Book Award shortlists from past years

View the shortlisted winner, finalists, and jury from past City of Vancouver Book Awards. Select the Show More icon  next to the year.



Carleigh Baker, authorCarleigh Baker for Bad Endings 

Stumbling through the fogs of loneliness, Carleigh Baker's finely drawn characters find respite in the particular intimacy afforded by ephemeral relationships. A renewal of connection with the more-than-human world offers the characters sustenance amidst the demands of an ever-accelerating city.


This year, the City of Vancouver honours local authors at the Mayor's Arts Awards on October 11. In its 29th year, the book award recognizes books of any genre that demonstrate excellence in content, illustration, design, and reflect Vancouver’s unique character, rich diversity, culture, and history.

The role of connection and healing take center stage in this year's four finalists for the Book Award. They explore the great mysteries of what it means to belong to land, community, self, and place.


Book cover image with a blurred image of a woman

Sam Wiebe
Invisible Dead

The first novel in a series of mysteries focused on character Dave Wakeland. This fast-paced thriller set in Vancouver's criminal underworld follows a private investigator on a journey to solve an unsolvable mystery.


Book cover illustration of a girl under an umbrella walking on a rainy street with a panda profile in the shadows

Gabrielle Prendergast
Pandas on the Eastside

A middle-grade novel about a young girl who rallies her friends and neighbors on the poverty-stricken Eastside to save two pandas from being sent back to China.


Book cover image of a red, flat circle of wood with Indigenous animal shapes carved into it

Grant Arnold, Ian M. Thom, Susan Point, Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Thomas Cannell, Myrtle Mckay, and William (Bill) McLennan
Susan Point: Spindle Whorl 

A visually pleasing discovery of the works of Coast Salish artist Susan Point who uses the spindle whorl to create traditional art.


  • Shirley Lew, Dean, Library, Teaching and Learning Services at Vancouver Community College and Secretary of The Vancouver Writers Festival Board of Directors
  • Baharak Yousefi, Librarian and Head of Library Communications at Simon Fraser University, Vice-Chair and Chair Elect on the Board of the BC Libraries Cooperative
  • Dory Nason (Anishinaabe), Senior Instructor, Institute of Critical Indigenous Studies & Department of English, Status of Woman Chair UBC Faculty Association, Faculty Affiliate for the Centre of Teaching, Learning and Technology


Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Karen Duffek & Tania Willard

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories
Figure 1 Publishing and Museum of Anthropology at UBC

This provocative book explores the emphatically political and visually stunning artwork by celebrated contemporary artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. It is a beautiful and well-written publication, providing a timely challenge to the notion of what Vancouver is as the city moves towards reconciliation with First Nations communities. 


Wayde Compton and Renée Sarojini Saklikar

The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them
Anvil Press and SFU Public Square

This exquisite and accessible collection of poetry invites an intimate exploration of our complex city. Expertly edited, this gem of an anthology contains a myriad of perspectives, styles, and voices, revealing Vancouver in all of its diversity. 

Lorimer Shenher

That Lonely Section of Hell
Greystone Books

In this memoir, ex-police detective Lorimer Shenher (previously known as Lori Shenher) recounts his experience working on Vancouver’s Missing and Murdered Women Investigation. Detailing the prejudices that shrouded the case, it is an honest look at our institutionalized failures and a call to value all lives in our city.


  • Shirley Lew, Dean, Library, Teaching and Learning Services at Vancouver Community College and Secretary of The Vancouver Writers Festival Board of Directors
  • Zoey Leigh Peterson, author and librarian
  • Mary Schendlinger, writer, editor, publishing teacher and co-founder of Geist magazine.


Wayde Compton

The Outer Harbour 
Arsenal Pulp Press

This collection of short stories is a creative manifesto for a radical change in Vancouver’s attitude to its marginalized citizens and land use to avert a crash-course with a dystopic, very-near future. Borrow this book from the library.


Bren Simmers 

Nightwood Editions

This book-length poem is a whimsical, yet political collection which balances vibrancy and eccentricity against the anxiety and despair of living amidst an affordability crisis in East Vancouver. Borrow this book from the library.

Aaron Chapman

Live at the Commodore
Arsenal Pulp Press

This work of non-fiction is an homage to the “Fabulous Commodore Ballroom,” a music venue which for 85 years has served as a cultural barometer for Vancouver. Borrow this book from the library.

