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Canada Reads opens the door to non-fiction

For the past decade the good folks at Canada Reads have been filling reading wish lists with fiction, but they're trying something different this time around.

The 2012 version of Canada Reads will be all about the non-fiction.

Here's my early list. I'll probably amend it several times over the next couple of months, but here are some of the books I'm thinking about right now.

The Game by Ken Dryden

Still one of the best books about not just hockey, but about sports. Think of it; a smart, literate man finds himself a member of one of the greatest sports teams of all time, and he has the foresight to keep notes of his experiences. Very, very few books have ever given us this kind of insight into the world of professional sports.

On A Cold Road by Dave Bidini

Dave has written a lot of great books, including The Hockey Nomad, but this is my favourite. The stories of bands touring across this massive country to play for almost anyone, combined with Dave's own experiences in The Rheostatics, make this a great read and a real winner. I still reach for it almost once a year.

As Near To Heaven By Sea by Kevin Major

A history of Newfoundland, and a fascinating and funny book. You may think you know a little something about Canada's easternmost corner, but you have no idea how weird and wonderful the history of that place is. Until you read this book, of course.

Baltimore's Mansion by Wayne Johnston

Another book about Newfoundland, this one starts with the story of the colony's first governor. Let's just say things didn't go very well. It include's Johnston's recollections of his own family mixed feelings at joining Canada. Did I say mixed feelings?

Pierre Berton

All right, I live in the Yukon, so there had been be some Pierre Berton in the mix. I did enjoy Arctic Grail, though some people quibble with some of the facts in the book. But I guess I would have to say Klondike should be added. We sometimes get a little tired of gold rush stories here in the territory, but this book really does capture the insanity that gripped the world in 1898. Again, some historians take issue with some of the facts in the book, but you can't take issue with the brilliant storytelling.

A Long Way Gone by Ismael Beah

Ishmael tells his story of being a child soldier in Sierra Leone, and his eventual rescue by UNICEF. It's a heartbreaking book, and the thing that really blew me away is how it changes how you view the news. There are still conflicts erupting every day, children are still being led to war, and you view those stories with more compassion after you read this book.