Book Lists

The Governor General's Non-fiction Winners

View all Award Winning Books for Adults book lists; This list was last updated on 10/8/2014
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The Governor General's Literary Awards – known affectionately as “the GGs” – were first awarded in 1936. The GGs were initiated by Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir (John Buchan), a prolific writer himself who published more than 100 works in his lifetime. Each year, the Governor General's Literary Awards honour the best in Canadian literature. As Canada's national literary awards, the GGs represent the rich diversity of Canadian literature. Some 1,600 books are submitted each year from English and French-language publishers representing authors, translators and illustrators from across Canada, in seven categories: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, 

For more book recommendations, please check out New York Times® Best Sellers, Children's Book Recommendations or the complete list of Featured Book Lists and Award Winners

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1 - 29 of 29 results
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Byng of Vimy
Field Marshal the Viscount Byng of Vimy did not fit into the conventional mould in the Army, as Governor-General of Canada or as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Few officers commanded more widespread affection from their troops, or knew them and treated them with such respect as he did. Beginning with dramatic reforms in dress and living conditions in his own regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars, Byng consistently watched over the welfare of his men. Following the desperate Ypres battles of 1914-15, he was sent to Gallipoli to revive a failing enterprise, but instead, in the face of Kitchener's and Churchill's opposition, he called for it to be abandoned. He then planned one of the most successful withdrawals in the history of war. Ever seeking ways to win, Byng led the Canadian Corps to the capture of Vimy Ridge, and the Third Army in the first major tank battle at Cambrai, and in 1918 he commanded the largest of Britain's field armies in the final victory campaign. As Governor-General of Canada, he became almost a Canadian nationalist and worked for the unity of the widespread provinces. He advocated the adoption of a Canadian flag and abandonment of the word "Empire". His conception of the role of the Crown in the constitutional crisis of 1926 has led to its position in the Commonwealth today. Finally, at the age of 66 and fighting a wasting illness, he was summoned to reform the Metropolitan Police, which in a remarkably short time he brought into the 20th century. This reissued biography won the Governor-General's Prize in Canada when it was first published.
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The Regenerators

A crisis of faith confronted many Canadian Protestants in the late nineteenth century. Their religious beliefs were challenged by the new biological sciences and by historical criticism of the Bible. Personal salvation, for centuries the central concern of Christianity, no longer seemed an adequate focus in an age that gave rise to industrial cities and grave social problems.

No single word, Cook claims, catches more correctly the spirit of the late Victorian reform movement than 'regeneration': a concept originall meaning rebirth and applied to individuals, now increasingly used to describe social salvation.

In exploring the nature of social criticism and its complex ties to the religious thinking of the day, Cook analyses the thought of an extraordinary cast of characters who presented a bewildering array of nostrums and beliefs, from evolutionists, rationalists, higher critcis, and free-thinkers, to feminists, spiritualists, theosophists, socialists, communists, single-taxers, adn many more. THere is Goldwin Smith, 'the sceptic who needed God,' spreading gloom and doom from the comfort of the Grange; W.D. LeSueur, the 'positvist in the Post Office'; the heresiarch Dr R.M. Bucke, overdosed on Whitman, with his message of 'cosmis consciousness'; and a free-thinking, high-rolling bee-keeper named Allen Pringle, whose perorations led to 'hot, exciting nights in Napanee.' It is a world of such diverse figures as Phillips Thompson, Floar MacDonald Denison, Agnes Machar, J.W. Bengough, and J.S. Woodsworth, a world that made Mackenzie King.

