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Samantha Nutt, a medical doctor and founder and executive director of War Child, reads in her home in Toronto on Feb. 13, 2012.

matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

I must clear my conscience: This photo is a ruse.

I am rarely able to read an entire book at home. It's not for lack of trying. But simply getting through a page in our living room has become a test of both will and endurance, not to mention an exercise in epic co-ordination.

When reading, I used to have powers of near impenetrable concentration, but now there's a six-year-old boy, an indulged terrier, a flashing inbox, phones, doorbells and the pointy spears of Lego lost between couch cushions ready to pierce my flesh the moment I dare sit and wonder, "Where was I?"

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An honest photo would have me at the airport or on a plane, which in a typical work week afford me about 20 hours of gloriously uninterrupted time. These days, my favourite line in either official language is "Ladies and gentlemen, we must pause for de-icing." Another chapter!

Recently, before boarding a flight to Edmonton, I grabbed a copy of Peter C. Newman's When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada. Newman, for whom the word prolific was invented, achieves the impossible on two fronts. First, he's the only literary hipster of a wizened age able to pull off a mariner's cap without conjuring images of Captain Highliner (the same could never have been said of Hemingway).

And second, he doesn't just chronicle Canadian political history: He bequeaths it in delicious anecdotes dating back to Confederation. (N.B. airport dwellers, the book's mystical powers are enhanced on flights between Ottawa and Toronto.)

Samantha Nutt is the author of the Canadian bestseller Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid.

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