Books·Holiday Gift Guide

14 books for the history buff on your holiday gift list

Need a gift idea for someone who loves history? We have 14 suggestions for you.

Need a gift idea for someone who loves history? We have 14 suggestions for you.

Rush to Danger by Ted Barris

Rush to Danger is a nonfiction book by Ted Barris. (Submitted by Ted Barris, HarperCollins Canada)

Military historian Ted Barris has written 20 books, including the bestsellers Juno and Dam Bustersand half of them have focused on Canadian men and women in wartime. His latest book, Rush to Danger, shows the efforts of medical personnel on the bloody battlefields of Europe. Rush to Danger was inspired by the experience of his father, Alex Barris, as a medic in the Second World War. 

They Call Me George by Cecil Foster

Cecil Foster is a Canadian novelist, essayist, journalist and scholar. (Sharon Beckford-Foster/Michael Vrana & Biblioasis)

At the beginning of the 20th century, being a train porter in Canada was a job reserved for black men only. Cecil Foster documents this underreported piece of Canadian history in the nonfiction book They Call Me George. The tiring, thankless and low-paying job — that consisted of hauling luggage, folding down beds, shining shoes and serving passengers— forced these men to be separated from their families as they travelled the country. They Call Me George documents how one man, Stanley Grizzle, went from being a porter to leading a movement and eventually receiving the Order of Canada.

Foster is an academic and author who currently teaches at the University of Buffalo.

Remnants of Partition by Aanchal Malhotra

Aanchal Malhotra is the author of Remnants of Partition. (Hurst Publishers; Aashna Malhotra)

In 1947, after independence from Britain, the creation of Pakistan, and an explosion of sectarian violence, 14 million people were forced to leave their homes. More than a million died. New Delhi-based artist and oral historian Aanchal Malhotra interviewed survivors of Partition, including her own relatives, about the physical objects they brought with them in 1947 and the stories those objects tell for her book Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided.

One Day by Gene Weingarten

Gene Weingarten's new book One Day tells weaves together the incredible stories behind the headlines from Dec. 28, 1986 — an insignificant date he plucked from a hat. (Sheena Goodyear/CBC)

Washington Post reporter Gene Weingarten has a mantra: if you've got the patience to find it, and the skill to tell it, there's a story behind everyone and everything. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has now applied that reporting stunt to his book One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America. The idea was simple: pull a random date out of a hat and find as many compelling stories from that day as possible.

This Place: 150 Years Retold

"Some stories were told but not through an Indigenous lens, so this an opportunity for us to share and tell our stories," This Place: 150 Years Retold contributor Brandon Mitchell said. (Logan Perley/CBC)

This Place is an anthology of comics featuring the work of Indigenous creators as they retell the history of Canada of the past 150 years. Elements of fantasy and magical realism are incorporated throughout the book, telling the stories of characters like Jack Fiddler, an Anishinaabe shaman facing murder charges, and Rosie, an Inuk girl growing up during the Second World War. 

The Missing Millionaire by Katie Daubs

Katie Daubs is a Toronto Star reporter and writer. Her new book The Missing Millionaire traces the disappearance of wealthy man Ambrose Smalls in Toronto in 1919. (Penguin Random House, Richard Lautens)

On Dec. 2, 1919, the wealthy theatre impresario Ambrose Small left his home in the Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto, went to the barber for a shave, met his wife and then went to the bank and deposited a cheque for a million dollars. He had a quick meeting with his lawyer. That was the last anyone ever saw of him. In her new book, The Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed With Finding Him, Katie Daubs tells a whodunit story rife with accusations and curious coincidences. 

Daubs is a feature writer with the Toronto Star. The Missing Millionaire is her first book.

