The Canada Council for the Arts Reveals the Governor General’s Literary Awards Finalists

The 70 best books of 2021

October 14, 2021

Ottawa, October 14, 2021 It is with great pleasure that the Canada Council for the Arts revealed today the 2021 finalists in the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGBooks).

Each time we prepare to unveil the Governor General’s Literary Awards, which recognize and celebrate some of the year’s greatest works of literature from Canada, I am struck by the talent, imagination and creativity of the individuals who bring these books into our lives. Given the many challenges we’ve all faced over the past nineteen months, I am especially grateful and humbled to honour these authors and their work. Literature can serve many purposes and in the midst of these uncertain times, as we witness the ongoing transformation of our society, I trust in the power of these incredible books to heal, connect and continue to move us forward.

Simon Brault, Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts

Following a rigorous process, the Canada Council’s peer assessment committees determined that these 70 books were the best to have been published in Canada in 2021, across seven categories, in both French and English.

This is the second release of its kind this year because, due to the pandemic, the announcement of the 2020 winners had to be postponed and was only issued this past June. In 2022, the Canada Council expects to return to its regular announcement schedule.

Mark your calendars: the 14 winners for 2021 will be announced on on November 17, 2021.

About the GGBooks

  • Founded in 1936, the Governor General’s Literary Awards are some of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious prizes, with a total annual prize value of $450,000.
  • The Canada Council for the Arts has funded, administered and promoted these awards since 1959.
  • Finalists are selected by category-specific, language-based peer assessment committees (seven in English and seven in French), who consider eligible books published between September 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021, for English-language books and between July 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021, for French-language books.
  • Each winner receives $25,000, with the publisher receiving $3,000 to promote the winning book. Finalists receive $1,000 each.

English-language finalists for 2021 (seven categories)


  • Fictional Father – Joe Ollmann (Hamilton, Ontario)
    Drawn & Quarterly
  • Home Waltz – G. A. Grisenthwaite (Kingsville, Ontario)
    Palimpsest Press
  • Second Place – Rachel Cusk (London, United Kingdom)
    Harper Perennial / HarperCollins Canada
  • Tainna: The Unseen Ones – Norma Dunning (Edmonton, Alberta)
    Douglas & McIntyre
  • You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. – Sheung-King (Toronto, Ontario)
    Book*hug Press


  • A History of the Theories of Rain – Stephen Collis (Delta, British Columbia)
  • A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure – Hoa Nguyen (Toronto, Ontario)
    Wave Books
  • Sulphurtongue – Rebecca Salazar (Fredericton, New Brunswick)
    McClelland & Stewart / Penguin Random House Canada
  • The Junta of Happenstance – Tolu Oloruntoba (Surrey, British Columbia)
    Anstruther Books / Palimpsest Press
  • The Untranslatable I – Roxanna Bennett (Whitby, Ontario)
    Gordon Hill Press


  • Crippled – Paul David Power (St. Johnʼs, Newfoundland and Labrador)
    Breakwater Books
  • Selfie – Christine Quintana (Vancouver, British Columbia)
    Playwrights Canada Press
  • Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes – Hannah Moscovitch (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
    Playwrights Canada Press
  • Take d Milk, Nah? Jivesh Parasram (Vancouver, British Columbia)
    Playwrights Canada Press
  • Two Indians – Falen Johnson (Montréal, Quebec)
    Scirocco Drama / J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing


  • alfabet/alphabet: a memoir of a first language – Sadiqa de Meijer (Kingston, Ontario)
    Anstruther Books / Palimpsest Press
  • Care of: Letters, Connections, and Cures – Ivan Coyote (London, Ontario)
    McClelland & Stewart / Penguin Random House Canada
  • Revery: A Year of Bees – Jenna Butler (Barrhead, Alberta)
    Wolsak and Wynn Publishers
  • The Day the World Stops Shopping – J.B. MacKinnon (Vancouver, British Columbia)
    Random House Canada / Penguin Random House Canada
  • What I Remember, What I Know: The Life of a High Arctic Exile – Larry Audlaluk (Grise Fiord, Nunavut)
    Inhabit Media

