Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Book of the Year

Dec 3, 2014

I am always discouraged this time of year by the lack of Canadian history in the various "best books of the year" features that I read in the media.

To take just one example, the Globe and Mail included just two volumes of history in its 100 "best books" of 2014. And one of them was Conrad Black's mammoth history of Canada which the Globe's own reviewer earlier had panned for its "tight focus on elite decision makers ... to the exclusion of everything else." Obnoxious and disappointing are two other words the reviewer applied to the book, which nonetheless edged out all but one other contender to make the list. One wonders just how the Globe defines that term "best."

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with a list of my own. I hate the whole "best of..." concept. Let me just commend what I consider to be the most intriguing CanHist book that I read this year, Sean Kheraj's environmental history of Stanley Park. Granted that Inventing Stanley Park actually appeared in 2013 but who cares. I only got around to it this year and it does what a good history book ought to do: it changes your mind about what you thought you knew.

I've written about Inventing Stanley Park in my column for Geist #95, which is due out on magazine stands later this month. Look for it.