New Brunswick

A New Brunswick 2020 book list

With the holiday gift giving season and wintry weather upon us, in addition to public health advice to limit social interactions, you might be looking for a good book to curl up with, for you or a loved one. If that’s the case, you’re in luck. Say what you will about 2020, but it has been a pretty good year for New Brunswick books.

A guide for holiday shopping or COVID cocooning by the fire


With the holiday gift giving season and wintry weather upon us, in addition to public health advice to limit social interactions, you might be looking for a good book to curl up with, for you or a loved one.

If that's the case, you're in luck.

Say what you will about 2020, but it has been a pretty good year for New Brunswick books.

Many writers have spoken to CBC New Brunswick about their projects that have come to fruition.

There's a mom who invented a superhero bar of soap to help children understand the importance of handwashing, an iconic New Brunswick artist with a new career retrospective coffee table book and an octogenarian chess champ and educator, who couldn't have dreamed of a better time to release a book about chess strategies, to name a few.

Here's our run-down of 2020 New Brunswick book releases and a couple from late 2019.


Scrub: How a Simple Soap Saved the Day by Suzanne Belliveau. Published by Captus Creations. 

Suzanne Belliveau's book celebrates one of the many real-life superheroes of the pandemic, the lowly bar of soap. (Submitted by Suzanne Belliveau)

Suzanne Belliveau was home on maternity leave with her two children when the lockdown started. As the pandemic went on she started looking for books on germs and viruses to help explain what was going on to her 2 ½ year old. Most of the ones she found focused on germs being bad. Belliveau said she wanted to flip that story. And when she started looking into the science, she found out soap molecules "break down" the outer membrane that holds in the virus.

"From there it was clear that I had to write a story about a karate-chopping little soap," she said.

Scrub is an ordinary soap, said Belliveau, who loves washing hands and dreams about fighting something nastier than regular day-to-day germs. Then one day a nasty virus named Corona shows up and he has to face the challenge. Kids seem to like the story, said Belliveau.

"Most of them love the part when he is practising in his little dish and wrestling rubber ducky. That's where I hook them in."

When she read the book to her son he started hitting it with his hand and saying, "smash that virus." Now, if he offers any resistance when it's time to wash up, she just has to say, "remember Scrub," and her little one heads for the sink.

Belliveau says it's been "a way to bring a little motivation and have a little fun with this dreary situation."

The illustrations for Scrub were done by Jennifer Thornhill (Captus Creations)

Summer Feet by Sheree Fitch - a celebration of the barefoot, carefree days of summer, in the Fredericton native author's trademark lip-slippery style, published by Nimbus.

When Poop Gets Stuck by Nathan Cameron -  Kids love toilet humour. Witness the success of books like "Everybody Poops" or "Walter the Farting Dog." Nathan Cameron, who teaches Grades 7 and  8 at Forest Hills School and Saint John tattoo artist Jeremy Lamos teamed up to author their own, made-in-Saint-John contribution to the genre.; independently published

Young adult

Waiting Under Water by Riel Nason - Nason's latest book is actually aimed at readers of all ages. It's about friendship and highlights the beauty and humour in small town life. The main character Hope is filled with anxiety because her parents are leaving New Brunswick for work in a big city. She and her best friend decide to dedicate themselves to a town effort to win a nationwide TV contest. Nason's debut novel, The Town That Drowned, won the Commonwealth Book Prize for Canada and Europe. (Nason also released a picture book this year, The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt.) Published by Scholastic.

The Copycat by Wendy McLeod MacKnight - The Fredericton writer has just published her third book, following up on the success of It's a Mystery, Pig Face and The Frame Up, which was set at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. The Copycat is about a middle school girl named Ali who can shapeshift into anyone - or anything. It's set in Saint John. Published by HarperCollins.

You Were Never Here by Kathleen Peacock - This Bathurst and Fredericton author is drawn to suspense. Her popular Hemlock series involves werewolves, mystery and murder. Her new book You Were Never Here centres around Cat, a 17 year old living in a fictional New Brunswick town. She's got a mystery to solve, and an unusual ability she's kept secret. Published by HarperCollins.

