Read This!

By / Food / January 14th, 2013 / Like

Are you a reader of fiction or non-fiction? I find both to be fabulous. If I could, I’d build a bigger house every year to house my growing collection. Of course, I can’t do that. So, instead, my library card has been getting quite the workout. I still buy a lot of books, though, and I will keep my absolute favourites. But, lately, most things that come in to my house ultimately find their way out again, usually via donation truck.

Friday brought a load of good news for us readers. The Charles Taylor Prize jury announced their shortlisted picks for the best non-fiction work of 2013. Noreen Taylor, prize founder and chair of the Charles Taylor Foundation, and Vijay Parmar, President, PHN Investment Counsel, RBC Wealth Management, read off the list of five names. The prize is presented by RBC Wealth Management.

The jurors this year are, as always, an interesting bunch in and of themselves. There were: broadcast executive Susanne Boyce, award-winning author and newspaper columnist Richard Gwyn, and author/educator Joseph Kertes. The jury had the pleasure of reading and reviewed 129 Canadian-authored non-fiction books submitted by 43 publishers from around the world. Wow!

… and named to the shortlist is:

Carol Bishop-Gwyn (Toronto) for The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca, published by Cormorant Books

The jury’s comment: “Carol Bishop-Gwyn does for Celia Franca what history requires and demands. She gives us the complex story of an artist both driven and tyrannical, both sensitive and unreasonable, but someone able, with little help and in what was little more than a cultural backwater, to found a ballet company which was to become one of the best in the world, the National Ballet of Canada. The company still bears her stamp. Bishop-Gwyn’s rich biography tells us exactly why.”

Tim Cook (Ottawa) for Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada’s World Wars, published by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Canada

I can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

Here’s what the jury had to say: “We measure Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King, our two world war prime ministers, by the extent to which each rose to the occasion, led our country to bloody war, and led us out again, each of them effective warriors striving for peace. Tim Cook’s Warlords:Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada’s World Wars portrays these two men as theyreally were, men moderately able to lead Canada through a dark time and, despite their numerous shortcomings (particularly Mackenzie King’s), able to survive politically. Cook’s great achievement is his capturing of Canada as it grapples with its identity.”

Sandra Djwa (Vancouver) for Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press

If you’ve never read Page’s work, do yourself a favour and do so. Inspiring and thoughtful, I love her way with words. Then read Djwa’s account of what made her tick.

The jury’s thoughts: “In taking on the life of P.K. Page, Sandra Djwa needed to be as driven and sensitive as her subject. Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K.Page is not only the story of one of Canada’s great artists and poets, but also a history of the flowering of Canadian literature and culture in the twentieth century. Using the tools of the scholar – letters, notes, diaries, manuscripts, texts and interviews – Djwa fashions a compelling and necessary biography. She does the important job of leaving us with the big, rich life story, which gives an extra dimension to the art of a great writer.”

Ross King (Woodstock, England) for Leonardo and The Last Supper, published by Bond Street Books, an imprint of Doubleday Canada

In my humble opinion, learning about the history of art and its function in, and effects on, society gives us a huge amount of insight into our crazy, post-modern world.

The jury’s thoughts: “Leonardo and The Last Supper is the latest in Ross King’s studies of medieval Italian masters from Machiavelli to Brunelleschi to, now, the grand master of all, Leonardo da Vinci. The Last Supper is the most famous painting in the world excepting only for another by the same painter, the Mona Lisa, and it is the painting that raised da Vinci from the status of a highly promising but exasperatingly unproductive painter to the rank of the greatest artistic genius of all time. Leonardo and The Last Supper is a masterly exercise in the art of popular biography.

Andrew Preston (Cambridge, England) for Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy, published by Knopf Canada

Speaking of our crazy, post-modern world, Preston’s thoughts on this subject are worth perusing.

The jury said: “Fluently written, comprehensively researched, and scrupulously balanced, Andrew Preston’s Sword of the Spirit, Shield of the Faith describes how the foreign policy of the United States has been and is influenced, alternately decisively and marginally, by the fact that so many Americans regard themselves as a people chosen to do God’s work to others and because American leaders all the way from Lincoln to George W. Bush have used religious convictions to justify political acts. Showing that the centrality of religion in American life is by no means unique to fundamentalists and neo-conservatives, this important work has such chapter titles as “High Priests of the Cold War” and “A Judeo-Christian Foreign Policy,” which convey Preston’s originality and, indeed, his bravery.”

Happy reading!


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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