Vancouver, my home town turns 125 on April 6th.  Over the years a number of writers have lived here.  Some have even set all or part of their plots here.  Here is my top ten list of fiction books about Vancouver.  What's yours?

By the way this list is best enjoyed by listening to my favourite song about Vancouver, Summer Wages by Ian Tyson. So click here first, then enjoy your exploration of Vancouver through the following books.

#10 Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor. Vancouver's culinary aspirations and the unravelling of a Stanley Park mystery.

#9 That Tune That Clutches My Heart by Paul Headrick.  Vancouver in the late 40's. High school clashes between those swooning over Bing Crosby and those swooning over Frank Sinatra.

#8 Runaway by Evelyn Lau. Disturbing teen age memoir about two years on the streets of Vancouver.

#7 Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson.  Vancouver is featured only briefly as the rest of this marvellous novel is set along as the beautiful Similkameen River.  Images in this novel remain with me 40 years after my first read.

#6 Spook Country by William Gibson.  The followup novel to Pattern Recognition featuring the return of Bigend, and Hollis Henry.  All the action including a mystery container end up in Vancouver.

#5 The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro. Several short stories set in Vancouver in the 60's.

#4 City of Glass by Douglas Coupland. Short essays, some fiction, some non fiction combined with photographs of Metro Vancouver.

#3 To Be There With You by Gayla Reid.  Set in Vancouver, Vietnam and Australia during the Viet Nam war. Exquisite writing.

#2 The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy.  Set in Vancouver's Chinatown during the 30's and 40's told from the perspective of three siblings.

#1  The Man Game by Lee Henderson.  Irreverent, fantastical creative dive into Vancouver's soul just after the great fire of 1886 – 125 years ago.  Manages to capture the contemporary Vancouver spirit at the same time.

Bonus Book:

Seasons in the Rain by Silver Donald Cameron.  This one is non fiction but Silver Donald introduced me to several characters as tall as the cedars and firs in Stanley Park.  Best orientation to Vancouver I could imagine.

PS: Remember you can order books on line from independent booksellers.

Support Independent Booksellers and Publishers.

Related Post:

Monica Miller's list of fictional novels set in Vancouver

9 Comments

  1. lmcdaniel@shaw.ca

    Great Blog subject Al!
    To your list of top 10 books I recommend
    The Sky is Falling by Caroline Adderson

  2. Paul Headrick

    Al, I’m honoured that my novel appears on your list.

  3. Al Etmanski

    Paul, I’m honoured you found my blog. Are you working on another novel?

  4. Erin

    Wonderful list, thank you!
    Also, it’s not entirely based in Vancouver, but I recently discovered “Intertidal Life” by Audrey Thomas. The book is set in the 1970s, and is about a woman who moves to Galiano Island with her young family, then subsequently goes through a divorce. Thomas’s use of the English language is extraordinary; it’s clever and beautiful, and if you’ve spent any time in the Gulf Islands this book will just transport you back.

  5. Paul Headrick

    Indeed I am, and it’s set in a rainy Vancouver winter. Most of the stories in my recent short story collection (shameless self promotion warning), _The Doctrine of Affections_, are also set in Vancouver.
    I think _The Swamp Angel_ was the first Vancouver novel I read. I still love the opening, describing Maggie’s movements through the city as she escapes her marriage.

  6. Mark Douglas

    Matt Hern’s Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future (2010) Hern writes considers our city during his travels as a lecturer and educator.

  7. Al Etmanski

    Thank you – I’ll check it out

  8. JP

    Earl Birney’s ‘Down the Long Table’ would make my list. Clint Burnham’s Smoke Show is not *about* Vancouver in any way, but lower mainland slacker culture seeps through every sentence.
    Thanks for this list.

  9. Al Etmanski

    great – more wonderful reading. tx

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