Western University SociologyFaculty of Social Science
William R. Avison

Photo taken by: Eric Simard

William R. Avison, Professor

Scientist and Chair, Children’s Health & Therapeutics, Children’s Health Research Institute
Scientist and Assistant Director, Lawson Health Research Institute
Cross-appointed in Dept. of Paediatrics and Dept. of Epidemiology & BiostatisticsFull CV

In the News

1Jan13 "Welcome to the New Fellows of 2012" Health Matters, newsletter of Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

27Nov12 "Avison elected Chair of Council for Canadian Child Health Research" CCCHR News

20Oct11 "Discussion on obesity", London Community News

3Jun11 "Single moms report worse health in midlife", NBCNews.com

Recent Activities

22Jun2012 presented (with Jinette Comeau and Lorraine Davies) "Family structure, income, and mothers’ mental health: Single parenthood and financial strain across the life course" at the Thirteenth International Conference on Social Stress Research, Dublin, Ireland.

  • Bio

  • Teaching

  • Publications

  • Research

  • Goose

 

Ph.D. Sociology, U. Alberta,
M.A. Sociology, U. Alberta,
B.A. Sociology,  U. Alberta

Special Appointments and Honours

2013 – 2015  Chair, Council for Canadian Child Health Research

2012 – Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

2010-14 Editor, Society and Mental Health, The Journal of the ASA Section on the Sociology of Mental Health

2010-13 Chair, Board of Directors, Ontario Mental Health Foundation

2009 Leonard I. Pearlin Award, for Significant Contributions to the Study of the Sociology of Mental Health, American Sociological Association

2009 Chair, Medical Sociology Section, American Sociological Association

2006 - Keynote Speaker, Tenth International Conference on Social Stress Research, Portsmouth, NH

2004 – James Greenley Award, for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociology of Mental Health, Society for the Study of Social Problems

2004 – Vanier Roots and Wings Award, for outstanding contributions to family and children’s mental health, Vanier Children's Services

Dr. Avison is a sociologist with expertise in the sociology and epidemiology of mental health. His current research focuses on the ways in which socio-economic disadvantage and various types of social stressors affect the mental health of families and children. He has published widely in international journals in sociology and psychiatry on a number of issues in the sociology of mental health. He has held operating grants from Health Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research since 1989. He was named as a Senior Research Fellow of the Ontario Mental Health Foundation from 1994-2000. He was the 2004 recipient of the Society for the Study of Social Problems' James R. Greenley Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociology of Mental Health. He was also named recipient of the 2009 Leonard I. Pearlin Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociological Study of Mental Health from the American Sociological Association. In 2012, he was elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Dr. Avison is past Chair of the Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association (ASA). He is also a past Chair of the Sociology of Mental Health Section of the ASA and of the Psychiatric Sociology Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. He is the Founding Editor of Society & Mental Health, the official journal of the ASA Section on the Sociology of Mental Health and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. He has served on scientific review committees for the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Ontario Ministry of Health, and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and National Institutes of Health. He has also chaired numerous grant review committees for the National Health Research and Development Program of Health Canada, including the Child Mental Health, Child Health, National Population Health Survey, and the Rehabilitation Outcomes Committees. He is the past chair of the Children’s Health Committee of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Public, Community, and Population Health Review Committee of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He chairs the Selection Committee of the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program.

Dr. Avison is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Mental Health Foundation. He has been a board member of Madame Vanier Children's Services, Family Service London, the London and Middlesex Co-ordinating Council for Children and Youth, and the London Inter-Community Health Centre. He is a former Chair of the Resource Steering Committee of Kids Count, a primary prevention and health promotion program in 11 neighborhoods in London, and was the first Chair of Investing in Children in London. He has served on the City of London Mayor's Anti-Poverty Task Force. He was also the Academic Advisor to the Western Mustangs Men's Intercollegiate Basketball Program from 1993 - 2007. In 2004, he received the Vanier Roots and Wings Award for contributions to family and children's mental health.

