From Far and Wide: Reading Across the Country with PQL for Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day, Quill friends! We hope you’re enjoying a relaxing day off under sunny skies, wherever you may be. And if you wanted to add a book to the equation, well, we certainly wouldn’t say no.

In celebration of this most patriotic of holidays, we’re going on a coast-to-coast tour of Canada in books. So strap in and enjoy our cross-country adventure—and maybe discover a book or two.

British Columbia

The Bird in the Stillness, The Ballad of Samuel Hewitt, Zero Gravity

We’re starting out our Canadian road trip on the west coast. First, we find Nick Tooke’s debut novel, The Ballad of Samuel Hewitt, set in the BC interior during the Great Depression and featuring a delightful cast of characters—from boxcar bums to circus performers—as well as truly immersive descriptions of the landscape. Then—shh! If you’re really quiet, you might see a little collection of poetry—The Bird in the Stillness by the late Joe Rosenblatt. It’s hanging out with Bite Me!, another Rosenblatt collection. Both are steeped in the mythopoetic appreciation of the natural world, from the Green Man of the forest to the more bizarre side of Mother Nature’s handiwork. And before we go, you might like a taste of something a little more urban. Don’t forget Sharon English’s story collection Zero Gravity.

The Prairies

We continue our little adventure into the Prairies, where we discover a few more interesting titles. We’ll swing by Alberta, the setting for Marika Deliyannides’s Bitter Lake—a novel that investigates the consequences of silence and what happens when families try to ignore tragedy. While we’re in the neighbourhood, we should also stop by See What I’m Saying, an amusing and beautiful book on lexical oddities by Red Deer-based Author Jim Westergard. Then, a little attention to David Carpenter’s Welcome to Canada would be welcome—his stories are steeped in the Saskatchewan prairies and the Alberta foothills. Finally, we’ll pop our heads in on Lori Cayer’s Mrs Romanov. While the poems themselves may be rooted in Russian history, Lori is a proud Manitoban!

The North

Let’s swing north for a bit, shall we? The frigid Yukon winter is very important to Bruce McDougall’s Every Minute Is a Suicide, and we could all use a bit of a cool-down this summer anyway. While we’re there, we’ll take a moment to appreciate Yukon poet Michael Eden Reynolds’s Slant Room.


Daddy Hall, Rerouted, Casting into Mystery

Onward to Ontario, and boy do we have a packed itinerary! Daniel Bryant’s story collection Rerouted stands out for one story in particular that takes place in the northern wilderness of the province. Then, we can travel down to Southwestern Ontario, where we can discover Tony Miller’s wordless novel Daddy Hall, a story about a half-Mowhawk, half-African Canadian man who went on to become legend in Owen Sound. Further south, Robert Reid and Wesley W. Bates’s Casting into Mystery presents some thought-provoking essays on the sport of fly fishing, centred on the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Also in the neighbourhood, Karl Kessler and Sunshine Chen take a more people-focused view in their book of photos and profiles, Overtime.


Whew! Has our literary trip tired you out yet? We hope you find your second wind, because we’re arriving in Quebec. Of course we can’t forget to stop by and see Clark Blaise’s Montreal Stories. They’re exactly what it says on the tin—stories set in Montreal that made Blaise famous! It’s also a perfect time to check in on Montreal poet Michael Harris, perhaps by perusing his selected works in The Gamekeeper. We’ll round out our Quebec tour with The Essential D. G. Jones. D. G. Jones was a lyric poet whose literary contributions to the country also included co-founding the bilingual literary journal ellipse: Writers in Translation (1969-2012), the only magazine of its kind in Canada. 

The Maritimes

Thoughts on Driving to Venus, High-Water Mark, Margin of Interest

We’re in the home stretch now! Any bookish trip to the Maritimes wouldn’t be complete without Thoughts on Driving to Venus, the “car books” written by Newfoundland painter Christopher Pratt as he drove through the countryside searching for artistic inspiration. How fitting for our adventure, hm? Of course, we’ll need to revisit Nova Scotia writer Nicole Dixon’s superb short story collection High-Water Mark. And to round out the tour, perhaps a little poetry criticism. New Brunswick native Shane Neilson’s Margin of Interest is a good bet there—don’t you feel more informed on Maritime poetry already?

Country-Wide Culture

Whew, what a whirlwind tour! But we’re not done just yet. Canada’s Indigenous people have contributed much to the country’s artistic and cultural landscape. Spending some time with the images in James Simon Mishibinijima’s Pictographs are a wonderful way of appreciating Indigenous heritage.

If you’re looking to appreciate a wide variety of authors from all the corners of Canada, immerse yourself in Bruce Meyer’s Portraits of Canadian Writers. You’ll get snapshots—in words and images—of some of the country’s most iconic and influential authors, all in one handy volume!


Thank you all for coming along on this wonderful cross-country literary odyssey with me. Here’s to hoping we’ve inspired you to read a little more Canada this Canada Day!

Happy travels,


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.