Thursday, October 06, 2011

HNT - True Stories Picks

I was recently contacted by CBC Books for a bookseller poll for Canada Reads 2012 - the question was what five books would I select for the best "True Story" pics.

It was certainly an interesting and challenging list to pick from. I wanted to be able to select from the full range of the types of non-fiction/true story books I had read. The selection I ended up going with was something that I feel nicely represents the range of my preferred reading tastes whenever I do pick up a non-fiction book, particularly one with biographical elements.

Here's what I wrote for my submission of the five titles...

"In determining this list I had to wanted to think about Canadian authored books I had read that not only told some sort of "true story" but which also had a significant impact on me. I'm primarily a fan of fiction, and, as such, I don't typically read a lot of biographical books. When I read non-fiction I tend to want to read something that will teach me something. To that end, each of the five books I selected ended up teaching me something. It might have been something new that I was enlightened to learn, it might have been a perspective I hadn't previously considered; but in many cases, the reading of these "tales" taught me something new about myself. Reading these books altered my perception, my understanding and the stories stayed with me long after reading them. I tried to draw a list that ran the full spectrum of the types of "true stories" that I like -- stories that demonstrate growth, learning, the gaining of wisdom through trial and error and overcoming the various trials and tribulations that eventually build character."

And here are the books I picked....

  • Last Resort: A Memoir - Linwood Barclay
    • The first book by Barclay which I read and which turned me on to his wonderful mixture of being funny yet touching at the same time. It was only later that he also demonstrated his mastery of suspense I bought the book after seeing him read at Word on the Street in Toronto. I was working the Toronto Star booth that day and heard the same reading 3 or 4 times - he was just as fascinating every single time I heard it, which sold me on the fact I had to read this book. It was a great introduction to a brilliant writer.
  • Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to my Life and Times - Neil Peart
    • Peart is a talented and passionate writer. His lyrics are what drew me to listen to Rush in the first place, so when he started writing (this is one of about half a dozen of his books) This biographical look at his life, told with respect to the music he was listening to as he was experiencing that life was a wonderful way to explore his life as a musician, a husband, a father and a friend. This book is incredibly touching, thoughtful, introspective, observant, funny, insightful; even if you've never listened to Rush you can enjoy the tale he unravels.
  • Negotiating with the Dead - Margaret Atwood
    • This academically styled look at writers and writing is wonderfully interspersed with Atwood's personal reflections and life experiences. It offers a thoughtful and in depth look at the profession and culture of writing and yet contains enough "light" personal references to be seen in a biographical light. And, as a writer I couldn't resist including this often overlooked gem from one of Canada's most prolific writers.
  • Last Canadian Beer: The Moosehead Story - Harvey Sawler
    • This isn't just the story of a successful independent Canadian brewery, but it's also a look at the story of a family that built a company up and achieved phenomenal success while following a consistent dream. It's as much a "business" biography book as it is a family legacy. Of course, upon finishing the book, my respect for the people behind the Moosehead brand grew exponentially. Since reading it, I continue to pause to toast the Oland family whenever I enjoy a pint of their beer.
  • Me Minus 173: From 328 Lbs to The Boston Marathon
    • Snell is a captivating motivational speaker. Her frank and poignant story of how she got to be 43 years old and decided to make some simple changes to improve her health and lifestyle is inspiring and heartfelt. It demonstrates the power of a person's conviction and can likely inspire others to set and stick to simple goals. It's not so much the story of weight-loss as it is a tale that empowers the reader to follow their own dreams. 

And here's a picture of me holding all five books.

What I think I love best about the selection that various booksellers have chosen is that everybody's picks are quite excellent and wonderfully eclectic. Looking at everyone's selections on a whole you can see that we have covered a significant amount of ground. And I was honoured to be included with such great booksellers.

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