Saturday, 2 January 2016

Most Important Books of the last 25 Years (Canadian edition)

There is something wholly satisfying about a good "review of books" - that is, those publications published in old-fashioned slightly smaller than newspaper size booklets that review the latest published books. My favourite has always been the London Review of Books. I know that the Times Literary Supplement is older and seemingly more renowned, but nothing beats the long erudite, analytically precise, funny and comprehensive essays in the LRB. Against this standard, the perfunctory and formulaic reviews that you find at the back of academic journals just can't match up.

When I moved back to Canada in 2007 I took a look at the Literary Review of Canada and have been a regular reader, and then contributor, ever since. It is wholly Canadian and rarely strays from the books put out by our university and some other presses. This is what makes it useful even if sometimes it means that the selection of texts is limited. As with so many other areas of Canadian culture, if we don't talk about it ourselves, no one else is going to.

A regular reader of the LRC could honestly say that they knew about the most important books published in and about this country. There are a lot of academic books that make it into print every year. Many are especially useful for specialists. But those that really matter, and those that would be useful to anyone outside a small area, will end up being reviewed in the LRC.

I'm eagerly awaiting the news of who will replace the LRC's wonderful former editor Bronwyn Drainie. She was enormously pleasant and helpful to deal with. It was entirely different from  the university press editorial process which consists of sometimes useful peer-review that largely ignores one's writing, and then the details of copy-editing which can be good or not depending on the copy editor. With Bronwyn, you always felt that she wanted to get the best out of the text - to make the LRC a stellar publication.

The current crew of the LRC, including interim editor Mark Lovewell, are now in the midst of celebrating the journal's 25 yeas in publication. And they have had the good idea to get contributors and readers to nominate the most important books published in the time of the LRC's history.

It's a fun, eccentric list in a world obsessed with lists. My own suggestion was John Milloy's 1999 book A National Crime. Read it and the rest of the list here.