Sunday, January 10, 2010

Art & Culture: Atlantic Canada’s 100 Greatest Books edited by Trevor J. Adams and Stephen Patrick Clare

Atlantic Canada’s 100 Greatest Books (Nimbus Publishing) is like a blueprint for what provinces, states, regions and even countries should be doing for their literature. In straightforward fashion and in easily accessible language, it rounds up the 100 greatest books of Canada’s huge and literarily formidable Atlantic region. Full stop. Then it bundles them all together under a bright, shiny cover, giving a couple of pages and a full color representation to each of the chosen 100 along with a breezy write-up and -- voila! -- a literary map for anyone who would like to hit all of the regional highlights.

Editors Trevor J. Adams and Stephen Patrick Clare asked local readers and reviewers for their selections and, in the end, compiled the list based on this input as well as their own considerable expertise. From the introduction:
We relied on invaluable input from hundreds of people, but ultimately, we take sole responsibility (or blame) for these rankings. You won’t agree with all our decisions. That is fine. In fact, that is ideal -- good books should spark debate and discussion, they should raise questions and challenge preconceptions.
As though to deliver on this promise of discussion-sparking choices, Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief takes the number one position. While MacLeod’s 1999 debut novel truly is a wonderful book, putting it in the number one spot would have taken some courage. There is, after all, a rich literary heritage to mine from the Atlantic provinces. To prove the point, the top ten of Atlantic Canada’s 100 Greatest Books almost looks like a list of Canada’s greatest books, depending, of course, on where you stand and how your tastes run. It’s certainly a great reading list for anyone:
  1. No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
  2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  3. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
  4. The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler
  5. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
  6. Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan
  7. Random Passage by Bernice Morgan
  8. The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod
  9. Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
  10. Rockbound by Frank Parker Day

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