Book review: Book of ultimate B.C. lists prompts a list of its own

Everything British Columbia: The Ultimate Book of Lists

By Bethany Lindsay and Andrew Weichel
Macintyre Purcell Publishing, 200 pp, $19.95

A dozen things to know about this book:

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1. Anyone who compiles a book of lists is inviting criticism. Lists can be subjective, they can appear to be incomplete, they can appear to be biased, they can appear to miss key points. They can be a nitpicker’s delight. Bethany Lindsay and Andrew Weichel are brave.

2. That said, have these people ever been out of the Lower Mainland? There is a distinct Vancouver bias in many of these lists. For example: One of the worst mass murders in Canadian history was the bombing of a Canadian Pacific DC-6B aircraft in July 1965, but the reader of Everything British Columbia will only know that the plane crashed somewhere in the great unknown. Yes, it left from Vancouver, and yes, it was bound for Whitehorse. Would it have been that tough to say that it crashed at Dog Creek?

3. Same item. They say four passengers were identified as suspects but no one was ever charged. News flash: All four were dead. Perhaps the second edition of this book will include a list of British Columbians who were charged with crimes after they were dead. But let’s move on.

4. Amor De Cosmos, our second premier and the founder of this newspaper, was one of the most interesting figures in early B.C. history. Yes, everyone knows that he changed his name from William Smith; it’s really not necessary to use the phrase “believe it or not” when talking about common knowledge.

5. Vaughn Palmer is a great journalist, a fine human being, a good friend, and so on and so on. But why quote him about Agnes Kripps and her efforts to purge the word “sex” from our language? That happened in February 1970, before Palmer was a journalist. Why not quote journalists who were, like, you know, there? The journalists Palmer quoted? (To be fair, that would not be easy; the stories in the Daily Colonist and the Victoria Times did not have bylines, and the two Vancouver dailies were, you guessed it, on strike.)

6. The list of defunct sports teams does not include the Victoria Cougars, who won, what was it? Oh, the Stanley Cup, back in 1925.

7. Some B.C. actors who made it big, but not big enough to be mentioned in this book’s list of B.C. actors who made it big: Raymond Burr. Yvonne De Carlo. Mary Livingstone. Chief Dan George. (Either the reviewer is showing his age, or the authors are showing theirs.)

8. Why is Brenda Byman (Invermere, 1961) missing from the list of missing persons? That mystery haunts me still.

9. OK, to be fair, the list of our shortest serving premiers is kind of cool. They need to be remembered in some way. For some reason.

10. The lists of place names are worth the price of the book. Even if Dog Creek is omitted once again.

11. Get the point? Any book of lists is designed to provoke and promote conversation and debate. It should get readers thinking, and this one does. And trying to poke holes in the lists is all part of the fun. Lindsay and Weichel did a good job!

12. It’s a good reference work, and it’s not a bad bathroom reader, either.

The reviewer is editor and publisher of the Times Colonist.

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