Teaching Awards

2005-06 - USC Teaching Honour Roll, The University of Western Ontario

Thesis Supervision

Supervisory Status:  MA, PhD

PhD Theses

2013    Jinette Comeau, Ph.D. Program (in progress)

2013    Jennifer Reynolds, Ph.D. Program (in progress)

2013    Stacey Hallman, The Effects of Early Life Insults on Mortality During the 1918 Flu Epidemic (in progress)

2013    Yvonne Asare-Bediako, Ph.D. Program (in progress)

2013    Jamie A. Seabrook, Family Structure and Children’s Socioeconomic Attainment in the Transition to Adulthood. Ph.D. Dissertation (primary supervisor)

Heather Maddocks, Underemployment, Unemployment, and Mental Health.

John Cairney, Age, Socioeconomic Status and the Stress Process.

Jennifer Ali, Gender, Social Class and Mental Health: Elaborating the Sociological Approach to the Stress Processes.

Terrance Wade, Stress and Distress Among Husbands and Wives.

MA Theses (last ten)

Jason Novick (jointly supervised with Lorraine Davies), A Life Course Investigation of the Differences in Psychological Distress of Mothers by Family Structure Trajectories.

Michelle Chandler, Parental Strain and Children's Mental Health.

John Rietschlin, On the Contribution of Community to Psychological Well-being: The Importance of Incorporating Group Membership into Stress Research.

Sandra Jeffery, The Relationship Between Maternal and Child Competence.

Jennifer Butters, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psychological Distress: An Analysis of Psychosocial Aspects of Adjustment.

Cathy Thorpe, Marital Status and Gender Differences in Distress.

Michael Boynton, Statistical Power and Sociological Research.

Timothy McCutcheon, Social Competence and Psychiatric Outcome: An Evaluation of a Construct.

Sharlene Waugh, Loneliness, Social Support, and Depression.

Lorraine Davies, Depression Across the Life Course: Social Support as an Etiological Factor.

Blake Turner, Dimensions of Psychological Well-Being: Interim and Long-term Components.

MA Research Paper

Annie Gong (jointly supervised with Rachel Margolis), Retirees' Participation in Bridge Employment and Psychological Distress: The Mediating and Moderating Effects of Social Support.

Loanna Heidinger, The Enduring Strain of Growing Up in Disorder: A Longitudinal Analysis of Perceived Neighbourhood Disorder and Subsequent Psychological Distress.

Elisa Bararuk, Examining Parenting Interactions in Their Rural-Urban Contexts.

Devin Locher, The Association Between Parental Mental Health and Children's Emotional and Behavioral Outcomes:  An Analysis of Mediating Pathways.

Stephanie Thomas, Examining Suicidal Ideations in Emerging Adults.

Recent Publications (Past 5 Years)
>for more see Full CV

 
Books:

(2010) Advances in the Conceptualization of the Stress Process: Essays in Honor of Leonard I. Pearlin, William R. Avison, Carol S. Aneshensel, Scott Schieman, and Blair Wheaton (eds.) Springer.

(2007) Mental Health, Social Mirror, William R. Avison, Jane McLeod, and Bernice Pescosolido (eds.)  Springer Publishing.

Book Chapters:

(2012) “The impact of mental illness on the family” (with Jinette Comeau) in Carol S. Aneshensel, Jo C. Phelan, and Alex Bierman (eds.), Handbook of the Sociology of Mental Health, 2nd ed.  Springer.

(2010) "Stress" (pp. 242-267) (with Stephanie S. Thomas) in William C. Cockerham (ed.) The New Blackwell Companion to Medical Sociology  Wiley-Blackwell.

(2010) " Family structure and women’s lives: A life course perspective" (pp. 71-92) in William R. Avison, Carol S. Aneshensel, Scott Schieman, and Blair Wheaton (eds.) Advances in the Conceptualization of the Stress Process: Essays in Honor of Leonard I. Pearlin  Springer.