Adult fiction

Lay Figures by Mark Blagrave

(Nimbus Publishing)

Elizabeth MacKinnon has just moved into an apartment on Princess street, above the painter William Upham, and becomes immersed in the pre-war bohemian culture of the port city. The St. Andrews-based writer taught at UNBSJ and Mount Allison University and was dean of arts at Huron University College. His first novel, Silvers Salts, was shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth prize. Published by Nimbus.

Winter Road by Wayne Curtis - Fredericton based, Miramichi-born author Wayne Curtis is often described as a master of detail. He's written more than 18 books - both fiction and non-fiction. His latest offering is a collection of short stories about love, heartbreak, dreams, expectations, and the challenges and limitations of poverty, and isolation - from "early school days to old age." Published by Pottersfield Press.

The Hush Sisters by Gerard Collins - Two sisters confront family secrets and ghosts in their family's rambling old house in downtown St John's. Collins was born in Newfoundland but now lives in Belleisle Creek. This is his third book. It's a dark family drama with ghosts and sibling rivalry - at times disturbing, but with a few Great Big Sea tunes thrown in for good measure. Breakwater Books.

Memories in the Fog by Partridge Island Publishing - Short stories by members of the Partridge Island Publishing writers' collective, including Shannon Dykens, who contributed a tale of a passionate affair that starts during the famous Groundhog Gale storm. This book of myths and memories of Saint John follows the collective's Houses in the Fog, which was inspired by local architecture. 

Pop culture trends

Chess Concepts: The Evolution of Chess Ideas by Dan Elman

Anyone can play chess and enjoy it, says Elman. There are basic principles, but endless room for creativity and invention. The former competitive player and longtime educator put together this collection of lessons for others interested in teaching the game. (Tellwell Talent)

This independently published book is based on a series of lectures that Elman, a longtime Saint John chess coach, gave in the 1970s. They were mostly recorded in his basement and they were broadcast on the fledgling community television channel. They sparked a lot of interest in chess at the time, he says, and there are still lots of local clubs and players. 

The book is aimed at other chess educators, says Elman, but the first few of the 24 lessons cover the basics. 

"My chess theories go back to about 600 AD," said Elman, who is now 89.

"I go from early days and trace the evolution of ideas right up to today."

He's also heard from some parents and young players who are reading it.

"I find that parents get really enthused when they see their kids thinking the way they're thinking. Sometimes they don't understand the potential the children have. It doesn't mean they're going to be great chess players, but they get hungry for variations, for knowledge."

Chess has played a major role in Elman's life. He learned it from his dad, whose family moved to Canada after fleeing religious persecution in Russia. Elman won several championships in Europe and New Brunswick in the 1950s and 60s before giving up competition and becoming a chess educator. He was instrumental in bringing the World Chess Festival to the Saint John 1988. And on fair days, when pandemic rules allow, he can still be seen tutoring young players in Wolastoq park, across from his home.

"Whatever I can do to promote chess," said Elman.

Given that the lectures in the book date back several decades, it might seem like a very happy coincidence that a world-wide chess craze began just months after its release.

But it's really just par for the course when it comes to Elman's charmed life. (More to come)

When asked if the new chess fad would be good for book sales, he was nonplussed.

"I'll send you a book," he said. "You want a book? It may get you started."

Dan Elman shakes hands with his young pupil Andreas Doemer during a game at Saint John's Jewish Community Centre in pre-pandemic times last winter. (Megan MacAlpine/CBC)

Won't Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide to Fake News by Erin Steuter - It's out there, lurking around every corner. A lot of fake news is spreading around the world through social media. Do you know how to spot the difference between what's fake and what's truthful information? Erin Steuter, a professor of sociology at Mount Allison, has spent her career researching how misinformation spreads. She's teamed up with Moncton illustrator Alan Spinney for a new graphic novel. Published by Between The Lines


Wish You Were Here: A Murdered Girl, a Brother's Quest and the Hunt for a Serial Killer by John Allore and Patricia Pearson - In November 1978 - a teenager named Theresa Allore disappeared from Champlain College in Quebec's Eastern Townships. It was a shocking case. She was 19, vibrant and loved by her many friends and her family, who lived in Saint John, on Leinster Street. When she was found dead not long afterward it ripped their lives apart. In the intervening decades - the case has received national media coverage. Details of the botched police investigation - and, to everyone's surprise, a previously undiscovered serial killer - have come to light. Theresa's brother, John Allore, and reporter Patricia Pearson have co-authored this book about the case. Published by Random House Canada.

