Each winner of the 1979 Governor General's Awards for Literary Merit was selected by a panel of judges administered by the Canada Council for the Arts. The 1979 awards were the first for which a shortlist of finalists was released a month before the presentation of the awards.
||File:Blueribbon icon.png Jack Hodgins, The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne
||File:Blueribbon icon.png Maria Tippett, Emily Carr
| Poetry or drama
||File:Blueribbon icon.png Michael Ondaatje, There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do