Our 14 best books of 2021

November 17, 2021

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, November 17, 2021— It is with great pleasure that the Canada Council for the Arts today revealed the 2021 winners of the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGBooks).

The 14 best books of 2021 published in Canada, were selected by peer assessment committees that followed a very rigorous process to deliberate and choose them from among the 70 finalists in seven categories, in both English and in French.

"This year's Governor General's Literary Awards confirm the irresistible evocative power of literature. The health and societal challenges we have undergone have highlighted the renewed importance of imagination, reflection and critical thinking. I am very pleased to invite you to experience these literary works that I have had the opportunity to read and enjoy. On behalf of the entire team at the Canada Council for the Arts, I congratulate each of the 2021 GGBooks winners."

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

Due to the pandemic the announcement of the 2020 winners had to be postponed making this the second announcement of its kind this year. In 2022, the Canada Council expects to return to its regular announcement schedule.

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.

2021 English-language winners (seven categories):


  • Tainna: The Unseen Ones – Norma Dunning (Edmonton, Alberta)
    Douglas & McIntyre


  • The Junta of Happenstance – Tolu Oloruntoba (Surrey, British Columbia)
    Anstruther Books / Palimpsest Press


  • Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes – Hannah Moscovitch (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
    Playwrights Canada Press


  • alfabet/alphabet: a memoir of a first language – Sadiqa de Meijer (Kingston, Ontario)
    Anstruther Books / Palimpsest Press

Young People’s Literature – Text

  • Firefly – Philippa Dowding (Toronto, Ontario)
    DCB / Cormorant Books

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books

  • On the Trapline – David A. Robertson and Julie Flett (Winnipeg, Manitoba / Vancouver, British Columbia)
    Tundra Books / Penguin Random House Canada

Translation (from French to English)

  • This Radiant Life – Translated by Erín Moure (Montréal, Quebec)
    Book*hug Press; translation of La vie radieuse, by Chantal Neveu

2021 French-language winners (seven categories):


  • Faire les sucres Fanny Britt (Montréal, Quebec)
    Le Cheval dʼaoût


  • Pendant que Perceval tombait – Tania Langlais (Gatineau, Quebec)
    Les Herbes rouges


  • Copeaux – Mishka Lavigne (Gatineau, Quebec)
    Les Éditions LʼInterligne


  • Du diesel dans les veines – Serge Bouchard and Mark Fortier (Montréal, Quebec – both)
    Lux Éditeur

Young People’s Literature – Text

  • Les avenues – Jean-François Sénéchal (Saint-Lambert, 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 

Translation (from English to French)

  • Poèmes 1938-1984 – Translated by Marie Frankland (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions du Noroît; translation of The Collected Poems, by Elizabeth Smart

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 contacts

For interviews with the winners:
Charlene Coy, C2C Communications

Canada Council for the Arts
Communications and Engagement
1-800-263-5588, ext. 5151