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Fall preview 2011: Canadian non-fiction

In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at the fall season’s biggest books.


With Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan coming to an end this summer, a number of fall titles take stock of the country’s most significant military intervention since Korea. Journalist Terry Glavin, a recent recipient of the B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, offers a candid portrait of Afghanistan in Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan (Douglas & McIntyre, $29.95 cl., Oct.), in which Glavin meets Afghanis from many walks of life who offer hope for a sustainable peace. ¢ In The Long Way Back: Afghanistan’s Quest for Peace (HarperCollins Canada, $32.99 cl., Sept.), former Canadian ambassador and U.N. special representative in Afghanistan (and newly minted Conservative MP) Chris Alexander lays out a roadmap for peace, and offers his take on the last 10 years of the country’s tumultuous history. ¢ Seasoned correspondent Murray Brewster‘s The Savage War: The Untold Battles of Afghanistan (John Wiley & Sons Canada, $34.95 cl., Sept.) offers a candid look at Canada’s war effort in some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions. ¢ Drawing on her own experiences growing up in Afghanistan, as well as the stories of others, Sharifa Sharif offers a candid portrait of the lives of Afghani women and children in On the Edge of Being ($16.95 pa., Oct.), published by newcomer Three O’Clock Press.

As the Toronto Star‘s national security reporter and author of 2008’s Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr, Michelle Shephard has made a name for herself as a critic of the security state run amok. Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism’s Grey Zone (D&M, $32.95 cl., Sept.) reflects on her experience covering some of the most important stories from the war on terror. ¢ Haunted by the 1993 murder of a Somali teenager by Canadian soldiers, B.C. writer Gary Geddes travelled from the Hague to Africa to look at whether international aid is helping or harming ordinary Africans. Geddes, author of the travel memoir Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things, shares his discoveries in Drink the Bitter Root: A Writer’s Search for Justice and Redemption in Africa (D&M, $32.95 cl., Aug.). ¢ Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child North America, offers an account of her work in some of the world’s most devastated corners, and shares her vision for changing course from our growing militarization, in Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies, and Aid ($29.99 cl., Oct.), published by McClelland & Stewart’s new non-fiction imprint, Signal.

Joel Bakan‘s previous book, The Corporation, was adapted into a documentary film that hit a nerve with the counterculture. His follow-up, Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Ruthlessly Targets Children (Allen Lane Canada, $32 cl., Aug.) is another scathing indictment of corporate greed, examining how, in the words of the publisher, big business plans to turn kids into obsessive and narcissistic mini-consumers, media addicts, cheap and pliable workers, and chemical industry guinea pigs. ¢ Sociologist Lyndsay Green follows up her surprise bestseller You Could Live a Long Time: Are You Ready? with Teens Gone Wired: Are You Ready? (Thomas Allen Publishers, $19.95 pa., Aug.), a guide for parents who may not know what sexting means, but know they don’t like it.

In Room for All of Us (Allen Lane Canada, $35 cl., Sept.), Canada’s 26th Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, draws on her own experiences, and those of other immigrants, to offer a revealing portrait of a changing country and its people.

In Dependent America? How Canada and Mexico Construct U.S. Power (University of Toronto Press, $34.95 cl., Nov.), one of Canada’s most important political scientists and observers, Stephen Clarkson, offers his thoughts on the simultaneous importance and powerlessness of the U.S.’s two most significant trading partners and allies. The book is co-authored by Matto Mildenberger. ¢ Flanker Press had a surprise hit on its hands with Danny Williams: The War with Ottawa, released just a few months before the former Newfoundland premier stepped down. Well-known broadcaster and ex-politician Bill Rowe returns with the plea Danny Williams, Please Come Back ($19.95 pa., Sept.), a collection of political columns.

Andrew Nikiforuk
, author most recently of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, reports on another environmental scourge in Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests (Greystone Books, $19.95 pa., Sept.). The book, co-published with the David Suzuki Foundation, looks at how misguided science, out-of-control logging, and climate change contributed to the destruction of more than 30 billion pine and spruce trees in North America. ¢ Los Angeles“based biologist and journalist Reese Halter looks at the same problem in The Insatiable Bark Beetle ($16.95 cl., Oct.), published as part of Rocky Mountain Books’ Manifesto series of short, opinionated non-fiction.

