Our nonfiction preview is, as ever, a bit of everything—books on travel, science, sociology, memoir, history, music, health, and more! Here's what we're looking forward to.
In his memoir Strange Bewildering Time (February), poet and journalist Mark Abley looks back on a remarkable journey from Turkey to Nepal in 1978, when the region was on the brink of massive transformation. Harvesting Freedom (March), by Gabriel Allahdua, a former migrant worker, reveals a disturbing system of exploitation at the heart of Canada’s farm labour system. And packed with clear-eyed analysis of both short and long-term strategies for radical social change, The End of This World (January), by Angele Alook, Emily Eaton, David Gray-Donald, Joël Laforest, Crystal Lameman and Bronwen Tucker, promises that the next world is within reach and worth fighting for.
Situating Canada within the Black radical tradition and its Caribbean radical counterpart, Fear of a Black Nation (April), by David Austin, paints a history of Montreal and the Black activists who lived, sojourned in, or visited the city and agitated for change. In Brown Boy (April), Omer Aziz has written a book that eloquently describes the complex process of creating an identity that fuses where he’s from, what people see in him, and who he knows himself to be. Peter Balkwell’s It Takes a Village: Spinning the Collective Yarn (March), the 2023 Pratt Lecture, reflects on the collaborative process through which we discover our singular stories. It argues that sharing oral traditions is the best means to blaze pathways to performance.
With its poems, poetic observations, photos and thoughtful meanderings, leave some for the birds (May), by Marjorie Beaucage, reads as a moving journal-memoir-poetry collection unfolding the experiences and wisdom of a woman who has dedicated much of her life and talent to creating social change. Deeply restorative, imaginative, occasionally metaphysical, and dreamily poetic, Archives of Joy (May), by French-language poet, essayist, and novelist Jean-François Beauchemin, contemplates our relationship to animals, both wild and domesticated, and invites readers into the unique mind of a great writer. And Sheima Benembarek offers an unprecedented glimpse into the sex lives of female and gender-expansive Muslims living across Canada and the United States in Halal Sex (March).
In The Material City (April), redirecting examinations of the culture of the city away from its customs, art, and amenities to focus on the mental life of modern society, Alan Blum explores the methods cities and their subjects use to find meaning in the context of urban life, in particular the city’s relationships to social change and what has traditionally been identified as justice. Crying Wolf (March), by Eden Boudreau, is a gripping memoir that shares the raw path to recovery after violence and spotlights the ways survivors are too often demonized or ignored when they belong to marginalized communities. Throughout her remarkable career as a gallery director, curator, and author, Patricia Bovey has tirelessly championed the work of Western Canadian artists, and Western Voices in Canadian Art (February) brings this lifelong passion to a crescendo, delivering the most ambitious survey of Western Canadian Art to date.
Good Morning Poems (April) is series of deeply astute and conversational essays by two-time Governor General's Award winner and inaugural Parlimentary Poet Laureate of Canada George Bowering who travels through 500 years, give or take, of English-language literature, adding historical, political, feminist, socio-economic, anecdotal, and literary context to each poem and poet. Blue Storm: The Rise and Fall of Jason Kenney (February), edited by Duane Bratt, Richard Sutherland & David Taras, is the first scholarly analysis of the 2019 election and the first years of the UCP government, with special focus on the path of Jason Kenney’s rise to, and fall from, provincial political power. And created and devised by Tamara Brown, Kym Dominique-Ferguson, Lydie Dubuisson & Mathieu Murphy-Perron, some of Montréal’s most prolific artists, Blackout (February) re-examines the events that led to an occupation of and protests at Concordia University in 1969, asking how race relations have changed in Québec and Canada.
How To Clean a Fish (May), by Esmeralda Cabral, is an inviting family travel story about an extended stay in Portugal, full of food and cooking adventures, language barriers and bureaucracy, and that irresistible need to connect with the culture of our birth. J. Edward Chamberlin’s Storylines (March) is a brilliant and timely exploration of the power of stories and songs— from both the distant past and today’s news—that counters despair and disillusionment with hope and possibility. And in The Trauma Beat (May), an eye-opening combination of investigative journalism and memoir, former big-city crime reporter Tamara Cherry calls on her award-winning skills as a journalist to examine the impact of the media on trauma survivors and the impact of trauma on members of the media.