Teaching at the Top of the World by Odette Barr - A desire for change and adventure leads educators to other parts of the world to teach from time to time. Odette Barr of Moncton and her partner Yoanne Beauchamp headed to the eastern Arctic to teach. While some only last a year, they stayed for 10. This book chronicles their experiences in Grise Fjord, where Umimmak School was beginning a senior high school program. It's a love story, says Barr, that expresses her great admiration and respect for Inuit people, their culture, and the magnificent Arctic landscape in which they live.  Published by Pottersfield Press.

Odette Barr showing off her first Arctic char catch at Lake Avaktatoo, around 1990, near Pangnirtung, Nunavut. (Odette Barr/Facebook)

Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River by Philip Lee -  The Restigouche is one of New Brunswick's most magnificent natural wonders - a long and wild waterway with a storied history. Author Philip Lee explores its past, present and future, including industry and Indigenous rights, in this book, which is part history lesson, part cautionary tale, and part love letter to a place of unparalleled beauty and ecological significance. Lee is a journalist and a best-selling writer. He teaches at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. Published by Goose Lane Editions

Health Care Reform in New Brunswick - Lessons from a Socialized System by Ken McGeorge - Health care delivery is a huge issue in this province. We've all heard about the problems for years - thousands of people without a family doctor, thousands of nurses about to retire and an aging population that will require home care and long-term care options. McGeorge is a retired hospital CEO and a consultant. He makes the case in this book for sweeping reforms in this collection of newspaper columns. Self published.


The Miramichi Fire: A History by Alan MacEachern

Great Miramichi Fire (Submitted by Alan MacEachern)

The 1825 Miramichi Fire ranks as one of the largest forest fires ever recorded in North America, causing damage from Caraquet to Fredericton. But compared to events such as the Halifax explosion, it's barely remembered. Western University historian Alan MacEachern is hoping to change that. He has vividly reconstructed the disaster to bring a more complete story to light. Published by McGill-Queen's University Press.

John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Year Canada Was Cool by Greg Marquis - John Lennon would have had his 80th birthday this year. As a member of the Beatles, Lennon was beloved and left his mark all over the world. Canada played a small part in his story. Montreal is where he and Yoko Ono held one of their famous Bed-Ins for Peace to protest the Vietnam War in June of 1969. That week, and the months surrounding it, are the focus of Marquis's latest book. From the author of Truth & Honour: The Oland Family Murder Case that Shocked Canada. Published by Lorimer.

The Cottage Girls and the Whale Cove Cottages: An oral history by Robert Spiller, edited by Jocelyne Thompson - When you think of Grand Manan you probably think of rugged coastline, herring weirs, dulse, the lighthouse and the ferry. But once upon a time the island had quite a reputation as a literary haven. A group of women writers from New England bought property, built cottages and formed a small community in Whale Cove in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Published by Rabbittown Press.

Black Loyalists in New Brunswick by Stephen Davidson - Black Loyalists landed in Saint John with dreams of a better life. They arrived on promises of freedom, equality, land of their own to farm. What they found was racism, struggle and life events the history books would, for the most part, never record. Stephen Davidson has been gathering material on Black Loyalists since the mid-1970s. He profiles eight in this book. Published by Formac.

(Formac Publishing)

My Cathedral in the Sea by Harley Stanton - An exploration of Saint John's Golden Age of Sail through the history of one illustrious ship called The Conway, built in the early 1850s. The Conway crossed the Atlantic 26 times, surviving cyclone, storm, mutiny and many deaths of immigrants and crew. It brought thousands of people from England to Australia, including the author's family and some other names you might recognize. Self published.

