Mixed Tape: Canada Day Music For Book Lovers

     “If I could read your mind, love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind the drugstores sell
When you reach the part where the heartaches come
The hero would be me
But heroes often fail
And you won’t read that book again
Because the ending’s just too hard to take”

~Gordon Lightfoot

To get you in the mood for Canada Day, I’m celebrating two things Canadians love (no, not beer and hockey): books and music. Canadian musicians are a literary bunch, so I had lots to choose from. Here is my “top 12” list of literary songs in Canada:

#12. AroarA –  “#10” and “#14”, from the album In the Pines

Mesmerizing and minimalist songs by AroarA, the husband and wife team of Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle, from Montreal, Quebec. The album is based on the 2007 book In the Pines by American poet Alice Notley. One song for every poem: 14 poems, 14 songs.

Listen to “14” here on soundcloud

#11. Arkells – “Book Club”

A great song by this Hamilton band. Lead singer Max Kerman is a book lover, and this song is about his friend Matty who shares his passion for books: “I’m always borrowing books and never giving them back.” (source)

#10. Moxy Früvous – “My baby loves a bunch of authors”

Full of references to great Canadian writers like Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, this song was a huge hit in Canada in the 1990s. And that’s Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC radio’s Q, reading GenX by Douglas Coupland.

#9. Crash Test Dummies – “Afternoons and Coffeespoons”

A hit for this Winnipeg band, the title and lyrics of the song are based on the T. S. Eliot poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

#8. Rufus Wainwright – “Out of the game”

The song has nothing to do with books, but the video is set in a library. And I can’t have a song list without the amazing Rufus Wainwright, can I? Oh, and that’s Helena Bonham Carter as the librarian.

#7. Joni Mitchell, “If”

Canadian icon, loved by the world, here is Joni Mitchell’s gorgeous rendering of Kipling’s famous poem.

#6. Gordon Lightfoot – “If you could read my mind”

This song got a lot of airplay when I was a kid. Written and sung so beautifully by the great Gordon Lightfoot. To this day, I can’t look at a paperback without feeling a little sad…

#5. Rheostatics – “Rain, Rain, Rain” from the album Whale Music

Inspired by Paul Quarrington‘s novel of the same name. The novel won a Governor General’s Award, and the album is consistently ranked as one of Canada’s top ten greatest albums.

#4. Royal Wood, “Juliet”

Inspired by Shakespeare. Wood said in an interview: “I definitely was a huge fan of Shakespeare in high school, probably one of the few in my class I think.” Wood is the master of the heartbreakingly beautiful ballad.

#3. The Tragically Hip – “Courage”

The Hip is by far my favourite Canadian band. When you listen to the Hip, you are listening to the collective Canadian heart beat. This is their tribute to writer Hugh MacLennan and his novel The Watch That Ends the Night, which is paraphrased in the song’s lyrics. More info here.

#2. City and Colour – “The lonely life” (of a writer)

All of the music is great, but this one hits home.

#1. Jane Siberry – “Writers are a funny breed”

No contest: Jane Siberry tops my list with this perfect song from the 1980s:

Bonus song – Canadian Ron Sexsmith and Brit Elvis Costello sing “Everyday I write the book”:

And last but not least, there’s Library Voices: they have so many songs about books I couldn’t choose one.  Check it out: BookishIf Raymond Carver were born in the 90s, and Kundera on the Dancefloor and more…

Enjoy the music, and have a great Canada Day!


  1. what a marvelous list, I enjoyed them all, some I knew and a few I did not! Thank you for taking the trouble and creating this mixed tape…Happy Canada to you Anne, xoxoxo Johanna

    • Thank you Johanna! They are all songs I’ve wanted to compile as a record for myself, so I enjoyed doing it. I consider you an honourary Canadian, so Happpy Canada day to you too!

  2. well I am honoured!!! I just received my Canadian Citizenship a few months ago. I am pleased to tell you, I am the proud owner of Dutch and Canadian passport and an American Green Card…I feel a true World Citizen. And after 8 years of living in Canada and both my boys still living in Toronto, Canada is indeed very special to me! Thank you Anne and have a wonderful day tomorrow!

  3. Love this Booksy! Working on my Canada Day post- which also is music-oriented (there’s a little bit about books in there too)- you beat me to the punch on a couple of these tunes. Have to amend the playlist (which is good, actually- the list was reallyreally long). Have to admit the ‘Courage’ is my sentimental fave.

    Happy Canada Day!

    • Happy Canada Day! What’s it like in TO? It’s boiling hot here, and it looks like rain, but still gotta love this day! We have the backyard blow up pool filling up with water, some tunes playing, and flags all around…but I forgot to get some beer! 😦 They should keep the LCBO/Beer store open on July 1st! 🙂 I look forward to your list, but don’t change it, overlap is good — it shows that it must be a great song! “Courage” is truly beautiful, but I think my favourite Hip song is Bobcaygeon. We are spoiled for good music & literature, aren’t we? Hugs from Ottawa.

      • Pretty steamy here, too. Had some rain this morning, but it’s clear at the mo’. ‘Bobcaygeon’ was going to be my second choice for a Hip song on the list- so…

        In spite of some of the trials and tribulations we face, we really are so very lucky to be Canadian. For so many reasons. Have a great day! Stay cool! xo

  4. Happy Canada Day! I ‘discovered’ your blog thanks to Colemining linking to this post.

    Nice to see Canadian musicians other than the likes of Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Rush featured. Some of them are new to me and all of them are delightful. I got back to listening to Gordon Lightfoot again after a loooong time thanks to a post on the Surroundedbyimbeciles blog. And now suddenly there are more blogs bringing up his music. Nice!

    • Hello, and thanks for visiting. Hope you had a great Canada Day! Gordon Lightfoot is a mainstay in my house…always has been, always will be. But I will also admit to loving Cohen, Rush and Young. And really loving all the new music too. Being Canadian rocks (literally!).

      • I’m not from Canada but I have 2 very good friends who till recently lived in Montreal and have now moved to Vancouver. I get to hear and learn about Canada from them.

      • It’s interesting to hear that Lightfoot and the likes have an international audience. Your blog and musical interests are very interesting and I look forward to reading more!

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