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Us and Our World

Discover books that explore global and personal topics. A collection of nonfiction books exploring world events and our place in them.

Autocracy Inc.

- Anne Applebaum

Hardcover $35.00
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From the Pulitzer-prize winning, New York Times bestselling author, an alarming account of how autocracies work together to undermine the democratic world, and how we should organize to defeat them.

We think we know what an autocratic state looks like: There is an all-powerful leader at the top. He controls the police. The police threaten the people with violence. There are evil collaborators, and maybe some brave dissidents.

But in the 21st century, that bears little resemblance to reality. Nowadays, autocracies are underpinned not by one dictator, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, surveillance technologies, and professional propagandists, all of which operate across multiple regimes, from China to Russia to Iran. Corrupt companies in one country do business with corrupt companies in another. The police in one country can arm and train the police in another, and propagandists share resources and themes, pounding
home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America.

International condemnation and economic sanctions cannot move the autocrats. Even popular opposition movements, from Venezuela to Hong Kong to Moscow, don't stand a chance. The members of Autocracy, Inc, aren't linked by a unifying ideology, like communism, but rather a common desire for power, wealth, and impunity. In this urgent treatise, which evokes George Kennan's essay calling for "containment" of the Soviet Union, Anne Applebaum calls for the democracies to fundamentally reorient their policies to fight a new kind of threat.

What the Wild Sea Can Be

- Helen Scales

Hardcover $42.95
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The acclaimed marine biologist and author of The Brilliant Abyss examines the existential threats the world's ocean will face in the coming decades and offers cautious optimism for much of the abundant life within in

No matter where we live, "we are all ocean people," Helen Scales emphatically observes in her bracing yet hopeful exploration of the future of the ocean. Beginning with its fascinating deep history, Scales links past to present to show how the prehistoric ocean ecology was already working in ways similar to the ocean of today. In elegant, evocative prose, she takes readers into the realms of animals that epitomize today's increasingly challenging conditions. Ocean life everywhere is on the move as seas warm, and warm waters are an existential threat to emperor penguins, whose mating grounds in Antarctica are collapsing. Shark populations--critical to balanced ecosystems--have shrunk by 71 per cent since the 1970s, largely the result of massive and oft-unregulated industrial fishing. Orcas--the apex predators--have also drastically declined, victims of toxic chemicals and plastics with long half-lives that disrupt the immune system and the ability to breed.


Yet despite these threats, many hopeful signs remain. Increasing numbers of no-fish zones around the world are restoring once-diminishing populations. Amazing seagrass meadows and giant kelp forests rivaling those on land are being regenerated and expanded. They may be our best defense against the storm surges caused by global warming, while efforts to reengineer coral reefs for a warmer world are growing.

Offering innovative ideas for protecting coastlines and cleaning the toxic seas, Scales insists we need more ethical and sustainable fisheries and must prevent the other existential threat of deep-sea mining, which could significantly alter life on earth. Inspiring us all to maintain a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty beneath the waves, she urges us to fight for the better future that still exists for the Anthropocene ocean.

On Freedom

- Timothy Snyder

Hardcover $42.00
Reader Reward Price: $37.80

A brilliant exploration of freedom--what it is, how it's been misunderstood, and why it's our only chance for survival--by the acclaimed Yale historian and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller On Tyranny

"Much like life itself, freedom needs to be defined and redefined. On Freedom offers fresh insight into essential aspects of human existence--the values and obligations inherent in every individual's life."--Ai Weiwei

Timothy Snyder has been called "the leading interpreter of our dark times." As a historian, he has given us startling reinterpretations of political collapse and mass killing. As a public intellectual, he has turned that knowledge toward counsel and prediction, working against authoritarianism here and abroad. His book On Tyranny has inspired millions around the world to fight for freedom. Now, in this tour de force of political philosophy, he helps us see exactly what we're fighting for.

Freedom is the great American commitment, but as Snyder argues, we have lost sight of what it means--and this is leading us into crisis. Too many of us look at freedom as the absence of state power: We think we're free if we can do and say as we please, and protect ourselves from government overreach. But true freedom isn't so much freedom from as freedom to--the freedom to thrive, to take risks for futures we choose by working together. Freedom is the value that makes all other values possible.

