Suggest a book for Jerome   23 comments

Thank you for coming here.  What book do you think I should read to understand Canadians?

Simply leave a comment on this page, naming the book, and why you think it might be a good choice for me to read.  I’ll pick from these selections, and the selections given to CBC below (added in as we go), and will create a reading list.

Right now, I’m more interested in Fiction, Poetry and Drama of Canada, more than nonfiction, but I’m open to all suggestions.  I’m just thinking that there’s a lot of Canadian books that tell us “what” Canada is like.  But these books rarely enter the Canadian cultural subconscious like a good story does, and the nonfiction books tend to be HEFTY.  (I’m looking at you, Pierre Berton).   Check out the page “What He’s Read” to see if he’s already read the book, and put together a short blurb.

So leave your suggestions below.  Thanks!


Posted December 14, 2010 by jstueart

23 responses to “Suggest a book for Jerome

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  1. From Murray:

    Heard Dave W. mention again your Canuck reading project today…I love sharing my reading favourites. A novel that was quite a discovery for me a few years ago was Paul St. Pierre’s Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse. He was a columnist for the Vancouver Province; not even sure if he yet lives. How many novels are set in the Chilcotin? I have many more, and that’s not my fave by any means (that might be a Richler), but it was little-known and unique.

    Perhaps I’ll send in others. I know you’ll know the obvious Margaret Laurences, etc. Is it entirely fiction this ‘project’ is concerned with? Wolf Willow by Stegner, although technically an American, I consider a Canadian classic for its Canadian prairie setting.

    Another I can think of is Sinclair Ross’ As for Me and My House. To me Canadian fiction almost needs to involve the prairies, and maybe that’s because that’s where I’m from…but maybe also because it’s the geographic centre of the country and was/is so important as a the breadbasket that fed the nation and as a flat place that had to be crossed to get to the fancy mountains. This book then is kind of key.

    Books by Gabrielle Roy would also be on my list.

    Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies! Yeah! Amazing!
    Barney’s Version–awesome, great ending, and a passim image of how Richler wanted to be remembered: tap-dancing into the void
    The Invention of the World / Jack Hodgins


  2. From Steve–

    Guy Vanderhaeghe.. writes historical novels which are quite sweeping in scope – “the last crossing” & “englishman’s boy” are two good ones.
    You know Elizabeth Hay.
    Malcolm Gladwell is a canadian writer for the New Yorker and has several books out on modern society (nonfiction). I like them all and find them intricately fascinating.
    “blink”, “outliers”, and “tipping point” are all good ones.
    Peter Robinson is a canadian who writes very good british crime thrillers (pure escape). So he might not be the best place to look for canadiana.

    Have you read anything by Paul St Pierre? He wrote quite convincingly of the caribou and interior BC country during the early half of the last century. He eventually became a member of parliament. Retired in Victoria right now. That’s a good place to start for western (BC) Canadiana.

    Happy Reading.

  3. Hi Jerome,
    What a great and overwhelming project! How will you be able to choose? There’s so much good Canadian writing out there. I thought I’d add two that are nominal works, and really helped the forward momentum of Canadian fiction. Of course that’s Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising and Two Solitudes.

  4. W.O Mitchell who provides real insight into prairie life in the 1930s and on…
    Stephen Leacock who provides an insight into good canadian type humour
    Gabrielle Roy who gives the Manitoba French Canadian perspective
    Mordecai Richler who gives the Montreal perspective
    Timothy Findlay who gives the Toronto perspective

    • Hey Heidi, any books of theirs you’d recommend? I need a place to start. Thanks!

      • Who has seen the Wind – W.O Mitchell
        Solomon Gursky was here – Richler
        Not wanted on the Voyage – Findlay
        Sunshine Sketches – Leacock (reminds me of Compton MacKenzie humour)
        Rue Deschambault or Street of Riches – Roy (if you can read in french read her books in french and let me know an i have an even longer list of French canadian novels)
        Also Bonheur D’Occasion but that is more about Quebec rural life – Roy but i am not sure what the english title is

  5. From P.I.–

    Unless I am mistaken, no one has suggested to Jerome that he read “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” by Stephen Leacock. My fave is the one about his illustrious career in banking (which I THINK is in there somewhere).

    After all, when a guy gets a literary medal named after him…he’s prolly worth a read, right?

    And if Jerome wants to read it sitting at his reserved table in Baked, here’s a link:

  6. From Justine–

    Barney’s Version, for insight into the curmudgeonly Montreal male.
    Not Wanted on the Voyage (timothy findley) for some heartbreaking, laugh-out-loud blasphemy.
    The Handmaid’s Tale, because not everything Margaret Atwood writes is great, but this one really is.
    Pilgrim (findley again), so you can see how blind every awards committee in the English-speaking world can be
    Fall on Your Knees, (anne-marie macdonald) because what’s a Canadian reading list without incest?!
    Alice Munro’s short stories are the business.

  7. Thanks Justine, P.I., Steve, and Murray, —yours are on the list.

    Heidi, can you give me some titles you’d recommend from these authors?

  8. From Nicole—

    I read The Watch that Ends the Night when I was 16 or 17. I reread it about 8 years ago or so and it was uncanny – ideas that I thought I had had for myself, I found in that book.

    Because of The Watch that Ends the Night (and Such is my Beloved – an afterthought – ), and other books set there, I thought of Montreal as a quintessentially Canadian city, and went there for my first two years of University.

