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It’s been a decade since the writer first met the lawyer — a chance encounter in a Toronto bar that abruptly informed him how little he knew about the legal consumer product likely to kill him.

So Joshua Knelman, author and smoker, went back to the lawyer, who had just exited a 12-year stint in the tobacco industry, and began the dozens of conversations that culminated in Firebrand: A Tobacco Lawyer’s Journey. One of the year’s most remarkable books, it brilliantly untangles what Knelman calls “the tobacco paradox” — how the tobacco trade thrives as much, if not more, than it ever has — and its many ironies.