Great Canadian Novels


About This Reading List

Many of the titles in the bibliography are available from our library and additional copies can be borrowed from other libraries on campus—please refer to the call number of each title to determine its location and availability.

The Novels

Anne of Green Gables
Montgomery, Lucy Maud

Anne of Green GablesAnne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm and proceeds to make an indelible impression on everyone around her. This edition includes a critical introduction and a fascinating selection of contemporary documents that focus on the text’s engagement with social and political issues, its relation to Montgomery’s life and her other writing, and its circulation as a popular cultural commodity in Canada and elsewhere.

Barney’s Version
Richler, Mordecai

Barney’s VersionEbullient and perverse, thrice married, Barney Panofsky has always clung to two cherished beliefs: life is absurd and nobody truly ever understands anybody else. But when his sworn enemy publicly states that Barney is a wife abuser, an intellectual fraud and probably a murderer, he is driven to write his own memoirs.

Beautiful Losers
Cohen, Leonard

Beautiful LosersOne of the best-known experimental novels of the 1960s, this uninhibited tale centres on the hapless members of a love triangle, and their sexual obsession and shared fascination with a mythic saint.

Green Grass, Running Water
King, Thomas

Green Grass, Running WaterStrong women and hard-luck hardheaded men, all searching for the middle ground between First Nations’ traditions and the modern world, perform an elaborate dance of approach and avoidance in this magical, rollicking tale by Cherokee author Thomas King. Alberta is a university professor who would like to trade her two boyfriends for a baby but no husband; Lionel is forty and still sells televisions for a patronizing boss; Eli and his log cabin stand in the way of a profitable dam project.

In the Skin of a Lion: A Novel
Ondaatje, Michael

In the Skin of a LionIt is the 1920s, and Patrick Lewis has arrived in the bustling city of Toronto, leaving behind his Canadian wilderness home. Immersed in the lives of the people who surround him—the immigrants building the city, as well as those who dreamed it into being – Patrick begins to learn, from their stories, the history of the city itself. And he has his own adventures: searching for a missing millionaire, tunnelling beneath Lake Ontario, falling in love.

Lives of Girls and Women
Munro, Alice

Lives of Girls and WomenThe novel chronicles a young girl’s growing up in rural Ontario in the 1940s. Del Jordan lives out at the end of the Flats Road on her father’s fox farm, where her most frequent companions are an eccentric bachelor family friend and her rough younger brother. When she begins spending more time in town, she is surrounded by women—her mother, an agnostic, opinionated woman who sells encyclopedias to local farmers; her motherr’s boarder, the lusty Fern Dogherty; and her best friend, Naomi, with whom she shares the frustrations and unbridled glee of adolescence. Through these unwitting mentors and in her own encounters with sex, birth, and death, Del explores the dark and bright sides of womanhood.

Gibson, William

NeuromancerA speculative science-fiction novel that provides a window to our digital future. It tells the story of Case, a burnt-out software cowboy forced to do one last job in the infinite bytes of cyberspace. The novel won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

The Polished Hoe: A Novel
Clarke, Austin

The Polished HoeBarbados-born Clarke’s ninth novel, which earned him the 2002 Giller Prize and the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize, is a tragic, complex story of postcolonial Barbadian life following World War II. Oppression still flourishes on Bimshire, an island controlled by &lsdquo;the Plantation,” where women like Miss Bellfeels are basically chattel. Miss Bellfeels, known to the villagers as Mary-Mathilda, eventually escapes the toil of field labor and housework. But as the kept woman of Mr. Bellfeels, the powerful plantation manager, she is not accepted into the island’s upper echelon.

The Stone Angel
Laurence, Margaret

The Stone AngelThe protagonist of this novel, Hagar Shipley, is one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction. Stubborn, querulous, self-reliant. At ninety, with her life nearly behind her, Hagar makes a bold last step towards freedom and independence. As her story unfolds, we are drawn into her past.

The Stone Diaries
Shields, Carol

The Stone DiariesThis is the poignant story of Daisy Goodwill, twentieth-century pilgrim, from her calamitous birth in Canada to her death in a Florida nursing home nearly ninety years later. Struggling to find her place in the world, she listens and observes, becoming a witness to her own life and death in this rich tale.

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Leacock, Stephen

Sunshine Sketches of a Little TownIn this lavishly illustrated gift edition, Stephen Leacock's beloved comic classic gets a fresh new look from renowned cartoonist Seth.As funny, relevant, and insightful today as when it was first published, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town presents a vibrant and unforgettable portrait of the delightful citizens of the fictional small town of Mariposa, Ontario.

Atwood, Margaret

SurfacingSurfacing, Atwood's second novel, is one woman’s haunting quest for her own self.A nameless woman travels to an island cabin in desolate northern Quebec where she spent her childhood, to search for her missing father. In the course of a few painful days, the truth about her own life surfaces, the experiences made all the more lonely by the company of her current lover and another couple—who are unaware of the processes moving within her.

Two Solitudes
MacLennan, Hugh

Two SolitudesA story about saga of Athanase Tallard, the son of an aristocratic French-Canadian tradition, of Kathleen, his beautiful Irish wife, and of their son Paul, who struggles to establish a balance in himself and in the country he calls home. The novel was first published in 1945 and is set mostly in the time of the First World War.


Locating Additional Titles

Please consult one of our reference librarians or schedule a research consultation if you have questions about the titles listed in the guide or if you would like to find other great Canadian works of fiction.

compiled by: Agatha Barc, 20 February 2020