Bestselling Indigenous books in Canada

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. And though we're approaching the end of the month, that also means we're right around the corner from Canada Day. So, to celebrate both of these events, we want to recognize Canada Day as an opportunity to learn about and celebrate Indigenous Peoples. As Brian Eyolfson, a commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, told The Huffington Post, “[i]t’s important to include Indigenous Peoples and their histories, contributions, and their current realities in celebrations.”

And, since we're BookNet, we're going to do that by showcasing Indigenous books.

We started by looking at all the books with an Indigenous or Native American/Canadian primary BISAC code (as pulled from SalesData, the sales-tracking service for the Canadian English-language trade book market). This led us to the following 21 BISAC codes that are available to denote Indigenous subject matter:

  1. Fiction / Native American & Aboriginal (FIC059000)

  2. Non-Fiction / Art / Native American (ART041000)

  3. Non-Fiction / Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Native American & Aboriginal (BIO028000)

  4. Non-Fiction / Cooking / Regional & Ethnic / Native American (CKB058000)

  5. Non-Fiction / Foreign Language Study / Native American Languages (FOR031000)

  6. Non-Fiction / History / Native American (HIS028000)

  7. Non-Fiction / Law / Indigenous Peoples (LAW110000)

  8. Non-Fiction / Literary Collections / Native American (LCO013000)

  9. Non-Fiction / Literary Criticism / Native American (LIT004060)

  10. Non-Fiction / Poetry / Native American (POE015000)

  11. Non-Fiction / Social Science / Ethnic Studies / Native American Studies (SOC021000)

  12. Non-Fiction / Social Science / Indigenous Studies (SOC062000)

  13. Juvenile / Juvenile Fiction / Legends, Myths, Fables / Native American (JUV012080)

  14. Juvenile / Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian (JUV030090)

  15. Juvenile / Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / United States / Native American (JUV011040)

  16. Juvenile / Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian (JNF038120)

  17. Juvenile / Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / United States / Native American (JNF018040)

  18. Young Adult / Young Adult Fiction / People & Places / Aboriginal & Indigenous (YAF046010)

  19. Young Adult / Young Adult Fiction / People & Places / United States / Native American (YAF046150)

  20. Young Adult / Young Adult Nonfiction / People & Places / Aboriginal & Indigenous (YAN038010)

  21. Young Adult / Young Adult Nonfiction / People & Places / United States / Native American (YAN038140)

We acknowledge that this code system is far from perfect — the language and categorizing conventions don't necessarily reflect the needs and language of Indigenous groups in North America. If you have ideas or suggestions for how these should be changed and you want to help us bring those conversations to the right governing bodies, please reach out. We're always interested in having standards conversations and we'd love input that would help us do this thoughtfully and deliberately.

In addition to being limited to the above BISAC codes to denote the books that deal with Indigenous subject matter, we also realize that these classifications can sometimes be used inaccurately, and that identifiers for Indigenous authorship are lacking. Keep an eye on the blog for future posts that will shed some light on the work being done in the industry to address these issues.

But, as of right now, these codes are what we have to identify this segment of books in the market. So let's take a look at how they're performing.

Sales of all Indigenous or Native American/Canadian titles in Canada

For the 21 BISAC codes listed above, we summed the print unit sales by year to get a sense of how books with an Indigenous or Native American/Canadian primary BISAC code are performing in the Canadian, English-language trade market.

Print unit sales for all books with an Indigenous or Native American/Canadian BISAC code by year, 2016-2018

Graph showing an increase from 2016 to 2018 of unit sales for all Indigenous or Native American BISAC codes. Units sold in 2016 slightly below 120,000, 2017 around 140,000 units, and 2018 slightly above 160,000 units.

We can see that sales for books in the Indigenous and Native American/Canadian segment of the market have been increasing since 2016. 

Looking deeper into the performance of individual BISACs over this time period, we find that, contrary to the overall trend, sales for titles with the primary BISAC Fiction / Native American & Aboriginal saw decreases over these three years. Meanwhile, biographies (Non-Fiction / Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Native American & Aboriginal) and social science titles (Non-Fiction / Social Science / Indigenous Studies) had large increases.

