Category Archives: Non-Fiction Reviews



By Margaret Atwood

In Other Worlds brings together Atwood’s three heretofore unpublished Ellmann Lectures from 2010: “Flying Rabbits,” which begins with her early  rabbit superhero creations, and goes on to speculate about masks, capes, weakling alter egos, and Things with Wings; “Burning Bushes,” which follows her into Victorian otherlands and beyond; and “Dire Cartographies,” which investigates Utopias and Dystopias.  In Other Worlds also includes some of Atwood’s key reviews and thoughts about the form. She elucidates the differences (as she sees them) between “science fiction” proper, and “speculative fiction,” as well as between “sword and sorcery/fantasy” and “slipstream fiction.”



By Adrienne Clarkson

In this exciting and revealing personal inquiry, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson explores the immigrant experience through the people who have helped transform Canada.

The Canadians she befriends illustrate the changing idea of what it means to be Canadian and the kind of country we have created over the decades. Like her, many of the people who came here did not have a real choice: they often arrived friendless and with a sense of loss. Yet their struggles and successes have enriched Canada immeasurably.



By JJ Lee

Taking as its starting point a son’s decision to alter his late father’s last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out — and discovering what it means to be your own man.

With wit, bracing honesty, and great narrative verve, JJ takes us from the French Revolution to the Zoot Suit Riots, from the Japanese Salaryman to Mad Men, from Oscar Wilde in short pants to Marlon Brando in a T-shirt, and from the rareified rooms of Savile Row to a rundown shop in Chinatown. A book that will forever change the way you think about the maxim “the clothes make the man,” this is a universal story of love and forgiveness and breaking with the past.


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New Books: Non-Fiction

The Oxford Companion to


By Dean F. Oliver

The Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Dieppe Raid, the Italian Campaign: the Canadian military has been indispensable to many of the greatest victories-and disasters-of our time. The evolution of Canada as a military power is chronicled here by military historians Dean Oliver and J.L. Granatstein.

Rare photographic material and original wartime paintings illustrate the people, events, and hardware that define Canada’s military history. Additional material includes a timeline chart and other historical and bibliographical reference information.


By P.W. Singer

From U.S. soldiers having to fight children in Afghanistan and Iraq to juvenile terrorists in Sri Lanka to Palestine, the new, younger face of battle is a terrible reality of 21st century warfare. Children at War is the first comprehensive examination of a disturbing and escalating phenomenon: the use of children as soldiers around the globe. Singer explores the evolution of this phenomenon, how and why children are recruited, indoctrinated, trained, and converted to soldiers and then lays out the consequences for global security, with a special case study on terrorism.


By Nicholas Riasanovsky & Mark Steinberg

Now completely revised in this eighth edition, A History of Russia covers the entire span of the country’s history, from ancient times to the post-communist present. Keeping with the hallmark of the text, Riasanovsky and Steinberg examine all aspects of Russia’s history–political, international, military, economic, social, and cultural–with a commitment to objectivity, fairness, and balance, and to reflecting recent research and new trends in scholarly interpretation. New chapters on politics, society, and culture since 1991 explore Russia’s complex experience after communism and discuss its chances of becoming a more stable and prosperous country in the future.

PARKIN: Canada’s Most Famous Forgotten Man

By William Christian

Sir George Parkin probably had as great an influence on American education in the first two decades of the twentieth century as any other single individual. In 1902 alone he traveled 17,000 miles to set up committees to choose scholars. Through the Rhodes Scholarships, he has had a lasting impact on American education, politics, and culture. At the time, Parkin was known on four continents by his surname alone; today, this Canadian-born educator is all but forgotten. William Christian’s engaging biography now reintroduces us to perhaps the most famous Canadian in the world. This beautifully written and witty biography is the story of ideas lived through Parkin and those in his wide circle of shared influence with leaders of many countries, including our own.


By Robert Fossier

Robert Fossier, one of the world’s leading medieval historians presents a compelling picture of daily life in the Middle Ages as it was experienced by ordinary people. He vividly describes how these vulnerable people confronted life, from birth to death, including childhood, marriage, work, sex, food, illness, religion, and the natural world. We learn how people related to agriculture, animals, the weather, the forest, and the sea; how they used alcohol and drugs; and how they buried their dead. The result is a sweeping new vision of the Middle Ages that will entertain and enlighten readers.