(2008) "Family structure and mothers’ mental health: A life course perspective on stability and change" (with Lorraine Davies, Andrea Willson, and Kim Shuey) in Heather A. Turner and Scott Schieman (eds.) Stress Processes across the Life Course: Advances in Life Course Research  Vol.13 (pp. 233-255) Elsevier.

(2007) "Through the looking glass: The fortunes of the sociology of mental health" (with B. Pescosolido and J. McLeod) (pp. 3-32) in William R. Avison, Jane D. McLeod, and Bernice A. Pescosolido (eds.) Mental Health, Social Mirror,  Springer.

(2007) "Social change and the production of knowledge about mental illness and its treatment" (with L. Pearlin and E. Fazio) (pp. 33-53) in William R. Avison, Jane D. McLeod, and Bernice A. Pescosolido (eds.) Mental Health, Social Mirror,  Springer.

Articles:

(2012) “Examining the pathways of pre- and postnatal health information” (with Sabrina Youash, M. Karen Campbell, Deborah Penava, and Bin Xie) Canadian Journal of Public Health 103:314-19.

(2012) “Socioeconomic status and cumulative disadvantage processes across the life course: Implications for health outcomes” (with  Jamie A. Seabrook) Canadian Review of Sociology 49:51-68.

(2011) "The impact of maternal depressive symptoms on health-related quality of life in children with epilepsy: A prospective study of family environment as mediators and moderators"  (with Mark A. Ferro, M. Karen Campbell, and Kathy N. Speechley) Epilepsia  52(2): 316-325.

(2011) "Prevalence and trajectories of depressive symptoms in mothers of children with newly diagnosed epilepsy"  (with Mark A. Ferro, M. Karen Campbell, and Kathy N. Speechley)  Epilepsia 52(2): 326-336.

(2010) “Incorporating children’s lives into a life course perspective on stress and mental health”   Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51(4): 361-375.

(2010) "Higher zinc intake buffers the impact of stress on depressive symptoms in pregnancy"  (with Amrita Roy, Susan E. Evers, and M. Karen CampbellNutrition Research  30(10): 695-704

(2010) “Do depressive symptoms affect mothers’ reports of child outcomes in children with new-onset epilepsy?” (with Mark A. Ferro, M. Karen Campbell, and Kathy Nixon Speechley) Quality of Life Research. 19(7): 955-964.

(2010) "Cumulative Trauma, Personal and Social Resources, and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms Among Income-assisted Single Mothers"  (with Joan A. Samuels-Dennis, Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, Piotr Wilk, and Susan Ray) Journal of Family Violence  25(6): 603-617.

(2010) “Genotype-environment interaction and sociology: Contributions and complexities” (with Jamie A. Seabrook) Social Science & Medicine  70(9): 1277-1284.

(2008) “Depressive symptoms during pregnancy in relation to fish consumption and intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” (with Jessica Sontrop, Susan E. Evers, Kathy N. Speechley, and M. Karen Campbell) Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 22(4): 389-399

(2007) “Fish consumption among pregnant women in London, Ontario: Associations with sociodemographic and health and lifestyle factors.” (with Jessica Sontrop, Susan E. Evers, Kathy N. Speechley, and M. Karen Campbell) Canadian Journal of Public Health 98(5): 389-394

(2007) “Family structure, stress, and psychological distress: A demonstration of the impact of differential exposure.” (with Jennifer Ali and David Walters) Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 48(3):301-314.

Other Publications:

(2010) Vital Communities, Vital Support: How well do Canada's communities support parents of young children? Phase 2 Report: What Parents Tell Us (with Carol Crill Russell, Nancy Birnbaum, Palmina Ioannone)  Invest in Kids Foundation, 86 pages.  Read executive summary.

(2009) An Outcome Evaluation of a Set of Interventions Designed to Enhance the Educational Attainment of Children in Care (with Paul C. Whitehead, and Piotr Wilk) Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.  84 pages.

