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Clear your nightstands for autumn’s best reads, including fiction from Canadian stars Waubgeshig Rice and Mona Awad, and non-fiction tales of political intrigue and tech gone awry

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Tech gone awry, tales of migration, land grabs, animals, tycoons: This fall has plenty of promising books about all the topics you can’t stop thinking about.

Fiction-wise, there’s a raft of new short-story collections, as well as long-form work from Canadian stars Anne Michaels, Waubgeshig Rice, Michael Crummey and Mona Awad.

In non-fiction titles, you’ll find blood in and on things (machines and coal, respectively), plus major new biographies of Elon Musk, Alexey Navalny and the mothers of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Moving to the history shelf, there are overhaul looks at the Franklin expedition, the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the legacy of PMs Wilfrid Laurier and John Diefenbaker, as well as Soviet era East Germany. Or, if you prefer your history fictionalized, then check out Benjamin Labatut’s powerful historical novel about a key Manhattan Project scientist who wasn’t Robert Oppenheimer, or Zadie Smith’s first foray into the genre.

Books we're reading and loving this week: Globe staffers and readers share their book recommendations

Canadian Fiction

Empty Spaces, Jordan Abel (McClelland & Stewart, August)

The title plays off of James Fenimore Cooper’s endless descriptions of landscape in his 18th-century novel The Last of the Mohicans, but Abel’s paragraph-less “reimagining” of the novel from the perspective of a Nisga’a person whose relationship to their land is upended by colonialism, is – visually at least – the opposite of empty space.

Study for Obedience, Sarah Bernstein (Knopf, August)

In this unsettling and beguiling novel by Scotland-based Montreal-born Bernstein, animals start going mad and dying in mysterious ways after a young woman comes to an unnamed northern town, where her family was once persecuted, to act as housekeeper to her wealthy, domineering older brother.

BOOK REVIEW: Canadian author Sarah Bernstein’s Study for Obedience, long-listed for Booker Prize, is an unnervingly modern tale

Rouge, Mona Awad (Hamish Hamilton, September)

In an article in The New York Times Style Magazine earlier this year, Margaret Atwood named Awad as her “literary heir apparent” (for reasons that go beyond their strangely similar last names). Described as “Snow White meets Eyes Wide Shut,” this horror-and-satire-tinged novel about a young woman who gets involved with a cult-like beauty spa after the death of her mother has been optioned for a film to be helmed by Johan Renck, the director of HBO’s acclaimed Chernobyl.

Whispering City, Horace Brown (Véhicule Press, September)

The latest in the Véhicule Press’ Ricochet series of vintage noir mysteries resurrects what it claims is one of the most sought-after Canadian pulp novels. Originally published in 1947, it gives us Renée Brancourt, a Québécoise former pin-up driven to madness by the shocking death of her lover, and who now, from her own deathbed, sets intrepid reporter Mary Roberts on the trail of his possible assassin.

Daughter, Claudia Dey (Doubleday, September)

Dey’s third novel (after Stunt and Heartbreaker) offers an emotionally astute exploration of gender and family dynamics in the story of Mona, a playwright and occasional muse to her philandering, manipulative novelist-father, Paul, who’s still grasping at the laurels from his one great novel, Daughter.

The Observer, Marina Endicott (Knopf, September)

Endicott drew on personal experience to tell the story of a woman who becomes editor of a local newspaper in the small Alberta town where her RCMP officer husband receives his first posting. The Saskatchewan author’s husband, also an RCMP officer, was stationed in Mayerthorpe, Alta.

Semi-Detached, Elizabeth Ruth (Cormorant, September)

Straddling two iconic Toronto winter weather events – the Ice Storm of 2013 and the Great Snowstorm of 1944 – this ghost-meets-romance-meets-mystery novel by the author of Ten Good Seconds of Silence centres on real estate agent Laura who delves into the past of a comatose elderly client while preparing to sell the latter’s home.

Wild Hope, Joan Thomas (HarperCollins, September)

Thomas’s talent remains largely unsung, despite her winning the 2019 Governor-General’s Fiction Award for her novel Five Wives. The Winnipeg native’s fourth novel is about a restaurant owner who goes missing during a camping trip shortly after he spars with a childhood friend turned that most modern of villains: a bottled-water magnate.