  9. From Mary–

    Oh Jerome, my very favorite Canadian book is Who Has Seen The Wind, by WO Mitchell. It captures the heart and soul of Canada in the gentle and beautiful story of a little boy growing up on the prairies. I feel that Mitchell is to Canada what Twain is the the US. Anything by Mitchell will fill you with joy. ( How I Spent My Summer Holidays is another great one by him; dark, funny and unsettling).

  10. Put “Virtual Clearcut” by Brian Fawcett on your list.

    Curiosities about Prince George BC I had after living there a couple of years were if not answered at least addressed, applicable to any of our northern towns.

  11. Hey Jerome,
    I am planning a move to the Yukon at the end of the summer and a lot of the reason is because of books. I see there are a lot of typical canonised authors listed here and that’s ok but if you love the Yukon I think you have to read the poems of Robert Service (which you probably have already read) They were favourites of mine as a kid. The essentials are: “the cremation of sam mcgee”, “the shooting of dan mcgrew”, “the spell of the yukon” and “the men that don’t fit in”. After that a great story that takes the characters from the shooting of Dan McGrew and re-imagines them in a historically accurate fiction of the klondike gold rush is “The Man from the Creeks” by Robert Kroetsch which I highly reccommend. My other favourite author (from Whitehorse) is Ivan Coyote who writes short stories about growing up in Whitehorse. My favourites are One Man’s Trash and Loose End. And if you are still enamoured with the Yukon life a must read is Call of the Wild by Jack London….even though he was an American the book is a Canadian Classic. On a side note one of the other best loved “stories” is actually a song but every canadian over 30 will know it… the log driver’s waltz. It was made into a fun little animated film by the National Film Board. You can watch it here:

    Enjoy my friend, and Welcome!

  12. Just thought of one more “Being Caribou” by Karsten Heuer about a newlywed couple from Calgary that migrates with the threatened porcupine caribou herd ON FOOT! Yep they actually walk the migration path with thousands of caribou for five months. It’s a great read.

  13. Funny that I should be following on the heels of Marcus, as Karsten is my brother. Nonetheless, I second his nomination of Being Caribou. But I really wrote to say that still and yet, my all-time favourite remains “In the Skin of a Lion.”



  14. Two suggestions, completely different from each other.

    Ann Marie Macdonald, ‘The Way the Crow Flies’ – check it out:

    I know you’ve got ‘Fall on Your Knees’ on the list, and as you should ! Both amazing.

    Also, Ivan E. Coyote. Born and raised in Whitehorse, storyteller to the world… Brilliant, brilliant work. See ‘Bow Grip’ for fiction, and there are many options for nonfiction short, fantastic stories. I’d suggest ‘Loose End’ to start…

  15. So many beautiful suggestions. How will you read them all, or choose?
    I want to echo two suggestions: The Diviners is an essential, non-negitiable must read. Snow Queen also.
    I would like to suggest you read a play or two; Les Belles Soeurs by Michael Tremblay (in English is OK) and The Ecstacy of Rita Joe by George Ryga are both iconic and brilliant. Poetry too is essential: my list is Daphne Marlatt’s ‘Steveston’ (a long poem) and how can we ignore Leonard Cohen? I suggest his early work, when he was still based in Canada: Beautiful Losers (novel) and Spicebox of the Earth (poems).
    I am a Northerner now, so may I suggest some non fiction that ruly reflects the north of sixty life? Reaching North and Falling for Snow by Jamie Bastedo of Yellowknife are short and easy to read evocations of the north, as well as Being Caribou (already suggested). Just brilliant and beautiful.
    Any of the West Coast Chronicles series, by Harbour Publishing, edited by Howard White (a Canadian publishing icon himself) will transport you to the days of small-time logging and tugboats operating up and down the west coart before Big Logging took over. Beautiful reads by original storytellers.
    I better stop now – there are too many!

  16. Can’t stop! One more suggestion! Shane Koyczan is THE best spoken word artist in North Americaa, if not the world, and we have, in fact, moved on from the hard copy page. You can read his stuff, but much better to listen – it’s available on CD or MP3 format. Start with ‘Visiting Hours’. Your hair will stand on end and your chest swell. He’s visiting Whitehorse this winter.
    Sorry for previous bad spelling/edit failures.

  17. Wow – now I want to read all these books, too. Many I have read but want to read over and over, many I haven’t “got ’round to”. I can use your list as a cheat sheet – thanks. Oh where will you find the time, Jerome? I fear for your eyesight but rejoice for your imagination! To add to the list: please read poems, novels and the biography of Patrick Lane. The Rez Sisters by Thomson Highway, The Divine Ryans by Wayne Johnston, Box Socials by WP Kinsella, Why Shoot the Teacher by Max Braithwaite, Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat and Rue Deschambault by Gabrielle Roy – I think the English title is Street of Riches – not sure why the difference, it makes no sense to me.

  18. Haven’t read it in a long time, but In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton covers a heartbreaking Canadian experience. How about something by Jane Rule – I’d recommend Memory Board. She was born in the U.S. I think but lived until her death in Canada.

  19. I have two suggestions, both short stories from Sinclair Ross; The Lamp at Noon, and The Painted Door. I think that these stories bring out Sinclair’s Saskatchewan rural roots, the way that he sets the environment of these stories can only be done by someone that has lived on a isolated farm road in the Canadian Prairies during the winter.

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