(2007)  "Environmental factors" in G. Fink (ed.), Encyclopedia of Stress  Oxford, U.K.: Elsevier Limited.  pp 934-940.

Research

Dr. Avison specializes in the Sociology of Mental Health and in Medical Sociology. He holds cross-appointments in the Department of Paediatrics and the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics. He is also Scientist and Chair of the Division of Children’s Health and Therapeutics of the Children’s Health Research Institute and Scientist and Assistant Director of the Lawson Health Research Institute.

His program of research focuses on social disparities in maternal and child health and on the study of families experiencing stress across the life course.  He is Principal Investigator of a CIHR grant to investigate how marital status and cohabitation are related to the well-being of new mothers and their infants. With three other scientists from the Children's Health Research Institute (Drs. Jason Gilliland, Victor Han, and Gerald Kidder), he is Co-Principal Investigator of a project funded by the Green Shield Foundation to map the distribution of several prevalent childhood illnesses in southwestern Ontario.

He is also a Co-Investigator on a national study funded by CIHR to re-evaluate the Alberta Infant Motor Scale (Co-PIs:  Drs. Johanna Darrah and Doreen Bartlett) and on a national survey on work, stress, and mental health (PI: Dr. Scott Schieman). He is a Co-Applicant and Chair of the Selection Committee of theCanadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program, a Strategic Initiative inHealth Research Program funded by CIHR (PI: Dr. Norman Rosenblum).  He also collaborates on a multi-disciplinary team grant to study fetal growth restriction (PI: Dr. Victor Han). Most recently, he is collaborating with a multi-disciplinary team (PI: Dr. Jason Gilliland) on a study of the built environment, physical activity, and obesity in children.

Dr. Avison is the Principal Investigator of a funded research project entitled "A Life Course Analysis of Family Structure, Stress and Mothers' Mental Health," a study of the experiences of married, cohabiting, and single mothers shortly after the birth of their child.  He also collaborates on a multidisciplinary study (Dr. M. Karen Campbell, Principal Investigator) that follows a large cohort of mothers and their children from their second trimester of pregnancy through childhood into adolescence.

Current Research Projects

Dr. Avison is collaborating with an interdisciplinary team on a Green Shield Canada Foundation funded project to examine the spatial distribution of prevalent children’s diseases and illnesses in southwestern Ontario.

Identifying Causal Effects of the Built Environment on Physical Activity, Diet and Obesity among Children

Demands and Resources in Work and Family Life and Their Implications for Stress and Health among Canadians

Canadian Infants’ Motor Abilities: A Validation of the Alberta Infant Motor Scale Normative Data

Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program

A Life Course Analysis of Family Structure, Stress, and Mothers’ Mental Health:  Setting the Stage for a Prospective Study of Families

Demands and Resources in Work and Family Life and Their Implications for Stress and Health among Canadians

A Life Course Analysis of Family Structure, Stress, and Mothers’ Mental Health:  Setting the Stage for a Prospective Study of Families

Dr. Avison also collaborates on a multidisciplinary study of fetal growth restriction.

Goose (1994 - 2006)

Goose

This is Goose, part chocolate lab, part hound, all trouble. Goose was adopted from the Humane Society in Kingston, Ontario, where she attended Queen's University for one year. She then transferred to the University of Western Ontario where she pursued a degree in canine existentialism.

Soon after Goose came into our lives, we forgot that she was a dog. She traveled everywhere with us; she stayed in hotels with us; we talked to her all the time. She was our constant companion. She was also the subject of dozens of stories, most of which involved minor disasters that were funny in retrospect. Most of all, she was a very gentle and very loving dog with liquid brown eyes and incredibly soft ears. Her enthusiasm, her curiosity, and her intelligence ensured that she was never boring. She was always ready for a walk or a ride in the car.

On April 12th, 2006, Goose took us for a walk along the river, followed by a last car ride. She died at home with us beside her. She lived a wonderful life to the very end. She loved us too much and we did the same. We miss her terribly.