Bestselling books with an Indigenous or Native American/Canadian primary BISAC code

@BookNet_Canada shares the bestselling Indigenous books in Canada over the past year in four categories: adult Fiction and Non-Fiction and Juvenile/YA Fiction and Non-Fiction.
CLICK TO TWEET

So that's how the category is doing, but which books are the bestsellers right now? To find out, we pulled print sales for the past 52 weeks (June 25, 2018 to June 23, 2019) for all books with one of the 21 BISAC codes (listed above) as their primary BISAC code. 

We're breaking down the bestsellers into four categories — adult Fiction and Non-Fiction and Juvenile/YA Fiction and Non-Fiction — so you have plenty of reading choices for yourself and the little ones in your life. You can see all 40 titles in this CataList catalogue.

Bestselling adult Fiction*

*The BISAC code for all the books in this list is Fiction / Native American & Aboriginal

  1. There There by Tommy Orange (9780771073038, May 7, 2019)

  2. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden 🇨🇦 (9780143056959, May 6, 2008)

  3. Starlight by Richard Wagamese 🇨🇦 (9780771070877, May 21, 2019)

  4. Birdie by Tracey Lindberg 🇨🇦 (9781443451352, Feb. 16, 2016)

  5. Tilly and the Crazy Eights by Monique Gray Smith 🇨🇦 (9781772600759, Oct. 9, 2018)

  6. Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden 🇨🇦 (9780143017875, Sept. 15, 2009)

  7. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden 🇨🇦 (9780143174165, Feb. 25, 2014)

  8. The Last Beothuk by Gary Collins 🇨🇦 (9781771176323, Oct. 16, 2017)

  9. In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Mosionier 🇨🇦 (9781553791737, Sept. 4, 2008)

  10. Medicine River by Thomas King 🇨🇦 (9780143191148, Aug. 19, 2014)

Bestselling adult Non-Fiction

  1. Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga 🇨🇦 (9781487002268, Sept. 30, 2017, Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Native American & Aboriginal)

  2. All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga 🇨🇦 (9781487005733, Oct. 16, 2018, Social Science / Indigenous Studies)

  3. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot 🇨🇦 (9780385691147, March 13, 2018, Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Native American & Aboriginal)

  4. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott 🇨🇦 (9780385692380, March 26, 2019, History / Native American)

  5. Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod 🇨🇦 (9781771622004, Sept. 15, 2018, Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Native American & Aboriginal)

  6. Indigenous Relations by Bob Joseph 🇨🇦 (9781989025642, May 9, 2019, Social Science / Ethnic Studies / Native American Studies)

  7. The Reconciliation Manifesto by Arthur Manuel 🇨🇦 and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson 🇨🇦 (9781459409613, Oct. 6, 2017, Social Science / Indigenous Studies)

  8. Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel 🇨🇦 (9781553796800, Sept. 9, 2016, Social Science / Indigenous Studies)

  9. One Native Life by Richard Wagamese 🇨🇦 (9781553653127, Feb. 23, 2009, Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Native American & Aboriginal)

  10. The Truth About Stories by Thomas King 🇨🇦 (9780887846960, Nov. 1, 2003, Social Science / Ethnic Studies / Native American Studies)

Bestselling Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction

  1. Blackflies by Robert Munsch,🇨🇦 illustrated by Jay Odjick 🇨🇦 (9781443157919, March 31, 2017, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  2. Go Show the World by Wab Kinew,🇨🇦 illustrated by Joe Morse 🇨🇦 (9780735262928, Sept. 11, 2018, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / United States / Native American)

  3. A Promise is a Promise by Robert Munsch 🇨🇦 and Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak,🇨🇦 illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka 🇨🇦 (9781550370089, May 1, 1988, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  4. Stolen Words by Melanie Florence,🇨🇦 illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard 🇨🇦 (9781772600377, Sept, 5, 2017, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  5. Red Wolf by Jennifer Dance 🇨🇦 (9781459708105, Jan. 11, 2014, Young Adult Fiction / People & Places / Aboriginal & Indigenous)

