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John Huston with Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and daughter Anjelica Huston on the set of Prizzi’s Honor. Biographer Jeffrey Meyers portrays him as great filmmaker. (Handout)

John Huston with Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and daughter Anjelica Huston on the set of Prizzi’s Honor. Biographer Jeffrey Meyers portrays him as great filmmaker.



43 non-fiction books from this year that are worth a read (or two) Add to ...

Richard Stursberg’s stormy half-decade at the helm of CBC’s English television may well have been the final burst of lustre and eloquence for the CBC, now out of favour with the government and facing enriched broadcasting rivals. Stursberg’s rage dominates his crackling autobiography, as does his grief for the lost network’s unfulfilled promise. -- Peter C. Newman

A Thousand Farewells

A Reporter’s Journey from Refugee Camp to the Arab Spring,

by Nahlah Ayed,

Viking Canada

A touching and thought-provoking re-creation of a Palestinian-Canadian girl’s successful struggle to forge a coherent identity out of geographic dislocation and cultural confusion. The CBC correspondent weaves together introspection and journalistic commentary, bringing to life the agony of the displaced, as well as solid reporting on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. -- Rayyan al-Shawaf


On Marriage and Separation,

by Rachel Cusk,


Rachel Cusk applies a detached, clinical gaze to the domiciliary sphere and the end of her marriage, and this subversion is at the heart of the book’s great accomplishment. Her complex, eight-part structure, evidence of her formidable talent, circles around absence and emptiness, the hole that remains. -- Alison Pick


A Memoir of Extremes,

by Kamal Al-Solaylee,


Kamal al-Solaylee’s memoir of growing up gay in Arab countries crosses many lines of identity: class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion and degrees of religious observance. This beautiful book about a family’s tortured relationship to history – and a region’s fraught relationship to modernity – is everything a great memoir should be: It’s as moving as it is complex. -- Matthew Hays

Working the Dead Beat

50 Lives that Changed Canada,

by Sandra Martin,


Globe and Mail writer and obituarist Sandra Martin offers a select history of Canada told through extended obituaries of both the known and the unknown, researched energetically and written graciously. Her tone is thoughtful, her scolding scant, and almost all of the transformative Canadians are presented in the context of their own struggles. -- Paula Todd

The Last Viking

The Life of Roald Amundsen,

by Stephen R. Bown,


Roald Amundsen is most famous for his Antarctic feats, but as Stephen Bown shows, his Arctic exploits were even more astonishing. Writing from the lofty, distancing heights of the fair-minded historian, Bown has produced a work that is sharp-eyed, thorough and convincing, and constitutes a significant addition to the Arctic canon. -- Ken McGoogan

Thinking the Twentieth Century

By Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder,

Penguin Press

Even as he lay dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tony Judt made time to talk with fellow historian Timothy Snyder, fashioning a collaborative and sometimes exhilarating text that should be read by every thinking person concerned with the calamitous state of the world we share, especially a discussion on “what is history for?” -- Janice Kulyk Keefer

Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith

Religion in American Warand Diplomacy,

by Andrew Preston,

Knopf Canada

“One who follows the teachings of Christ,” as Ambrose Bierce defined a Christian, “insofar as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.” The epithet echoes across Andrew Preston’s masterly history of religion and religiosity, faith and fetish in U.S. foreign policy. Preston shows how the conviction that the United States was invariably pursuing God’s work in a benighted world has been as American as apple pie and payoffs. -- Roger Morris

The Escape Artists

How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery,

by Noam Scheiber,

Simon & Schuster

The sputtering recovery from the 2008-09 financial disaster, and the miscalculations of a president held hostage by the Tea Party crowd, is the subject of Noam Scheiber’s revealing look at the players responsible for steering economic policy, and how they managed to drive right off the road, with no small assistance from a naive, determinedly bipartisan and surprisingly conservative president. -- Brian Milner

The Second World War

By Antony Beevor,

Little, Brown

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