I will continue to post items on her web page. These will include reading recommendations (fiction and non-fiction) and pictures of Goose and her friends. Stay tuned to Goose's web page!

Goose's Pictures

Goose and SadieGoose and Sara

Sleeping BeautySadie Simon

Goose's Reading List

Island, by Alistair MacLeod

The best writer in Canada. A series of his best short stories, all of which are about Cape Breton Island. The beauty and brutality of life are superimposed in a set of incredibly memorable stories.

River Thieves, by Michael Crummey

A novel about the early contact between Newfoundlanders and the Beothuk aboriginals at the turn of the 19th Century.

The Last Crossing, by Guy Vanderhaeghe

A fabulous novel about the Canadian West in the latter part of the 1800s.

According to Queenie, by Beryl Bainbridge

A historical novel about the later life of Samuel Johnson.

Personal Injuries, by Scott Turow

A fast-paced novel about a crooked lawyer who is forced to work undercover for the FBI.

Family Matters, by Rohinton Mistry

A novel about life in Bombay and the trials of a family caring for an elderly parent.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland

The fictional account of lives and relationships associated with a Vermeer painting -- reads like a mystery story.

The Last Amateurs, by John Feinstein

A documentary account of a year in the life of college basketball players in the Patriot Conference, one of the few NCAA Division I conferences where student athletes really are student athletes.

A Long Finish, by Michael Dibdin

A detective novel featuring Aurelio Zen, an Italian homicide investigator who looks into the murder of the owner of a large vineyard. A great read for those who love wine.

My Dog Skip, by Willie Morris

Goose's personal all-time favorite and her nominee for the Purina Prize in dog-lit. A beautiful little book about growing up with a dog with personality (although not quite as much personality as Goose!).

Bel Canto: A Novel, by Ann Patchett

A novel about hostages and opera. A Peruvian revolutionary cadre takes control of the Vice-President's mansion in the midst of an opera recital for international guests. The hostage-taking becomes a long-term stand-off. Over time, love stories emerge among hostages, among terrorists and between hostages and revolutionaries. Then, it ends........ very funny, very sad.

Absolute Friends, by John Le Carre

A panoramic account of espionage from the 1960s to the present. Ted and Sasha are student activists in Germany whose lives are transformed by this experience and by the manipulations of their spymasters.

The Master, by Colm Toibin

A fictionalized account of the life of Henry James. One of the best-written novels of the 21st Century.

Saturday, by Ian McEwan

Henry Perowne is a British neurosurgeon whose Saturday begins with watching a jet liner go down. Things become even more interesting as the day progresses. Absolutely riveting -- his best yet.

The Big Why, by Michael Winter

Rockwell Kent, a New York painter, moves to an outport in Newfoundland in the 1920s. Go figure!

Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden

Xavier Bird and Elijah Whiskeyjack are Oji Cree who volunteer to serve in World War I. The story is their descent into the hell of trench warfare and their aunt's life back home near Moose Factory. Not for the squeamish.

No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

In southwest Texas, an antelope hunter discovers the aftermath of a gunfight among dope dealers and a suitcase full of cash. Life is never the same for him or the Texas sheriff who investigates the ensuing mayhem.

Only Say the Word, by Niall Williams

A novel within a novel about a young man who grows up in Ireland to become a poet and writer, husband and father. One of the most beautifully crafted and handsomely written books in recent years.

The Time In Between, by David Bergen

A young woman travels to Viet Nam to find her father, a veteran of the war, who has disappeared somewhere in the country.

A Good Night to Go to China, by David Gilmour

A father leaves his young son asleep at home to visit a neighborhood bar. When he returns, the child has disappeared. The story follows the father's attempt to find the child and his coming to terms with the loss.

The Dog and I, by Roy MacGregor

A series of stories about Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor's five dogs that he has had over his lifetime.

The Deafening, by Frances Itani

Grania is a young woman growing up in rural Ontario just before World War I. The novel tells of her life as a deaf child and her life during WWI while her husband, Jim, serves as a stretcher bearer in Europe during the bloodiest part of the war.