The Golden Age of Arabic Science

By Jim Al-Khalili

Most historical accounts today suggest that the achievements of the ancient Greeks were not matched until the European Renaissance in the 16th century, a 1,000-year period dismissed as the Dark Ages. In the ninth-century, however, the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad, Abu Ja’far Abdullah al-Ma’mun, created the greatest centre of learning the world had ever seen, known as Bayt al-Hikma, the House of Wisdom. The scientists and philosophers he brought together sparked a period of extraordinary discovery, in every field imaginable, launching a golden age of Arabic science. Few of these scientists, however, are now known in the western world.

The West needs to see the Islamic world through new eyes and the Islamic world, in turn, to take pride in its extraordinarily rich heritage. Anyone who reads this book will understand why.


Pakistan at War With Itself

By Pamela Constable

A volatile nation at the heart of major cultural, political, and religious conflicts in the world today, Pakistan commands our attention. Constable takes us on a panoramic tour of contemporary Pakistan, exploring the fears and frustrations, dreams and beliefs, that animate the lives of ordinary citizens in this nuclear-armed nation of 170 million. From the opulent, insular salons of the elite to the brick quarries where soot-covered workers sell their kidneys to get out of debt, this is a haunting portrait of a society riven by inequality and corruption, and increasingly divided by competing versions of Islam.


By Roy Cullen

According to the African Union, some $150 billion is lost every year to corruption in Africa. In China, it is estimated corruption diminishes the annual value of gross domestic product country by 15%. The pattern repeats itself elsewhere. Corrupted officials cause development of their country’s scarce natural resources in ways not environmentally sustainable. They can also create health and safety risks to citizens in the marketplace by compromising product standards to enrich themselves.

Cullen examines the links between world poverty, corruption, terrorism, global migration patterns, and money laundering, and outlining a practical 20-point program to increase transparency and accountability in governments and parliaments around the world to break this cycle of corruption and poverty.


Russia, the USSR and the Successor States

By Ronald Grigor Suny

The Soviet Experiment examines the complex themes of Soviet history, ranging from the last Tsar of the Russian empire to the first president of the Russian republic. Suny examines the legacies left by former Soviet leaders and explores successor states and the challenges they now face. He captures familiar as well as little-known events–the crowds on the streets during the February Revolution, Stalin’s collapse into a near-catatonic state after Hitler’s invasion, and Yeltsin’s political maneuvering and public grandstanding–combining gripping detail with insightful analysis.


By Frances Swyripa

A sweeping examination of the evolving identity of major ethno-religious immigrant groups in the Canadian West. Viewed through the lens of attachment to the soil and specific place, and through the eyes of both the immigrant generation and its descendants, the book compares the settlement experiences of Ukrainians, Mennonites, Icelanders, Doukhobors, Germans, Poles, Romanians, Jews, Finns, Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes. Through a close study of myths, symbols, commemorative traditions, and landmarks, Storied Landscapes boldly asserts the inseparability of ethnicity and religion both to defining the prairie region and to understanding the Canadian nation-building project.


By Teresa Earle, Photography by Fritz Mueller

In this remarkable collection of photographs, Fritz Mueller captures fleeting, compelling moments in a timeless Yukon landscape, one of the world’s wildest and most overlooked wilderness areas. Mueller takes readers on the annual migration of the Porcupine caribou herd, and he captures intimate portraits of icy grizzly bears gorging on salmon at the Arctic Circle. As wilderness vanishes and intact ecosystems deteriorate, the Yukon remains one of the last wild hot spots, a conservation treasure of international significance.

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New Books: Non-Fiction

Can you make millions just by “visualizing yourself rich” as some business prophets suggest? Don’t buy it, says Kevin O’Leary. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur and amass wealth, you’re going to have to work for it. But the good news is: with the right guidance, focus and perseverance, you can turn entrepreneurial vision into lucrative reality and have the personal freedom that only wealth can buy.
In this compelling, candid and, above all else, brutally honest business memoir, Kevin provides engaging, practical advice and lessons that will give anyone a distinct competitive edge.