Lois Simmie and Cynthia Nugent 

Mister Got To Go, Where are you?
Red Deer Press

This children’s book is the third in a lovingly written and illustrated Vancouver-based series featuring an impromptu journey by the iconic cat from the Sylvia Hotel. Author: Lois Simmie. Illustrator: Cynthia Nugent  Borrow this book from the library.


  • Anna Ling Kaye (editor of Ricepaper Magazine and 2015 Journey Prize Anthology author)
  • Zoey Leigh Peterson (novelist and librarian)
  • Sirish Rao (Artistic Director and Co-Founder of the Indian Summer Festival).


2014 Book Awards finalist David Stouck

David Stouck

Arthur Erickson: An Architect’s Life
Douglas & McIntyre

This narrative spotlights an iconic local figure, providing a peccadillos-and-all portrait of the man, his milieu and accomplishments.


2014 Book Award finalist Bruce Grierson

Bruce Grierson

What Makes Olga Run?
Random House

This work of non-fiction focuses on the extraordinary achievements of an athlete who began a championship track career at the age of 77.

2014 Book Awards finalist Doretta Lau

Doretta Lau

How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?
Nightwood Editions

This witty and imaginative volume of short stories features the children and grandchildren of immigrants, adoptees, and multiracial adults with perspectives on what it means to be Canadian.

2014 Book Awards finalist Ashley Little

Ashley Little

Anatomy of a Girl Gang
Arsenal Pulp Press

This intense, surprising novel tells the stories of strong girls who, while deeply troubled, are agents of their own destinies.

2014 Book Awards finalist Billeh Nickerson

Billeh Nickerson

Artificial Cherry
Arsenal Pulp Press

This poet presents a collection of pieces which play with pop culture references and deconstruct the everyday into resonant moments.


  • Jordan Abel, poet and editor for Poetry Is Dead magazine and the former editor for PRISM international and Geist
  • Elee Kraljii Gardiner, award-winning poet and director of the Thursdays Writing Collective
  • Anna Ling Kaye, journalist and Editor of ricepaper magazine


Amber Dawn 'How Poetry Saved My Life'Amber Dawn
How Poetry Saved My Life – A Hustler's Memoir

A memoir of her time as a sex trade worker, this honest and brave book incorporates her personal and poignant revelations, narrative, and poetry to hold a fractured mirror up to our city.


Jancis Andrews 'The Ballad of Mrs. Smith'Jancis M. Andrews
The Ballad of Mrs. Smith

This collection of poems gives a startlingly fresh take on an ageless story of a fall from grace and redemption.

Brad Cran 'Ink on Paper'Brad Cran
Ink on Paper

This collection of poetry from the City's former Poet Laureate. The sometimes funny and other times deeply-affecting poems highlight powerful verse and stories that make us more aware of often marginalized people.

Harold Kalman and Robin Ward 'Exploring Vancouver - The Architectural Guide'Harold Kalman and Robin Ward
Exploring Vancouver - The Architectural Guide

This beautiful and highly useful book of photographs and text provides an extensive tour of the city's past and present buildings and demonstrates how the city's natural setting inspired a quintessential West Coast style.

Sean Kheraj 'Inventing Stanley Park'Sean Kheraj
Inventing Stanley Park – An Environmental History

An environmental history that provides a fascinating, nuanced and often surprising look at Vancouver's iconic park with beautiful illustrations and textual details.


  • Elee Kraljii Gardiner, an award-winning poet and director of the Thursdays Writing Collective
  • Paul Whitney, a retired City librarian
  • Andrea Davies, owner of Hager Books in Kerrisdale


W H New 'YVR'WH New
(Oolichan Books)

The city reverberates with life as Bill New explores Vancouver in verse. His powerful poems capture history, geography, politics, and more. In his hands, even the place names of city parks thrive with rhythm.


John Mikhail Asfore and Elee Kraljii Gardiner 'V6A: Writing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside' John Mikhail Asfour and Elee Kraljii Gardiner, editors
V6A: Writing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
(Arsenal Pulp Press)

This remarkable anthology, which grew out of the Thursdays Writing Collective at Carnegie Community Centre, shows the intellectually and culturally rich heart of the Downtown Eastside. Work by writers both known and new makes for a potent mix.


Claudia Cornwall 'At the World's Edge: Curt Lang's Vancouver' Claudia Cornwall
At the World's Edge: Curt Lang's Vancouver
(Mother Tongue Publishing)

This biography of Curt Lang reveals, with precision and suspense, how he packed his too-short life with pursuits ranging from poetry and painting to log salvage, boat building, and software development. His story parallels Vancouver's own mid-twentieth-century evolution.