Mission Song, by John Le Carre

A Congolese translator living in England is hired to translate at a meeting among warlords, mercenaries, and functionaries. It's all about the moral muck of foreign intervention. A great, fast read!

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

Didion's account of her life after the sudden death of her husband. She has the rare ability to cut through to the heart of the matter.

On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwen

A brief account of a young English couple's wedding night. McEwen conveys a sense of the times (the 1960s) and the experience of two young people who are in many ways mismatched.

Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje

An account of two women's lives after an incredibly traumatic experience in Northern California. One woman goes to Reno; the other to France. Their lives divide in interesting ways. As in his previous novels, Ondaatje's prose is wonderful -- the story line, however, is less accessible than in his other books.

A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon

George Hall believes his eczema is cancer. His wife is having an affair with a former co-worker. His daughter is marrying a man that no one likes. His son, Jamie, believes that his parents are unable to accept that he's gay. The result is a remarkably funny novel about an unremarkable family. Haddon's previous novel was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Heat, by Bill Buford

Buford, former fiction editor of The New Yorker, spends a year working up from "kitchen bitch" to grill chef at Mario Batali's Babbo Restaurant in NYC. Great insights into high-end restaurants, chefs with big egos, and the passion of gourmet cooking.

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

Surely, one of the grimmest reads ever. A man and his young son appear to be among only a very few survivors of a nation-wide holocaust. They are heading south to avoid freezing in winter. In this post-apocalyptic world, the relationship between father and son is stunning.

Life Class, by Pat Barker

A novel about a group of young painters coming to grips with war in 1914 in England.

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss

A wonderful novel about an old emigre who has written a novel as a 20 year-old. The novel is lost and resurfaces -- it also connects other love stories back to the original story line. Beautifully written scenes of heartbreak.

Mister Pip, by Lloyd Evans

On a South Pacific island, civil war breaks out. The children of the island are left without teachers. The only remaining European (actually, a New Zealander, as we learn) is an eccentic older man nicknamed Pop Eye. He takes over the school and reads Great Expectations to the children. What emerges is remarkable.

Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden

The second of a projected trilogy of books about a Cree family. Two interconnected stories of an older bush pilot, Will Bird, and his nieces, Annie and Suzanne. A mystery story as well as an account of the intersection of two cultures. The plot is a bit unbelievable but the writing is superb. Winner of the 2008 Giller Prize.

The Gathering, by Ann Enright

In Ireland, A woman attends the wake for her brother who apparently has committed suicide. Her large family is there and the description of her brothers and sisters is simultaneously hilarious, poignant, and brutal.

A Most Wanted Man, by John Le Carre

A young man, apparently Arab, appears in Hamburg and comes to the attention of the counter-terrorist apparatus in Germany. Who is he and why is he meeting with a British banker? Things are never as they seem in Le Carre's novels. Perhaps Le Carre's best book since Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

A Map of Glass, by Jane Urquhart

The intersection of two stories -- one in contemporary Toronto in which a woman, Sylvia, leaves her husband for another man, Andrew. The other is a historical account of the ancestors of an artist, Jerome, who finds Andrw's body on a small island in the St. Lawrence River.

The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst

Social satire about the Thatcher years in Britain. Sex, class and money and the Conservative Party! Winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize.

Late Nights on Air, by Elizabeth Hay

A novel about the staff of the CBC radio station in Yellowknife. If you're a CBC Radio devotee, you will love this. Makes you love the Far North, too.

Limitations, by Scott Turow

A compact story about the limitations of justice. Scott Turow always writes intriguing mysteries.

The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud

Life among the chattering class in NYC. Filled with very funny vignettes ending with the realization there may be less than meets the eye among the intelligentsia. Arguably the best novel of the year.

The Retreat, by David Bergen

A family from Calgary summers at a commune-like retreat near Kenora. Their eldest daughter becomes involve with a young Aboriginal man. Conflict ensues.

