I had plenty of opportunities to go shopping in the Halifax area over Christmas. In between the shops where I looked for things on my east coast family’s Christmas list, I spent some time looking for books for myself. Two years ago I received a gift card from a colleague for a popular Canadian book retailer. In spite of having it for that long I never found a single thing I wanted at that store, book item or not. And just a few weeks ago another colleague gave me a card from the same retailer but for twice as much. Thus I had the blessing of having two thoughtful friends who gave me $75 in gift cards yet I was in the unfortunate predicament of not wanting anything that particular store was selling.
I told Mark about this and he suggested that since I like shopping for books about Nova Scotia, I should try using the cards while we were down east over Christmas. I always flock to the local interest section in Halifax bookstores and I was sure to find something that would at least put a dent into my $75 cards.
We went to the Chapters in Dartmouth next to Mic Mac Mall and I looked through the vast local interest section. I pored over the sections on Halifax, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador yet felt a pall of disappointment enshroud me as I realized that in spite of the size of the selection and the ample time I had to peruse everything, I came up empty-handed. There was nothing I wanted or was even mildly interested in. No wonder I haven’t bought a new book off the shelf from a retail store in years–they stock nothing I like. Everything is mass-market and generic, not appealing to my particular tastes. That’s why I prefer to shop second-hand or order books in.
I may have run into bad luck in Dartmouth but the much smaller Indigo at Sunnyside Mall in Bedford was another story. They had fewer local titles to choose from but I found three that caught my interest. I didn’t recall seeing any of them in Dartmouth. They were so interesting I was genuinely excited about getting them. I used up my two gift cards on these three titles and took note of two others, which I decided to pass on since, although new, their condition was a bit shabby. I ended up buying them later:
Mean Streets: In Search of Forgotten Halifax, 1953-1967 by Steven Laffoley was written last year. I love books about lost urban areas, and this one deals with the postwar push for urban renewal and the communities that were bulldozed to push through new developments. Africville is profiled in the final chapter.
The island lover that I am could not pass up Two Ferries Out: Growing Up on Brier Island by Ben Robicheau, published in June of this year. I have seen other Brier Island recollections before, but they were older, slight volumes and didn’t look all that appealing. This book was 361 pages long and unlike the others included many photos, almost all of them in colour.
Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History by Herb MacDonald combines my love of islands with that of trains. Trains no longer run on Cape Breton Island, so I will learn about the roughly 150 years when they did.
I checked the Schooner Books website to look for the two which I had passed on at Indigo. They were priced cheaper at Schooner and had glossy covers versus the scuffed matte covers I saw at Indigo. Better still, both had the bonus of being autographed by the author:
Rise Again! The Story of Cape Breton Island, book one by Robert J. Morgan covered island history from the Mi’kmaq to the first European settlements and the “forced marriage” with Nova Scotia in the first part of the nineteenth century.
Rise Again! The Story of Cape Breton Island, book two from 1900 to Today by Robert J. Morgan continues the history with chapters on industrialization, the World Wars, and industrial uncertainty.
I had passed on Bricklin by H. A. Fredericks with Allan Chambers the last time I went to this store and hoped that it would still be on the shelves. The first entirely Canadian-conceived and manufactured car!
Westward to Vinland: The Discovery of Pre-Columbian Norse House-sites in North America by Helge Ingstad was published in 1969. It is a translation from the Norwegian. Ingstad wrote of his six expeditions during the sixties which led to his discovery of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first indisputably Norse settlement in North America.