On Freedom takes us on a thrilling intellectual journey. Drawing on the work of philosophers and political dissidents, conversations with contemporary thinkers, and his own experiences coming of age in a time of American exceptionalism, Snyder identifies the practices and attitudes--the habits of mind--that will allow us to design a government in which we and future generations can flourish. We come to appreciate the importance of traditions (championed by the right) but also the role of institutions (the purview of the left). Intimate yet ambitious, this book helps forge a new consensus rooted in a politics of abundance, generosity, and grace.

I Heard There Was A Secret Chord

- Daniel J Levitin

Hardcover $39.95
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Neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of This Is Your Brain on Music Daniel J. Levitin reveals how the deep connections between music and the human brain can be harnessed for healing.

Music is perhaps one of humanity's oldest medicines as well as its most universal: from China to the Ottoman Empire, Europe to Africa and pre-colonial South America, cultures have developed rich traditions for using sound and rhythm to ease suffering, spur healing, and calm the mind. Despite this history, musical therapy has long been considered the remit of ancient practice and alternative medicine, if not outright quackery and pseudoscience. In the last decade, however, an overwhelming body of scientific evidence has emerged that persuasively argues music can offer profoundly effective treatment for a whole host of ailments, from Alzheimer's to PTSD, depression, pain, and cognitive injury. It is, in short, one of the most potent and remarkably promising new therapies available today.

A work of dazzling ideas, cutting-edge research, and joyful celebration of the human mind, I Heard There Was a Secret Chord explores the critical role music has played in human evolution, illuminating how the story of the human brain is inseparable from the creative enterprise of music that has bound cultures together throughout history. Music insinuates itself into our earliest memories; it is intimately connected to our emotional regulation and cognition; its shared rhythms and sounds are essential to our social behaviors. As neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin demonstrates in this mind-expanding follow-up to This Is Your Brain on Music--which revolutionized our understanding of the neuroscience of song--medical researchers are now finding that these same deep connections can be harnessed to create profound benefits for those both young and old.

The Singularity Is Nearer

- Ray Kurzweil

Hardcover $48.00
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AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The noted inventor and futurist's successor to his landmark book The Singularity Is Near explores how technology will transform the human race in the decades to come


Since it was first published in 2005, Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near and its vision of an exponential future have spawned a worldwide movement. Kurzweil's predictions about technological advancements have largely come true, with concepts like AI, intelligent machines, and biotechnology now widely familiar to the public.

In this entirely new book Ray Kurzweil brings a fresh perspective to advances toward the Singularity--assessing his 1999 prediction that AI will reach human level intelligence by 2029 and examining the exponential growth of technology--that, in the near future, will expand human intelligence a millionfold and change human life forever. Among the topics he discusses are rebuilding the world, atom by atom with devices like nanobots; radical life extension beyond the current age limit of 120; reinventing intelligence by connecting our brains to the cloud; how exponential technologies are propelling innovation forward in all industries and improving all aspects of our well-being such as declining poverty and violence; and the growth of renewable energy and 3-D printing. He also considers the potential perils of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence, including such topics of current controversy as how AI will impact employment and the safety of autonomous cars, and "After Life" technology, which aims to virtually revive deceased individuals through a combination of their data and DNA.

The culmination of six decades of research on artificial intelligence, The Singularity Is Nearer is Ray Kurzweil's crowning contribution to the story of this science and the revolution that is to come.

Lytton

- Peter Edwards , Kevin Loring

Hardcover $36.00
Reader Reward Price: $32.40

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

From bestselling true-crime author Peter Edwards and Governor General's Award-winning playwright Kevin Loring, two sons of Lytton, BC, the town that burned to the ground in 2021, comes a meditation on hometown-when hometown is gone.


"It's dire," Greta Thunberg retweeted Mayor JanPolderman. "The whole town is on fire. It took a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to, all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere."

Before it made global headlines as the small town that burned down during a record-breaking heatwave in June 2021, while briefly the hottest placeon Earth, Lytton, British Columbia, had a curious past. Named for the author of the infamous line, "It was a dark and stormy night," Lytton was also where Peter Edwards, organized-crime journalist and author of seventeen non-fiction books, spent his childhood. Although only about 500 people lived in Lytton, Peter liked to joke that he was only the second-best writer to come from his tiny hometown. His grade-school classmate's nephew Kevin Loring, Nlaka'pamux from Lytton First Nation, had grown up to be a Governor General's Award-winning playwright.

        The Nlaka'pamux called Lytton "The Centre of the World," a view Buddhists would share in the late twentieth century, as they set up a temple just outside town. A gold rush in 1858 saw conflict with a wave of Californians come to a head with the Canyon War at the junction of the mighty Fraser and Thompson rivers. The Nlaka'pamux lost over thirty lives in that conflict, as did the American gold seekers. In modern times, many outsiders would seek shelter there, often people who just didn't fit anywhere else and were hoping for a little anonymity in the mountains.

        Told from the shared perspective of an Indigenous playwright and the journalist son of a settler doctor who pushed back against the divisions that existed between populations, Lytton portrays all the warmth, humour and sincerity of small-town life. A colourful little town that burned to the ground could be every town's warning if we don't take seriously what this unique place has to teach us.

Playing with Reality

- Kelly Clancy

Hardcover $39.99
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"Absorbing. . . . A revealing look at the hidden role that games have played in human development for centuries." --Kirkus

"By turns philosophical and polemical, this is a provocative and fascinating book." --The Economist

A wide-ranging intellectual history that reveals how important games have been to human progress, and what's at stake when we forget what games we're really playing.


We play games to learn about the world, to understand our minds and the minds of others, and to make predictions about the future. Games are an essential aspect of humanity and a powerful tool for modeling reality. They're also a lot of fun. But games can be dangerous, especially when we mistake the model worlds of games for reality itself and let gamification co-opt human decision making.

Playing with Reality explores the riveting history of games since the Enlightenment, weaving an unexpected path through military theory, political science, evolutionary biology, the development of computers and AI, cutting-edge neuroscience, and cognitive psychology. Neuroscientist and physicist Kelly Clancy shows how intertwined games have been with the arc of history. War games shaped the outcomes of real wars in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe. Game theory warped our understanding of human behavior and brought us to the brink of annihilation--yet still underlies basic assumptions in economics, politics, and technology design. We used games to teach computers how to learn for themselves, and now we are designing games that will determine the shape of society and future of democracy.

In this revelatory work, Clancy makes the bold argument that the human fascination with games is the key to understanding our nature and our actions.

On Canadian Democracy

- Jonathan Manthorpe

Trade paperback $19.95
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Using the decrepit state of 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada, as a metaphor for Canada's democracy, Jonathan Manthorpe examines the foundations, supports, and systems that are meant to keep our parliament a representative body, an actual voice of the people, and he offers insights as to how this institution can be renovated to the benefit of all. Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of the national bestseller, Claws of the Panda: Beijing's Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada, and Restoring Democracy in an Age of Populists and Pestilence.

The Prince

- Stephen Maher

Hardcover $39.99
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The first comprehensive biography of Justin Trudeau as prime minister--an honest, compelling story of his government's triumphs and failures, based on interviews with over 200 insiders and Trudeau himself.

As one of the longest-surviving prime ministers and son of the legendary Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin Trudeau is near royalty in Canada. But how did this former high school teacher with no noteworthy accomplishments put together a team that managed to take over the Liberal Party and bring it from third place to a majority government in 2015? The Prince shows just that. In this first comprehensive history of the Justin Trudeau government, veteran journalist Stephen Maher takes readers behind the scenes of a tumultuous decade of Canadian politics. Through hundreds of interviews with political insiders, he describes how Trudeau--a Canadian prince--had the famous name, the political instincts, the work ethic, and the confidence to overcome errors in judgment and build a global brand, winning in the boxing ring and on the debate stage. And then things changed as key people left the Trudeau team and the government lost direction.

Trudeau is an enigmatic figure--a politician who has been in the public eye since childhood and seeks attention but has always concealed his actual feelings from those around him. He has shown admirable strength and skill, deftly handling Donald Trump in trade deals and international meetings and in leading Canada through the COVID-19 pandemic. He has delivered substantial results for people within his political coalition--the most successful attack on poverty in a generation, real progress on climate change, and a sustained application of money and political capital to Indigenous reconciliation. Even as the government overcame major challenges, however, errors in judgment and personality conflicts wasted political capital. Trudeau has struggled to manage his own office, with devastating consequences, and alienated people outside his coalition, to the point where he can't hold a public event without protesters screaming curses at him.

The Prince takes readers behind the curtain as the government goes from triumph to embarrassment and back again, revealing the people, the conflicts, and the struggles both in the government and on the opposition benches. Above all, it traces why this ambitious government led by a global media darling is now so unpopular it is in danger of imminent collapse.

Once Upon a Prime

- Sarah Hart

Trade paperback $24.99
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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

"Wide-ranging and thoroughly winning." --Jordan Ellenberg, The New York Times Book Review

"An absolute joy to read!" --Steven Levitt, New York Times bestselling author of Freakonomics


For fans of Seven Brief Lessons in Physics, an exploration of the many ways mathematics can transform our understanding of literature and vice versa, by the first woman to hold England's oldest mathematical chair.


We often think of mathematics and literature as polar opposites. But what if, instead, they were fundamentally linked? In her clear, insightful, laugh-out-loud funny debut, Once Upon a Prime, Professor Sarah Hart shows us the myriad connections between math and literature, and how understanding those connections can enhance our enjoyment of both.

Did you know, for instance, that Moby-Dick is full of sophisticated geometry? That James Joyce's stream-of-consciousness novels are deliberately checkered with mathematical references? That George Eliot was obsessed with statistics? That Jurassic Park is undergirded by fractal patterns? That Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote mathematician characters? From sonnets to fairytales to experimental French literature, Professor Hart shows how math and literature are complementary parts of the same quest, to understand human life and our place in the universe.

As the first woman to hold England's oldest mathematical chair, Professor Hart is the ideal tour guide, taking us on an unforgettable journey through the books we thought we knew, revealing new layers of beauty and wonder. As she promises, you're going to need a bigger bookcase.

Humanly Possible

- Sarah Bakewell

Trade paperback $25.95
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The bestselling, prizewinning author of How to Live and At the Existentialist Café explores 700 years of writers, thinkers, scientists and artists, all trying to understand what it means to be truly human.

If you are reading this, it's likely you already have some affinity with humanism, even if you don't think of yourself in those terms. You may be drawn to literature and the humanities. You may prefer to base your moral choices on fellow-feeling and responsibility to others rather than on religious commandments. Or you may simply believe that individual lives are more important than grand political visions or dogmas.

If any of these apply, you are part of a long tradition of humanist thought, and you share that tradition with many extraordinary individuals through history who have put rational enquiry, cultural richness, freedom of thought and a sense of hope at the heart of their lives.

Humanly Possible introduces us to some of these people, as it asks what humanism is and why it has flourished for so long, despite opposition from fanatics, mystics and tyrants. It is a book brimming with ideas, personalities and experiments in living - from the literary enthusiasts of the fourteenth century to the secular campaigners of our own time, from Erasmus to Esperanto, from anatomists to agnostics, from Christine de Pizan to Bertrand Russell, and from Voltaire to Zora Neale Hurston. It takes us on an irresistible journey, and joyfully celebrates open-mindedness, optimism, freedom and the power of the here and now--humanist values which have helped steer us through dark times in the past, and which are just as urgently needed in our world today. 

The bestselling, prizewinning author of How to Live and At the Existentialist Café explores 700 years of writers, thinkers, scientists and artists, all trying to understand what it means to be truly human.

Fire Weather

- John Vaillant

Trade paperback $25.00
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From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Golden Spruce and The Tiger comes a stunning account of a colossal wildfire, and a panoramic exploration of the rapidly changing relationship between fire and humankind.

In May 2016, Fort McMurray, the hub of Canada's petroleum industry and America's biggest foreign supplier, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster melted vehicles, turned entire neighborhoods into firebombs, and drove 88,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Through the lens of this apocalyptic conflagration--the wildfire equivalent of Hurricane Katrina--John Vaillant warns that this was not a unique event but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.
    For hundreds of millennia, fire has been a partner in our evolution, shaping culture, civilization, and, very likely, our brains. Fire has enabled us to cook our food, defend and heat our homes, and power the machines that drive our titanic economy. Yet this volatile energy source has always threatened to elude our control, and in our new age of intensifying climate change, we are seeing its destructive power unleashed in previously unimaginable ways.
    With masterly prose and a cinematic eye, Vaillant takes us on a riveting journey through the intertwined histories of North America's oil industry and the birth of climate science, to the unprecedented devastation wrought by modern forest fires, and into lives forever changed by these disasters. John Vaillant's urgent work is a book for--and from--our new century of fire, which has only just begun.

