2017 GGBooks winners announced

Provocative, poetic, original: 14 books that will be on every reading list this year

November 1, 2017

Ottawa, November 1, 2017 – The Canada Council for the Arts today announced the winners of the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Awards. From 70 finalists, the peer assessors have chosen 14 outstanding winning titles in English and French. With new work by established authors, illustrators and translators, as well as new favourites by first-time winners, the 2017 GGBooks will find their way on to bookshelves across the country.


The 2017 GGBooks winners reflect the soaring literary ambitions of the writers, translators, illustrators and publishers. They dispense the essential doses of Canadian imagination, fantasy, ideas, dreams and analysis that a growing number of readers are appreciating and celebrating.” - Canada Council Director and CEO, Simon Brault.

Important dates:

  • Wednesday, November 29, 6:00 pm, in her first official ceremony with the Canada Council, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will present the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Awards at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.
  • Thursday, November 30, 11:45 am – 1:00 pm: Readers are invited to meet the English-language GGBooks winners at a free public reading and book signing at the Canada Council, 150 Elgin St., Ottawa (event with French-language winners on Wednesday, November 29, 11:45 am – 1:00 pm).

About the Awards:

  • Founded in 1936, the Governor General’s Literary Awards are one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious literary awards program with a total value of $450,000. The Canada Council for the Arts has funded, administered and promoted the awards since 1959.
  • GGBooks finalists are chosen by peer assessment committees per category, per language (7 in English and 7 in French), who consider eligible books published between September 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017 for English-language books and between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 for French-language books.
  • Each winner receives $25,000. The publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to support promotional activities. Non-winning finalists each receive $1,000.
  • Over their 81 years, GGBooks has celebrated more than 700 works by over 500 authors, poets, playwrights, translators and illustrators.

Visit ggbooks.ca for more information.

English-language winners and comments from the peer assessment committees

We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night

We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night – Joel Thomas Hynes (St. John’s, N.L.)
HarperCollins Publishers

Hynes’s portrait of Johnny Keough is an act of full-throttle imagination and narrative invention. Johnny is a startlingly original creation. His hilarious yet disturbing journey from St. John’s to Vancouver is unforgettable, tragic and ultimately transcendent.

Darren Greer, Robert Hough, Padma Viswanathan

On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood

On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood – Richard Harrison (Calgary)
Buckrider Books / Wolsak and Wynn Publishers

In these moving poems about the father/son relationship set against the Alberta flood of 2013, Richard Harrison’s intimate yet open voice deftly explores subjects as wide-ranging as childhood, middle-age anxiety, dementia and loss with wonder, humour and resilience.

Nina Berkhout, Evelyn Lau, Douglas Burnet Smith

Indian Arm

Indian Arm – Hiro Kanagawa (Port Moody, B.C.)
Playwrights Canada Press

Indian Arm is a timely and evocative manifestation of the characters’ struggle with their relationship to the land. Hiro Kanagawa masterfully navigates the tension between Indigenous and settler identities as they work to figure out how we can live together. Mythic. Heart-breaking. Poetic.

Alanis King, Bruce McManus, Erin Shields

The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State

The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State – Graeme Wood (Connecticut, U.S.)
Random House / Penguin Random House

The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State by Graeme Wood investigates a much discussed, little understood phenomenon dominating international news. Meticulously researched and fluidly written, this bracing book delves into a contentious facet of contemporary geopolitics.

Elaine Kalman Naves, JJ Lee, Ray Robertson

The Marrow Thieves

Young People's Literature - Text:
The Marrow Thieves – Cherie Dimaline (Toronto)
Dancing Cat Books / Cormorant Books

The Marrow Thieves is speculative fiction with a chilling immediacy. Its unflinching narrative resonates in our disturbing times. Cherie Dimaline’s exceptional writing and authentic characters pull you into a story that lingers and unsettles.

Cheryl Foggo, Alma Fullerton, Kevin Major

When We Were Alone

Young People's Literature - Illustrated Books:
When We Were Alone – David Alexander Robertson / Julie Flett (Winnipeg / Vancouver)
HighWater Press

When We Were Alone is a poignant story of a dark and unforgettable part of Canadian history. David A. Robertson gently links the residential school experiences to a new generation with an enduring example of healing, love and understanding. Julie Flett’s simple but profound illustrations expertly complement the text and elevate this important story.

