(Summer) Reading List

I like to read. Usually. Textbooks, not so much. Pleasure reading, I’m all for it. So I thought there’s no harm in telling you, my fair readers, what I have read, am reading, and am planning to read. Ready? Go!

Pierre Berton’s The National Dream
I starting reading this while I was still in school. I read it because it is a classic of Canadian literature, and it based 100% on Canadian history. In fact, there is nothing fictional about The National Dream. It’s pure Canadian history. What is The National Dream about? Seriously, if I have to answer that for you, you don’t know your Canadian history. But I’ll tell you anyway. It’s about how the Canadian Pacific Railway came into being. It does not talk about the actual building of the CPR, only of how Sir John A. MacDonald managed to bring his dream of a transcontinental railway 100 per cent through Canadian soil to fruition. Other components of this book include the myriad possible routes the tracks could follow through the mountain ranges at the western edge of the Prairies. I highly suggest you read this book, along with its companion tome and sequel . . .

Pierre Berton’s The Last Spike
I began reading this in Meadow Lake, after I finished reading The National Dream. Picking up where The National Dream leaves off, The Last Spike is about the building of the CPR. It discusses how the CPR managed to get built despite rapidly mounting debt and a very hard time securing funds. Its main themes are the political wrangling necessary to maintain House of Commons support of the project, and the personal feuds that are inevitable when different people are in charge of a major project. The Last Spike ends, appropriately enough, with the driving of the Last Spike at Craigellachie, BC. Again, I highly recommend this book, as it will leave you better for the knowledge you will gain about a significant period in Canadian history.

Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris

Pour moi, j’ai choisi lire ce roman parce que . . . Je ne sais pas. Seriously, that’s pretty much it. In Grade 12, when I was still taking French, we read a simplified version of Notre-Dame de Paris, and we went to Stratford to watch the play. I got it in my head that I wanted to read the original, in its original language. Yeah, that was a dumb decision. I borrowed it from the library, but only managed to get through 163 pages before the three weeks were up. Now I own a copy, and started reading it after I finished The Last Spike. That was well over a month ago. I’m now done 130 pages of this new copy, because it would not be right to pick up where I left off, especially since the pages are different. I don’t want to stop reading this again, but at the same time I don’t want to read it. It’s so hard to read, partly because it’s French and partly because it’s so dense. Ok, it’s mainly because it’s French. But I will persevere. If your French is strong, I suggest reading this in its original form. If your French is weak, find a translated version.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped

I have very little to say on this book. It was sitting on my shelf in my room in Scarborough, and when I was grabbing books to bring with me to ML, I grabbed this one because I have never read it. That’s all I got. Sorry.

Damien Cox and Gord Stellick’s ’67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire
So, chances are if you’re reading this you know who I am and how much of a Montréal Canadiens fan I am. So you must be asking yourself why I would read a book about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Well, first off, I’m not reading it yet. I will start once I’ve slaughtered Notre-Dame de Paris and finished Kidnapped. But the real reason I would read a book about the Maple Leafs (and I will give them the respect they deserve, until the season starts) is that I like Damien Cox’s work. And let’s face it, growing up in Scarborough, I had the Maple Leafs rammed down my throat every day during the NHL season. I think it would be interesting to read about how the Maple Leafs as a franchise fell apart after their last Stanley Cup win in 1967. I respect the history the Maple Leafs have (well, their pre-1967 history) and it would only be fair to read about Les Habitants’ greatest rival. Or second greatest, depending on where you rank the Boston Bruins.

Ken Dryden’s The Game
Um, it’s written by Ken Dryden. And it’s about hockey. And as far as the hype goes, it deals significantly with the Canadiens teams of the 1970s, arguably no worse than the second best teams in history (either behind the Canadiens teams of 1956-1960, or just above them). This book has been hyped just about everywhere I’ve seen it or heard of it. So much so the tagline on the front cover reads as follows: ‘The best hockey book every written.’ That says it all.

Michel Roy’s Patrick Roy: Winning. Nothing Else (translated)
It’s about Patrick Roy. And again, it will deal heavily with Les Habitants. And I like biographies. Patrick Roy is arguably the greatest goaltender in NHL history (and I can and will argue against him if you want), and had a key role to play in Montréal’s last two Stanley Cup victories. We all have our opinions of the man, the man who is said to have orchestrated his exit from Les Canadiens after the infamous night of Dec. 2, 1995 (here it can be argued the Forum, Les Canadiens’ home rink played a part as well), but who better to answer our questions about the man than the author, his own father.

So there we have it. My reading list until I get more books. I may or may not post reviews of some or all of the books listed after Notre-Dame de Paris. We’ll have to see about that.