You may have been reading books by Canadian authors for years and not realized it. There are actually quite a few of famous Canadian authors, but their nationality gets blurred in the greater category of literature in English, which includes American, British, Australian, Canadian, and more. Here’s a quick breakdown of the more influential authors of Canada.
- Margaret Atwood: Yes she is on several of my lists, but that is because of how important she is. She is not just the most famous female Canadian author, but is arguably the most famous Canadian author period.
- Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient was the first book by a Canadian author to win the Man Booker Award. Any book that wins that award is guaranteed to be an international best seller. That is a very big deal.
- Thomas King: While King is often lumped with Aboriginal literature, his place among the most influential authors of Canada is secure. Green Grass, Running Water is an essential work to understand Canadian literature and a very important read.
4. Alice Munro: Alice Munro is more of a short story writer than an author, but that doesn’t make her books any less influential. Who Do You Think You Are? Won the Governor General’s Award and her books are taught in women’s lit classes not just in Canada, but across North America.
5. M. Montgomery: What is so great about Montgomery’s works is their timelessness. While Anne of Green Gables is set in the past, the issues that Anne faces throughout her childhood are very real and applicable to children today.
6. Robertson Davies: Davies’s most famous work, Fifth Business, was the first of the Deptford Trilogy. He remains of the most well-known and popular Canadian authors of all time.
7. Farley Mowat: Mowat made his place in Canadian literature for his stance on environmentalism and activism. He took into account his life experiences with the Arctic and wolves, giving wolves a more positive spin than they had ever previously received. He is best-known for his claim “never let the facts get in the way of the truth” when it came to conservationism.
8. Gabrielle Roy: Roy was a French-Canadian who portrayed the lives of her characters in an uncomfortably realistic manner. Roy was also intent on representing the working class, which forced the Quebecois to look at themselves in a completely different manner, absorbing the reality of how they have been treating others.
9. Timothy Findley: While Findley had been rejected by Canadian publishers, but was given a chance by American and British publishers, Findley eventually went on to win the Governor General’s Award for The Wars. Findley’s portrayal of a soldier during World War I is surprisingly still quite applicable to the experiences that today’s soldiers face. He demonstrated that war in itself was not a brave act and only the bravest can stand up for what they believe even against the worst odds.
10. William Gibson: Gibson is not a traditional author and some may be surprised by his inclusion in this list. But Gibson, an author of the cyberpunk genre, was the first winner of the science-fiction triple crown. That means he won the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. His science fiction was ahead of its time, taking into account computer hacking, cyberattacks, as well as mystery.
Of course this list cannot include all of the influential authors of Canada; there are more than mores people realize. This was just my collection across literary genres that have left an impact on the world of Canadian literature. From sci-fi to children’s books, Canada’s literary scene is full of depth and color.