Arlene Dickinson is the co-star of the CBC TV hit Dragons’ Den, and she is one of the country’s most sought-after female entrepreneurs. The secret of her journey from poverty to the corner office? The art of persuasion, as she explains with wit and unusual candour in this, her first book. Blending her own frank and highly entertaining stories with compelling social science, she explains how to persuade both in the boardroom and in everyday life: the crucial importance of a particular kind of listening; how to get people to buy into your ideas; how to attract followers and deal with naysayers; the art of storytelling; how to turn mistakes to your advantage; and how to seize opportunities where others see only roadblocks. Using the tricks of her trade and insights from her own fascinating experiences with some of Canada’s leading companies, Dickinson explains how to master the art of persuasion, without an M.B.A., to achieve maximum success in business-and in life.

A revelatory examination of how the wildfirelike spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, with profound long-term economic and social effects-for good and for ill
One of the culture’s wisest observers of the transformational power of the new forms of tech-enabled social interaction is Clay Shirky, and Here Comes Everybody is his marvelous reckoning with the ramifications of all this on what we do and who we are. A revolution in social organization has commenced, and Clay Shirky is its brilliant chronicler.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, twice former Prime Minister of Canada, was a brilliant tactician, was passionately committed to Canadian unity, and was a protector of the underdog, introducing such cornerstones of Canada’s social safety net as unemployment insurance, family allowances and old-age pensions. At the same time, he was insecure, craved flattery, became upset at minor criticism, and was prone to fantasy—especially about the Tory conspiracy against him.

With animated prose and a subtle wit, Allan Levine draws a multidimensional portrait of this most compelling of politicians.

On January 24, 1943, 230 women were placed in four cattle trucks on a train in northeastern France, and the doors bolted shut for the journey to Auschwitz. They were members of the French Resistance, ranging in age from teenagers to the elderly, women who before the war had been doctors, farmers’ wives, secretaries, biochemists, schoolgirls.

In this vitally important book, Caroline Moorehead tells the whole story of the women on the train, for the first time. Based on interviews with the few remaining survivors, together with extensive research in French and Polish archives, A Train in Winter is an essential historical document told with the clarity and impact of a great novel.

Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost will be a personal book, and also a book of challenging ideas: that Wayne Gretzky, through no fault of his own, was the worst thing to happen to hockey; that CBC‘s Hockey Night in Canada has lost sight of what it is; that goaltending has become a position out of all proportion to what was intended. And who could offer a better perspective on the game than a writer who, playing as a youngster, had to face an onrushing phenom from Parry Sound named Bobby Orr, or who spent a year ghostwriting a national newspaper column for the Great One himself? When it comes to hockey, Roy MacGregor has seen (and in some cases, done) it all.

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New Books!

Healthy Eating: A Guide to Nutrition Series

Good nutrition is important for a healthy, long, and productive life. To function properly, the body must take in a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, triglyceride lipids (like fats and oils), and proteins. Healthy Eating: A Guide to Nutrition provides people of all ages with guidance on choosing and maintaining a healthy diet, and explores how nutrition plays a role in areas such as sports, weight loss, disease prevention, and human development.

With fully up-to-date content, this new set provides readers with the information they need to make smart choices for a healthy lifestyle. Researchers will appreciate the appendixes, which include BMI charts and recommended daily intakes. Suggestions for further resources, a glossary, and an index round out these informative titles.

The St.George Senior Library has three books from the series: Basic Nutrition, Nutrition and Weight Management, and Nutrition for Sports and Exercise.

PIXAR: The Company and its Founders

This title examines the remarkable lives of Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith and their work building the groundbreaking company Pixar. Readers will learn about Catmull and Smith’s backgrounds and education, as well as their early careers. Also covered is a look at how Pixar operates and issues the company faces, such as developing new animation and computer graphics software, meeting production demands, and maintaining leadership.

NINTENDO: The Company and its Founders

This title examines the remarkable lives of Fusajiro Yamauchi and his grandson Hiroshi Yamauchi and their work building the groundbreaking company Nintendo. Readers will learn about the Yamauchis’ backgrounds and education, as well as their early careers. Also covered is a look at how Nintendo operates, other key employees, and issues the company faces, such as developing new gaming software, facing competition, and expanding into global markets.

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The Wealthy Barber: A great introduction to personal money managment

I remember in high school, I took a business class for my grade 10 elective.  I went into it with a pretty bad attitude, I just wanted an easy class that I didn’t have to think too much in.  My teacher probably realized that this is why most of us were in the class (aside from the one or two who actually liked “business” type stuff), so she didn’t really give us a lot of work.  Instead, our first day in the class we were handed a book titled….

