The Greatest Canadian "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    Set in a dystopian future, this novel presents a society where women are stripped of their rights and are classified into various roles based on their fertility and societal status. The protagonist is a handmaid, a class of women used solely for their reproductive capabilities by the ruling class. The story is a chilling exploration of the extreme end of misogyny, where women are reduced to their biological functions, and a critique of religious fundamentalism.

  2. 2. Neuromancer by William Gibson

    In this groundbreaking cyberpunk novel, a washed-up computer hacker is hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack. As he navigates a dystopian future filled with artificial intelligence, corporate espionage, and virtual reality, he must confront his own past and the dark realities of the digital world. The narrative explores themes of technology, identity, and consciousness, pushing the boundaries of science fiction literature.

  3. 3. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

    "The English Patient" is a story of four diverse individuals brought together at an Italian villa during the final days of World War II. The narrative revolves around a severely burned man who can't remember his name or past, a young Canadian nurse who tends to him, a Sikh British Army sapper, and a Canadian thief. As they navigate their own traumas and losses, the past of the mysterious patient slowly unravels, revealing a tale of love, identity, and betrayal.

  4. 4. Selected Stories of Alice Munro by Alice Munro

    This collection of short stories offers a comprehensive view of the author's narrative talent, showcasing her ability to create complex characters and situations that reflect the human condition. Set in various locations, from small Canadian towns to exotic foreign locales, each story delves into the intricate relationships, personal struggles, and quiet triumphs of its characters. The author's writing is marked by her keen observation, psychological insight, and the ability to convey the extraordinary within the ordinary, making each story a unique exploration of life's complexities.

  5. 5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    A young Indian boy named Pi Patel survives a shipwreck and finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Over the course of 227 days, Pi uses his knowledge of animal behavior and survival skills to coexist with the tiger, ultimately leading to an unusual and deeply spiritual journey. The story explores themes of faith, survival, and the interpretation of reality.

  6. 6. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

    The novel is a complex narrative that weaves together the story of two sisters in early 20th century Canada, one of whom publishes a scandalous novel that leads to her suicide. The surviving sister, now an elderly woman, reflects on their lives, revealing family secrets, heartbreak, and the truth behind the scandalous novel. The narrative is interspersed with excerpts from the controversial book, a science fiction story within a story, adding layers of intrigue and mystery.

  7. 7. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

    The novel follows the life of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a seemingly ordinary woman, from her birth in Canada in 1905 to her death. It explores her experiences as a mother, wife, and widow, as well as her work as a gardener and her later years as a columnist. The book is unique in that it is written in a variety of styles including letters, diary entries, and third-person narrative, and it explores themes of identity, love, and the often overlooked lives of women.

  8. 8. Obasan by Joy Kogawa

    The book is a semi-autobiographical novel that tells the story of a Japanese-Canadian woman named Naomi, who reflects on her experiences during World War II. As a child, Naomi was forced into internment along with thousands of other Japanese-Canadians, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The narrative explores the themes of racism, identity, silence, and the power of memory, as Naomi grapples with the trauma of her past and the impact of her cultural heritage on her present life.

  9. 9. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

    "Fugitive Pieces" is a novel that explores the life of a Holocaust survivor who is rescued as a young boy by a Greek geologist. The boy grows up to become a poet and translator, haunted by his traumatic past and the loss of his family. The story also includes the perspective of a young professor who is obsessed with the poet's work, digging into the poet's past to understand his own life. The novel delves into themes of memory, loss, and the power of language.

  10. 10. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

    This novel revolves around the life of a controversial painter, Elaine Risley, who returns to her hometown, Toronto, for a retrospective of her art. Haunted by her past, she reminisces about her childhood and the complex relationships she had, especially with her best friend Cordelia. The story delves into themes of memory, identity, and the often painful experiences of childhood and adolescence. The protagonist's journey is one of self-discovery, as she navigates through the complexities of female friendship, bullying, and the struggle to fit in.

  11. 11. Unless by Carol Shields

    The novel is a narrative about a middle-aged, successful writer who is grappling with the sudden and inexplicable decision of her eldest daughter to drop out of college and live on the streets. The daughter communicates only one word, "Goodness", which she writes on a cardboard sign. The story explores the protagonist's struggle to understand her daughter's choice, while also delving into themes of feminism, the nature of goodness, and the power of words.

  12. 12. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

    This historical fiction novel centers around the true story of Grace Marks, a 19th-century Irish-Canadian maid who was convicted of the brutal murders of her employer and his housekeeper. The narrative is told from the perspective of Grace herself, as well as a young psychiatrist who is trying to determine whether Grace is truly guilty. The book explores themes of memory, culpability, and the treatment of women in society.

  13. 13. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

    Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the novel follows the life of Snowman, who believes he may be the last human on earth, as he struggles to survive in a new, harsh environment. He is surrounded by genetically modified creatures, and his only companions are the Crakers, human-like beings created by his brilliant but disturbed friend Crake. Through Snowman's memories, the story of how the world came to be this way is revealed, involving a love triangle with the mysterious Oryx and the catastrophic consequences of Crake's scientific experiments.

  14. 14. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

    "Station Eleven" is a post-apocalyptic novel that revolves around the lives of several characters before and after a devastating flu pandemic wipes out most of the world's population. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, exploring the interconnectedness of the characters' lives through their shared memories and experiences. The story also follows a traveling Shakespearean theatre company as they navigate the dangers of a collapsed civilization, emphasizing the importance of art and human connection in times of crisis.

