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The 2008 Globe 100

The best non-fiction of 2008 Add to ...

To read the Globe's review of the books listed here, click on the title.

THE SUN CLIMBS SLOW Justice in the Age of Imperial America, by Erna Paris, Knopf Canada, 375 pages, $35

In this beautifully written and utterly compelling book, Erna Paris tells of how the Bush administration set out to destroy the International Criminal Court (ICC), threatening to terminate foreign aid unless poor countries promised never to surrender a U.S. citizen to the court. Paris has a rare ability to synthesize masses of material into vivid prose without sacrificing key details, such as how the Clinton administration's opposition to the idea of an independent ICC prosecutor was motivated by the role of Kenneth Starr in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Michael Byers

LET'S TALK ABOUT LOVE A Journey to the End of Taste, by Carl Wilson, Continuum, 164 pages, $10.95

Carl Wilson's distaste for the music of Celine Dion becomes the basis for a wide-ranging book predicated on the possibility that what repels us may say more about us than what attracts us. Finally, he is able to experience schmaltz without shame. Readers of his insightful, engaging and unexpectedly moving book will probably feel the same. Jason Anderson

WHO'S YOUR CITY? How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, by Richard Florida, Random House Canada, 374 pages, $32.95

Florida thinks about cities, about why they are important and what makes them successful. The successful city is the place that can best offer the wealth-creators of the modern economy, those key knowledge workers, a sympathetic place to live. It is an intriguing exploration of the global geography of the new urban world - not flat, but spiky. Joe Berridge

SOUL OF THE WORLD Unlocking the Secrets of Time, by Christopher Dewdney, HarperCollins, 243 pages, $29.95

Christopher Dewdney writes about time with the agility and insight of the poet he is, and with the clear exposition of an engaging and passionate teacher. The two poles of his exploration are represented by William James, who noted that the present moment is "gone in the instant of becoming," and Paul Cézanne, who believed it was his task capture the moment as it passed. William Bryant Logan

THE OCCUPIED GARDEN Recovering the Story of a Family in the War-Torn Netherlands, by Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski, McClelland & Stewart, 326 pages, $29.99

Sisters Kristen den Hartog (a novelist) and Tracy Kasaboski have written a personal, unsentimental, intensely compelling "memoir" of a working-class, small-town family surviving the horrific Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and, in the early 1950s, emigrating to Canada. They have done so with fine writing, exhaustive research and delight in and love for the family. That's because it's theirs. Ernest Hillen

THE GIRL IN SASKATOON A Meditation on Memory and Murder, by Sharon Butala, HarperCollins, 262 pages, $32.95

Sharon Butala repaints the portrait of a murdered girl - someone she barely knew - in a landscape where even the details have faded. The town is Saskatoon in the 1950s, when Butala and Alexandra Wiwcharuk were in the same high school. It is a profound awakening as she tries to resurrect that life and that time in a meditation so hauntingly intense that it will touch and connect all those who read it. Linda Spalding

ANGEL OF VENGEANCE The "Girl Assassin," the Governor of St. Petersburg, and Russia's Revolutionary World, by Ana Siljak, St. Martin's, 370 pages, $28.95

On Jan. 24, 1878, Vera Zasulich, then 29, unmarried, shy, youngest child of an impoverished aristocratic mother, fired two shots at General Fedor Trepov, governor of St. Petersburg. The book has tremendous narrative drive, combined with an epic, Tolstoyan scope. Siljak, who teaches at Queen's University, draws the provincial life of Russian nobles of the second rank with rare skill. Chris Scott

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE Fighting Fires and Losing Myself, by Russell Wangersky, Thomas Allen, 271 pages, $32.95

A record of what journalist Wangersky saw and heard, felt and thought while responding to emergency as a volunteer firefighter. "Suffering" is not too strong a word to describe the impact of that experience on him, and putting it on paper provoked more suffering. Wangersky is an all-senses-charged witness with an unerring eye for detail. In this haunting meditation on fate and chance, he literally takes you there. Lawrence Scanlan

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