Boss by Eric McCumber - if you're one of many New Brunswickers descended from early settlers along the St. John River, surviving isolation is in your DNA. The latest novella from Eric McCumber of Long Reach is set in 19th century New Brunswick, when the railways were just arriving and survival was a way of life in harsh and unpredictable times. It's historical fiction based on the life of Alexander "Boss" Gibson...and maybe some inspiration to deal with the modern realities of pandemic life. This is the fourth in McCumber's Steamboat Chronicles series. Self published.

Kingston Peninsula Memories: Book 2 by Ann Waddell - From One-Handed Jimmy the fiddle player, to the days when sheep and cattle rode the Gondola Point ferry and the unconventional curriculum at the MacDonald Consolidated School, Ann Waddell's latest scrapbook on memories of the Kingston Peninsula isn't your typical history book. The eclectic collection of letters, photos, essays, newspaper clippings, and reminiscences spans several hundred years of history on the scenic peninsula between the St. John and Kennebecasis Rivers. Self published.

Miramichi Lads & Ladies, We Will Remember Them by John Bosma -  It's been 75 years since Canadian soldiers played a major role in the liberation of the Netherlands. Although John Bosma was born a few years after the war, he believes he owes his life to those soldiers. He moved with his parents from the Netherlands to Miramichi 65 years ago. In his new book, Bosma pays tribute to members of the North Shore Regiment who served in Europe during the Second World War as well as the people at home who supported them and shares stories of some of the civilian lives they saved. Self published. 


Peter Powning: A retrospective by John Leroux - a bilingual coffee table book published by Goose Lane editions. 

Small Raku-fired iridescent vessels. (Peter Powning)

Markhamville ceramist and sculptor Peter Powning threw his first pot in 1969. Since then, he's made everything from cups and saucers to huge public art installations, some of which can be seen along Saint John's Harbour Passage and at Market Square. His fantastical forms have been described as "Edgar Allen Poe meets Star Trek." 

Powning's work finds magic in the mundane, said Leroux, and reveals a constant curiosity.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery curator considers Powning "one of the greatest polymaths in Canadian art" because he uses "almost every kind of media" - from ceramics to metal and glass, to found objects, wood and pumpkins. 

"I just didn't have a temperament for sticking to one line of work," said Powning.

Powning also took the photographs in the book. There are more than 100 reproduced on full pages. 

"It's just a sumptuous visual piece," said Leroux.

Memory Vessel - Reversing Falls, Saint John, stainless steel and recycled 14’ x 14.5’ x 6’, glass, with internal LED light array. (Peter Powning)

The pictures are a chronology of Powning's work, he said -- from "hippie brown mugs" made in the 1970s to "incredible technical" creations that adorn the Toronto International Film Festival head office tower and "everything in between."

But he suggested they also tell a broader story.

"You get a real sense of fine art and fine craft of the last 50 years in New Brunswick. It's really the story of how we've also evolved as a province."

Leroux said he hopes the book will help to cement Powning even more in New Brunswick's canon of visual arts.

"I don't want it to be my tombstone," said Powning, "but this is the first 50 years, we'll say."

There are also several essays in the book. Leroux wrote one of them. Powning's wife Beth, the writer, contributed another.

Powning "beak to beak" with a golden eagle, from the back cover of the book. (Beth Powning)

Lintels of Paris by Thaddeus Holownia - A book of 40 large-format photographs of doortop stone architecture by Jolicure's Fulbright and Royal Society fellow and the retired head of Fine Arts at Mount Allison University. With an essay by Peter Edwards. Published by The Anchorage Press. 

Social Studies by James Wilson - The character of New Brunswick is written all over the faces of the people who live here. Every line, every smile, every wrinkle -tells a story about who we are. For the past 25 years James Wilson has been working on a monumental project capturing portraits of New Brunswickers from all walks of life. Hundreds of photos of everyone from lawyer David Lutz, to millworker Larry Belyea, the poet Clyde Wray and the late antiques dealer Tim Isaac. Chances are, you see someone you know. Published by Goose Lane editions.

iPhone Photography for Dummies by Mark Hemmings - Hemmings has become a bit of an authority on tricks to take great photos with an iPhone. He lends his advice to the popular worldwide series of how-to-guides - those books with the familiar yellow and black covers that help you figure out to do pretty much anything, in a non-intimidating way.