The Geography of Hope author Chris Turner continues to take an optimistic view of mankind’s ability to adapt to environmental challenges in The Great Leap Sideways: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Twenty-first Century Economy (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., Sept.), a field guide to recent breakthroughs in renewable energy, urban design, and nascent green-collar economies. ¢ In Atlantic Canada’s Sustainability Innovators (Nimbus, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Chris Benjamin profiles forward-thinking entrepreneurs, educators, and activists who are making a difference, from organic farmers to the founder of Frenchy’s, the prevalent East Coast chain of used-clothing stores.

Vancouver author Charlotte Gill is known in literary circles for her story collection Ladykiller, which won the B.C. Book Prize for fiction, but she has also spent nearly 20 years planting trees in clear-cuts across Canada. Her memoir, Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (Greystone, $29.95 cl., Sept.), is at once an account of Gill’s million-tree career, a snapshot of a unique, particularly Canadian subculture, and a meditation on the wonder of trees. ¢ One of Canada’s most beloved novelists, David Adams Richards, shares his love of the outdoors and offers an impassioned defence of a way of life he believes is under attack in Facing the Hunter (Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl., Oct.), a companion to Richards’ Governor General’s Literary Award“winning ode to angling, Lines on Water.

In what promises to be a searingly honest account of mental illness, Ray Robertson describes how he battled suicidal depression after completing his sixth novel. Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., Sept.) is described as self-help for the socially hostile. ¢ Shannon Moroney‘s life as a newlywed was shattered when, just one month into her marriage, her husband was arrested and charged in the brutal assault and kidnapping of two women. Moroney describes her journey to overcome the stigma of guilt by association, and understand her husband’s violent actions, in Through the Glass (Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl., Oct.).

Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the National Ballet of Canada, Carol Bishop-Gwyn‘s The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca (Cormorant Books, $36 cl., Oct.) is the first major biography of the woman who made the troupe a cultural force in Canada.

Historian Michael Bliss is known for his biographies of Canadian politicians and early medical practitioners. In Writing History: A Professor’s Life (Dundurn Press, $40 cl., Sept.), the University of Toronto professor emeritus turns to the raw materials of his own life in a memoir that touches on family, Canadian politics, and the craft of researching and writing history. ¢ Joseph B. Martin traces his climb from a Mennonite farm to dean of Harvard Medical School in Alfalfa to Ivy (University of Alberta Press, $34.95 pa., Aug.), offering insight into academic politics and health care in Canada and the U.S.

Kurdish poet and journalist Jalal Barzanji endured imprisonment and torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein because of his outspoken writings. After emigrating to Canada in the 1990s, Barzanji, who was named Edmonton’s first writer-in-exile in 2007, finally tells his story. The Man in Blue Pajamas: Prison Memoir in the Form of a Novel (U of A Press, $24.95 pa., July), translated from the Kurdish by Sabah Salih, includes a foreword from John Ralston Saul.

As part of the inaugural season for M&S’s new non-fiction imprint, Signal, Margaret Atwood shares her lifelong love of science-fiction in the essay collection In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination ($26.99 cl., Oct.).

A companion to 2002’s Odysseys Home, poet George Elliott Clarke‘s Directions Home: Approaches to African-Canadian Literature (University of Toronto Press, $39.95 pa., Dec.) is billed as the most comprehensive analysis of African-Canadian texts and writers to date, and includes studies of contemporary writers such as George Boyd and Dionne Brand. ¢ In a new collection of essays, poet and scholar Roy Miki investigates the shifting currents of citizenship, globalization, and cultural practices of Asian-Canadians. In Flux: Transnational Signs of Asian Canadian Writing (NeWest Press, $24.95 pa., Oct.) is edited by University of Guelph professor Smaro Kamboureli.

Discovered in the author’s archive after her death in 2007, Jane Rule‘s Taking My Life (Talonbooks, $19.95 pa., Aug.) offers a portrait of the writer as a young woman, tracing her maturation as an artist in the first 21 years of her life. ¢ How I Wrote Certain of My Books (Mansfield Press, $19.95 pa., Oct.) is prolific poet, fiction writer, and critic George Bowering‘s memoir about building his literary oeuvre. ¢ Poet, novelist, and journalist George Jonas takes readers on a romp through literary history in The Jonas Variations: A Literary Séance (Cormorant Books, $24 pa., Sept.), in which the author pays homage to foreign-language poets who have inspired him.

