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Get to know the Top 40: Family memoirs

Families: love 'em or hate 'em, they're undeniable fodder for a juicy memoir. Today we look at the books on our list about parents and their children, and children and their parents. There's Wayne Johnston's family legacy in Newfoundland, David Gilmour's attempt to bond with his teenage son over his favourite movies, Iain Reid's return to the nest, Catherine Gildiner's crazy Niagara Falls childhood, and Steve Burgess on his mother's life and death.


The Book: Baltimore's Mansion by Wayne Johnston

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What's it about? Newfoundland novelist Wayne Johnston's first (and  so far  only) foray into non-fiction is a multi-generational family memoir about the Rock's Avalon Peninsula and the family's fiercely independent streak.

Did the critics like it? They did. Johnston was praised for bringing a novelistic sensibility to his non-fiction. The National Post called it "a work of astonishing beauty and power."

What else do I need to know? This book won the Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction in 2000, and was named a Best Book of 1999 by the Globe and Mail. After writing it, Johnston quickly turned his attention back to fiction, however, and his newest novel, A World Elsewhere, was just released in August.



The Book: One Bird's Choice by Iain Reid

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What's it about? Overeducated and underemployed, 20-something Iain Reid moves back in with his parents when he gets a part-time job near their hobby farm. Hilarity ensues.

Did the critics like it? Yes. Reid's wry and self-deprecating sense of humour was much appreciated by Maclean's magazine.

What else do I need to know?You can follow Reid on Twitter. And for help visualizing Reid's life on the farm, check out this book trailer, which features some irresistible photos of skeptical-looking chickens. Can we move in with Reid's parents too?





The Book: The Film Club by David Gilmour

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What's it about? When David Gilmour's 16-year-old son starts floundering in school, Gilmour lets him drop out and live at home, on the condition that father and son watch three movies together per week and discuss them in depth.

Did the critics like it? Yep  Quill and Quire's main criticism was that it left them wanting more.

What else do I need to know? Don't confuse the author and broadcaster who wrote this book with the British rocker of the same name. Our Gilmour is also an acclaimed and award-winning novelist. You can watch a video about his child-rearing experiment here.



The Book: Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner

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What's it about? Psychologist Catherine Gildiner's bestselling memoir of her precocious 1950s girlhood captures the quirks and characters of Lewiston, New York (yes, that would be the American side of the Falls, although Gildiner has lived in Toronto for years now). And Gildiner isn't shy to admit when one of those quirky characters is herself.

Did the critics like it? Too Close to the Falls won rave reviews across the board when it was first published in 2000. Readers loved it too: it set a record by staying on the Globe and Mail bestsellers list for 104 weeks.

What else do I need to know? The book's popularity warranted a sequel, After the Falls, which was published in 2010 to similarly positive reviews. You can also follow Gildiner on Twitter.



The Book: Who Killed Mom? by Steve Burgess

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What's it about? Don't let the title fool you, Burgess's darkly comic memoir isn't a murder mystery. Instead, it's about growing up in Brandon, Manitoba, with four siblings and their beloved, if frequently sickly, mother.

Did the critics like it? Yes. The Globe and Mail even compared him to Garrison Keillor. The Winnipeg Free Press is also a fan.

What else do I need to know? Burgess is on Twitter, talking a pretty big game to get his book into the Top 10.








You can vote for these titles (or any of the other 35 books) in our Canada Reads: True Stories vote for the Top 10 contest! To cast your vote, head over to the poll. You can vote for up to five titles. Doing so will help these books move one step closer to being officially entered in this year's battle of the books.


The Canada Reads: True Stories Top 10 will be revealed on Tuesday, November 1, on Q and right here on CBC Books.

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