Books·My Life In Books

10 books that inspired Alan Doyle

The musician and author of A Newfoundlander in Canada discusses some of the books that have shaped his life and work.
Alan Doyle's latest book is A Newfoundlander in Canada. (Fabiola Carletti/CBC)

When Great Big Sea lead singer Alan Doyle released his memoir Where I Belong in 2014, it became a bestseller. In it, Doyle covers everything from his childhood in Petty Harbour, N.L., to his time touring Canada with his band. Doyle's latest book, A Newfoundlander in Canada, explores his journey from leaving his hometown to discovering Canada for the first time.

In honour of his newest release, we asked Doyle to share some books that inspired his life and creative work. 

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

John Irving has written 13 novels over the course of his career, nine of which have been international bestsellers. (Jane Sobel Klonsky/HarperCollins)

"I was fascinated by the storytelling  — that someone could tell a story wrapped around an unusual and unlikely hero and have it come full circle. I think it remains one of only two or three books that I instantly reread. I got to the back cover, turned it around and started reading it from the beginning again." 

The Story of Bobby O'Malley by Wayne Johnston

The Story of Bobby O'Malley is Wayne Johnston's first novel. (Mark Raynes Roberts)

"His first book is called The Story of Bobby O'Malley. It's about a young fella who grew up very close to where I grew up. For me, that was fascinating enough: there was a book with a fella in it that was kind of like me, from around where I was from. I couldn't believe that was possible. I thought all books had to be set in New York or Chicago or something. This was the first story I ever read that made me believe that maybe I could write books or stories about my own backyard."

The Game by Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden's The Game was nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction in 1983. (John Wiley & Sons/White Pine Pictures)

"This book is a constant reminder of the struggles of teamwork. Whether you're on a hockey team, in a band, part of a political party or business, The Game is about what it takes to be a part of team and to have a team be successful, from the things you can expect to the things you can't possibly expect. I loved that this came from the voice of one of Canada's most experienced people at the height of his professional hockey career — that every day was still a struggle filled with challenges, victories and defeats. I loved that he showed the delicate underbelly of what we all assumed was an impenetrable beast." 

Sweetland and Hard Light by Michael Crummey

Michael Crummey is the author of the novel Sweetland. (Holly Hogan/Doubleday Canada)

"Both Sweetland and Hard Light have beautiful descriptions of life in rural Newfoundland. There is a poetry and beauty to the way he describes the simplest things. It might be the smell of the wick in an oil lantern or it might be the sound of the wind through the pine bows on a fish drying flake. It instantly makes me hear it or smell it or remember it. Those little things are so beautiful and they can transport you. Of course, that's what you want a song lyric to do — bring people where you want them to go. I always envied Michael for that."

February by Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore's novel February won Canada Reads in 2013. (Heather Barrett/House of Anansi)

"This book motivated me to write more because it's such a beautiful tale of urban life in Newfoundland. I grew up around the bay and I always thought that all the poverty lived in the small fishing towns and living in St. John's was posh. But she presents a story of urban desperation that I never really considered before. February was quite moving." 

Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances) by Denise Donlon

Denise Donlon has served as an executive at MuchMusic, Sony Music Canada and the CBC. (House of Anansi)

"Denise is really the queen of media in Canada. She's written a wonderful autobiography about being a woman in the music and entertainment business. It's a fantastic read!" 

The Dirt by Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss is an American author and journalist best known for his book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. (It Books/Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

"Most biographies or autobiographies — especially band ones —  are wrapped around the trope that we weren't the most talented or we didn't have all this going for us, but we had each other's backs. And the idea that the lessons we learned from our good parents as kids or in spite of our bad parents as kids, we moved the band forward. That camaraderie, that sense of purpose and togetherness that really sustained the band through the hardest times, none of that is in the book. Not a word. The thing that is most appealing about this book is how candid [Mötley Crüe] are. It's an incredible story of group success in spite of everything." 

Down Under by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson’s bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent and Notes from a Small Island. (Bertrand Langlois/Getty Images/Penguin)

"When I went to Australia for the first time, I read his book called Down Under (titled In a Sunburned Country in Canada and the U.S.). It's his travel book about going around Australia. It's just him talking as he is seeing things. He is so conversational in his books, I figured I might get away with being conversational in mine. When I started doing a lot of blog writing, that's the way I did the blogs. I did them like I was speaking out loud and that is totally inspired by Bill Bryson." 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel 

Yann Martel is the author of Life of Pi. (Geoff Howe/Vintage Canada)

"I'm a fan of studying religions and what motivates people to do things and not do things. One of the best discussions of religion that I've ever read was in the Life of Pi." 


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