Here’s The Thing

by Bob Woolsey

illustration by Rob Ondzik
illustration by Rob Ondzik

Books are the endless frontier. I feel constant guilt over how much reading I accomplish, always thinking it should be more. At some point I got it in my head that intelligent people keep up on their reading and because I’ve always considered myself an intelligent person, you can see the vicious circle I’ve created. That said, I do make it a point to come back to a book every now and then. My reading, if not streaky, has remained an important part of my life despite competition from other more alluring media. Plus, they read books on Star Trek. If they’re still doing it in the 24th century, you know it’s important.

Whoever decided that summer was the time for reading made a mistake. I don’t know about you, but I like to spend my summer out and about, enjoying the city of Vancouver. The time for reading is winter. It’s rainy, dark, and generally more depressing than summer. What better time to escape into a good read? I like to think that my crotchety anti-conformity is shared by more people than it probably is but if you agree with me about this coming time of year and its perfect conditions for curling up with a good book, then read on! I have gathered a few of my favourite reads as well as some I’m looking forward to diving into this winter.

Personally, I tend towards genres like historical non-fiction, classic literature, and biographical/memoir-type stuff. Of course, my fascination with classic literature stems from my earlier fear that I don’t read enough — an area I feel behind in, so there’s a constant desire to catch up.

The first book on my winter reading list is one that I’m characteristically behind on. Telegraph Avenue was given to me as a birthday gift last year and I’m still not really into it yet. It’s by Michael Chabon, who wrote other great novels like The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

In the category of more modern/guilty pleasure reading, Bobby Orr has a book, Orr, My Story coming out for Christmas that I’m really looking forward to. For background: I grew up in a house with a signed picture of Bobby Orr above the fireplace. He’s something of a Woolsey family hero and a very interesting figure. I’m also very much looking forward to Still Foolin’ ‘Em by Billy Crystal, another Woolsey family favourite.

To round this list out, a couple of my all-time great reads from past winter reading spells. Firstly, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake by UBC professor Samuel Bawlf. In the book, Bawlf posits a theory that Francis Drake was the first European to circumnavigate Vancouver Island while on a secret mission from the Queen to look for a backdoor to the Northwest Passage. It’s hard history that reads like a swashbuckling adventure. I know we’ve all been on the Cormac McCarthy train since the Coen brothers adapted No Country for Old Men but I do have to mention his masterpiece Blood Meridian. It’s an extremely violent book that has haunted me since the day I read it, but in a good way.

And that’s my list, folks. Please don’t let it make you feel more behind in your reading. You see, here’s the thing about books: they’re important but not in any obligatory way. If you read, books will make you smarter, but that’s not why you should read. You should read because it’s fun — LeVar Burton says so! There’s no other form of entertainment that fires up your imagination quite like the written word.