Get to know the Top 40: Science and Nature


True Stories frequently heed the call of the wild, so our Canada Reads: True Stories Top 40 list just wouldn't be complete without a healthy dose of the natural world. John Vaillant does double duty, writing about both a majestic tree and a majestic jungle cat in two different books. Andrew Westoll has chimps covered, Brian Brett writes about the darker side of life on a farm, and Grant Lawrence looks to a remote cabin by the sea.

The Book: Adventures in Solitude by Grant Lawrence


What's it about?This first book by CBC Radio personality Grant Lawrence is a hilarious account of summer childhoods spent being dragged kicking and screaming to a remote family cabin...only to realize in adulthood that the place makes great fodder for a book deal.

Did the critics like it? Yes, and so did a couple of rock stars: Lawrence scored positive blurbs from the likes of Dave Bidini (another Canada Reads: True Stories contender) and Sloan's Chris Murphy.

What else do I need to know? Nepotism alert! Grant Lawrence is a daily host for CBC Radio 3. Seriously, though, that isn't why his book made the Top 40. You can also follow him on Twitter.

The Book: The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll


What's it about? Journalist and former primatologist Andrew Westoll spent months volunteering at the Fauna Sanctuary, getting to know and earning the trust of a group of chimpanzees who had been rescued from an animal testing facility. His book is a moving account of how the chimps overcome the trauma they experienced at the hands of humans and learn to become chimps again.

Did the critics like it? Did they ever. Westoll's fans include folks as illustrious as Dr. Jane Goodall! Even better, most of them recognized The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary as not just a powerful read, but as an important book that has the potential to inspire readers to petition to ban lab testing on great apes in the United States, one of the last countries to allow it.

What else do I need to know? You can follow Westoll on Twitter, support ape sanctuaries, and watch this devastating video of chimps behind bars.

The Book: The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant


What's it about? A man swims across British Columbia's Yakoun River in the dead of winter carrying a chainsaw, intent on cutting down the rare golden spruce tree. John Vaillant's book explores the cultural and natural importance of Haida Gwaii, BC's golden spruce, a genetic anomaly whose needles are bright yellow instead of deep green. He also examines the life of the unstable Grant Hadwin, a remote scout for a timber company who was tormented by the paradox that his job led to the destruction of the natural world he loved.

Did the critics like it? Loved it, more like. Vaillant's first book was praised by everyone from the Georgia Straight to the New York Times for being both a "gripping wilderness thriller" and an important primer on the politics of clearcutting.

What else do I need to know? The Golden Spruce won both the Governor General's Award for non-fiction and the Writer's Trust Award when it was first published in 2005.

The Book: The Tiger by John Vaillant


What's it about? A man-eating tiger is on the prowl in Russia! Really. Vaillant recounts this true story of a small, poverty-stricken village and the vicious Siberian tiger with a personal vendetta against the village poachers. It's a gripping thriller about the delicate relationship between two fierce predators: humans and tigers.

Did the critics like it? Indeed. The Tiger has been garnering raves since it first came out in August of last year. The book has even piqued the interest of Hollywood -- rumour has it that Brad Pitt has purchased the film rights to Vaillant's book.

What else do I need to know? Vaillant's only written two books, and they both made it to the Top 40! The Tiger  was inspired by Conflict Tiger, a 2005 documentary by filmmaker Sasha Snow (whose next project, apparently, is in turn inspired by Vaillant's first book, The Golden Spruce).

The Book: Trauma Farm by Brian Brett


What's it about? Brett's memoir about life on a small farm on Saltspring Island offers darkly funny observations as well as clear-eyed joy about rural life.

Did the critics like it? Yes. Brett's mix of humour and the simple beauty of farm life was extremely well received, and more than one publication called it one of the best books of 2009.

What else do I need to know? Trauma Farm won multiple awards (and was nominated for even more), including the 2009 Writer's Trust Prize for non-fiction.


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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