06 July 2024

My Sixth and Final Canadian Book of Lists List: The Top 10 Things I Learned Through Reading and Researching the Canadian Book of Lists


1. At time of composition, David Ondaatje was a student at Lakefield College School, an institution that  features in CANADA'S 10 BEST INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS FOR BOYS*. Whether its position,  #6,  is a reflection of Messer Ondaatje's feelings toward his school is unknown.

Like David Ondaatje, I was at the time a teenage schoolboy, albeit in the plebeian public system. I remember much being made about Prince Andrew attending Lakefield. Low and behold, the book includes this uncredited, poorly reproduced photo.

2. David Ondaatje is the son of Sir Christopher Ondaatje.

3. Sir Christopher Ondaatje was the president of Pagurian Press, publisher of the book.

4. In 1979, the year after Pagurian published The First Original Unexpurgated Authentic Canadian Book of Lists, Sir Christopher teamed up with son David's writing partner Jeremy Brown to cobble together Pagurian's The First Original Unexpurgated Authentic Canadian Book of Sex and Adventure.

5. "K-K-K-Katy" was written by Geoffrey O'Hara who, like Arthur Stringer, was a Chatham boy. 

Reading up on the song's history, I learned that in the 'twenties it had been appropriated by the Women of the Ku Klux with "K-K-K-Klanswomen."

My introduction to the song came through the folk group the Brother-in-Law.

My parents had all their albums, including The Brother-in-Law Strike Again! (1966), which features "K-K-K-Klansmen":

The Women of the Ku Klux Klan would not have been pleased.

6. In 1978 Rush was the best Canadian rock group.

Who knew!

The Band having disbanded the previous year, I would've thought it was either Teenage Head or Pointed Sticks, but THE 10 BEST CANADIAN ROCK GROUPS set me right. The list comes from Ron Scribner, President of Music Shoppe Agency. He places Heart, a group consisting entirely of Americans, at #2. Scribner's list of the THE 10 BEST MALE AND FEMALE CANADIAN VOCALISTS has Dan Hill in top spot and misspells Murray McLauchlan's name.

7. Leonard Cohen was a non-entity. He doesn't appear once in the book's 391 pages, nor does Tommy Douglas. Michael Ondaatje, David Ondaatje's uncle, is also absent.

8. Mary Anne Shadd does not feature, nor does Josiah Henson. Black Canadian history is ignored completely, and is similarly ignored in every review.

9. Kateri Tekawitha, Joseph Brant, Pauline Johnson, Francis Pegahmagabow, and Chief Dan George do not feature.

10. Before reading the Canadian Book of Lists, this Montrealer was forever pushing back against the claim that Toronto thinks itself "the centre of the universe." Now, I'm now not so sure.

* "Member schools of the Canadian Headmaster's Association only."

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  1. Great series, Brian!

    1. Thank you, Anon. I can't say I learned much, but the book certainly revealed much that my then teenaged eyes missed. At the very least, it's an interesting artifact.