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globe books special

To read the Globe and Mail's review of each book, click on the title.


HITCH-22: A Memoir By Christopher Hitchens (McClelland & Stewart)

In this thoroughly engaging book, from one end to the other, one encounters Hitchenses who are unfriendly, angry, funny, charming, honest, dishonest, attractive, repulsive, drunken, stubborn, loyal, loving, social-climbing, name-dropping, class-un-self-conscious, dull and fascinating. Hitch-22 is one of the few self-portraits varied enough to believably contain a complex man. André Alexis

CHANGING MY MIND By Margaret Trudeau (HarperCollins)

Changing My Mind follows Margaret Trudeau's stormy passage from ingénue to depressive and beyond, and the stations in between. It is the chronicle of a life of hurt softened by interludes of happiness. While much of the tale is achingly sad, shaded by mental illness, it is affecting and uplifting. It has been a long, strange trip for Margaret Trudeau, whom we respect today for her honesty and her courage. She has changed her mind - and now, perhaps, we'll change ours about her. Andrew Cohen

THE PAPER GARDEN: Mrs. Delany {Begins Her Life's Work} at 72 By Molly Peacock (McClelland & Stewart)

Peacock has structured her book about a Victorian widow who more or less invented collage, in the form of botanically accurate cut flowers, as metaphor, a collage about collage, and a meditation on sexuality, friendship and creativity. The volume itself is a craft object, sumptuously presented and designed. If some of the interpretation seems absurd - as Peacock fears it might - it is triumphantly absurd. The Paper Garden will be everyone's favourite Christmas present this year. Victoria Glendinning

THELONIOUS MONK: The Life and Times of an American Original By Robin D.G. Kelley (Free Press)

Kelley, in his magnificent biography of the musician, succeeds in making Monk present as no writer has yet done. Instead of the eccentric and mythic figure of conventional jazz lore, Monk comes across as a real flesh-and-blood artist, dealing with deadlines and practical demands, family strife and financial issues. Kelley has devoted 14 years to this project, and the result testifies to the extent of his labours and his success in coming to grips with his elusive subject. Ted Gioia

MUST YOU GO? My Life with Harold Pinter By Antonia Fraser (Bond Street Books)

Beginning their initially adulterous union across a crowded room, historian Antonia Fraser and playwright Harold Pinter lived together 1975 until Pinter's death on Christmas Eve, 2008. This series of diary entries is her way of calling back the yesterdays. It is a glorious testament to the very nature of romantic obsession and love, as well as to the dichotomies that folded into one another within Pinter. Keith Garebian

WILLIE MAYS: The Life, the Legend By James S. Hirsch (Scribner)

As James Hirsch's wonderfully rich new biography makes very clear, though Willie M could be remote and prickly and easily hurt, on the baseball field he was pure magic. In fact, there was nothing he couldn't do, and do brilliantly. Though Hirsch clearly loves and admires Mays, it does not read like a hagiography: The legend has a few warts. He has done Willie, baseball and biographers proud. Martin Levin

I SHALL NOT HATE: A Gaza Doctor's Journey By Izzeldin Abuelaish (Random House Canada)

Abuelaish is a Palestinian obstetrician and gynecologist who specializes in infertility. He is also a man who had three daughters and a niece killed by an Israeli shell in Gaza. But the loss made this remarkable man more adamant about the need for co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. His book is not a political solution to the conflict, it is a passionate human cry for peace and understanding. Jonathan Garfinkel

CIGAR BOX BANJO: Notes on Music and Life By Paul Quarrington (GreyStone)

The book Paul Quarrington produced as a last gift to his many fans is in a category of its own, a layered, rambling, deceptively casual mixture of music history, coming-of-age narrative and reflection on mortality. There's even a CD - it includes versions of the last two songs Quarrington wrote, both about dying. Sad, funny and wise - the writer's trifecta. Mark Kingwell

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN: Volume 1 Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith (University of California Press)

