On Books and Our Frozen City

Tom Thomson of the Group of Seven's Winter Morning

I think one of the main reasons Canada is such a literate and well read nation is our long, cold winters (see outside for an example of said winter).  A few years ago, I read a statistic that stated the Prince George Public Library was one of the most well used libraries – per capita – in the world, which means that in a country of readers, we’re leading the pack.  In Prince George we love our winter sports and activities but  we also spend a lot of time housebound and even though technology is such that we can go out (and survive) on a -30°C day, even the most hardcore winter lovers among us don’t always want to.

I know my favorite way to spend a frozen evening is under a blanket with a warm drink and a good book.  The choice of book depends on my mood.  Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly worn by the cold and dark, I’ll pick something light that will transport me to a warmer climate.  I find Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books to be the perfect antidote to a day where the wind brings the temperature down below -40°C.  A visit to Botswana with Mme Ramotswe is the perfect cure for the winter blues.

If, however, I’m feeling proud of my ability to thwart the cold, I’ll read something soaked in winter, something that revels in the cold and makes me feel proud to be a part of the community that survives and thrives in winter.  Something like Keith Billington’s Cold Land, Warm Hearts or House Calls By Dogsled. I may not be trudging through the snow, frost on my eyelashes, but I still get that particularly Canadian feeling of conquering the cold even if it is by simply staying indoors by the fireplace.

I’m also enjoying Adam Gopnik’s new collection Winter: Five Windows on the Season during our current cold snap.  As the 50th edition of the CBC Massey Lectures, this book is beautifully written and thought provoking.  It’s the perfect companion to a hot chocolate, a fire and the couch.  On a day like today, it was hard to get out of my warm bed and go out into the world, but I know that a nest of blankets and a good book await me there at the end of the day.

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