Tag Archives: canada

Celebrate Canada 150 with Books

As a preface, I’d like to gratefully acknowledge that Winnipeg lies within Treaty No. 1 Territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinabe (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dene and Dakota peoples, and is the Birthplace of the Métis Nation and the Heart of the Métis Nation Homeland.





You know what word I’m not hearing enough right now?



How is this word not constantly repeated in any mention of Canada 150??? It’s pretty much the best word ever.

My love of big weird words aside, it is a pretty big deal for anything to reach it’s 150th anniversary. Though I do want to take the time to note that this anniversary evokes mixed emotions for many of us, I also believe that this country we’re a part of stands for a lot of noble things. At the same time, I know we can and should strive to do better in the future.

One of the ways in which we can try to understand where we came from and where we’re going is through — you guessed it — books! So to celebrate this amazing and diverse and huge and wonderful country of ours, WPL is encouraging you to embark on a journey to explore Canada through a cross-country Read Trip.

This may be the easiest and laziest road trip you’ll ever take. Just find a Canadian book (we make it simple as we’ve always put a maple leaf on the spine). For every Canadian book you read, enter a ballot in our August 18 prize draw for a bag of wicked Canadian lit.


And because we love making lists, a bunch of us have put one together that contains top suggestions for books set in each territory and province. Please peruse, pick, and/or print as desired!


rt list


Read on, Canada! And happy sesquicentennial.

— Erica

The Fort Garry Book Club Reading List

When it comes to what other people are reading, I’ll admit it – I’m nosey. If I see someone reading on the bus, I’ll try to get a look at the book cover. Or maybe take a quick glance at the page as I walk by a reader in a coffee shop. If you’re as much of a book snoop as I am, I invite you to take a peek over our metaphorical shoulders at what the Fort Garry Book Club read this year.

leftneglected    Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

After brain injury in a car crash steals her awareness of everything on her left side, working mom Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In doing so, she learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson hitmananders

Hitman Anders, recently out of prison, is doing small jobs for the big gangsters. Then his life takes an unexpected turn when he joins forces with three unlikely companions to concoct an unusual business plan based on his skills and fearsome reputation. The perfect plan – if it weren’t for Anders’ curiosity about the meaning of it all.


This year marks Canada’s 150th birthday. In a timely coincidence, our book club read several titles this year by local Manitoba authors. We’re lucky to live in a province that has such wonderful literary talent to choose from.

afterlight   After Light by Catherine Hunter

This novel follows four generations of the Garrison family through the 20th century. Despite all their tragedies, the creative fire that drives the family survives, burning more and more brightly as it’s passed from one generation to the next.

The Age of Hope by David Bergen      ageofhope

Born in 1930 in a small town outside Winnipeg, beautiful Hope appears destined to have a conventional life. But as the decades unfold, what seems to be a safe, predictable existence overwhelms her. This beautifully crafted and perceptive work of fiction spans some fifty years of Hope’s life in the second half of the 20th century, from traditionalism to feminism and beyond.

index  The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

When his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant Aboriginal man who’d raised him. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated Aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its Aboriginal history and living presence.

The Opening Sky by Joan Thomas    openingsky

Liz, Aiden, and Sylvie are an urban, urbane, progressive family. Then the present and the past collide in a crisis that shatters the complacency of all three. They are forced to confront a tragedy from years before, when four children went missing at an artists’ retreat. In the long shadow of that event, the family is drawn to a dangerous precipice.

ThisHiddenThing2  This Hidden Thing by Dora Dueck

The young woman standing outside the prosperous Winnipeg house that day in 1927 knew she must have work. Her family depended on it. But Maria had no idea that her new life as a domestic would mark her for the rest of her days. Her story reminds us how dangerous and powerful secrets can be.

I hope this gives you a few books to add to your own summer reading list!

  • Melanie

Restaurants and the experience of eating out

Venite ad me, omnes qui stomacho laboratis, et ego restaurabo vos“. 

