The Year in Books: 2017

Our annual review of the latest works from local authors.

November 22, 2017 | | Arts

The days are growing shorter; the air colder. If these hills aren’t already under a mountain of snow, they soon will be. Like all Canadians, folks here know the best defence against winter is to curl up in a cozy spot – preferably in front of a fire with a cup of something hot nearby – and disappear into a good book. And thanks to the hard-working authors of this region, we have a wealth of choices.

There’s plenty of fiction, science fiction and poetry, including a new novel by Harry Posner, Dufferin County’s inaugural poet laureate. History buffs will delight in stories from Headwaters’ past and present in the latest offerings from Ken Weber and Mary Lazier. Want to shake up the status quo? Brent Preston’s introduction to the Good Food Revolution and Arnold De Graaff’s call for radical change to the economic system will inspire and offer hope for a healthier planet.

And for the kids? Shelley Peterson’s latest novel in the Saddle Creek series and an arty alphabet book by Curiosity House’s Rina Barone and Ruth Ann Pearce are just two of the many wonderful choices for the younger set.

Happy hibernation, everyone!

Dufferin Hikes
Loops & Lattes
by Nicola Ross

After exploring and writing the books – literally – on the best hikes in Caledon and Halton Hills, Nicola Ross heads north and finds more to love than she ever expected.

“Dufferin County reminds me of that geeky kid in high school who turns out to be the brightest, nicest, and most attractive and interesting person at your class reunion several decades later,” she writes.

The 32 loop routes in Dufferin Hikes, the latest in Ross’s Loops & Lattes series, feature bold landscapes, striking geology, fascinating wildlife and moments of blissful, hushed solitude. Each hike is rated for length, difficulty and estimated travel time, and includes pointers about highlights to watch for en route and, of course, places to stop for edible treats.

Caledon writer and environmental activist Nicola Ross is a regular contributor to this magazine. (Woodrising Consulting, $24.95)

Ken Weber’s Historic Hills
Stories of Our Past from In The Hills Magazine
by Ken Weber

For the past 20 years, Ken Weber has entertained readers of In The Hills with nearly 100 “Historic Hills” columns. Ken Weber’s Historic Hills is a selection of these articles in a beautifully packaged coffee-table book.

Weber is a historian who takes the “story” in “history” very seriously – and the book is loaded with excitement and scandal, controversy and big personalities, as well as photos and quirky sidebar information.

Discover why, in 1897, Toronto newspapers labelled Melancthon Township “Sodom and Gomorrah.” Shake your head in puzzlement over Shelburne’s dumbest bank robber. Empathize with the early settlers and the hardships they suffered. Most important, learn about the people and events that shaped the communities that make up the hills today.

Author, educator and speaker Ken Weber lives in Caledon. (Sure Print & Design, $39.95)

Auroch Unbound
by Harry Posner

Oscar’s difficult childhood is further complicated by the horns sprouting from his head. The horns lead to a tail. The tail leads to a circus. The circus leads to a labyrinth and a destiny both cruel and merciful.

Posner’s latest novel is a hallucinatory ride. Playful in both language and structure, it engages, challenges and entertains.

This year Harry Posner was appointed inaugural poet laureate of Dufferin County – a well-deserved honour. Some of his previous titles of poetry and prose include Wordbirds and Little Exits. (Harry Posner, $14.95)

The New Farm
Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution
by Brent Preston

Unfulfilled by their rat-race jobs in Toronto, Brent Preston and his wife Gillian Flies packed up their two young children and moved to a property outside Creemore near the village of Dunedin. There, surrounded by factory farms producing genetically modified crops doused with synthetic pesticides, they joined a fledgling movement known as the Good Food Revolution – and created a sustainable and profitable small-scale, low-mechanized organic farm. A stand at the Dunedin Farmers’ Market blossomed into gigs supplying many of the best restaurants in Canada.

But this success did not happen overnight. Nor did it come without back-breaking work, mounting debt, unco-operative weather and a marriage pushed to the limit (turns out discussing the next planting of carrots is terrible foreplay). By turns inspirational, political and laugh-out-loud funny, The New Farm is a must-read.

Brent Preston is a farmer, a speaker, and a writer for the Huffington Post. (Random House Canada, $32)

True Confessions from the Ninth Concession
by Dan Needles

Charmed by rural life and the idea of running a hobby farm, Dan Needles bought a rundown, wind-blasted 40 acres in Nottawasaga Township in 1978. Any reader of Needles’ regular column in this magazine knows exactly how his fantasy of living a pastoral idyll turned out: hilariously.

True Confessions is a collection of some 80 columns from In The Hills and, previously, Harrowsmith, beginning with Needles’ inspection of the farm, where he found a cow boldly using the house’s kitchen as a squat, through marriage, births, oddball neighbours, an even odder collection of farm animals and the author’s unshakeable love of country life.

Dan Needles is the author and playwright of the Wingfield Farm series. His book With Axe and Flask: The History of Persephone Township from Pre-Cambrian Times to the Present won the Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 2003. (Douglas & McIntyre, $22.95)

The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie
by Cecily Ross

Roughing It in the Bush, Susanna Moodie’s 1852 memoir of pioneer life in the wilds of Ontario, was an instant bestseller and holds an honoured place in Canada’s literary canon. Through imagined lost diaries, Cecily Ross’s bold novel adds layers of emotion and complexity to the woman behind the iconic literary work.

Readers learn of Moodie’s early years in England as Susanna Strickland, the youngest daughter among eight children, and how she channels her passionate nature into literary success. Marriage to John Moodie sees her crossing the Atlantic to suffer privation and near starvation on a plot of land north of Peterborough. Ross’s Susanna is a vibrant creation of flaws and fight, a woman tested to the limit, yet never broken.

Award-winning writer and editor Cecily Ross has worked for The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, The New York Times and In The Hills. She lives in Creemore. (HarperCollins Canada, $22.99)

The Gods in Whom They Trusted
The Disintegrative Effects of Capitalism: A Foundation for Transitioning to a New Social World
by Arnold De Graaff

“Capitalism has run its course; it cannot be fixed,” writes Arnold De Graaff. “The neoliberal belief system has failed us.” The Gods in Whom They Trusted takes an in-depth look at the environmental and social costs of globalism and offers a comprehensive guide to developing a sustainable and more humane economic system. There is hope for the planet, but the next five years are key, De Graaff warns. The time to act is now.

Mono’s Arnold de Graaff taught philosophical anthropology and psychology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is now a practising psychotherapist. (Heathwood Press, $37.90)

Christmas at Saddle Creek
by Shelley Peterson

Alberta “Bird” Simms, her horse Sundancer, and her faithful coyote friend Cody are back in a special Saddle Creek story. It’s Christmas Eve, and 16-year-old Bird is once again staying with her Aunt Hannah because the teen’s unpredictable mother can’t deal with the stress of the holidays. But Bird has no time to feel sorry for herself. An elderly neighbour in need of rescue is just the first in a whirlwind of events that will bring Bird’s family together and reveal dark secrets from the past.

The bestselling Saddle Creek books are a perfect read for horse-mad teens. Shelley Peterson owns and operates Fox Ridge, a stable in Caledon. (Dundurn, $12.99)

Sonja & Carl
by Suzanne Hillier

Sonja and Carl live in the same small Northern Ontario town. They attend the same high school. Both are children of immigrants. But the similarities end there.

Brainy Sonja lives in a rundown apartment where she and her work-ruined mother exist on a diet of pickles and lunch meat. Popular, wealthy Carl is flunking at school but an NHL hopeful with the potential of a bright hockey career ahead of him. When Sonja accepts a job tutoring Carl to pay her university tuition, their lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined.

This first novel by former teacher and retired lawyer Suzanne Hillier of Caledon is a moving tale of love, family, sacrifice and the sometimes devastating consequences of our actions. (Brindle & Glass, $19.95)

by Andrew Daley

Danny and Jill hop from resort to resort looking for “limes to squeeze.” What does this mean? Befriending other tourist couples, stealing their credit cards and PIN numbers, draining their bank accounts and living large on the proceeds. Oh, and not getting caught. That’s important too.

This time the two are in Acapulco with dangerously low funds and in desperate need of a score. Danny’s happy with the Americans they’ve got on the line, but Jill sets her sights on a British film producer and his wife. Something about the Brits feels off to Danny. Ignoring his instincts might be the worst decision he has ever made.

Andrew Daley grew up in Orangeville and now lives in Toronto. He is also the author of Tell Your Sister. (Tightrope Books, $22.95)

This I Know
Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence
by Terry O’Reilly

Mel and Patricia Ziegler bought 500 army shirts to sell at a flea market. They sold 10. So the next week they advertised them as “short-armed Spanish paratrooper shirts” and doubled the price. What happened? People couldn’t hand over their money fast enough.

Behold, the power of marketing!

With his trademark wit, Terry O’Reilly explains the ins and outs of marketing to business owners grappling with the sometimes overwhelming task of selling their product. This I Know is packed with hundreds of real-life examples to help businesses find creative ways to connect with customers.

And what happened to the Zieglers? They went on to found Banana Republic, the multimillion dollar chain of clothing stores.

Terry O’Reilly, who lives in Mulmur, cofounded Pirate Radio & Television. He is a speaker and the host of Under the Influence, which can be heard on CBC Radio, Sirius Satellite and other broadcast outlets. (Knopf Canada, $34)

Kaleidoscope of Caledon
by Mary Lazier

Mary Lazier casts her artistic eye on Caledon in her latest book of quirky paintings, photography, and local history and legends. Learn more about the Cheltenham brickworks, Hart House Farm and the Cataract hydro station. Marvel at the abundance of famous personalities. Feel a swell of pride for the Coalition of Concerned Citizens in their continuing fight against new gravel pits. Find the best places to see ghosts and discover the truth about all those Elton John sightings. Most of all, enjoy Lazier’s fun perspective and inventive illustrations.

Mulmur’s Mary Lazier is also the author of Stars of Dufferin County and Stars of Georgian Bay. (Tellwell, $30)

A Bird Chronicle
by Rina Barone
illustrated by Ruth Ann Pearce

Lucas, the least bittern, hides in the tall grass until danger has passed. Harriette, the half-collared kingfisher, hovers above the water hankering for lunch.

Birds from all over the world feature in this delightful alphabet book sure to please all ages. Children will enjoy the amusing alliteration and vibrant colours; adults will appreciate its artful packaging and clever use of typography.

Rina Barone is the co-owner of Curiosity House Books bookshop and publishing house in Creemore. Ruth Ann Pearce of Dunedin is a fine artist and digital illustrator. (Curiosity House Books, $24.95)

Fantastic Machines
A Coloring Book of Amazing Devices Real and Imagined
by Steve McDonald

Break out the pencil crayons! Dust off the magic markers! Steve McDonald’s new colouring book is here, and this time the artist has turned his eye to machines. Add your creative flair to a vintage airplane cockpit, a reel-to-reel film projector, an old Toronto streetcar and even the Large Hadron Collider. Don’t let the winter-white blahs get you down. Time to get your colour on!

Dunedin artist Steve McDonald travels the world in search of fresh inspiration for his pen-and-ink masterpieces. Look for his previous colouring books Fantastic Cities and Fantastic Structures. (Chronicle Books, $20.95)

Happy Birthday Canada
School Day
by Carolyn j Morris
illustrated by Richard McNaughton

Chick and Duckling of the Railfence Bunch are back in two new picture books for little ones. In Happy Birthday Canada, the two celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial by hopping aboard a train and travelling to every region of the country.

Their adventures continue in School Day. Riding the big yellow bus is a bit scary, but the friends are soon playing instruments in music class and learning their numbers and alphabet.

Carolyn j Morris, who lives in Beeton, is also the author of the Spruce Valley novels. Illustrator Richard McNaughton lives in Grey County. (Railfence Books, $12.95 each)

The Story of Caledon
Then and Now
by Dale O’Hara

Dale O’Hara relates the history of Caledon in this delightful picture book for young readers. Funded by the Caledon Heritage Foundation in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration, the book is distributed free to Grade 3 classes within the Town of Caledon.

Former teacher and Caledon resident Dale O’Hara is also the author of Acres of Glass and Brampton: The Flower City Story. (Caledon Heritage Foundation, $5 donation)

The Sky Is No Longer the Limit
A Flight Plan to Success for Immigrants with Big Dreams
by Svetlana Lazareva

Svetlana Lazareva immigrated to Canada from Russia without friends, family or the ability to speak English. Eleven years later, she is a registered nurse, recipient of the town of Caledon’s distinguished citizen award, founder of ImmPress Institute, an organization committed to helping immigrants through workshops and resources, and the author of a new book.

The Sky Is No Longer the Limit is part workbook, part tour guide through the challenges faced by immigrants. Lazareva’s inspirational words will help ensure new Canadians not only succeed, but also lead happy and healthy lives.

Svetlana Lazareva lives in Bolton. (ImmPress Institute, $19)

The Art of Sanity
Creativity, Complexity, Sanity
by David Courtney

In a society saturated by information and anxiety, many of us are disconnected from ourselves and choose instead to keep our heads down and stare at the devices in our hands.

This, David Courtney explains, leads to brain rigidity and, potentially, mental illness. The Art of Sanity takes a close look at how nurturing brain plasticity and creativity can lead to greater sanity. The book includes poems, a play and a DVD.

David Courtney is also the author of Theory of Mind. He lives in Belwood. (David Courtney, $24.95)

A Brush with Nature
Inspired by the Forests and Lakes of Algonquin
by Cynthia Percival
paintings by Mary Percival

Painter Mary Percival may have travelled the world, but the Algonquin wilderness was the source of inspiration for most of her paintings. Cynthia Percival honours her mother’s life and work in this lovely hardbound volume that tells the story of Mary’s attachment to Algonquin through her paintings.

