Books·My Life in Books

Gavin Crawford: 5 books that shaped my life

The host of CBC's Because News shares 5 books that shaped their life and work.
Gavin Crawford is a comedian and actor. (CBC Arts)

Gavin Crawford, the hilarious host of CBC's Because News, is a self-described "voracious reader" who reads everything "from YA, historical fiction, biography to cereal boxes." He's graciously pared down his list of favourite books to just five — all of which have had significant impact on how he sees the world.

Because News is Canada's funniest news quiz. It airs on CBC Radio One on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Mondays at 11:30 a.m.

I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American author, cartoonist and poet best known for his children's books. (Al Ravenna/Random House)

"This was probably my most formative childhood read. It taught me how to differentiate between big problems and small ones. Although the ending where the main character sets off with a baseball bat is a bit problematic in today's world, the message of facing your troubles rather than trying to escape them has stayed with me to this day. And, of course, I still have a bat."

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series includes the The Golden Compass. (philip-pullman.com/Knopf Doubleday)

"I am a huge fantasy reader, and Philip Pullman's exceptional tale of good vs. evil masquerading as good is a series I can return to again and again. With witches, armoured polar bears, and a pair of fallen gay angels, it's an amazing inverse retelling of 'Paradise Lost.' Having grown up in a very religious environment, I love Pullman's take on the perils of religion in this series. Also, it's a nice antidote for those of us who felt uniquely ripped off at the end of the Narnia books when Susan can't get to Narnia after she dies because (spoiler alert), it's heaven and she was divorced (gasp!)!"

The Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin is an American writer best known for his Tales of the City series, which includes 9 novels. (Christopher Turner/HarperCollins)

"The Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin was seminal to me when I first read the books in university. I loved reading about the quirky residents of 28 Barbary Lane, their crazy adventures and their messed up relationships. These books were my first introduction to complex, sympathetic gay characters that had more to offer than just a coming out story; although, I still cry every time I read Michael Tolliver's 'Letter to his Mama', from More Tales of the City. The books contain so many lines that have stayed with me, and when I was 20 and trying to find myself, these books were a revelation. Because of Maupin I had a mentor and guide, unlike Michael Tolliver who wrote these words in his letter:
'I wish someone older than me and wiser than the people in Orlando had taken me aside and said, "You're all right, kid. You can grow up to be a doctor or a teacher just like anyone else. You're not crazy or sick or evil. You can succeed and be happy and find peace with friends — all kinds of friends — who don't give a damn who you go to bed with. Most of all, though, you can love and be loved, without hating yourself for it."'"

Fool by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore is an American writer of fantasy fiction. (chrismoore.com/HarperCollins)

"I tend to run hot and cold with Christopher Moore novels, but I love his hilarious and somewhat bawdy retelling of King Lear from the fool's perspective. For me having a sense of play is very important and this book plays with plot, language, style, and actually makes me laugh out loud every time I return to it."

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is an American comedian, author and radio contributor. (Ingrid Christie/Little, Brown And Company)

"No one tells funny stories quite like David Sedaris, and Barrel Fever is my absolute favourite of all his hilarious books. It probably isn't his best, but it was his first, and it was my introduction to a humorist who would go on to entertain me again and again, so it holds a special place in my heart. I felt a kinship with the Sedaris's skewed and sometimes delightfully dark take on the world and it gave me permission to begin to express my own comically warped opinions. Discovering this book gave a younger me a sense of hope and possibility about what could be accomplished with just a pen and a strong desire to entertain."

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