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Books for Remembrance Day

New stories of war and military history are still being told. On the occasion of Remembrance Day, we're sharing these 14 recent books approaching war and remembrance from a variety of perspectives. 

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A Mohawk Memoir from the War of 1812: John Norton - Teyoninhokarawen, edited by Carl Benn

A Mohawk Memoir from the War of 1812 presents the story of John Norton, or Teyoninhokarawen, an important war chief and political figure among the Grand River Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) in Upper Canada. Norton saw more action during the conflict than almost anyone else, being present at the fall of Detroit, the capture of Fort Niagara, the battles of Queenston Heights, Fort George, Stoney Creek, Chippawa, and Lundy’s Lane, the blockades of Fort George and Fort Erie, as well as a large number of skirmishes and front-line patrols. His memoir describes the fighting, the stresses suffered by indigenous peoples, and the complex relationships between the Haudenosaunee and both their British allies and other First Nations communities.

Norton’s words, written in 1815 and 1816, provide nearly one-third of the book’s content, with the remainder consisting of Carl Benn’s introductions and annotations, which enable readers to understand Norton’s fascinating autobiography within …

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Shelf Talkers: Books to Carry You Through November

There’s something about November that puts me in a contemplative state of mind.

Perhaps it’s the presence of Remembrance Day, an ongoing reminder of heroism, sacrifice, and loss.

Perhaps it’s a vague sense of an ending, the end of the year in sight.

Perhaps it’s the world around me, the days growing shorter, the leaves in the gutters, the darkness seemingly all around.

Or perhaps it’s just a sugar hangover from those little tiny Halloween chocolate bars.

I’m really not sure of the cause, but it happens every year at around this time. I find myself thinking about the past, about my place in the world, about the people around me, the stories they’re carrying. And it’s not just me: pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with reports much the same mindset as the evenings begin to encroach on the day.

It’s not a bad thing at all. A period of reflection, of examination, of contemplation, is necessary, and in many ways a balm.

This month, the independent booksellers of the Shelf Talkers panel have some thoughtful choices for you, companions for your own hours of contemplation.

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The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: The Wars, by Timothy Findley

I try to find time every fall to give Timothy Findley’s The Wars a reread. For me it is an im …

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Remembering World War One

A century after the end of World War One, we're still not done telling stories about this historical event, and readers' thirst to learn more only grows as we see the connections between this history and our contemporary moment. This selection of recent books about World War One include titles about war poetry, food on the front, cyclists in battle, hockey hall-of-famers, and more. 

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Battle Lines: Canadian Poetry in English and the First World War, by Joel Baetz

About the book: For Canadians, the First World War was a dynamic period of literary activity. Almost every poet wrote about the war, critics made bold predictions about the legacy of the period’s poetry, and booksellers were told it was their duty to stock shelves with war poetry. Readers bought thousands of volumes of poetry. Twenty years later, by the time Canada went to war again, no one remembered any of it.

Battle Lines traces the rise and disappearance of Canadian First World War poetry, and offers a striking and comprehensive account of its varied and vexing poetic gestures. As eagerly as Canadians took to the streets to express their support for the war, poets turned to their notebooks, and shared their interpretations of the global conflict, repeating and reshaping popular notions of, among ot …

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The Vimy Trap

In The Vimy Trap: Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift interrogate the mythology surrounding the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge, and how that myth has been manipulated to inform our understanding of Canada and its nationhood. In this excerpt, the authors offer competing and conflicting ways in which war is commemorated in Canada and around the world. 

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Vimy is a trap because, as it has come to be mythologized by militarists, historians, and nationalists, it tempts us to think that chivalric war somehow survived the coming of the epoch of mechanized warfare. There is a childishness to Vimyism. In its essence, it wants us to return to a day of glorious warfare—as signalled by the Citizenship Guide’s visual homage to the charges of the mounted cavalry, which were, in one soldier’s words, “exceedingly gallant, but futile” in an age of heavy artillery.[i] So many official and popular representations of war today avoid something that the returned soldiers of the Great War kept insisting upon: that under conditions of modernity, war had changed—changed quite completely.

Yet Vimyism persists. In November 2015, days after terrorists murdered civilians in Paris (while others had just, with far less attention paid, mur …

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How We Remember

This selection of books, which we highlight on Remembrance Day, runs the gamut from fiction to non-fiction to poetry to books for kids. Together, they represent our duty to not just remember, but to consider the path ahead.

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Tell, by Frances Itani

A 2014 Giller Prize contender, Tell concerns itself with a community struggling to emerge from the trauma of WWI. It follows Itani's beloved Deafening, a novel also set amid the horrors, and feats of love and survival, of WWI.

 

What We Talk About When We Talk About War, by Noah Richler

A fascinating exploration of the way rhetoric—in communications and media—shapes how Canadians think of themselves as a nation and informs Canada's engagement in peacekeeping, war, and on the international stage.

 

Braco, by LesleyAnne Warren

Lesleyanne Ryan’s debut novel takes place over the five days followin …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on War

Book Cover Hana's Suitcase

With Remembrance Day falling next week, our resident children's librarian, Julie Booker, shares some titles that reveal the realities of war to younger readers. 

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Whilst browsing through the stacks for this piece, I found a novel read aloud to me in grade five about a boy who escapes from a concentration camp. The whole plot came rushing back, along with the terror that something so horrifying could happen to a kid, a kid like me. I found myself asking: when should a child learn about war, real war? I've watched the expressions of eleven-year-olds listening to Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine. It felt as if I were witnessing a loss of innocence.

I spent the weekend reading nine books about war, which I will rate on a scale of tears, beginning with those that didn't make me cry.

The Sky is Falling by Kit Pearson is the first in a trilogy set during WWII. When a German war plane crashes in their English village Norah and her brother, Gavin, are sent to Toronto to live far from danger. As "War Guests," Gavin is the favoured one, leaving Norah to struggl …

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