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Wild Books About the Natural World

By August, your children may be more engaged with the natural world than ever after six weeks of digging in the mud, jumping off big rocks, plucking baby tomatoes from the vine in the garden, and climbing trees. So it's never been a better time for this fantastic list of awesome middle-grade nonfiction from Rachel Poliquin, whose new book is Moles

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With her Supersonic Snout Fingers and Blood of the Gods, Rosalie the Mole is the star of the second instalment in my Superpower Field Guide Series. Yes, Rosalie is a squinty-eyed mole, but don’t underestimate this unlikely hero. One part silly, two parts science, and jam-packed with full-colour illustrations by Nicholas John Frith, Moles will introduce middle-grade readers to their new favourite subterranean superhero. 

I love clever nonfiction that entertains kids while it teaches. And I love that the genre is undergoing a quiet but explosive revolution—particularly in the realm of nature books. Smart and funny authors and superb illustrators are transforming unexpected subjects like supernovas, head lice, and bacteria into serious fun. Here’s a list of highly entertaining and visually stunning nonfiction books sure to make middle-grade readers love the natural world around them.    

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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2017 Non-Fiction Preview

Books on nature, politics, family, current events, travel, health, sports, relationships, food, history ... and everything. The non-fiction we're most looking forward to this fall covers the world and its many fascinations. 

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A work of memoir, history, and a call to action, In Search of a Better World (September), the 2017 CBC Massey Lecture delivered by International Law Professor and former UN Prosecutor Payam Akhavan, is a powerful and essential work on the major human rights struggles of our times. Ven Begamudré traces the history of both sides of his family in Extended Families: A Memoir of India (September). In The World's Most Travelled Man (October), Mike Spencer Bown shares stories from his decades of wandering, voyaging and trekking through every single country in the world. Opera sensation Measha Brueggergosman shares her story in Something Is Always on Fire: My Life So Far (October). Aileen Burford-Mason makes the link between nutrition and brain health in The Healthy Brain (December), following up Eat Well, Age Better. And in The Rights of Nature (September), noted environmental lawyer David Boyd tells a hopeful story which is, at its heart, one of humans as a species finally growing up.

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Evenings and Weekends in Hamilton's Music Scene: An Excerpt

Andrew Baulcomb's Evenings & Weekends: Five Years in Hamilton Music, 2006–2011 is the first and only book to document the rise of Juno Award winners and nominees Arkells, Junior Boys, Monster Truck, The Dirty Nil, and Caribou, along with many others. Featuring dozens of original interviews, as well as first-person reflections from the author, the book chronicles the explosion of a new cultural movement in Hamilton and the rebirth of the city's downtown core.

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Max Kerman was all too eager to begin his career as a musician. Together with guitarist Mike DeAngelis, bassist Nick Dika and the band’s original drummer, a fellow student named Everett Rooke, he formed Charlemagne – an upbeat roots rock outfit born in the concrete corridors of the Brandon Hall student residence at McMaster. Still completely green, the four-piece wasted little time booking shows at west-end house parties and on-campus venues such as Quarters and the Phoenix, a popular graduate student pub. The fact that Charlemagne even existed at all was another happy accident. Dika, a …

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Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2017 Non-Fiction Preview

History, memoir, cookbooks, essays on food culture, politics, plus books on birds, baseball, royal babies and bike rides. And that's just some of what's on offer by CanLit for non-fiction during the first half of 2017. Read on! 

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Celebrated restauranteur Jenn Agg tells her story of life in the restaurant industry in I Hear She’s a Real Bitch (April). In Michelle Alfano’s intimate memoir, The Unfinished Dollhouse (May), Alfano recounts her experience as the mother of a transgender child. Marianne Apostolides' memoir about abortion, Deep Salt Water (March), includes a series of collages by visual artist Catherine Mellinger. In My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell (out now), Arthur Bear Chief depicts the punishment, cruelty, and injustice that he endured as a residential school student and then later relived in the traumatic process of retelling his story in connection with a complicated claims procedure. And You Can Have a Dog When I’m Dead (February), by Hamilton Spectator columnist Paul Benedetti, puts on a humorous spin in the realities of modern family life. 

