In Praise of the Offbeat

Bless the writers who explore unusual topics

The venerable George Elliott Clarke recently called writers “funky intellectuals.” And while not every book aims to change the world, even the zaniest titles require considerable intellectual lifting, and have the capacity to change how we think about a particular subject.

This little collection of six diverse books features everything from art to sage advice to outright humour and unusual ways to tour the region (like through its outhouses, or some of its best cartoons). This is our ode to the offbeat.

Bless the writers who go there, who explore unusual topics most of us may not have even considered before. Yes, these are funky intellectuals who exercise our grey matter in the most delightful ways:

The Welsh Tattoo Handbook
Robert Davis
Bradan Press

This is perhaps the most practical of the six books featured here, as it can save you from making a seriously bad life / body art decision. “Think before you ink,” is its motto. Written by fluent speakers of Welsh, the Celtic language of Wales, the book features tips on how to incorporate the Welsh language into a tattoo design that honours and supports the culture, illustrations of Welsh “tattoo nightmares” to avoid, a history of the Welsh language; and a glossary of 400 Welsh words and phrases suitable for tattoos and crafts. A fascinating read even if you have no intention of putting ink to skin.

Ghost Stories of Nova Scotia
Vernon Oickle
MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Vernon Oickle is a local ghost story aficionado. If it goes bump in the Nova Scotia night, he probably has the scoop. Oickle gathers stories from people who genuinely believe because experience has left them with no other explanation than something ethereal. In this eery yet charming collection, he brings to life some of Nova Scotia’s most intriguing tales of suspense.

Pea Soup for the Newfoundland Soul
Grandpa Pike
Flanker Press

Pea Soup is comfort food, although in Newfoundland it’s also sort of like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get till you put a spoonful in your mouth. Grandpa Pike’s stories are kind of like that. Unpredictable, somewhat frightening at times, yet oddly comforting. You’ll laugh or cry, but you won’t be bored as Grandpa Pike rollicks his way through his wins and losses on topics as diverse as pets, religion, annoying people, the good old days, hockey, graduation, airport bars, lawyers and doctors.

Spy on Ice
Bob Bent
Nevermore Press

This one comes with a warning: “This book contains sex and humour.” It also contains a hockey goon who wants nothing more than to study Russian literature. Instead, he’s hired by CSIS to play in the NHL and study a Russian hockey player named Vasily Pisov, whose father is head of Russian intelligence. What ensues is a zany romp through the worlds of hockey and espionage.

Nova Scotia Outstanding Outhouse Reader
Vernon Oickle
MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

One hilarious thing about this book: it’s listed under travel. Come for the seafood, stay for the outhouses! And the outhouse reader, which is stuffed with facts, from the tallest building to the oldest tree, to little-known tidbits about big Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and to the most penalized hockey player in NHL history. You’ll want to stay out there all night, and then just a little longer.

You Might be from Nova Scotia If…
Michael deAdder
MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Did you know Nova Scotia is home to one (actually two) of the world’s best political cartoonists? (Michael deAdder is originally from New Brunswick, so they get props too.) In this collection, deAdder shows he finds hilarity not only in political theatre, but in life’s whole great pageant. This bestselling collection shows Nova Scotians at their quirkiest, kindest and most colloquial. And most importantly, at their funniest. de Adder captures the essence of the province in instantly recognizable images.


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