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Clear room on your nightstand for McCarthy, McEwan, MacDonald, and dozens more

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Illustration by Marcelle Faucher/SOURCE: iStock

Ah, fall – publishing’s months-long version of the Met Gala. This season brings the expected parade of Big Books, the 500-plus pagers, which, in the following list, includes fiction from heavy hitters Barbara Kingsolver, John Irving, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Orhan Pamuk, as well as meaty non-fiction from Siddhartha Mukherjee, Gabor Maté, Jann S. Wenner, Pekka Hamalainen, J. Bradford DeLong and Maggie Haberman.

Heading up many people’s most-anticipated column will be Cormac McCarthy, who has a forthcoming novel (his first since The Road) in two parts, the first of which drops in September, and Ian McEwan, who’s gone longer than usual in his excellent new coming-of-age story (but at 448 pages falls just shy of a Big). Indigenous writers Billy-Ray Belcourt and David A. Robertson, best known for their work in other genres, both have debut novels coming out in September as well.

There’s a plethora of titles about various, mostly terrifying new social, political and technological realities – and, as an antidote, a raft of promising memoirs from (among many others), the worlds of sport, architecture and music by Bryan Trottier, Moshe Safdie and Bono, respectively. With COVID-19 (maybe) almost behind us, I encourage you to check out the health-related titles on this list, almost all of which are by Canadians, exploring everything from our right to die to what we can do to regain our mental health.

Canadian Fiction

A Minor Chorus
The Theroy of Crows
Citizens of Light
The Tragedy of Eva Mott
The Last Chairlift

A Minor Chorus, Billy-Ray Belcourt (Hamish Hamilton, Sept.)

Storytelling, and its power, is at the heart of this Rachel Cusk-influenced debut novel by the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize winner, in which an Indigenous academic and would-be novelist returns to his northern Alberta community for the summer to reassess his life.

The Theory of Crows, David A Robertson (HarperCollins, Sept.)

Robertson, the Winnipeg-based Cree writer best known for lovely, award-winning children’s books including On the Trapline, makes a first foray into adult fiction in this tale about a father who, in the aftermath of tragedy, seeks to reconnect with his estranged 16-year-old daughter by heading out onto the land in search of a lost family cabin.

Citizens of Light, Sam Shelstad (Touchwood, Oct.)

Call-centre worker Colleen Weagles, the protagonist of this funny “noir anti-thriller” debut (the author also has a short-story collection), is living quietly with her mother in a Toronto suburb when she spies a photo in a newspaper that sends her on a journey to the underworld of Niagara Falls in search of answers to her husband’s recent, mysterious death.

Possessed, Jowita Bydlowska (Dundurn, Oct.)

In a press note that came with the advance reader’s copy, the Drunk Mom author asks that we read her second novel, which features sexual obsession, mental illness and a visit by our protagonist, Josephine, to a haunted quarantine island in the Adriatic, “with an open mind and don’t get tripped by all the abysmal sex.” Duly noted, and mind your step.

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The Tragedy of Eva Mott, David Adams Richards (Doubleday, Oct.)

Richards is finished with his Miramichi trilogy, but he’s not done with the sombre themes that have been the mainstay of it and his many novels. This one, which promises to “attract controversy,” involves two brothers whose once popular asbestos mine is making people sick, and a professor falsely accused of sexual assault.

The Last Chairlift, John Irving (Knopf, Oct.)

The latest novel from the 80-year-old author of Garp and Owen Meany – and his first since becoming a Canadian citizen – is another monster, totalling 912 pages. On offer is the (seemingly) real-time, cradle-to-grave story of Adam Brewster, a screenwriter born to a gay single mom, who goes off in search of the father he never knew. Expect ghosts, and an embedded screenplay.

This Time, That Place, Clark Blaise (Biblioasis, Nov.)

Criss-crossing the 49th parallel to Florida, Montreal and Pittsburgh, and filled with indelible characters, the 24 jewel-like stories in this collection have been selected from Blaise’s 50-year writing career and reflect the lifelong peripateticism of the writer John Irving calls “the maestro of aloneness.”

