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Northern book buzz

Booksellers say Territories' readers and visitors alike love lore penned by our writers

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Sept 03/01) - All books are divisible into two classes," wrote Victorian author John Ruskin, "the books of the hour and the books of all time."

So who buys books in the North and what do they buy? And are these books merely a passing trend or timeless tomes that keep selling and selling?

In Inuvik, at Boreal Bookstore, The Mad Trapper of Rat River was the bestseller of the summer. Dick North's first book about the Albert Johnson manhunt was published in 1972. That's 30 years of popularity. Trackdown, North's second foray into the mystery of Albert Johnson, published in 1989, sits at number eleven for summer sales.

The Mad Trapper's story sates the desire for history and local lore, after all the man could never truly be identified and don't we all love enigmatic figures? But there's another kind of reader that passes through Inuvik.

"I have a book called Along the Dempster. That is very popular because people drive up here and see this book with the pictures in it," says Boreal owner Bob Rowe.

At Pages in Hay River, Kattie Huseby also noticed this summer that Northern books are the hottest sellers.

"We Brought in Igloo Dwellers Were My Church. That one is very popular," says Huseby.

"Most of the people who come in here are tourists, and they want something from the North. Or they lived here and they're just visiting, and they want to pick up some of the Northern books."

It's too soon to tell into which category Igloo Dwellers will fall. John Sperry's memoirs were published this year.

But what about the locals? What are they reading?

"They read a lot more sci-fi fantasy," says Huseby.

Among other Northern books, Leslie Leong's Our Forgotten North draws buyers at Pages, as it does at North of 60 Books in Fort Smith.

Owner Ib Kristensen, when asked to think of which book, off the top of his head, was most popular, he says:

"Of course, it would have to be Our Forgotten North, which is a locally produced book. It's glimpses of the sub-arctic in Canada's North. It's a beautiful coffee-table book, showing the Western Arctic."

Bishop Sperry's book joins Leong's in popularity.

"That one is selling very fast, because Bishop Sperry was well-known here and was well-liked in Fort Smith when he lived here," says Kristensen.

For plant-lovers, there are two best-sellers: Barrenland Beauties and Aboriginal Plant Use in Canada's Northwest Boreal Forest.

And for those who want to help kick start a new trend, and possibly set up a timeless classic, check out the book Kristensen loves: The Mind of a Raven by Bernd Heinrich.