Where Beauty Survived (January) is a vibrant, revealing memoir about the cultural and familial pressures that shaped George Elliott Clarke’s early life in the Black Canadian community that he calls Africadia, centred in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In How to Read Like You Mean It (April), Kyle Conway considers how we can open ourselves to others and to ideas that scare us by reading difficult texts. With great candour and disarming self-awareness in I Felt the End Before It Came (May), Daniel Allen Cox takes readers on a journey from his early days as a solicitous door-to-door preacher in Montreal to a stint in New York City, where he’s swept up in a scene of photographers and hustlers blurring the line between art and pornography.
In Bones of Belonging (April), a series of deft interlocking stories, Annahid Dashtgard shares her experiences searching for and teaching about belonging in our deeply divided world. Matthew Del Papa’s Jerry Lewis Told Me I Was Going To Die (May) is a collection of humorous essays centred on life with a disability, a wry look at the obstacles faced while growing up in Northern Ontario, and a chronicle of moments large and small. Award-winning author Grand Chief Ron Derrickson tells the story of his personal fight against Ukrainian political and economic forces alongside the larger story of the wider struggle for Ukraine to end the corruption that has plagued the country since the 1990s in Ukrainian Scorpions (May).
Salomania and the Representation of Race and Gender in Modern Erotic Dance (May), by Cecily Devereux, situates the 1908 dance craze, which The New York Times called “Salomania,” as a crucial event and a turning point in the history of the modern business of erotic dance. An Anthology of Monsters (February), by Cherie Dimaline, award-winning author of The Marrow Thieves, is the tale of an intricate dance with life-long anxiety, and about how the stories we tell ourselves can help reshape the ways in which we think, cope, and ultimately survive. And in Chronic Conditions (April), a memoir of a life lived in physical pain, Karen Engle asks whether and how language can capture what it’s like to be in a body that appears to work from the outside, when its internal systems operate through an ad hoc assemblage of garbled messaging, reroutings, and shaky foundations.
The story of a system that failed, a community that looked the other way, and a family that kept silent, The Wild Boy of Waubamik (January), by Thom Ernst, is also a record of the popular culture of the 1960s, but ultimately it is a story of triumph, of a man who grew up to become a film critic and broadcaster despite his abusive childhood. In 1943, Wanda Gizmunt was deported from a forced labour camp in Nazi Germany, and at the end of the war, she was brought to Canada to address a labour shortage at a Québec textile mill, but—along with the 99 other Polish women in the group she was a part of—she became captive to her Canadian employer, these workers’ treatment eventually became a national controversy, prompting scrutiny of Canada’s utilitarian immigration policy, and Gizmunt’s story finally told in Wanda’s War (February), by Marcia Faubert.
From the continental interior of green valleys and plum orchards to the austere and skeletal karst coast, Drink in the Summer: A Memoir of Croatia (May), by Tony Fabijancic, is a unique record of a place and people now lost to time, a description of a country’s varied landscapes, and a journey of discovery, freedom, beauty, and love. Adrienne Fitzpatrick’s Instructions for a Flood (May) is a nonfiction account, in the form of personal essays and vignettes, of a life in the central interior and coastal regions of British Columbia. And in True North Rising (January), Whit Fraser weaves scenes from more than fifty years of reporting and living in the North with fascinating portraits of the Dene and Inuit activists who successfully overturned the colonial order and politically reshaped Canada—including his wife, Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers meets Under an Afghan Sky in Between Good and Evil (April), by bestselling author and veteran journalist Mellissa Fung, a mesmerizing true story of the Nigerian girls taken captive by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Surveying his own conflicted, multi-cultural life from a Bombay boyhood, immigration to Canada, and his re-invention as a literary and theatre critic, poet, and editor who has learned to understand life’s blessings and wounds, Keith Garebian’s Pieces of My Self (June) is an act of memory at the service of a changing self. And award-winning Canadian writer Charlotte Gill retraces her unconventional, biracial, globe-trotting family’s journey as she reckons with ethnicity and belonging, diversity and race, and the complexities of life within a multicultural household in Almost Brown (June).
