4 CanLit Books for your Reading List


New cover of Bear by Marian Engel
New cover of Bear by Marian Engel

If you’re a fan of Canadian literature, you have likely heard of Bear by Marian Engel. First published in 1976 by McClelland and Stewart, the Governor General’s Literary Prize winning novel has recently been in the news because of a reissue. The book has also gained popularity worldwide as a result of an Imgur post expressing shock at the risqué story of a young woman’s love (both physical and emotional) for, you guessed it, an actual bear.

Regardless of whether you view Bear as an iconic piece of Canadian literature or merely a tale of an unusual fetish, it has undoubtedly made its mark upon the field. Here are 3 other award winning Canadian novels that have had a significant impact on our literary landscape:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Any list of great Canadian novels is incomplete without mention of Margaret Atwood. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood masterfully combines a dystopian universe, strong and flawed female characters, and an ominous mood  to create a compelling and unforgettable tale. Even for those not a fan of dystopian settings, this is a must read for Atwood’s social commentary on politics, religion, and the ways by which the oppressed gain agency.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat – One of Canada’s most famous authors, Mowat passed away recently in May 2014. Known, praised and criticized for his environmentalism and advocacy, Mowat wrote of what he loved; nature. Though Lost in the Barrens is a Young Adult novel, its descriptions of the northern wilderness will captivate audiences young and old. Through the protagonists’ (mis)adventures, Mowat paints a picture of a land that is harsh yet nurturing, cruel yet beautiful— a land of dichotomy that will become a part of you.

Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat
Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje – The immigrant experience is an integral part of Canada, and Ondaatje explores this through fictionalizing the lives of  immigrants that contributed to the building of Toronto in the 1900s. Through these lives he speaks of the plight of the immigrant as an “outsider,” and the transformation of identity. With lush prose and vivid imagery, Ondaatje weaves a saga that is at once stark and hypnotic. As we follow the fortunes of Patrick Lewis, a migrant worker earning his living searching for a vanished millionaire and tunnelling beneath Lake Ontario, we become enmeshed in this tale of a long ago time, in a not-so-far-away land.

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

All book cover images from respective pages
Featured image By Stewart Butterfield (flickr) 
[CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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