The dismay I felt when I came to page 469 of Autobiography of Mark Twain meant that this first instalment of Twain's own narrative (finally unexpurgated; earlier editions dropped his scathing critiques of empire and plutocracy to preserve his folksy image) had ended, The adjectives Twain uses to describe Helen Keller's writing describe his own: "simple, direct, unadorned, unaffected, unpretentious ... moving and beautiful and eloquent." Stay tuned for Volumes Two and Three. Shelley Fisher Fishkin

LET'S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME: A Memoir of Friendship By Gail Caldwell (Random House)

Gail Caldwell's friend Caroline Knapp died in 2002, mere weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Eight years later, Caldwell has written this graceful, eloquent memoir about their friendship, their shared love of dogs and Knapp's death. Caldwell not only writes with breathtaking clarity about what was an extraordinary friendship, almost a love affair, as well as about writing as a form of grieving. Marian Botsford Fraser

MY LIFE By Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya, edited by Andrew Donskov (University of Ottawa Press)

The story of how the University of Ottawa Press acquired this essential document of Russian literature is as interesting as the book itself, which is considerably. Married to a literary colossus for 48 years, and herself a woman of character and great intelligence, Tolstaya provides, in this huge work, enormous insights not only into Tolstoy and their marriage, but into Russian life. A real find. Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston

NORTHERN LIGHT: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him By Roy MacGregor (Random House Canada)

What happened to painter Tom Thomson is the greatest Canadian story never fully told. But now, thanks to Roy MacGregor, it has been. Northern Light is a biography, mystery, travelogue - and forensic investigation, leading to the positive identification of Thomson's skull, The fulcrum of the tale is Winnie Trainor, the woman who loved him, who might have carried his baby - a woman of mystery and mysterious motives. David M. Shribman

LIVES LIKE LOADED GUNS: Emily Dickinson and her Family's Feuds By Lyndall Gordon (Viking)

The first half of this enthralling book is a biography of American poet Emily Dickinson. The second half deals with decades-long consequences of an adulterous affair between Emily's brother Austin and a woman named Mabel Loomis Todd. A conscious intermingling of scholarly research, The Scarlet Letter and Bleak House, this is the intellectually engaging biography of a New England poet that doubles as a great summer read. André Alexis

FAITH, INTERRUPTED: A Spiritual Journey By Eric Lax (Knopf)

Faith is a gift, and Eric Lax accepted that gift with a profound and sensitive intelligence as he demonstrates in the moving memoir of a spiritual journey that took his Anglican family to Canada and then the United States, and through his experiences with the civil-rights movement and as a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War, and his own doubts. A deeply touching and personal memoir. Adrienne Clarkson

THE YEAR OF FINDING MEMORY By Judy Fong Bates (Random House Canada)

Judy Fong Bates is a clever saboteur of narrative conventions of the immigrant story, as she proves with her superb memoir, a moving account of her parents' desolation as immigrants to Canada. Quite beyond the shock of its opening, in which her frail, meek father, beset with ill health and accumulated bitterness of years of indignity and humiliation, hangs himself, this brilliant, affecting memoir has the piercing sharpness of unexpected life-affecting revelations. Keith Garebian

C'MON PAPA: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark By Ryan Knighton (Knopf Canada)

Knighton's frank, perceptive, funny book about life as a blind father acclimatizes the reader quickly to his condition, mercifully, without bravado or false cheer. His wit and irreverence are apparent on every page, and besides, this parenthood page-turner is ultimately less a book about being a parent under such-and-such a circumstance than it is about being human. Tabatha Southey

NICE RECOVERY By Susan Juby (Viking Canada)

Susan Juby tells her story with such honesty and warmth that it's easy to empathize with both her ascent into alcoholism, for that's what it was for her, and then her downfall, and then her hard-won recovery. Her story is also interspersed with the same wonderfully incisive humour that distinguishes her young adult novels. Juby's acceptance and forgiveness of herself makes her story, quite simply, an inspiration. M.A.C. Farrant

