Pierre Berton: A Biography (Paperback)

A Biography

By Brian McKillop

Emblem Editions, 9780771057564, 808pp.

Publication Date: September 7, 2010



The first ever biography of one of Canada’s best-known and most colourful personalities by an award-winning author.

From his northern childhood on, it was clear that Pierre Berton (1920—2004) was different from his peers. Over the course of his eighty-four years, he would become the most famous Canadian media figure of his time, in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and books — sometimes all at once. Berton dominated bookstore shelves for almost half a century, winning Governor General’s Awards for Klondike and The Last Spike, among many others, along with a dozen honorary degrees.

Throughout it all, Berton was larger than life: full of verve and ideas, he approached everything he did with passion, humour, and an insatiable curiosity. He loved controversy and being the centre of attention, and provoked national debate on subjects as wide-ranging as religion and marijuana use. A major voice of Canadian nationalism at the dawn of globalization, he made Canadians take interest in their own history and become proud of it. But he had his critics too, and some considered him egocentric and mean-spirited.

Now, with the same meticulous research and storytelling skill that earned him wide critical acclaim for The Spinster and the Prophet, Brian McKillop traces Pierre Berton’s remarkable life, with special emphasis on his early days and his rise to prominence. The result is a comprehensive, vivid portrait of the life and work of one of our most celebrated national figures.

About the Author

Chancellor's Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Carleton University, Brian McKillop is one of Canada's leading historians. He is the author of several scholarly works, as well as The Spinster and the Prophet, which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Nonfiction and the Charles Taylor Prize, and which won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-Fiction, the UBC President's Medal for Biography, and the Toronto Book Award. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2001 and lives in Ottawa. "From the Hardcover edition."

Praise For Pierre Berton: A Biography

“Excellent biography . . . In this evenhanded, judicious and authoritative work, McKillop does justice to the colossus.”
— Ken McGoogan, Globe and Mail

“McKillop’s book is, like the best of Berton himself, compellingly readable. It is a biography, doubtless definitive, which readers interested in Berton, his distinguished career and in Canada’s history, will want to keep on their shelves.”
London Free Press

“Magnificent biography.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Reading it is like taking a long, but leisurely train trip through the 20th century.”
— Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“McKillop never loses sympathy with Berton, but he recounts the failings as well as the virtues of his subject, his occasional outbursts of petulance as well as his unfailing generosity.”
National Post