Annal: 2011 Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction

Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 2011.

Book:Mordecai:The Life & Times

Mordecai: The Life & Times

Charles Foran

Foran’s book is IT: the definitive, detailed, intimate portrait of Mordecai Richler, the lion of Canadian literature, and the turbulent, changing times that nurtured him. It is also an extraordinary love story that lasted half a century.

The first major biography with access to family letters and archives. Mordecai Richler was an outsized and outrageous novelist whose life reads like fiction.

Mordecai Richler won multiple Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, among others, as well as many awards for his children’s books. He also wrote Oscar-nominated screenplays. His influence was larger than life in Canada and abroad. In Mordecai, award-winning novelist and journalist Charlie Foran brings to the page the richness of Mordecai’s life as young bohemian, irreverent writer, passionate and controversial Canadian, loyal friend and deeply romantic lover. He explores Mordecai’s distraught childhood, and gives us the “portrait of a marriage” — the lifelong love affair with Florence, with Mordecai as beloved father of five. The portrait is alive and intimate — warts and all.

Book:The Damned: The Canadians at the Battle of Hong Kong

The Damned: The Canadians at the Battle of Hong Kong and the POW Experience, 1941-45

Nathan M. Greenfield

The Damned tells the largely unknown saga of Canada’ s first land battle of the Second World War— fought in the hills and valleys of Hong Kong in December 1941— and the terrible years the survivors of the battle spent as slave labourers for the Empire of Japan. Their story begins in the fall of 1941, when almost 2,000 members of the Royal Rifles and the Winnipeg Grenadiers were sent to bolster the British garrison at Hong Kong. In the seventeen-day battle for the colony following the Japanese attack on December 8, the Canadians suffered grievous losses. The second part of their story— how the Canadians survived the horrid conditions of the Japanese POW camps— lasts three and a half years. Despite the circumstances, the surviving Canadians remained unbowed and unbroken. Theirs is a story of determination and valour, of resilience and faith.

Book:Empire of the Beetle

Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests

Andrew Nikiforuk

Beginning in the late 1980s, a series of improbable bark beetle outbreaks unsettled iconic forests and communities across western North America. An insect the size of a rice kernel eventually killed more than 30 billion pine and spruce trees from Alaska to New Mexico. Often appearing in masses larger than schools of killer whales, the beetles engineered one of the world’s greatest forest die-offs since the deforestation of Europe by peasants between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries.

The beetle didn’t act alone. Misguided science, out-of-control logging, bad public policy, and a hundred years of fire suppression created a volatile geography that released the world’s oldest forest manager from all natural constraints. Like most human empires, the beetles exploded wildly and then crashed, leaving in their wake grieving landowners, humbled scientists, hungry animals, and altered watersheds. Although climate change triggered this complex event, human arrogance assuredly set the table.…[more]

Book:The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

J.J. Lee

Taking as its starting point a son’s decision to alter his late father’s last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out—and discovering what it means to be your own man.

For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet—his late father’s last suit. When he decides to finally make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey into his own past.

As JJ moves across the surface of the suit, he reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father, a charismatic but luckless restaurateur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. He also recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at Modernize…[more]

Book:Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald

Nation Maker: His Life, Our Times

Richard Gwyn

An exciting story, passionately told and rich in detail, this major biography is the second volume of the bestselling, award-winning John A: The Man Who Made Us, by well-known journalist and highly respected author Richard Gwyn.

John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first and most important prime minister, is the man who made Confederation happen, who built this country over the next quarter century, and who shaped what it is today. From Confederation Day in 1867, where this volume picks up, Macdonald finessed a reluctant union of four provinces in central and eastern Canada into a strong nation, despite indifference from Britain and annexationist sentiment in the United States.

But it wasn’t easy. The wily Macdonald faced constant crises throughout these years, from Louis Riel’s two rebellions through to the Pacific Scandal that almost undid his government and his quest to find the spine of the nation: the railroad that…[more]

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