36 Books to Warm Your Winter

Autumn/Winter Staff Picks

Every season brings a fresh crop of new Atlantic Canadian books. But unlike, say, potatoes, we can tell them apart. Each brings us a world, spun by its creator or creators, by authors, editors, illustrators, designers and publishers.

It’s an embarrassment of riches, really, more than an individual can read. To help you choose, our staff sort through stacks of books and book catalogues, and tell you about some of the ones that have us really excited. Here are 36 books to keep you warm on the coldest nights of the year, presented by genre:

Fiction 

Melt 
Heidi Wicks 
Breakwater Books 

Two women, from teenage years to late thirties, priorities ever-changingfriendship sustaining them. Wicks’ sharp language—skilled punning meets stark imagery—sheds new light on a classic theme drawn large on a St. John’s landscape. 

Blaze Island 
Catherine Bush 
Goose Lane Editions 

Climate change gothic from critically acclaimed author Catherine Bush. As you’d expect, the novel poses morally complex questions. It does so with the tautness of a thriller and the luxuriant precision of poetry.   

Good Mothers Don’t 
Laura Best 
Vagrant Press 

In this gripping novel, Best brilliantly, and with great empathy, conveys the intense sorrow and pain of Elizabeth, a woman suffering mental illness in the 60s and 70s, and the loss it causes her. Best also dives into the societal why of matters, realistically portraying a community incapable of keeping ties with someone like Elizabeth.  

 Two for the Tablelands 
Kevin Major 
Breakwater Books 

During slow season, Newfoundland tour guide Sebastian Synard (One for the Rock) visits Gros Morne with his son. Their trip is flipped when they discover a half-buried body. Murdered. Sebastian’s curiosity sends him deeper into a twisting mystery, and eventually grave danger. This one’s a crowd-pleasing page turner.  

Sweetness in the Lime 
Stephen Kimber 
Vagrant Press 

Stephen Kimber weaves a frank story of romance not only between cultures, but across the First World-Third World divide, with all the inherent economic tensions and frustrations. Sweetness is a tense, honest and moving tale of latter-life love in the time of post-colonial globalization. 

Cardinal Divide
Nina Newington 
Guernica Editions 

Meg, a sober alcoholic working in rehab with Indigenous clients, was adopted at age 10 and lacks memory of what came before. Then her father tells her he was born a woman. Nova Scotia writer Nina Newington brings us a taut and utterly believable tale of people who are never what they seem to be, always as complicated as identity itself. 

Butter Honey Pig Bread 
Francesca Ekwuyasi 
Arsenal Pulp Press 

Nigerian-Canadian writer Francesca Ekwuyasi, who lives in Halifax, delivers a vivid, moving saga of twin sisters divided, and their mother Kambirinachi, who sees herself as a spirithaunting families with dead children, miscarriages and stillbirths 

 

History  

Black Loyalists in New Brunswick
Stephen Davidson 
Formac 

Davidson’s biographies of eight African American Loyalists—transported to New Brunswick by the British after their defeat by the Americans, brings life to an important history, and the very human toll of white supremacy when slavery was still legal in what became New Brunswick.   

John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Year Canada Was Cool 
Greg Marquis 
Lorimer 

Historian Greg Marquis offers a unique portrayal of Canadian society in the late Sixties, recounting how politicians, activists, police, artists, musicians and businesses across Canada reacted to John Lennon and Yoko Ono‘s famous Bed-In for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. 

No Place for a Woman
Antony Berger 
Breakwater Books 

A fascinating biography of the author’s ahead-of-her-time mother, told largely in her own words with brief contextual notes. She worked during the Second World War to evacuate children from Spain and Germany, and later reinvented herself as journalist sharing real stories of Newfoundlanders, taking on the stereotypes of outsiders.  

Kings of Friday Night 
AJB Johnston 
Nimbus Publishing 

This book is a delightful throwback to a time when young Nova Scotians were desperate for rock and roll. The Lincolns, fronted by vocalist Frank MacKay, scratched that itch, became one of the most popular bands in the Maritimes and brought together kids from different sides of the track, of different faith and race. They were united by music and dance.  

