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Governor General's Literary Awards Shortlists Announced, Featuring Big Honours for Small Presses

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The Governor General's Literary Awards (or "the GGs", as they're affectionately known) are some of the longest running book prizes in the country. Established in 1936, the prizes, which each year award $25,000 to the winner in each of seven categories, are administered by the Canada Council for the Arts

This year, the shortlists feature a heavy presence of books from independently operated Canadian publishers, including Coach House Books, House of Anansi Press/Groundwood Books, Guernica Editions, Book*hug Press, Brick Books, Wolsak & Wynn Publishers, ECW Press, Pajama Press, and many more. The recognition speaks to the literary excellence of independent publishing in Canada. This year, over 1,400 books in total were submitted for consideration across all seven categories in both French and English.

The winners will be announced on October 29, 2019 via the Canada Council website and the winners will be hosted at a gala dinner at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on December 12, hosted by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada.

In Toronto, readers can attend the TIFA (Toronto International Festival of Authors) Governor General's Literary Award event on October 27, 2019 to hear in-person readings from the fiction nominees. The event will also include the presentation of the Harbourfront Prize to author Stuart Ross

2019 English-language Governor General's Literary Award nominees:


  • Eye by Marianne Micros (Guernica Editions)
  • Five Wives by Joan Thomas (Harper Avenue/HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Late Breaking by K.D. Miller (Biblioasis)
  • The Innocents by Michael Crummey (Doubleday Canada/Penguin Random House Canada)
  • The Student by Cary Fagan (Freehand Books)


  • Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway (Book*hug)
  • How to Avoid Huge Ships by Julie Bruck (Brick Books)
  • St. Boniface Elegies by Catherine Hunter (Signature Editions)
  • The Grand River Watershed: A Folk Ecology by Karen Houle (Gaspereau Press)
  • Treaty # by Armand Garnet Ruffo (Buckrider Books/Wolsak and Wynn Publishers)


  • 1 Hour Photo by Tetsuro Shigematsu (Talonbooks)
  • Other Side of the Game by Amanda Parris (Playwrights Canada Press)
  • Thanks for Giving by Kevin Loring (Talonbooks)
  • The Fighting Season by Sean Harris Oliver (Scirocco Drama/J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing)
  • What a Young Wife Ought to Know by Hannah Moscovitch (Playwrights Canada Press)


  • City of Omens: A Search for the Missing Women of the Borderlands by Dan Werb (Bloomsbury)
  • Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times by Alan Walker (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Sea Trial: Sailing After My Father by Brian Harvey (ECW Press)
  • Tiny Lights for Travellers by Naomi K. Lewis (University of Alberta Press)
  • To the River: Losing My Brother by Don Gillmor (Random House Canada/Penguin Random House Canada)

Young People’s Literature – Text:

  • Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Cold White Sun by Sue Farrell Holler (Groundwood Books)
  • Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman (Pajama Press)
  • Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow (Scholastic Canada)
  • The Grey Sisters by Jo Treggiari (Penguin Teen/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers)

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books:

  • Albert's Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault (Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers)
  • Birdsong by Julie Flett (Greystone Books)
  • How to Give Your Cat a Bath by Nicola Winstanley and John Martz (Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers)
  • King Mouse by Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling (Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers)
  • Small in the City by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books)

Translation (from French to English):

  • 887, Translated by Louisa Blair (House of Anansi Press); translation of 887 by Robert Lepage (Éditions Québec Amérique)
  • Birds of a Kind, Translated by Linda Gaboriau (Playwrights Canada Press); translation of Tous des oiseaux by Wajdi Mouawad (Leméac/Actes Sud-Papiers)
  • Synapses, Translated by Pablo Strauss (Talonbooks; translation of Synapses by Simon Brousseau, Le Cheval d'août)
  • The Embalmer, Translated by Rhonda Mullins (Coach House Books); translation of L'embaumeur by Anne-Renée Caillé (Héliotrope)
  • Vi, Translated by Sheila Fischman (Random House Canada/Penguin Random House Canada); translation of Vi by Kim Thúy (Éditions Libre Expression)

For more information, including the French language shortlists, please visit the GG Books website