International Fiction

If I Survive You
The Book of Goose
Demon Copperhead
The Passenger
Case Study

If I Survive You, Jonathan Escoffery (McClelland & Stewart, Sept.)

Told as a series of interlinked stories, and in a variety of narrative voices, this patois-filled debut from the winner of The Paris Review’s 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction follows Trelawny, the gifted and bookish youngest son of a mixed-race family who migrates to Miami from Jamaica in the 1970s and spends the next few decades attempting to melt into the city’s bubbling cultural pot.

The Book of Goose, Yiyun Li (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.)

Yiyun, long a reliable purveyor of interesting fiction, gives us a Ferrante-esque scenario involving two girls, Fabienne and Agnès, growing up together in rural France after the Second World War. Their intense, often dastardly connection shifts dramatically when Agnès, through a series of complex circumstances, becomes a famous author for work they created together.

Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver (Harper, Oct.)

In Kingsolver’s David Copperfield­-inspired novel, the title character – the quick-witted son raised in a trailer by a single teen mom – attempts to navigate his way through foster care, opiate addiction and an economic system stacked against him. Along the way Kingsolver draws depressingly easy parallels between the hardships of Dickens’s Victorian world and 21st-century Appalachia.

The Passenger, Cormac McCarthy (Knopf Doubleday, Oct.)

McCarthy’s first novel since The Road is being published as a two-parter, the second of which, Stella Maris, is forthcoming in December. Expect on-brand existential musings in a 1980s-set plot involving a Mississippi salvage diver haunted by loss.

Case Study, Graeme Macrae Burnet (Biblioasis, Nov.)

The Scottish author rose to prominence after his true-crime-adjacent His Bloody Project was shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize. He is nominated again this year, for this intricate, reality- and form-blurring novel about a writer who becomes obsessed with a lead figure in the 1960s anti-psychiatry movement after a woman claiming to have been the latter’s patient passes along her journals.

Foster, Claire Keegan (Grove Atlantic, Nov.)

Keegan’s lyrical 2010 novella about a young Irish girl who blossoms after being sent to live on a farm with a couple she doesn’t know was seeded as a short story in the New Yorker and is now considered by many to be a modern classic (it’s part of the school syllabus in Ireland). It’s finally available as a standalone in North America.

Historical Fiction

Shrines of Gaiety
The Marriage Portrait
The Sleeping Car Porter

Haven, Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins, August)

Donoghue’s latest is set in the year 600, on the bird-ruled island, or crag, now known as Skellig Michael in Ireland’s western sea. There, two monks, recruited and led by the fervid Artt, have come to establish a monastery in accordance with a dream that Artt took as a direct order from God. It would be a dull book if it merely lived up to its title. Rest assured that’s not the case.

Junie, Chelene Knight (Book*hug, September)

Knight’s first novel is a coming-of-age story set in 1930′s Hogan’s Alley, the once-thriving Black and immigrant community in Vancouver’s East End that later fell victim to 1960s “urban renewal” zeal. The titular character, a painter and empath often in conflict with her substance-abusing, jazz-musician mother, seeks to find her own voice through a series of mentors.

Lessons, Ian McEwan (Knopf, September)

McEwan is in firm command in this capacious bildungsroman about Roland Baines, a hotel-lounge pianist and greeting-card poet. His English boarding-school past, which involved a protracted relationship with a hands-on female piano teacher, collides uncomfortably with his present after his German-born wife inexplicably abandons him and their infant son. It’s set against a background of Thatcherism, Chernobyl meltdown and the falling Berlin Wall.

Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson (Bond Street, Sept.)

Atkinson, here in her usual guise as the thinking-person’s bestseller writer, transports us to 1920s Soho in London, where Nellie Coker, a mother of six newly sprung from prison, presides over a nightclub empire perennially threatened by outside machinations. Throughout it all, plots thicken, underbellies darken and the twenties roar.

The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf, Sept.)