THE HEART DOES BREAK: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning Edited by George Bowering and Jean Baird (Random House Canada)

The editors commissioned 19 original essays by Canadian writers that would "tell the personal tale" and "narrate the survivor's story" in the face of grief and mourning. The result is an anthology that contains stories of pathos, rage, joy, humour and wisdom; in short, that possesses the high quality of writing the editors were seeking. And who would have guessed that an anthology dedicated to grief could contain so much delight? M.A.C. Farrant

CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF By Nelson Mandela (Doubleday Canada)

In this collection of Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela's private writings and interviews with colleagues, readers will be immeasurably enriched by sharing the wisdom of a man universally considered to be the world's pre-eminent statesman. Multilayered and measured, the book is a tribute to his path of daily personal and political reconciliation. Isabel Nanton

MORDECAI: The Life & Times By Charles Foran (Knopf Canada)

A richly detailed, writerly account of novelist Mordecai Richler's life, including previously unavailable documents and interviews. Background on his writing is matched with glimpses of his caustic relationship with his parents (especially his mother) and his loving one with his wife, Florence. A satirist committed to Canada, Richler is shown to be al mixture of cynicism and compassion. Ira Nadel


INVISIBLE CHAINS: Canada's Underground World of Human Trafficking By Benjamin Perrin (Viking Canada)

In a searing look at the little-known world of human trafficking in Canada, Benjamin Perrin documents the heartbreaking stories of young women and children sold for sex in conditions that amount to modern-day slavery. He exposes the lamentable response by the justice system and makes a passionate plea for action few readers can ignore. Julian Sher

MORE MONEY THAN BRAINS: Why Schools Suck, College is Crap and Idiots Think They're Right By Laura Penny (McClelland & Stewart)

Laura Penny's prose is fluent, clever, often funny and, most important, consistently engaging. More Money Than Brains is a ferocious defence of the arts and humanities against the Philistine influence of Homo economicus (subspecies Goldman Sachsus). Money and its attendant material and technological manifestations, she argues, is making us stupid. Her unflinching willingness to entertain puts her light-years ahead of her Canadian competitors. Douglas Bell

A YEAR OF LIVING GENEROUSLY: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Philanthropy By Lawrence Scanlan (Douglas & McIntyre)

In chronicling his year of immersion in the world of do-gooders, Scanlan favours journalistic sensibility and observation over emotional hand-wringing, and the result is an unusually intelligent, thoughtful, engaging and, at times, provocative reflection on some of the most pressing issues of our time: homelessness, crime, poverty, aboriginal rights, the environment, HIV/AIDS, international aid and development, cancer, gender equity and more. Samantha Nutt

WAR By Sebastian Junger (HarperCollins)

Sebastian Junger spent 15 months he spent on and off "at the tip of the spear" with U.S. combat soldiers in the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan. I can think of no better book for bewildered parents who find their sons or daughters want to go into the military at combat level, and I have never read a more compelling account of the complex suffering and rewards of the combat experience. Skeptical pacifists, which loosely describes the social level to which I belong, should leave their presuppositions behind and learn a few things. Antanas Sileika

HARPERLAND: The Politics of Canada By Lawrence Martin (Viking Canada)

In this first political biography of Stephen Harper, Lawrence Martin shows an original mind, retaining his journalistic neutrality by attacking everybody. It is no bloodless audit. The book's most telling chapters deal with the Prime Minister's absolute domination of his party, his ministers, his cabinet and the every aspect of government. Every detail of every function is masterminded by its master. Peter C. Newman

THEY FIGHT LIKE SOLDIERS, THEY DIE LIKE CHILDREN: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers By Roméo Dallaire with Jessica Dee Humphreys (Random House Canada)

They Fight Like Soldiers is a compelling, moving and insightful book that exposes the problem of child soldiers in all its dimensions and argues that this morally repugnant weapons system - "Tools used by adults to wage war" - can be dismantled. The book is emblematic of Dallaire's resolve, compassion and abiding commitment to justice. His Orwell-like sensibility, in which "all humans are human; not one of us is more human than any other," is refreshingly sincere. Samantha Nutt