Richard Gwyn
won the 2008 Charles Taylor Prize for John A: The Man Who Made Us, the first volume of his biography of Canada’s founding Prime Minister. The follow-up, Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald “ His Life, Our Times (Random House Canada, $37 cl., Sept.), picks up the story on Confederation Day in 1867. ¢ It’s been 30 years since the last major biography of William Lyon Mackenzie King appeared. Winnipeg historian and novelist Allan Levine updates the record with William Lyon Mackenzie King: A Life Guided by the Hand of Destiny (D&M, $36.95 cl., Sept.), a portrait of one of Canada’s greatest “ and easily, quirkiest “ PMs. ¢ University of Toronto historian and Celtic Studies professor David A. Wilson is set to publish the second volume in his biography of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the fathers of confederation and Canada’s only federal politician to be the victim of an assassination. Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Volume 2: The Extreme Moderate, 1857“1868 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $39.95 cl.) publishes in October.

When a U.S. Air Force bomber caught fire over Canada’s northwest coast in 1950, it was carrying some very important cargo “ a nuclear bomb. Aviation historian Dirk Septer investigates questions that still remain about the incident in Lost Nuke: The Last Flight of Bomber 075 (Heritage House Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.). ¢ In Maple Leaf Empire: Canada, Britain, and Two World Wars (Oxford University Press, $29.95 cl., Oct.), historian Jonathan F. Vance looks at Canada’s unique brand of Britishness through the two nations’ shared military endeavours.

When he died last fall, folk historian Chuck Davis was known as the custodian of Vancouver’s collective memory. His magnum opus, Chuck Davis’s History of Metropolitan Vancouver ($49.95 cl.), will be published by Harbour Publishing in October.

Anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence Wade Davis climbs to new heights with Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest (Knopf Canada, $35 cl., Sept.), an account of British adventurers’ early ascents of Mount Everest, and what they meant for a nation still reeling from the devastation of the First World War.

In Long Night of the Tankers (McArthur & Company, $34.95 cl., Nov.), University of Calgary scholars David J. Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig examine an often overlooked theatre of the Second World War: the Caribbean, whose oil refining facilities were targeted by German U-boats.

Dave Bidini
may be one of the founding members of the seminal Canadian indie band the Rheostatics, but his prolificacy as an author (nine books in just over a decade) is equally impressive. Bidini marries his passions for music and literature in Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972 (M&S, $29.99 cl., Oct.), which looks at the folk-rock legend in the week leading up to the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival. ¢ Frequent Q&Q contributor Robert J. Wiersema (author of Bedtime Story) salutes his own rock ‘n’ roll idol in Walk Like a Man: Coming of Age with the Music of Bruce Springsteen (Greystone, $21.95 pa., Sept.), which functions as liner notes for the soundtrack of the author’s life.

Shania Twain and Anne Murray have scored bestsellers with their recent as-told-to memoirs. Michael Bublé follows in their footsteps with Off Stage On Stage (Doubleday Canada, $34.95 cl., Nov.), which promises to offer fans an intimate portrait (with pictures!) of the easy-on-the-eyes crooner. ¢ Singer-songwriter Jann Arden promises not to be insensitive in recounting her Prairies upbringing and maturation as an artist in Falling Backwards (Knopf Canada, $32 cl., Nov.). ¢ With his popular CBC Radio show, Randy Bachman, best known for his work in the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, has proven himself to be the Stuart McLean of the rock ‘n’ roll set. He shares some of the best-loved chestnuts from his ample repertoire in Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories (Viking Canada, $32 cl., Oct.).

Many Canadians were shocked and saddened to learn of the death earlier this year of Roger Abbott, one of the founding members of the Royal Canadian Air Farce. In the posthumously published Air Farce: 40 Years of Flying by the Seat of Our Pants (Wiley Canada, $34.95 cl., Oct.), Abbott, along with fellow Farcer Don Ferguson, offers a behind-the-scenes account of how the CBC show got off the ground and continued to fly for four decades.

William Shatner seems to be experiencing a new vogue of late “ though in some ways he never really went away. The Star Trek and Boston Legal star gives fans a glimpse of his quirky genius in Shatner Rules: Your Key to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large (Viking Canada, $25.50 cl., Oct.). ¢ Vancouver broadcaster and actor Terry David Mulligan recently caused a stir for an act of civil disobedience involving an illicit substance (Google it, if you haven’t heard), reminding Canadians he has never been far from the media spotlight. In Terry David Mulligan (Heritage House, $19.95 pa., Oct.), written with Glen Schaefer, the former MuchMusic VJ relates his career highs and lows. ¢ William B. Davis is known as one of the most famous TV villains of the 1990s for his role in The X-Files. He tells of his upbringing in the Canadian theatre world in Where There’s Smoke… : Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (ECW Press, $22.95 pa., Oct.).