In vulnerable memoir Just Once, No More (April), award-winning writer Charles Foran offers a brief and powerful meditation on fathers and sons, love and loss, even as his own father approaches the end of life. In Redemption Ground (March), her first-ever collection of essays, poet and novelist Lorna Goodison interweaves the personal and political to explore themes that have occupied her working life: her love of poetry and the arts, colonialism and its legacy, racism and social justice, authenticity, and the enduring power of friendship. Thoughtful and inspiring, This Place Is Who We Are: Stories of Indigenous Leadership, Resilience, and Connection to Homelands (May), by Katherine Palmer Gordon, illustrates what can be accomplished when conservation and stewardship are inextricably intertwined with the prosperity and well-being of communities.
In Pandexicon (March), Wayne Grady’s exploration of the many new terms created during the Covid-19 pandemic provides insight into the ways in which an ever-evolving vocabulary helped us cope with our anxiety and adapt to a new reality. François Gravel writes, “For a long time, I believed that Parkinson’s was a disease. Now, I realize it’s a philosophy course,” and his Colonel Parkinson in Charge (March) is, in some ways, the companion text for this course, engaging with and demystifying a daunting subject to help readers better understand life with Parkinson’s disease. And Virginia Heffernan draws on her experiences in the newsroom and in the bush to illustrate the complexities of resource development at a time when Indigenous rights are becoming enshrined globally in Ring of Fire: High-Stakes Mining in a Lowlands Wilderness (March).
With lyrical prose and a reverential eye for the majesty and fragility of our natural world, Holly Hogan’s Message in a Bottle (June) is a clarion call to protect global oceans and the life they sustain, including our own. Mr. Mindbomb: Eco-hero and Greenpeace Co-founder Bob Hunter—A Life in Stories (March), edited by Bobbi Hunter, is a collection of 30 essays providing an insider look at the Canadian man who credited the precedent for environmental media stunts we see today and co-founded an influential international environmental organisation. Legends of the Capilano (April) updates E. Pauline Johnson’s 1911 classic Legends of Vancouver, restoring Johnson’s intended title for the first time, this new edition celebrating the storytelling abilities of Johnson’s Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) collaborators, Joe and Mary Capilano, and supplements the original 15 legends with five additional stories narrated solely or in part by Mary Capilano, highlighting her previously overlooked contributions to the book.
Blending the poetic stylings of Richard Wagamese and the folksy narratives of Bob Dylan, former Premier of the Northwest Territories Stephen Kakfwi transforms politics into philosophy and sheds light on a history that too many Canadians have long ignored in Stoneface: Memoir of a Defiant Dene (March). The play Forgiveness (January), adapted by Hiro Kanagawa, is a retelling of Mark Sakamoto’s bestselling memoir which won Canada Reads in 2018, the story of a Japanese-Canadian survivor of internment camps and a prisoner in a POW camp whose lives are brought together years after their ordeals. In Reimagining Fire (April), edited by Eveline Kolijn, environmentally conscious writers, poets, and artists exert their opinions about energy transition: how can we envision the future? What actual options are already there?And in Rubymusic (March), award-winning journalist and broadcaster Connie Kuhns takes readers on an explosive journey through the Pacific Northwest’s groundbreaking women’s music scene in the 80s and 90s.
In Remnants: Reveries of a Mountain Dweller (February), with stunning clarity, thoughtful meditation and Walden-eque prose, Natalie Virginia Lang invites readers to join her in reexamining our relationships to the natural world. Ranging from the rise of Gwyneth Paltrow, the father-figure familiarity of Bob Ross, and the surprising maternal legacy of the Kardashians, to the long shadow cast by The Joy Luck Club, Jen Sookfong Lee uses pop culture icons to understand her emotionally fraught upbringing in Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart (January). And Tracking Giants: Big Trees, Tiny Triumphs, and Misadventures in the Forest (May), by Amanda Lewis, with a foreword Diana Beresford-Kroeger, is a funny, deeply relatable book about one woman’s quest to track some of the world’s biggest trees.
