I’m sitting at the Porter airport lounge with my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to fly into Moncton this evening (oh snow how I loathe you when it comes to plans). Needless to say, I was unable to attend the CBC Canada Reads announcement this morning but I was sitting at my computer with baited breath to find out which books got selected. If you haven’t heard the news about who got selected, look no further…
Alan Thicke defends: The Game by Ken Dryden
An enduring classic, Ken Dryden’s The Game has lost none of its luster since its original publication in 1983, and remains the one book every hockey fan must know. Imagine writing that combines the locker-room perspectives of Ball Four and the philosophical musings of both Bill and William James and you have some idea of the scope of The Game. At the height of his Hall of Fame career, goalie Dryden took a year off from the Montreal Canadiens to article for a law firm, and the sabbatical deepened his appreciation for hockey. The Gameis funny, acutely observed, and full of insight into human nature and the importance of sport in today’s society. Dryden’s portraits of his teammates are precise and unforgettable. Catching the balance between banter and seriousness, Dryden describes Scotty Bowman’s pep talks; Serge Savard motivating teammates; the river skater Lafleur, in uniform hours early, reappearing and startling everyone into focus with a whack of his stick on the table; Larry Robinson sensing the wrong atmosphere before a game against a weak opponent and resetting the stakes with the unanswerable remark, “Gotta play it–might as well win it.”
Dryden also offers the best analysis anywhere of the contentious and eternally unresolved debate on violence in sport. Drawing on well-documented research he disproves the “violence as release” metaphor favored by hockey traditionalists, showing that violence is in fact a learned response and that deliberate abuse of the rules and constant retaliation only leads to more of the same, until the game deteriorates and the sport loses its best qualities. This backstage look at one of hockey’s greatest teams remains one of the best books ever published on any sport. –David Gowdey
Stacey McKenzie defends: On a Cold Mountain by Dave Bidini
ABOUT THE BOOK:
David Bidini, rhythm guitarist with the Rheostatics, knows all too well what the life of a rock band in Canada involves: storied arenas one tour and bars wallpapered with photos of forgotten bands the next. Zit-speckled fans begging for a guitar pick and angry drunks chucking twenty-sixers and pint glasses. Opulent tour buses riding through apocalyptic snowstorms and cramped vans that reek of dope and beer. Brilliant performances and heart-sinking break-ups.
Bidini has played all across the country many times, in venues as far flung and unalike as Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and the Royal Albert Hotel in Winnipeg. In 1996, when the Rheostatics opened for the Tragically Hip on their Trouble at the Henhouse tour, Bidini kept a diary. In On a Cold Road he weaves his colourful tales about that tour with revealing and hilarious anecdotes from the pioneers of Canadian rock – including BTO, Goddo, the Stampeders, Max Webster, Crowbar, the Guess Who, Triumph, Trooper, Bruce Cockburn, Gale Garnett, and Tommy Chong – whom Bidini later interviewed in an effort to compare their experiences with his. The result is an original, vivid, and unforgettable picture of what it has meant, for the last forty years, to be a rock musician in Canada.
Arlene Dickinson defends: Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat
Starred Review. Nemat tells of her harrowing experience as a young Iranian girl at the start of the Islamic revolution. In January 1982, the 16-year-old student activist was arrested, jailed in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, tortured and sentenced to death. Ali, one of her interrogators, intervened moments before her execution, having used family connections with Ayatollah Khomeini himself to reduce her sentence to life in prison. The price: she would convert to Islam (she was Christian) and marry him, or he would see to it that her family and her boyfriend, Andre, were jailed or even killed. She remained a political prisoner for two years. Nemat’s engaging memoir is rich with complex characters—loved ones lost on both sides of this bloody conflict. Ali, the man who rapes and subjugates her, also saves her life several times—he is assassinated by his own subordinates. His family embraces Nemat with more affection and acceptance than her own, even fighting for her release after his death. Nemat returns home to feel a stranger: “They were terrified of the pain and horror of my past,” she writes. She buries her memories for years, eventually escaping to Canada to begin a new life with Andre. Nemat offers her arresting, heartbreaking story of forgiveness, hope and enduring love—a voice for the untold scores silenced by Iran’s revolution. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Shad defends: Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
A gripping, darkly comic first-hand account of a young underground revolutionary during the Pinochet dictatorship in 1980s Chile.
On September 11, 1973, a violent coup removed Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, from office. Thousands were arrested, tortured and killed under General Augusto Pinochet’s repressive new regime. Soon after the coup, six-year-old Carmen Aguirre and her younger sister fled the country with their parents for Canada and a life in exile.
In 1978, the Chilean resistance issued a call for exiled activists to return to Latin America. Most women sent their children to live with relatives or with supporters in Cuba, but Carmen‘s mother kept her precious girls with her. As their mother and stepfather set up a safe house for resistance members in La Paz, Bolivia, the girls’ own double lives began. At eighteen, Carmen herself joined the resistance. With conventional day jobs as a cover, she and her new husband moved to Argentina to begin a dangerous new life of their own.
This dramatic, darkly funny narrative, which covers the eventful decade from 1979 to 1989, takes the reader inside war-ridden Peru, dictatorship-run Bolivia, post-Malvinas Argentina and Pinochet’s Chile. Writing with passion and deep personal insight, Carmen captures her constant struggle to reconcile her commitment to the movement with the desires of her youth and her budding sexuality. Something Fierce is a gripping story of love, war and resistance and a rare first-hand account of revolutionary life.
Anne-France Goldwater defends: The Tiger by John Vaillant
John Vaillant is a literary shaman. The mixture of fact, conjecture, and superstition he concocted for 2005’s The Golden Spruce was pure magic and earned him the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction. That same magic pervades the Vancouver author’s new book. Like the previous work, The Tiger involves a mystical encounter between man and the natural world. Set in southeastern Siberia, the story pits a group of men against an astoundingly vengeful, cunning carnivore.
The Tiger reads like a chilling detective novel constantly flirting with the supernatural. The action unfolds over a few days in December 1997 but could just as easily be a spooky folk tale told around a campfire.
The remains of experienced outdoorsman and hunter Vladimir Markov are found near his shack in the Siberian wilderness. It is evident he has been eaten by a tiger. But tigers tend to kill people only when provoked: what had Markov done to enrage the beast? And why is the tiger continuing to attack other humans in the area? Officers from a state wildlife organization investigate the mystery, trying to track down the animal and calm the fears of superstitious villagers. To do so, they use both modern science and ancient folklore.
The story of the hunt for the murderous tiger is frequently interrupted by page after page of background on Siberia, its declining animal population, and the unwritten laws of the forest. This flood of information is interesting, but detracts from the flow of an otherwise spellbinding narrative. As well, a very preachy epilogue seems redundant. We know by this point that the Siberian tiger population should be safeguarded and don’t need this message hammered into our heads any further.
Despite its flaws, The Tiger is a feast of impressive research, cinematic prose, and chilling mysticism that will enthrall both hunters and tree-huggers. The shaman has worked his magic once again.
–This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Which books are you excited to read???