Unreserved's fall book pick list

Having an explosion of books by Indigenous authors is a good problem to have — but with so many books to cover, we couldn’t possibly get to them all. So we asked a few of our favourite authors to recommend books to add to your reading list.
Cherie Dimaline (top-left), Richard Van Camp (top-right), Harold Johnson (bottom-left) and Alicia Elliott (bottom-right) give four book recommendations from some of their favourite Indigenous authors. (CBC, Laughing Dog Photography, House of Anansi, Ayelet Tsabari)

Having an explosion of books by Indigenous authors is a good problem to have — but with so many books to cover, we couldn't possibly get to them all.

So, we cornered a few Indigenous authors at Wordfest in Calgary to tell us which books they're reading, and why you should read them too.

Richard Van Camp 

Having written over 20 books across different genres, Van Camp's latest book is called Moccasin Square Gardens, a collection of humourous short stories based on his hometown of Fort Smith, N.W.T.

His recommendation is Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice — a dystopian novel that follows a northern Anishinaabe community and its struggle after their electrical power grid shuts down during a cold winter.

"It's a very short novel, but it's a novel that haunts me daily," Van Camp said. "I love it. I'm terrified of it. I'm in awe of Waubgeshig for writing it. I thank him because it is the ultimate what-if novel."

Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline's latest book, Empire of Wild, draws inspiration from a Métis legend. It follows Joan, a woman whose husband disappeared — only to return a year later with a new name and no memory of his past.

An essential read for Dimaline is Maria Campbell's Half-Breed — a memoir about her experience growing up on a road allowance and her challenges and triumphs along the way.

"She held all of us as a community — she protected the language and she came back home," Dimaline said. 

Harold Johnson 

The deaths of Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie inspired former Crown prosecutor Harold Johnson to write about injustices Indigenous people have faced in the justice system, and its failure to deliver 'Peace and Good Order' to communities.

Johnson recommends The Trickster Series by Eden Robinson, a thriller that follows Jared, a teen navigating adolescence with the occasional influence of magic, horror and comedy.

"It contains real magic," Johnson said.

Alicia Elliott

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a collection of essays written by Alicia Elliott that address how colonialism and inherited legacies of trauma impact Indigenous people today.

A "phenomenal book" that is top of mind for Elliott is Gwen Benaway's Holy Wild, a poetry collection that addresses how a trans Indigenous woman's life is impacted by dehumanization.

"[It looks at] how we can create love and beauty in those moments, despite everything," Elliott said.

Looking for more book picks? Here are some more recommendations for young readers.