"A girl was never ruined by books," my mother used to say. I've spent most of my life trying to prove that wrong.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Road through Time is an Indies Prize Finalist!

Great way to start a Saturday:  An email announcing that Road through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move (University of Regina Press) has been short-listed for the 2017 Indies Book of the Year Award in the History category!

Hosted by Foreword Reviews, these awards highlight the best books from university and indie publishers across the U.S. and Canada and were chosen from more than 2000 entries across 68 genres. The winners will be announced June 15, 2018. Got my fingers crossed! The photo, by the way, is of one of the many roads I traveled researching the book, the new highway across the Andes from Peru to Brazil. That's the bus we traveled on from Cuzco to Rio Branco.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Boderline Behaviour: Why Places That Should Be Alike Aren't

It looks like we've got a title for my book about pairs of places that have much in common, but diverge in significant ways: Borderline Behaviour, Why Place That Should Be Alike Aren't.  The University of Regina Press will be bringing it out in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential elections, since one of the ten pairs of places I compare is the US and Canada.

Originally I had called it Unidentical Twins: Why Places That Should Alike Aren't Alike, but Bruce Walsh, the wizard who runs the shop, said that bookstores would shelve it with parenting books, and that's not at all what it was about.  I toyed with Different: Why Places That Should Alike Aren't Alike, but this week Sean Prpick, who does acquisitions, came up with this new one.

A winner, I think.

The other pairs of places I'll be looking at are: the (formerly) two Vietnams; Tunisia and Algeria;  the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu; Brazil and Spanish-speaking South America; Haiti and the Dominican Republic; Burundi and Rwanda;  Scotland and Ireland; Vermont and New Hampshire; and Alberta and Saskatchewan. The photo is a Wikipedia shot of Hai Van Pass which is the natural divide between north and south Vietnam, and near where the country was split after the French colonial war.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On Oranges...

At some point I acquired an ornamental orange tree.  It was probably 20  or more years ago, and each year I put it outside for the summer and brought it in October, where it might--or might not--bear one tiny orange.

This year I must have done something right, because it had a lot of blossoms when I brought it in, which have transformed into perhaps three dozen oranges.  Quite wonderful, I think.  Later on when they start to fall, I'll get the grandkids to plant some of their seeds so they can have their own little tree.

This comes just after I read a very interesting social history of California, Trees in Paradise by Jared Farmer.  The book  tells the stories of four sorts of trees in the Golden State, the Sequoia, Eucalyptus, orange and palm. Farmer uses these as points of departure for a detailed, pretty rigorous account of California since 1850, and for reflections on how people have remade the landscape, for good (a bit) or for ill (mostly.)

I found the method particularly interesting because I'm currently struggling to organize the vast amount of material I've been collecting about concrete for my next book Rock of Ages: How Concrete Built the World as We Know It.    Right now I'm wondering: Why not use the four elements the Ancients recognized--earth, fire, water and air--to tell this story?

To be continued...