In my previous post I provided a list of Bill’s Best of 2017 Fiction. I turn now to my favourites in Non-Fiction and Most Interesting for 2017.
The Best of Non-Fiction were:
1.) Idea of Canada – Letters to a Nation by David Johnston – Our Governor General at the time of publication David has a practice of writing, by hand, a few letters each morning to living and deceased Canadians. This book contains a collection of those letters and is a celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.
They range over many topics. Some that interested me were Canadian history, law students and fighting in hockey.
I read this book as it was written reading a few letters each day over three weeks.
I admit a bias with regard to this book. I sent my review as a letter to David and he responded with a handwritten letter. He was as forthright and direct in his reply as in the letters in his book;
2.) America on Trial by Alan Dershowitz – The author, a famed Harvard professor and active lawyer and currently prominent as a T.V. commentator, has made an arbitrary selection of famous American trials which reflect the American legal system going back prior to 1776.
The trials were not necessarily the most important but they all dealt with important legal principles or historical events.
An example was the Savannah trial from the American Civil War. A confederate raider was captured at sea and the crew tried for piracy. A hung jury saved President Lincoln from having to determine whether they were pirates or prisoners of war. It reminded me of the current American dilemma within its War on Terrorism on whether captured fighters are “enemy combatants” or prisoners of war.
Six months ago I wondered in my reviews of the book if Dershowitz was President Trump’s “God Forbid” lawyer against charges of obstruction of justice. The President may yet need Dershowitz.
3.) The Mighty Hughes by Craig McInnes – The story of a remarkable Canadian, Edward “Ted” Hughes who grew up in Saskatchewan and became a lawyer and a judge here. After moving to British Columbia in his early 50’s he became justly famed as the man to investigate allegations of conflicts of interest and conduct public inquiries on behalf of provincial governments. He became known as the moral compass of Western Canada. In his 80’s he led the process of compensation for former students at Canadian Indian Residential Schools. Now 90 he remains committed to public service.
Most interesting covers titles that are not the Best in fiction or non-fiction but books I found unique:
1.) Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany – The prolific Canadian writer began a new series set in Cape Cod, Massachusetts with the indominable Gemma Doyle, a distant relative of Arthur Conan Doyle, who is tall and lanky and brilliant.
She knows, like Sherlock, some find her irritating but she does not care:
…. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that some people
don’t understand my attention to detail and thus misunderstand
the conclusions I draw from it. I have tried to stop, but I might
as well stop thinking.
At the heart of the mystery is a copy of the Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. That Annual contained the first Sherlock Holmes story.
Elementary, She Read is a fine addition to contemporary Sherlockian books.
2.) Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding – Lieutenant Hanns Alexander was an obscure British Army officer in World War II. Rudolf Hoess was infamous as the Commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
At the end of the war Alexander, with little help, set out to find Hoess in northern Germany.
There is significant irony that Alexander, a German Jewish refugee, was hunting down one of the worst mass murderers in world history.
What left me reflective were the paths chosen by two ordinary men. Alexander served honorably in the British Army. Hoess was a willing killer of men, women and children.
3.) Final Appeal – Anatomy of a Frame by Colin Thatcher – The book is the author’s attempt to convince the world he was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife, Joanne Wilson. The subtitle reflects his belief the Regina police and Crown prosecutors set out to frame him. It is an interesting book filled with details and considerable speculation. I primarily read it to learn the reasons for the legal strategies used in his trial. In particular, I wanted to know who made the decision to have him testify for his appearance on the witness stand probably convicted him. As I expected he made the decision to testify against the advice of his lawyer.
The book inspired the Government of Saskatchewan to pass a law that a convicted criminal cannot profit from writing a book about his/her crime. What challenged me most about the application of the law is the monies payable to Thatcher that were received from the publisher were not paid to the children who had resolutely supported their father’s defence. They went to a pair of victim funds.