As she did in Hamnet, her novel about Shakespeare’s wife that won a National Book Critics Award, the Irish writer sets her sights on a peripheral historic female figure. Here it’s Lucrezia de Medici, artistic free spirit and daughter of the grand duke of Florence. She is forced to marry her sister’s fiancé - Alfonso, a powerful and ruthless politician with a distinctly murderous gleam in his eye – after her sibling dies.

The Sleeping Car Porter, Suzette Mayr (Coach House, Sept.)

In Mayr’s at times hallucinatory novel, set in 1929 over a four-day trip to Banff from Montreal, a Black sleeping-car porter named Baxter (though everyone calls him George) must contend with sleeplessness, ghosts and a parade of demanding passengers in order to pursue the tips that will get him into dentistry school.

Nights of Plague

Fayne, Anne-Marie MacDonald (Knopf, Oct.)

In what she calls her “queerest novel to date,” and with a tip of the hat to Charlotte Bronte et al., the Fall on Your Knees author delivers us to a windswept (is there any other kind?) moor on the Scottish-English border in the late 1800s, where young Charlotte Bell, afflicted with a mysterious condition, has been sequestered by her adoring father on the family’s huge, lonely estate.

Nights of Plague, Orhan Pamuk (Knopf, Oct.)

Pamuk’s massive novel (written in 2017) is about the outbreak of plague on an island in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1901, and the ensuing conflict between its Muslim and Orthodox Greek inhabitants over quarantine orders. The spark for it was a collection of 113 letters between the daughter of an Ottoman sultan and her older sister, for which the Turkish Nobel Prize recipient wrote an editor’s introduction.


Making Love with the Land
Laughing with the Trickster
Touch Anywhere to Begin

Making Love with the Land, Joshua Whitehead (Knopf, Aug.)

“I write from the body, proprioception; story is attached to me integrally, umbilically, and we feed and nourish one another like regurgitant birds.” In his first work of non-fiction, the Oji-Cree poet, novelist and scholar combines essay and memoir to explore, as the title would suggest, the relationship between bodies, language and land.

Laughing with the Trickster, Tomson Highway (Anansi, Sept.)

In the past 12 months, the playwright, pianist and polymath has been on a tear, winning the Hilary Weston Prize for his memoir, putting out a Cree country album and receiving a Governor-General’s Performing Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. In September he’ll deliver these probing and quirky Massey Lectures, which include a comparative analysis of Christian, classical and Cree mythologies and a linguistically precise explanation of why the Algonquin language is innately funny.

Touch Anywhere to Begin, Mark Anthony Jarman (Goose Lane, Sept.)

The New Brunswick writer’s second book of travel essays comes 20 years after his first, Ireland’s Eye. This time he takes readers, among other places, to Venice on the eve of lockdown and to Shanghai’s Huangpu River, where he finds himself serenaded by a retired group of People’s Liberation Army singers.


Death, Interrupted
Lifesavers and Body Snatchers
The Last Doctors
The Myth of Normal
The Song of the Cell
Wired for Music

Death, Interrupted, Blair Bigham (House of Anansi/Walrus Books, Sept.)

Bigham was a paramedic before he went to medical school to become an ICU doctor, where he initially thrilled to his ability to handle adrenalin-inducing code blues. The codes, though, would soon became a source of frustration. In this thought-provoking book he looks at the ways technology has prolonged the process of dying by creating a “widening grey zone between life and death.”

Lifesavers and Body Snatchers, Tim Cook (Allen Lane, Sept.)

In this “definitive medical history of the Great War,” the Canadian War Museum’s chief historian shows how agony – shattered bones, chemical burns, gangrenous limbs – sometimes bred innovation. On the flip side, inspiration-wise, he reveals how certain unethical doctors harvested dead soldiers’ organs without permission then sent them to London’s Royal College of Surgeons for exhibition.

The Last Doctor, Jean Marmoreo and Johanna Schneller (Viking, Sept.)

A long-time family doctor and medical columnist, Marmoreo has written a nuanced and affecting first-person account of her experiences as one of the first physicians in Canada to provide end-of-life care through the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program.

The Myth of Normal, Gabor Maté and Daniel Maté (Knopf, Sept.)

