Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Favourite Non-fiction Books of 2011

Paul Shaffer – We’ll be Here for the Rest of Our Lives.  I enjoyed this memoir very much.  The tone is peppy all the way, rocking along like high energy music. You can almost dance to this book

Under the Northern Lights: My Memoires of Life in the Finnish Community of Northern Ontario by Nelma Siilanpaa.  Good memoir with an excellent introduction outlining the various political ramifications of Finnish immigrant existence. 
 
Alan Bennett: Written on the Body. A memoir.  A young diffident gay boy grows up. Anything by Bennett is worth reading.

Great Plains by Ian Frazier. Superbly written, this book outlines the history past and present of the area of the United States set between the Mississippi and the mountains. 

Not Yet by Wayson Choy.  So well written it makes me jealous.  Everything flows.  The plot is slight, the heart attack and recovery and then the failure to follow through with the various treatments and then the second heart attack.  Along comes a Vietnamese woman who convinces him that he is being shadowed by two ghosts.
Wayson Choy

Dangerous Woman by Sharon Rushdahl The graphic biography of Emma Goldman. Wonderful book that covers the Goldman story but lightened with touches of humour.  In the book, I meet old events and acquaintances: Alexander Bergman, Dr. Ben Reitman, the Spanish Civil War, the Sacco and Vinzenti execution, the Haymarket Massacre. 
Paying For It: A Comic Strip Memoir about Being a John.  By Chester Brown.  Brown scorns romantic love and relationships.  He gets his sexual needs met by visiting prostitutes.  Brown spends a lot of ink arguing for the decriminalization of prostitution, a position with which I agree but for other reasons than his.

Cuba Dairies; An American Housewife in Havana by Isador Tattlin Excellent travel book of Cuba in the early 90’s.  An inside look at Cuba for all us Canadians who travel there and love Cuba. 
Letters of Julia Child and Avis Desoto. Foodies both. I admired their resourcefulness, even in the darkest 50’s, to get fresh ingredients and good tools. Both are hard workers. Julia has to move around with her husband and Avis looks after her husband’s secretarial work.  Both have household help but sporadically, Julia because of the moves and Avis because she cannot seem to get enough help.  Both have lovely husbands. Both love to cook and entertain and eat and talk about food.  Both hate McCarthy but Avis suffers watching the McCarthy witch hunts on TV.   

Walking Since Daybreak: A Story of Eastern Europe, World War II, and the Heart of Our Century.  Great history mainly of Latvia but encompasses the entire Baltic region.  I do not think I have ever read such a bloody history which was basically one massacre after another.  Then came the Nazis.  Eksteins is a good writer and the maps on the end papers were very welcome.
 One Man’s Trash by Ivan E. Coyote.  Anything written by Coyote is light, earthy and funny.  I read these stories in an evening.  The best: when the kids found the wallet with a thousand dollars and took it to the police station.  The owner gave them an award, a milk shake.  Their father said “I hope you enjoyed it because it is the most expensive fucking milk shake you’ll ever have.”

Chester Brown


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