Cook concludes that the path blazed by nineteenth-century religious liberals led not to the Kingdom of God on earth, as many had hoped, but, ironically, to the secular city.

release date: Sep 10, 1988
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Northrop Frye on Shakespeare
One of the greatest literary critics of our time here provides a remarkable introduction to the genius of William Shakespeare through a study of ten of Shakespeare's most popular plays: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Henry IV, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest. The outgrowth of a lifetime of study and teaching, Frye's insights will inform and delight both the expert and the first-time reader of Shakespeare.
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The Russian Album

Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Award

In The Russian Album, Michael Ignatieff chronicles five generations of his Russian family, beginning in 1815. Drawing on family diaries, on the contemplation of intriguing photographs in an old family album, and on stories passed down from father to son, he comes to terms with the meaning of his family's memories and histories. Focusing on his grandparents, Count Paul Ignatieff and Princess Natasha Mestchersky, he recreates their lives before, during, and after the Russian Revolution.

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Willie
For this account of the life of Somerset Maugham the author was able to draw on several interviews with Alan Searle, Maugham's companion for 35 years as well as other information unavailable to previous biographers.
Trudeau and our times
Book by Clarkson, Stephen; McCall, Christina
release date: Oct 22, 2018
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release date: Oct 01, 1995
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Rogue Primate
An award-winning study of the relationship of humans to nature argues that humans have become so domesticated by and dependent on technology they can no longer truly relate to nature and are more prone to damage their environment. IP.
release date: Oct 22, 2018
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Shadow Maker
Who is the mystery that is Gwendolyn MacEwen? Acclaimed biographer Rosemary Sullivan poignantly uncovers the life of a searingly gifted but wounded poet, novelist and mystic, a writer who, after a spellbinding reading to a packed house in one of Toronto's largest halls, was proclaimed as "one of the last great bards."

Until now, Gwendolyn MacEwen has remained a little-understood figure in the annals of Canadian literature. Rosemary Sullivan paints a portrait that moves Gwendolyn MacEwen -- both as a woman and as an artist -- into her rightful place as one of our most significant cultural icons.

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The Unconscious Civilization
Knowledge, The Enlightenment believed, could protect us from the follies of ideology. But Saul maintains that 'knowing' has not made us "conscious'. Instead we have become increadingly passive, our society increadingly conformist. These are no easy solutions to this problem, Saul say, but change is still possible.

"Winner of the Govenor General's Award"

release date: Jan 01, 2009
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Drumblair
Rachel Manley, granddaughter and daughter of two of Jamaica's national leaders, tells the story of the brilliant and artistic Manleys, Jamaica's most prominent and glamorous political family, and the house in which they lived, Drumblair. Manley vividly recreates the world in which she came of age in this intimate and captivating memoir of the people who most changed Jamaica's intellectual, social, and cultural landscape.
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Lines on the Water: A Fly Fisherman's Life on the Miramichi
Anyone who has ever tied a blood knot in a leader or spun a line on the reel, felt the tug of a salmon or seen the glimmer of a brook trout in the early morning sun, understands that fishing is more than a sport. It is, for many, a way of life. In Lines on the Water, we are reminded why this is so. Writing with the same mastery that has won him praise for his fiction, Richards takes us—even those unfamiliar with days spent in chilly waters—on an unforgettable journey to the famed Miramichi River. Casting new light on the mysterious and elegant world of fly fishing, it teems with lore and wisdom, humor, and most of all, passion.
release date: Jul 12, 2001
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Water
In his award-winning book WATER, Marq de Villiers provides an eye-opening account of how we are using, misusing, and abusing our planet's most vital resource. Encompassing ecological, historical, and cultural perspectives, de Villiers reports from hot spots as diverse as China, Las Vegas, and the Middle East, where swelling populations and unchecked development have stressed fresh water supplies nearly beyond remedy. Political struggles for control of water rage around the globe, and rampant pollution daily poses dire ecological theats. With one eye on these looming crises and the other on the history of our dependence on our planet's most precious commodity, de Villiers has crafted a powerful narrative about the lifeblood of civilizations that will be "a wake-up call for concerned citizens, environmentalists, policymakers, and water drinkers everywhere" (Publishers Weekly).
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Notes from the Hyena's Belly

