Best-sellers say a lot

You can learn about a country by checking the best-seller list, especially for non-fiction. Judging from the latest New York Times list, Americans – those who read – are fascinated with U.S. history and political figures. No fewer than eight of the top ten NF books are in those categories. The list:

1. Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
2. Grant by Ron Chernow (biography of the Union General and former President).
3. Obama by Pete Souza (picture book).
4. Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden (the former VP).
5. Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger (American Revolutionary War).
6. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
7. Killing England – The Brutal Struggle for American Independence by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (see no. 5).
8. Bobby Kennedy by Chris Matthews (yet another look).
9. Sisters First by Jenna Bush Jager and Barbara Pierce Bush (twin daughters of George W. Bush trade on their name).
10. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton (indeed).

Americans can’t get enough of their history or any take on political figures, new or old. Canadians, on the other hand, are different. Here is the Canadian NF list from the Globe and Mail:

1. Killer: My Life in Hockey (hockey’s Doug Gilmour).
2. Game Change: The Life And Death Of Steve Montador And The Future Of Hockey by Ken Dryden (death of a hockey fighter by NHL goalie).
3. Everyday Heroes by Jody Mitic.
4. Nine Things I Learned From My Father by Murray Howe (son of Gordie Howe).
5. A Newfoundlander in Canada by Alan Doyle.
6. Offside: My Life Crossing the Line (hockey bad boy Sean Avery).
7. Calling the Shots by Kelly Hrudey (former LA Kings goalie).
8. One Day Closer: A Mother’s Quest to Bring Her Kidnapped Daughter Home by Lorinda Stewart.
9. The Woulda Coulda Shoulda Guide to Canadian Inventions by Red Green.
10. Against All Odds: The Untold Story of Canada’s Unlikely Hockey Heroes by P.J. Naworynski (Canada wins Olympic gold in 1948).

That makes six out of ten books about hockey!

In 1969 Peggy Lee had a hit called ‘Is That All There Is?’ I am compelled to ask this same question about the reading habits of my fellow Canadians. After 150 years as a nation, the only thing we Canadians read – novels aside – are books by former hockey greats, goons and goalies, books by the son of a hockey legend, and books about old hockey victories.

Of course, we know the demographics of book readers. Men tend to read NF books and women novels. So let’s have a look at novels. The Globe and Mail best-seller list for Canadian fiction is also revealing.

Rupi Kaur holds down the #1 (The Sun And Her Flowers) and #3 (Milk And Honey) slots. The late Stuart McLean is #2 (Christmas At The Vinyl Café). Michael Redhill is #4 (Bellevue Square). Shari Lapena is #5 (A Stranger In The House). Linwood Barclay is #6 (Parting Shot). And someone named Margaret Atwood is #7 (The Handmaid’s Tale – TV tie-in edition). And #8 (Alias Grace – TV tie-in edition). And #9 (The Handmaid’s Tale). And #10 (Alias Grace).

Which once again brings to mind a certain Peggy Lee song.

I, for one, gave up reading Ms. Atwood a long time ago. Why? It had to do with this uneasy sense of being castrated on every page.

But if that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.

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