Translation: “Come to me, whose stomach screams in misery, and I will restore you.”  Motto on the door of the first restaurant, Paris 1765.

It seems strange to think that there was a time without restaurants in either America or Europe until a certain Roze Boulanger opened his business in pre-revolution France.  There were taverns that served alcohol, and inns where clients could expect a meal prepared by the innkeeper served at a common table, but no menu selection was available, nor was it offered all day. There indeed was no establishment that served selected cooked meals to their clientele.  The term “restaurant” itself used to mean a broth  of concentrated meat juices that was prescribed to restore one’s strength (hence the origin of the name).  Mr Boulanger had to fight in court for his right to serve meat (forbidden at the time unless you were member of a guild) as part of a variety of dishes available to the public in his establishment, but others quickly opened their own “restaurants” and the rest is history.

I discovered this by reading The invention of the restaurant: Paris and modern gastronomic culture by Rebecca Spang, which tells of the evolution of the early history of restaurants, and of the concept of gastronomy (fancy eating) as a new facet of popular culture.  Something that was once the realm of aristocracies and their personal kitchens became available to the emergent bourgeoisie, and eventually to everyone.

Canada is not exactly the most high-profile country as far as haute cuisine is concerned, but we have carved our own unique niche in the gastronomy and hospitality business.  Canadians at table : food, fellowship, and folklore: a culinary history of Canada by Dorothy Duncan covers the entire length of Canada’s history with food, starting with its first European settlers’ attempt to adapt their food habits to a new world with First Nations’ practices (most notably pemmican), and to integrate local plants and fauna into their diets. In addition to providing glimpses at what Canadians ate and how it evolved to the present day, the book covers topics like the importance of public markets for new settlers, the proliferation of cookbooks written by organizations for fundraising, and the history of local supermarkets and restaurant chains that became national brands.  Restaurant menus from different eras give readers an idea of what Canadians’ experience of eating out involved.

For those in the mood for a lighter read, You gotta eat here! : Canada’s favourite hometown restaurants and hidden gems is all about the lesser known but still excellent local restaurants and diners all over the country, including some in Winnipeg, which are worth discovering when you visit.  The book includes recipes of favourites from each establishment and fun descriptions of the author’s eating experiences.  The book has just arrived in our collection and has inspired me to try out “maple fried oatmeal.”  Also, kudos to the authors for including Schwartz’s Deli, a Montreal institution.  On a more local note, Russ Gourluck’s books about Winnipeg’s North End neighborhood and Portage Avenue contain many stories about popular local eateries, some no longer in existence, but others who are still very much part of the city’s popular attractions.

If you are looking for the best places to eat in the whole world, if you want to REALLY eat out, there is a book for that: Ultimate food journeys : the world’s best dishes & where to eat them. Whereas a travel guide is a book filled with information on what to see and where to stay with some recommendations on where to eat, this book is the reverse: it’s all about global gastronomy and the best places to eat with some recommendations on where to stay and sights to see.  The book is gorgeously illustrated and is very thorough in its coverage of every continent.

After World War II, speed – as symbolized by the automobile – became a symbol of the new modernity and restaurants adapted by introducing fast food (or, if you prefer, “good food, quickly”) and the drive-in/drive-through service.  Car hops and curb service : a history of American drive-in restaurants, 1920-1960 tells the story of this trend which first appeared in California and spread to the entire continent.  The book is full of great historical photographs as well as reproductions of menus and memorabilia spanning the 1920-60’s decades that preceded large fast food chains.

Food trucks : dispatches and recipes from the best kitchens on wheels deals with another aspect of the evolution of restoration: the mobile kitchens, or food trucks which serve an incredibly diverse variety of meals to a pedestrian clientele (hence the term “street food”) at affordable prices.  Even though the focus is on American cities, it is worth the read for the personal anecdotes from the owners of those movable feasts.

I am sure everyone has their own favourite eating-out spots, so please give suggestions, or share memories of places no longer open for business.


