Thursday, January 16, 2014

RBC Taylor Prize Shortlist Finalists 2014

The RBC Taylor prize for non-fiction has announced their shortlist of finalists for 2014. The winner will be announced in March and receive a $25 000 prize. The finalists are:

The Massey Murder: A Maid, her Master, and a Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray

Novels about Canadian true crimes by Margaret Atwood (Alias Grace) or Lynn Crosbie (Paul's Case) might capture public attention, but this book by one of Canada's top biographers and historians (Gold Diggers) captivates as an evocative and eye-opening history lesson. Set in the bourgeois world of 1915 Toronto, the expertly-paced procedural follows the fate of an English-born servant, Carrie Davies, whose characteristic "hard, hard life" as one of the city's nearly 12,000 domestics underwent a sudden and radical transformation when she shot Charles Massey, the scion of an influential family, claiming he'd ruined her character. Depicting rapidly changing Canada as a place "riddled with anachronisms and paradoxes" where "seams of hypocrisy and prudery ran deep," the story winds from the Toronto's Women's Court in the heyday of maternal feminism and warring newspapers to a bitter, alcoholic defense attorney, self-important judicial functionaries, courtroom mobs filled with morbid curiosity, and families with unchallenged patrician attitudes. The unfolding drama was a welcome distraction from the "pitiless meat grinder" of war in Europe. While the two-day trial featured competing "gothic horror story" theatrics, the jury of Carrie's 12 social peers eventually obeyed a peculiar logic, reflecting the nation's shifting values.

The Inconvenient Indian:  A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian is at once a "history" and the complete subversion of a history--in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be "Indian" in North America. Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope -- a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.

The Once and Future World:  Nature as it was, As it is, As it could Be by J.B. MacKinnon

The Once and Future World began in the moment J.B. MacKinnon realized the grassland he grew up on was not the pristine wilderness he had always believed it to be. Instead, his home prairie was the outcome of a long history of transformation, from the disappearance of the grizzly bear to the introduction of cattle. What remains today is an illusion of the wild--an illusion that has in many ways created our world. In 3 beautifully drawn parts, MacKinnon revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and 20 times more whales swim in the sea. He traces how humans destroyed that reality, out of rapaciousness, yes, but also through a great forgetting. Finally, he calls for an "age of restoration," not only to revisit that richer and more awe-filled world, but to reconnect with our truest human nature. MacKinnon never fails to remind us that nature is a menagerie of marvels. Here are fish that pass down the wisdom of elders, landscapes still shaped by "ecological ghosts," a tortoise that is slowly remaking prehistory. "It remains a beautiful world," MacKinnon writes, "and it is its beauty, not its emptiness, that should inspire us to seek more nature in our lives."

View full imageThe Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan by Graeme Smith

For readers of War by Sebastian Junger, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch, and The Forever War by Dexter Filkins: The Dogs Are Eating Them Now is a raw, uncensored account of the war in Afghanistan from a brilliant young reporter who for several years was the only Western journalist brave enough to live full-time in the dangerous southern region. The Dogs are Eating Them Now is a highly personal narrative of our war in Afghanistan and how it went dangerously wrong. Written by a respected and fearless former foreign correspondent who has won multiple awards for his journalism (including an Emmy for the video series "Talking with the Taliban") this is a gripping account of modern warfare that takes you into back alleys, cockpits and prisons--telling stories that would have endangered his life had he published this book while still working as a journalist. From the corruption of law enforcement agents and the tribal nature of the local power structure to the economics of the drug trade and the frequent blunders of foreign troops, this is the no-holds-barred story from a leading expert on the insurgency. Smith draws on his unmatched compassion and a rare ability to cut through the noise and see the broader truths to give us a bold and candid look at the Taliban's continued influence--and at the mistakes, catastrophes and ultimate failure of the West's best intentions.

Arthur EricksonArthur Erickson: An Architect's Life by David Stouck

Not available in the Parkland Regional System at this time.

"This first full biography of Erickson, who died in 2009 at the age of 84, traces his life from its modest origins to his emergence on the world stage. Grounded in interviews with Erickson and his family, friends and clients, Arthur Ericksonis both an intimate portrait of the man and a stirring account of how he made his buildings work. Brilliantly written and superbly researched, it is also a provocative look at the phenomenon of cultural heroes and the nature of what we call "genius."" from (January 16, 2014).

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