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Booksellers’ picks of the year: international non-fiction

Canadian booksellers contacted by Q&Q say 2011 has been an especially strong year for international history and biography, with one book clearly taking the lead.

“The huge one would be the Steve Jobs title,” says Colin Holt, manager of Bolen Books in Victoria. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple’s late co-founder and CEO, had its publication date moved up from 2012 after Jobs’s death in October. Indigo, Chapters, and Coles stores opened early on Oct. 24, the book’s release date, so Canadians could get their hands on a copy right away. Steve Jobs has since become a #1 bestseller.

In Toronto, Book City branches have already seen high sales of U.K.-born historian Niall Ferguson’s latest title, Civilization: The West and the Rest, a follow-up to Ferguson’s 2009 bestseller, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

At Nicholas Hoare’s Toronto location, books with buzz include Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Australian art critic Robert Hughes and Jerusalem: The Biography by British writer Simon Sebag Montefiore. Fiona McCarthy’s The Last Pre-Raphaelite, a biography of artist Edward Burne-Jones, and Franny Moyle’s Constance, chronicling the “tragic and scandalous” life of Oscar Wilde’s wife, are also top sellers.

Outside of history and biography, booksellers also pointed to Gully Wells’s memoir, The House in France, and Arguably, an essay collection by British-American writer Christopher Hitchens.


Indigo, Chapters, and Coles to open early for Steve Jobs bio

Indigo, Chapters, and Coles stores across Canada will open at 8 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, to accommodate readers who want to be the first to get their hands on the new Steve Jobs biography, written by Walter Isaacson and published by Simon & Schuster. The 656-page Steve Jobs, which lists for $36.99, will be available in-store for $25.

The reduced in-store price makes the hardcover book comparable to Indigo’s online price of $24.41. Amazon is selling pre-orders for $23.19, and in the U.S., Barnes & Noble is selling the book online for $17.88. Pre-orders for the e-book version are available for the Kindle ($20.72), Nook (U.S. $16.99), and through Apple’s iBookstore ($17.99), but there isn’t a listing for it yet in the Kobo bookstore.

Isaacson is scheduled to appear Sunday night on 60 Minutes, where he’ll play a portion of an audio tape of Jobs talking about his biological father. In this preview clip, Isaacson, who conducted more than 40 interviews with the Apple CEO, discusses Jobs’ refusal to be operated on after he was diagnosed for a second time with cancer. This revelation and others already leaked from the book, such as Jobs’ “intense battle with Google,” may convince a few more people to set their alarms early for Monday morning.

UPDATE: As of Oct. 24, Steve Jobs is now available on Kobo for $17.99.

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Steve Jobs to co-operate in authorized biography

While multiple unauthorized biographies have been written about Apple CEO Steve Jobs over the years, none have been written with the co-operation of the man himself – until now. A book that will finally get to the core of the tech guru’s life is currently in its early stages, according to The New York Times. The book will be written by Walter Isaacson, author and former managing editor of Time magazine.

From the Times:

Mr. Jobs, who will turn 55 on Feb. 24, has invited Mr. Isaacson to tour his childhood home, one person with knowledge of the discussion said.


Cooperation with Mr. Isaacson could be a sign that Mr. Jobs has emerged from his recent health battles with more of an interest in shaping his legacy.

Isaacson has written several biographies, including Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Last year, he also published American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane, a collection of essays on leaders and thinkers in recent history, including one about Microsoft mogul Bill Gates.

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