You guessed it.  The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton.

This book was probably the best thing that happened to my grade 10 self.  With financial information told through the eyes of a barber, David Chilton makes sound financial knowledge not only interesting… but understandable.  And from a teen’s point of view, this is really important!  So if you don’t already have a copy of this great business class aid, then you should probably check out the local bookstore and give it a try.

David Chilton’s popular The Wealthy Barber is a good starting point for anyone who wants to construct a personal financial plan. Many people are so scared of dealing with their money that they don’t do anything at all–only to suffer for it over the long haul. Chilton shows that planning is simple and you don’t have be a whiz kid to set yourself on the route to financial security. “When I finally learned the basics of financial planning, I couldn’t believe how straightforward they were. It’s just common sense,” is the overarching message.

The Wealthy Barber takes the form of a novel, though it wouldn’t win many awards for plot, setting, or characterization. The narrator, Dave, a 28-year-old school teacher and expectant father, his 30-year-old sister, Cathy, who runs a small business, and his buddy, Tom, who works in a refinery, sit around a barber shop in Sarnia, Ontario, and listen as Ray Miller, the well-to-do barber, teaches them how to get rich. The friends are at the age when most people start thinking about their future stability; among the three of them, they face almost every broad situation that can influence a financial plan. Ray, the Socrates of personal finance, isn’t a pin-striped Bay Street wizard. He is a simple, down-to-earth barber dispensing homespun wisdom while he lops a little off the top. Ray’s barbershop isn’t the place to learn strategies for trading options and commodities. Instead, his advice covers the basics of RRSPs, mutual funds, real estate, insurance, and the like. His first and most important rule is “pay yourself first.” Take 10 per cent off every pay cheque as it comes in and invest it in safe interest-bearing instruments. Through the magic of compound interest, this 10 per cent will turn into a substantial nest egg over time. This book isn’t about how to get rich quick. It’s about how to get rich slowly and stay that way.

– Amazon reviewer, Edward Trapunski


More Boring But Important Info:

Reading Time: 4 hours (to absorb all the info and highlight cool tips)

Rating: 4.5/5

Re-Readability: 5/5 (I read this once a year)

Price: Chapters – $16.95 / – $9.85 USD

Another great book for students first beginning to learn how to handle their own finances is  Start Late, Finish Rich: A No-Fail Plan for Gaining Financial Freedom at Any Age by David Bach.  I love his Latte Factor!  Plus, his website is full of great resources.

What are some of your favourite financial help books?

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My Guantanamo Diary

Mahvish Khan, a daughter of two Afghan immigrants, was a young law student when she first heard of the illegal detainment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.  Appalled that these men were being denied their most fundamental right – their right to a fair trial – she volunteered to serve as a translator for the prisoners. Her fluency in Pashto and a familiarity with Afghan cultures and customs granted her insights into their lives that no other “habeas” lawyer with security clearance had.  Over time, Khan began to question whether Guantanamo truly held, as Donal Rumsfeld famously said, ” the worst of the worst” – and why the prisoners were being detained in the first place.  My Guantanamo Diary is an extraordinary tale of one woman’s courage and commitment to justice, and an affirmation of the value of our civil liberties.

This heartbreaking book outlines the horror that hundreds of men suffer at Guantanamo Bay, the infamous “terrorist” prison of America.  As Mahvish meets each man as a translator for habeas lawyers, and offering counsel herself under the supervision of a practicing lawyer, she begins to understand that while there may be a few terrorists lodged in Guantanamo, a staggering amount of the men are innocent.  And they have been held as prisoners without any legal rights… even those afforded to POW’s under the Geneva Convention.

Fighting to understand and help free these men, Mahvish tells us of her sense of betrayal in her country.  As she becomes closer to the men, it becomes harder to help them.  Mahvish is threatened with losing her access to the prisoners over things as simple as not wearing close toed shoes, a rule that was implemented on one of her trips without anyone having told her.  She tells the stories of other lawyers who the government has tried to stop from coming to Guantanamo…. even going as far as accusing one lawyer of supplying his clients with Under Armour military underwear.

A must read for anyone with interest in Guantanamo.  As the St. Petersburg Times said, “Reading it will change you.  With any luck, it will change the world.”

