COLUMN: Glorious and Free and O! so Literary

Books that make us Canadian...

Oh, Canada! With glowing hearts we read your books, our true north literarily.

Yes, we have awesome authors from Atwood to Zwicky, but for the purposes of this column I’m going to talk about books about Canada—and the things that make us so glowingly Canadian.

Starting with the weather. Yes, the weather. Because ’fess up, you have been talking about it lately, right? Learn everything you ever needed to know to better make cocktail conversation with Canada’s Weather by Chris St. Clair (551.6571), including (of course) Canadian weather disasters: the 1950 Winnipeg flood, Edmonton’s 1987 tornado, the great ice storm of ’98, and the 2003 Okanagan fires.

You can read up on our iconographic symbols with A Beaver is Eating My Canoe by Matt Jackson (796.50971), It’s Our Game: Celebrating 100 Years of Hockey in Canada by Michael McKinley (796.962097) and (naturally) Brew North: How Canadians Made Beer and Beer Made Canada by Ian Coutts (663.420971).

Douglas Coupland—an iconic Canadian himself—celebrates it all with Souvenir of Canada (971 COU), the artist and cultural commentator’s take on all things Canadian through strange juxtapositions of ephemera, dioramas and essays. On the front cover? The stubby beer bottle, the sight of which warms the nostalgic hearts of many Canadians of a certain age.

Wow your friends with your command of the quirky by memorizing The Big Book of Canadian Trivia by Mark Kearney and Randy Ray (971.002 KEA), including Canadian’s contributions to science from the development of computerized weather forecasting systems (a dubious glory at times) to the characterization of free radicals (not to be confused with Douglas Coupland).

Canadian quirkiness continues with Curious Canadians by Nancy Liss (971.099), including Canadian quadruped Wiarton Willie, who gives computer forecasting a run for its money on Groundhog Day. Iconic historian Peter C. Newman discusses the good, the bad, and the remarkable in Heroes: Canadian Champions, Dark Horses and Icons (971.0099), and Canadian icon of quirkiness and brilliance Rex Murphy talks about everyone else (Canada and Other Matters of Opinion, 81 MUR).

Who we are as Canadians must by necessity include I Have Lived Here Since the World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada’s Native People by Arthur Ray (971.00497), Métis by Chris Andersen (971.00497), The making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration (325.71 KEL), and of course Who We Are: A Citizen’s Manifesto by Rudyard Griffiths (971 GRI).

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the Library boasts millions, and they speak volumes about where we’ve come from and who we are. Big, beautiful, illuminating books include 100 Days that Changed Canada (971 ONE), covering everything from the first transatlantic wireless message to the first time Mr. Dressup opened his tickle trunk on Canadian television—and I daresay we may not have had one without the other.

Not to be outdone in the numbers game, 100 Photos that Changed Canada (971.00222 ONE), is a glorious, illuminating journey, including the great flag debate of 1964 (and the unfurling of the flag we know and love in 1965, and that we sang to again this week with hearts a-glowing).

Celebrated historian Charlotte Gray’s The Museum Called Canada (971.002) opens the doors to a fabulous collection under one roof—er, cover. And for a photo view from our buddies to the south, Imagining Canada: A Century of Photographs Preserved by the New York Times (971.0222) offers Canadian commentary with voices that include Shawn Atleo, Justin Trudeau, Lisa Moore and more.

And with that I thank composer Calixa Lavallée and English lyricist Robert Stanley Weir for giving us “the True North Strong and Free.” Literarily, and literally.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to www.nelsonlibrary.ca

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