Decades of suffering from endometriosis propelled the creation of Tracey Lindeman’s BLEED (March)—part memoir, part investigative journalism, and all scathing indictment of how the medical system fails patients. Novelist Marissa Stapley calls musician Tara MacLean “Canada’s musical answer to Glennon Doyle” with her memoir Song of the Sparrow (March), the story of how the power of song saved MacLean from a childhood filled with danger. And for readers of Crying in H Mart and Wintering, Kyo Maclear’s Unearthing (April) is a unforgettable memoir about a family secret revealed by a DNA test, the lessons learned in its aftermath, and the indelible power of love.
From AskMen senior editor and non-binary writer Alex Manley comes The New Masculinity: A Roadmap for a 21st-Century Definition of Manhood (May), a guide for escaping the shackles of toxic masculinity, unlearning what it means to be a man, and pushing back against the various ways masculinity teaches people to hurt rather than help, and to harm rather than heal. Jane Marshall’s Searching for Happy Valley (April) tells the story of a global quest to comprehend the meaning of “Happy Valley” on three continents and how these mountain communities continue to survive in a world that constantly challenges the very notion of “happiness.” All Things Move: Learning to Look in the Sistine Chapel (April) is Jeannie Marshall's story of her intentional encounter with one of the world’s most cherished artworks and an impassioned defence of the role of art in our lives.
Canadian physician Maureen Mayhew returns to her time spent working in Taliban-occupied Afghanistan in Hand on My Heart (January), an honest and heartfelt examination of our own cultural assumptions around gender, tradition and belief. Starter Dog (April), a new memoir by Canadian magazine legend Rona Maynard, is an irresistible tale of reluctant dog ownership full of heart, humour, and wisdom. And Arctic / Amazon: Networks of Global Indigeneity (March), edited by Gerald McMaster and Nina Vincent, offers a conversation between Indigenous Peoples of two regions in this time of political and environmental upheaval
In Scar Tissue: Tracing Motherhood (April), translated by Katia Grubisic, Montreal writer and literary philosopher Sara Danièle Michaud brings her considerable intellectual scope to the impossible intimacy of this most primal human relationship. Cleaning Up (April), by Susana P. Miranda, uncovers the little-known, surprisingly radical history of the Portuguese immigrant women who worked as night-time office cleaners and daytime “cleaning ladies” in postwar Toronto. In Agent of Change (May), Huda Mukbil takes us behind the curtain of a leading spy agency during a fraught time, recounting her experiences as an intelligence officer for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Shane Neilsen shares his family's journey through the medical system in Saving (May), but also his own journey as a father who feels powerless when faced with his child's illness, entwining these stories with his own personal history of mental illness his professional experience with disability. Both a deep dive into the life of an internationally renowned institution and an exploration of the growth of an experimental film movement, Establishing Shots: An Oral History of the Winnipeg Film Group (March), by Kevin Nikkel, is a richly illustrated collection of interviews producing a vibrant picture of the Winnipeg Film Group’s origins, successes, failures, and ongoing impact. And in Neurowaves (May), Georg Northoff proposes a new approach to the so-called mind-body problem, drawing on an insight from physics: time structures all objects and events in the world, and all objects and events are in dynamic relationship.
David Norwell’s A Complex Coast (May) is a soul-searching personal account of a young man’s 1,700-kilometre kayak journey from Victoria, BC, to Gustavas, Alaska, illustrated with whimsical watercolour maps and illustrations of local flora, fauna, and landscapes. In game-changing camping cookbook Cook It Wild (May), food writer and adventurer Chris Nuttall-Smith introduces an ingenious prep-ahead approach to eating outdoors, with 80 easy-to-make and wildly tasty recipes. And Steve Persico's Knock Wood (April) is a hysterical peek inside the mind of an inveterate catastrophizer and an ode to the family foibles that make us the anxious, reckless, bizarre-and beloved-basket cases we all are, deep down.
The Contemporary Leonard Cohen (June), edited by Kait Pinder and Joel Deshaye, is an exciting new study that offers an original explanation of Leonard Cohen’s staying power and his various positions in music, literature, and art. In Making a Home (May), Jen Powley tells the story of how she got young disabled people like herself out of nursing homes through developing a group home for adults with severe physical disabilities, making a case for living in the community and against dehumanizing institutionalization. And Prisoner #1056 (April), by Roy Ratnavel, is not only a hugely moving immigrant success story and a searing account of overcoming unimaginable injustice and trauma—it is a passionate narrative of determination, and of finding a way to thrive in the darkest of circumstances.
