Their country ’tis of me
The Canadian Journalism Project has published a list of the top 27 books every journalism student should read. What a great idea except the list looks more suitable for students at Columbia than Canada. Of the 27, three-quarters are non-Canadians, mostly American authors. I can’t imagine the people of any other country in the world being so self-effacing to the point of such silliness.
Folks associated with The Washington Post have three on the list: All the President’s Men, by Woodward and Bernstein, plus memoirs by Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee. Other big-name Americans on the list who have written non-fiction, fiction, essays, profiles, and reference works include Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, and Gay Talese. You get the idea.
Here’s my list for journalism students of fifteen Canadian books:
• just about anything by Peter C. Newman but certainly Renegade in Power (McClelland & Stewart 1963) and The Establishment (M&S 1975) the first major Canadian non-fiction books on politics and business respectively;
• speaking of politics, two more by the writerly Dalton Camp, a memoir, Gentlemen, Players and Politicians (M&S 1970) and Points of Departure (Deneau & Greenburg 1979), about his time on the 1979 election campaign;
• and a third, Larry Zolf’s Dance of the Dialectic (James Lewis & Samuel 1973) an irreverent look at Pierre Trudeau;
• Game Misconduct by Russ Conway (Macfarlane Walter & Ross 1995), the investigative book that laid Alan Eagleson bare;
• The Traders, by Alexander Ross (Collins 1984), the best book ever about Bay Street;
• A Gentleman of the Press, a biography of John Bayne Maclean (Doubleday 1969), who started as a $5 a week reporter and became a publisher, written by Floyd S. Chalmers, long-time editor of The Financial Post;
• The Treasure-Seekers (Macmillan 1978), Phillip Smith’s rollicking account of Home Oil;
• A Life in the Bush, by Roy MacGregor (Viking 1999) a great writer’s best work about his father, Algonquin Park, and the stuff of life itself;
• The Far Side of the Street, Bruce Hutchison (Macmillan, 1976), a most readable memoir by one of the last of the real newspapermen;
• Towers of Gold, Feet of Clay (Collins 1982) a wry look at bankers by the indefatigable Walter Stewart;
* Fowler’s Modern English Usage by H. W. Fowler (Oxford, many editions), the essential and readable guide to a writer’s life;
• The Kingdom of Canada by W. L. Morton (M&S 1963), the best history of the country from Viking explorers to modern times;
• The Scotch, by John Kenneth Galbraith (Houghton Mifflin 1985), my all-time favorite book, a coming-of-age memoir by a great thinker and economist.