The Circle, Katherena Vermette (Hamish Hamilton, September)

Told through a series of voices, many of which will be familiar to readers of Vermette’s previous novels The Break and Atwood-Gibson-Prize-winner The Strangers, The Circle’s format is meant to mirror a restorative justice circle. The final instalment in the author’s trilogy about the Winnipeg Métis Stranger family focuses on the impact on the community when Phoenix Stranger is released from prison following her role in a brutal assault on a local girl.

Yara, Tamara Faith Berger (Coach House, October)

Berger’s writing – uncomfortably sexual more than sexy – isn’t for everyone, but there’s no denying its power; her novels are never uninteresting. In Yara, set in the early 2000s, a woman sends her titular teen daughter on a birthright trip to Israel to get her away from the controlling, possibly abusive older woman Yara’s been dating.

The Marvels of Youth, Tim Bowling (Buckrider Books, October)

News that the owner of the beloved comic-book shop he used to frequent on the shores of the Fraser River has died sends Sean, the protagonist of this novel, back 40 years to consider the series of life-changing events that took place in his small fishing town during “that bittersweet spot of time between the release of Jaws and the release of the first Star Wars movie.”

Moon of the Turning Leaves, Waubgeshig Rice (Random House Canada, October)

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Rice had a hit with Moon of the Crusted Snow, a postapocalyptic novel about a northern Anishinaabe community that descends into chaos when it’s inexplicably thrust into a permanent blackout. In this follow-up, set 10 years later, the community sends a scouting mission south to find out what, if anything, is left of the rest of the world.

The Cobra and the Key, Sam Shelstad (Brindle & Glass, October)

Described by its publisher as How Fiction Works by James Wood meets Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, Shelstad’s novel about as-yet-to-be published novelist Sam, who’s biding his time as a Value Village cashier while waiting for the world to recognize his literary genius, is presented in the guise of a guide to writing fiction, which – if you’re still with me – was also written by (character) Sam.

International Fiction

I’m a Fan, Sheena Patel (Random House Canada, August)

Fierce, volatile and intense come to mind when describing the singular voice of the woman who narrates this slim but thrillingly paced (and often explicit) debut novel of sexual obsession and male toxicity by a London-based screenwriter.

The Wren, the Wren, Anne Enright (M&S, September)

Joining the ranks of other notable double-titled novels (Absalom, Absalom; The Sea, the Sea), Enright’s first novel since being bestowed with the Irish Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award last year deals with the long shadow cast by a fictional late Irish poet on his wife, daughter and granddaughter – a man often brutal in the domestic sphere but beloved publicly for his bird poems, many of which appear (written by Enright, of course) in the novel’s pages.

The Young Man, Annie Ernaux (Seven Stories, September)

In this Nobel Prize-winning work of memoir/autofiction originally published last year in French, the octogenarian author recounts the affair she embarked upon in her 50s with a student 30 years her junior, initially with the intention of overcoming her writer’s block. The novel generated controversy, less for its subject matter than for its brevity: Each of its 65 pages contains just a smattering of text.

The Vaster Wilds, Lauren Groff (Riverhead, September)

In wintertime in early colonial America, an orphaned teen girl escapes her famine-struck, pox-riddled settlement to make for the “great and terrible wilderness,” which, despite close encounters with a bear, a wolf and an errant Jesuit priest, still seems less terrible than her erstwhile situation caring for the child of her adoptive mother and stepfather.

The Wolves of Eternity, Karl Ove Knausgaard (Knopf, September)

Some would say eternity can be measured in Knausgaard’s output – his autobiographical My Struggle books alone clocked in at 3,600 pages. The Norwegian author shows no signs of abandoning his maximalist impulses in this thinky, 800-page novel that moves from 1986 Norway to present-day Russia to tell the story of two half-siblings who only become known to each other later in life.

The Most Secret Memory of Men, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr (Simon & Schuster, September)

In 2021, Sarr became the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa to be awarded France’s oldest and most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, for this novel based on the true story of another literary prize-winner: Malian author Yambo Ouologuem, who became the first African winner of the Prix Renaudot in the 1960s, then fled the country following accusations of plagiarism.

Caret, Adam Mars-Jones (Faber and Faber, October)

This nearly 750-page “semi-infinite” novel by the British author (whom many will recognize for his critical writing in The New York Review of Books), concludes the often witty and always digressive trilogy that began with Pilcrow (2008) and Cedilla (2011) about the fortunes of his gay, disabled anti-hero John Cromer

How to Build a Boat, Elaine Feeney (Biblioasis, November)

The Irish novelist and poet’s second, Booker-long-listed novel centres around a neuro-atypical boy called Jamie as he dreams of creating a perpetual motion machine to connect with his mother, who died giving birth to him. When that proves untenable, a kindly shop teacher at his school gets him to help build a currach – a traditional Irish boat that will usefully serve, in the context of the book, as both vessel and metaphor.