In the ever-expanding world of addiction and mental health, Gabor Maté needs no introduction. This book, written with his musician son, Daniel, uses a variety of case studies to probe the paradoxical question of why our wellness-obsessed culture is so unwell (with obesity, anxiety, diabetes, depression – you name it) and why we so often fail to recognize this. Maté, as always, offers a guide to the way forward.

The Song of the Cell, Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scriber, Oct.)

The Indian-American professor, oncologist and Pulitzer Prize winner is that rare medical guy with real writing chops, who knows how to infuse clinical subject matter with literariness (his book on genes was An Intimate History, his “biography” of cancer was The Emperor of All Maladies). The series’ third installment, which covers the discovery of human cells and the promise of cellular therapies, is a “song,” or perhaps, given its plethora of characters, a chorus.

Wired for Music, Adriana Barton (Greystone, Oct.)

The inability to enjoy music is so rare that it’s classified as a neurological disorder. Barton, a journalist who played cello for much of her life – not always joyously – has written a book that takes readers from Manhattan to Zimbabwe to discover the inspiring, endless ways music makes our lives better.


If Walla could Speak
Faith, Hope, and Carnage
Like a Rolling Stone
My Road from Damascus
All Roads Home

Ducks, Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly, Sept.)

In her first long-form graphic work, Beaton offers a nuanced memoir about the two years she spent among the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland diaspora in Alberta’s male-dominated oil sands, trying to pay off her student loans. It’s a change of gears for the Cape Breton cartoonist best known for her hilariously insightful and wildly popular Hark, A Vagrant history series.

If Walls Could Speak, Moshe Safdie (Atlantic Monthly Press, Sept.)

Growing up in Haifa, Israel, the McGill-trained architect best known in this country for Montreal’s Habitat and Ottawa’s National Gallery – and, outside it, for Jerusalem’s Holocaust History Museum – kept bees. Their “social and architectural dynamics” mesmerized him. As this warmly reflective memoir shows, ideas around human rights, socialization and access to nature have continued to underpin the urban and architectural philosophy of Safdie, now in his 80s.

Faith, Hope and Carnage, Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.)

Cave has recently suffered some painful losses: Two of his sons died separately and tragically (one shortly after the completion of this book), and his mother and a bandmate also passed away. In this searching book, written in dialogue with a photography writer at the Guardian, Cave considers, with typical depth and thoughtfulness and unexpected positivity, catastrophe’s ability to seed creativity. “I guess I feel, day to day … enmeshed in death, as if it is a clear and present state of being that manifests itself in a sort of vitality.”

Like a Rolling Stone, Jann S. Wenner (Little, Brown, Sept.)

The Rolling Stone founder’s story is a long and singular one (less so his memoir’s title, which is shared by at least two other books, including Rolling Stone writer Greil Marcus’s 2005 volume on Bob Dylan). The saga of his once-revolutionary publication, which he (regretfully) sold in 2017, is interwoven into the story of his generation as a whole, as well as his personal struggles as a closeted gay man swimming in the macho world of 1970s rock ‘n’ roll.

All Roads Home, Bryan Trottier with Stephen Brunt (McClelland & Stewart, Oct.)

The son of a Cree-Métis-Chippewa father and Irish-Canadian mother, Trottier emerged out of the Saskatchewan prairie town of Val Marie (pop. 500) to become the most decorated Indigenous athlete in Canadian history, winning seven Stanley Cups as a player and coach with the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche. His memoir takes us along that path and gives credit to those who helped him along the way, from teammates Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux to his high-school guidance counsellor, poet Lorna Crozier.

My Road from Damascus, Jamal Saeed (ECW, Oct.)

The Syrian writer, artist and political dissident has penned a strikingly rich account of his life before coming to Canada as a refugee in 2016. Descriptions of the verdant hillside town of his youth offer a stark contrast to the desperate military prisons where he was tortured and held (for 12 years total) under various al-Assad regimes without due process.

Above the Fold

Above the Fold, John Honderich (McClelland & Stewart, Nov.)

