10 for the Top 10: Margaret MacMillan

The panelists are in the process of deciding which book they want to bring into the ring for the February debates. We'll reveal who they are — and the titles they choose — on November 23 on CBC Radio's Q and right here on CBC Books.

In the meantime, we want to introduce you to the 10 authors you voted onto the Canada Reads: True Stories Top 10 list.

First up, Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World.


Margaret MacMillan is the warden of St Antony's College and a professor of international history at the University of Oxford; she is also a professor of history at the University of Toronto. Her other books include Women of the Raj, Nixon in China: The Week That Changed the World and, most recently, The Uses and Abuses of History.

Q: In three lines or less, describe your book to Canada.

MM: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 shaped, for better or worse, the modern world. It settled many issues and left others to be resolved later by war, revolution or peaceful change.

Q: What inspired your book?

MM: Sheer amazement at the number of interesting people who came together in Paris at the end of World War I and the realization that they were grappling with so many of the issues and problems that went on mattering.

Q: What do you most enjoy about writing non-fiction?

MM: Gathering the evidence and trying to make sense of it. It is like doing a puzzle.

Q: What are the biggest challenges?

MM: Too much material or not enough. And you can't make anything up.

Q: What makes you fall in love with a non-fiction book?

MM: The match of a fascinating subject with a great writer.

Q: Where do you write?

MM: In very untidy rooms with books everywhere, including on the floor.

Q: Where are your favourite places to read?

MM: At home, lying flat on my sofa or in bed. Outside, on long airplane flights where no one bothers me except to bring me food and a drink every so often.

Q: Is there a non-fiction book that had a great influence on your writing?

MM: Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August.

Q: What did you want to be growing up? Why?

MM: A figure skater. Every Canadian girl of my generation did.

Q: What's your guilty pleasure when you take a break from writing?

MM: Watching old movies on television.

Q: If you could pick any Canadian personality to defend your book, who would it be and why?

MM: Paul Martin Jr. because he understands about international negotiations and how politics and personalities affect them.

Do you agree with Margaret that Paul Martin should defend her book? Enter our "perfect pairings" contest for a chance to win a complete set of the Canada Reads: True Stories Top 10!

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