Avid readers: John Dawson: ‘I like the feel of a book’

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

One avid reader leads to another and in the case of John Dawson of Slave Lake, it was fellow history nut Brian Pitcairn who recommended him. Dawson stopped by last week to talk about what and how he reads, among other subjects.

Unlike most of the avid readers interviewed for this series, Dawson does not recall reading much as a child. He grew up in a farming and logging family in New Brunswick where there wasn’t much reading going on and not much money.

He must have read some in school, but doesn’t remember much about it. It wasn’t until he joined the navy “just shy of my 17th birthday,” that he started reading seriously, mainly Second World War history. He’s still reading it. Lots of it, along with lots of other historical stuff.

Canadian history is a more recent theme in Dawson’s reading. It’s an emerging field and – he says – not always comfortable stuff. He mentions ‘A National Crime,’ by John Millroy and ‘Clearing the Plains’ by William Daschuk.

Somebody who reads as much history as Dawson is bound to have opinions about the genre. Dawson does, saying that “like the Romans,” a lot of the available stuff has an American slant to it. He tends to resist this, looking for other points of view.

There aren’t nearly as many, he says, “but I have read some very good books on Canadian history.”

Fiction doesn’t interest Dawson. Tom Clancy is about as far as he’s gone down that road, but the military non-fiction keeps him busy enough. Particularly since better and more accurate history continues to come out – even (or perhaps particularly) on what must be the most written-about conflict in human history.

“The stuff written 50 years ago wasn’t really the truth,” he says.

When he’s not reading books, Dawson delves into periodicals.

“I’ve spent a bloody fortune on magazines,” he says.

Now semi-retired (from logging contracting), Dawson has plenty of time for reading. But he says he always did, squeezing it in whenever he had an idle moment.

“I read at breakfast. I can’t watch TV without reading. I have to read the newspaper every day. When I work I have a book in the truck.”

He also won’t get caught in a waiting room with nothing to do.
“I’ll take a book or a magazine,” he says.

Has he tried reading on an electronic device?

“Nope! I’m not the least bit interested. I like the feel of a book.”
He likes owning them too.

“I’ve always bought books,” Dawson says. I’ve never been a library person. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on books. I was just in Chapters yesterday.”

Dawson is another who – although he isn’t much of a patron – is nevertheless a supporter of the public library.

“I store them (books) until there are so damn many, then I load them up in the truck and take them to the library,” he says.

John Dawson

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