2017 Summer Reading Guide

Before you zip up that suitcase, you might want to pack a few of these books to keep you company while you’re on the road or at a weekend getaway.

June 20, 2017

From frosty Mount Logan in the Yukon to the salty shores of Newfoundland, George Fischer’s stunning landscape photography celebrates the diverse appeal of every province and territory in Canada. With a chapter devoted to each region, Fischer captures the rugged natural beauty, vibrant city life, and abundant flora and fauna of this wide country.

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When Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King died in 1950, the public knew little about his eccentric private life. Yet twenty-five years after King’s death, the public was bombarded with stories about “Weird Willie,” the prime minister who communed with ghosts and cavorted with prostitutes. Christopher Dummitt relates the strange posthumous tale of King’s diary and details the specific decisions of King’s literary executors.

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To celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, Governor General David Johnston and Tom Jenkins have crafted a richly illustrated volume of brilliant Canadian innovations whose widespread adoption has made the world a better place. From Bovril to BlackBerrys, light bulbs to liquid helium, peanut butter to Pablum, this is a surprising and incredibly varied collection to make Canadians proud.

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150 years after Confederation, Canada is known around the world for its social diversity and its commitment to principles of multiculturalism. But the road to contemporary Canada is a winding one, a story of division and conflict as well as union and accommodation. In Canada’s Odyssey, renowned scholar Peter H. Russell provides an expansive, accessible account of Canadian history from the pre-Confederation period to the present day.

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Once dominated by large cattle operations covering thousands of acres, Alberta in the 1880s to 1930s saw a shift as small, family-owned ranches began to dot the province’s southern plains. Ranching women faced myriad challenges while at the same time enjoying more personal freedom than their urban and European contemporaries. This book pays homage to the brave and talented women who rode the range, carving out a role for themselves during the dawn of the family ranching era.

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Richly illustrated with period photographs and ephemera, here is a quirky and nostalgia-laced reflection on the celebration of Canada’s centennial and the birth of modern nationalism.

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Hamilton follows Rae as he discovers not only the missing link to the Northwest Passage but evidence from the Inuit of cannibalism within the Franklin Expedition, and then into his later life as he fights to restore his reputation and that of the Inuit — after his report to the Admiralty had sent shock waves throughout Victorian England.

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On December 6, 1917, harbour pilot Francis Mackey was guiding Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, into Bedford Basin to join a convoy across the Atlantic when it was rammed by Belgian Relief vessel Imo. The resulting massive explosion destroyed Halifax’s north end and left at least two thousand people dead, including pilot William Hayes aboard Imo. Through interviews with Mackey’s relatives, transcripts, letters, and newly exposed government documents, author Janet Maybee explores the circumstances leading up to the Halifax Explosion, the question of fault, and the impact on the pilot and his family of the unjust, deliberate persecution that followed.

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The year is 1876, and Trooper Ryan Price Meade is a deserter from the US Army 7th Cavalry Regiment who strikes north, fleeing the Montana Territory just as Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer closes in on Little Bighorn. Deeply troubled, Meade finds himself in Canada’s Northwest Territory, only to be confronted with all he has lost and come face to face with a ghost from the past — one that will alter the course of the rest of his life.

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Originally published in 1855, Catharine Parr Traill’s classic The Female Emigrant’s Guide, with its admirable recipes, candid advice, and astute observations about local food sourcing, offers an intimate glimpse into the daily domestic and seasonal routines of settler life. In a distinctive and witty voice expressing her can-do attitude, Catharine Parr Traill’s The Female Emigrant’s Guide unlocks a wealth of information on historical foodways and culinary exploration.

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This short book details the life and death of Eddie McKay, a varsity athlete at Western University, who flew with the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. Graham Broad switches creatively from telling McKay’s fascinating story to teaching valuable lessons on how to do history and why the past matters.

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What can we do to ensure that humans and animals in the city continue to co-exist, and even flourish together? This wide-ranging book explores the ways that animals inhabit our city, our lives and our imaginations. Essays from animal historians, wildlife specialists, artists and writers address key issues such as human-wildlife interactions, livestock in the city, and animal performers at the Calgary Stampede.