EXPORTING DEMOCRACY: The Risks and Rewards of Pursuing a Good Idea By Bob Rae (McClelland & Stewart)

In this erudite, judicious and lively book, MP Bob Rae examines the promise and peril of democracy promotion in the modern world. The spread of democracy, a preoccupation of the West in general and the United States in particular, has become tarnished in recent years because of misadventures in Iraq and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Using history as moral philosophy, Rae offers a wise and compelling alternative vision. Andrew Preston


THE TRAUMA MYTH: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children - and Its Aftermath By Susan A. Clancy (Basic Books)

This short, punchy work tells two connected stories. The first is Clancy's well-written empirical account of how child sexual abuse really happens, why victims often stay silent and the real reasons for the oft-delayed, damaging aftermath of abuse. The second story is about how we crucify scientists whose findings don't match our preconceptions. She argues persuasively that, for most victims, we need to shift our concept of abuse from the violent rape model to something more varied and subtle if we want to succeed at treatment and prevention. Susan Pinker

ABSENCE OF MIND: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self By Marilynne Robinson (Yale University Press)

This work of philosophy by a distinguished novelist is one of the most thought-stirring inquiries into fundamental questions in many years. Robinson aims to clarify the relations of science with religion. She succeeds not by defending religious belief but by examining the claims for science made by enemies of religion. Her target is not science itself, but the "para-scientific" ideologues that claims to explain consciousness in reductively materialist terms. John Gray

GLOBISH: How the English Language Became the World's Language By Robert McCrum (Doubleday Canada)

Globish, the language, Robert McCrum says, is a new international, English-influenced pidgin, a way for people from anywhere to speak with people from everywhere else. Globish, the book, is one of the richest, fullest and most beautiful works on the history of our common and different language - and the people, journeys, wars and alliances that created and continue to create it. Gale Zoë Garnett

BEAUTY AND SADNESS, Or the Intermingling of Life and Literature By André Alexis (House of Anansi)

The nature and thrust of own artistic sensibility, in short, is the ultimate subject in this essay collection, and everything argued and judged, confessed and regretted, is done in the service of charting the topography of the country named Alexis. It is a vast, fertile terrain, its landscapes varied and surprising, and well worth exploring alongside him. Charles Foran

DEFIANT SPIRITS: The Modernist Revolution of the Group Of Seven By Ross King (Douglas & McIntyre/McMichael Canadian Art Collection)

Ross King's collective look at the Group of Seven not only paints vivid portraits of the individual artists, but it reaffirms their place in Canadian cultural history and offers a clearer understanding of what it was like to persist in artistic activity in a city (Toronto) with almost no enlightened collectors, no proper art school and - until 1918 - no purpose-built art museum. Judy Stoffman


THE MIND'S EYE By Oliver Sacks (Knopf Canada)

Oliver Sacks is our greatest chronicler of people with unusual neurological and sensory disabilities and experiences. Now, sadly, we learn that Sacks has begun to go blind due to eye cancer. The Mind's Eye includes, besides essays on people with various visual problems, his brilliant, poignant observations of this process, his terror and grief, culminating in his awe-inspiring, resilient use of that blindness to begin to better "dissect" out the mind's eye. Norman Doidge


This account of the afterlife of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cancerous cells sparked a scientific revolution, boasts numerous hallmarks of great non-fiction: suspense and nuance, and careful examination of such key issues as informed consent. But it is Rebecca Skloot's flair for colour and character, for the telling gesture, for the heartbreaking detail, that brings every page to astonishing life. Danielle Groen

THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A Biography of Cancer By Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)

A beautifully written, extremely well researched account of the major milestones in the history of cancer treatment and research. It is not exactly a biography of cancer, of the cancer process, but it provides many clear and well described accounts of the most significant advances in the understanding and treatment of various cancers, and of the people who made them happen. Robert Buckman

PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void By Mary Roach (Norton)

