Skip to Content

Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Listed: Ten Books Canadians Should Read To Learn About Their Country & Culture

This weekend past, I just finished yet another one of Will Ferguson’s books (Why I Hate Canadians) and it got me to thinking, as his books tend to make me do, about Canadian culture, who we are, who we were, and where we stand in the world. And so, for this week’s Listed feature, I wanted to take a look at a handful of books that I think Canadians should (at some point in time) read.

Obviously, a lot will disagree with some of these books. And this is by no means a definitive list. But these are some books that I think every Canadian should read to get an idea about where we come from, who we are, how we related to the outside world, etc etc.

  1. Only in Canada You Say by Katherine Barber. Originally Published 2008. LT. A book that looks into a large number of words that only Canadians have, or words with a very distinctive Canadian meaning.
  2. Ikonika: A Field Guide to Canada’s Brandscape by Hanna & Middleton. Originally Published 2008. LT. Taking a look at some of Canada’s most successful brands, including HBC, Cirque du Soliel and Tim Hortons.
  3. Rick Mercer Report: The Book by Rick Mercer. Originally Published 2007. LT. Canadian politics done in a humourous way.
  4. Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada by Will Ferguson. Originally Published 2004. LT. A travel memoir that highlights some of the coolest places in Canada to visit.
  5. Sex in the Snow by Michael Adams. Originally Published 1997. LT. A look at Canadian demographics.
  6. Souvenir of Canada by Douglas Coupland. Originally Published 2002. LT. Essay collection that looks at obscure Canadian cultural references.
  7. What Canadians Think (About Almost Everything) by Darrell Bricker and John Wright. Originally Published 2006. LT. Stats on Canadians and Canadian preferences and the like.
  8. Vimy by Pierre Burton. Originally Published 1986. LT. A look at one of the moments that defined Canada as a nation.
  9. So You Want to Be A Canadian by Kerry Colburn and Rob Sorensen. Originally Published 2004. LT. A book packed with trivia about Canada.
  10. A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada by John Ralston Saul. Originally Published 2008. LT. A look at how the English, French and Metis societies have influence on each other and Canada.

I know there are a lot that I’ve missed out on – histories of the Native Canadians and Quebecois, various of our other multicultural peoples, some Farley Mowat, etc. What additional books do you feel should be added to this list? Any that you disagree with?

Do you like this feature? You should also check out Librarian’s Book Reviews’ Listless Monday, A Bookshelf Monstrosity’s Books By A Theme and Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog’s Birdwatching.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:00 am February 7, 2011.
Category: Listed

  • Shannon

    I couldn’t get through the John Ralston Saul book – the first section was captivating and then my white guilt set in and I had to put it down. I also couldn’t get through Sex in the Snow; I found it too academic, but I don’t really like demographic studies.

    I’d add in Klondike by Pierre Berton. It explains the ‘pioneer spirit’ in all its glory. Probably my favourite PB book. (Vimy is in the top 5)