Mean Streets
Steven Laffoley 
Pottersfield Press 

Slums are communities. People living in wealthier neighbourhoods have always had trouble understanding that. Laffoley’s research paints a picture of Halifax before the “slum clearances” of the 1960s, “to see what was, in fact, gained and what was lost in the destruction of Halifax’s ‘mean streets.’” 

The Bullet 
Robert Hunt 
Flanker Press 

Hunt interviewed retired workers on the pre-Confederation Newfoundland Railway to develop this collection of stories, which range from heartwarming tales of travelling families to hilarious anecdotes of colourful characters to the occasional tragedy on the rails. 

In Search of Adventure
Helen C Escott 
Flanker Press 

Escott interviewed veterans of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador to put together this collection of behind-the-lines stories, including everything from investigating the murders of their own colleagues to finding new ways to connect with communities they policed 

At the Ocean’s Edge 
Margaret Conrad
University of Toronto Press 

A history of a province this thorough, this comprehensive, this impeccably researched, should not be so entertaining. But it is as engaging as it is detailed, a book that will meet all standards of academic rigour and intriguing storytelling. 

 

Young Readers 

A Newfoundland Maple
Samantha Baker, Dawn Baker 
Flanker Press 

Artist Dawn Baker beautiful captures the essence of a tree, and how much all of nature depends on it, in this story by Samantha Baker of a young boy and his grandfather learning about a maple tree’s life during a fishing trip.  

The Hermit 
Jan L Coates 
Nimbus Publishing 

Loosely based on the real-life hermit of Gully Lake, Nova Scotia, The Hermit uses Coates’ always original yet so-real characters to take a heartrending dive into interrelated themes of friendship, community, loveactivism and the need to protect the natural environment 

 A Beginner’s Guide to Goodbye
Melanie Mosher 
Nimbus Publishing 

In this middle-grade reader, Mosher tackles the challenging subject of death. Her protagonist, Laney, is guilt ridden over the loss of her younger sister, and her parents just won’t deal with it. She comes to rely on an elderly neighbour to help in her grieving process. Laney is a believably courageous character, well worth cheering on.  

So Imagine Me 
Lynn Davies 
Art by Chrissie Park-MacNeil 
Nimbus Publishing 

This beautifully illustrated children’s book accentuates the many mysteries of the natural world. The focus here goes beyond the obvious charming megafauna, looking closely at more ethereal beauties as the movement of wind, and crucial minutia like acorns and tree bark. The art of science is in this book.  

Gary the Seagull
Christian Johnston 
Art by Paul Hammond 
Nimbus Publishing  

With vibrant illustrations and a zany bird determined to trick his way into a free lunch, this is a fun read aloud that kids can join in on. “Shoo, bird, shoo!” It was a delightful twist of an ending that will make even the adults in the room laugh out loud 

 

Nonfiction 

A Reluctant Search for Spiritual Truths 
Adrian McNally Smith 
Acorn Press 

In this memoir, author Adrian McNally Smith recounts life-changing moments, originally unearthed from his own psyche when writing an earlier memoir, Finding Forgiveness. Not a self-help book per se, but an enlightening form of storytelling that will likely invite deep personal exploration on the part of readers.   

Halifax and Me
Harry Bruce 
Pottersfield Press 

Journalist Harry Bruce calls Halifax a “City to Dance In.” He moved there at a young age, then left. Then came back, then left, then came back again. Repeat. Each time he returned, he found the city a little livelier, more welcoming. This memoir is a celebration of a city’s blossoming over time.  

All ‘Bout Canada 
Elizebeth F Hill 
Art by Alex MacAskill 
Nimbus Publishing 

This small, attractive little book is packed with fascinating detail, in bite-sized, memorable tidbits. Well written and sexily laid out. Even hardcore Canada buffs will learn something new. Hill’s attention to and respect for Indigenous Peoples is much appreciated here.  

The Second Movement
Vernon Oickle  
MacIntyre Purcell  

Oickle’s outhouse readers are one of the most fun ways to learn about Nova Scotia. Filled with facts about topics ranging from Canada’s oldest general store to UFO sightings to the casualties of war, this is a book of firsts, oldestslargests, and onlies. We may need more outhouses.  

