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John Huston with Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and daughter Anjelica Huston on the set of Prizzi’s Honor. Biographer Jeffrey Meyers portrays him as great filmmaker. (Handout)

John Huston with Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and daughter Anjelica Huston on the set of Prizzi’s Honor. Biographer Jeffrey Meyers portrays him as great filmmaker.



43 non-fiction books from this year that are worth a read (or two) Add to ...

Antony Beevor’s magisterial survey of the Second World War is like that great conflict itself: utterly out of scale in length and complexity, emotionally shattering in examples of suffering and cruelty, and yet an achievement for those who persevere, knowing that they have reached the end and may be the better for it. -- Michael R. Marrus

In the Shadow of the Sword

The Birth of Islam and the End of the Ancient World,

by Tom Holland,

Little, Brown

Holland admirably focuses on the birth of Islam during late antiquity and traces its emergence as a political and cultural force in the “subsoil of the ancient Near East.” He combines vivid prose with impeccable narrative timing and a wonderfully dry wit in disentangling for the general reader what, to modern ears, are very strange geo-political realities. -- Patrick Keeney


The Rise of the New Global Super-rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,

by Chrystia Freeland,

Doubleday Canada

In her book about the rise of the super-wealthy, Chrystia Freeland focuses not on the lifestyles of the rich and fatuous, but on the societally corrosive effects of growing income inequality. Freeland’s analysis of this problem is rich and worthwhile, and admirably free of St. Tropez helicopter glam shots. -- Paul Kedrosky

Leonardo and The Last Supper

By Ross King,

Bond Street Books

The latest in Ross King’s series of books on Italian Renaissance masterpieces and their makers recently won the Governor-General’s Award for non-fiction. Its a fine, swashbuckling testament to the spell this artist and this artwork cast over his contemporaries and has continued to cast over Western minds for the past 500 years. -- John Bentley Mays

Survival of the Beautiful

Art, Science and Evolution.

by David Rothenberg,


In his embroiling meditation on art in nature and art for us, David Rothenberg sets Jackson Pollock against the peacock’s tail, performance artists against colour-morphing squid. It is a wonderful project, insofar as it shakes us out of our complacent notions about evolution on the one hand and art on the other. -- William Bryant Logan


Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection,

by Deirdre Kelly,


If this book was commissioned as a result of The Black Swan effect, Globe and Mail writer Deirdre Kelly certainly delivered in the line of brief lives en pointe. Her best read like those superior program essayettes. Her entry on the most tragic, and gifted, Emma Livry, is almost a ballet libretto. -- Veronica Horwell

Solar Dance

Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age,

by Modris Eksteins,

Knopf Canada

Modris Eksteins’s subtle and engaging account of how Vincent van Gogh came to be strangled by his own success bestows a great gift: new strangeness. In 56 short sections, each linked to a van Gogh work, he interweaves the large fabric of culture, politics and money with the small, pedestrian tale of a man arrested in 1927 for offering 30 forged van Goghs for sale. -- Mark Kingwell

Religion for Atheists

A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion,

by Alain de Botton,


This wonderfully provocative book is an extended sermon on the truth that if God did not exist we would have to invent him – with the rider that He didn’t, so we did. But de Botton longs to have it both ways, combining the rationalism and secularism of science with the consolations and moral groundedness of religion. -- Clifford Orwin

Turing’s Cathedral

The Origin of the Digital Universe,

by George Dyson,


George Dyson argues, in his electrifying contribution to intellectual history, that John von Neuman set the course for the entwined engineering and scientific voyages that begat the most critical advances in the digital universe, nuclear weapons, genetics, cosmology and meteorology. The book is suffused with insight, quirks and hilarity, rendering it more than just a great book about science. It’s a great book, period. -- Douglas Bell

The Righteous Mind

Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,

by Jonathan Haidt,


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