Historical Fiction

Learned by Heart, Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins, August)

In the turret of an English girls’ boarding school in the early 19th century, two teen girls – Lister, a tomboy and natural iconoclast, and Eliza, a brown-skinned half-Indian orphan desperate to blend in – fall secretly, madly in love. In many ways though, the love story plays second fiddle to Donoghue’s detailed, research-driven portrayal of life at the school.

The Adversary, Michael Crummey (Knopf, September)

Set centuries past, in the memorably named Newfoundland outport of Mockbeggar, this novel is about a battle for control of the area’s commerce and fishery between Abe Strapp, dissolute son of the town’s most powerful merchant, and the widow of another influential man. The novel abounds with the poet-cum-novelist’s descriptive prowess: Strapp, in his new waistcoat, has “the bedizened look of a child dressed by his senile grandmother.”

The Fraud, Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, September)

Smith’s first novel set outside the past half century (it takes place in the late 19th) interweaves truth and fiction as it tells the story of Eliza Touchet, housekeeper (and cousin) of the successful, prolific, though not particularly skilled Scottish novelist William Ainsworth, who – along with all of England – gets caught up in the (real life) trial of a butcher who claims to be the supposedly drowned heir to a vast fortune.

The Maniac, Benjamin Labatut (Strange Light, October)

The publication of the Chilean writer’s remarkable novel – which some might categorize as creative non-fiction – about brilliant but volatile Hungarian mathematician and computer scientist John von Neumann, who worked on the Manhattan Project and whose discoveries are considered precursors to the dawn of AI, is serendipitously timed to capitalize on one half of the Barbenheimer phenomenon (I’ll leave you to guess which half).

Restless Dolly Maunder, Kate Grenville (Canongate, November)

Based on the life of her grandmother, whose early scholarly ambitions were quickly thwarted by a domineering father, Grenville’s latest brings readers into intimate acquaintance with the lives of women in late 19th- and early 20th-century rural Australia. Babies, butter churning and cow-milking feature prominently, elevated by Grenville’s crystalline prose.

Held, Anne Michaels (M&S, November)

In her first novel since 2009′s The Winter Vault (she published several books of poetry in the intervening years), Michaels once again invokes memory and past trauma in this book anchored in the story of an English photographer attempting to return to his artist wife and the regular life he so craved while serving in the First World War.

Short Stories

Cocktail, Lisa Alward (Biblioasis, September)

In this collection’s promising, 1970-set title story, a young girl whose parents are having a party on the first floor of their house is confronted in her room by an errant male partygoer. Her brother walks in before the nature of the man’s intentions become clear, but for the girl, the incident nevertheless will reverberate in unexpected ways, long after she grows up.

Normal Rules Don’t Apply, Kate Atkinson (Doubleday, September)

The characters in this whimsical chaser to last year’s Shrines of Gaiety have little respect for the boundaries of its 11 short stories – they keep popping up hither and thither, as if they own the place. Animals abound, including – full disclosure – talking ones.

Her Body Among Animals, Paola Ferrante (BookHug, September)

The Toronto-based author’s speculative, horror-inflected debut collection uses animals to explore the human condition. Characters turn into spiders and dragons or grow mermaid’s tails. Several of the stories won or were nominated for various awards, including the Journey Prize.

Wednesday’s Child, Yiyun Li (FSG, September)

The Chinese-born, New Jersey-based writer’s work keeps getting more experimental and interesting, last year’s stunning The Book of Goose being a case in point. In her third book of short stories, all of them about wives and mothers, she returns to the themes of grief and loss that have dominated her previous work, and life.

Roman Stories, Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, October)

An American born in London to Indian parents, Lahiri famously started writing in Italian after moving to Rome more than a decade ago, and is surely one of the only writers to use a translator (Todd Portnowitz) to translate her books back into her native language. As the title suggests, all the stories in this, her first short-story collection written in Italian, and her first since Unaccustomed Earth, take place in her adopted city.


