Earth Day is celebrated around the world on April 22. Here’s a reading list of 11 Canadian books — fiction, poetry and nonfiction — about the environment, animals, climate change and more.
A memoir by Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Müller, Life in the City of Dirty Water covers his entire life: from playing with toy planes as a way to escape from domestic and sexual abuse and enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada’s residential school system; to becoming a young man who fought against racism and violence, but also spent time in juvenile prison; to become a committed activist. Along the way, Thomas-Müller remained tied to his Cree heritage and spirituality. This debut is a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility.
Life in the City of Dirty Water was championed by Suzanne Simard on Canada Reads 2022.
Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6 based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation located in Northern Manitoba. He’s campaigned on behalf of Indigenous peoples around the world for more than 20 years, working with numerous organizations.
18:49Clayton Thomas-Müller on Life in the City of Dirty Water
Parasitic Oscillations examines a variety of philosophical and ethical dilemmas to inform and question. Set against the backdrop of ecological collapse, these poems draw on Madhur Anand’s work in the arts and sciences and experience living between North American and Indian culture.
Madhur Anand is a poet and professor of ecology at the University of Guelph. She is the author of the A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes and This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heartwhich won the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction.
Maude Barlow counters the prevailing atmosphere of pessimism and offers lessons of hope that she has learned from a lifetime of activism. Barlow has been involved in three major movements: second-wave feminism, the battle against free trade and globalization and the fight for water justice. She emphasizes that effective activism is about building a movement and finding like-minded people rather than making the goal the focus.
Barlow is a Canadian activist and writer. She is the bestselling author of 20 books and served as the senior water advisor to the UN General Assembly. Barlow was a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right. She lives in Ottawa.
The Sunday Magazine24:04Maude Barlow reflects on a lifetime of activism and the keys to not giving up
Cowichan Tribe Elder Luschiim Arvid Charlie passes down traditional teachings he received from his own Elders as a youth, his great-grandparents and members of their generation, in this book of regional plants and medicines. Luschiim’s Plants collects over 140 plants — from algae and seaweeds to fungi and mushrooms, ferns and fern-allies and more — and includes their common, scientific and Hul′q′umi′num′ names, as well as where they are found and how to conserve them.
The book is nominated for the 2022 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award.
Luschiim Arvid Charlie was born in Quamichan in 1942 and lives in the Duncan, BC area. He began learning about plants from Elders at a young age, and has dedicated his life to learning about the natural world and sharing traditional knowledge. In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate of letters degree from Malaspina University-College for his work from him in protecting the environment, teaching Coast Salish culture and preserving the Hul’q’umi’num ‘language.
Nancy J. Turner is an award-winning ethnobotanist and professor emerita with the University of Victoria. She has authored, co-authored or co-edited over 30 books, many of which are collaborations with Indigenous communities to document and preserve traditional knowledge around plants, foods, materials and medicines. She has been adopted into Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Songhees and Nisga’a families.
raccoon is a nonfiction look at the common raccoon that examines why the animal is thriving in Canadian urban environments and how the raccoon is benefiting from climate change. raccoon explores how they have adapted to urban life and how they are seen in some Indigenous cultures as a trickster or a transformative figure.
Daniel Heath Justice is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a professor of First Nations and Indigenous studies and English at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Badger and Why Indigenous Literatures Matter.
13:19Daniel Heath Justice on Raccoon
Halifax author David Huebert named his latest collection of short stories after Chemical Valley, a region in Sarnia, Ont., with a large number of plants and refineries. Many of Huebert’s characters make their living from the petrochemical industry, but also see the impacts of climate change.
Huebert is the author of two poetry collections and two works of fiction. His first collection of short stories, Peninsula Sinking, won the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award and was shortlisted for the Alistair MacLeod Fiction Prize. He won the 2016 Short Story Prize for his story Enigma.
What On Earth27:01Cozy up with climate fiction
Garden Physics is a poetry collection dedicated to the joy of tending to one’s garden. Using florid language and poetic verse, Garden Physics revels in the pleasures of nature, weather and color—and how the garden functions as a place of growth and healing.
Sylvia Legris is a Saskatoon poet and author originally from Winnipeg. She has published several volumes of poetry, including The Hideous Hidden and Nerve Squall, which won the 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize and the Pat Lowther Award.
13:09Sylvia Legris on Garden Physic
Don McKay invokes “the profane wonders of the wilderness” in his poetry, exploring the awe-inspiring, often “unsayable” natural wonders of the world—from rivers and trees to lichen and birdsong. The poetry lurches with complexity, astonishment and worry, as he contemplates the human complicity in mass extinction.
Don McKay is the author of 14 books of poetry, including Strike/Slipwhich won the Griffin Poetry Prize, Camber, Selected Poems and Angular Unconformity. McKay has taught poetry in universities across Canada. He currently lives in St. John’s.
Premee Mohamed’s novel takes place long after climate disasters have wreaked havoc around the globe. The Annual Migration of Clouds is set on the abandoned University of Alberta campus, where a community of survivors cobbles together an existence as they cope with an incurable disease.
Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and author of speculative fiction in Edmonton. Her series Beneath the Rising received nominations for the Crawford Award, British Fantasy Award, Locus Award and Aurora Award.
The Sunday Magazine17:20Premee Mohamed on turning science fiction tropes on their head
Biologist Suzanne Simard discovered the reality of the interconnection and intelligence of the forest. She’s been able to find out that the trees are indeed whispering to each other—communicating not through the wind, but through the soil. Her new scientific memoir of her, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, describe her life and research.
Finding the Mother Tree was the grand prize winner for the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition and a category winner for the mountain environment and natural history award. It was also nominated for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.
Simard is a BC-based author and academic who grew up in Canadian forests as a descendant of loggers. She is a professor in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia. Simard championed Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller on Canada Reads 2022.
19:36Suzanne Simard on Finding the Mother Tree
A series of strange ecological phenomena begin to occur around the world: a 2.5 mile-tall volcano emerges in New York City and sends media into a frenzy, a landslide of lemons leads to a juice boom for a company in California and a human being turns into a magical green and growing thing that aims to engulf everything in its path. The stories and narrators of John Elizabeth Stintzi’s novel reflect on a variety of societal responses to ecological trauma — including a desire to capitalize on it.
John Elizabeth Stintzi is a writer from northwestern Ontario, currently based in Kansas City, Mo. Their work Selections From Junebat won the 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and the Malahat Review’s 2019 Long Poem Prize. Their poetry collection, junebat, was published in spring 2020. They are also the author of the novel Vanishing Monuments, which was a finalist for the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.
Our planet is changing. Keep up with the latest happenings on the CBC News Climate and Environment page.