One of the things I love about life in this part of the country is how passionate people get about summer. When I lived in Montreal, summer was great–but it got hot and sticky and stinky and by the time fall rolled around you were ready for a change of season.
Atlantic Canada is different. We have what my friend Paul Maybee called “six months of the day before spring,” followed by a short, often foggy summer. But once that summer hits, people embrace itwith ferocity: swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, walking the shoreline, getting out onto sports fields, hitting patios and beer gardens and watching movies outdoors.
This year, we’ve got a crop of new books that aren’t directly about summer, but that do touch on some summer passions.
Allan Billard’s Best Nova Scotia Beaches is the follow up to his 2015 bestseller, Beaches of Nova Scotia. This is a book that’s designed to be used and not just read. It’s small enough to take with you and is filled with practical information. Fact sheets offer tips like the best features of each beach, along with cell reception, accessibility and availability of toilets.
Beyond the practical, two things make this book stand out. First, there is Billard’s writing. He doesn’t just offer travel tips. Instead, there are poetic descriptions, natural history and closely observed descriptions of local flora and fauna. And Best Nova Scotia Beaches features gorgeous photography by Donna Barnett. Put this book in your bag and head to one of the 27 beaches it features–even if it’s too cold to swim.
Sticking with the water, summer is also salmon season and Atlantic Salmon Flies by Jacques Héroux has it covered. This bilingual book is for the fly-fishing enthusiast. It’s not going to teach you fishing techniques, but it does give you an encyclopedic look at dozens of salmon flies, each carefully created by one of the book’s seven fly tiers. And it’s beautifully photographed. I’ve only fly fished a couple of times but I was fascinated with the range of flies and materials–from tinsel to squirrel tail.
Shrubs of Nova Scotia is a new edition of Raymond Fielding’s 1998 guidebook. Fielding wrote the text and did the black-and-white illustrations. The book has a couple of purposes: helping peopleidentify shrubs they encounter in the wild and encouraging gardeners to grow native shrubs in their gardens, starting them from cuttings or seed.
Fielding helpfully groups the plants into categories easy for the amateur to grasp, with names like “Shrubs and small trees with maple-shaped leaves” and “Crawlers, creepers and trailers.” The descriptions of the plants go beyond the practical, capturing Fielding’s passion for the subject.
Finally, there’s baseball. Local ball fields are brimming with kids. Minor league registrations are way up thanks to the Blue Jays effect: having a Canadian team that contends suddenly gets people interested in the game again. If you’re looking for some between-innings reading, Jim Prime’s Tales from the Toronto Blue Jays Dugout offers short chapters, arranged by player. While the book promises that you’ll “relive the greatest moments in Blue Jays history!” I appreciated it for the quirky little stories, like Kelly Johnson being turned away at the border after being traded to Toronto because he forgot his passport, and how lovingly Mark Buehrle treats his gloves. For the die-hard fan, the book is an opportunity to remember former greats and not-so-greats. For new fans, it’s a fine introduction.