Since we Canadians have a reputation for being more introverted than our American neighbours, I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than by spending some time enjoying a great Canadian book.
There’s no shortage of titles to choose from, but here are a few that I’ve enjoyed, including some that you may not have heard of before.
Originally published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables is one of the bestselling Canadian books of all time. Even if you haven’t read it, you’re probably familiar with its imaginative red-haired heroine, as the book has inspired movies and TV mini-series, as well as a musical stage play.
What you may not have heard is that the heirs of author L.M. Montgomery asked Budge Wilson to write a prequel to tell the story of Anne’s life before she was adopted by the Cuthberts. I received a copy as a gift a couple of years ago, and I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about reading it. After all, Anne of Green Gables was my very favourite book when I was growing up, and I’ve read the entire series multiple times (with the exception of The Blythes Are Quoted, which I’ve just learned about), so I know Anne nearly as well as I know myself.
Much to my delight, Budge Wilson did an amazing job, both in her writing style and content, of convincing me that this was “the real deal.” In fact, several times I found myself nodding in delight to discover the stories behind the stories that I know and love so well.
If you’re a fan of Anne of Green Gables, you will not want to miss Before Green Gables.
I suspect that you’ve read Red is Best, by Kathy Stinson, either as a child or to your own children, but are you familiar with Kathy’s Marie-Claire books, written as part of the Our Canadian Girl series? If not, or if you haven’t read the whole series, you are in luck, because Penguin has published all four novels in one volume. It’s a great glimpse at life in Montreal in the 1880s that’s suitable for readers aged 8 and up.
As a teenager, I thoroughly enjoyed Mazo de la Roche’s story of a Canadian family over a 100-year period, the Whiteoak Chronicles. Unless you’re prepared to commit to reading all 16 volumes, I don’t recommend reading Building of Jalna first, even though it is the beginning of the saga. You are probably better off starting with Jalna, which was the first one published, in 1927. Then, if you like it, you can go back and read all the sequels and prequels in the order that they take place, from Building of Jalna to Centenary at Jalna.
In case you’re wondering, Jalna is the name of the Whiteoaks family’s home, named for the place in India where Captain Philip Whiteoaks had been stationed.
Do you prefer non-fiction? I’ve got some suggestions for you too!
If you’d like to be more organized, or you provide organizing services to others, I highly recommend this award-winning book from Hellen Buttigieg, who is possibly Canada’s best-known organizing expert. It begins with tips to help you assess whether you or your client is a visual, kinesthetic, or auditory learner, and offers strategies for each of the three learning styles, including photos of suggested products. It even includes recommendations for handling those tricky situations when people with different learning styles share space at home or at work!
I love photography, and although I don’t have as much time for it as I used to, I’ve read a lot of photography books of all kinds. Many were practical manuals that explained technical terms like f-stop and focal length, things that are useful to know, but not exciting to read about. The books I found most inspiring were those that taught me to see pictures in the world around me, and many of my favourites were written by Freeman Patterson. With today’s highly automated cameras, although it can still be helpful, it is no longer essential to understand the technical side of photography, but books like Photography for the Joy of It will always be needed and appreciated by photographers at all levels.
Or, look for any of the titles shown in the above photo, all written by Canadian authors I have met.
CBC Books posted a list of 100 Novels that make you proud to be Canadian – how many have you read?
What are your favourite Canadian books? I would love to know!