Steve Patterson shares his 6 favourite books

Steve Patterson is a prolific letter-writer, and he's not that discerning. He'll correspond with just about anyone - dead, alive, inanimate. In The Book of Letters I Didn't Know Where to Send, Patterson sends his hilarious gripes to everyone from Prince William - who had the audacity to get married the same day as Patterson and his wife - to "baseball" - because seriously, what is up with the uniforms?

Steve Patterson will be hosting the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. You can watch the broadcast of the gala on Monday, Nov. 7 on CBC Television and livestreamed on CBC Books.

In his own words, Patterson shares his six favourite books, a mishmash of thrilling adventure stories and hilarious Canadiana. 


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A favourite book by his favourite writer

Rage by Wilbur Smith. A good friend of mine, who was also my roommate, suggested reading Smith and he quickly became my favourite. In my opinion, there is no better writer of painstakingly detailed adventure and the African landscape than Smith. I have since read every book he has released. This man teaches you about tribal warfare, sailing, gold mining, business and, maybe most impressive, elephant hunting from the elephant's perspective! And it's not just "see that person with the gun? RUN AWAY!" When I want to get completely lost in a book and experience a good fight without actually getting hurt myself, this is the author I turn to.

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Recommended classic for angsty teens

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I suppose it's cliché to include this, but honestly if you are an teenager with angst (I guess I could have just said "if you are a teenager") this book makes great sense. His experience at a prep school with the phony people of the world is what mine would have been had I attended prep school. Which I did not. Which is good. This was also the first book I read that included very realistic dialogue - something very few authors seem to get. I can picture Salinger dictating this book to himself and working up real anger to find the right words, something I think every author should do.

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If Holden Caulfield became a cop...

Nelson DeMille is an ex-police officer whose lead character (John Corey) is a smartass police officer who combines punches with punch lines and high-stakes storylines of terrorism with comparatively low-stakes storylines of flirting with women. DeMille paints a picture of police life and anti-terrorism heroics that is every bit as detailed as Wilbur Smith's writing of African adventures, but with a heavy dose of New York sarcasm thrown in. It's like Holden Caulfield grew up, became a cop, saved the world and never stopped being a smartass. Perfect!

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The book that's unapologetically Canadian

In The Best Laid Plans, Terry Fallis took Canadian politics and made it truly hilarious. No wonder this book won the 2011 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour! Terry's gift for realistic and really funny dialogue that made this one of my favourites. The importance to me of this book draws from its unapologetic Canadian-ness and writing about what you really know. I learned a lot about the Canadian political process reading this that was probably in some textbooks in university, but I couldn't stay awake through their written or verbal explanations. That's a book at its best, isn't it? Teaching you something while simultaneously entertaining you. Terry is great at this and it's an honour to have gotten a lovely quote from him for my book!

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The personal finance book he read twice

The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton. I read this book, then went back and re-read it, then immediately put David's ideas into action in my own life. Because if a fictitious barber can become wealthy with simple disciplined financial planning, then even a real Canadian comedian has a shot. Again, the humour that comes through on pretty much every page is what kept me reading and the knowledge (which is the foundation of the book) was an added bonus for me. I have now met David several times and am happy to report he is as gracious and funny in real life as he is in this book. And still he'd probably be angry to see I didn't list The Wealthy Barber Returns, which came out last year, as another of my top choices. That was good too, David, all right!? Tip #187: Don't be greedy!

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The hilarious book he's going to read again... right now

Growing up Catholic, I always had a lot of questions about Jesus in his adolescence, which they don't go into too heavily in church sermons. Thankfully Christopher Moore went one step further and wrote a whole book on the premise "what would Jesus' best friend have been like?" Turns out his name was "Biff" and he committed all the sins that Jesus couldn't. The premise is hilarious but the book actually has some great teachings in it based on actual biblical passages, just made hilarious and looked at from a different perspective. Just writing about this now, I'm going to go back and re-read it to remind myself that as polarizing and confusing as religion and faith can be, it can also be hilarious when explored from a new angle.


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