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Aaron Cully Drake's All-Canadian Reading List

...or "Books by Canadian Authors Who Are All So Horribly Good at What They Do That They Are Now Discouraging People from Picking Up the Pen, Just Like How Everyone Stopped Going to the Moon After Neil Armstrong did." 

Book Cover Do You Think This Is Strange

Aaron Cully Drake's first novel, Do You Think This is Strange? has had an exciting spring. It was longlisted for the Leacock Medal for Humour and is on the shortlist for the First Novel Award. He's created a fun list for us of his favourite Canadian books, books that have inspired him to become a writer...which are sometimes also the books that make him wonder why he bothers.


This is my list of favorite stories by Canadian authors, and the overriding theme is, I believe: "Books by Canadian Authors Who Are All So Horribly Good at What They Do That They Are Now Discouraging People from Picking Up the Pen, Just Like How Everyone Stopped Going to the Moon After Neil Armstrong Dropped the Mic with His ‘One Small Step’ Quote."


Book Cover Three Day Road

Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden:

Reading Joseph Boyden is like standing on the lip of a canyon, watching a rock fall to the bottom, and you realize how small you are compared to the grandness before you. Sometimes I wish Joseph Boyden wasn’t so great a writer.


Book Cover Life of Pi

The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

My mother got mad at me because I dared to suggest that the tiger in this story was symbolic of God. She almost threw the DVD at me.  I’ve never had to think so much about a book afterward to try and understand its full message. So I stopped, and mostly made it up.


Book Cover All My Puny Sorrows

All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews

The award for the Best Understatement of a Title goes to Miriam Toews. In fact, Miriam Toews is lying to you. These sorrows are anything but puny. But if you’re the type that likes to be bowled over by strong writing, this is in your wheelhouse. It can be a bit of a tough read in places because she writes like a Gatling gun, and the words go through you one after the other. But it’s the type of book that wraps its arms around you, pulls you to the ground, and won’t let you go until you’ve read it all.


Book Cover Owls in the Family

Owls in the Family, Farley Mowat

I read this in grade three, I believe. It was my first ever assigned reading. It remained my favourite story for the next three years, until I finished reading The Shining just after midnight and nearly peed my pajamas after. I’m not all that scared of Stephen King anymore. But I still wish I had an owl.


Book Cover Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf, Farley Mowat

How great is it to write something that teachers make their classes write book reports on? I couldn’t aspire to more. Wait, yes I could. I could aspire to be like Farley Mowat, who had many books become assigned readings in school. Never Cry Wolf was the first story I read that made me feel something about Canada as a country. And it was the first story I read that made me hungry. When Mowat wrote about his research on the wolves’ diet, he decided to try and mimic it. So, for a period of time, he ate nothing but mice. Which sounds quite gross—and it did get gross—but there was one part, where he described making a mouse stew in a sort of mushroom sauce, and when I read it, my stomach started grumbling. I’ve yet to find mushroom and mouse stew on any menu, but I’m looking.


Book Cover Indian Horse

Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese

When I finished this novel, I closed it, looked around, and felt the great urge to Google Richard Wagamese, track him down like a stalker, friend him on Facebook, all just so I could say, "Thank you for writing this book.”


Book Cover The Lost Highway

The Lost Highway, by David Adams Richards

The man who has three first names wrote a book that gave me the flu. When I stepped off my bus, I still had forty pages of this novel left to read. But the story was too gripping for me to even walk home. I stood in the blowing wind for more than a half hour to finish the novel. That night, I started a fever, and promptly was sick with a cold the next day. Thanks, David. 


Book Cover Do You Think This Is Strange

About Do You Think This Is Strange?: 

Freddy has problems. Some of them are because he's autistic. Most of them are because he's a teenager. 

When he’s seven years old, Freddy's mother walks him to the train station, sits him on a bench, kisses his forehead, and disappears from his life. In a few short days, everything changes. His father moves him across town, enrols him in a different school, and takes him away from little Saskia, the only friend he’s ever had. 

Ten years later, Freddy is struggling to get through his last year of high school. He painstakingly avoids interactions with other students, who don’t understand his hyper-literal perspective. But then Saskia appears, and she’s different from the laughing little girl he remembers. She no longer smiles, and she doesn’t speak. 

As they reconnect, Freddy begins to remember what really happened ten years ago. And everything he thought he knew begins to unravel. Both humorous and heartbreaking, Do You Think This Is Strange? is a coming-of-age tale you won’t soon forget.


About Aaron Cully Drake: Aaron Cully Drake has written for newspapers and magazines and is a former reporter and editor. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife, son, and autistic daughter, all of whom keep advising him to shut up. Do You Think This Is Strange? is his first novel.

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