Books

16 compelling true Canadian stories to read in summer 2021

If you love nonfiction, check out one of these great Canadian books!

If you love nonfiction, check out one of these great Canadian books!

This Is Not the End of Me by Dakshana Bascaramurty

This is Not the End of Me is a book by Dakshana Bascaramurty. (McClelland & Stewart, Jenna Marie Wakani)

This Is Not the End of Me is the story of Layton Reid, a young man who lived a life full of adventure and risks — until he was diagnosed with cancer. He changed his life, got married and started a family. And when the cancer returned, Layton did everything he could to find a cure, including risky alternative therapies. Eventually, he comes to terms with the fact that his life is going to end sooner than he'd like and focuses on making sure his young son is ready for life without his father. 

Dakshana Bascaramurty is a reporter for the Globe and Mail. Her work has also appeared in the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and on CBC. This Is Not the End of Me is her first book.

When Globe and Mail reporter Dakshana Bascaramurty hired Layton Reid as a wedding photographer, she didn't expect him to become a friend. She also never thought she would document his battle with cancer, the end of his life and the impact on the young family he left behind. She and Reid's wife, Candace Weaver, discuss their journey and Bascaramurty's new book, This Is Not The End of Me: Lessons on Living from a Dying Man. 23:33

The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager

The Smallest Lights in the Universe is a book by Sara Seager. (Doubleday Canada, Justin Knight)

Sara Seager is an astronomer and planetary scientist, who was balancing a fulfilling and demanding career with raising a young family. But when her husband died unexpectedly, leaving her to raise their two children alone, she struggled with her grief, with handling the day-to-day tasks involved in managing a family and with her Asperger's. Her memoir The Smallest Lights in the Universe blends this story with Seager's professional work, searching for other worlds and planets in outer space.

Seager is originally from Toronto and currently teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was a MacArthur Fellow in 2013. She is also the author of the academic books Exoplanet Atmospheres: Physical Processes and Exoplanets.

Exploring the galaxy for exoplanets that have the ability to support life is the least complicated part of Sara Seager's life. The Canadian astrophysicist and MIT planetary scientist explores her complicated childhood, the untimely death of her husband and raising two young boys all while searching the stars in her new memoir: The Smallest Lights in the Universe. 40:15

Northern Light by Kazim Ali

Northern Light is a book by Kazim Ali. (Goose Lane Editions)

Kazim Ali was the child of South Asian immigrants, who unexpectedly spent years of his childhood in the small Manitoba town of Jenpeg, a town that existed because of the hydroelectric dam nearby. As an adult, he found himself wondering about the town — did it still even exist? And if it did, what was it like? These questions sent him on a journey, one that looked at the environmental destruction the dam caused, and the local Pimicikamak community that fought against it. Northern Light is Ali's story, the story of the Pimicikamak community and the story of a town that no longer exists.

Ali is an academic, poet and writer who currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego. His poetry collections include Sky Ward and The Far Mosque. Northern Light is his first work of nonfiction.

American poet and author Kazim Ali joins Marjorie Dowhos on Radio Noon to speak about his new book, "Northern Light: Power, Land and the Memory of Water", centred around his time living in Jenpeg, Manitoba. The town, located about 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg, was established as a temporary community, where Manitoba Hydro workers and their families lived when a nearby dam was being constructed in the 1970's. Ali is reflects on what it was like to grow up in Jenpeg, and why he wanted to revisit it after all these years. 8:35

Peyakow by Darrel J. McLeod

Peyakow is a book by Darrel J. McLeod. (Douglas & McIntyre, Ilja Herb)

Peyakow is a follow-up to Darrel J. McLeod's memoir Mamaskatch. The title is the Cree word for "one who walks alone." Peyakow tells the story of his childhood and youth. He was bullied by white classmates, lived in poverty, endured physical and sexual abuse and lost several people he loved. But the story is one of love and triumph, as McLeod goes on to become a teacher, the First Nations' delegate to the UN and an executive in the Canadian government. 

