indigenous history and relations, including Indigenous Relations and Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples.

Gregor Craigie spoke with Bob Joseph, author of "21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act," about the history, and ongoing work, of reconciliation. 9:07

1. Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Five Little Indians is a novel by Michelle Good. (Harper Perennial, Candice Camille)

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 won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It was also on the 2020 Writers's Trust Fiction Prize shortlist and the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and retired lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Good holds an MFA and a law degree from the University of British Columbia and, as a lawyer, advocated for residential school survivors. Five Little Indians is her first book. CBC Books named her a writer to watch in 2020.

Michelle Good talks to Shelagh Rogers about her fictional book Five Little Indians. 20:31

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