About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mordecai Richler’s 5,000 book library

Photo by Bonnie-Jean Campbell
What happens to the library of a book lover when they die? If you are famed Canadian author Mordecai Richler it is preserved within a university. His library is now the Mordecai Richler Reading Room at Concordia University in Montreal.

As set out in an article by his son, Jacob Richler, in Macleans magazine the library was in the family country home at Lake Memphremagog in Quebec’s Eastern Townships:

His top-floor office there was vast and airy, spread out behind an enormous picture window four frames wide that afforded a perfect vantage of the length of Sargent’s Bay. Had you seen it you would likely have assumed that the glorious view had much to do with the comfort and serenity he found working there. But really it was about the peace and quiet. The view was secondary. A closer look at the place revealed that his desk faced away from the window; when his gaze lifted from his typewriter he saw only a wall of books.

The desk, shown in the photo above, was not a beautiful piece of furniture. He had such a magnificent antique desk in Montreal. The desk at the lake, where he wrote his books, was made by the handyman for the cottage who built it from unfinished pine.

The library had been assembled from books Richler brought to Canada when he returned from England in 1972, books he purchased for research and personal reading, books that he received as gifts but the largest number of books in the collection were books he had been asked to review. He was a book reviewer for GQ magazine and a judge of the Book-of-the-Month Club.

His son sets out how the library came to dominate their country home:

New shelves filled out the basement. They wound their way through my mother’s new study and through her kitchen. They spread through the living room, framing the fireplace and staircase. They came to cover at least one wall in each of our bedrooms. They were installed to fill three massive walls of my father’s office—with a few stand-alone units in between. And as the coup de grâce, one summer when my brother Noah went away on an ill-timed trip, my father annexed his bedroom, had the wall that separated it from the neighbouring study removed, lined both rooms with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and created a library in their place.

His widow wanted the library preserved and Concordia, which he had attended when it was Sir George Williams University, agreed to take the collection.

The library was packed in boxes at the lake. An example of the eclectic nature of the library is in Jacob’s list of the contents of one random box:

Book: The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh

Pamphlet: “Footloose in Yellowknife”

Magazines: Saturday Night, Maclean’s, Signature, The New Yorker, The Oldie, Cité Libre, Snooker Scene, Equinox, The Paris Review and Climax: The Journal of Sexual Perfection

Giller prize sculpture

Periodicals: The New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, Out in the Mountains, Vermont’s newspaper for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.

Paper flyer: “Gathering Jewish Lesbian Daughters of Holocaust Survivors”

Baltic Shipping Company menu for Aleksandr Pushkin, notes by MR on the back

The approximately 5,000 items will take up two rooms at Concordia.

In reading the story of the new reading room I was reminded of the Arthur Conan Doyle Room at the Toronto Central Reference Library which I described in my post on Canadian Sherlockian, Hartley R. Nathan.

Each room looks to be an inviting place for readers of Richler and Doyle to visit and learn of the authors.


  1. Bill, this is fascinating, thank you. Looking at "a wall of books" is the perfect inspiration for a writer, or even a reader. I wonder what kind of books and novels Mordecai Richler read and preserved in his library. I'm guilty of never having read the author.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. He read widely. He provides vivid portrayals of life in Montreal in his novels.

  2. Bill - Oh, what lovely-looking place! I want that reading room. Thanks for sharing this really interesting background too.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. It has an inviting airy comfortable look.

  3. Oh, how I loved reading this! I wonder where Noah slept when he came home!

    1. Nan: Thanks for the comment. I doubt his parents gave up their room so it was probably sharing a room with a sibling.