Landbridge: Life in fragments, Y-Dang Troeung (Knopf, August)

When she was an infant in the mid-seventies, Troeung became the poster child for refugee gratitude and Liberal government largesse, when, after her Cambodian parents fled Pol Pot’s murderous regime, a photo of the family being greeted at the airport by Pierre Trudeau ended up in multiple news outlets. Troeung, who became a literature prof at UBC, sadly died last year, but this book full of brief but profound reflections on her reclaimed heritage and on what it means to be a refugee will stand as an enduring legacy.

Like Every Form of Love, Padma Viswanathan (Random House Canada, August)

Truth, class and the nature of storytelling drive this memoir-cum-crime-story about Delia Pilon, the bank-robbing, possibly murderous acquaintance of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro who happened to be the stepmother of a man the author met when she stayed on a houseboat on Vancouver Island 20 years ago.

When My Ghost Sings, Tara Sidhoo Fraser (Arsenal Pulp, September)

Writing a memoir with amnesia would seem like an impossible task, but Sidhoo Fraser, who emerged from the surgery she had following a stroke, at age 32, with no memory of her life until that point, has done just that. Her attempt to reconcile with her previous persona, which she calls “Ghost,” takes on new a dimension after she begins dating Jude, who – having grappled with identity issues of a different nature – is about to undergo gender transition.

There Is No Blue, Martha Baillie (Coach House, October)

Through a series of vivid, brief vignettes, the poet and author (The Incident Report, The Search for Heinrich Schlogel) reflects on the death and lives of her parents and sister, Christina, who took her own life shortly before the publication of her and Baillie’s co-authored book, Sister Language. “If only I hadn’t fallen in love with death when I was so young,” she reads in Christina’s journal.

I Love Russia: Reporting from a Lost Country, Elena Kostyuchenko (Random House Canada, October)

The intrepid Russian reporter got into journalism after discovering reporter Anna Politkovskaya’s articles in the pages of alternative newspaper Novaya Gazeta when she was just 14. A few years later, she was working at the same paper when Politkovskaya was poisoned, then shot and killed in an elevator. Kostyuchenko’s critical reporting on the invasion of Ukraine contributed to the shuttering of Novaya Gazeta. Recent strong evidence suggests she too was poisoned last year after falling ill on a train in Germany.

A Man of Two Faces, Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove, October)

Nguyen’s first novel, The Sympathizer, propelled him to literary stardom after it won a raft of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. In this memoir, much of which reads like poetry, Nguyen tells the story of his family’s arrival in the U.S. as Vietnamese refugees (in a bizarre twist of fate, his parents were shot, though not killed, while working in their grocery store) and of his attempts later in life to reconcile portrayals of his homeland in popular American culture and films.


Cracking the Nazi Code, Jason Bell (HarperCollins, September)

Is Winthrop Bell the most- or least-obvious spy name? It’s hard to say. As early as 1939, when he was working for Britain’s MI6 as Agent A12, the Halifax-born Bell was already sounding the alarm about Hitler’s plot to obliterate all non-Aryan people from the earth. Author Bell (no relation), a New Brunswick professor, posits that the intelligence his subject gathered may have been crucial to the Allies winning the war.

Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons Charlotte Gray (Simon & Schuster, September)

Sara Delano Roosevelt and Jennie Jerome Churchill, mothers of Franklin and Winston, respectively, were helicopter mothers long before helicopters existed. In this dual biography, Gray explains the pivotal roles these women – who, despite being born to upper-class American families in 1854, had strikingly different personalities – played preparing their sons for their future roles as Allied leaders.

Elon Musk, Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, September)

The Tesla founder, rocketeer and social-media disrupter was a logical next subject for Isaacson’s Important Men series of biographies, which to date include Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger and Benjamin Franklin (the gendered exception being last year’s Code Breaker, about DNA scientist Jennifer Doudna). It’s safe to assume that Musk posed unique challenges, and induced plenty of last-minute edits, as the moving target that he is.

The Dissident: Alexey Navalny, David Herszenhorn (Grand Central, October)

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The would-be leader of Russia’s opposition, and arch nemesis of Vladimir Putin (whom he once belittlingly referred to in a speech as “Vladimir, the Poisoner of Underpants”) showed astonishing fearlessness when he returned to Russia from Germany in 2021 after awakening from a nerve-agent-induced coma, allegedly arranged by Russian operatives. This portrait arrives shortly after the news that Navalny is to serve to another 19 years in the penal colony where he is already imprisoned.