Capturing Crime by Carol Taylor - Carol Taylor of Rothesay has worked as a sketch artist for more than 30 years. She's captured some of New Brunswick's most notable trials. This book of her courtroom drawings includes iconic moments such as the Richard Hatfield trial for marijuana possession in 1984, and the Alan Legere murder trials in 1987 and 1991, as well as more recent high profile cases such as Justin Bourque and Dennis Oland. Taylor says she approaches the work like a puzzle, from the peripheral courtroom environment to the faces of the central figures, which often evolve over the course of a long legal battle. New World Publishing (Canada)


Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider by Stephen Heard

Stephen Heard's book Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels (Submitted by Stephen Heard)

The scientific names of plants and animals fascinate Heard. He's come across many strange ones in his work as a biologist at UNB Fredericton and put his curiosity to work in this book. He delved into pop culture, great letters, handwritten manuscripts from the 18th century and obscure Swedish theses and found tons of quirky explanations that connect scientists to their heroes, lovers and enemies - from the louse named in honour of Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson's contribution to biology, to the ugly weed with small sexual parts named after the critic of a Dutch botanist. Published by Yale University Press.

Geology of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island: Touring Through Time at 44 Scenic Sites by Martha Hickman Hild and Sandra Barr - New Brunswick's rock formations tell a fascinating story of tectonic shift and continental drift, in some cases going back almost 700-million years. Tour guides Barr, geologist and professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, and Hickman Hild, who has a PhD in earth sciences, unearth some of region's remarkable features, hiding in plain sight at parks and on roadsides. Published by Boulder Books.


Working from home for a harmonious life by Luc Desroches - Desroches started working from home for Environment Canada in 2016 - long before COVID-19 - after spending 13 years in a cubicle. Part of what he did to help adjust to his new work environment was to start writing. That hobby paid off this year when he won second place in the Pottersfield Prize for creative nonfiction. The Dieppe man says working from home is a great option for many reasons and even if you haven't cared for it during the pandemic, that may not be a reason to rule it out. Published by Pottersfield Press.

Humanity at Work: Leading for Better Relationships and Results by Pierre Battah - A back-to-basics guide for leaders wanting to create positive, engaged and productive workplaces. Balancing relationships and results is the key, says Battah. Engaged employees are more productive, have fewer sick days, and tend to stay in their jobs longer and go the extra mile. The Moncton-based professional speaker shares lessons learned during his experiences working in senior management at Atlantic Lotto and Assumption Life and instructing at Mount Allison University.

Unicorn in the Woods: How East Coast Geeks and Dreamers Are Changing the Game by Gordon Pitts - New Brunswick has long been known for resource industries such as fishing and forestry. But two of the province's biggest success stories are from the technology realm. Radian6 and Q 1 Labs sold for a combined $1 billion to IBM and Salesforce. How did that happen - and perhaps more importantly - could it happen again? Award winning author Gordon Pitts's latest book looks at those questions. Pitts is the author of seven books including "The Codfathers: Lessons from the Atlantic Business Elite." Published by Goose Lane.


NB Book Award winners

Itzel I: A Tlatelolco Awakening by Sarah Xerar Murphy - The first instalment in a two-part novel, set during the Mexico student movement of 1968 and steeped in Mexican culture. The Bocabec author was actually in Mexico at the time, when students were protesting the Mexico City Olympics, and hundreds were shot and killed by Mexican armed forces. This novel tells the story of three people whose lives were forever changed by that event. Published by Guernica Editions

Sourcebooks for our Drawings: Essays and Remnants by Danny Jacobs - a collection of lyric essays about rural, suburban and commercial life in Atlantic Canada in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, part memoir, part alternate history. Jacobs previously won PRISM International's 2015 Creative Nonfiction Contest and The Malahat Review's 2016 P. K. Page Founders' Award. His first book, Songs That Remind Us of Factories (Nightwood, 2013), was shortlisted for the 2014 Acorn-Plantos Award for People's Poetry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Riverview, NB, and works as the librarian in the village of Petitcodiac.