British Columbia

Check out these 4 books inspired by B.C. island life

If you’ve ever taken a ferry ride to one of B.C.’s many island communities, you’ll know each has a unique history and a distinctive culture. On The Coast book columnist Tara Henley says those communities have appealed to many writers as places to live and work.

Novels, memoirs, short story collections have all taken their inspiration from B.C.'s islands

Shoppers walking through Salt Spring Island Farmers' Market. Salt Spring Island's literary scene was bolstered by American draft dodgers, book columnist Tara Henley says. (David Horemans / CBC)

If you've ever taken a ferry ride to one of B.C.'s many island communities, you'll know each has a unique history and a distinctive culture.

On The Coast book columnist Tara Henley says those communities have appealed to many writers as places to live and work.

"There's a lot about the coast that works well for the writing life: the natural beauty, the slower pace, the tight-knit artistic communities, the lower cost of living — at least in the past — and the rainy season, which is tailor-made for hibernation, reading and writing," she told guest host Gloria Macarenko.

Henley says there is a rich tradition of authors finding inspiration on B.C.'s many islands.

In the '60s, there was a wave of American draft-dodgers who made their homes on the islands, particularly Salt Spring, which contributed immensely to the literary scene.

Also in the '60s Alice Munro and her husband moved to Vancouver Island, opening Munro's Books in Victoria, which is still there today.

Here are Henley's picks for great reads that are tied in, one way or another, to B.C.'s coastal islands.

Intertidal Life by Audrey Thomas

"The novel perfectly captures the mood on the Gulf Islands back [in the '70s], with all the self-absorbed hippies and eccentrics. I'm thinking of a particular scene when the main character, Alice, is at home trying to write, with a sign on the door saying so, and she keeps getting interrupted by people stopping by for tea or a good gossip."

Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life by Brian Brett

"It won the Writers Trust Non-Fiction Prize in 2009. It's a beautiful memoir about his life on his organic farm on Salt Spring Island. He really brings the thriving local food culture there to life. And also just the ruggedness of island living, even in this day and age."

The Woods: A Year on Protection Island by Amber McMillan

"It's about moving to Protection Island with her husband and small daughter. And it's genius for a number of reasons. It starts in Toronto and does such a wonderful job of capturing the sort of big city stress that so many young families are now dealing with … and the dreaming of a simpler life."

On Island: Life Among the Coast Dwellers by Pat Carney

"Carney has a great eye for detail, a charming writing voice, and she does a nice job of chronicling all the island characters, and the highs and lows of life on the Gulf Islands. People who visit regularly will recognize the daily dramas, like bats making their home in the church."

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast