Truth be told

Fall's non-fiction titles feature all manner of subjects and voices


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/08/2019 (1303 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Diving into the world of a novel offers an opportunity to help us get away from the daily grind of life while simultaneously bringing important insights into the human condition.

But there are plenty of real-life stories to tell that require their own space on the page, hence the continued popularity of non-fiction books — be they collections of essays, reflections on life or examinations of our state of affairs.

What is surprising in this year’s slate of eye-catching fall non-fiction titles is the relative lack of overtly political books slated to hit store shelves. With a federal election looming in Canada later this year and the ongoing, unpredictable developments south of the border, one would expect a bigger bounty of books chronicling all things politics.

Instead, this fall non-fiction readers will be treated to musical memoirs, hockey biographies and important volumes on Indigenous matters, the #MeToo movement and much more, including solitary adventures on Earth and far-flung interstellar insights. Here are 20 of the most note-worthy non-fiction titles coming our way over the next few months.


In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience

By Helen Knott (University of Regina Press, Aug. 24)

Knott, a woman of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, and European descent living in Fort St. John, B.C. (and whose great-great-grandfather, Chief Bigfoot, signed Treaty 8), explores how colonialism has impacted her as well as generations of her family: addiction, sexual violence, generational trauma and more. Knott’s memoir may be small in size, but it’s a powerful exploration of a family, colonialism and the potential for redemption and healing.


Red River Girl: the Life and Death of Tina Fontaine

By Joanna Jolly (Penguin Canada, Aug. 27)

Tina Fontaine’s story is familiar to anyone in Winnipeg who follows the news: in 2014, the 15-year-old’s body was found wrapped in plastic and weighted down with rocks in the Red River. Joanna Jolly, a London-based BBC reporter, offers a unique outside perspective on Fontaine’s troubled upbringing, the trial (and acquittal) of Raymond Cormier, the continued search for justice by Fontaine’s family and much more.


The Wake: The Deadly Legacy of a Newfoundland Tsunami

By Linden MacIntyre (HarperCollins, Aug. 27)

In 1929, a post-earthquake tsunami hit Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, killing 28 people and washing a number of houses out to sea. MacIntyre, a former (and longtime) CBC personality, was born in St. Lawrence, N.L., and his father was a fluorspar miner in the area. Details of the tsunami and the impact it had on the environment, the economy, MacIntyre’s family and others in the region are explored by the author, of numerous novels and non-fiction books.


Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

By Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, Sept. 10)

Sometimes first interactions between people who don’t know each other can be awkward and/or riddled with assumptions. The New York-based Canadian author (Outliers, The Tipping Point), public speaker and podcaster looks at a wide cross-section of initial human interactions can invite conflict, touching on everyone from Bernie Madoff to Sylvia Plath to Jerry Sandusky and beyond.


On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal

By Naomi Klein (Knopf, Sept. 17)

Canadian activist and author Naomi Klein (No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, This Changes Everything) turns her attention back to our environment and the ways in which it is being ravaged by humans. Her exploration of our changing climate visits all corners of the globe, offering a potential path forward to a more sustainable future.



That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea

By Marc Randolph (Little, Brown, Sept. 17)

In 1997, Marc Randolph saw the potential for people to rent movies on the internet — an idea which, in conjunction with business partner Reed Hastings, led to the creation of Netflix. Randolph, the first CEO of the streaming service, offers a unique perspective on the company (which now boasts over 150 million subscribers) as well as his own entrepreneurial tips and tricks.


Coventry: Essays

By Rachel Cusk (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 17)

The Canadian-born, London-based writer, a two-time Giller nominee (Outline, Transit) and memoirist, presents her first collection of essays, touching on her life, other writers (including Elena Ferrante and D.H. Lawrence), gender, politics, cultural criticism and more.



The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care

By Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 17)

Kansas City poet and essayist Anne Boyer (Garments Against Women, My Common Heart) explores concepts of mortality and illness and the ways they are gendered. The book came as a result of her breast cancer diagnosis shortly after her 41st birthday. From cancer vloggers to the pharmaceutical industry and beyond, Boyer’s book also looks at many women writers who have written about their illnesses.


High School

By Tegan and Sara Quin (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 24)

The identical twin singer-songwriters’ memoir chronicles their Calgary childhood in their writing debut which coincides with their new record, Hey I’m Just Like You, a collection of newly recorded songs from their formative years. Written in alternating chapters, in High School the duo recalls the struggles of grappling with their parents’ divorce, their identity, their sexuality and their first foray into music.