Young People’s Literature – Text

  • Blood Like Magic – Liselle Sambury (Timmins, Ontario)
    Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
  • Firefly – Philippa Dowding (Toronto, Ontario)
    DCB / Cormorant Books
  • Peter Lee's Notes from the Field – Angela Ahn (Vancouver, British Columbia)
    Tundra Books / Penguin Random House Canada
  • The Fabulous Zed Watson! – Basil Sylvester and Kevin Sylvester (Toronto, Ontario – both)
    HarperCollins Publishers
  • Unravel – Sharon Jennings (Toronto, Ontario)
    Red Deer Press

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books

  • Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know – Brittany Luby and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (Guelph, Ontario / Victoria, British Columbia)
    Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press
  • On the Trapline – David A. Robertson and Julie Flett (Winnipeg, Manitoba / Vancouver, British Columbia)
    Tundra Books / Penguin Random House Canada
  • Out Into the Big Wide Lake – Paul Harbridge and Josée Bisaillon (Toronto, Ontario / Saint-Hubert, Quebec)
    Tundra Books / Penguin Random House Canada
  • The Library Bus – Bahram Rahman and Gabrielle Grimard (Toronto, Ontario / Waterville, Quebec)
    Pajama Press
  • The Wind and the Trees – Todd Stewart (Montréal, Quebec)
    Owlkids Books

Translation (from French to English)

  • A Cemetery for Bees – Translated by Katia Grubisic (Montréal, Quebec)
    Linda Leith Publishing; translation of Le cimetière des abeilles, by Alina Dumitrescu
  • Paul at Home – Translated by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall (Montréal, Quebec / Guelph, Ontario)
    Drawn & Quarterly; translation of Paul à la maison, by Michel Rabagliati
  • People, State, and War Under the French Regime in Canada – Translated by Peter Feldstein (Montréal, Quebec)
    McGill-Queenʼs University Press; translation of Le Peuple, lʼÉtat et la Guerre au Canada sous le Régime français, by Louise Dechêne
  • The Lover, the Lake – Translated by Susan Ouriou (Calgary, Alberta)
    Freehand Books; translation of Lʼamant du lac, by Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau
  • This Radiant Life – Translated by Erín Moure (Montréal, Quebec)
    Book*hug Press; translation of La vie radieuse, by Chantal Neveu

French-language finalists for 2021 (seven categories)


  • Faire les sucres Fanny Britt (Montréal, Quebec)
    Le Cheval dʼaoût
  • Jʼai montré toutes mes pattes blanches je nʼen ai plus – Sylvie Laliberté (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions Somme toute
  • Noir métal Sébastien Chabot (Rimouski, Quebec)
    Éditions Alto
  • Rien du tout – Olivia Tapiero (Outremont, Quebec)
    Mémoire dʼencrier
  • Tout est ori – Paul Serge Forest (Montréal, Quebec)
    VLB éditeur


  • Dʼune caresse patentée – Louise Marois (Saint-Venant-de-Paquette, Quebec)
    Triptyque, Groupe Nota bene
  • Exosquelette – Chloé LaDuchesse (Sudbury, Ontario)
    Mémoire d’encrier
  • La voleuse – Daria Colonna (Dunham, Quebec)
    Poètes de brousse
  • Pendant que Perceval tombait – Tania Langlais (Gatineau, Quebec)
    Les Herbes rouges
  • Pompéi – Patrick Roy (Saint-Bruno-de Montarville, Québec)
    Le Quartanier


  • Bande de bouffons – Jean-Philippe Lehoux (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions du Quartz
  • Combattre le why-why – Rébecca Déraspe (Montréal, Quebec)
    Les Éditions de Ta Mère
  • Copeaux – Mishka Lavigne (Gatineau, Quebec)
    Les Éditions LʼInterligne
  • Johnny – Emma Haché (Petite-Rivière-de-l’Île, New Brunswick)
    Lansman Editeur
  • Okinum – Émilie Monnet (Chelsea, Quebec)
    Les Herbes rouges


  • Du diesel dans les veines – Serge Bouchard and Mark Fortier (Montréal, Quebec – both)
    Lux Éditeur
  • La Reconstruction du paradis – Robert Lalonde (North Hatley, Quebec)
    Les Éditions du Boréal
  • La Vie au long cours – Isabelle Daunais (Montréal, Quebec)
    Les Éditions du Boréal
  • Lʼempire invisible – Mathieu Bélisle (Montréal, Quebec)
    Leméac Éditeur
  • Occuper les distances – Esther Laforce (Montréal, Quebec)
    Leméac Éditeur

