Books of the Year

The best Canadian nonfiction of 2017

What were the best books published this year? Here are the top 10 Canadian works of nonfiction.

What were the best books published this year? Here are CBC Books' picks for top 10 Canadian works of nonfiction.

Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose

Durga Chew-Bose is the author of Too Much and Not the Mood. (Carrie Cheek/HarperCollins Publishers)

Too Much and Not the Mood is the debut collection of personal essays from Montreal-born and Brooklyn-based writer Durga Chew-Bose. The book, inspired by a 1931 Virginia Woolf diary entry, examines issues regarding identity, culture and the intricate process of writing. It shows even more readers why Chew-Bose has become one of the most respected and popular writers online today.

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

Scaachi Koul is the author of One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. (Doubleday Canada/Barbora Simkova)

In this essay collection, writer Scaachi Koul shares her observations, fears and experiences as a woman of colour growing up in Canada. Koul's essays are a mix of personal anecdotes and cultural critique, all tinged with a sharp, often self-deprecating, humour. Featuring Twitter trolls, knuckle hair and more, the BuzzFeed writer's debut book is a winning combination of funny and thoughtful. 

Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear

Kyo Maclear is the author of Birds Art Life. (Doubleday Canada/Diaspora Dialogues)

Kyo Maclear spent a year shadowing the adventures of an avid birdwatcher in Toronto. She documents their journey in Birds Art Life and explores the intangible connections between nature, creativity and well-being. The memoir was a finalist for the 2017 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Life on the Ground Floor by James Maskalyk

James Maskalyk is the physician and author of memoir Life on the Ground Floor. (Penguin Random House/Michael Banasiak)

James Maskalyk practices emergency medicine and trauma at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital. His memoir, Life on the Ground Floor, chronicles his career treating patients in emergency rooms around the world, including in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Bolivia. Life on the Ground Floor won the 2017 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

All We Leave Behind by Carol Off

Carol Off is the host of CBC's As It Happens and author of All We Leave Behind. (CBC)

All We Leave Behind is a memoir that outlines CBC Radio host Carol Off's efforts to help bring an Afghan man and his family to Canada. In 2002, Off and a television crew filmed Asad Aryubwal for a documentary about local warlords. Aryubwal was threatened with violence after speaking out and reached out to Off to help protect his family. She spent years trying to bring them to safety in Canada. The book is on the shortlist for the B.C. National Book Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

Collected Tarts and Other Indelicacies by Tabatha Southey

Tabatha Southey is a columnist at Maclean's. (Basil Southey/Douglas & McIntyre)

Tabatha Southey brings a satirical eye to all things Canadiana, pop culture and politics in this collection. From bemoaning a potential dystopic future led by Trump's United States to facing the anger of jazz enthusiasts, the national newspaper and magazine columnist tackles all subjects with wit and wisdom.

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga

Tanya Talaga highlights the lives of seven Indigenous students in Seven Fallen Feathers. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star/House of Anansi)

In Seven Fallen FeathersTanya Talaga honours the lives of seven Indigenous students who died between 2000 and 2011. Jordan Wabasse, Kyle Morrisseau, Curran Strang, Robyn Harper, Paul Panacheese, Reggie Bushie and Jethro Anderson were all forced to live hundreds of kilometres away from their families to attend school. Talaga investigates the history of racism in this northern Ontario town and tries to understand what happened to the seven teenagers who lost their lives there.

What Remains by Karen von Hahn

Karen von Hahn is the author of What Remains: Object Lessons in Love and Loss. (karenvonhahn.com/House of Anansi)

Pearls, perfume and silver satin sofas are among the objects that remind Karen von Hahn of her stylish and glamorous mother, Susan. But it wasn't until after Susan died that von Hahn realized these objects tell a story. In her memoir, What Remains, the lifestyle columnist reflects on what it was like to grow up in Toronto during the 1970s alongside her larger-than-life mother through treasures left behind.

Beautiful Scars by Tom Wilson

Beautiful Scars is the long-awaited memoir from Hamilton-born rock musician Tom Wilson. (Doubleday Canada)

Tom Wilson grew up in Hamilton to parents Bunny and George and rose to fame in the band Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. At the age of 53, Wilson's life was upended when he discovered that his parents were really his great-aunt and uncle and the couple he visited on Kahnawake reserve growing up were his grandparents. In this moving and beautifully written memoir, Wilson describes the journey of discovering and returning to his Mohawk roots.

The Way of the Strangers by Graeme Wood

In The Way of the Strangers, Graeme Wood speaks to ISIS supporters and investigates its origins. (Twitter/Random House Publishing Group)

In The Way of the Strangers, journalist Graeme Wood interviews supporters, recruiters and sympathizers of ISIS from all over the world, including followers from Egypt, Australia, Great Britain and the Philippines. Wood also meets with Muslim scholars, outspoken critics of ISIS, and investigates where the tenets of ISIS come from, how it might be dismantled and what its defeat might mean for the world.

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