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Dear Canadian Bookshelf,
My best friend has lost her faith in narrative. For a while, she subsisted on nonfiction alone, and then she found out about Greg Mortenson and his Three Cups of Tea, and now she doesn't believe in anything anymore. She said she just doesn't understand the point of reading books in a world that's so troubled, and that we're just all diverting our attention from what's really going on.
But this Christmas, I want to bring her back into the fold. Could you recommend some books that will remind her that reading is a way like no other to come to know the world?
Miranda T., Moncton NB
You couldn't have picked a better time to try to convince a non-believer, because right now is a really exciting time in Canadian nonfiction. This year the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction was awarded for the first time, and the winner was Charles Foran for Mordacai: The Life and Times, beating out a stellar shortlist of Charlotte Gill for Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe, Richard Gwyn for Nation Maker: John A MacDonald: His Life, Our Times Volumer II, Grant Lawrence for Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nudist Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound and Ray Robertson for Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live.
(We published an excerpt from Robertson's book earlier this fall, and also check out Charlotte Gill's creative-nonfiction list for some more great book picks.)
Just yesterday, the longlist was announced for the Charles Taylor Prize, and it included Gill, Robertson and Gwyn, as well as Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis, The Patrol: Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan by Ryan Flavelle, The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by J. J. Lee, Facing the Hunter: Reflections on a Misunderstood Way of Life by David Adams Richards, Afflictions and Departures: Essays by Madeline Sonik, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery by Andrew Westoll and Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism by Joel Yanofsky.
See also Barbara Stewart's Campie, about one woman's adventures in the oil sands; Maria Meindl's Outside The Box, in which the writer discovers her grandmother, the writer and broadcaster Mona Gould; and Empire of the Beetle by Andrew Nikiforuk about the invasion of the pine beetle.
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