Yesterday's Weather, by Anne Enright

A series of short stories by the acclaimed Irish writer and winner of the Man Booker prize for The Gathering. These are edgy stories with a bite -- read a few at a time.

Consolation, by Michael Redhill

A novel that transcends centuries from 21st C Toronto to its beginnings in the mid-1800s. An incredibly touching story about life in early Toronto and our attempts to understand it historically. Best book I've read in two years.

Fantasyland, by Sam Walker

If you are a baseball fan, you will love this account of Sam Walker's involvement in an elite Rotisserie League baseball tournament. It's hysterically funny.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsen

A very good murder mystery with fascinating characters. The story line is a bit farfetched, but the characters are unforgettable.

Now I Can Die in Peace, by Bill Simmons

The funniest baseball book around. Simmons is outrageously funny in describing the year that his beloved Bosox shattered the "Curse of the Bambino."

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Fabulous historical novel about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn. Very witty and full of interesting historical tidbits. Man Booker Prize winner -- a great read.

Martin Sloane, by Michael Redhill

Jolene Iolas, a college student falls in love with a 50-ish artist, Martin Sloane. IN the midst of a seemingly intense love affair, Martin disappears. Confusion and mystery ensue.

The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsen

A sequel to his first book with many of the same characters. Much more riveting than his first book. Murders galore!

Our Kind of Traitor, by John Le Carre

A young British couple encounters a Russian expatriate on a Caribbean holiday. They are drawn into assisting the Russian, a high-level money launderer, in protecting him and his family from the Russian oligarchy.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsen

The third and final novel in the series. Everyone gets their just deserts in a rambling, somewhat dull conclusion to the trilogy.

Solar, by Ian McEwen

A Nobel prize-winning physicist gone amok. At times this is hysterically funny and at times a bit frightening.

By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham

By the author of The Hours -- a very clever plot and a book that is evocative of New York City. Art dealer Peter finds himself falling in love with his wife's younger brother.

A Place of Greater Safety, Hillary Mantel

By the Man Booker winner -- this is an earlier book that fictionalizes the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. The characterizations of Robespierre, Danton, and Desmoulins are wonderful -- couldn't put it down!

Three Stations, by Martin Cruz Smith

The seventh in the Arkady Renko series. Great images of modern day life in Moscow -- the story line is a little stretched for credibility but a good mystery nonetheless.

February, by Lisa Moore

Fictional portrait of a woman whose husband dies in the Ocean Ranger tragedy off the coast of Newfoundland and her subsequent life with four children. Sometimes tragic -- often hysterically funny.

Can I Keep My Jersey?, by Paul Shirley

Hilarious account of a marginal NBA player bouncing through the NBA, CBA, and assorted teams in Greece, Spain, Poland, and Russia. You'll laugh out loud.

Cat's Table, by Michael Ondaatje

A cast of interesting (and sometimes disreputable) characters travel by ship from India to London. The passengers include three boys who roam the ship, learn the secrets of the passengers, and later on meet again as adults. A terrific read!

The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

2011 Booker Prize Winner. Tony and his friends meet Adrian in school. Later on, life events challenge Tony to reconsider the past. A very amusing, intelligent (and short) novel. Things were never as they seemed.

Life, by Keith Richards

Now we know how Keith Richards survived decades of debauchery!

Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff

A remarkably accessible biography of the last great ruler of the Egypt. Cleopatra's affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and her remarkable success in ruling Egypt make for interesting reading. This is history at its best: wonderful descriptions of Rome and Alexandria. Interesting speculations about Cleopatra's motivations throughout her life.

A Good Man, by Guy Vanderhaeghe

The last book in the trilogy about historical events in the 1980s in western Canada. Wesley Case leaves the Northwest Mounted Police to ranch in Montana. He becomes witness to Sitting Bull's journey to Canada after the Little Bighorn and his subsequent return to the U.S. Embedded in this is a story about the Fenian raids and another about love.