Bush Runner by Mark Bourrie

Bush Runner is a nonfiction book by Mark Bourrie. (Douglas & McIntyre, Biblioasis)

Bush Runner is the story of explorer and Hudson Bay Company founder Pierre-Esprit Radisson. Radisson's life is remarkable: he was kidnapped by Mohawk warriors, witnessed London's great plague and great fire, survived a shipwreck, was marooned with pirates and proved to be a shrewd adventurer, trader and businessperson. 

Bourrie is a historian, journalist and university lecturer who has written several books about history.

The Wake by Linden MacIntyre

The Wake is a nonfiction book by Linden MacIntyre. (Sinisa Jolic/CBC)

Linden MacIntyre is an award-winning journalist and novelist who previously worked for the CBC. He was born near a small Newfoundland village called St. Lawrence, a community that was almost wiped out by a tsunami in 1929. Twenty-eight people died in that tsunami, hundreds more were injured or left homeless and the town would never be the same again. After transitioning from fishing to mining, it was later discovered that the town's underground mine was radioactive and killed hundreds of miners. The Wake tells the story of how one wave changed everything for an entire community.

MacIntyre is also the author of The Bishop's Man, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2009.

The North-West Is Our Mother by Jean Teillet

The North-West Is Our Mother is a nonfiction book by Jean Teillet. (Ed Henderson, HarperCollins Canada)

The North-West Is Our Mother is a history of the Métis Nation. It begins in the early 1800s, when the Métis became known as fierce nomadic hunters, and continues to the late 19th-century resistance led by Riel to reclaim the land stolen from them, all the way to present day as they fight for reconciliation and decolonization. 

Jean Teillet is a lawyer, Métis expert and the great-grandniece of Louis Riel.

The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard

The Mosquito is a nonfiction book by Timothy C. Winegard. (Rylie E. Vavra, Allen Lane)

If you had to choose humanity's greatest natural predator, would you pick sharks? Maybe lions, or bears — or even other humans? According to Timothy C. Winegard, it's actually that winged terror — the mosquito. In his book, The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, he argues that the mosquito — and the diseases it carries — has played a remarkable role in shaping our own development, from the birth of the gin and tonic, to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Winegard is a professor of history and political science at Colorado Mesa University.

Superior by Angela Saini

Superior is a nonfiction book about race science by science journalist Angela Saini. (Beacon Press, Henrietta Garden)

In Superior: The Return of Race ScienceAngela Saini traces the history of race science back to the Age of Enlightenment, when philosophers and European thinkers started to classify human beings based on colour or other superficial features, the same way they classified plants or other animals.

Saini is a British science journalist. Her other books include Geek Nation and Inferior.

Strangers in the House by Candace Savage

Strangers in the House is a nonfiction book by Candace Savage. (Keith Bell, Greystone Books)

When Candace Savage decided to research the first owner of her Saskatchewan home, she did not expect to uncover an entire largely untold Prairie history. The first occupant was Napoléon Sureau dit Blondin, who built the home in the 1920s — a man who hid his French identity and Anglicized his family in order to fit in and be safe. Savage tells this remarkable story in the book Strangers in the House.

Savage's previous book, A Geography of Blood, won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Murdered Midas by Charlotte Gray

Murdered Midas is a nonfiction book by Charlotte Gray. (Valberg Imaging, HarperCollins Canada)

Historian Charlotte Gray explores the "crime of the century" in her latest book ⁠— the 1943 murder of gold mining tycoon Sir Harry Oakes. No one was ever convicted of the crime. Murdered Midas examines the case and trial while also delving into Oakes's personal history, humble upbringing and rise to wealth. 

Gray is a noted historian and a member of the Order of Canada. Her other books include The Massey Murder and Gold Diggers.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger & Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Beker

George Takei's graphic novel called They Called Us Enemy recounts his experiences in a Japanese internment camp. (Submitted, Top Shelf Productions)

George Takei is the actor and activist best known for working alongside William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy on the U.S.S. Enterprise as Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series. Takei's new graphic novel, They Called Us Enemyis an illustrated account of his experiences growing up in camps where Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians were interned by their governments during the Second World War.

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