Though heavy hitters including Michael Ondaatje and M.J. Vassanji dropped novels this year, fiction releases were eclipsed by an amazingly strong non-fiction list that nabbed half the slots on our top-10 list and took the number-one spot for the first time ever.
1 THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM
by Naomi Klein (Knopf)
Powerful, cogent and surprisingly easy reading, Klein’s evisceration of neo-conservative economics and their devastating impact worldwide will blow your mind. That includes all you old-style lefties who think you know everything.
2 THE BOOK OF NEGROES
by Lawrence Hill (HarperCollins)
If you think Canada’s relationship to slavery is limited to the Underground Railroad, get over it and read this book. Hill’s riveting and meticulously researched novel about the slave trade – especially the sections set in Nova Scotia, where the first race riots in Canada took place – should not be missed.
3 THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST
by Mohsin Hamid (Bond Street/Doubleday)
Hamid’s Booker-shortlisted monologue tracks a young Princeton grad from Pakistan. He finds success as a rapacious globalizing capitalist only to be transformed in the aftermath of 9/11. Superbly subtle.
4 THE RACE BEAT: THE PRESS, THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE, AND THE AWAKENING OF A NATION
by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff (Knopf)
This gripping account of the journalists who risked thier lives to cover the American civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for books on history.
5 LET THE NORTHERN LIGHTS ERASE YOUR NAME
by Vendela Vida (HarperCollins)
Clarissa finds out the man she thought was her dad really wasn’t and sets out to find the real thing. The story isn’t new, but the voice in this beautiful novel from an American writer to watch is totally fresh.
6 WHIPPING GIRL: A TRANSSEXUAL WOMAN ON SEXISM AND THE SCAPEGOATING OF FEMININITY
by Julia Serano (Seal)
The savviest commentary on feminism and sexual politics in a long time takes the discourse to a new level.
7 THE GOD DELUSION
by Richard Dawkins (Houghton Mifflin)
Who would have thought that the funniest book of the year would be written by a British scientist challenging the existence of God?
8 PLANET REESE
by Cordelia Strube (Dundurn)
Underappreciated Strube’s story of a guy turning into one big pain in the ass as he senses the earth going to hell finds that elusive fine line between tragic and comic. Very smart.
9 THE END OF EAST
by Jen Sookfong Lee (Knopf)
Keep your eye on Lee, whose debut novel, the story of three generations of Chinese Canadians, packs a deep emotional charge.
10 JA, NO, MAN
by Richard Poplak (Penguin)
Poplak’s comic but clear-eyed memoir about growing up white and Jewish in apartheid South Africa gives us something completely different.
Reasons to grumble
JURIES DO THE OBVIOUS
Once again the Giller and Governor General’s juries put the accent on period works. Doesn’t anybody like the present tense any more?
AND IF YOU’RE SO INTO HISTORY...
How can you omit Lawrence Hill’s The Book Of Negroes from your short list?
Former T.O. police chief Julian Fantino uses his memoir, Duty: The Life Of A Cop, to moan about how underappreciated he is. Get over it: you’re Ontario’s top cop now.
More reasons to celebrate
HELPLESS by Barbara Gowdy (HarperCollins)
Gowdy’s uncanny ability to get inside some not-so-nice characters’ heads is deployed with huge skill in this story of a budding pedophile who steals the object of his desire.
A LONG WAY GONE: MEMOIRS OF A BOY SOLDIER by Ishmael Beah (Douglas & McIntyre)
How does an eight-year-old get stolen from his village, turn into a cold-blooded killer and then recover to tell his story and bring light to the world? Read this timely memoir and find out.
BOTTLE ROCKET HEARTS by Zoe Whittall (Cormorant)
NOW contributor Whittall’s coming-of-age novel set in Montreal resonates on subjects including sexual and national identity. More, please.