4 Books to Read before Traveling to Canada (1 was enough for me)

Not the quantity but quality of books is what ignites your longing for Canada, Canadian cultures, and Canadian adventures. 

Last updated: May 24, 2024

Lake Louise - Roads and Destinations
The 4 books you must read before traveling to Canada

The Must-Read Books about Canada: The Country through the Seasons

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” The words of a red-headed, small girl with a kindred spirit and big words who found her home on Prince Edward Island often come to my mind when I think of our first trip to Canada. It was a journey well-planned. But as things don’t always go the way you want, we ended up spending most of the weekend in North Vancouver.

Autumnally festive, the West Coast of the country revived some of my “brightest” childhood memories when red and yellow leaves covered the land underneath the trees and sun playfully illuminated their colors. 

That first visit to Vancouver, Canada, was also an inaugurating trip into a vibrant fall kingdom for Dylan. Still feeling a little bit under the weather, the boy sprang back to his energetic self and was throwing piles of the bright foliage above his head. In his tiny hands, a pile was just a few leaves. But they were the best and most colorful leaves he’d seen.

Cloaked in white, Canada looked completely different during our Banff trip a few months ago. Gusty winds, roads on the verge of being choked by heavy snow, and frozen lakes where our first snowmen saw the light of the day… 

Books to read before traveling to Canada - Roads and Destinations
“I’m so glad to live in the world where there are Octobers” | The best books set in Canada

Traveling to Canada through Books

Before I saw all of these with my eyes, I knew this Canada, not in person, but through books. My love for Canada and Alaska started with a short story “Love of Life” by Jack London. It wasn’t the first book set in Canada that I read in my adolescent years. But it was certainly the one that had found its permanent abode in my head and heart.

Some captivating novels by Canadian authors landed in my hands during my university days. Enriching the prior book knowledge with more details and stories, they further ignited my curiosity and instilled a longing – rather faint at that point – to enjoy this natural opulence and experience Canadian hospitality one day.  

Fast forward nearly ten years, and many more books about Canada, its culture, nature, and wildlife filled the space between our first and second trips.

Books have an interesting way of adding adventures, igniting our wanderlust, and reminding us of places we wanted to explore a while back. If you’ve ever thought of traveling to the northernmost country in North America, start your virtual journey with these 4 books set in Canada. 

Different in their genres and catering to different audiences, each of these novels open a new page into the vast land with kind people, breathtaking mountains, short yet vibrant summers, and harsh winters. 


1. Love of Life by Jack London

Exhausted, starved, and galvanized by the desire to live, two gold prospectors trudge across frozen tundra of Canada. The harsh elements and wild hunger keep testing the men as they fight for their survival. But all of these insurmountable challenges wane in the face of what lies ahead. 

At one point, the main protagonist sprains an ankle. His already uneasy pace slows down even more. Burdened by a new adversity, the other man, Bill, abandons his friend. 

If the journey was difficult up to this point, the Canadian wilderness tests the remaining physical strength, spirit, and human moral now. Abandoned but never alone, the protagonist soon gets a new “companion”, a wolf, weak and starved just like the man himself. 

The long journey of the two unlikely travelers, a human and a wild animal, begins. Each of them waits for the other to die first so the survivor can feast on the flesh of the other. 

In the book Love of Life Jack London not only beautifully describes the harsh wilderness of Canada, but also unveils human nature, raw, strong, beautiful, and ugly. This is the book that had ignited my curiosity about Canada and the Last Frontier more than a decade before I could set my foot in both of these remarkable corners of the earth. 

READ MORE: Books to Read before Traveling to Alaska: Classics, Tales, Fiction

Banff National Park in November-early winter - Roads and Destinations
Harsh Canadian winters | Classic books about Canada

2. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

A small, red-headed girl that during her eleven years on earth has lived in quite a few foster homes and orphanages, Anne Shirley ends up in her new home by accident. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert need help at their farmhouse called Green Gables. A boy could assist Matthew. But instead, the old man finds a small girl, clutching to her only suitcase, at a train station. 

Anne is not like any other girl. She is a kindred spirit with a huge imagination. The longer the girl lives at Green Gables, the harder it is for the Cuthberts to imagine their life without her. 

The book Anne of Green Gables takes its readers to Prince Edward Island off the eastern coast of Canada. Although you can normally find it in the children’s book section, the novel is a captivating read for adults as well. 

If you need any proof of it, travel to the isle, affectionately nicknamed “Canada’s Food Island”. Every summer, this part of Canada welcomes hordes of travelers that, inspired by Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book, long to see Anne’s peaceful world.  

Classic Books about Canada - Roads and Destinations
Classic books about Canada. Photo by Lennart Uecker (unsplash)

3. Open Road: A Midlife Memoir of Traveling through the National Parks by T.W. Neal

“Not another memoir” ran through my mind as I smiled and unwrapped my Christmas present. It looked like my favorite phrase “When in doubt, give me a book as a gift” failed me this time. Knowing how much I was fascinated by Hawaiian culture and tropical islands, Roshan bought me Freckled by T.W. Neal. 

Reluctantly, I started reading it. A few pages into the book, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved T.W. Neal’s writing style. I loved her spirit and adventures. Most of the stories the book detailed, I retold Roshan. 

Six months later, for my birthday, I received another book by T.W. Neal, Open Road. In it, much older Toby narrates her adventures through national parks on the west coast of the U.S. and Canada.  

The author ventures into the national parks to rediscover a care-free girl her readers first meet in Freckled. In the wake of health issues, Toby and her husband fly to the continental America, rent an SUV, and drive across California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada before heading back home to Hawaii.  

The road calls the adventurous travelers again. Two years later, their interest takes them in the opposite direction. Toby and her husband land in Seattle, Washington. From there they drive and take ferries all the way up to Alaska and return back to the U.S. through British Columbia, Canada. 

Open Road is not a book devoted only to Canada. Yet it unveils the beauty, charm, and introduces us to the kindest people of Canada like any other books on this list. Needless to say, I perused this paperback in a few days. If T.W. Neal writes another memoir like this, I want to be one of the first people to read it. 

READ MORE: 9+ Books to Read before Traveling to Hawaii: Fiction and History

Essentials of Canadian Culture - Canadian Cottage Culture - Roads and Destinations
Open Road is a book about traveling through national parks in Canada and the U.S.

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Feeling restless, an anonymous author sets off on an adventure from his home in Canada to India. Yet not the vibrant culture of the exotic country transforms his trip, but a story he hears from an elderly man named Francis Adirubasamy. The story of Pi Patel. 

The new travel acquaintances first look back at the earlier life of Pi Patel as a high school and college student in Toronto. Then the story takes the readers even further back to Pi’s boyhood in Pondicherry where the boy lived with his parents and brother, Ravi. 

Following India’s political strife, zookeepers Santosh and Gita Patel decide to sell their zoo in India and immigrate to Canada. But a disaster strikes. The ship sinks. All passengers parish. All but Pi Patel and Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. 

The two survivors set at sea in a lifeboat. Weeks and months of survival follows until the boat washes ashore on a Mexican beach. 

The story of Pi Patel was adapted into a movie that was nominated for eleven Oscars and won four. While set in India and Canada, much of the plot of the book takes place in the Pacific Ocean where the predator and the prey have to tame their basic instincts to survive. 

READ MORE: 10 Books to Read before Traveling to India: Culture, History, Fiction

Books about India - Roads and Destinations
Life of Pi | The best books about Canada

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