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John Vaillant is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction chronicling the natural world. His first book, The Golden Spruce, won the Pearson Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize and a Governor General’s Literary Award; his second book, The Tiger, won British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Nonfiction. His debut novel, The Jaguar’s Children, was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was longlisted for the international Dublin Literary Award. Vaillant is the recipient of a $150,000 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize and was shortlisted for the 2023 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. He has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and The Walrus. Vaillant lives in Vancouver. 

Award History

2024 Finalist

Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
for Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast

Jury Citation

“Like a blazing inferno that commands our attention and awe, we cannot look away from Fire Weather. John Vaillant brings the devastating 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire to life by introducing us, almost affectionately, to the human beings on the frontlines of the fossil fuel industry and the fire it produces that threatens us all. This is a deeply compelling, skillfully crafted story packed with information but completely free of ponderous lecturing. It is terrifying in its honest, textured description of what we have wrought in the name of progress, what we stand to lose, and where we might find the possibility of hope.”

—2024 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize Jury (Joanna Chiu, Dale Eisler, and Kathleen Wynne)

2023 Finalist

Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction
for Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast

Jury Citation

John Vaillant’s Fire Weather reveals to readers a character as ruthless, creative, and destructive as any in modern literature: fire itself. Through dynamic prose, deep research, and a profound sense of the stakes on a planet beset by climate change, Vaillant traces how Canada’s geological and economic history have converged to transform fire from a useful tool into an existential threat to our way of life. In the process, he crafts a narrative pulsing with beauty and annihilation, hubris and desire, and the unsettling revelation that what humanity has long considered its most important tool is no longer under our control.

2015 Finalist

Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
for The Jaguar’s Children

Jury Citation

The Jaguar’s Children is a haunting and exquisitely written book of the moment: a powerful novel about the repercussions of global inequity, human indecency, and an individual’s choices in the face of despair. John Vaillant gives us the story of Hector – a Zapotec smuggling himself out of Mexico in search of a better life. Balancing the poignant and luminous with the horrific is no easy feat butThe Jaguar’s Childrendoes just that. A praiseworthy addition to Vaillant’s already established standing as one of our very best writers. — 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury (Aislinn HUnter, Shani Mootoo, and Richard Wagamese)

2005 Winner

Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction
for The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed

Jury Citation

“The wonder of The Golden Spruce is how author John Vaillant, in beautiful language, weaves a convergence of geography and greed, mythology and madness into a spectacular thriller. The story of this legendary tree on the Queen Charlotte Islands resonates marvellously with Canadian and, indeed, universal significance.” – 2005 Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize Jury (Ernest Hillen, Myrna Kostash, and Paula Todd)

Works recognized by WT

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed