Best Non-Fiction of 2021

To complement our “Best Fiction of 2021” and “Best Poetry of 2021” lists, we will now turn our attention to the best non-fiction of the year. The ten selections below are based on the recommendations of The Miramichi Reader’s fine team of contributors.

(The following titles are in no particular order.)


The Last Good Funeral of the Year: A Memoir by Ed O’Loughlin (House of Anansi Press)

“This is a searing book, reminiscent of Joan Didion’s masterpiece, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” It wheels between the waypoints in O’Loughlin’s life with remarkable dexterity, honesty and grace, and the writing is deeply resonant.” (Valerie Mills-Milde)

Here on the Coast by Howard White (Harbour Publishing)

“The writing, as you’d expect, is crisp, seamless, and engaging. I haven’t yet spoken with the author but feel as though I know his manner of speech, a cadence that makes you want to listen, or in this case, read.” (Bill Arnott)

No Thanks, I Want to Walk by Emily Taylor Smith (Pottersfield Press)

“What I enjoyed most about Smith’s latest adventure is that a depth of personal growth emanates from the page. Not only is it effectively articulated and shared, but is evident in the writing itself.” (Bill Arnott)

Behind The Red Door: How Elizabeth Arden Legacy Inspired My Coming-of-Age in the Beauty Industry by Louise Claire Johnson (Gatekeeper Press)

“If you like strong-minded women then this book is for you! An excellent read in which you’ll be swept into the days of past and present-day New York, London and Paris just to name a few.” (Shawna Butler)

Lunging into the Underbrush: A Life Lived Backward by David Homel (Linda Leith Publishing)

“With Lunging Into the Underbrush, Homel offers a unique exploration of a young man growing through tremendous challenge, becoming an older man that even he is not fully at ease with, all toward an understanding of the importance of being kind to ourselves, to forgive ourselves, no matter how much pain our errors may bring, and to be unafraid of who we may become.
This account is a reminder of both how fragile our body is that we inhabit and how much more robust it can be when we help it along.” (Denis Coupal)

Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries by Bill Arnott

Gone Viking II is rewarding on a number of different levels for the many pleasures, fascinating people, and pulsating poetry Arnott kindly shares with his readers.” (Manny Matas)

The “Mr. Big” Sting: The Cases, the Killers, the Controversial Confessions by Mark Stobbe (ECW Press)

“Fascinating in its reach, especially for those who like “Law and Order” type shows and stories where criminal cases in which police, lawyers, judges, and the legal system are all involved, The “Mr. Big” Sting: The Cases, the Killers, the Controversial Confessions is a book you need to read.” (James M. Fisher)

On Opium: Pain, Pleasure, and Other Matters of Substance by Carlyn Zwarenstein (Goose Lane Editions)

“In my professional life, I engage with a lot of research on substance use and the efficacy of harm reduction, which has sealed my support for harm reduction strategies. Even so, I found this revelatory, with its comprehensive blend of story, history, and investigation. This takes the work being done across North America and packages it up for everyone from the layperson to the lawmaker to read and digest.” (Alison Manley)

A Womb In The Shape Of A Heart: My Story Of Miscarriage And Motherhood By Joanne Gallant (Nimbus Publishing)

“Ms. Gallant certainly held my interest from start to finish. A Womb in the Shape of a Heart is not so much about the issues of miscarriage and motherhood, but about the humanity of personal trauma. She is an astonishingly good writer, which for a first book is a premium.” (James M. Fisher)

my daughter Rehtaeh Parsons By Glen Canning with Susan McClelland (Goose Lane Editions)

“But beyond the many horrors, it’s a story about the unconditional love a parent has for his child, one that recounts her talents and goodness by recounting memories of happy times – her accomplishments at school, a holiday in Mexico, the cozy intimacy of reading bedtime stories, and an image that later proves to be a haunting one: a front yard tire swing.” (Heidi Greco)


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