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This unique perspective of the Halifax Explosion offers new details and provides insight into the individuals who struggled to articulate the magnitude of the shocking event to the rest of the world.

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From the acclaimed biographer and historian Conrad Black comes the definitive history of Canada — a revealing, groundbreaking account of the people and events that shaped a nation. This masterful history challenges our perception of our history and Canada’s role in the world, taking on sweeping themes and vividly recounting the story of Canada’s development from colony to dominion to country.

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Extolling the natural wonders of the South Nahanni Valley — its untamed waters, high, glaciated mountains, great falls, alpine tundra, and diverse wildlife — The Magnificent Nahanni shows how close collaboration between the Dehcho First Nation and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society led to an iconic national park that honours Indigenous subsistence traditions.

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From a small-town law office in Nova Scotia to the pressure-cooker boardrooms of London, England, where he was Margaret Thatcher’s “privatization ace,” lawyer and businessman Sir Graham Day has earned an international reputation as a tough-minded but charming negotiator. In The Last Canadian Knight, award-winning business journalist Gordon Pitts chronicles Day’s meteoric rise and explores the lessons Day gleaned from a lifetime spent in and out of the world’s boardrooms.

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In the First World War, much of Canada’s military effort went toward sustaining the Canadian Expeditionary Force, especially in France and Belgium. The first book to explore the issue of manpower in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Filling the Ranks examines the administrative and organizational changes that fostered efficiency and sustained the army.

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Animal Metropolis brings a Canadian perspective to the growing field of animal history, ranging across species and cities, from the beavers who engineered Stanley Park to the cart horses who shaped the city of Montreal. The authors collectively push forward from a historiography that features non-human animals as objects within human-centred inquiries to a historiography that considers the eclectic contacts, exchanges, and cohabitation of human and non-human animals.

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In 1966, a project to create a national honour for Canadians was begun. The order recognizes individuals for their outstanding achievements, dedication, and service to the country. Extensively illustrated, The Order of Canada pays tribute to the individuals who felt the need for a system of recognition for Canadians. Indeed, the order’s history is as fascinating as the more than four thousand Canadians who have received it.

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With text by Roy MacGregor, one of Canada’s most beloved and respected authors and journalists, and a carefully curated selection of glorious full-colour photographs from Canada’s premier photo archive, All Canada Photos, The Colour of Canada captures a diverse and extraordinary terrain, natural and man-made, that is the envy of the world.

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What author Richard Saillant calls Canada’s Great Demographic Imbalance — “the highly uneven pace at which Canada’s regions are aging” — policy analyst Donald J. Savoie, in his foreword, calls “one of the country’s most demanding challenges for the next two decades.” A Tale of Two Countries is a must-read for those seeking an accessible, evidence-based policy analysis of Canada’s uncertain future, recommendations for addressing its consequences, and their potential impact on all Canadians.

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Was Canada’s Dominion experiment of 1867 an experiment in political domination? Looking to taxes provides the answer: They are a privileged measure of both political agency and political domination. Tax, Order, and Good Government follows the money and returns taxation to where it belongs: at the heart of Canada’s political, economic, and social history.

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The Frontier of Patriotism provides an in-depth look at all aspects of Alberta’s involvement in the First World War, reflecting Albertans’ experiences both on the battlefield and on the home front. Contributors of the 40 essays all draw heavily on national and local archival resources. The war is seen through the letters, diaries and memoirs of the individuals who lived through it, as well as through accounts in local newspapers.

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From the Last Spike to Pierre Trudeau, from Vimy Ridge to Terry Fox, from Bob and Doug McKenzie to Ben Johnson, from Sir John A. Macdonald to Kim Campbell — these subjects come to life in 100 images that touch us, unsettle us, or make us proud to be Canadian. Contributors include Christie Blatchford, Will Ferguson, J.L. Granatstein, Peter Mansbridge, Don Newman, Jacques Poitras and Winona Wheeler.

