Skip to Main Content
Header image

Some of the best books by Indigenous writers in Canada

By Kobo • June 21, 2024Big Ideas in Books

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, a day to recognize and celebrate the cultures of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.

We’ve gathered these books to help readers do that through books that shine a light on history—both "capital H" History and personal narratives.

The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

On a summer berry-picking trip, four-year-old Ruthie goes missing, and her brother Joe, the last person to see her, carries the pain of that loss into adulthood. What happened to Ruthie, and why, is stunning and heartbreaking—yet ultimately testifies to the endurance of love.

To really experience what debut novelist Amanda Peters achieves here, don't read anything more about this book before you've finished it.

View eBook    View Audiobook

A Girl Called Echo: Omnibus edition by Katherena Vermette, with illustrations by Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk

Echo Desjardins is a Métis teenager in foster care who's struggling to find connections at her new school. One day, in a history class on the Pemmican War and fur trade, Echo slips into the past and experiences the history of her people firsthand and in full colour.

While Katherena Vermette is best known for her debut novel The Break, adult readers shouldn't overlook this graphic novel series that presents history as a page-turning story with concrete connections to the present day.

View eBook

The Theory of Crows by David A. Robertson

Grieving the loss of his father and seeking a connection with his teenage daughter Holly (as well as her forgiveness), Matthew plans a hike to the family's nearly-forgotten cabin in the woods. Seeking connection with her distant father, Holly goes along. But the cabin is a long way from anything they know, and there's plenty of opportunity for things to wrong along the way, leaving them to depend only on each other.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Bad Cree by Jessica Johns

Mackenzie is a Cree millennial scraping by in Vancouver. One morning she wakes up clutching an artifact of a dream she was having: a pine bough. In a blink it's gone, but soon other dream artifacts are regularly following Mackenzie into waking—such as crows and text messages from her dead sister. She flees to her hometown in Alberta where she hopes her family can help her emerge from this waking nightmare.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Namwayut: We Are All One: A Pathway to Reconciliation by Chief Robert Joseph

Chief Robert Joseph is a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation and honourary witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Namwayut he shares an intimate view of his own life while making an impassioned plea to readers to embrace vulnerability, summon the courage to recognize truth and trauma, and take steps towards reconciliation.

Listen to Chief Robert Joseph on the Kobo in Conversation podcast.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel

Set in Algonquin territories in the 17th century, this is a work of historical fiction about Marie, a healer of people known as the Deer Clan. Marie has a marriage proposal from a French soldier that she's not interested in, though she understands her people would benefit from an alliance with the French against the English and Iroquois. Marie and the French soldier marry, and their eldest child, Jeanne, is a two-spirited woman—seen as a holder of special wisdom by her mother's people, while to the European settlers Jeanne is an abomination.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Life in the City of Dirty Water: A Memoir of Healing by Clayton Thomas-Muller

Clayton Thomas-Muller's early life was marked with abuse and violence. In this memoir he charts his course through a childhood of harm and deprivation, to a reconnection with his Cree heritage in the Pukatawagan territory in northern Manitoba, which led to his transformation into a leading environmental activist.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance by Jesse Wente

Jesse Wente is a broadcaster and writer on popular culture who in this memoir talks about when he first became aware of his indigeneity, and how he has come to understand that identity against the idea and reality of Canada.

Winner of the 2022 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Half-Bads in White Regalia: A Memoir by Cody Caetano

This memoir was nominated for Canada's top prize for humour writing, which gives you an idea of how author Cody Caetano handles his themes. His parents divorce, sending his mom on a journey into her roots after discovering her Anishinaabe birth family, while his Portuguese dad spins out impulsively—leaving Cody and his siblings to figure things out at home for themselves. Fans of the TV series Reservation Dogs will find a lot to love here.

View eBook    View Audiobook

The Indigenous City Edit by Dave Bidini, Waubgeshig Rice, Tom Wilson, Chief Ladybird, Ryan McMahon, Leanne Betasamoksake Simpson, Ivy Knight, Alex Jacobs-Blum, Liz Howard

Pop in the earbuds and take a walk with some of the most talented Indigenous voices living in Toronto. Spun out of the pages of Toronto’s West End Phoenix newspaper, this audio experience includes original music and soundscapes.

View Audiobook

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL's First Treaty Indigenous Player by Fred Sasakamoose

Fred Saskamoose emerged from the brutal residential school system to become the first Indigenous person with Treaty status in the NHL -- before First Nations people obtained the right to vote in Canada. But there’s more to the story of “Fast Freddy” than the dozen games he played for the Chicago Black Hawks, including a life serving his community and fighting to reclaim Indigenous pride.

View eBook    View Audiobook

A History of My Brief Body: A Memoir by Billy-Ray Belcourt

This poetic and challenging memoir leaves impressions on readers’ minds that may take a lifetime to interpret.

We spoke with the author about his work on the Kobo in Conversation podcast.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is an award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller who breaks apart the concept of the novel in this multi-faceted narrative rooted in the consciousness of Mashkawaji, who lies frozen in ice, contemplating their existence and connection to others through seven characters.