McLeod is a Cree writer from Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. Before his retirement, McLeod was chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. His first book was the memoir Mamaskatchwhich won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction

Darrel J. McLeod talks to Shelagh Rogers on Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity 12:57

My Mother's Daughter by Perdita Felicien

Canadian track star Perdita Felicien, author of a new memoir about her and her mother's connected triumphs in the face of adversity. (Composite Image CBC sports, Author photo CP)

Perdita Felicien's mom Catherine was a poor young woman in St. Lucia when she was given a seemingly random, but ultimately life-changing, opportunity: to come to Canada with a wealthy white family and become their nanny. But when she gets to Canada, life is tougher than she expected, as she endures poverty, domestic violence and even homelessness. However, she still encouraged and supported her youngest daughter's athletic dreams. Felicien would go on to be a world-class hurdler and one of Canada's greatest track athletes. My Mother's Daughter is the story of these two women, and how their love for each other got them through difficult times and changed their lives.

Felicien is a 10-time national champion, a two-time Olympian and became the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal at a world championships. She now works as a sports broadcaster and was part of CBC's team covering the Olympics. My Mother's Daughter is her first book.

Perdita Felicien draws strength from the hurdles her mother faced

10 months ago
Duration 9:12
Perdita Felicien is one of Canada’s most decorated female track athletes, but her memoir focuses on the hurdles her mother faced and how that became her inspiration. 9:12

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

The Bomber Mafia is a book by Malcolm Gladwell. (Celeste Solomon, Little, Brown & Company)

The Bomber Mafia is an exploration of the relationship between technology and ideology and how they come together during times of war. Malcolm Gladwell uses a range of anecdotes and stories to examine how societal structures shape human behaviour, decision-making and the spread of ideas. The Bomber Mafia looks at the deadliest night during the Second World War, and how it was caused by the collision of different approaches and beliefs about air bombing. The book builds on themes that Gladwell explored in a 2020 episode of his podcast, Revisionist History.

Gladwell is a bestselling author, journalist and staff writer at the New Yorker. His books include The Tipping PointBlinkOutliersWhat the Dog Saw and David and GoliathHis previous book, Talking to Strangerswas one of the top 10 bestselling Canadian books of 2019.

The firebombing of Tokyo was one of the single most destructive nights of the Second World War. But before that mission, Malcolm Gladwell says there were efforts to fight less deadly wars, and to end them faster with precision bombing. Gladwell explores those efforts in his new book, The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War. 23:13

Driven by Marcello Di Cintio

In Driven: The Secret Lives of Taxi Drivers, Di Cintio unearths the tales of a handful of Canadian cabbies, and he hears the stories you may miss if you don't pay attention. (James May, Biblioasis)

Marcello Di Cintio explores the role of the taxi cab in contemporary culture in DrivenTaxis are both public and private space, and their small dimensions mean strangers share an intimate closeness during the duration of a trip. Di Cintio interviews several taxi drivers from different backgrounds, and attempts to make sense of the role cabs play in our culture, while also shedding light on those who drive them, often silently and anonymously.

Di Cintio is a writer from Calgary. His other books include Walls and Pay No Heed to the Rockets. Walls won the 2013 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. His work can also be found in the International New York Times, Afar and Canadian Geographic. 

In 'Driven: The Secret Lives of Taxi Drivers', Marcello Di Cintio unearths the tales of a handful of Canadian cabbies, and he hears the stories you may miss if you don't pay attention. 22:53

Seconds Out by Alison Dean

Seconds Out is a book by Alison Dean. (Coach House Books)

Alison Dean is an academic and a boxer. In Seconds Out, she combines research, her lived experience and interviews to explore the world of women fighters. The book looks at how women are changing the sport, but it also explores how the sport changes the way women view themselves and their bodies.