I finished Mary Roach's book on the history of spaceflight simulation in a single day. She educated me, entertained me, cracked me up repeatedly, forced me to rethink some long-held beliefs and, even more unexpected - I'd have said it was impossible - several times she totally grossed me out. Spider Robinson

THE TIGER: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival By John Vaillant (Knopf Canada)

John Vaillant - whose previous book, The Golden Spruce, won the Governor-General's Award for non-fiction - has told a tale of the confrontation between a tough Russian and a vengeful Siberian tiger with astonishing power and vigour, with enough brio and colour to have made it a near-certainty that Hollywood (in the form of Brad Pitt) would want this in double-quick time. Simon Winchester

THE WAVE: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean By Susan Casey (Doubleday Canada)

Mere words should not be able to portray the world of the big-wave surfer, let alone the fearsome power of the waves they ride, but Casey's thrilling, stylish prose does. Fascinating, heroic, dazzling, terrifying, amazing, unbelievable, mesmerizing, instructive, enlightening, superb, this is Moby-Dick or Into Thin Air for our time: a powerful ride into a world you never knew existed but that you will never forget. Richard Ellis

BAD SCIENCE: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks By Ben Goldacre (McClelland & Stewart)

After reading this book, I will be checking Ben Goldacre's Guardian blog regularly ( Why? Because he is a voice of reason in a world littered with false and untested ideas. He thinks critically when so few others do. He takes to task everything from nutritional supplements and homeopathy to Brain Gym and anti-vaccine crusaders. And he's an extremely entertaining writer, who does not pull his punches. Alison Motluk


GOLD DIGGERS: Striking It Rich In the Klondike By Charlotte Gray (HarperCollins)

Gray sets out to revivify "the experience of a few characters in this large historical drama … in Dawson City" when it was booming with a deafening report. All but one of the handful of individuals she has chosen are familiar, but they will never appear quite the same again once the readers have seen how she has made use of them. A deep researcher and skilled explainer, Gray is also shrewd, calm and confident in the way she creates her book's complex architecture. George Fetherling


I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay By John Lanchester (McClelland & Stewart)

Award-winning novelist Lanchester brings two desperately needed qualities to his book on the financial crisis: an outsider's viewpoint and engaging, even delightful writing. His message, however, is serious and alarming: Leave Wall Street financiers and their international confreres unsupervised, and they'll make themselves enormously wealthy while pulling down around them the very edifice that made it possible. John Lawrence Reynolds

THE BIG SHORT: Inside the Doomsday Machine By Michael Lewis (Norton)

Michael Lewis is perhaps the finest explainer there is when it comes to the workings of the esoteric investment products that brought the financial system to its knees. That's no small feat, given that half the reason the banks lost billions is they themselves didn't understand most of what they were doing. His prose pops, too. Boyd Erman

THE FACEBOOK EFFECT: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World By David Kirkpatrick (Simon & Schuster)

David Kirkpatrick, once Fortune magazine's top technology writer, tells a gripping tale of how Facebook was created and came to such dominance. As someone who followed the story almost from day one, I was still enlightened, entertained and sometimes dumbfounded by the rich detail and juicy goings-on. Don Tapscott


THE WORLD IS A BALL: The Joy, Madness and Meaning of Soccer By John Doyle (Doubleday Canada)

It's hard not to like a well-written book about a subject for which you'd like to think you share the same passion. And so it is with John Doyle's survey of the elite world of international championship football. He also has a fine sense of the absurd, constantly sending up the rules - dispassion, disinterest and objectivity - that govern "the sports writing racket." Douglas Bell

BREAKFAST AT THE EXIT CAFÉ: Travels Through America By Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds (GreyStone)

Whether it's the sign of a symbiotic marriage or of seasoned writers crafting a seamless travel collage, the narrative in this road trip through America flows as easily as a new car on an empty highway. The transitions between travel-partner-authors never feel clunky or truncated, but rather like one long conversation between mates. Madonna Hamel