The Canada Council for the Arts Announces the Winners of the 2018 GGBooks Awards

The 14 best Canadian books recognized by the Governor General’s Literary Awards

October 30, 2018
Book covers of the 2018 English winners

Ottawa, October 30, 2018 – The Canada Council for the Arts today announced the 2018 winners of the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGBooks).

The winners include 14 of the best Canadian books in seven categories for both official languages. The winners were chosen by peer assessment committees at the Canada Council for the Arts.

With emotion, daring, magic, profound ideas and just the right words, this year’s GGBooks winners again remind us how essential Canadian literature is to our lives.

Simon Brault, Canada Council Director and CEO 

English-language winners (by category and peer assessment committee citations)


  • The Red Word – Sarah Henstra (Toronto, Ontario)
    ECW Press

    "Groundbreaking and provocative, this is an astonishing evisceration of the clichés of sexual politics as they exist not only on our college campuses, but also within broader present-day society. Alternately heartbreaking, funny, and critical, no one gets off easily. The Red Word plumbs the depths of literature, mythology, history, philosophy, and a host of contemporary issues—an utterly effing good read."


  • Wayside Sang – Cecily Nicholson (Burnaby, British Columbia)

    "'there are times that a car bends perspective
    in its motion
                                 making room
    In this hypnotic suite of long poems, Cecily Nicholson makes room, offering glimpses and echoes of the Canadian landscape as she explores ideas of borders, identity, industry and travel. She offers a catalogue of impressions, a collage of the ephemeral, held together by image and the pulsing phrase that stays with you long after the journey’s over."


  • Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom – Jordan Tannahill (Budapest, Hungary)
    Playwrights Canada Press

    "Jordan Tannahill’s two-play volume explores the fragility of social consensus in a world made uneasy by the forces of social division. Both plays are poetic, irreverent and funny, offering the pleasure of entertainment while displaying masterful literary ability. Tannahill possesses a powerful artistic voice that reflects where we come from, who we are and who we may become."


  • Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age – Darrel J. McLeod (Sooke, British Columbia)
    Douglas & McIntyre

    "Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age dares to immerse readers in provocative contemporary issues including gender fluidity, familial violence, and transcultural hybridity. A fast-moving, intimate memoir of dreams and nightmares—lyrical and gritty, raw and vulnerable, told without pity, but with phoenix-like strength."

Young People's Literature – Text:

  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster – Jonathan Auxier (Swissvale, Pennsylvania)
    Puffin Canada/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers

    "A tender story of what makes us human, Sweep doesn’t shy away from the risks of love and monstrousness of indifference. With an impeccable narrative, Sweep shows how love can breathe life into darkness and how hope can spark change. Auxier weaves a multi-layered masterpiece with endearing characters and gut-wrenching twists that are certain to instill readers with a sense of wonder and discovery for the miracle of storytelling."

Young People's Literature – Illustrated Books:

  • They Say Blue – Jillian Tamaki (Toronto, Ontario)
    Groundwood Books

    "They Say Blue is a wonderful blend of words and art, a sweeping, joyous book from cover to cover. Its lively and dynamic compositions are sure to captivate both children and those who love to read to children. Wonderfully uplifting and imaginative, it spans an entire range of emotions and colours and makes one’s heart sing."

Translation (from French to English):

  • Descent into Night – Translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott (Montréal, Quebec)
    Mawenzi House Publishers; translation of Explication de la nuit by Edem Awumey, Les Éditions du Boréal

    "Descent into Night, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, is a beautifully assured rendering of a text offering many translation challenges. The translators agilely follow the text as it shifts between an ailing Quebec writer’s regrets about his life, and his long-ago involvement in a failed West African revolution, which haunts him into the present. This translation skillfully captures the lyricism of the French text."