Book Cover Sugar Ride

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Maude Barlow's Boiling Point: An Excerpt

Book Cover Boiling Point

Maude Barlow's Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse and Canada's Water Crisis is a self-described "cry from the heart" from one of the world's foremost water activists. "Passionate and cogent, this could be the most important book of the year for Canadians." We're pleased to feature an excerpt here, and along with a list of other remarkable books on the subject of water. 

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For over three decades, I have travelled the world, learning about water, learning that abundance is not a given, and that the future of the human race and the species with whom we share this planet is literally dependent upon it. I have stood in solidarity with those fighting for water justice in their communities or trying to save endangered lakes and rivers from contamination, overextraction and corporate malfeasance, and I am always amazed at how far away these struggles appear to be to most Canadians when I return home.

For make no mistake, the world is running out of accessible water. On World Water Day 2015, the UN reported that demand for water will increase by 55% over the next 15 years. By that time global water resources will meet only 60% of the world’s demand. A 2016 report from leading scientists warned that two-thirds of the global population currently lives with …

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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2016 Non-Fiction Preview

History, sports, memoir, cookbooks, history, global affairs, feminism, parenting, television, politics...and so much more. With the stellar non-fiction selections out this fall, Canadian writers are continuing to write the world. 

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Book Cover The Dad Dialogues

The rise of think-tanks in Canada and the role they occupy on the country’s political landscape are explored in Northern Lights (November), by Donald Abelson. Writers examine virginity as a cultural construct in Virgin Envy: The Cultural (In)Significance of the Hymen (October), edited Jonathan A. Allan, Cristina Santos, and Adriana Spahr. Andrew Baulcomb chronicles the recent goings-on of the music scene in Hamilton, ON, in Evenings and Weekends (September). Alyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell share their most beloved pastry recipes in Bobbette and Belle: Recipes from the Celebrated Pastry Shop (October). And The Dad Dialogues (October), by George Bowering and Charles Demers, is an intergenerational look at fatherhood—and the universe!

A Disappearance in Damascus

Charles Bronfman shares his fascinating life story in Distilled: A Memoir of Family, Sea …

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Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2016 Non-Fiction Preview

Book Cover Mexican Hooker #1

Our non-fiction preview is a little bit of everything: politics, memoir, cookery, ideas, science, history, and more. It's the most spectacular catch-all. Here are the books that are going to be expanding your mind during the first half of 2016.

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With Mexican Hooker # 1 (April), Carmen Aguirre follows up her acclaimed memoir, Something Fierce. The memoir The Bad Mother (March), by Marguerite Andersen (who was the editor of Canada’s first feminist anthology in the 1970s), tells the story of woman trying to regain the agency she lost when she had children. In Garage Criticism: Missives in the Age of Distraction (June), Peter Babiak takes on some of the sacred cows of our time. The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed (April), by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau, is a book "as fizzy as a bottle of French champagne" that explains the way in which the French don’t just communicate, they converse.

Book Cover The Hockey Scribbler

No more explanation than its title is needed for Closer: Notes from the Frontier of the Female Orgasm (June), by Sara Barmak, …

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Books On Disability

In 2012, close to four million Canadians reported having a disability—13.7% of the population. The incidence of self-reported disability spikes dramatically with age, with more than one-sixth of Canadians aged 45–64 having a disability, one-quarter aged 65–74 having one, and more than four in ten having a disability when they pass the age of 75.

These are huge proportions. When one is able-bodied, unaffected by serious physical or mental challenges, it can be difficult to understand the barriers inherent in our society and infrastructure that can make life incredibly frustrating at times for the disabled. But the line between abled and disabled is fine in many ways, much as we tend to forget or look away from this.

Here is a list of books to consider, whether you're disabled, someone who loves/lives with/teaches a disabled person, or simply interested in or engaged with the question of how to better accommodate disability and difference in our communities. The books' focuses span a range of challenges, mental and physical, which individual readers will consider as relating to disability or to difference. The list is by no means comprehensive, and we welcome your suggestions for additions (tweet @49thShelf).

