We're well along into a brilliant fall for books. Much of the best Canadian fiction has already been published in order to qualify for this year's glittering prizes, but there are so many promising titles that it's wrenching to be restricted to a mere 10. There's fiction to come from Sheila Heti, Michael Cunningham, Myla Goldberg, Kevin Major, Nicole Krauss, Paul Auster, Cynthia Ozick, Steve Martin and Robert Wiersema, not to mention important new translations of Madame Bovary and Doctor Zhivago.
Two eagerly awaited books by Globe and Mail colleagues - Doug Saunders's Arrival City: The Final Migration and the Next World, and Roy MacGregor's Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Women Who Loved Him - publish later this month. Bill Bryson investigates private life in At Home, while Marni Jackson's Home Free looks at the later stages of parenting and Micah Toub's Growing Up Jung is a memoir about having psychiatrists as parents. Roméo Dallaire follows up his mega-bestselling Shake Hands with the Devil with a book about children at war; V.S. Naipaul haunts the same continent for a work on African magic and masques, and Nelson Mandela releases Conversations with Myself. Devra Davis takes on cellphone radiation in Disconnect, while Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies is a "biography" of cancer. And then there's a book I can't wait for, the first volume of Mark Twain's unexpurgated autobiography.
But here are 10 books no self-respecting reader should miss:
Changing My Mind, by Margaret Trudeau (HarperCollins) This second memoir from the former hippie-dippy wife of Pierre Trudeau attributes her often bizarre behaviour - singing to Castro, a flirtation with the Rolling Stones - to a crushing depression and bipolar personality, one that left her suicidal in the wake of the deaths of her son Michel and PET. Expect an open book.
The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, by Sam Harris (Free Press) The least well-known of the New Atheist troika (with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens) offers a vision of morality that's both universal and does not depend on what Daniel Dennett calls "skyhooks," or miraculous revelation. Don't expect relativism, or softness on the Taliban.
The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 71, by Molly Peacock (McClelland & Stewart) An acclaimed poet's unique take on the grandly named Mary Granville Dendarves Delany, whose vivid, eventful life (1700-1788) among the British landed gentry led her, at 71, to create a new art form, mixed-media collage in the shape of cut-paper flowers. And all this woven into parallels with Peacock's own life.
Nemesis, by Philip Roth (Hamish Hamilton Canada) Recent novels by Roth, who remains prolific well into his seventies, are all about one or another looming disaster. This one, about a polio epidemic in the writer's native Newark in 1944, is a shattering study in communal and parental fear and the unforeseen consequences of small decisions.
Luka and the Fire of Life, by Salman Rushdie (Knopf Canada) Twenty years after Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written as gift for his first son, Rushdie returns with a magical tale to mark the 12th birthday of his second son. In this one, Luka, 12, must embark on a perilous journey to save his storyteller father Rashid.
Mordecai, by Charles Foran (Knopf Canada) The non-Jewish Foran may have been an unusual choice, but he's produced what could be a definitive biography of Mordecai Richler, It's a massive work that examines this master novelist, wit and public curmudgeon in sympathetic but not uncritical style. Revelations are promised.
As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, edited by Joan Reardon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) If Julia Child weren't a gargantuan goddess before Julie & Julia (book and film), she certainly is now, as much for the ardour of her personality as her culinary mastery. This record of the long correspondence between Child and her confidante/publishing mentor should only burnish the icon.
The Mind's Eye, by Oliver Sacks (Knopf Canada) The wonderful Oliver Sacks returns to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat territory with this work on how the plasticity of our minds allow us to cope with the loss of sight (in various forms). Sack's anecdotal work contains an arresting chapter on Canadian crime writer Howard Engel, left unable to read following a stroke.
The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future, by Laurence C. Smith (Dutton) Good news for Canada. American Arctic scientist Smith has looked into the climate-changed future and pronounced it northern: Our population will grow by more than 30 per cent; we will trail only the Saudis in oil production; our cities will become world class (at last! at last!); crop production will increase; frozen natural resources will thaw.
Harperland, by Lawrence Martin (Penguin Canada) Less-good news for Canada. Globe and Mail columnist Martin trains a gimlet eye on a government under which executive power has grown and senior civil servants leashed, where power is centralized and expertise derided. Martin will be fair-minded but is unlikely to pull punches.