Going Infinite, Michael Lewis (Norton, October)

The Big Short and Flash Boys author promises a psychological portrait of disgraced and recently jailed FTX-exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried, the self-consciously dishevelled billionaire darling of crypto-trading until his empire went the way of his ankle-grazing slouch socks late last year.


Where the World Was, Rosemary Sullivan (Goose Lane, September)

In 21 essays, the poet and Betrayal of Anne Frank author recounts a life of travel that has taken her from a Sufi summer camp in North Carolina, to Chile in the time of Pinochet, to a late-seventies Moscow still firmly behind the Iron Curtain. Laced throughout are encounters with artists and others – some of whom Sullivan has written previous books about – including the reclusive writer Elizabeth Smart, painter Leonora Carrington, and the granddaughter of Joseph Stalin, interviewed for her book Stalin’s Daughter.

The Canadian Mind, Andy Lamey (Sutherland House, October)

In a series of essays on writers and philosophers that include John Metcalf, Joseph Boyden, Mavis Gallant, Dany Laferrière and Will Kymlicka, Lamey asks what role, if any, nationalism should play in the appreciation of literature: “Can we learn anything by examining a group of writers and thinkers who have nothing in common save a connection to Canada?” (Spoiler: His answer is yes.)

Sharp Notions, Marita Dachsel & Nancy Lee, eds (Arsenal Pulp, October)

In a series of highly readable series essays and interviews interspersed with beautiful, detailed visuals, practitioners of the fabric arts (most are Canadian, many of them writers as well) consider what drives them to knit, bead and stitch. Running the gamut from comfort to subversion, their reasons are fascinating, and diverse.

The New Leviathans: Thoughts After Liberalism, John Gray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November)

This lament for the demise of liberal democracy encompasses, on the one hand, the rise of totalitarian surveillance states in Russia and China and, on the other, the phenomenon of “hyper-liberalism” – the slavish conformity, in the author’s view, to progressive ideology in schools and universities. “Enclaves of freedom persist,” Gray writes. “But a liberal civilization based on the practice of tolerance has passed into history.”


Blood on the Coal, Ken Cuthbertson (HarperCollins, September)

On the 65th anniversary of the 1958 earthquake (known locally as the Bump) that trapped and killed 75 miners and injured many more in Springhill, N.S., in what was at the time the world’s deepest coal mine, Cuthbertson tells the story of the disaster from the point of view of three survivors and the doctor that treated them. With a foreword by singer and Springhill native Anne Murray.

Beyond the Wall: A History of East Germany, Katja Hoyer (Basic, September)

German chancellor Angela Merkel waited until she was close to retirement before publicly taking issue with what the media had called the “ballast” of her upbringing in East Germany. Hoyer, a historian and journalist, was also born there (albeit barely: she was 4 during reunification) and similarly seeks to go beyond the “Stasiland” stereotypes of dreary concrete and constant surveillance by telling the stories of average East Germans.

Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and The Washington Post, Martin Baron (Flatiron, October)

After opening with an account of an exceedingly uncomfortable 2017 dinner he attended at the White House with Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump, Baron recounts his turbulent, pressurized eight years as executive editor of The Washington Post, shortly before its takeover by Bezos and during the tenure of a president who declared the press “the enemy of the people.”

Dominion: The Railway and the Rise of Canada, Stephen R. Bown (Doubleday, October)

Pierre Berton’s The National Dream and The Last Spike have for decades provided the dominant popular narrative of the building of the CPR. Offering some new perspective is Bown, whose 2020 book about the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company netted a couple of awards, and whose stated aim is to “more honestly portray the powerful forces that were moulding the world in the late nineteenth century and the lives of the people caught up in this flood of change.”

Cheated: The Laurier Liberals and the Theft of First Nations Reserve Land, Bill Waiser and Jennie Hansen (ECW, October)

Guided by the findings of a forgotten, unpublished and nearly destroyed 1913 federal inquiry established by Conservative prime minister Robert Borden to investigate alleged Liberal trafficking in Western Canadian lands and First Nations reserves, the authors’ exposé reveals how speculators and the Laurier government conspired to defraud First Nations into surrendering 20 per cent of their already shrinking land reserves over a 15-year period, much of it going to white settlement.

