Maybe this is just a me thing, but I’m definitely a book procrastinator. I get distracted by shiny things at the bookstore, buy more books than I anticipated, and end up piling the ones I haven’t read yet wherever I can find room. Since I can’t read all of my new purchases simultaneously, I pick my favourite from the stack and read it first, then finish whatever library book I had on the go at the time. I keep telling myself that I’ll read the others eventually, but the longer they sit there, the harder it is to make that a reality. “I need the desk space!”, I say, or “I have to finish my library books first since they’re due back soon!” in an attempt to justify moving the books I was initially so excited to read into the To-Be-Read pile in the cupboard. Once the cupboard door closes, the only thing that remembers those books is my wallet. The same is true for books I’ve been lent or given as gifts. Keeping them in the cupboard instead of giving them away makes me feel like the effort/money involved in getting them hasn’t been for naught. Regardless of what I tell myself, the guilt still lingers. Even though I read roughly 95% of the books I buy or borrow, the ones that slip through the cracks taunt me whenever I open the cupboard to grab something.
Last week, my Mom was dusting a pile of books in the living room and reminded me that I’d expressed interest in borrowing one of those books from my Dad, but had yet to actually do so. It wasn’t exactly a book I’d been given or had bought, but I figured that reading a book I’d been putting off would be good practice for tackling the pile in the cupboard one day. In doing so, I realized two things. First, why on earth had I waited so long to read it? Second, and more importantly, I could now use this book to complete an Ultimate Reading Challenge task!
I think some of my hesitation towards this book can be narrowed down to two factors: its size and location. Though it’s not the largest book we own, it’s definitely a coffee table book, and the enormity of it doesn’t suggest a casual read. It’s stored out of my general line of sight on an end table, meaning that it kind of blends into the background and is easily assumed to be just decorative. Therefore it became the perfect candidate for the Ultimate Reading Challenge task of reading a book that’s been sitting on your shelf, unread, for over a year. (Technically it wasn’t on my personal bookshelf, but it was on my Goodreads “Want To Read” shelf, so I think it’s fair game.) After all of the time I’d been putting off reading it, was it actually worth the wait? Absolutely! I still can’t believe it took me as long as it did to read 100 Days That Changed Canada.
100 Days That Changed Canada, edited by Mark Reid:
The title really tells you all you need to know. From the execution of Louis Riel to Expo 67, the demolition of Africville to the debut of the Blackberry, the one hundred historical events (centralized around their event’s defining day) featured in this book depict how Canada has evolved since Confederation to become the nation we know today. If you’re a lover of Canadian history or just want an overview, the pairing of event summaries penned by some of Canada’s leading historians and the striking images captured at these events are sure to leave you interested, impressed, and informed!
How does one go about choosing only a hundred events to represent Canada’s evolution from Confederation to modern day? I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to put this book together, so I’m very appreciative of those who helped make it a reality. Though the book’s publication date of 2011 excludes the historical events I’d be able to remember well (I was only alive during events 96-100), the ones I wasn’t as familiar with were easy to follow and made me curious to learn more. Even the descriptions of events I thought I knew gave me new information to consider.
Something I found interesting about this book was that it was centered around specific days that changed Canada as opposed to the events themselves. Though that choice may simply have been a spacing thing, it really made me consider the difference between important and influential historical events. If I’d been in charge of planning out this book, events like the Halifax Explosion, Newfoundland joining Canada, Expo 67, and the Marathon of Hope would have been at the top of my list. However, while one can argue that these events are all interesting in their own right and have resulted in changes to Canadian society, there’s a reason why only the last two actually made it into the book. My own bias aside, the Halifax Explosion is certainly significant because it was a terrible disaster, but changes to safety regulations and a short-term cause of national unity aren’t enough to trump Terry Fox’s legacy that continues to inspire Canadians to fight for cancer research decades after he first started his run. All of the events featured in this book have had lasting effects on Canada and served as catalysts for future significant events to occur. For example, Nellie McClung’s “Women’s Parliament” led to voting rights for most women in Manitoba, which in turn led to most women in other provinces getting the vote, which in turn led to Indigenous women finally gaining the ability to vote without having to give up their Indian status in 1960. Connecting the dots from past to present through events like these gave me a new perspective on how history has the power to change and inspire.
My only criticism of 100 Days That Changed Canada is that it doesn’t include any events that occurred prior to Confederation. Though I can understand the argument that earlier events didn’t necessarily change Canada as an established country and could make things more confusing for the reader, I think that there was a missed opportunity to further connect the dots between how the land we now know as Canada has evolved from the dawn of humanity to modern civilization. Quebec’s discontent with the rest of Canada and the occurrence of events like the October Crisis directly stem from the British victory over French forces in 1759 during the Seven Years’ War. America’s large military and their shared belief that they were destined to take control of the entirety of North America (manifest destiny) were contributing factors to Confederation, as it would be much easier to defend against American efforts as a united dominion than as isolated provinces. I personally think it would have been cool to see these kinds of events included in the book too, both because they shaped the development of our country and because they occurred during a time period in our history that people don’t know or care much about.
One of the misconceptions that always bothers me is when people think that Canadian history isn’t interesting. They might not like history in general, and that’s totally fine, but if I had a chance to convince them otherwise, I’d tell them to read 100 Days That Changed Canada and see if it doesn’t change their minds. It’s a perfect overview for beginners, historians, and everyone in between! I’ve even impressed my friends and scored points in my trivia club using the knowledge I’ve acquired from it. If it isn’t already evident, in my opinion 100 Days That Changed Canada was well worth the wait! Hopefully I’ll be able to keep that lesson in mind when I try to tackle my TBR pile this winter break.