French-language winners (by category and peer assessment committee citations)


  • De synthèse – Karoline Georges (Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec)
    Éditions Alto

    "In this unique story dedicated to mothers, the narrator creates an avatar in an attempt to cope with her pain. Karoline Georges skilfully weaves the real and the virtual in with the complexity of family, while describing solitude and the representation of the body with astonishing insight. With its intelligent and efficient prose, De synthèse transcends all genres. "


  • La raison des fleurs – Michaël Trahan (Montréal, Quebec)
    Le Quartanier

    "Entering these pages means wandering into the maze of human density, both philosophical and physical, hanging onto reality by a thread of little details. It is vulnerability explored—and tamed. Calm, yet enchanting, this requiem reveals the potential expanse of silence and disappearance. Michaël Trahan has penned a complete poetic experience."


  • Venir au monde – Anne-Marie Olivier (Québec, Quebec)
    Atelier 10

    "Venir au monde—a striking depiction of everyday life tinged with the fantastic within an impressively efficient structure—paints a subtle and intelligent portrait of society. Its poetically laced and regionally anchored language lauds the courage of women in a way that moves and compels us. We were deeply touched by the strong and endearing characters, as well as their stories bursting with truth."


  • Avant l’après : voyages à Cuba avec George Orwell – Frédérick Lavoie (Montréal, Quebec)
    La Peuplade

    "Deeply personal writing, original ideas, issues in civilization. Frédérick Lavoie’s work of non-fiction readily handles the tension between these three aspects to delve into the mechanisms of Cuban totalitarianism. Using the new Cuban edition of George Orwell’s 1984 as a pretext and connecting theme, Lavoie deftly shows how the work is still significant and relevant by exploring the everyday life of a population living in a time of censorship."

Young People's Literature – Text:

  • Ferdinand F., 81 ans, chenille – Mario Brassard (Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Quebec)
    Soulières éditeur

    "A true masterpiece: the story of Ferdinand F., an old man forgotten by society, surviving more than living. Mario Brassard’s deeply moving novel, written in poetic prose and with astounding humour, explores loneliness, but also the friendship that can come into our lives when we least expect it."

Young People's Literature – Illustrated Books:

  • Le chemin de la montagne – Marianne Dubuc (Montréal, Quebec)
    Comme des géants

    "A book that focuses on what matters. The interwoven text and illustrations perfectly express how important it is to pass on knowledge and find happiness not only in the big things but in the small ones too. A universal story that will resonate with everyone."

Translation (from English to French):

  • Le Monde selon Barney – Translated by Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné (Montréal, Quebec)
    Les Éditions du Boréal; translation of Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler, Knopf Canada

    "This superb translation re-asserts the significance of Richler’s insolent and brilliant text. The duo’s linguistic originality admirably captures the work’s lively pace, irreverent humour, and tone that constantly vacillates between dark and light, parody and tragedy. A colossal work that fully lives up to the inherent complexity of a great novel."

Winning Book Covers

Download the winning book covers for your publishing needs.

About GGBooks:

  • Founded in 1936, the Governor General’s Literary Awards are one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious literary awards program, with a total annual prize value of $450,000.
  • The Canada Council for the Arts has funded, administered and promoted the awards since 1959.
  • Finalists are chosen by category-specific, language-based peer assessment committees (seven in English and seven in French), who consider eligible books published between September 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 for English-language books and between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 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.
  • In their 82 years, the Governor General’s Literary Awards have celebrated more than 700 works by over 500 authors, poets, playwrights, translators and illustrators.

Important dates:

  • November 28: Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will present the awards at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.
  • November 28 and 29: Public readings will take place at the Canada Council, located at 150 Elgin St., Ottawa, where attendees will have the opportunity to meet the GGBooks winners.

About Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder, with a mandate to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts. The Council champions and invests in artistic excellence through a broad range of grants, services, prizes and payments to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations. Its work ensures that excellent, vibrant and diverse art and literature engages Canadians, enriches their communities and reaches markets around the world. The Council also raises public awareness and appreciation of the arts through its communications, research and arts promotion activities. It is responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO in Canada to contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. The Canada Council Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts.


Media contacts

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

Canada Council for the Arts
Joly-Anne Ricard
Public Relations and Social Media Advisor
1-800-263-5588, ext. 4166 or
343-998-2627 (cell)

Rideau Hall contact:
Sara Régnier-McKellar
Communications Advisor
Office of the Secretary to the Governor General