I finished up Ian & Will Ferguson's How To Be A Canadian last week, but never got around to talking about it. And now that I sit down and try to hash out my opinions, I'm starting to see why. I enjoyed the book, but I have some reservations.
As I made my way through the book, I started having divergent opinions about it. On the one hand, I found it extremely funny: the summaries of the individual provinces and territories (eg: "Manitoba - Gateway to Saskatchewan") and the chapter on recreation (eg: the section about the Roughriders and the Rough Riders) made me laugh out loud. On the bus. So hard that people were staring at me.
The authors took am unexpected approach to the book: the tone was irreverent and almost self-depreciating, and it took the wind out of any pompous Canadian pride I had going into it. Other authors might have been tempted to paint a nice, happy picture of the country, but the Fergusons draw your attention to the unhealthy attitudes Canadians have about themselves and their country - and it works. They point out that defining a national identity by what we are NOT (i.e. American) makes us an empty people, and debunk the strongly-held myth that history is dry and boring. Those two chapters alone make the book a worthwhile read for anyone born and raised with a middle-class Canadian upbringing.
On the other hand, though, the book seemed a little...haphazard. A lot of the time, it just read like bunch of jokes slapped together: after a while, I just got sick of reading a series of punchlines. It was as if the Ferguson brothers were elbowing me in the ribs, nodding their heads, and winking: "Hey, funny joke, huh? Like it? There's plenty more where that came from!"
The book is extremely funny, to be sure, but half of the jokes would only be really funny to Canadians; the book's subtitle "Even if you already are one" should probably be "Especially if you already are one." Not that it has to be funny to anyone else in the world - it works just fine to release some of our hot air, as I've already mentioned - but I would imagine it would be a much less entertaining read to a non-Canadian.
It's a good book, and despite my misgivings, I did enjoy it. I'd recommend it to every Canadian who can read, or anyone else who just wants a better idea of how we think - even though you might not get the jokes.