Library Corner: Books of My Life

Books of My Life welcomes John Lake to the Q&A

John Lake

John Lake

Books of My Life visits with John Lake, who lives in Rossland with his wife Lenora.

John has been a reader since childhood, encouraged by his mom, who also reads a lot.

For years, the only things that passed between them as gifts were books.

His literary tastes vary sometimes with his mood, but he likes to be engaged, if not from the first sentence then at least by the first paragraph.

• What is your favourite childhood book?

The Aztec Treasure. It was a typical adventure story appealing to a young person. I don’t recall details as it was a long time ago, just that it stuck with me all these years.

• What is your earliest reading memory?

I remember reading Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense as a very young person (around 10 or 11). It was likely instrumental in forming my outlandish sense of humour.

• Name one classic you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read.

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I enjoyed the film so much I didn’t want to spoil it. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when I get to it.

• What book do you read over and over?

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. An amazing novel about the building of a cathedral. A list of colourful characters that one can identify with. Never a dull moment. There are evil and good characters that are very engaging.

• Name the last book that made you laugh.

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. He’s such a funny guy. Loved that book!

• Name one book everyone should read.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This is such an insight into the “dust bowl” years that it should be required reading for all to carry lessons of that period and how simple it is to “other” people, such as is happening now.

• Name an author/book that changed your life.

The Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander series of novels. They were written with such colour and beautiful language. I read these over again. Whenever I finish one, I want to speak in that mode.

• What are you reading now?

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I’m also a fan of Christopher Hitchens for the same reasons as Dawkins. It’s a way for me to bring order to my atheist beliefs.

• What books might people be surprised to learn you love?

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I expect it’s because Sci-Fi is so different to the normal reading that I do. Good science fiction gets your mind working, especially when you compare those novels with what’s happened over the last 80 odd years that I’ve been lucky enough to have been around, with the advances in communication, medicine, and life expectancy.

• Who are your literary heroes?

Patrick O’Brian and Cormack McCarthy. Both authors are able to tell their stories without “fluff.” They don’t need to explain every small detail, but rather leave you to your imagination. Of course, there are other authors that I admire such as Miriam Toews and Alice Munro, and many whose names I can’t conjure right now.

• Name your literary loves.

I have a fondness for historical fiction and non-fiction for that matter. For instance, I really enjoyed A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman for its portrayal of life in the fourteenth century. Another novel that is very pertinent today is Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks with all the lessons contained therein.

• What literary character inspires you?

Stephen Maturin, who is the surgeon on the many ships that Jack Aubrey commanded in the Master and Commander series. He’s a man of his time, a deep thinker, and humanist. Also flawed as we all are to a degree.

• What book do you like to give as a gift?

The Master Mariner by Nicholas Monsarrat. A most unusual novel whose central character is doomed to sail the seas for eternity. The stories around the character are taken from history and the fact that he’s doomed forever is the only hint of fantasy in the novels.

• What is your comfort read?

Always Patrick O’Brian. His books transport me to another time.

• Name one book you couldn’t finish.

A few, if I recall. Most were badly written or simply didn’t engage me at the time. I think that sometimes, depending on our mental state, we can become detached from certain books, and yet at others we may enthusiastically enjoy that same book.

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