This year's long list for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction reads in some ways like a topical summary of issues capturing our collective attention (minus Rob Ford, thankfully, and the senate scandal) – touching on truth and reconciliation, concerns about cyberspying, man's impact on nature, and, still, war.
The long list for the $40,000 prize, announced Wednesday, includes Graeme Smith's The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, his searing account of what he witnessed in Afghanistan, where he spent six years reporting for The Globe and Mail. The book recently won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
In the approach to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, two works which deal with the event – one much more directly than the other – are also on the list: historian Margaret MacMillan's The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914; and The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial that Shocked a Country, historian Charlotte Gray's account of the 1915 killing of the wealthy Charles "Bert" Massey by an 18-year-old domestic servant – and the subsequent trial, which was influenced by the Great War.
Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America – a finalist for the Weston Prize – is on the long list, as is Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, James Daschuk's account of the removal by various means of indigenous communities from their traditional territories in Canada.
Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace is Ronald J. Deibert's terrifying account of the dangers looming in cyberspace, threatening our privacy, national security, and general freedom. Deibert is director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.
In The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be – also on the Weston Prize short list – J.B. MacKinnon (best known for The 100-Mile Diet) calls for the rewilding of the planet, as he considers the extinction crisis.
In The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever, Montreal-based writer Adam Leith Gollner investigates the will to live forever – or at least much longer – and look as young as we can while we're at it.
Carolyn Abraham's memoir The Juggler's Children: A Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us, was also a finalist for this year's Governor-General's Award for Non-fiction.
And Helen Humphreys's memoir Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother, is a grief-fuelled elegy for her brother, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 45.
The 10 finalists were selected from 141 submissions by a jury made up of Globe and Mail books editor Jared Bland; Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham; and author and publisher Anna Porter.
The shortlist will be announced Dec. 11 and the award will be presented early in 2014 in Vancouver. While the prize is operated by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation, it is open to all Canadian authors.