Street artist Roadsworth gained notoriety when he was arrested for his stencils and street markings that subverted Montreal’s urban facade. Some of his best-known pieces are included in Roadsworth (Goose Lane, $29.95 pa., Sept.), which features more than 200 reproductions of his work. ¢ Visual Orgasm: Highlights of Canadian Graffiti (Frontenac House, $40 cl., Sept.) is a visual history of Canadian tags, bombs, and burners by Adam Melnyk, who has maintained the online archive visualorgasm.org for more than a decade.

Jessa Gamble
explores the intersection of circadian rhythms and modern culture in The Siesta and the Midnight Sun: How We Measure and Experience Time (Viking Canada, $34 cl., Oct.), which argues, among other things, that people who lived before the invention of mechanical timepieces endured less stress than their modern counterparts.

McGill-Queen’s University Press is set to publish an ambitious art book that brings an early explorer’s account of Canada to modern readers. The Codex Cadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas ($65 cl., Nov.) is an encyclopedic record of Canada’s natural history by a Jesuit priest who travelled extensively in Canada in the mid-17th century. The work is edited and introduced by scholar François-Marc Gagnon, with translations by Nancy Senior and Réal Ouellet.

Ian Dowbiggin diagnoses the modern obsession with mental well-being in The Quest for Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow and Mass Society (Cambridge University Press, $25.95 pa., Sept.), in which the University of Prince Edward Island historian of science argues that the trend for therapism will persist as long as consumerism holds sway. ¢ In Strong Helpers’ Teachings (Canadian Scholars’ Press, $39.95 pa., Sept.), Ryerson University prof Cyndy Baskin shows how professionals in the field of human services can learn a lot from native teachings.

Montreal is rightly celebrated as a mecca for gluttonous gourmands. One of the city’s most distinctive restaurants, Joe Beef, gets its due in The Art of Living According to Joe Beef (Ten Speed Press/Random House, $40 cl., Oct.), by co-owners/chefs David McMillan and Frédéric Morin, with journalist Meredith Erickson. ¢ Canadian celebrity chef Michael Smith is set to publish his first book with Penguin Canada. Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen ($32 cl., Sept.) is a collection of the Prince Edward Island chef’s favourite home-cooking recipes.

As the title suggests, Food and Trembling (Invisible Publishing, $16.95 pa., Oct.) isn’t your typical highbrow culinary memoir. The collection of humorous essays by Montreal blogger Jonah Campbell is more gourmand than gourmet, approaching eating with fierce appetite, but not always good manners. ¢ One of the more surprising trends arising from the locavore movement is celebrated in We Sure Can! How Jams and Pickles Are Reviving the Lure and Lore of Local Food (Arsenal Pulp Press, $24.95 pa., Aug.) by Sarah B. Hood, which includes more than 100 recipes.

In Cravings: Comfort Eats and Favourite Treats (TouchWood Editions, $19.95 pa., Sept.), Debbie Harding shares recipes for those sinful foods “ cinnamon buns, poutine, sugar donuts “ most of us just can’t resist. ¢ For those suffering dietary restrictions who still want to indulge comes The Gluten-Free Baking Book: 250 Small-Batch Recipes for Everything from Brownies to Cheesecake (Robert Rose/Firefly, $27.95 pa., Sept.) by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt.

Fresh & Healthy Cooking for Two: Easy Meals for Everyday Life (Formac, $24.95 pa., Oct.), by Ellie Topp and Marilyn Booth, is billed as an alternative to prepared foods, offering quick, healthful dishes for smaller households. ¢ Also from Formac, Scrumptious & Sustainable Fishcakes: A Collection of the Best Sustainable Fishcake Recipes from Canadian Wharves, Coast to Coast ($24.95 pa., Oct.) brings together ethical seafood recipes from the likes of Elizabeth Feltham, Elaine Elliot, and Craig Flinn.

The First Stampede of Flores LaDue (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, $29.99 cl., Oct.) by Wendy Bryden is the true love story of Guy Weadick and Flores LaDue, two Wild West vaudevillians who founded the Calgary Stampede. ¢ Soccer legend Bob Lenarduzzi, president and CEO of the Vancouver Whitecaps, tells co-author Jim Taylor how he became the face of soccer in B.C. in The Bobby Lenarduzzi Story (Harbour, $28.95 cl., Sept.).

The fine print: Q&Q‘s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q‘s press time. ¢ Titles that have appeared in previous previews do not appear here.