For decades, Mary Percival was a resident of Mono. Cynthia Percival lives in Amaranth. (Cynthia Percival, $60)

Sports Talk
How It Has Penetrated Our Everyday Language
by Colin McNairn

In his 2015 book, In a Manner of Speaking, Colin McNairn explored the evolution of common idioms. This time out he sets his sights on sports. Sports Talk includes more than 650 common English terms and expressions drawn from more than 40 sports. So don’t be a hoser, dive right in, grab the bull by the horns and learn more about the language we speak.

Mulmur’s Colin McNairn is a lawyer, adjudicator and author. (Friesen Press, $18.99)

What Time Is It – The Sacred Now
Denise Tipping

Octogenarian Denise Tipping pours a lifetime of experience into this inspirational book of poetry.

From her early upbringing in Espanola and her struggle to raise six children after her first husband abandoned the family, to her battles with addiction and despair, Tipping’s words tell the story of a life recovered through hard work and spiritual belief.

Shelburne’s Denise Tipping is also an artist. Her watercolour and acrylic paintings appear throughout the book. (Tellwell, $19.95)


Rebels Rein
The Chronicles of Xannia, Part Three
by M.J. Moores

Rebels Rein takes readers back 22 years – to a time before the failed uprising of the Resistance and the beginning of the Xannia series.

The survivors of the battle are herded onto a museum ship and banished to the seas and an uncertain fate.

Time’s Tempest and Cadence of Consequences are the first two titles in the Chronicles of Xannia series. M.J. Moores lives in Caledon. (Infinite Pathways Press, $18.99)


Bud by the Grace of God
Book Two of the Grace Lord Series
by S.E. Sasaki

Dr. Grace Lord performs surgery on animal-human hybrid soldiers on the medical space station Nelson Mandela. When it appears that a murderous ghost is haunting the ship and an alien form of plant life threatens to consume everything in its path, Grace and evolving android Bud must risk everything to save the ship from destruction.

S.E. Sasaki of Erin is a surgical assistant at Guelph General Hospital. Welcome to the Madhouse is the first book in the series. (Oddoc Books, $18.99)

Narrative Insights
The Art of Teaching and Learning
by Christina A. Schilling

“The education system can, at times, be overwhelming and unforgivingly sterile, offering little opportunity to nurture the self as a teacher, or to nurture students as unique individuals,” writes Christina Schilling.

Narrative Insights, an exploration of Schilling’s 28 years as an educator, offers her views on how to construct a more humane and creative environment in the classroom.

Christina Schilling lives in Belwood. (Christina Schilling, $16.95)

Love, Care and Share
A Message for Us All
by Tom Herstad

Tom Herstad’s family memoir is a beautiful testament to his mother Margie. Battling her own issues of loss and addiction, Margie helped countless people in crisis, opened her home to the homeless, lent money to the needy, parented the abandoned and believed in those who had lost their way.

In sharing her life story, Herstad hopes to inspire in others his mother’s values of kindness and generosity.

Tom Herstad lives in Georgetown. (Creative Hummingbird Results, $19.95)

by enya best

Caledon’s Enya Best examines the pain of love denied in this autobiographical book of poetry.

In spare and resonating free verse, best lays bare the story of her journey from withering flower to the full bloom of life. (enya best, $14.99)



Good Grief People
by Alan Anderson, Glynis M. Belec, Barbara Heagy, Donna Mann, Ruth Smith Meyer and Carolyn Wilker

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a painful and often lonely ordeal. Good Grief People reaches out with Christian-based words of understanding through this collection of life stories and poetry.

Writers and bloggers from across Canada, the authors include Glynis M. Belec of Drayton, Donna Mann of Elora and Barbara Heagy of Guelph. (Angel Hope Publishing, $20)

Truths a Liar Wishes to Tell You
A Few Too Many Words
by JAC

Joshua Alexander Cameron, aka JAC, takes a sledgehammer to convention and joyfully plays in the rubble of structure and language in this collection of poetry and prose.

The poems – some free-verse, others classical in form – are accompanied by footnotes that challenge the reading experience by revealing the story behind the author’s writing process, explaining punctuation choices, questioning readers’ assumptions and even offering advice, such as, “Writing notes to dead people is a surefire way to ensure you don’t get invited to parties.”

JAC lives in Shelburne. (JAC, $10)

Epic Ellie and the Invisible Dragon
A Book about Allergies for Kids and Their Caregivers
by Sheralyn Roman
illustrated by Jenna Stewart

Even brave, hockey-playing princesses can develop severe allergies. Sheralyn Roman empowers children, parents and educators with this fact-filled tale. With an arsenal of awareness, an allergy buddy and Ellie the Epic EpiPen, kids will gain the confidence to slay the allergy dragon every time.

Freelance writer and former teacher Sheralyn Roman lives in Caledon. (I C Publishing, $13.95)



About the Author More by Tracey Fockler

Tracey Fockler is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.

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