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2021 Best of Fall guide: Nonfiction

2021 Best of Fall story opener with photos of Miriam Toews, Douglas Coupland, Elaine Chin, Ian Williams, Cherie Dimaline and Kai Cheng Thom

Personal stories, rigorous investigations, gorgeous art, and audacious visions of a post-pandemic future

“Indian” in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power
Jody Wilson-Raybould
HarperCollins, Oct.

Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general of Canada, resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet in the midst of the SNC-Lavalin affair to sit as an independent MP. Her memoir shares how her initial optimism about effecting change from within faded and outlines a better way to govern. –CD

The cover of Kamal Al-Solaylee's Return with a photo of the author

Kamal Al-Solaylee (Mark Raynes Roberts)

Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From
Kamal Al-Solaylee
HarperCollins, Sept.

With a personal lens on the longing to return home, Al-Solaylee, who fled Yemen as a child, returns to the Middle East, only to find himself disconnected from his land of origin. In addition to including the voices of dozens who’ve left their home countries, Al-Solaylee visits a place where the topic is especially raw and divisive: Israel and the West Bank. –RP

Disorientation: Being Black in the World
Ian Williams
Random House Canada, Sept.

The poet, professor, and Giller-winning novelist turns his substantial creative skill to the topic of anti-Black racism in this collection of essays. Writing from his perspective as a Trinidadian Canadian, Williams extrapolates universal insight into the experience of living under white supremacy. –RP

Made-Up: A True Story of Beauty Culture Under Late Capitalism
Daphné B.; Alex Manley, trans.
Coach House Books, Sept.

The poet and translator has said they find makeup to be a complex and contradictory subject worthy of deep consideration. In this book, they examine cosmetics from their anti-capitalist and intersectional feminist viewpoint. –CD

An interior Illustration from Gord Hill's The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book

The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book

The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book: Revised and Expanded
Gord Hill
Arsenal Pulp Press, Oct.

This seminal 2010 work by the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation cartoonist has been expanded and reissued in full colour to cover everything from the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire to the Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline protests in a visual style that’s direct and accessible. –AWB

The Whisper on the Night Wind: The True Story of a Wilderness Legend
Adam Shoalts
Allen Lane/PRHC, Oct.

Shoalts, an explorer and historian, takes readers deep into Labrador legend as he investigates the haunting of Traverspine 100 years ago, exploring what really emerged from the woods to haunt residents of this small, isolated community. –CD

Tongues: On Longing and Belonging through Language
Eufemia Fantetti, Leonarda Carranza, and Ayelet Tsabari, eds.
Book*hug, Oct.

Twenty-six writers consider language diversity, especially as it affects those who speak a first language other than English. The talented contributors include Jenny Heijun Wills, Adam Pottle, Kai Cheng Thom, and Téa Mutonji. –RP

Leonard Cohen: On a Wire
Philippe Girard
Drawn & Quarterly, Oct.

The Quebec cartoonist traces the life of the iconic Canadian singer and poet, beginning with the last day of Cohen’s life and casting back through flashbacks over a rich career that took him from the family’s garment business to international acclaim, financial ruin at the hands of an embezzling manager, and a late-in-life touring resurgence in the 2000s. –CD

Once a Bitcoin Miner: Scandal and Turmoil in the Cryptocurrency Wild West
Ethan Lou
ECW Press, Oct.

Lou’s rigorously reported first-person account of Bitcoin’s dizzying ups and punch-to-the-gut downs was delayed when COVID-19 inspired his book Field Notes from a Pandemic. But it’s clear the cryptocurrency hasn’t lost any of its disruptive, divisive relevance. –RP

My Privilege, My Responsibility
Sheila North
Great Plains Publications, Nov.

The former journalist was the first woman elected as Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and is the creator of the #MMIW hashtag. She shares her life story marked by violence, perseverance, resilience, and a commitment to advocating for Indigenous women and girls. –CD

A photo of author Jesse Wente

Jesse Wente (Red Works)

Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance
Jesse Wente
Allen Lane/PRHC, Sept.

