This is What You Should Read:

18 Atlantic Canadian Books That Are Generating Buzz


The Smeltdog Man
Frank Macdonald
Pottersfield Press

Think: burgeoning fast-food empire. Think: Cape Bretoner with the munchies. Think: the smeltdog. Macdonald’s latest novel showcases his usual sense of satire and silliness, nods to an old character from Tinker and Blue, with a bit more of a freewheeling sensibility. But as always, common sense wins out over greed—at least in the hearts of the wise.

Treason’s Edge
Susan MacDonald

Breakwater Books

This is the third and final instalment in MacDonald’s YA fantasy series, The Tyon Collective. The tension is ramped up on high for protagonist Alec, whose terrifying abilities are being controlled by the traitorous Anna, with the fate of the world at stake.

Politics & Society

Crossing Troubled Waters
MacQuarrie, Pierson, Stettner, Bloomer
Island Studies Press

“Trouble” serves as a euphemism for unwanted pregnancy, in the old parlance. The trouble is magnified in societies lacking effective reproductive care. This work examines modern barriers to healthcare in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Prince Edward Island, an apt comparison given the power of the church on each island.

Hell’s Flames to Heaven’s Gate
Jack Fitzgerald

Jack Fitzgerald, journalist cum folklorist cum historian, talks about the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland, which has been a historical sanctuary for Irish-Catholic immigrants and is one of the most powerful political and social influencer on the Rock.

Viola Desmond: Her Life and Times
Graham Reynolds with Wanda Robson
Fernwood Publishing

Nine years before Rosa Parks made US history, Viola Desmond was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat in a segregated movie theatre in Nova Scotia. Desmond’s younger sister, Wanda Robson, played an active role in winning a posthumous pardon for Desmond. With Graham Reynolds, Robson tells Desmond’s life story, including her role as a pioneering African Canadian businesswoman.

Westray: My Journey from Darkness to Light
Vernon Therriault as told to Marjorie Coady
Preface from Steve Hunt, United Steelworkers
Nimbus Publishing

This is the memoir of a brave person, a survivor and a fighter. It is the story of the Westray mine disaster told by a man who worked in the mine and who won a Medal of Bravery for his part in the unsuccessful rescue efforts. In the aftermath—fraught with chronic pain and PTSD—Theriault found purpose in fighting for the Westray Bill to hold negligent companies criminally responsible.

Holiday Gifts

Christmas in Atlantic Canada: Stories True and False, Past and Present
David Goss

Old-world countries like England have grand narratives by beloved authors to give them a sense of Christmas past. But the holiday didn’t gain significance here until…well, 1604 as it turns out. Thankfully we have folklorist David Gross tracing the history of Christmas in our region, from the first live Santa sighting to the first awed crowd surrounding a Christmas tree in a store window.

Cape Breton’s Christmas, Book 5
Ronald Caplan, editor
Breton Books

Collected Cape Breton Christmas stories have become an annual tradition, and for editor Ronald Caplan a year-round endeavour. The Cape Breton Post reported him scouring the beaches for prospective writers saying, “everyone has at least one good Christmas story to share.” He proves himself right every year, with a diverse collection of well-crafted, touching stories.

Saltwater Mittens
Christine LeGrow & Shirley Scott
Boulder Publications

It’s a very Newfoundland book in one sense, but anyone north of say the 42nd parallel is sure to appreciate a good pair of wool mittens, especially ones as stylish and authentic as those knitted by LeGrow & Scott. A perfect gift for your favourite knitters.


Halifax Harbour 1918
Anabelle Kienle Ponka
Goose Lane Editions

As significant as a centennial is, it is equally fascinating to envision the site of a disaster a year after the fact. How fortunate that Harold Gilman and Arthur Lisman—a co-founder of the Group of Seven—were working in Halifax as war artists a year after 1917’s Halifax Explosion. Their contrasting depict a critical moment in the history of Canadian art, and of Canada itself.

Album Rock
Matthew Hollett

St. John’s visual artist and writer Matthew Hollett became fascinated with the question, “Why are a group of French sailors from the mid-1800s painting the word ‘ALBUM’ on a rock?” Album Rock: Looking back through the lens of Paul-Émile Miot is Hollett’s personal journey to solve the mystery of NL history.

Bounty: The Greatest Sea Story of Them All
Geoff D’Eon

Bounty was the 1787 ship where the most infamous mutiny in British naval history took place. They made a Hollywood movie about it in 1962 using a recreation of the ship built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, which eventually sunk in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. D’Eon’s account of the famous ship spans 400 years of “romance…cruelty, lust, loyalty, jealousy, misadventure, hubris, heroism and death.”

The Blind Mechanic: Eric Davidson, Survivor of Halifax Explosion
Marilyn Elliott foreword Janet Kitz
Nimbus Publishing

Eric Davison lost both eyes in the Halifax Explosion. Supporting his fascination with cars and mechanics, his brothers read him auto-repair manuals. He learned well and went on to a decades-long career as an auto mechanic, winning the hearts and loyalty of his Halifax customers.

Personal Accounts

The Other Side of the Sun
Thien Tang
Pottersfield Press

Given the number of people from troubled spots across the globe who have found refuge in this region, it’s remarkable how rare published refugee memoirs are. Prince Edward Islander Thien Tang’s eloquent, honest, lyrical and heartrending story, in addition to personalizing the kind of harrowing account most of us only hear on the news, contributes an important thread in the fabric of our regional culture.

New Brunswick Underwater
Lisa Hrabluk, photography Michael Hawkins
MacIntyre Purcell

The 2018 Saint John River flood was a record breaker that affected thousands of New Brunswickers, cost millions to clean up after, and may have been but a glimpse of a changed-climate future. Award-winning journalist Lisa Hrabluk personalizes the statistics with moving individual accounts of despair, heroism and resilience.

The Nova Scotia Book of Lists
Vernon Oikle
MacIntyre Purcell

Be they to-do, to-see, bucket, top-ten or otherwise, we love our lists. Oikle’s collection, a combination of his own lists and those of experts from across the province, is geared to Bluenosers and anyone looking to get to know Nova Scotia better. Here you’ll find out where see the best waterfalls, eat the best pizza, drink the best wine, find the best sea-glass…


Brad Marchand: The Unlikely Star
Philip Croucher
Nimbus Publishing

Hammonds Plains’ Brad Marchand is widely considered one of the 20 best male hockey players alive. He’s also the single most annoying hockey player to non-Bruins fans. Whatever your perceptions of Marchand, there’s no denying the 5’9” forward, drafted 71st overall, has defied expectations, becoming an elite scorer, Stanley Cup winner and World Cup hero. Croucher’s account features personal interviews and 40+ photos.

Hockey Card Stories 2
Ken Reid

Pictou native Ken Reid is back with “59 more true tales from your favourite players,” the follow up to his highly readable national bestseller of 2014. Reid’s a TV sportscaster but other than the sports angle these books have relatively little to do with his day job. It’s his childhood passion for collecting that drives his quest for the stories behind quirky cards featuring mullets, broken noses and, in one case, a rhinoceros and Hall of Famer together.

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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