The Truth About Immigration

- Zeke Hernandez

Hardcover $40.00
Reader Reward Price: $36.00

The go-to book on immigration: fact-based, comprehensive, and nonpartisan.

Immigration is one of the most controversial topics in the United States and everywhere else. Pundits, politicians, and the public usually depict immigrants as either villains or victims. The villain narrative is that immigrants pose a threat--to our economy because they steal our jobs; our way of life because they change our culture; and to our safety and laws because of their criminality. The victim argument tells us that immigrants are needy outsiders--the poor, huddled masses whom we must help at our own cost if necessary. But the data clearly debunks both narratives. From jobs, investment, and innovation to cultural vitality and national security, more immigration has an overwhelmingly positive impact on everything that makes a society successful.

In The Truth About Immigration, Wharton professor Zeke Hernandez draws from nearly 20 years of research to answer all the big questions about immigration. He combines moving personal stories with rigorous research to offer an accessible, apolitical, and evidence-based look at how newcomers affect our local communities and our nation. You'll learn about the overlooked impact of immigrants on investment and job creation; realize how much we take for granted the novel technologies, products, and businesses newcomers create; get the facts straight about perennial concerns like jobs, crime, and undocumented immigrants; and gain new perspectives on misunderstood issues such as the border, taxes, and assimilation.

Most books making a case for immigration tell you that immigration is good for immigrants. This book is all about how newcomers benefit you, your community, and your country. Skeptics fear that newcomers compete economically with locals because of their similarities and fail to socially assimilate because of their differences. You'll see that it's exactly the opposite: newcomers bring enduring economic benefits because of their differences and contribute positively to society because of their similarities. Destined to become the go-to book on one of the most important issues of our time, this book turns fear into hope by proving a simple truth: immigrants are essential for economically prosperous and socially vibrant nations.

The War We Won Apart

- Nahlah Ayed

Hardcover $36.00
Reader Reward Price: $32.40

INSTANT #1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Love, betrayal, and a secret war: the untold story of two elite agents, one Canadian, one British, who became one of the most decorated couples of WWII.


On opposite sides of the pond, Sonia Butt, an adventurous young British woman, and Guy d'Artois, a French-Canadian soldier and thunderstorm of a man, are preparing for war.

From different worlds, their lives first intersect during clandestine training to become agents with Winston Churchill's secret army, the Special Operations Executive. As the world's deadliest conflict to date unfolds, Sonia and Guy learn how to parachute into enemy territory, how to kill, blow up rail lines, and eventually . . . how to love each other. But not long after their hasty marriage, their love is tested by separation, by a titanic invasion--and by indiscretion.

Writing in vivid, heart-stopping prose, Ayed follows Sonia as she plunges into Nazi-occupied France and slinks into black market restaurants to throw off occupying Nazi forces, while at the same time participating in sabotage operations against them; and as Guy, in another corner of France, trains hundreds into a resistance army.

Reconstructed from hours of unpublished interviews and hundreds of archival and personal documents, the story Ayed tells is about the ravaging costs of war paid for disproportionately by the young. But more than anything, The War We Won Apart is a story about love: two secret agents who were supposed to land in enemy territory together, but were fated to fight the war apart.

North of Nowhere

- Marie Wilson

Hardcover $34.99
Reader Reward Price: $31.49

The incomparable first-hand account of the historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada told by one of the commissioners who led it.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to record the previously hidden history of more than a century of forced residential schooling for Indigenous children. Marie Wilson helped lead that work as one of just three commissioners. With the skills of a journalist, the heart of a mother and grandmother, and the insights of a life as the spouse of a residential school survivor, Commissioner Wilson guides readers through her years witnessing survivor testimony across the country, providing her unique perspective on the personal toll and enduring public value of the commission. In this unparalleled account, she honours the voices of survivors who have called Canada to attention, determined to heal, reclaim, and thrive.

Part vital public documentary, part probing memoir, North of Nowhere breathes fresh air into the possibilities of reconciliation amid the persistent legacy of residential schools. It is a call to everyone to view the important and continuing work of reconciliation not as an obligation but as a gift.

This is a selection of our current Us and Our World titles. To find other titles or authors, or just to browse, please use the search box.

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