Summer Reading Guide 2019

Our special advertising section includes the latest history titles along with other new and recent books from Canadian publishers.

Posted May 16, 2019

These captivating reflections on the history of our environment and ourselves will make you think differently not only about Canada’s past but also about our future.

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In Mackenzie King in the Age of the Dictators, Roy MacLaren leads readers through the political labyrinth that led to Canada's involvement in the Second World War and its awakening as a forceful nation on the world stage.

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In May and June 1919, more than 30,000 workers walked off the job in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They struck for a variety of reasons—higher wages, collective bargaining rights, and more power for working people. This comic book revisits the strike to introduce new generations to its many lessons, including the power of class struggle and solidarity and the brutal tactics that governments and bosses use to crush workers’ movements.

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Law’s Indigenous Ethics examines the revitalization of Indigenous peoples’ relationship to their own laws and, in so doing, attempts to enrich Canadian constitutional law more generally. John Borrows brings insights drawn from philosophy, law, and political science to bear on some of the most pressing issues that arise in contemplating the interaction between Canadian state law and Indigenous legal traditions.

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This fascinating book presents the original text of Montgomery’s most famous manuscript, including where the author scribbled notes, made additions and deletions, and other editorial details. L. M. Montgomery scholar Carolyn Strom Collins offers a rare look into Montgomery’s creative process, providing a never-before-published version of the worldwide phenomenon.

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Known to some as the first European to explore the upper Mississippi, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark Bourrie, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” Sourced from Radisson’s journals, which are the best first-hand accounts of 17th-century Canada, Bush Runner tells the extraordinary true story of this protean figure, a man more trading partner than colonizer, a peddler of goods and not worldview, and offers a fresh perspective on the world in which he lived.

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Between 1869 and 1877 the government of Canada negotiated Numbered Treaties with the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. Many historians argue that the negotiations suffered from misunderstandings between the treaty commissioners and Indigenous chiefs, but newly uncovered eyewitness accounts show that Canada had a strategic plan to deceive over the “surrender clause” and land sharing.

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Starting in 1837, rebels in Upper and Lower Canada revolted against British rule in an attempt to reform a colonial government that they believed was unjust. While this uprising is often perceived as a small-scale, localized event, Revolutions across Borders demonstrates that the Canadian Rebellion of 1837–38 was a major continental crisis with dramatic transnational consequences.

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Part memoir, part history, Being Chinese in Canada explores Canada’s systemic discrimination against the Chinese-Canadian community through the legislation of a punitive head tax and then a ban against Chinese immigration, which was not repealed until 1947. This is the first book to examine the work of the head tax redress movement and to give voice to the generations of Chinese Canadians involved.

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Far from a simple retelling of the Winnipeg General Strike, Magnificent Fight speaks to the power of workers’ solidarity and social organization. This book reveals the lengths to which the capitalist class and the state went in order to protect the status quo.

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From Timbits to totem poles, Canada is boiled down to its syrupy core in symbolic forms that are reproduced not only on T-shirts, television, and tattoos but in classrooms, museums, and courtrooms too. Symbols of Canada gives us the real and surprising truth behind the most iconic Canadian symbols, revealing their contentious and often contested histories.

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The first cultural history of the iconic brand M·A·C Cosmetics, VIVA M·A·C charts the evolution of M·A·C’s revolutionary corporate philanthropy around HIV/AIDS awareness. Andrea Benoit tells the fascinating story of how M·A·C’s unique style of corporate social responsibility emerged from specific cultural practices, rather than being part of a strategic marketing plan.

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There are still artists and craftspeople who make beautiful things by hand. Colourful quilts, hooked rugs, and stained glass. Resilient dories and snowshoes. Whimsical whirligigs. Don MacLean explores the traditional crafts of Atlantic Canada, visiting dozens of creators in their workshops, galleries, and homes, giving insight into their process and inspiration.

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Two centuries ago, many hundreds of Iroquois left home without leaving behind their ways of life. Opening up new ways of thinking about Indigenous peoples through time, Iroquois in the West shares the fascinating adventures of a people who have waited over two hundred years to be heard.

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“The story of Etienne Brulé is one of the greatest adventure tales in North American history.” — Roy MacGregor, author of Canoe Country.

A gripping story of adventure and courage set in a magnificent wilderness with the French, English, Iroquois and Wendat just starting to do battle for what would become Canada and the U.S.

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Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel recounts the experience of Joel Adam Struthers, a former professional soldier, in the French Foreign Legion’s elite Group Commando Parachutistes in the 1990s. This book debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military.

