Wednesday, May 16, 2007

O Canada!

I love reading travel books, especially about travel in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. I've only visited Canada a couple of times (Toronto, Niagra Falls, and Quebec City). One of the most memorable places visited was "Tivoli Miniature Village" near St. Catherine's, Ontario. It was on one of those family driving vacations (Wisconsin to Niagra to Maine to Quebec City and back). Tivoli Miniature World had tiny models of famous world landmarks. It was fun and cheesy, and we were hundreds of miles from home, so we teenagers didn't need to be embarrassed. I think it's now gone. Another important moment: meeting real Canadians (teenagers swimming in the motel pool) who said "eh?" at the end of sentences. I also stayed in Toronto during the SARS scare.

I'd like to visit Canada again. In the meantime, I read about Canada, listen to As It Happens from time to time on Wisconsin Public Radio, and watch what Canadian tv we get (like Slings and Arrows).

Brook, Stephen. Maple Leaf Rag: Travels Across Canada. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.
This is a "rag," that is, a fair amount of complaining. But it's also funny. Brook mostly goes to Canadian cities. One of those books I've re-read more than once. I remember coming across it at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, when I was in college.

Fraser, Marian B. Walking the Line. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1989.
One of those I read ages ago, but enjoyed enough that I remembered I enjoyed it. Fraser travels along the Canadian-U.S. border (among the longest unguarded borders in the world), and writes about the people she meets.

Gordon, Charles. The Canada Trip. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1997.
A newspaper reporter and his wife take a car trip across Canada one summer, starting and ending around Toronto. Gordon is strictly a tourist; he briefly describes the people they meet, but his emphasis is not on character sketches. He describes places--cities and natural areas, and towns. They visit a town that they had lived in decades before, when Gordon was starting out in newspapers. They also visit various friends. Gordon loves visiting territorial capitol buildings; this is a theme in the book. His family has a relatively (for white people) long history in Canada, and they visit places associated with his grandparents and great-grandparents. They also take a break at a family cabin in the Ontario Lakes. It's fun to read about another region's country getaway spot--sounds similar to the "northwoods" of Wisconsin. I think I liked this book because the trip reminded me of the car trips I took with my parents and brother (without all the squabbles).

Stackhouse, John. Timbit Nation: A Hitchhiker's View of Canada. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2003.
I usually don't include books I didn't really like. But I recently read this, and wanted to warn people against it. Or recommend it for people who want a gritty, depressing view of Canada. Maybe this is the reality and the above books are the sugar-coated tales. I hope not. They're probably both realities, just the realities of different people. Many of the people (mostly men) who picked up hitchhiker John Stackhouse seemed to be living on the edge economically. Stackhouse spent a lot of time standing in urban sprawl, in crappy weather or being attacked by bugs, waiting for rides. His destinations were dependent on his drivers, who were not usually tourists. The book had more character studies than descriptions of places. He did hitchhike from coast to coast. (I did know what Timbits were, courtesy of a Canadian friend.)

To end on a happier note...
The Way We Live in Manitoba. Winnipeg, Man.: Winnipeg Free Press, 1998.
This is a pretty coffee table book, lots of pretty pictures, compiled by a Manitoba newspaper. Nice text too. Confirms that "the prairies" are more than just flat fields of wheat. Looks at the ethnic and geographic diversity. I think I was inspired to track down this book after visiting the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington Dc, and seeing an exhibit on the Metis of Manitoba.

Other Canada-related books I've mentioned so far:
August 8, 2006
Ganong, Joan. Backstage at Stratford. Toronto, Longmans [1962].
Patterson, Tom. First Stage: The Making of the Stratford Festival. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, c1987.
Ouzounian, Richard. Stratford Gold: Fifty Years, Fifty Stars, Fifty Conversations Toronto: McArthur & Co., 2002.

June 13, 2006
Tewksbury, Mark. Visions of Excellence: The Art of Achieving Your Dreams.
Toronto, Ont.; New York, N.Y.: Viking, 1993.
Behind the scenes at an Oregon winery

Okay, time to move on from the "year in the life" books, for the time being.

Blosser, Susan Sokol. At Home in the Vineyard: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry, and a Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

I picked this off the new bookshelf at my local public library back in January. I'm not a wine conaisseur, or a gardener/farmer in any way, but I'm interested in how businesses run. I finally got around to reading the book in March, and I'm so glad I did read it. Susan Sokol Blosser and her husband were one of the pioneers in the wine industry in Oregon, starting a vineyard in the early 1970s. They had no experience with vineyards or wineries; they tried it on a lark. The book chronicles their experiments and lessons learned on their way to building a successful business.

Sokol Blosser's book encompasses a bit of everything:
--accounts of her family's life on a farm, where they try to do everything themselves just about once
--what it means to have a family business: how the kids take part in the business, what can happen with relatives as investors
--zoning challenges in developing a vineyard and winery
--how a new regional industry markets itself
--agricultural and natural details
--women's empowerment
--how a business grows
--marketing, advertising, and sales for a business
--how an agricultural business becomes a "green" business

It's a breezy, fun, informative read.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Year in the Life books VI: Miscellaneous

Duncan, Dayton. Grass Roots: One Year in the Life of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Viking, 1991.
This book is the whole reason for this category!! I loved this book. The author recreates conversations and interior dialogs there's no way he could've witnessed. But it makes for a compelling story. As one who's volunteered with a local political party, I love how this book focuses on the local volunteers. Most are quite savvy and have been involved with politics before (though there are some neophytes). I think a couple end up taking jobs with the local campaigns. I don't remember the candidates themselves playing big roles in the book (which is fine; this was the election in which the Democratic candidates were called "the seven dwarfs"). I like how the book recognized that all kinds of things motivate volunteers in their efforts.

Daria, Irene. Fashion Cycle: A Behind the Scenes Look at a Year With Bill Blass, Liz Claiborne, Donna Karan, Arnold Scaasi, and Adrienne Vittadini. New York : Simon and Schuster, c1990.
Unlike Grassroots, which is a compelling read in general, I would only recommend this to people seriously interested in the fashion industry. It focuses on the designers, but in the end, I still didn't feel like I had a great sense of their creative processes. If you watch Project Runway for the designing process, this book might be for you.

Goldsmith-Hirsch, Suzanne. City Year: On the Streets and in the Neighborhoods With Twelve Young Community Service Volunteers. New York : New Press : distributed by W.W. Norton, c1993.
I remember liking this book a lot, but I don't remember much about it. It took place in Boston. The volunteers had to meet and do calisthenics in the morning. The volunteers Goldsmith-Hirsch followed were in one group (I think), and were a mix of people who volunteered kind of as a new experience, as a way to take time off from college, and those for whom participation was practically court-mandated, or was practically their only option economically. That is, it was a diverse group racially and economically.

Bates, Douglas. The Pulitzer Prize: The Inside Story of America’s Most Prestigious Award. New York, NY : Carol Pub. Group, 1991.
This book sets out to demystify the process of selecting these journalism rewards. Bates does so by chronicling the awards process for 1990. There was quite a bit about some of the nominees, and how they came to do the stories/photos they were nominated for.

Other entries with "Year in the Life" books: June 20, 2006–restaurants/chefs; June 22, 2006–part II: education; August 26, 2006–part III: theater and business; Oct 11, 2006–part IVa: sports; Feb 21, 2007–part IVb: sports; March 28, 2007–part V: religion; and April 6, 2007–part IVc: sports.