Winners of “The Very Best!” Book Awards for 2021

The Miramichi Reader’s “The Very Best!” Book Awards are all new for 2021. Four categories, four winners and four honourable mentions in each. The winners this year were also selected by an external jury (aside from the Non-fiction category which was overseen by James). All judges expressed how hard it was to narrow each of their assigned categories down to two, let alone having to pick one winner. Congrats to all of those chosen as well as the authors and publishers whose books appeared on the 2021 longlist.

Short Fiction:

Winner: Seeking Shade by Frances Boyle (Porcupine’s Quill)

Honourable Mention: The End of Me by John Gould (Freehand Books)

Judge’s comment: “I was drawn back to Seeking Shade’s detailed prose and absorbing images, again and again, compelled to find out what was coming next. Francis Boyle displays her versatility by including historical, contemporary, and speculative fiction as well as a variety of narrative structures. But one thing remains constant: her ability to transform the ordinary lives of her characters into something special for the reader. Whether her characters are filing clerks, students, married couples, or child-minders; whether they’re caught up in politics, romance, illness, or the pain of unrequited love, Boyle makes us care.”


Winner: Brighten the Corner Where You Are by Carol Bruneau (Nimbus Publishing)

Honourable Mention: Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Judge’s comment: “This year’s decision was incredibly difficult given the wide range of beautiful work from many highly gifted Canadian authors. We are blessed to have such depth of talent in the wider creative community. It is inspiring. Thank you to all of the writers for sharing their talents with us. You are each such a blessing. We look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next. Keep up the great works.”


Winner: If You Discover a Fire by Shaun Robinson (Brick Books)

Honourable Mention: Mere Extinction: Poems By Evie Christie (ECW Press)

Judge’s comment: “In If You Discover a Fire, Shaun Robinson crafts lines that alternate between the recursively aphoristic (“The alarm is becoming a new present, a background track for eternity”) and closely-realized metaphoric description (“disco lights set an aquarium castle / aflame and the goldfish flitted / from turret to turret failing / to put it out.”) The profile of his consciousness comes into view, the concerns of his care.”


Winner: Gone Viking: a Travel Saga by Bill Arnott (Rocky Mountain Books)

Honourable Mention: What the Oceans Remember: Searching For Belonging And Home By Sonja Boon (Wilfrid Laurier University Press)

Judge’s Comments: “What better time for a good travelogue than when travel worldwide was severely restricted? Gone Viking is a tonic for the times, allowing us to vicariously visit places unattainable to us for the near future, if ever. Plus it is all served up with a good side order of Mr. Arnott’s infectious good humour and observations about the locals and locales. In its second printing, with a sequel due out this fall and with Mr. Arnott being granted a Fellowship in the Royal Geological Society of London, you know you cannot go wrong with Gone Viking.