Year of the Monkey

By Patti Smith (Knopf, Sept. 24)

The National Book Award winning author (Just Kids) and influential singer-songwriter returns with a new memoir, which details a planned year of solitude that brought loss, questions of aging and a new political climate in the U.S., all of which deeply impacted Smith. Illustrated with Polaroids she took along the way, Year of the Monkey offers Smith’s reflections in her inimitable poetic voice.


Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo?

By Robyn Doolittle (Allen Lane, Sept. 24)

The Toronto-based journalist’s second book (her first, Crazy Town, detailed the life and downfall of Rob Ford) was spawned by her investigation of the mishandling of sexual assault and harassment cases by Canadian police. In Had It Coming she continues the investigation and discussion around powerful abusive men, trauma, consent and more in the #MeToo era.


Truth Be Told: My Journey Through Life and the Law

By Beverley McLachlin (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 24)

The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada offers a window into her path to the bench, which began in the Alberta foothills. A modest upbringing couldn’t hamper her work ethic and sense of justice reinforced by her parents. She would then embark on her journey through the law which culminated in an 18-year career as the country’s top judge (the first woman to do hold the position) and a key rolein ruling on a number of landmark cases.


Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada’s Arctic

By Adam Shoalts (Allen Lane, Oct. 1)

In 2017, Canadian explorer, historian and author Adam Shoalts (Alone Against the North, A History of Canada in Ten Maps) set out on his own on a journey across a vast expanse of northern Canada, traveling thousands of kilometres mainly on foot from the Yukon to Nunavut and chronicling his exploits, the rich natural diversity and the roadblocks he encountered along the way.


The Cure for Hate: A Former White Supremacist’s Journey from Violent Extremism to Radical Compassion

By Tony McAleer (Arsenal Pulp, Oct. 1)

Vancouver’s Tony McAleer details how he went from a comfortable, middle-class private-school childhood to a young man at an Idaho Aryan Nations compound, helping recruit new members for the neo-Nazi hate group — and then the spiritual journey (and therapy) that helped him break from the white power movement and speak out against hatred and extremism.


Face It

By Debbie Harry (Dey Street, Oct. 1)

The Blondie singer’s first memoir blends first-person perspective with interviews with journalist Sylvie Simmons. Face It chronicles Blondie’s early years in New York, their rise to new wave/punk stardom with hits such as Call Me and The Tide is High, the band’s break-up, bankruptcy, Harry’s solo singing and acting career and her political advocacy.



On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey

By Paul Theroux (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 8)

Veteran American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux (The Mosquito Coast, The Great Railway Bazaar) immerses himself in local Mexican culture in and around the town of Nogales near the Mexico-U.S. border — a town filled with deportees, cultural tension and apprehension about the 40-foot steel fence that snakes through the town’s centre.


The Grim Reaper: The Life and Career of a Reluctant Warrior

By Stu Grimson with Kevin Allen (Viking, Oct. 15)

From 1989 to 2002, B.C.’s Stu Grimson was one of the most feared hockey players in the NHL. While the 6’6” winger was known for his brawling ways, after his retirement he went back to school and became a lawyer (as well as a born-again Christian). The Grim Reaper sees Grimson grappling with fighting in hockey, his role on the ice and the changing culture of the sport.


An Earthling’s Guide to Outer Space

By Bob McDonald (Simon & Schuster, Oct. 22)

McDonald, the longtime CBC science correspondent, explores often-asked questions about Earth, the solar system, deep space and more in his latest book. From dark matter to distant planets, scientists have made great leaps in understanding who we are, where we came from and our place in the universe, and in his latest McDonald serves as our guide through the galaxy.


Murder and Other Essays

By David Adams Richards (Doubleday, Oct. 22)

Murder has often played a key role in the written work of Richards, a prolific New Brunswick author (of 17 novels and four books of non-fiction); in his latest collection it is a key theme in essays that deal with both real life and literature. (He also tackles non-murder topics: the beauty of the natural world, family life, Wayne Gretzky and more).



Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other

By Ken Dryden (McClelland & Stewart, Oct. 29)

As a player, Ken Dryden won five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens under the guidance of coach Scotty Bowman. Now Dryden (author of The Game, among other books) picks Bowman’s brain about some of the most memorable moments of his career, players Bowman did and didn’t get a chance to coach as well as imagined matchups between some of the greatest hockey teams and players of all time.

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