Danielle Daniel, Robert Heidbreder, Brenda Jones


Translation (from French to English):
Readopolis – Oana Avasilichioaei (Montreal)
BookThug; translation of Lectodôme by Bertrand Laverdure, Le Quartanier

In Readopolis, Oana Avasilichioaei has risen to and matched the stylistic acrobatics of Bertrand Laverdure’s Lectodôme. The many voices of Quebecois writing sing through in this intelligent translation – a vertiginous ode to the pure, if rarely rewarded, pursuit of literature.

Robert Majzels, Jessica Moore, Glen Nichols

French-language winners and comments from the peer assessment committees

Le poids de la neige

Le poids de la neige – Christian Guay-Poliquin (St-Armand, Que.)
La Peuplade

In Le poids de la neige, a decidedly Nordic novel, the ubiquitous snow swallows up the country and the people. Against an apocalyptic background, the tension is unrelenting. Minor and major fears are exacerbated, like the dread of betrayal. The poetry in Christian Guay-Poliquin’s writing keeps us spellbound to the end of winter.

Julie Hétu, Monia Mazigh, Yvon Paré

La main hantée

La main hantée – Louise Dupré (Montreal)
Éditions du Noroît

In full command of her art, Louise Dupré goes straight to the heart of her own contradiction with La main hantée, adopting a position of extreme risk. She embraces the dark side of human nature, calls upon the living, and produces a work that is an appeal to tenderness, with the poem always at its call.

Valérie Forgues, Hélène Harbec, Lenous Suprice

Dimanche napalm

Dimanche napalm – Sébastien David (Montreal)
Leméac Éditeur

Senility and deliberate aphasia are now on the menu for Quebec families on their poutine Sundays. That is the provocative observation advanced by Sébastien David in Dimanche napalm, an incendiary play that blows on the embers of memories of recent events. Unforgettable characters who might well sink into the exploding gravy.

Marcelo Arroyo, Robert Claing, Dominique Lafon

Les Yeux tristes de mon camion

Les Yeux tristes de mon camion – Serge Bouchard (Montreal)
Les Éditions du Boréal

Clothed in nostalgia and the poetry of life, this enlightening essay offers a comprehensive look at the relations between the North American landmass and the people who populate it. Its colourful language combines with the tenderness of its gaze in celebration of history, both minor and major.

Maxime Catellier, Jean Morency, Claire Varin

L'importance de Mathilde Poisson

Young People's Literature - Text:
L'importance de Mathilde Poisson – Véronique Drouin (Sherbrooke, Que.)
Bayard Canada

With an agitated but effective writing style that has a humorous edge, Véronique Drouin’s L’importance de Mathilde Poisson immerses us in the questioning of adolescence. Despite the dark theme, this novel is full of light. Life becomes easier to live when we learn to love ourselves.

Sandra Dussault, Micheline Marchand, Sylvain Meunier


Young People's Literature - Illustrated Books:
Azadah – Jacques Goldstyn (Montreal)
Les Éditions de la Pastèque

Jacques Goldstyn achieves the difficult goal of discussing a serious subject with a touch of poetry. Both images and text strike a fine balance in accurately communicating the emotions of the story. Azadah brings out the power of a dream, and the importance of finding ways to make it a reality.

Édith Bourget, Anne-Claire Delisle, Yayo

Un barbare en Chine nouvelle

Translation (from English to French):
Un barbare en Chine nouvelle – Daniel Poliquin (Ottawa)
Les Éditions du Boréal; translation of Barbarian Lost: Travels in the New China by Alexandre Trudeau, HarperCollins Publishers

With a sober and direct style that holds us spellbound, the translator masters the information in the original text and reconstructs it in French. It gives the impression that the translator is like a journalist who has taken the same journey as the author.

Jude Des Chênes, Louise Ladouceur, Robert Paquin

About Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s national public arts funder. We champion and invest in artistic excellence so that Canadians may enjoy and participate in a rich cultural life. In 2016-17 we allocated $196.8 million dollars towards artistic creation and innovation through our grants, prizes and payments. We also conduct research, convene activities and work with partners to advance the sector and help embed the arts more deeply in communities across the country. We are responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO to contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future for Canadians. The Canada Council Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts.


Download images of the winning books and authors – English / French

To book interviews with the finalists and winners:
Charlene Coy, C2C Communications

Rideau Hall media contact for award ceremony:
Julie Rocheleau

Canada Council for the Arts Media Contact

Mireille Allaire

Manager, Communications and Engagement

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