Billed as part memoir and part manifesto, Unreconciled is the former broadcaster’s exploration, through his own experiences, of the lies Canada tells itself about how the country came to be and of how a new relationship grounded in truth could be forged between Indigenous Peoples and the nation of Canada. –CD

Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas
Omar Mouallem
Simon & Schuster, Sept.

The Edmonton journalist visits 13 mosques from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, to Salvador, Brazil, to uncover the history of how Islam has influenced Western culture. Along the way, Mouallem, a non-practising Muslim, gains a new appreciation for a religion he has a complicated personal relationship with. –RP

All We Want: Building the Life We Cannot Buy
Michael Harris
Doubleday Canada/PRHC, Dec.

Current levels of consumerism aren’t sustainable, and despite shopping our way to environmental catastrophe, North American standards of living are going down, not up. What could consuming less look like, and will we be happy without so much stuff? The GG and Taylor Prize winner shows us how less really is more. –AWB

The cover of Nicola I. Campbell's Spilexam with a photo of the author

Nicola I. Campbell (Kalvin Warbus Photography)

Spílǝxm: A Weaving of Recovery, Resilience, and Resurgence
Nicola I. Campbell
HighWater Press/Portage & Main Press, Sept.

The author of five children’s books tells her own story of being a descendent of residential school survivors in this memoir, named for the NeɁkepmxcín word meaning “events or news” traditionally shared between Elders over tea. –RP

China Unbound: A New World Disorder
Joanna Chiu
House of Anansi Press, Sept.
Two Michaels: Cyberpawns in the U.S.-China War over Our Digital Future
Fen Hampson and Mike Blanchfield
Sutherland House, Nov.                              

China’s position as both rising power and looming threat is outlined in these revealing investigations. Chiu, who reports on China for the Toronto Star, tells the stories of religious and cultural minorities threatened by the state while Carleton University’s Hampson and journalist Blanchfield cast the arbitrary detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig against China’s bid to restrain digital freedom. –RP

Fight to Win: Inside Poor People’s Organizing
A.J. Withers
Fernwood Publishing, Oct.

Drawing from their years of working with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the veteran organizer, writer, and scholar looks at how organizing and direct action can make positive change for even the most marginalized groups. –AWB

On Borrowed Time: North America’s Next Big Quake
Gregor Craigie
Goose Lane Editions, Sept.

Outlining an all-too-plausible disaster scenario, the CBC journalist presents evidence for an inevitable earthquake in North America and expert advice on how we should prepare. While L.A. and Vancouver may seem like obvious epicentres, Craigie points out critical fault lines in places such as Ottawa and Montreal. –RP

Modest Hopes: Homes and Stories of Toronto’s Workers from the 1820s to the 1920s
Don Loucks and Leslie Valpy
Dundurn Press, Sept.

Loucks and Valpy tease out the working-class histories preserved in brick Victorian row houses and cottages and make a case for conserving these modest dwellings in an age of glass and concrete towers. –AWB


Overcoming the Neutral Zone Trap: Hockey’s Agents of Change
Cheryl A. MacDonald and Jonathon R.J. Edwards, eds.
University of Alberta Press, Oct.

A deep dive into the world of hockey and a close look at the people and ideas working to transform its exclusionary traditions to create a more progressive and inclusive sport. –CD

The cover of Bernie Saunders and Barry Meisel's The Game That Did Not Love Me BlackShut Out: The Game That Did Not Love Me Black
Bernie Saunders and Barry Meisel
Patrick Crean Editions/HCC, Oct.

Saunders, only the fifth Black player in the NHL, had a promising career with the Quebec Nordiques between 1979 and 1981. In his memoir, he calls out the league’s shameful history and how racism from spectators, opponents, coaches, and his own teammates drove him from the sport. –RP

Rebound: Sports, Community, and the Inclusive City
Perry King
Coach House Books, Oct.