I Got a Name: The Murder of Krystal Senyk (May), by Eliza Robertson and Myles Dolphin, is a vivid and meticulous true-crime story that exposes the deep fractures in a system that repeatedly fails to protect women, while tracking the once-cold trail of a murderer still at large. These Days are Numbered: Diary of a High-Rise Lockdown (June), by Rebecca Rosenblum, is the diary of a woman longing for community in a crowded urban area during the pandemic times, when casual intimacies are forbidden. And Donald Savoie, in Canada: Beyond Grudges, Grievances and Disunity (May), maintains that Canada continues to thrive despite the many shortcomings in its national political institutions and the tendency of Canadians to see themselves as victims, and that our history and these shortcomings have taught us the art of compromise.
What compelled a nice Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York to spend a decade of her life as a hippie homesteader in the BC wilderness? Galena Bay Odyssey (April) traces Ellen Schwartz’s journey from a born-and-raised urbanite who was terrified of the woods to a self-determined logger, cabin-builder, gardener, chicken farmer, apiarist, and woodstove cook living on a communal farm in the Kootenays. Christina Sharpe’s Ordinary Notes (April) is a dazzlingly inventive, deeply moving, intellectually bracing exploration of pain and beauty, private memory and public monument, art and complexity in contemporary Black life. The kitchen is the most ableist room in the house, but Jules Sherred sets out to change that with Crip Up the Kitchen (May), with 50 recipes geared to disabled and neurodivergent cooks that make use of three key tools—the electric pressure cooker, air fryer, and bread machine.
In Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Rising Waters (February), Mary Soderstrom explores what we can learn from ancient times about coping with rising sea levels. As a Gitxsan teenager, Angela Sterritt wrote in her journal to help her survive and find her place in the world surviving life on the streets. Now an acclaimed journalist, she writes to push for Indigenous justice, and in her debut, Unbroken (June), she shares her memoir alongside investigative reporting on cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, showing how colonialism and racism have led to a society where Sterritt struggled to survive as a young person, and where the lives of Indigenous women and girls are ignored and devalued. Decrim: How We Decriminalized Drugs in British Columbia (January), by former Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is a timely, insider account of an important and controversial step in British Columbia’s strategic effort to respond to the overdose crisis.
A job as a heritage interpreter at a remote gold rush site propels an insecure and anxious 24-year-old to find what she truly desires from life in Josie Teed’s debut British Columbiana (March). With honesty, love, and humour, Kelly S. Thompson, in memoir Still I Cannot Save You (February), explores her relationship with her older sister, Meghan as, tested by addiction, abuse, and illness, the sisters’ relationship crumbles, only to be rebuilt into an everlasting bond. If It Gets Quiet Later On, I Will Make a Display (April), a collection of stories, essays and poems by Trillium Book Award-winner Nick Thran, who is also a bookseller, explores the interior lives of bookstores.
In The Tenant Class (May), a trailblazing manifesto, political economist Ricardo Tranjan places tenants and landlords on either side of the class divide that splits North American society. Beginning with memories of his childhood poetry and prose and travelling through the library of his life, Joshua Whitehead contemplates the role of theory, Indigenous language, queerness, and fantastical worlds in all his artistic pursuit in Indigiqueerness: A Conversation About Storytelling (April), with Angie Abdou. English/Canadian indie musician Tamara Williamson offers an unbridled account of a life in the world of horses in memoir The Mirror Horse (March).
The appalling death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic would have been even higher were it not for mechanical ventilation and intensive care units, and in The Autumn Ghost (May), Dr. Hannah Wunsch traces the origins of these two innovations to a polio epidemic in 1952. With gorgeous imagery, visual artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas follows up on two previous Haida Mangas with JAJ (May), bringing to life the tumultuous history of first contact between Europeans and Indigenous peoples and the early colonization by the Europeans of the northern West Coast. And Once upon a Time in the West (May), by Jan Zwicky, documents how a narrow epistemological style has left Western thought blind to critical features of reality, and how the terrifying consequences of that blinkered vision are now beginning to unfold.
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