Ali Kazimi 'Undesirables: White Canada & the Komagata Maru' Ali Kazimi
Undesirables: White Canada & the Komagata Maru
(Douglas & McIntyre)

In this splendidly illustrated and designed book, Ali Kazimi enlarges our understanding of the months-long Komagata Maru standoff, where racist immigration policies were challenged and transformed when more than 350 South Asian people were turned away from Vancouver's shores.


Jen Sookfong Lee 'The Better Mother'Jen Sookfong Lee
The Better Mother
(Random House Canada)

This atmospheric novel follows Danny Lim, a gay photographer from Chinatown, and Valerie Nealy, an older burlesque artist who grew up in abject poverty on River Road. Vancouver, in its many moods and guises, is witness to the blossoming of their unlikely friendship.


  • Jane Bouey, former People's Co-Op bookseller
  • David Chariandy, author and educator
  • Rebecca Wigod, retired Vancouver Sun Books Editor


Michael Christie 'The Beggar's Garden'Michael Christie
The Beggar's Garden

Set in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, The Beggar's Garden is Christie's debut collection of nine linked stories, each full of wit and sensitivity for its misfit characters.

Michael Christie received his MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Originally a professional skate boarder, he has also worked in a homeless shelter in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and provided outreach to the severely mentally ill. Christie lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with his wife and son.


Lynne Bowen 'Whoever Gives Us Bread'Lynne Bowen
Whoever Gives Us Bread

Whoever Gives Us Bread is a comprehensive non-fiction title that recounts the history of Italian immigrant settlement in a burgeoning British Columbia and the Italian-Canadian contribution to Vancouver.

Lynne Bowen was the Rogers Communications Co-Chair of Creative Non-fiction Writing at the University of British Columbia between 1992 and 2006. She has written five other books on Western Canadian history, including, Robert Dunsmuir; Those Lake People: Stories of Cowichan Lake; Muddling Through: The Remarkable Story of the Barr Colonialists; Three Dollar Dreams; and Boss Whistle. For her non-fiction writing, Bowen has won the Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Writing British Columbia History and the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.


Wayde Compton 'After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region'Wayde Compton
After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region

An insightful collection of essays, After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region examines the politics of race in Western Canada and Vancouver's black history, politics, and contemporary culture.

Wayde Compton was the 2011 Writer-in-Residence at the Vancouver Public Library. A diverse artist, Compton is the author of two poetry collections, 49th Parallel Psalm (shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize) and Performance Bond, and is the editor of Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature. Compton also performs turntable-based sound poetry, teaching English composition and literature at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and at Coquitlam College, and is a founding member of the Hogan's Alley Memorial Project. After Canaan is Compton's first non-fiction book.


Lesley McKnight 'Vancouver Kids'Lesley McKnight
Vancouver Kids

Vancouver Kids is based on the real lives of Vancouver kids, and is a unique collection of 22 stories that tells the tale of Vancouver's diverse and eclectic history through the eyes of children.

Leslie McKnight is a freelance researcher and writer living in Vancouver with her husband and three children. Her articles have been published in the likes of The Globe & Mail and the Vancouver Courier.


  • Emilie Dierking, bookseller
  • Lee Henderson, author and 2009 Vancouver Book Award winner
  • Jim Wong-Chu, poet and editor


Bruce Grenville and Scott Steedman 'Visions of British Columbia'Bruce Grenville and Scott Steedman
Visions of British Columbia
(Douglas & McIntyre)

Drawing primarily from the collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery, images by notable visual artists are matched with texts from acclaimed Vancouver and BC writers. They speak to the diverse visions of this place, its peoples, and its histories.

Bruce Grenville is senior curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He has organized many group exhibitions, including The Uncannj: Experiments in Cyborg Culture and KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art.

Scott Steedman is a freelance editor and the author of a dozen books. He has worked in publishing since 1987 in the UK, France, and Canada, and spent five years as the literary critic for The Paris Voice.


George Bowering 'The Box'George Bowering
The Box
(New Star Books)

A tour through the glory days of the 1960s in Vancouver led by Canada's first Poet Laureate. In a series of ten stories introduced by archival photographs, The Box breaks with the convential short story genre by weaving together biography, autobiography, parable, and drama.

George Bowering taught English at Simon Fraser University from 1972 until his retirement in 2001. Canada's first Poet Laureate, he is an Officer of both the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. He was one of the founders of the poetry publication Tish, and has received two Governor-General's awards: the first, for poetry, in 1969, for The Gangs of Kosmos and Rocky Mountain Foot, and the second, in 1980, for Burning Water, reissued by New Star in 2007.