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The Question of Access, by Tanya Titchkosky

Values …

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Talking With Dan Rubinstein About Born to Walk

Dan Rubinstein's Born to Walk is a perfect springtime read, an absorbing book that will awaken your senses to nature and your nature. Rubinstein takes a fascinating look at how the simple act of walking has the power to transform our lives and the world around us.

He talks to us here about great non-fiction, pedestrian surprises, and the perils of reading while walking. 

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49th Shelf: In Born to Walk, your project is huge—a mix of science, sociology, and memoir, crisscrossing continents, and approaches. What other non-fiction books did you have in mind as a template for organizing and synthesizing such a vast amount of information?

Dan Rubinstein: I live and breathe non-fiction, both books and long-form magazine features, but one of the challenges I had when looking for works to emulate is that most narrative non-fiction books, such as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, involve a single main character on one main journey. Into the WildThe Golden Spruce, and Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein (no relation)—books that I consider to be among the finest of this genre—were not great templates for me. They feature the mix of reportage, personal storytelling, and travelogue that I love. But I wanted to write about a string of characters on a range of differ …

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The Cold of Winter

We are Canadian, ergo we whine about winter. We especially whine when we live in Ottawa and it's the coldest winter in 20 years and we are just ... suffering. So much hardship. Yes, Toronto, you're cold, too. And don't hate us, Saskatchewan, we know you have been de-icing your eyelashes and nostril hairs for time immemorial. And ok, the North. Anyway, we're cold.

Mid-whinge this morning, I found this lovely article in The Guardian called "Wildlife on Your Doorstep," whose feature image is this bird, a kingfisher. It stopped me in my tracks.

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The bird is responsible for a cheery little jaunt down 49th Shelf's handy "Browse by Category" capability using the search term "Nature," which I then refined to "Seasons." And just like that (thank you bird) all these beautiful books appeared. Books to make you love Canada, and our seasons. Books that make the cold a lot more romantic, and that make you think about how sad it would be if we weren't so cold sometimes.

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Most Anticipated: 2015 Non-Fiction Spring Preview

January is a fine time for looking ahead, and for scoping out the scene on the forthcoming reading year. Spoiler: it's going to be a good one. Throughout the month, we'll be sharing titles of books you're going to be falling in love with. This week it's non-fiction; don't miss our fiction preview from last week, and the kids' book preview from the week before

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Book Cover Bonobo Inc

Celebrated food writer Jeffrey Alford, in recipes and stories, brings the distinctive culinary tradition of the rural Thai village of Kravan to Canadian readers in Chicken in the Mango Tree: Food and Life in a Thai Khmer Village (March). Disaster in Paradise (March) explores the story of the 2012 landslide in Johnson's Landing, BC, written by Mandy Bath, a former resident who lost her home in the tragedy. Part polemic, part travelogue, part natural history, Bonobo Inc. (April), by Deni Béchard (April), presents the threats presenting against the last living bonobos—great apes that are among our species' closest living relatives—and also efforts toward their preservation. Worth Fighting For Canada’s Tradition of War Resistance from 1812 to the War on Terror (March), edited by Lara Campbell, Michael Dawson, and Catherine Gidney, offers a timely response that explores the complexity of Canada’s p …

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Most Anticipated: Our 2014 Fall Non-Fiction Preview

Our Fall 2014 Preview continues with non-fiction books, which includes cookbooks, biographies, sports books, history texts, memoirs, books on politics and current events, and more. There is so much to look forward to. Don't miss our Fiction Preview from last week, and Kids' Books and Poetry previews still to come. 

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Curationism

With Showtime: One Team One Season One Step from NHL (September), Ed Arnold documents the 2012/13 season of OHL team The Peterborough Petes. Toronto Star food writer and bison rancher Jennifer Bain's Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison (October) is the first comprehensive contemporary bison cookbook for a general North American market. Curationism (September) by David Balzer is a new volume in Coach House Books' "Exploded Views" series, investigating the role of the connoisseur in contemporary culture now that we "curate" even lunch. 

Book Cover Belonging

The changes and challenges of Canada's new global role are laid out in Brave New Canada (August), by Derek H. Burney and Fen Osler Hampson. Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson delivers the 2014 Massey Lecture,  …

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