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The relationship between Canada’s Indigenous peoples and the Canadian government is one that has increasingly come to the fore. In The Right Relationship, John Borrows and Michael Coyle bring together a group of renowned scholars, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to cast light on the magnitude of the challenges Canadians face in seeking a consensus on the nature of treaty partnership in the twenty-first century.

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This outspoken, timely book by former Mulroney Cabinet Minister Tom McMillan indicts Stephen Harper for destroying the historic Canadian Conservative Party while prime minister and party leader, accusing him of turning a force for progressive Canadian values into an American Republican-style vehicle for right-wing ideologues.

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Why does Vimy matter? How did a four-day battle at the midpoint of the Great War, a clash that had little strategic impact on the larger Allied war effort, become elevated to a national symbol of Canadian identity? Tim Cook, Canada’s foremost military historian and a Charles Taylor Prize winner, examines the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the way the memory of it has evolved over 100 years.

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In Whose Man in Havana? John Graham provides us with a direct look at international relations through his experience as a practitioner who, as he puts it, has been fortunate in his career within the Canadian foreign service and international organizations to be “in the right place at the right time.” The stuff of novels, he never would have dreamed that his apprenticeship would have him stationed in Cuba spying for the CIA on Soviet military operations.

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Between 1914 and 1918, many Irish Catholics in Canada found themselves in a vulnerable position. Not only was the Great War slaughtering millions, but tension and violence was mounting in Ireland over the question of independence from Britain and Home Rule. Grounded in research from dozens of archives as well as census data and personnel records, The Imperial Irish explores stirring conflicts that threatened to irreparably divide Canada along religious and linguistic lines.

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It was a frigid night in February 2013 when the five young fishermen vanished. The crew of the Miss Ally — a 12-metre Cape Islander from Woods Harbour, Nova Scotia — was fishing for halibut far off the Nova Scotia coast when their boat’s spotlight malfunctioned. A vicious winter storm was approaching from her south, and all other boats at the fishing grounds were steaming for shore. The Sea Was in Their Blood explores two key questions: who were the men aboard the Miss Ally, and why were they battered and sunk by a storm forecasted days in advance?

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A visually spectacular saga of the events and people that shaped Canada and its psyche — updated with a new chapter bringing the book to the present.

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In this imaginative re-enactment, Riel is finally given the opportunity to respond to his conviction for treason, offering his side of the story at Batoche, Red River, and in the Fenian raids — showing why he is now a Father of Manitoba and deserving of exoneration in 2017.

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Yakuglas’ Legacy examines the life of Charlie James (1867–1937), a premier carver and painter from the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation of British Columbia. Also known by his ceremonial name Yakuglas, he was a prolific artist and activist during a period of severe oppression for First Nations people in Canada. Yakuglas’ Legacy is at once a beautiful and poignant book about the impact of the Canadian project on Aboriginal people and their artistic response.

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A groundbreaking work of nation building, this unique biographical book by many of English and French Canada's best-known writers and thinkers — Margaret Atwood, Lucien Bouchard, Dr. Samantha Nutt, Ken Dryden, etc. — tells the story of the extraordinary legacy of the French contribution to our very way of life.

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Emil Bessels was chief scientist and medical officer on George Francis Hall’s ill-fated American North Pole expedition of 1871–73 on board the ship Polaris. Bessels’ book, translated from the German in its entirety for the first time, is one of only two first-hand accounts of the voyage, and it is the only first-hand account of the experiences of the group that stayed with the ship after it ran afoul of Arctic ice, leaving some of its crew stranded on an ice floe.

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The newest addition to the Images of Our Past series, Sable Island in Black and White is a fascinating look at day-to-day life on Nova Scotia’s most secluded outpost during the nineteenth century. This narrative history — accented by more than 100 black-and-white family photographs of the island’s famous shipwrecks, wild horses, and visitors — tells the incredible true story of a stalwart group of ordinary people who called Sable Island home.

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In 1960, Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad made a discovery that rewrote the history of European exploration and colonization of North America — a thousand-year-old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. In A Grand Adventure, the Ingstads’ daughter Benedicte tells the story of their remarkable lives spent working together.

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