Dean is a writer, educator and academic who currently lives in California. She competes in boxing and kickboxing. Seconds Out is her first book.

Measuring Up by Dan Robson

Sportswriter Dan Robson is the author of Measuring Up: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons. (Thomas Skrlj)

Sportswriter Dan Robson always admired his father — a loving blue-collar man who worked hard and knew how to fix things. When his father dies, Dan is hit hard. He not only misses his father, he realizes there is so much he never learned from him. So he decides to learn all the skills his father had — plumbing carpentry, basic electrical work and more. Measuring Up is the story of Dan's father, their relationship, and how Dan found ways to keep his father's memory alive.

Robson is the author of Quinn: The Life of a Hockey Legend, and the co-author of The Crazy Game with Clint Malarchuk, Change Up with Buck Martinez and Killer with Doug Gilmour. He is currently a senior writer at The Athletic.

Journalist Dan Robson explores what it means to lose a parent in his new memoir, Measuring Up. 24:36

Nishga by Jordan Abel

Nishga is a book by Jordan Abel. (McClelland & Stewart, Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Nishga is a memoir by Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel. In it, Abel grapples with his identity as a Nisga'a writer, with being an intergenerational residential school survivor and with his own Indigenous identity while consistently being asked to represent Nisga'a language and culture. Blending memoir, transcriptions and photography, Nishga is an exploration of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person and how both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people engage with the legacy of colonial violence and racism.

Abel is a Nisga'a writer from British Columbia. He is the author of the poetry collections The Place of ScrapsUn/inhabited and Injun. In 2017, he won the Griffin Poetry Prize for Injun.

Jordan Abel wants you to know that you don't have to read his new autobiographical book Nishga if you're not ready. The subject matter — residential schools, dispossession and intergenerational trauma — might be too much to handle. But he hopes that readers will find it when they need it. 28:36

Call Me Indian by Fred Sasakamoose

First treaty Indigenous NHL player's memoir publishes May 18th 2021 (Author photo: Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs Inc. composite image CBC sports)

Fred Sasakamoose was the first Indigenous hockey player with Treaty status to play in the NHL. He was sent to residential school when he was seven years old, and endured that horror for a decade. But he became an elite hockey player, joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 1954. He only played 12 games in the NHL, but the legacy he left would have a huge impact for decades to come. He became an activist, dedicated to improving the lives of Indigenous people through sport. He shares his story in the memoir Call Me Indian.

Sasakamoose was a member of the NHL Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada. He died in 2020.

Tributes have been pouring in for former Chicago Blackhawks player Fred Sasakmoose, one of the first Indigenous athletes to play in the NHL. Sasakamoose died Tuesday after being hospitalized with COVID-19. Waubgeshig Rice spoke with Day 6 about what the hockey legend means to Indigenous players today. 8:55

Through the Garden by Lorna Crozier

Lorna Crozier is the author of Through the Garden. (Lorna Crozier, McClelland & Stewart)

Lorna Crozier is one of Canada's most beloved and accomplished poets, as was her long-time partner, Patrick Lane. They met in 1976 and built a life together, publishing more than 40 books between them along the way. But in 2017, Lane became ill and their lives changed forever, and eventually Lane died in 2019. Crozier writes about their relationship, their personal and creative partnership, and comes to terms with her grief, in the memoir Through the Garden.

Crozier is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet who has written more than 15 books. Her poetry collections include The House the Spirit BuildsGod of Shadows and What the Soul Doesn't Want.

Lorna Crozier on Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats), is a book that explores the 40 year love affair between Lorna and writer Patrick Lane. 17:20

How to Lose Everything by Christa Couture

How to Lose Everything is a book by Christa Couture. (Douglas & McIntyre, Jen Squires)

Christa Couture has lost a lot over the course of her life: her leg was amputated, her first child died when he was one-day old, her second child died as a baby after a heart transplant, her marriage ended in divorce and a thyroidectomy threatened her music career. But through it all, she has found hope, joy and love and maintains a perspective filled with compassion and understanding. She shares her journey, and what she's learned along the way, in her memoir, How to Lose Everything.