Remembering the War of 1812

The War of 1812, not unlike the Korean War, can be described as a (nearly) forgotten conflict for many reasons, not least of all because it occurred very long ago. But unlike the American Revolution or World Wars I and II, neither the United States nor Britain and Canada have done much to keep the memories of this war alive in public minds.  And yet it was remarkable in many respects, especially for the Canadian colony which faced the second U.S invasion in its short history and again prevailed. We have seen in recent months an effort by governments and organizations to start preparing for the bicentennial of the war by raising awareness through articles, documentaries and upcoming commemorative events. For those interested in brushing up on their history, the library has a lot of resources on the War of 1812.

Though he died in the early stages of the war, Sir Isaac Brock is regarded as one of the men whose actions were pivotal in defending what was then British Canada. A new biography of him was published this year: The Astonishing General: the Life and Legacy of Sir Isaac Brock by Wesley Turner.

The war produced a number of heroic figures with fascinating stories: Tecumseh, who led a confederacy of First Nations and, with the help of the British, seized Fort Detroit;  Laura Secord and James FitzGibbon, who both became famous thanks to their contribution in defeating American forces at the battle of Beaver Dams.


For those who need a good introduction to the subject (with great illustrations), try Gilbert Collins’ Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812  and Victor Suthren’s The War of 1812 . The civil war of 1812 : American citizens, British subjects, Irish rebels, & Indian allies by Alan Taylor deals with the alliances that were formed and their uneasy co-existence: British subjects fought Americans (themselves British subjects until recently), French-Canadians fought alongside their former conquerors and First Nations tribes fought as allies of Britain but for different stakes. At the end of the war, both sides were able to claim victory because they fought different wars, and while no territorial changes occurred, both Canada and the United States could claim to have defended their respective independence and strengthened their national identities.

If you would rather read a fictional account, many novels have been written with the War of 1812 as the background. If you’re a fan of the movie Master and Commander (with Russell Crowe in the lead role) or of naval warfare in the Age of Sail, why not read a novel by Patrick O’Brian? The Far Side of the World continues the adventures of Jack Aubrey, hero of the Napoleonic War, and his friend Stephen Maturin as they now face the United States Navy. 

One last recommendation for fans of alternate history: Redcoats’ revenge : an alternate history of the War of 1812 by David Fitz-Enz imagines how the war’s outcome could have changed if the Battle of Plattsburgh had been an overwhelming British victory instead of a defeat.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions on this neglected part of our history.


The True North: Strong, Free…and Nice?

Canadian flagI’ve heard it said many times that Canadians are very nice, and overall we are. To me, though, the word “nice” suggests that Canada is the land of the bland, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Check out Egotists and Autocrats by George Bowering for an eye-opening account of Canada’s prime ministers from Sir John A. Macdonald, a good man to have a drink with, to William Lyon Mackenzie King, who spent his off duty hours at séances.

In her time, Nellie McClung was the furthest thing from a nice woman, but her outspoken determination opened doors for women everywhere.  And Nellie wasn’t the only Canadian woman who changed the world. Take a look at famouscanadianwomen.com to see the ways Canadian women have changed the course of history, both at home and abroad.

On June 23, 1990, the words of Elijah Harper were heard not only in the Manitoba Legislature, but all across Canada. Elijah by Pauline Comeau takes the reader on Elijah’s journey, beginning on a remote Northern reserve through many hard times, his role in Canadian politics, and beyond.

Scientist David Suzuki has spent most of his life making people sit up and pay attention to his messages about the environment. From the show “Quirks and Quarks” on CBC radio to his book, The Big Picture, Dr. Suzuki has not necessarily been nice, but he has been proven to be right, time and time again.

Cover of the book "Terry" by Douglas CouplandTerry by Douglas Coupland contains many personal photos and mementos from the unforgettable life of Terry Fox. While I’m sure that in private life Terry was indeed a nice guy, his strength of will in the face of staggering odds showed the world the best of what it means to be a Canadian.

So the next time you hear how nice Canadians are, smile sweetly,  say “Thanks, eh!” and take pride in the knowledge that nice isn’t all we are.