 

Art 

Lost in Newfoundland 
Michael Winsor 
Breakwater Books 

If one must get lost, in Michael Winsor’s Newfoundland is the place to do it. It’s a talented camera that captures the ruggedness of shorelines, the rusticity of old half-sunken vessels, the Newfoundland fondness of bright paints, and the timid wildness of stalking wild cats all in the same little book of bigness.  

Maud Lewis: Creating an Icon
Ray Cronin 
Gaspereau Press 

Cronin’s essay serves as not only an introduction to and serious treatment of Lewis’ work, but also a consideration of her rise to fame and synchronization with the marketing of Nova Scotia as a brand.  

Stay the Blazes Home 
Len Wagg 
Nimbus Publishing 

Len Wagg is an adored, award-winning photographer. This is a book of not only photographs, but also stories, focusing on resilience during the ongoing global pandemic. It is a very Nova Scotian resilience, filled with acts of kindness, generosity and appreciation for essential workers in all industries.  

The Painted Province
Joy Snihur Wyatt Laking 
Pottersfield Press 

As Sheree Fitch says, Joy Laking’s watercolour paintings evoke “a strong sense of interconnectedness and belonging” In The Painted Province the artist presents her favourite paintings from 40 regions, with commentary.  

Autism Arts 
Cynthia Carroll 
Goose Lane Editions 

Autism Arts is filled with stories, images and lesson plans showcasing the profound impact of a joint program by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and Autism Nova Scotia, which provides meaningful art experiences for children and young adults on the autism spectrum.  

 

Poetry 

Ode to the Unpraised
Abena Beloved Green 
Pottersfield Press 

Green collects conversation, prose and poetry from elders, peers and relatives to create an experimental work celebrating community knowledge and wisdom, especially that of Ghanaian and Canadian women.  

Squall 
Chad Norman 
Guernica 

In Squall, Chad Norman fully embodies the voice of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, imagined here as a “proto-suffragette, precursor-feminist,” married to a narcissistic poet. Norman excels at depicting the emotional turmoil of a brilliant woman forced into the shadows, and Judith Bauer’s gothic illustrations amplify the power of Norman’s words.  

A House in Memory
David Helwig 
McGill-Queen’s University Press 

In his lifetime, PEI resident David Helwig authored nearly 50 books of poetry. As Diane Schoemperlen wrote, “oh, you’ve left us so much.” These are his last poems, and some of his most personal, assembled by Maggie Helwig, his daughter.  

Great Outdoors 

Green Ghost, Blue Ocean 
Jennifer M Smith 
Pottersfield Press 

Jennifer M Smith leads a life many desk jockeys surely only dream about. The good news is, she writes as well as she lives, bringing readers hearts and minds along for 40,000 nautical miles and over a decade of sailing to remote destinations, occasionally accompanied by curious and stunning sea creatures.  

The Nova Scotia Bucket List
Dale Dunlop and Alison Scott 
Formac 

Regardless of the season, this is a handbook of inspiring ideas to help Nova Scotians shake off the shack wackies right in their own province. It’s a book that forgoes the obvious, focusing instead on lesser-known destinations it’s about time we knew about.  

Medicinal Herbs of Eastern Canada 
Brenda Jones 
Nimbus Publishing 

Award-winning author and artist Brenda Jones’ guide features gorgeous full-colour illustrations of 72 wild plants with medicinal properties, as well as advice on collecting and preparing them. Perfect for budding botanists and experienced gatherers alike.  

 

Folklore 

Glooscap Tales
Roche Sappier 
Red Earth Publishing 

Roche Sappier wrote and illustrated his collection of Maliseet stories, which has been passed down orally in his family through the generations. Many were told to him by his grandfather, Dr. Peter Paul, a noted historian and linguist.   

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Written By

Chris Benjamin is the managing editor of Atlantic Books Today. He is also the author of Boy With A Problem; Indian School Road; Eco-Innovators and Drive-by Saviours; as well as several short stories in anthologies and journals.

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