The Duel: Diefenbaker, Pearson, and the Making of Modern Canada, John Ibbitson (Signal, October)

Despite coming from similar backgrounds – both were born in small-town Ontario, one to a teacher, the other to a preacher – prime ministers John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson spent much of their political lives battling each other across the aisle of the House of Commons. Spanning the last years of the 19th century to 1979, Globe columnist Ibbitson’s book nevertheless credits the pair (Diefenbaker’s accomplishments, in his view, have been given short shrift historically) with jointly enabling Canada’s transformation from “semi-colonial backwater with no voice in the world” to the diverse, urban middle-power it is today.

Searching for Franklin, Ken McGoogan (Douglas & McIntyre, October)

McGoogan has written six books about Arctic exploration, most centring on British explorer Sir John Franklin. Combining information gleaned from the 2014 and 2016 discovery of Franklin’s ships with McGoogan’s firsthand research as well as Inuit oral histories, he here proposes a new theory for what doomed the voyage and a change of epithet for Franklin, from “The Man Who Ate His Boots” to “The Royal Navy Man Who Couldn’t Listen.”

By the Ghost Light: Wars, Memory, and Families, R.H. Thomson (Knopf, October)

The actor turned author used a rich trove of correspondence from the multiple members of his family who served in the First World War as the starting point for this rumination on war’s impact on real people, and the false narratives we continually create to justify it.


The Internet Con, Cory Doctorow (Verso, September)

You can’t accuse Doctorow, the British-Canadian science-fiction author and copyright activist, of pulling his punches: “This is a book for people who want to destroy Big Tech” he declares in the first line of this book-cum-manifesto. Using “shovel-ready” language, he aims to show readers exactly how to upend Big Tech’s hegemony over our digital lives.

Doppelganger, Naomi Klein (Knopf, September)

In a more personal version of the Big Ideas books for which she’s best known, Klein describes her pandemic-induced trip down the rabbit hole – though surely rabbits don’t dig quite this deep – of what she calls our “doppelganger culture.” It was induced by Klein’s surreal experience with the woman she considers her own doppelganger: Naomi Wolf, for whom she is often mistaken, despite the latter’s conversion from nineties feminist icon to peddler of right-wing conspiracy theories and alliances “with some of the most malevolent men on the planet.”

Blood in the Machine, Brian Merchant (Little, Brown, September)

In an incredibly timely follow-up to his excellent book on the origins of the iPhone, Merchant tells the story of the Luddite uprising – the 19th century one, not the one where your elderly relatives refused to use Zoom – in which British textile workers set about destroying the machinery threatening to replace them, finding in that movement eerily similar fears to what we face today. But in the age of AI, what exactly do we smash?

Girls, Interrupted: How Pop Culture is Failing Women, Lisa Whittington-Hill (Véhicule, October)

Whittington-Hill picked up Drew Barrymore’s Little Girl Lost when it came out in 1990 and has remained a devotee of celebrity memoirs ever since. In a series of brief, often witty essays, the THIS Magazine publisher considers contemporary portrayals of women in books and magazines, and finds that, despite narratives to the contrary, misogyny is alive and well in western pop culture.


The Lost Supper,Taras Grescoe (Greystone, September)

With most of what we eat these days proving problematic environmentally and/or politically, might solutions be found in the cuisine of ancient times? This was the question guiding Grescoe as he travelled the world in pursuit of sustainable alternatives. He samples pharaonic sourdough, Neolithic wine, olive oil pressed using original Roman techniques, and camas, a tuber hugely important to First Nations peoples on Vancouver Island in precolonial times. His verdict on cricket smoothies? Inoffensive, but room for improvement, taste-wise.

Pitfall, Christopher Pollon (Greystone, October)

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In the coming years, many of the metals necessary for planned clean-energy projects will be mined from the poorest parts of the global south, with severe social and environmental consequences. Acknowledging that he wouldn’t be writing his book were it not for his Italian immigrant grandfather, who worked mines in Timmins, Ont., Pollon, a journalist who’s covered mining, here looks to “kick-start a discussion about how we can source the metals we need … without figuratively and literally wrecking the place.”

Where the Falcon Flies, Adam Shoalts (Allen Lane, October)

For most of us, the expression “as the crow flies” – or, in this case, peregrine falcon – is usefully descriptive. Not so for adventurer-historian Shoalts (Alone Against the North), who, after spotting one such bird outside his home on Lake Erie, decided to follow it all the way to the Arctic. The many obstacles that stood in his way – bears, storms, white water and the logistics of camping in Montreal and Toronto – are the meat of the tale told in this book.