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2018 Books of the Year: Nonfiction

Stories from home and abroad, books about the past, the present, and the future, and something for every kind of reader going.

Our celebration of 2018 books continues with this nonfiction spotlight, which includes stories from home and abroad, books about the past, the present, and the future, and something for every kind of reader going. We're so pleased to have featured these titles on 49th Shelf this year. 


Book Cover Homes

Homes: A Refugee Story, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung

Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone—and found safety in Canada—with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful, and urgently necessary book that provides a window into understanding Syria.” 

Read 11 Life Stories to Read This Spring


Book Cover Midnight Light

Midnight Light, by Dave Bidini

“This is an absolute joy to read as his writing just flows, inspired, unencumbered, passionate, his joy at being there, his thrill of living loud, leaps off the page. He consumes it all, the edge of the world and the caravan of characters who populate it.“

Read Will McGuirk’s recommendation in the October edition of Shelf Talkers.


Book cover The Cowkeeper's Wish

The Cowkeeper’s Wish: A Genealogical Journey, by Kristen den Hartog and Tracey Kasaboski

“A story that covers so much ground requires an exhausting amount of research. It took us nine years to complete, with a few breaks here and there to rejuvenate with other projects, and while at times it seemed we would never finish, the work never felt boring. Learning about all these periods, and our family’s place in a larger history, was fascinating. We read widely to understand everything from workhouse life to the suffragette movement to social reform.” 

Read den Hartog and Kasaboski's list "On Writing History." 


Book Cover Nobody Cares

Nobody Cares, by Anne T. Donohue

“I did try to be inclusive. And to be aware that while these are personal stories, they need to be more than just journal entries. So I also wrote them hoping they'd resonate or maybe make someone reading feel less alone—or be the thing someone needs to hear the way I needed to hear something once. But I don't think that constitutes self-help. Mainly because a lot of these ‘lessons’ are delivered via experiences I wouldn't recommend.”

Read our Q&A with Donahue. 


Book Cover Boys

Boys: What It Means To Be a Man, by Rachel Giese

“In her book, Giese unpacks ‘the man box,’ the narrow confines of masculinity in which boys are permitted to express their true selves, and shows that expanding these limits is good for everybody.”

Read "A #MeToo Reading List."


Book Cover The Emperor's Orphans

The Emperor’s Orphans, by Sally Ito

"When I sat down to write this book, I initially thought I was writing about my family but it turned out my family was writing about (or to) me—either through the story-telling voice of my Nisei great Aunty Kay or the fastidious pen-wielding scribe of my Japanese grandfather, Toshiro Saito. These 'ancestors' from the past shaped the writer-me into existence, leading me to discover who I am as a Japanese Canadian woman.”

Read Ito’s list of books about family history.


Book Cover Dear Current Occupant

Dear Current Occupant, by Chelene Knight

"These books open the doors to a history that unfortunately was so easily erased and now—inaccessible. These books are conversations schools don’t seem to want to have with their students about race, violence, poverty, tough life decisions, political strife, and identity."

Read Knight’s list, “8 Books That Need to be in Every Classroom in Canada.”


Book Cover The Suitcase and the Jar

The Suitcase and the Jar, by Becky Livingston

“In 2011, 18 months after Rachel died, I quit my teaching job and headed off overseas. For 26 months I traveled—untethered and alone—to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, India, England, Ireland and North America, coast to coast. In my suitcase were Rachel’s ashes, heavy but compact. You can only take her if you’re willing to let her go.“ 

Read Livingston’s list, “On Endings, Courage, Uncertainty, and Surrender.”


Book Cover Mamaskatch

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age, by Darrel J. McLeod

“I felt a burden of responsibility because my mother told me stories about her life and about our family, over and over—likely in the hope, albeit an unconscious hope, that I in turn tell her stories and mine, not only to our family, but to the world. And it’s clearly time that we, as Indigenous people, tell our own stories with an authentic Indigenous voice.” 

Read McLeod’s conversation with Trevor Corkum.


Book Cover Rooster Town

Rooster Town: The History of an Urban Métis  Community, 1901-1961, by Evelyn Peters, Adrian Werner and Matthew Stock

“Poverty and unstable employment meant that squatting or buying inexpensive land on the city fringe, and self-building, was a resilient strategy for accessing urban employment and services and providing housing for families.”

Read Peters’ list of books about Indigenous urban communities. 


Book Cover Shrewed

Shrewed, by Elizabeth Renzetti

“Those were dark days at the end of 2016. A poisonously misogynistic man had been elected to the most powerful position in the world, over a woman who had vastly more experience and intellectual ability, but who didn’t smile enough, apparently. Or possibly she smiled too much—I’ve lost track. As I wrote the essays, I realized that making myself laugh also lifted my spirits.”

Read our Q&A with Renzetti. 


Book Cover The Real Lolita

The Real Lolita, by Sarah Weinman

“The story of Sally Horner echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel's creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.”

Read "True Crime: At the Intersection of Law and Literature."


Book Cover Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography, by Andrea Warner

“I wouldn’t have done this without Buffy’s consent and support. Her voice is essential and so powerful. This is her life story and she doesn’t really need me to do tell it. She’s Buffy Sainte-Marie, she’s an amazing storyteller. But what I can do as a writer and as a feminist music critic who has spent years writing about Buffy’s music and the music business is provide a framework for her story and contextualize her journey so far. “ 

Read our Q&A with Warner.


Book Cover the Woo Woo

The Woo Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family, by Lindsay Wong

“In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons when they should really be on anti-psychotic meds.” 

Read our Editors’ Picks for November 26-December 1.