View Audiobook    View eBook

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

Terese Mailhot plays poetically with the concept of memory as she writes her way out of a difficult upbringing to a place where she can engage with her family and her broader place in the world on her own terms.

View Audiobook    View eBook

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph

As Canadians contemplate how to move forward on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, it’s helpful to be familiar with the legal framework that’s dictated so much of Indigenous life over more than 150 years. In clear language with necessary context around key issues, author and Indigenous relations trainer Bob Joseph explains what the Indian Act is and what it was intended to do, and what its actual consequences have been.

View eBook

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott writes beautifully about hard topics, ranging from sexual assault and mental illness, to racism in the justice system and the long-term health impact of systemic oppression.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Cut off from food and electricity, a small northern Anishinaabe community starts to fracture, and the most vulnerable fall under the influence of suspicious visitors. It's a page-turning, slow-burning work of speculative fiction infused with a growing dread on every page.

Hear our conversation with Waubgeshig Rice about the sequel, Moon of the Turning Leaves, on the Kobo in Conversation podcast: Waubgeshig Rice on finding renewal at the end of the world

View eBook    View Audiobook

Sufferance by Thomas King

When Jeremiah Camp’s gift of foresight shows him a future for humanity that he’d rather not deal with, he decides to shut himself off from the world in a small town’s old residential school. But humanity just won’t leave Jeremiah alone. This is a wry satire from a master of the genre about a world in which power and wealth flow to the few.

View eBook    View Audiobook

From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle

As a scholar of Métis history specializing in intergenerational trauma, Jesse Thistle's sense of self as a Métis-Cree-Scot person stretches back through a series of painful losses. In this memoir he finds himself in that history and shares his own incredible story.

He spoke with us about it on the Kobo in Conversation podcast.

View Audiobook    View eBook

All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward by Tanya Talaga

In this follow-up to her masterfully-reported book Seven Fallen Feathers journalist Tanya Talaga turns her attention to the rising rates of youth suicide in Indigenous communities around the world, and traces connections to colonial practices of separating peoples from land and a lack of basic resources that lead to poor health outcomes. Talaga also highlights traditions of resistance among Indigenous Nations that might lead the way to a more just and equitable future.

View Audiobook    View eBook

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Returning to the “rez” for the funeral of his stepfather is a culture shock for Jonny, a Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer whose main gig back in the big city is as an “NDN glitter princess” cybersex worker.

View eBook    View Audiobook

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

The late Richard Wagamese stands as one of Turtle Island’s great Indigenous literary artists, and this is the book that put him on the map. While it tells an increasingly familiar and horrific story about residential school trauma, it contains magic in the thrilling passages where readers are taken onto the ice as Saul Indian Horse discovers his astonishing gifts as a hockey player.

View eBook

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

In this stunning book, debut novelist Michelle Good answers the question, what happens after the residential schools, to the kids who grow up and leave? Five friends find the way to downtown Vancouver’s Eastside, trying to make their way as their paths diverge and cross over their lifetimes.

View eBook    View Audiobook

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

Broadcaster Wab Kinew reconnects with his roots in this memoir focusing on 2012, the year his father succumbed to cancer. Kinew reflects on his struggle to find a path, and how the example set by his father, of reconciliation and integrity, helped lead the way. At its heart, the book is a deeply felt reflection on a father-son relationship.

View Audiobook    View eBook

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq is an Inuit throat singer who puts on thrilling, haunting musical performances. In this novel, she spins a story about a girl who exists on a plane between myth and nature and life in 1970s Nunavut. The audiobook is a must-listen for Tagaq’s visceral reading and interspersed passages of throat-singing.

View Audiobook    View eBook

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

Son of a Trickster kicks off Eden Robinson’s Trickster Trilogy, the story of Jared, a big-hearted burnout of a kid trying to get by and look after the people he loves, which would be a lot easier if the supernatural world would stop intruding. But when he discovers that his own bloodline is the connection to the mysterious forces that keep harshing his mellow, well, that’s just about the biggest bummer ever. These books will send chills up your spine while making you laugh, and sometimes on the same page.

We spoke with Eden Robinson on the Kobo in Conversation podcast just before the release of the final book in this trilogy.

View eBook

Cold by Drew Hayden Taylor

An aging semi-pro hockey player, a homicide detective, a soon-to-be-divorced university professor, and the sole survivor of an arctic plane crash cross paths in downtown Toronto while the city is terrorized by a string of murders whose victims were found shredded to bits.

View eBook    View Audiobook

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

In Cherie Dimaline’s novel about a world on the brink of collapse from environmental degradation, madness takes hold as the ability to dream falls away—except the Indigenous peoples of North America. And the key is in bone marrow. The book follows Frenchie and his friends as they journey northwards, trying to stay hidden from those who would steal the very marrow from their bones.

View eBook

If you would like to be the first to know about bookish blogs, please subscribe. We promise to provided only relevant articles.