Pierre Berton has died at 84.
When I was about 15, I was bored out of my mind one rainy day at the cottage. My mom dug an old copy of The National Dream out of a box of standard-issue cottage books (romances, Hardy Boys, political bios) and told me I’d love it. I sneered. Pierre Berton? Boooooring. Instead, I read some smut novel my uncle had left lying around.
It was another decade before I picked up Berton again, and I was hooked from the first page of Vimy, one of the finest books I have ever read. I’ve read a bunch more of his books since then, but not as many as I wish I had. I wish I’d been less snobby when I was younger, or, maybe, I wish some teacher had made me read Berton.
Here’s a guest blog comment from my friend James Stewart, a history teacher in Toronto:
In the passing of Pierre Berton Canada loses a lion of Canadian history. You know, he once lamented that no one under 40 knew who he was. I would say it’s the job of every history teacher in Canada to see that Pierre Berton is known by a younger generation of Canadians. Using his work, because it makes Canadian history so exciting, will turn a lot of students on to Canadian history. I think it’s very important we keep his legacy alive by feeding his books to young people.