Book Review: A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts

I had been in Canada for over 4 years before picking up this book, and with the potential of citizenship only a year away, I thought it was about time I started to find out a little bit more about the country I had been calling home. I didn’t really know where to start however I knew I wanted something that wasn’t a textbook, but digestible and with enough information to give me the foundations. I took to some research on Goodreads and thought I’d give it a go. 10 Maps – 10 chapters – 10 stories. A perfect place to start.

As a first venture into Canadian history I think I can be forgiven for having not heard of Adam Shoalts before picking up this book, or indeed the book itself. I assumed that he was “just” a historian writing a book with a different approach to what I had seen before. I was hoping it would be more than a lot of the history books I have (tried to) read which end up too much like an academic textbook.

So, shortly after starting I began to realise that this was not going to be the textbook I feared, but so much more. And if I had read the front of the book much closer and saw the sub-header: “Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land”, I would not have been surprised. I found that I was flicking through the pages like no tomorrow, wishing that each chapter was just a little bit longer so I could find out more, at the same time as looking forward to what adventure will be behind the next one. This is literally my favourite type of book. Stories about real people filled with Adventure, and what’s more adventurous than trying to map the vast unknown land that we now know as Canada.

Reading this book came at a perfect time for me. At the time of reading, COVID-19 lockdown was taking a bit of a strain and I had been avoiding books about the outdoors however the inspiration that I got from these stories of real human endeavor lit a fire under my ass and got me excited and interested in the outdoors again, rather than feeling resentful of it.

If you are looking for some inspiration from people in history that manage to achieve something that even now is unachievable for most, all done without Gore-Tex, GPS & a Kevlar canoe, then this is the book that you’re going to love. I think Adam Shoalts’ story-telling and the humanizing of the subjects make this an engaging read. It is well researched with a lot of information packed into those chapters. Coming from a modern-day explorer such as Shoalts makes the interpretation of the research seem that much more authentic as well.

Chapters in A History of Canada in Ten Maps:

Introduction

  1. The Vikings: The Skalholt Map
  2. The Birth of Canada
  3. Champlain’s Map of New France
  4. The Rise and Fall of the French Empire: Jacques-Nicolas Bellin’s Map of North America
  5. Peter Pond’s Map of the Northwest
  6. Samuel Hearne’s Map of the Coppermine River
  7. First Across North America: Alexander Mackenzie’s Quest
  8. David Thompson’s Demons
  9. Canada’s Bloodiest Battlefield: The Siege of Fort Erie
  10. Canada’s Heart of Darkness: Mapping the Arctic Frontier

Available on Amazon.ca and at Indigo

Cheers, Scott

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