  6. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (9780547328614, Feb. 8, 2010, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / United States / Native American)

  7. Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell,🇨🇦 illustrated by Kim Lafave 🇨🇦 (9780888996596, July 3, 2005, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  8. The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette,🇨🇦 illustrated by Julie Flett 🇨🇦 (9781926886541, Feb. 5, 2019, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  9. Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton 🇨🇦 and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton,🇨🇦 illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard 🇨🇦 (9781554516247, Jan. 9, 2014, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  10. Shin-chi's Canoe by Nicola Campbell,🇨🇦 illustrated by Kim Lafave 🇨🇦 (9780888998576, Aug. 1, 2008, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

Bestselling Juvenile and Young Adult Non-Fiction

  1. Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society 🇨🇦 and Canadian Geographic 🇨🇦 (9780986751622, Sept. 25, 2018, Young Adult Nonfiction / People & Places / Aboriginal & Indigenous)

  2. Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton 🇨🇦 and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton,🇨🇦 artwork by Liz Amini-Holmes 🇨🇦 (9781554512461, Sept. 1, 2010, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  3. Cary Price by Catherine Rondina 🇨🇦 (9781459412767, Feb.1, 2018, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  4. I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis 🇨🇦 and Kathy Kacer,🇨🇦 illustrated by Gillian Newland 🇨🇦 (9781927583944, Sept. 6, 2016, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  5. The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Webstad,🇨🇦 illustrated by Brock Nicol 🇨🇦 (9780993869495, Sept. 1, 2018, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  6. Turtle Island by Eldon Yellowhorn 🇨🇦 and Kathy Lowinger 🇨🇦 (9781554519439, Sept. 12, 2017, Young Adult Nonfiction / People & Places / Aboriginal & Indigenous)

  7. The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson 🇨🇦 (9781772600384, Sept. 5, 2017, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

  8. #Notyourprincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy 🇨🇦 and Mary Beth Leatherdale 🇨🇦 (9781554519576, Sept. 12, 2017, Young Adult Nonfiction / People & Places / United States / Native American)

  9. The Sharing Circle by Theresa Meuse,🇨🇦 illustrated by Arthur Stevens 🇨🇦 (9781551094502, Jan. 5, 2003, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / United States / Native American)

  10. When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton 🇨🇦 and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton,🇨🇦 illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard 🇨🇦 (9781554514908, Feb. 1, 2013, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian)

Only two books out of the 40 in all four top-10 lists are not written by Canadian authors or Indigenous Peoples of Canada (Tommy Orange's There There and Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins). Oh, Canada!

The Fiction bestselling titles are backlist heavy, while the Non-Fiction titles skew more to new releases. Many of the titles on the adult Fiction and Non-Fiction lists have been on Canadian national bestseller lists or were Loan Stars top picks.

Among the adult titles, Penguin Random House Canada published the bulk of the bestsellers, eight of them to be exact, followed by House of Anansi, who published three. On the Juvenile and Young Adult side, Annick Press published six of the top 20, and Second Story Press followed with three of their titles appearing on either list.

So, with these 40 bestselling titles, you've now got a good starting place for choosing your Canada Day read. And 39 other recommendations for the days that follow. Make reading some of these books one of your steps to decolonize Canada.

*Please note: We have published these lists using raw data as supplied to us by publishers through the supply chain, and have chosen not to make any editorial changes to the contributors or books mentioned. We appreciate that there are many considerations involved in identifying Indigenous authorship, and that these categorizations, and other similar identifiers, can sometimes be mislabelled or simply inaccurate. We encourage our readers to review these lists with a critical eye and to continue the conversation in the comments of this post.

Are you a publisher, retailer, or librarian who wants to see more data like this? Check out SalesData, the sales-tracking service for the Canadian English-language trade book market. If you’re already a subscriber, and want to see how other categories did during certain time periods (like we did for all the Indigenous or Native American/Canadian BISAC categories), check out the market share report. If you want to see the top-selling titles in a certain category or for a specific title or subtitle (like we did for the top-selling books), see how to run a bestseller report. If you still have questions, or want SalesData training, contact us!