Why I liked it:

Mahvish’s narration of her time at Guantanamo, and her description of the prisoners and their treatment is profound.  To know that this type of treatment happens in a “civilized” world is appalling.   Mahvish makes sure that readers understand her role clearly and the role of other habeas counsellors who spend their time and money trying to help these men to even get a fair trial.

It is important to know that this doesn’t really go into the history of Guantanamo.  This is strictly a book about the people who have been forced to live there.  As someone who does not really know much about Guantanamo, I would suggest checking out other sources.


Haji Nusrat Khan, detainee No. 1009, is Guantanamo Bay’s oldest prisoner.  Except he’s not sure exactly how old he is: no one recorded births back when he was born.  “I do not know the year,” he told me.  “But I am eighty.  Or perhaps I am seventy-eight.”  Who knows?

When I first met him at Camp Echo, I found it hard to imagine how this old man could be a threat to U.S. national security or a global terrorist.  A stroke fifteen years earlier had left him paralyzed and bedridden; he was still unable to stand up without assistance.  when he needed to go to the bathroom, he hobbled slowly, leaning heavily on a walker.

His hugely swollen legs and feet were tightly cuffed and shackled to the floor… He didn’t want to die in prison, he sighed, for a crime he had not committed.

Nusrat’s troubles began in early 2003, a few days after he went to the U.S. authorities to complain about the arrest of his son Izatullah (also detained at Guantanamo).  The Americans had accused his son of having ties to al-Qaeda and for harboring a cache of weapons.  When Nusrat complained that his son had done nothing wrong and should be released, U.S. soldiers paid a visit to his home.

Here is a talk that Mahvish Khan gave for Authors@Google in 2008

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Locavore: Someone who eats exclusively – or at least primarily – food from their local area.

Local: ‘‘(I) the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product; or ‘‘(II) the State in which the product is produced. (

This has become the “it” foodie diet of the 2000’s.  What started as “hippy-commune” type thinking is rapidly becoming mainstream within our society.  With more books being published about eating locally or growing your own food,  don’t get lost in this wild new world.

I just finished reading The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon after asking around about what would be a good book on the subject of locavore.  I feel a little embarrassed that I haven’t read this sooner.  Filled with funny ancedotes and interesting information about eating locally within the Vancouver area, this book is a “must-have” read for foodies everywhere.  Showing people that eating locally doesn’t have to be boring (but definitely a lot of work!), Alisa and J.B. end every chapter with a recipe that can be created with stuff from either your backyard or the farmer’s market… and within a reasonable price range.

Other great books about the new locavore movement:

Locavore by Sarah Elton

Strawberries in January, fresh tomatoes year-round and New Zealand lamb — these well-traveled foods which we pile regularly into our shopping carts have a carbon imprint the size of an SUV. Now, a burgeoning local food movement taking place in Canadian cities and on Canadian farms is changing the way we eat and think about food. Locavore tells the stories of how foodies, 100-milers, urbanites, farmers, gardeners, chefs and just plain old folks in Canada are creating a new local food order that has the potential to fight climate change and feed us all. Part front-line reporting, part analysis, part passionate description of food, this book shows how the pieces of a post-industrial food system are being assembled by an interesting cast of characters who want to reclaim food as their own. From city-dwellers keeping chickens in their backyards to Ontario farmers shunning national grocery chains and selling their meat from the backs of their trucks, from the fastidious seed savers who are collecting and preserving the genetic material of heritage plants to the artisan cheese-makers of Quebec, this book tells the stories of a diverse cast of characters and lays out a blueprint for a new local food order. (


The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Persons Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by Leda Meredith

(from jacket) These days, nearly everyone wants to eat green and local, but tight schedules and even tighter budgets can make it seem like an unattainable goal. The Locavore”s Handbook: A Busy Person”s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget is here to help! With practical, down-to-earth advice, Leda Meredith guides readers through the process of incorporating locally grown foods into their meals. In a concise book designed for mainstream readers, she discusses budgeting; sourcing, growing, and preserving food; shopping efficiently; and supporting local merchants and planet Earth. Everyone, including time-pressed, cash-strapped urbanites with mini-refrigerators and zero storage space, will find inspiration and a host of helpful, surprising ideas. Brooklyn-based Meredith”s tips and tricks are particularly helpful for readers in cooler climes. (


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