Winner of the Governor General's Award
A Library Journal Best Book of 2001

Part autobiography and part social history, Notes from the Hyena's Belly offers an unforgettable portrait of Ethiopia, and of Africa, during the 1970s and '80s, an era of civil war, widespread famine, and mass execution. "We children lived like the donkey," Mezlekia remembers, "careful not to wander off the beaten trail and end up in the hyena's belly." His memoir sheds light not only on the violence and disorder that beset his native country, but on the rich spiritual and cultural life of Ethiopia itself. Throughout, he portrays the careful divisions in dress, language, and culture between the Muslims and Christians of the Ethiopian landscape. Mezlekia also explores the struggle between western European interests and communist influences that caused the collapse of Ethiopia's social and political structure―and that forced him, at age 18, to join a guerrilla army. Through droughts, floods, imprisonment, and killing sprees at the hands of military juntas, Mezlekia survived, eventually emigrating to Canada. In Notes from the Hyena's Belly he bears witness to a time and place that few Westerners have understood.

release date: Jan 01, 2002
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The Upside of Down
Despite all of society's advances, our problems proliferate. Wars abound, environmental degradation accelerates, economies topple overnight, and pandemics such as AIDS and tuberculosis continue to spread. The Internet and other media help to disseminate knowledge, but they've also created an “info-glut” and left us too little time to process it. What's more, advances in technology have made the world so bewilderingly fast-paced and complex that fewer people are able even to grasp the problems, let alone generate solutions. That space between the problems that arise and our ability to solve them is “the ingenuity gap,” and as we careen towards an increasingly harried and hectic future, the gap seems only to widen.

As he explores the possible consequences of this gap, Thomas Homer-Dixon offers an absorbing assessment of the state of the world and our ability to fix it. Culling from an astounding array of fields–from economics to evolution, political science to paleontology, computers to communications –he integrates his vast knowledge into an accessible and engaging argument. This is a book with profound implications for everyone that we can ill afford to ignore.
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Saboteurs
Winner of the 2002 Arthur Ellis Award for Best True Crime
Winner of the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize
Finalist for the 2002 Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction
Finalist for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Nonfiction


At Trickle Creek in northern Alberta, Wiebo Ludwig thought he'd buffered his tiny religious community from civilization, but in 1990 civilization came calling. A Calgary oil company proposed to drill directly in view of the farm's communal dining room.

Ludwig hadn't realized his land ownership didn't include mineral rights. He wrote letters, petitioned, forced public hearings, and discovered the provincial regulator cared little about landowners.

After the oil company accidentally vented raw sour gas, Ludwig's wife miscarried. Nearby parcels of land were clear-cut. Ludwig's northern boundary became a highway for semi-trailers loaded with drilling equipment. Seismic crews raced up and down his road. More sour gas wells popped up. People defending their property rights gradually turned into monkeywrenching terrorists.

Hostilities began with nails on the roads, sabotaged well sites, and road blockades. They culminated in death threats, shootings, and bombings. The Mounties recruited a Ludwig acolyte as an informant, and in an attempt to establish the man's credibility the RCMP itself blew up an equipment shack at a well site.

Ludwig was eventually charged with 19 different counts of mischief, vandalism and possession of explosives and later convicted on five charges.
While he was out on bail, joyriding teenagers went to Trickle Creek at four o'clock one morning. Someone fired at one of the pickups, killing 16-year-old Karman Willis. Despite a lengthy investigation, the RCMP has not laid charges.

This is a taut, careful work of nonfiction that reads like a thriller and raises unsettling questions about individual rights, corporate power, police methods, and government accountability. The reader comes to question whether Wiebo Ludwig can be dismissed as a zealot. And to ask: What would I have done in his shoes?


