The other day at work, a colleague asked me if I’d read any good books lately. I bumbled around and managed to come up with an answer of sorts, but the truth is, the question caught me flat-footed. –Not because I don’t read books (I do), but because I don’t tend to think of the concepts of “reading books” and “work” as having much to do with each other.
Given that I work in book publishing, that sounds odd, I admit; but while I do a lot of reading at work virtually none of it involves books. I read reports, memos, spreadsheets, and emails by the thousand. Once in a while I read a manuscript, which is kind of, but not quite, a book. But actual books? Not during working hours!
Nonetheless, I have read some books recently which I recommend to you – for instance, Bruce Hutchison’s The Fraser. Hutchison was perhaps the preeminent Canadian journalist of the twentieth century. His career spanned seven decades and apart from his newspaper work, he also published a couple of dozen books, three of which won the Governor General’s Award for creative nonfiction.
The Fraser was part of a long-running series called “Rivers of America.” It was first published in the US and W.H. Clarke, who around mid-century ran the Canadian branch of Oxford University Press as a de facto imprint of his own firm of Clarke, Irwin, secured the Canadian rights.
The reissue includes a new introduction by noted journalist Vaughn Palmer. It’s a great book and I recommend it highly. Hutchison was a terrific writer and his account of the exploration of the Fraser River valley and the settlement of British Columbia is enormously entertaining. Pierre Berton later acknowledged the influence Hutchison had on Berton’s own bestselling popular histories, and if you enjoyed The National Dream or The Last Spike, you’ll enjoy The Fraser.