I’ve been having some fun at Westgate Books lately. A couple of weeks ago I wandered into the store looking for Saskatoon: A History in Photographs by Jeff O’Brien, Ruth Miller and William P. Delainey. They didn’t have it but the staff that was helping me went to look in the warehouse. Instead of the book I was looking for, he came up with two books, Saskatoon, the First Half Century by Don Kerr and a Saskatoon, Hub City of the West: an Illustrated History by Gail McConnell.
I looked at them and took them both. I also put my name down on a list if Saskatoon: A History in Photographs came in. A couple of days later I got a phone call that told me that my book was in and come to pick it up. Last Friday I went back to get it and it was the wrong book. It was Saskatoon: A Century in Pictures by William Duerkop, John Sarjeant and William Delainey In hindsight I kind of wondered if there was a bit of miscommunication when I ordered Saskatoon: A Century in Pictures but I looked at this book and I realized I wanted to read it as well. I had a blast all week looking at it. So has Mark.
Since I am talking about books, it looks like Gail McConnell was doing Kickstarter long before Kickstarter was a thing. The last 20 or so pages of her book is dedicated to patrons who helped pay to publish her book. Local Saskatoon businesses sponsored the project and she does a one page profile on each company. Who knew a history book could be so cutting edge.
While I was getting that book, another staff at Westgate Books went looking for the book in case they missed it and found me another book on the history of electric transit in Saskatoon. I didn’t have the money on me to get it so they put that away for me. I’ll wander by this week and get it. Now I am curious as to what other books I will find in my brief stop at the store.
I know being in the used book business is a hard business to be in but I haven’t had as much fun shopping as I have had in Westgate Books in a very long time. I hope that still counts for something.
Check out Amazon’s 100 books to read in a lifetime. I’ve read most of the non-fiction but as I have written before, fiction is my weak point. I’ll see if I can knock a dozen or so of these books off their list this year. It looks like a lot of fun.
In Antwerp, they found herpes and cocaine
Jessica Roy writes for Time that the professors—experts in toxicology and bacteriology—found the ten most popular books at the Antwerp library and screened them for germs and other substances. All ten of the titles ended up testing positive for traces of cocaine, which suggests that Belgian library patrons are having just the BEST time when they borrow, say, Wuthering Heights or the latest offering from Sue Grafton. In all seriousness, Roy reports that the drug wasn’t present in large enough quantities for unsuspecting patrons to feel any effects, but they could end up testing positive for cocaine.
The copies of 50 Shades of Grey, meanwhile, produced even cringe-inducing results, in the form of the herpes virus. E.L. James’s wildly popular erotic novel apparently tested positive for traces of the virus, albeit in minimal enough quantities that the professors assure that there’s no public health risk and no possibility of contracting the STD from contact with the book.
While on the way to the cabin on Friday, I stopped by Indigo Books and picked up December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World by Craig Shirley. The book attempts to look at each day of December 1941 in the lead up and aftermath of the attack of Pearl Harbour though a variety of lens to give the month and attack some context. He examines historical records, news paper accounts and even pop culture as part of this effort to explain the almost instantaneous change in American culture and life because of it’s entry into Word War II.
It’s an entertaining read. I wandered through the almost 600 pages in two days. I leaned a lot, especially about the difference in American and British views of how to communicate the war (Churchill laid it all out while FDR chose to reveal as little as possible) but in the end it was a very unsatisfying read. The editing was awful. The book got countless historical facts wrong (like the tonnage of the Price of Wales or the suggestion that England had 500,000 pilots trained). The there are sentences like, “It was raking in millions each week, mostly for the top four studios: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.” The fourth studio was… Also Pittsburgh was misspelled. Things like that drove me crazy.
What was interesting to learn was the totalitarian powers that Congress almost immediately gave FDR to win the war. What was even more interesting is when you realize that once war was won, those powers were taken away from the President. It speaks to the ability the United States has to make and remake itself as the context determines it. It will be interesting to see if the U.S. ever returns to a pre-9/11 mindset.
I think the other thing the book did well was explain the events leading up to Pearl Harbour from Japan’s perspective. While in no ways does it justify the attack, it does explain a little of what the Japanese were thinking through their militaristic cabinet. I am not sure that I would recommend the book, there are just simply too many mistakes in it but it wasn’t a bad way to spend the weekend.