Bowering is well-known for his love of baseball, about which he has also written. He is the author of nine novels, five books of short stories, and numerous volumes of poetry, including Autobiology (New Star, 1972). A reissue of Caprice is due in October 2010.


Matt Hern 'Common Ground in a Liquid City'Matt Hern
Common Ground in a Liquid City
(AK Press)

The importance of place in the urban future is explored in this series of essays and images that uses Vancouver as a foil in a global search for what makes cities liveable.

Matt Hern lives and works in East Vancouver, where he is director of the Purple Thistle Centre. He holds a PhD in urban studies, lectures globally, and teaches at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. His books include Field Day, Watch Yourself, and Everywhere All the Time.


Chris MacDonald 'A Guidebook to Contemporary Architecture in Vancouver'Chris MacDonald
A Guidebook to Contemporary Architecture in Vancouver
(Douglas & McIntyre)

This easy-to-use pocket guidebook Features Vancouver's most interesting and innovative buildings. Through full-colour photographs, architects' drawings, and critical essays, the book highlights a period of unprecedented growth in Vancouver, beginning with Expo 86 and continuing through the 2010 Winter Games.

Chris MacDonald is Director of the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and contributes regularly to popular and academic journals concerned with architecture and urbanism. He is the author of Cabin, Cottage and Camp. He lives in Vancouver.


  • Janice Douglas, former librarian
  • Fred Wah, poet
  • Jean Wilson, former associate director, editorial, from UBC Press


Lee Henderson 'The Man Game'Lee Henderson
The Man Game
(Penguin Canada)

A fascinating story featuring quirky characters, nude wrestling and insights into early Vancouver culture. Henderson’s portraits of first nations, lumberjacks, vaudeville performers, race relations and class conflict in frontier BC are presented with humour and authenticity. This book, according to the independent jury, was a ‘grabber’ from the start.

Lee Henderson is the author of the award-winning short story collection The Broken Record Technique (2002). His book The Man Game won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize at the 2009 BC Book Prizes. He is a contributing editor to the arts magazines Border Crossings in Canada and Contemporary in the UK. He has published fiction and art criticism in numerous periodicals and co-organizes Father Zosima Presents, a monthly night of sound performances where he lives in Vancouver, BC.


Gabor Maté 'In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts'Gabor Maté
In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts
(Vintage Canada)

A refreshing performance of social critique that mixes documentary, medical analysis, and personal life-writing to provoke reflection on addiction and the various sites it surfaces in, most particularly Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Maté manages to balance the subjective and the objective in a debate that fosters a fuller and more poignant consideration of this personal and public blemish. The “national” response to this book underlines a considerable consensus.

Gabor Maté, M.D. is the author of the bestselling books Scattered Minds and When the Body Says No – published in ten languages on five continents – and co-author, with Gordon Neufeld, of Hold On To Your Kids. Former medical columnist for the Globe and Mail, where his byline continues to be seen on issues of health and parenting, Dr. Maté has had a family practice, worked as a palliative care physician and, most recently, with the addicted men and women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.


Meredith Quartermain 'Nightmarker'Meredith Quartermain
(NeWest Press)

Nightmarker demonstrates a wide range of Quartermain’s writerly pallet. The forms she plays with in this book, the anecdote and the prose-poem, provide a stage for the geographical imagination to roam through Vancouver’s historical and physical grounding accompanied by the ghost of Captain George Vancouver. The pleasure of the book lies in the playful and dramatic voices she uses to portray the architecture, activities, and geopolitical thinking that shape the city.

Meredith Quartermain's Vancouver Walking won the BC Book Awards 2006 Prize for Poetry. Two new books have come out since then: Matter from BookThug, and Nightmarker from NeWest. Early books include The Eye-Shift of Surface, Wanders [with Robin Blaser], and A Thousand Mornings, prose poems about old Vancouver's dockside area. Her work has appeared in magazines across Canada including The Walrus, Canadian Literature, the Literary Review of Canada, Matrix, The Capilano Review, West Coast Line, filling Station, Prism International, and other magazines. While in the cash-paid labour force, she taught English Literature and Composition at UBC and Capilano College. She has since enjoyed leading workshops at the Naropa Summer Writing Program and the Kootenay School of Writing. In 2002, she and husband Peter Quartermain founded Nomados Literary Publishers, through which they've published more than 30 books.


  • Janice Douglas, librarian
  • Fred Wah, poet
  • Fernanda Viveiros, Executive Director of the Federation of BC Writers