The collapse of newspaper book reviews, the closing of specialty bookstores, and the decline of author touring have all eroded book talk across Canada. The increased emphasis on bestsellers and prize-winners means a handful of winners get some media coverage, but even an interesting, topical, provocative history book has difficulty generating buzz, generating readership, generating discussion.
It's not all dire, for there is still quite a bit of history being written and published and read. But I don't think the internet has taken up the slack in literary debate caused by the decline of older promotional networks. There really are not many history blogs across the country, not much in the way of specialty history book reviewing, and not enough accessible discussion of historical issues -- that I'm aware of, anyway
Browsing around for exceptions to these gloomy rules, I some time ago came across a blog that happily calls itself The Canadian Book Review. I know little about the site beyond what it says itself. It is not a history site per se, but Aaron Brown, who runs it, reviews nonfiction and history (and play scripts and poetry, and whatever he pleases) as well as the fiction that dominates most book sites. He generally reviews books he likes, or at least he isn't a hatchet-job reviewer. And I like the format he has built.
On the history front (he has a history category), he reviewed several of the titles in the Penguin "History of Canada" series over the last few years. Who else did that? He reviewed a couple of Donald Creighton reprints. And -- okay, this helped prompt this notice -- he recently took up a book of mine! Liked it too.
Could we have more of this kind of thing somehow? We have a medium here that ought to be conducive to historical debate, discussion, exchange, notice. Shouldn't it be happening more?