From the Hardcover edition.
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Paris 1919
National Bestseller

New York Times Editors' Choice

Winner of the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize

Silver Medalist for the Arthur Ross Book Award
of the Council on Foreign Relations

Finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award


For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, Margaret MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political entities—Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine, among them—born out of the ruins of bankrupt empires, and the borders of the modern world redrawn.
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Shake Hands with the Devil
For the first time in the United States comes the tragic and profoundly important story of the legendary Canadian general who "watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect." When Roméo Dallaire was called on to serve as force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, he believed that his assignment was to help two warring parties achieve the peace they both wanted. Instead, he was exposed to the most barbarous and chaotic display of civil war and genocide in the past decade, observing in just one hundred days the killings of more than eight hundred thousand Rwandans. With only a few troops, his own ingenuity and courage to direct his efforts, Dallaire rescued thousands, but his call for more support from the world body fell on deaf ears. In Shake Hands with the Devil, General Dallaire recreates the awful history the world community chose to ignore. He also chronicles his own progression from confident Cold Warrior to devastated UN commander, and finally to retired general struggling painfully, and publicly, to overcome posttraumatic stress disorder—the highest-ranking officer ever to share such experiences with readers.
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The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

A tale of obsession so fierce that a man kills the thing he loves most: the only giant golden spruce on earth.

When a shattered kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited island in the Pacific Northwest, they reignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of protest. Five months earlier, logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin had plunged naked into a river in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, towing a chainsaw. When his night's work was done, a unique Sitka spruce, 165 feet tall and covered with luminous golden needles, teetered on its stump. Two days later it fell.

As vividly as John Krakauer puts readers on Everest, John Vaillant takes us into the heart of North America's last great forest.

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The Judgment of Paris

While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, would at times resemble a battlefield; and as Ross King reveals, it would reorder both history and culture, and resonate around the world.

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I've Got a Home in Glory Land

It was the day before Independence Day, 1833. As his bride, Lucie, was about to be sold down the river, Thornton Blackburn planned a daring―and successful―daylight escape from their Louisville masters. Pursued to Michigan, the couple was captured and sentenced to return to Kentucky in chains. But Detroit's black community rallied to their cause in the Blackburn Riots of 1833, the first racial uprising in the city's history. Thornton and Lucie were spirited across the river to Canada, but their safety proved illusory when Michigan's governor demanded their extradition. Canada's defense of the Blackburns set the tone for all future diplomatic relations with the United States over the thorny issue of the fugitive slave, and confirmed the British colony as the main terminus of the Underground Railroad.

The Blackburns settled in Toronto, where they founded the city's first taxi business, but they never forgot the millions who still suffered in slavery. Working with prominent abolitionists, Thornton and Lucie made their home a haven for runaways. When they died in the 1890s with no descendants to pass on their fascinating tale, it was lost to history. Lost, that is, until archaeologists brought the story of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn again to light.

release date: Oct 28, 2008
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Fifteen Days
Long before she made her first trip to Afghanistan as an embedded reporter for The Globe and Mail, Christie Blatchford was already one of Canada's most respected and eagerly read journalists. Her vivid prose, her unmistakable voice, her ability to connect emotionally with her subjects and readers, her hard-won and hard-nosed skills as a reporter–these had already established her as a household name. But with her many reports from Afghanistan, and in dozens of interviews with the returned members of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and others back at home, she found the subject she was born to tackle. Her reporting of the conflict and her deeply empathetic observations of the men and women who wear the maple leaf are words for the ages, fit to stand alongside the nation's best writing on war.

It is a testament to Christie Blatchford's skills and integrity that along with the admiration of her readers, she won the respect and trust of the soldiers. They share breathtakingly honest accounts of their desire to serve, their willingness to confront fear and danger in the battlefield, their loyalty towards each other and the heartbreak occasioned by the loss of one of their own. Grounded in insights gained over the course of three trips to Afghanistan in 2006, and drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews not only with the servicemen and -women with whom she shared so much, but with their commanders and family members as well, Christie Blatchford creates a detailed, complex and deeply affecting picture of military life in the twenty-first century.