  15. 15. The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

    "The Progress of Love" is a collection of short stories that explore the complexities of human relationships, particularly focusing on love. Set in various locations, from small-town Ontario to post-war Italy, the narratives delve into the lives of different characters as they navigate the intricacies of love, loss, and the human condition. The stories intricately weave together themes of memory, time, and the constant evolution of love, showcasing the author's ability to portray the subtleties of everyday life with profound insight and empathy.

  16. 16. Generation X by Douglas Coupland

    The book is a novel that captures the disaffections of young adults growing up in the late 20th century, specifically those born in the late 1950s to the early 1980s. It follows the lives of three friends who have retreated to the California desert to escape the complexities and frustrations of the modern world. Through their stories, the novel explores themes of aimlessness, consumer culture, and the search for authenticity in a society saturated with media and technology. The characters' tales are interspersed with quirky definitions and cartoons that reflect their cynical, yet deeply yearning outlook on life, coining terms and concepts that resonate with a generation struggling to find its identity amidst economic and social uncertainty.

  17. 17. The First Garden by Anne Hébert

    "The First Garden" is a historical fiction novel set in 17th-century Canada. It tells the story of a young woman who is sent to New France (now Quebec) to be a "Filles du roi" or "King's Daughter" - a program where women were sent to marry the men of New France in order to populate the colony. The protagonist struggles to adapt to her new life, facing harsh winters, cultural differences, and the challenges of frontier life while grappling with her feelings for a local trapper. The book explores themes of survival, love, and the clash of cultures.

  18. 18. Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

    Set in a dystopian future Toronto that has been abandoned by the government and cordoned off from the rest of Canada, the novel follows a young, spirited woman of Caribbean descent who must navigate the perilous, gang-ruled cityscape while harnessing her newfound, ancestral spiritual powers. As she grapples with her identity and the demands of the community that relies on her, she is drawn into a dangerous quest to save her dying grandmother and confronts a malevolent spirit. The story is a rich tapestry of Afro-Caribbean culture, folklore, and tradition, exploring themes of resilience, heritage, and the transformative power of love and family.

  19. 19. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

    In this humorous and cleverly illustrated children's book, a bear searches for his missing hat, asking various animals along the way if they have seen it. As the bear's frustration grows, readers are left to wonder if the bear will ever find his hat and what might happen when he does.

  20. 20. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

    In a land where a ruthless sorcerer has erased the name and history of a once-proud province, a group of rebels fights to reclaim their identity and homeland. The story unfolds in a richly detailed fantasy world where magic and political intrigue intertwine, and the power of memory and the resilience of the human spirit are central themes. The rebels, each with their own personal vendettas and dreams, must navigate complex alliances and confront their own pasts as they strive to restore the name of their province and free it from the grip of tyranny. Their quest is fraught with challenges, as they face not only the sorcerer's formidable powers but also the difficulties of uniting a fractured people under a forgotten banner.

  21. 21. Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

    "Fall On Your Knees" is a multi-generational saga set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, that explores themes of family, love, betrayal, and secrets. The story revolves around the Piper family, specifically four sisters, their father James, and their mother Materia. The narrative weaves through time, revealing the family's complex relationships, the impact of racial and cultural tensions, and the dark secrets that have shaped their lives. This novel is a deep exploration of family dynamics, love, and the power of secrets.

  22. 22. Runaway by Alice Munro

    "Runaway" is a collection of short stories that explore the depth of human relationships, the complexities of love, and the consequences of life's unpredictable turns. The stories revolve around women of varying ages and circumstances, each dealing with her own unique situation. Some are escaping from their past or present situations, while others are struggling to find their place in the world. The narratives delve into themes like betrayal, loss, and the often complicated dynamics between parents and children, and husbands and wives.

  23. 23. The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

    This fantasy novel is the first in a series that weaves a tale of five university students from Toronto who are transported to a magical world called Fionavar. Invited as guests to witness the celebration of a pivotal anniversary, they soon find themselves embroiled in a struggle against an ancient evil that threatens the very fabric of all worlds. Central to the story is the Summer Tree, a sacred object of sacrifice and rebirth, where one of the students must endure a harrowing trial that will affect the fate of both Fionavar and their own world. The narrative blends myth, legend, and personal growth, as each character confronts their destiny and the complex moral choices of a world filled with gods, power, and enchantment.

  24. 24. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro

    "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" is a collection of nine short stories that explore the complexities of human relationships. Each story delves into the intricate web of emotions and experiences that define the human condition, including love, hate, friendship, courtship, and marriage. The characters are rendered with depth and nuance, their lives marked by moments of profound change and subtle transformation. The stories are set against the backdrop of rural and urban landscapes, offering a rich, evocative portrayal of life in all its complexities and contradictions.

  25. 25. The Beauty Of The Husband by Anne Carson

    "The Beauty of the Husband" is a poetic exploration of a failing marriage. Told in 29 tangos, the narrative unfolds the story of a woman who remains in love with her husband despite his numerous infidelities. The husband, a charming and deceitful character, is portrayed as a figure of magnetic attraction and revulsion, with his wife drawn to his charisma and repelled by his dishonesty. The book is a profound examination of love, betrayal, and the complex dynamics of relationships.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download