Couture is a writer, musician and broadcaster who is currently based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in CBC Arts and CBC Parents and she has been a columnist on CBC Radio's The Next ChapterHow to Lose Everything is her first book.

Singer-songwriter Christa Couture shares the journey of writing her memoir How to Lose Everything. 18:32

Black Water by David A. Robertson

David A. Robertson is the author of Black Water. (Amber Green, HarperCollins Publishers)

David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation, but grew up not knowing much about his Indigenous heritage. His father, Don, grew up on the trapline in northeast Manitoba, but lost his connection to his Indigenous roots, language and culture after his family was moved to a reserve, and Don wasn't allowed to speak Cree at school. David decides to go traplining with his father as an adult, as a way to connect to his own Cree heritage and the land, but to also better understand his father. Black Water is the story of these journeys: a father and son heading into the wilderness, and of a son connecting with his father, but also with heritage and, ultimately, himself.

David A. Robertson is an author and graphic novelist based in Winnipeg. The multi-talented writer of Swampy Cree heritage has published 28 books across a variety of genres. His picture books include his latest On the Trapline and the Governor General's Literary Award-winning When We Were Alone, both illustrated by Julia Flett. He is also the author of the graphic novel Breakdown, the middle-grade series The Barren Grounds and the memoir Black Water, which won two 2021 Manitoba Book Awards. Robertson is the winner of the 2021 Freedom to Read Award. He was also the host of the CBC Edmonton podcast Kiwew.

Cree author David A. Robertson joined Tom Power last fall to talk about his first memoir, Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory, in which he ventures into some of the most personal storytelling of his career. 18:52

Missing from the Village by Justin Ling

Missing from the Village is a book by Justin Ling. (McClelland & Stewart, CBC)

Missing from the Village is the story of serial killer Bruce MacArthur, and the eight men he killed over nearly a decade in Toronto's gay village. When the cases of three men who went missing in 2013 — Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan — were left unsolved, journalist Justin Ling decided to investigate, believing the cases could be linked. What unfolded was a tragic story about a serial killer going undetected, a police investigation that failed, and about a community on edge and left to grieve when Bruce MacArthur was finally arrested in 2018, and his horrendous crimes became public.

Ling is an investigative journalist from Toronto. He hosted the CBC podcast Uncover: The Village, which is also about his work on the Bruce MacArthur case. Missing from the Village is his first book.

Journalist Justin Ling has spent more than five years investigating the murders of eight men by Bruce McArthur, as well as cold cases from the 1970s that were reopened as a result of the McArthur investigation. The result is Ling's new book, Missing from the Village. In it, he says that police failure, homophobia and racism — as well as failings in the LGBTQ community itself — kept this case from being solved sooner. 10:18

Saga Boy by Antonio Michael Downing

Saga Boy is a book by Antonio Michael Downing. (Viking)

Musician and writer Antonio Michael Downing shares his story in the memoir Saga BoyDowning was born in Trinidad and raised there by his grandmother until he was 11 years old — after she dies, he is sent to rural Ontario to live with a strict aunt. There, Downing and his brother are the only Black kids in town. Creative and inquisitive, Downing tries to find himself and escape his difficult home life by imagining different personas. But when he hits rock bottom, and finds himself in jail, he knows it is time to build a life for himself, for real, and to embrace his heritage instead of trying to escape it.

Downing is a musician, writer and activist who now lives in Toronto. He published his first book, the novel Molasses, in 2010. In 2017, he was named one of five writers to participate in the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Mentorship Program.

Antonio Michael Downing, also known as John Orpheus, has just released a memoir, Saga Boy, and a companion album, Saga King. The singer and writer joined guest host Jael Richardson to talk about these new releases and how they were inspired by his childhood immigrant journey from Trinidad to Toronto. 21:35

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