Books·Holiday Gift Guide

11 books for the history buff on your list

Here are 11 fiction and nonfiction books about the past that make excellent presents.

Have a history fan on your gift list? Here are 11 fiction and nonfiction books about the past that make excellent presents.

You can see the complete CBC Books gift guide here.

A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts

Adam Shoalts has been called one of Canada's greatest living explorers. (Penguin Random House/Alexia Wiatr)

​What it's about: ​Historian, archaeologist and geographer Adam Shoalts has been called one of Canada's greatest living explorers. His latest book, A History Of Canada in Ten Maps, is a researched look at ancient cartography and archaeology to document how the land we call Canada was shaped. The book is on the longlist for the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize.

Minds of Winter by Ed O'Loughlin

Minds of Winter by Ed O'Loughlin is on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. (Nuala Haughey/Anansi)

​What it's about: Minds of Winter, a finalist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize, represents a mix of historical fact and fiction with a bit of the metaphysical thrown in for good measure. The novel is inspired by Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 1845 Arctic expedition, but also weaves in fictional extrapolations of the thoughts and motivations of other notable Arctic explorers, with vivid depictions of the Canadian north. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is the author of Sing, Unburied, Sing. (Beowulf Sheehan, Simon & Schuster Canada)

​What it's about: Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing, a surreal and poetic novel about a struggling family in Mississippi, won the U.S.-based National Book Award for fiction in 2017. This tale about rural 21st century America is an unflinching look at race, family and power on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. 

Yardwork by Daniel Coleman

Daniel Coleman is a professor and author. (Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd.)

What it's about: When Daniel Coleman decided to move to Hamilton, Ont. — one of Canada's most polluted cities at the time — it started a process of learning more about the history of his newfound home. Using creation myths and geology as a starting point, Coleman looks at the history of the region, through the European settler era and up to the present. Yardwork meditates on the sedimentary layers of ecological, cultural and history stories that make up Hamilton and the wider Niagara Escarpment region in Ontario. 

Strangers with the Same Dream by Alison Pick

Alison Pick's novel Far to Go was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Strangers with the Same Dream is her third novel and seventh book. (Emma Lee/Penguin Random House Canada)

What it's about: Toronto-based Alison Pick's novel Strangers with the Same Dream transports readers to Palestine in the 1920s, where a group of young Jewish pioneers set out to realize a utopian dream — the founding of a kibbutz, or collective community, in the Middle East region now known as Israel.

Black and British by David Olusoga

David Olusoga is a historian and author. (MacMillan)

​What it's about: In Black and British, historian David Olusoga explores the relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. Olusoga looks at original records, genetics and genealogical research and talks to experts to shine a light on a complex history that dates back to Roman Britain.

The Three Pleasures by Terry Watada

Terry Watada is a Toronto-based writer, professor and author. (Tane Akamatsu)

​What it's about: Terry Watada's novel is set in 1940s British Columbia and revolves around a dark period in Canada's history. The Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbour and racial tension is building in Vancouver. The RCMP are rounding up "suspicious" young men, and fishing boats and property are soon seized from Steveston fishers. The story is told through three main characters in the Japanese community: Watanabe Etsuo, Morii Etsuji and Etsu Kaga — the Three Pleasures.

The Long Way Home by John DeMont

John DeMont is an award-winning journalist and author based in Nova Scotia. (McClelland & Stewart)

​What it's about: Journalist John DeMont's memoir explores the deep history and heritage of Nova Scotia. The Long Way Home examines the veteran journalist's personal relationship and historical connections to the Maritime province. The book touches on the original Mi'kmaq inhabitants, the first European colonists and the many cultures and peoples that make up what the province looks like today. 

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

Ken Follett is a bestselling author. (Wikimedia Commons/Viking)

​​What it's about: The latest novel from bestselling author Ken Follett is an epic story of a 16th century England torn apart by power struggles and religious conflict. Against this historical backdrop, A Column of Fire follows young Ned Willard and Margery Fitzgerald, lovers who find themselves on opposite sides of the raging conflict.

Arrival: The Story of CanLit by Nick Mount

Nick mount is the author of Arrival: The Story of CanLit. (N. Maxwell Lander/House of Anansi)

What it's about: Nick Mount's nonfiction book looks at the rise of Canadian literature in the 1960s and 1970s. While Canadian books were once thought of as "boring," with Arrival, Mount provides evidence that CanLit has established itself as ranking among the best literary writing in the world. 

Dazzle Patterns by Alison Watt

Alison Watt is a Vancouver-based painter and author of Dazzle Patterns. (Freehand Books)

​What it's about: Dec. 6, 2017 marks 100 years since the Halifax Explosion. British Columbia-based author, teacher and poet Alison Watt's first novel, Dazzle Patterns, is a fictionalized account of a year in the life of three young people in a love triangle trying to deal with life in the aftermath of the explosion.


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