There’s a well-loved equation among bicycle enthusiasts that answers how many bikes a person should own: n+1, where the variable “n” is however many bikes you already have. Book lovers will know the same rule applies to the printed page—except the n, in this case, can also extend to however many books you currently have in your shopping basket. Our bookshelves are lonely like that: They always need more company. And what better company to offer than a packed slate of books released by talented Nova Scotia authors?
This year saw writers from our fine Atlantic province crack TIME’s “100 Must-Read Books” list, end up on the Globe and Mail’s year-end book roundup and win a major US award. Not too shabby. Below, we’ve got you covered with a list of local books you need to read from 2023, in the order they were released.
1Eden Boudreau’s Crying Wolf (Book*hug Press, Mar. 22, 2023)
Raised outside of Halifax, Eden Boudreau describes herself in Crying Wolf as “a lonely kid, even when surrounded by people.” In her debut memoir, she delves into the unimaginable: Recovering from a violent sexual assault and having to decide whether to call the police—and in turn, explain why she had agreed to go on a date with a man who wasn’t her husband—or pretend it never happened. A bisexual and polyamorous woman, Boudreau peels back layer upon layer of stigma in Crying Wolf, from disbelieving nurses to family and friends, and explores issues of sexuality, identity and trauma recovery.
2Amanda Peters’ The Berry Pickers (HarperCollins, Apr. 4, 2023)
Peters’ debut novel has enjoyed quite the year: Not only did the Falmouth author take home the 2023 Barnes & Noble Discover Prize—an award voted by booksellers to identify “new talent in the literary landscape”—she also starred at Halifax’s AfterWords Literary Festival and had her book released in both the US and UK.
“I think I’m still in the ‘pinch me’ phase,” Peters told The Coast in October. “I’m glad people are connecting to this book—that they’re finding something that they can relate to.”
The Berry Pickers is not always an easy book to read, but it is powerfully told. Set in Maine and Nova Scotia, beginning in 1962, it tells the story of a Mi’kmaw brother and sister who are separated when their family makes their annual summer trip to work at a berry farm. Four-year-old Ruthie, the youngest of the family, goes missing. Her six-year-old brother, Joe, is the last person to see her. What unfolds is a story of family trauma, grief, remembrance, the search for identity and hope for reconnection.
Peters—who is of Mi’kmaq and settler ancestry—sees it all as part of “the human condition.”
“I’m a real fan of the idea that reading fiction increases empathy,” she says. “Regardless of the story, regardless of how you relate to it, it’s always about the human condition—whether it's joy or sadness or grief, or trauma or happiness or family.”
3Elliot Page’s Pageboy (HarperCollins, June 6, 2023)
The celebrity memoir can be a mixed bag in the literary realm: Sometimes the wattage is bright enough to attract readers, but the writing suffers—either from too little to say, or loads to say but an unwillingness to pull back the curtain. Pageboy is an antidote to that. Halifax’s favourite Hollywood star (Inception, Juno, The Umbrella Academy) released his debut memoir in June with, suffice it to say, a fair amount of hype. Page’s status as one of the world’s most-recognized trans actors comes with a mantle most other actors don’t need to wear: They’re a trailblazer. And while they’ll face scorn they don’t deserve, they’ll also be looked to—and watched—as a leader on 2SLGBTQ+ issues.
In Pageboy (named one of the 100 must-read books of 2023 by TIME), the 36-year-old actor is remarkably candid in his revelations about wrestling with his identity and coming to love himself. There’s also a fair amount of behind-the-scenes Hollywood talk of industry barriers and secrets. But the next-biggest star in Page’s memoir, aside from the author himself, is Halifax: It features prominently throughout Pageboy, from a childhood in Halifax’s north end to adolescent years spent near the Northwest Arm to parties in Halifax’s south end.
4Mai Nguyen’s Sunshine Nails (Simon & Schuster, July 4, 2023)
Raised in Halifax, Mai Nguyen spent her childhood in her family’s Quinpool Road nail salon. Her Vietnamese parents had opened it after a series of low-paying jobs in Winnipeg and Vancouver, from cleaning gyms and offices to picking blueberries on weekends—the kind of jobs “typically relegated to immigrants who don’t speak much English and don’t have much education,” she writes in the Globe and Mail.
The nail salon became a “refuge,” she told CBC Books. “It was their financial salvation… their way to build a livelihood.” As she grew older, she saw how nail salons provided an outlet for so many other Vietnamese-Canadian families. She also saw the potential for a book in the stories of all the stress and humour and resilience and chaos that unfolds behind the scenes in a family-run business.
Now based in Toronto, Nguyen sets her debut novel, Sunshine Nails, in the city’s Junction neighbourhood and follows a fictional family—the Trans—as they try to stay afloat amid their gentrifying surroundings. The book “grapples with work, money and family … and the generational and cultural differences between them,” NPR writes, while handling it all with a touch as polished as a fresh set of nails.
5Karen Pinchin’s Kings of Their Own Ocean (Penguin Random House, July 6, 2023)
“Who wants to read a book about fish?” Pinchin asked The Coast in August. In Kings, the Dartmouth-based author has crafted a story far beyond that—one that explores human consumption, arrogance and its consequences, the value of keystone species and the future of our seas. And that’s just the tailfin on the tuna.
Through her debut book, Pinchin tells the story of bluefin tuna through the lens of a single fish, Amelia, that was caught three times—on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean—and how her final capture upended decades of assumptions about the species and its management. (For years, bluefin was overfished to the point of endangerment on the assumption that populations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean were wholly separate, when in fact, they are not.)
She also wades into the life of Al Anderson, a complicated and larger-than-life Rhode Island angler who tagged more than 60,000 fish in his lifetime and helped ensure the bluefin’s survival.
“For someone who’s trying to organize the world in a certain way to help his life make sense, and then end up having the effect of leaving a permanent mark on the world, like, that’s so cool,” Pinchin says. “And that’s far beyond just a fishing story, you know?”
6Tiffany Morris’ Green Fuse Burning (Stelliform Press, Aug. 12, 2023)
L’nu’skw writer Tiffany Morris has a knack for horror. The Halifax-based author’s debut novella, Green Fuse Burning, earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly and praise from the likes of writer and journalist Waubgeshig Rice, who calls it a “must-read” that “mesmerizes” throughout.
The story follows an artist, Rita, whose father’s death leaves her with regret and unanswered questions—not just about his life, but about the Mi’kmaw language and culture that Rita feels severed from. She gets into an artist’s residency in a cabin on the same lake where her father grew up. The woods—and Rita’s new solitude—awaken their own spirits.