Always one to meet a deadline, the former Toronto Star publisher completed this personal history of the paper he and his sometimes fearsome father, Beland, successively ran for just shy of half a century mere weeks before his sudden death at 75 in February. Spanning Beland’s Depression-era beginnings in a tiny Ontario Mennonite community to the paper’s 2020 sale to NordStar Capital, the book also features a foreword by John’s son, Robin, who currently works at the paper as director of digital subscriptions.

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, Bono (Doubleday, Nov.)

Each of the title’s 40 songs is tied to a chapter in this memoir from the U2 front man. He calls the collection “the story of one pilgrim’s lack of progress … with a fair amount of fun along the way.” The book’s cover image, of an earlier era Bono, eyebrows ablaze, suggests defiance more than surrender, but perhaps the friction is the point.


Hollywood in the Klondike
Indigenous Continent
The Invention of Tomorrow
Big Men Fear Me
The Evolution of Charles Darwin
Prisoners of the Castle

Hollywood in the Klondike, Michael Gates (Lost Moose, Aug.)

In 1978, a huge trove of rare silent-era films were discovered in the “Paris of the North,” not in some dusty archive, but buried in the permafrost. The author, who was involved in the recovery as the recently installed curator of a local history museum, here aims to separate fact from legend with regard to the find itself, including how the films ended up there in the first place.

Indigenous Continent, Pekka Hamalainen (Liveright, Sept.)

The Finnish Oxford scholar’s book is a retelling of North American history that challenges the inevitability and monumentality of colonialism by pointing to oft-ignored but persistent pockets of Indigenous power and resistance. It’s a messy, inconvenient reality, Hamalainen says, that “remains the biggest blind spot in common understandings of the American past.”

The Invention of Tomorrow, Thomas Suddendorf, Jonathan Redshaw, Adam Bulley (Basic, Sept.)

Ambitiously stretching from ancient Greece to the present day, this history of foresight – written, it must be said, with the benefit of hindsight – dives into the myriad ways humans have attempted to predict the future, some successful (weather, tides, agriculture), some not so much (cane toads), and the dilemmas and conundrums future knowledge can present.

Big Men Fear Me, Mark Bourrie (Biblioasis, Oct.)

George Brown may have founded The Globe, but it was George McCullagh who created The Globe and Mail. This is the true story of the sports-team-owning self-made millionaire, who some expected to become prime minister until his untimely death at 47, likely by suicide and almost certainly related to the bipolar disorder that plagued him for years.

The Evolution of Charles Darwin, Diana Preston (Atlantic Monthly Press, Oct.)

Darwin was only 22 when he boarded the HMS Beagle in 1830 under the command of Robert FitzRoy as a “gentleman naturalist,” unaware his name would one day grace an award honouring humans who remove themselves from the gene pool through misadventure. Drawing on the naturalist’s diaries, Preston’s biography reveals a man who, in his chauvinism and blind patriotism, was typical of his time – but in his liberal- and abolition-mindedness, atypical as well.

Prisoners of the Castle, Ben Mcintyre (Signal, Sept.)

Macintyre’s publisher is touting this book, no doubt accurately, given the Agent Sonya author’s excellent track record, as a “cliché-smashing” look inside Colditz, the vast, inelegant Leipzig castle the Nazis converted into a prison during the Second World War. We learn that the latter’s motley group of prisoners were often hamstrung by issues of class and nationality; instead of efficiently joining forces to escape, for example, they undertook multiple tunneling projects simultaneously.


John Turner
Confidence Man
How to Stand Up to a Dictator
Mussolini’s Daughter
A Very Canadian Coup

John Turner, Steve Paikin (Sutherland House, Oct.)

Turner, who died at 91 in 2020, was famously only prime minister for only 79 days, the second shortest tenure after Charles Tupper. But Paikin aims to prevent facts such as that get in the way of Turner’s true legacy as the star of Trudeau’s cabinets of the sixties and seventies, where he held the justice and finance portfolios. As a young reporter, the TVO host had numerous interactions with Turner and was granted unprecedented access to his personal papers by his family.

Confidence Man, Maggie Haberman (Penguin Press, Oct.)

