Dan's Bookshelf — Non-Fiction
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
A (very) incomplete collection of books I've read and enjoyed. I am working on populating this list as I continue reading my way through the pandemic as well as going back and adding books retroactively, as I am able. You can check out my bookshelf for fiction here.
You're Not a Country, Africa! A personal history of the African present
by Dr. Pius Adesanmi
Read on 14 December 2020
I originally read this book a number of years ago as part of an undergraduate history class and I loved it. I often reference it, either explicitly or theoretically, so I picked it up again recently because I was curious (and a little worried to see) if it still held up. My first reading of this book was very early in my education and I've developed a great deal since then.
I needn't have worried. This collection of essays is still the perfect starting point for an understanding of Africa. As a Canadian raised on American media, I understood that Africa probably wasn't like it was shown on TV (to the limited extent that it was) but where do you turn to that can get you started without getting lost in the weeds? Adesanmi's essays cover issues of colonialism, race, charity, language, and cultural perception, with a dash of feminism for good measure. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone who isn't intimately familiar with Africa or any of it's component parts and wants the grounding to dig a little deeper.
Having completed my second (or fourth, or whatever) reading of the book, I googled Dr. Adesanmi, who taught at UBC and Carleton, to see where he was now. I was deeply saddened to learn that he was killed by Boeing's negligence and the 737-MAX crashes of 2019. A brilliant mind, gone too soon.
The Vagina Bible
by Dr. Jen Gunter, M.D.
Read on 13 September 2019
I steadily worked my way through this one over a three-week period. As a non-vagina-haver, I learned a lot about the mechanics of the vagina and it's accoutrements. Dr. Gunter writes in a concise, comprehensive, and appropriately humorous way. She has made reading what is essentially a user manual an interesting and informative experience.
I'm also getting a lot of curiosity from my students (both male and female) when they see the book sitting at the front of my classroom. I've purchased some additional copies for my classroom library and they have instantly gone out on loan. A book worth reading for any person.
The National Team: The inside story of the women who changed soccer
by Caitlin Murray
Read on 10 September 2020
This was a phenomenally-written and inspiring book; I say that as someone who roots against the US Women's National Team whenever they step on the field.
The subtitle is not just a tagline; this is the authoritative story of the US Women's National Team, told from the perspective of the athletes and coaches who embarked on this journey. This book shows how these women built their team into the most dominant women's sports team in the world; how they grew out of an afterthought, a throwaway team for an inconsequential tournament, and fought for everything they have and everything they represent to girls and women in sport. I'm grateful that this book exists and that I had the opportunity to read it. You don't need to be a soccer fan to enjoy this book. You just need to care about women in sports; what a journey!
Changing on the Fly: Hockey through the voices of South Asian Canadians
by Dr. Courtney Szto
Read on 6 November 2020
I had the privilege of writing about this book and Dr. Szto's book launch on 23 November for the sociology website Hockey in Society. Check out my full-length review here. This book is an academic work so it's not for everyone. However, if you are interested in hockey as a constructed cultural space within Canada and how that encourages and limits immigrant participation, this is a book you need to read.
Why They Can't Write: Killing the five-paragraph essay and other necessities
by John Warner
Read on 17 December 2020
This book is definitely written from the author's specific instructional perspective (first year college students) but would be a useful read for anyone teaching writing at any level or teaching a discipline where writing is important. Warner breaks down why the problem exists and how standardized assessments have encouraged students to learn template-writing styles, which don't translate into the real world. This certainly mirrored my own high school experience, where the teaching was about writing an impressive essay not necessarily a good or meaningful essay. Fortunately, I also happened to learn the basic skills that would be required to upgrade my writing when I entered post-secondary education and I survived. However, this is something we can address right away at the high school level and Warner provides suggestions and a pedagogical thought-process for how to make that happen.