From the Hardcover edition.
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A Place Within
A Globe and Mail Best Book

It would take many lifetimes, it was said to me during my first visit, to see all of India. The desperation must have shown on my face to absorb and digest all I possibly could. This was not something I had articulated or resolved; and yet I recall an anxiety as I travelled the length and breadth of the country, senses raw to every new experience, that even in the distraction of a blink I might miss something profoundly significant.

I was not born in India, nor were my parents; that might explain much in my expectation of that visit. Yet how many people go to the homeland of their grandparents with such a heartload of expectation and momentousness; such a desire to find themselves in everything they see? Is it only India that clings thus, to those who've forsaken it; is this why Indians in a foreign land seem always so desperate to seek each other out? What was India to me?

The inimitable M.G. Vassanji turns his eye to India, the homeland of his ancestors, in this powerfully moving tale of family and country. Part travelogue, part history, A Place Within is M.G. Vassanji's intelligent and beautifully written journey to explore where he belongs.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Lakeland
Lakes define not only Canada's landscape but the national imagination. Blending writing on nature, travel, and science, award-winning journalist Allan Casey systematically explores how the country's history and culture originates at the lakeshore. Lakeland describes a series of interconnected journeys by the author, punctuated by the seasons and the personalities he meets along the way including aboriginal fishery managers, fruit growers, boat captains, cottagers, and scientists. Together they form an evocative portrait of these beloved bodies of water and what they mean, from sapphire tarns above the Rocky Mountain tree line to the ponds of western Newfoundland.
release date: Jul 05, 2011
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Mordecai
Foran's book is IT: the definitive, detailed, intimate portrait of Mordecai Richler, the lion of Canadian literature, and the turbulent, changing times that nurtured him. It is also an extraordinary love story that lasted half a century.

The first major biography with access to family letters and archives. Mordecai Richler was an outsized and outrageous novelist whose life reads like fiction.

Mordecai Richler won multiple Governor General's Literary Awards, the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, among others, as well as many awards for his children's books. He also wrote Oscar-nominated screenplays. His influence was larger than life in Canada and abroad. In Mordecai, award-winning novelist and journalist Charlie Foran brings to the page the richness of Mordecai's life as young bohemian, irreverent writer, passionate and controversial Canadian, loyal friend and deeply romantic lover. He explores Mordecai's distraught childhood, and gives us the "portrait of a marriage" — the lifelong love affair with Florence, with Mordecai as beloved father of five. The portrait is alive and intimate — warts and all.


From the Hardcover edition.
release date: Oct 30, 2012
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Leonardo and the Last Supper
Early in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history's most influential and beloved works of art-The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at forty-three, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His latest failure was a giant bronze horse to honor Sforza's father: His 75 tons of bronze had been expropriated to be turned into cannons to help repel a French invasion of Italy. The commission to paint The Last Supper in the refectory of a Dominican convent was a small compensation, and his odds of completing it were not promising: Not only had he never worked on a painting of such a large size-15' high x 30' wide-but he had no experience in the extremely difficult medium of fresco. In his compelling new book, Ross King explores how-amid war and the political and religious turmoil around him, and beset by his own insecurities and frustrations-Leonardo created the masterpiece that would forever define him. King unveils dozens of stories that are embedded in the painting. Examining who served as the models for the Apostles, he makes a unique claim: that Leonardo modeled two of them on himself. Reviewing Leonardo's religious beliefs, King paints a much more complex picture than the received wisdom that he was a heretic. The food that Leonardo, a famous vegetarian, placed on the table reveals as much as do the numerous hand gestures of those at Christ's banquet. As King explains, many of the myths that have grown up around The Last Supper are wrong, but its true story is ever more interesting. Bringing to life a fascinating period in European history, Ross King presents an original portrait of one of the world's greatest geniuses through the lens of his most famous work.
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