Another day, another volume destined for Donald Trump’s unofficial presidential library – this one by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter responsible for a significant number of breaking stories on the former president, including the discovery of shredded official documents in White House toilets. Dirty work indeed.

How to Stand Up to a Dictator, Maria Ressa (HarperCollins, Nov.)

One of the most decorated and admired journalists in the world – she’s a Nobel Laureate as well as a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize – the Filipino-American Ressa became a direct target of the Philippines’ strongman president Rodrigo Duterte. As the title of her defiant memoir suggests, she hasn’t backed off, despite multiple arrest warrants against her.

Mussolini’s Daughter, Caroline Moorehead (Random House Canada, Nov.)

The British historian moves on from her quartet of books about Second World War resisters in France and Italy with the astonishing tale of Edda, Mussolini’s spoiled favourite daughter. Known in childhood as the “the mad little horse,” she shared his mercurial nature, intelligence and steely will. At one point her father’s fiercest supporter, steering him to an alliance with Hitler, Edda would end up in exile after her husband, the country’s foreign secretary, helped engineer a coup against against Mussolini.

A Very Canadian Coup, 1894–1896 Ted Glenn (Dundurn, Nov.)

Victorian-era prime minister Mackenzie Bowell has seen a fair bit of movement of late (sorry), having been featured as one of Canada’s four leaders profiled in Michael Hill’s The Lost Prime Ministers from February (also from Dundurn). Here he gets the solo treatment in a book detailing his 16-month tenure, which began with the Manitoba Schools Question and ended with the bloodless coup that brought Charles Tupper to power.


The Price of Time
Slouching Towards Utopia

The Price of Time, Edward Chancellor (Atlantic Monthly Press, Aug)

This history of finance, which reaches back five millennia, takes a particular interest in how interest – or, as some would have it, usury – functions in modern economies. One of the book’s key takeaways – that the ultralow rates of recent decades has led to bad things such as real-estate speculation and rising inequality – may be received with a certain wistfulness, given the inflationary pocket we currently find ourselves in.

Firebrand, Joshua Knelman (Allen Lane, Sept.)

The story about an ambitious young lawyer who helped the tobacco industry thrive in a new (ostensibly more enlightened) millennium is based on a decade of interviews with the man himself. The author, a “ferociously” addicted smoker himself, acknowledges having a vested interest in his subject: “I wanted to know more about this thing that may kill me.”

Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy, Josh O’Kane (Random House, Sept.)

O’Kane looks at how Google affiliate Sidewalk Lab’s failed bid to build a first-of-its-kind high-tech “sustainable” community in Toronto, replete with subterranean garbage-ferrying robots and self-driving taxis, descended into a battle over the “future of cities, privacy, wealth and democratic decision making.”

Slouching Towards Utopia, J. Bradford DeLong (Basic, Sept.)

The Berkley economics professor has gerrymandered the years between 1870 and 2010 into a “long century,” one he calls humanity’s most consequential in that it saw a dramatic reduction in global material poverty. In this book, he presents a grand narrative about what went right, and wrong, in the first “fundamentally economic” era.


Deer Man
How to Speak Whale
Landscapes of Silence
The Petroleum Papers
Into the Great Emptiness

Deer Man, Geoffroy Delorme (Greystone, Sept.)

If you insist on living with wild animals, then roe deer seem like a more sensible choice than, say, grizzlies or white tigers. A bestseller in the author’s native France, this weird but captivating tale explains how, in his late teens, an alienated Delorme decided to opt out of “civilization” (quotations his), to forage for his (meatless) subsistence in a Normandy forest among the friendly ruminants he calls his “real family.”

How to Speak Whale, Tom Mustill (Grand Central, Sept.)

This lively book by the British nature documentarian begins with a bang, as he recounts how a 30,000-kilogram humpback whale breached on top of him while he was kayaking in California in 2015 (he lived, obviously). The rest recounts the journey that followed, “to the frontiers where big data meets big beasts,” as he sought to learn about the technologies and scientists uncovering the astonishing capabilities of whales and dolphins,

Landscapes of Silence, Hugh Brody (Faber and Faber, Sept.)