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In 1904, Assiniboine Park was conceived as a people’s playground, a place devoid of commercial amusements where all classes of Winnipeggers could relax and rejuvenate in idyllic and Arcadian surroundings. The story of Assiniboine Park is told within the wider context of the evolution of urban parks in Canada and the United States.

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Over the past decade, the study of Canada and the world has been revitalized. Undiplomatic History charts these changes, bringing together leading and emerging historians of Canadian international and transnational relations to take stock of recent developments and to outline the course of future research.

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Where Once They Stood challenges popular notions that those who voted against Confederation in 1869 and for union in 1948 were uninformed and gullible. Blake and Baker demonstrate that voters fully understood the issues at stake, and women were instrumental in determining the final outcome in 1948.

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Members of the new left placed the ideals of self-determination and community at the core of their politics. Radical Ambition is the first book to explore the history of this dynamic movement and reveal the substantial social changes it won for the people of Toronto.

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Vancouver prides itself on being a green city, and the west coast is known for its active environmental protest culture. At the Wilderness Edge examines five antidevelopment campaigns in and around Vancouver that reflected a dramatic decline in public support for large-scale commercial and industrial projects.

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In this masterful survey of the major social and economic issues facing Quebec, Robert Calderisi offers an intimate look into the sensitivities and strengths of a society that has grown accustomed to being misunderstood. He argues that the values uniting Quebeckers — their common sense, courtesy, concern for the downtrodden, aversion to conflict, and mild form of nationalism, linked to a firm refusal to be homogenized by globalization — make them the most “Canadian” of all Canadians.

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When Mayann Francis was named Nova Scotia’s first Black lieutenant-governor, she wondered if the community would accept her. In this candid memoir, Francis describes her journey from humble beginnings in Whitney Pier, the daughter of immigrants, to the vice-regal office. Francis poses tough questions in this book but also offers advice and encouragement to anyone faced with challenges.

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Historian Jenny Clayton paints a vivid picture of the lives of B.C.’s thirty lieutenant governors. Her essays capture the distinct personalities and events that characterized the office from 1871 to the present, offering unique perspectives on the evolution of the province. B.C.’s early lieutenant governors were integral to infrastructure initiatives such as building roads, railways and ships, and investing in electric utilities and the forest industry.

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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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Ten-year-old Cassie lives with her working-class family in 1919 Winnipeg. The Great War and Spanish influenza have taken their toll, and workers in the city are frustrated with low wages and long hours. When they orchestrate a general strike, Cassie — bright, determined and very bored at school — desperately wants to help.

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Leading the first maritime expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, William Penny stood out not just for his skill as a sailor but for his curiosity about northern geography and his willingness to seek out Inuit testimony to map uncharted territory. Hunters on the Track describes and analyzes the efforts made by the Scottish whaling master to locate Franklin's missing expedition.

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The arrival of tens of thousands of Jewish refugees was palpable in the streets of Montreal, and their impact on the existing Jewish community is well-recognized. The Montreal Shtetl presents a portrait of the daily struggles of Holocaust survivors who settled in Montreal, where they encountered difficulties with work, language, culture, health care, and a Jewish community that was not always welcoming to survivors.

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Revealing how Canada’s first prime minister used a policy of starvation against Indigenous people to clear the way for settlement, the multiple award-winning Clearing the Plains sparked widespread debate about genocide in Canada. This new edition contains an opening by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair on the book’s impact and an introduction by the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Elizabeth A. Fenn.

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Reflecting on her twenty-five-year career with traditional rug-hooking, Deanne Fitzpatrick shares lessons gleaned both at the frame and away from her studio. Containing over 75 full-colour photos of projects past and present, Making a Life is an ode to the joys of leading a creative life.

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In 1937, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King travelled to Nazi Germany in an attempt to prevent a war that, to many observers, seemed inevitable. This book seeks to explain the sources and outcomes of King’s misperceptions and diplomatic failures, and it follows him as he returns to Germany to tour the appalling aftermath of the very war he had tried to prevent.

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In 1964–65, an international team of thirty-eight scientists and assistants, led by Montreal physician Stanley Skoryna, sailed to the mysterious Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to conduct an unprecedented survey of its biosphere. Based on archival papers, diaries, photographs, and interviews with nearly twenty members of the original team, Stanley’s Dream sets the expedition in its global context within the early days of ecological research and the understudied International Biological Program.

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This article originally appeared in the June-July 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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