Toward the end of 2020, the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia asked a few very bookish folks what books made them cry. And laugh. And forget the pandemic. And feel enlightened. And … well, a number of things. James Mullinger, editor of [Edit] Magazine, kindly shared with us his detailed responses. So many great books here, we had to share!
What’s the book that made you cry?
Acadian Driftwood by Tyler LeBlanc
The most powerful, compelling, important book I’ve read for a while. Tyler LeBlanc’s story of his family’s Acadian roots, the horrors of Le Grand Dérangement and their journey to a new home is meticulously researched, expertly written and as profoundly distressing as it is inspiring. I bulk bought copies for Christmas presents because everyone needs to read this.
The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham
Set on the streets of 1930s London, England and based on true events, Winny’s this disturbing tale lifts the lid on a forgotten and tragic part of Canadian history. Winny Ellis is placed in Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls and when sent to Canada unimaginable horrors await.
That warmed your heart?
Because We Love, We Cry by Sheree Fitch
After last year’s mass murder in Nova Scotia, Sheree Fitch wrote a poem that brought us all together. This book, featuring colour line drawings and the full poem on heavy cardstock for safekeeping, as well as a pull-out postcard, is a thing of beauty. A portion of the book’s proceeds will be donated annually to the families of the victims.
That made you laugh out loud?
A Great Big Night by Kate Inglis and Josée Bisaillon
The most essential children’s book you need this fall is this magical, rollicking, rhyming picture book about music-making critters, community and friendship. The children storming the [EDIT] office each day at 3 pm have all devoured it–more than a dozen times each–since we purchased a copy for everyone on the team.
Kate Inglis’s playful and inventive language and Josée Bisaillon’s rich and textured illustrations bring to life this happy group of friends filling the great green forest with their music. Essential reading for kids and parents everywhere.
That swept you into the past?
Abraham Beverley Walker: Lawyer, Lecturer, Activist by Peter Little
This beautiful and enlightening book about Abraham Beverley Walker, Canada’s first Black magazine editor who spent his entire professional career in Saint John, New Brunswick is my favourite book this year. The ambitious tome chronicles the life and work, as well as the systemic racism Dr. Walker faced as Canada’s first Black lawyer, and first Black magazine editor. He was one of eleven children of farming parents but excelled academically studying law at the National University in Washington, D.C., law at the Saint John Law School, as well as philosophy and several languages. Abraham Walker was a devout Christian and his message bears a striking resemblance to that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who followed in his footsteps fifty years later. A great book about a New Brunswick hero who should to be celebrated – and taught – a lot more.
That enlightened you?
Memoir: Conversations and Craft by Marjorie Simmins
Marjorie’s conversations with the likes of Lawrence Hill, Claire Mowat, Linden MacIntyre and many more are profoundly insightful and fascinating and inspired me and enlightened me in so many ways. She is a master interviewer, writer, conversationalist and thinker and spending time with her on these pages is a pure joy.
That made you get out ingredients and preheat the oven?
The Simple Bites Kitchen by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque
Throughout lockdown I was primarily cooking dishes from Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s cookbooks. She is an award-winning food writer and bestselling author based in Halifax. She has authored several cookbooks including the award-winning The Simple Bites Kitchen. Her blog, Simple Bites, is a family-oriented community that fosters the importance of bringing the whole family together around the table. Follow Aimée on Instagram: @aimeebourque.
That awed you with word mastery?
The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Poetry, edited by Mark Callanan and James Langer
This is one of the best collections of poetry I have ever read. An absolutely essential gift for the poetry lover in your home. Glorious and timeless, hilarious and profound.
That lifted your spirits?
Not Cancelled: Canadian Kindness In The Face of COVID-19 by Heather Down and Catherine Kenwell
I spent two days on the beach devouring this beautiful book this summer and it brought tears to my eyes, made me laugh out loud and restored my faith in humanity at this difficult time. Not Cancelled is the book that we all need right now. The light in the tunnel. Heather Down of Wintertickle Press and Catherine Kenwell have done a truly spectacular job finding kindness and joy and inspiration amidst the madness. I highly recommend buying this delightful tome today. Wintertickle Press is Ontario-based but are moving their operations to New Brunswick in 2021.
That made you forget the pandemic?
Peace By Chocolate founder and CEO Tareq Hadhad moved to Canada from Syria in 2015 and settled in the beautiful town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia where he continued his career as a chocolate maker. His story, told by award-winning journalist Tattrie, is inspiring, uplifting and essential reading for all.
That made you think
Blaze Island by Catherine Bush
Surely the only climate-themed, Shakespeare-inspired novel you will read this year? Timely and profoundly thought-provoking, this is a spectacularly entertaining piece of literary, environmental fiction. I couldn’t put it down and devoured it in two wonderful days.
That changed how you work
Get In Gear by Sean T. Ryan
Less than 25 percent of organizations get it right when it comes to achieving the expected results from their strategic planning. But Sean T. Ryan has the solution. Ryan is a globally recognized business consultant, speaker, trainer and executive coach. He is also the founder of WhiteWater International Consulting and has worked with everyone from Disney to FedEx. Proudly based in New Brunswick, he is renowned for waxing lyrical about the wonders of his home province on his world travels. Ryan is best known for formulating foolproof and winning strategies to deliver outstanding results through platforms such as SXR (Strategy to Execution to Results). Get In Gear is meticulously structured, surprisingly entertaining and easy to follow for both fledgling entrepreneurs and Presidents and CEOs alike.
James Mullinger is a journalist and comedian from London, England who lives in Rothesay, New Brunswick. His new book is a love letter to Atlantic Canada, titled Road To Everywhere, and will be published by Goose Lane Editions in 2021. His new TV show celebrating great Atlantic Canadians is available now. Visit James online at www.jamesmullinger.com.