The writer and filmmaker, who spent 10 years living in the Canadian Far North where he learned two dialects of Inuktitut, explains how he – a Jewish boy from northern England’s postwar suburbs – came to be attracted to remote places. He also shares how through his work as an anthropologist in Ireland, India, the Kalahari Desert and the high Arctic, he learned that silence is so often related to abuse and dispossession.

The Petroleum Papers, Geoff Dembicki (Greystone, Sept)

Canada’s oil sands take ignominious centre stage, as do a cast of characters that includes Stephen Harper, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers and Fox News, in this book by an investigative environmental journalist. Dembicki lays out the many nefarious ways that, starting in the late 1950s, repeated warnings about the reality of global warming were neutralized or quashed by a co-ordinated “disinformation machine” reminiscent of that used for decades by the tobacco industry.

Into the Great Emptiness, David Roberts (W.W. Norton, Nov.)

A mountain climber known as the “dean of adventure writing” (Alone on the Wall, written with Alex Honnold, is among his more than 30 titles), Roberts died of cancer in 2021. This final book of his tells the obscure but gripping story of Henry George (Gino) Watkins, a young Cambridge student who, after leading expeditions to Norway and Labrador, became trapped for weeks in Greenland’s unforgiving interior in the early 1930s while trying to set up a weather station.

Social Science

Dream States
Meme Wars
The Chaos Machine
The Long Road Home
The Future is Analog

Dream States, John Lorinc (Coach House, August)

The labelling of seemingly everything – toasters, cars, fridges, keychains – as “smart” that began in the first decade of this millennium continues unabated, even where ample evidence exists to the contrary. Long-time urban-affairs reporter Lorinc here examines the promises and perils of the smart city – the largest iteration of this trend – and how its aspiration fit into the continuum of urban planning and utopianism.

Meme Wars, Joan Donovan, Emily Dreyfuss, Brian Friedberg (Bloomsbury, Sept.)

Like so many things on the internet, memes used to be about cats; now they’re about stoking hyper-partisanship and hatred. With a focus on the past decade, the authors present a discomfiting investigative history of far-right-driven memetic warfare in the United States – a war many may not be aware is even being waged.

The Chaos Machine, Max Fisher (Little, Brown, Sept.)

You’ve likely read or heard that social media’s perpetual outrage machine wasn’t created by accident, but rather continues to be algorithmically stoked by companies, including Facebook, who benefit from it. Seeing so much evidence of such cynical practices compiled in one place – by a veteran New York Times reporter who mined court records and conducted hundreds of interviews with people inside the industry – proves that books can be just as enraging.

The Long Road Home, Debra Thompson (Simon & Schuster, Sept.)

During the racial reckoning that followed George Floyd’s murder, Thompson returned to Canada after 25 years in the United States, mirroring the trajectory of her ancestors who’d come north via the Underground Railroad a century earlier. Here, one of Canada’s only Black political scientists explores the racism – alternately insidious and overt – that manifested itself in the places in which she lived over the course of a decade: Oregon, Chicago, Ohio, Boston and Montreal.

Kinauvit?, Norma Dunning (Douglas & McIntyre, Oct.)

Among the many ways the Canadian government has attempted to control Indigenous people, the system that compelled every Inuit person to wear, at all times, a unique identification number imprinted on a plastic “dog tag” is perhaps the least known. Scholar Norma Dunning got an unanticipated crash course in the Eskimo Disc System, instituted in the 1940s, while seeking recognition of her Inuk heritage. She shares what she learned here, along with testimony from those who experienced the system first-hand.

The Future is Analog, David Sax (Public Affairs, Nov.)

Pandemic-induced digital fatigue lent serendipitous credence to much of what Sax laid out in his last book, the very popular (particularly in South Korea, apparently) The Revenge Is Analog. In a follow-up to that examination of the resurgence of consumer tangibles such as vinyl records, the Toronto-based journalist turns his focus to the benefits of analog in our work and school lives. (Sax knows of what he speaks, having worked remotely most of his life, and having conducted most of the book’s interviews via Zoom.)

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