A while back, someone tweeted that, based on what he could see in the background of the Agenda studio, we might have the makings of a good summer reading list, and he asked me to share with the Twitterverse some of my favourite titles.
It’s a tricky task: one of the joys of this job is having the opportunity to read so many wonderful books throughout the broadcast season, and to interview their authors. But I’ve tried to limit my choices to one book per category. Here goes…
Terrorism - Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone, by Scott Shane. It’s no secret why this book won the Lionel Gelber Prize for best book on international affairs. The New York Times reporter chronicles the Obama administration’s killing of terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. It reads like a spy thriller and asks some tough questions about the War on Terror.
The Middle East - The Morning They Came For Us, by Janine di Giovanni. This is a frightening account of life in Syria, a country torn apart by civil war, told by one of the world’s gutsiest foreign correspondents. Unforgettable.
International biography - Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, by Rosemary Sullivan. The 2016 RBC Taylor Prize-winner for literary non-fiction, this is a long but excellent read about Svetlana Alliluyeva, one of the most famous defectors in history. Her story feels right out of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
Canadian biography - Distilled: A Memoir of Family, Seagram, Baseball, and Philanthropy, by Charles Bronfman; and Living Up to a Legend: My Adventures With Billy Bishop’s Ghost, by Diana Bishop. I couldn’t decide between these two great stories of two legendary Canadians. Charles Bronfman tells of his privileged life growing up in Montreal as the son of Sam Bronfman, owner of one of the world’s great distillers, Seagram, and watching his nephew Edgar Jr. destroy everything his father had built. And Diana Bishop wrote a brutally honest tale of her relationship with her father and of living in the shadow of Canada’s most legendary pilot, her grandfather Billy Bishop.
Journalism - Dispatches From the Front, by David Halton, a former CBC News correspondent I’ve always admired. Halton’s reporting work has been the gold standard for decades — a standard his father, Matthew, set before him. It was interesting to learn more about this journalistic dynamic duo, with David opening up about his father’s life.
Indigenous affairs - Up Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History, by Edmund Metatawabin and Alexandra Shimo. If you read one book this summer about Indigenous affairs, make it this one. It’s a harrowing account of Metatawabin’s time in residential school, and of how, against all odds, he turned out to be a fine, forgiving soul.
Canadian history - Cold Fire: Kennedy’s Northern Front, by John Boyko. Boyko is a frequent guest on The Agenda, mostly because he writes so many good books — and this one is no exception. Boyko examines JFK’s relationships with former prime ministers John Diefenbaker and Lester B. Pearson. Let’s just say he liked Dief a lot less.
American politics - Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. It was supposed to be an inside look at the making of America’s first-ever female president. Instead, it’s the story of a dysfunctional campaign led by a candidate with serious electability issues. A great read for those wanting a behind-the-scenes look at why Hillary Clinton isn’t president.
Ontari-ari-ari-o - Bill Davis, by Steve Paikin. Although I refused to put my own book on the studio bookshelves (lest I be criticized for taking advantage of my position), I’m now giving in and saying what the heck. If you want to learn more about the last half-century of our province, seen through the eyes of its second-longest-serving premier, this is for you. (Davis co-operated with this effort, though he had no say over the final text.) And, yes: I think it’s not a bad read.
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