Young People’s Literature – Text

  • Comme un ouragan – Jonathan Bécotte (Montréal, Quebec)
    Héritage jeunesse
  • Le Dernier Viking – Mario Fecteau (Beaulac-Garthby, Quebec)
    Les Éditions du Boréal
  • Les avenues – Jean-François Sénéchal (Saint-Lambert, Quebec)
    Leméac Éditeur
  • Stella, qu'est-ce que tu fais là? – Tome I – Sandra Sirois (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions Hurtubise
  • Tara voulait jouer – Frédérick Wolfe (Montréal, Quebec)
    Leméac Éditeur

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books

  • À qui appartiennent les nuages? – Mario Brassard and Gérard DuBois (Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Lanaudière, Quebec / Saint-Lambert, Quebec)
    Les Éditions de la Pastèque
  • Bouées : dérives identitaires, amours imaginaires et détours capillaires – Catherine Lepage (Montréal, Quebec)
    Les Éditions de la Pastèque
  • La langue au chat et autres poèmes pas bêtes – François Gravel and Laurent Pinabel (Montréal, Quebec – both)
    Éditions Les 400 coups
  • Le tricot – Jacques Goldstyn (Mont-Royal, Quebec)
    Les Éditions de la Pastèque
  • Ma maison-tête – Vigg (Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu, Quebec)

Translation (from English to French)

  • La ballade de Baby suivi de Sagesse de l’absurde – Translated by Dominique Fortier (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions Alto; translation of Lullabies for Little Criminals and Wisdom in Nonsense, by Heather OʼNeill
  • La course de Rose – Translated by Daniel Grenier (Québec City, Quebec)
    Éditions Hannenorak; translation of Roseʼs Run, by Dawn Dumont
  • Petits marronnages – Translated by Madeleine Stratford (Ottawa, Ontario)
    Les Éditions du Boréal; translation of Dominoes at the Crossroads, by Kaie Kellough
  • Poèmes 1938-1984 – Translated by Marie Frankland (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions du Noroît; translation of The Collected Poems, by Elizabeth Smart
  • Toots fait la Shiva, avenue Minto – Translated by Colette St-Hilaire (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions du Noroît; translation of Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots, by Erín Moure

Composition of the 2021 English-language peer assessment committees

Fiction: Kristen den Hartog, Chris Eaton, Suzette Mayr

Poetry: Kaie Kellough, George Murray, Anna Marie Sewell

Drama: Marcia Johnson, Matthew MacKenzie, Robert Tsonos

Non-fiction: Sarah de Leeuw, Amanda Leduc, Evelyn C. White

Young People’s Literature – Text: Aviaq Johnston, Karen Rivers, Ken Setterington

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: Kyrsten Brooker, Catherine Hernandez

Translation (from French to English): Jonathan Kaplansky, Aimee Wall, Anne-Marie Wheeler

Composition of the 2021 French-language peer assessment committees

Fiction: Sophie Bienvenu, Aristote Kavungu, Andrée A. Michaud

Poetry: Sonia-Sophie Courdeau, Hélène Dorion, Hector Ruiz

Drama: Daniel Castonguay, Marie-Christine Lê-Huu, Érika Tremblay-Roy

Non-fiction: Marie-Andrée Lamontagne, Sophie Létourneau, Melchior Mbonimpa

Young People’s Literature – Text: Diane Lavoie, Dynah Psyché, Pierre Roy

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: Qin Leng, Luc Melanson, Christine Sioui Wawanoloath

Translation (from English to French): Anne Malena, Pascal Raud, Chantal Ringuet

About the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts contributes to the vibrancy of a creative and diverse arts and literary scene and supports its presence across Canada and around the world. The Council 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’s grants, services, initiatives, prizes, and payments support Canadian artists, authors, and arts groups and organizations. This support allows them to pursue artistic expression, create works of art, and promote and disseminate the arts and literature.

Through its arts funding, communications, research, and promotion activities, the Council fosters ever-growing engagement of Canadians and international audiences in the arts.

The Council’s Public Lending Right (PLR) program makes annual payments to creators whose works are held in Canadian public libraries.

The Council’s Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts through exhibition and outreach activities.

The Council is responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO to contribute to a future of peace, reconciliation, equity, and sustainable development.

Media Relations Contacts

For interviews with the finalists:

Charlene Coy, C2C Communications

Canada Council for the Arts

Communications and Engagement
1-800-263-5588, ext. 5151