In a richly reported look at casual pickup sports in cities, the Toronto journalist examines what happens when people lose access to the sports or the spaces they use to play them. He reimagines how neighbourhoods can offer active and healthy connections for all. –CD

The pandemic amplified systemic inequalities and personal challenges across all facets of society. These writers offer fresh directions and critical understanding as we try to move forward. –AWB

Welcome Back: How to Reboot Your Physical and Mental Well-Being for a Post-Pandemic World
Elaine Chin
Sutherland House Books, Sept.

Chin’s second book is a practical guide to resetting your health after a year of less activity, less connection, and – for many of us – a bit more comfort food than usual.

The cover of Corey Mintz's The Next Supper with a photo of the author

Corey Mintz (Jaime Hogge)

The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes After
Corey Mintz
PublicAffairs/Hachette, Nov.

With delivery apps making a killing while restaurant margins dwindle, food writer Mintz asks, Was the restaurant industry ever sustainable? And who benefits from going back to business as usual? Mintz balances a deep appreciation for food with a hard look at the sector’s dodgy labour practices and untenable social and environmental impacts.

Me Tomorrow: Indigenous Views on the Future
Drew Hayden Taylor, ed.
Douglas & McIntyre, Oct.

The prolific author and GG nominee brings together essays by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit writers, educators, and activists – such as Romeo Saganash, Lee Maracle, and Autumn Peltier – that weigh in on art, language, politics, and community as we look forward to more just and more joyful tomorrows.

Spin Doctors: How Media and Doctors Misdiagnosed the COVID-19 Pandemic
Nora Loreto
Fernwood Publishing, Nov.

As the pandemic unfolded, Canadians relied on Quebec-based writer, activist, and podcaster Loreto’s analytical voice to make sense of the statistics, the disease’s spread, and Canada’s response. Spin Doctors takes us month by month through the stories major newsrooms didn’t cover and the systemic changes we need in our post-COVID society.

Pandemic Societies
Jean-Louis Denis, Catherine Régis, and Daniel M. Weinstock, eds.
McGill-Queen’s University Press, Oct.

Experts across academic disciplines look at how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world on personal and institutional levels and what the new world order means for the future. –CD


The cover of Cid V Brunet's This Is My Real Name with a photo of the authorThis Is My Real Name
Cid V Brunet
Arsenal Pulp Press, Nov.

In an important addition to the growing literature of sex work, Brunet looks at how stripping was more lucrative and appealing than other entry-level positions and offered opportunities for self-expression and empowerment. Their memoir disrupts facile trauma narratives about sex work while examining stripping from labour-justice and feminist perspectives. –AWB

The Light Streamed Beneath It
Shawn Hitchins
ECW Press, Oct.

What happens when a life of punchlines and wise cracks is confronted with loss and grief? When two great loves pass away within months, Hitchins explores the messiness and joys of life, and the ways that laughter can be both a deflection and a balm. –AWB


The cover of Cory Trépanier's Into the Arctic with a photo of the author painting in natureInto the Arctic: Painting Canada’s Changing North
Cory Trépanier
Figure 1 Publishing, Oct.

This collection includes more than 120 paintings as well as sketches and photos from Trépanier’s five trips to the Arctic between 2006 and 2018. –CD

Mischief Making: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Art, and the Seriousness of Play
Nicola Levell
UBC Press, Oct.

A deep dive into the work of the creator of Haida manga reveals its philosophical underpinnings and dispels the idea that play is frivolous. –CD

Christi Belcourt
Sherry Farrell Racette, Nadia Kurd, and Dylan Miner
Goose Lane Editions, Sept.

The first book dedicated to the life and work of the Michif artist includes a powerful artist’s statement as well as essays by scholars Racette and Miner and curator Kurd. –CD

By: Cassandra Drudi; Ryan Porter; Andrew Woodrow-Butcher

August 25th, 2021

9:49 am

Category: Industry News, Preview

Issue Date: September 2021

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