Introduction

This set of reviews of books about Newfoundland and Labrador now consists of several sections: If you bookmarked this page and have no yellow navigation panel at the left side of the screen, click here to see needed navigation links.



This list currently consists of brief reviews of 1146 books about Newfoundland and Labrador, the most recent group added being for July 2010.

Each review includes the title, year of publication (year of original publication if known), name(s) of author(s) or editor(s), and a rating. The rating consists of a number and a descriptive term - 3-NotRecommended, 4-NotRecommended, 5-Fair, 6-Good, 7-VeryGood, and 8-Excellent. The numbers 5.5, 6.5 and 7.5 are also used as intermediate grades (for example, 6.5-Good means better than Good, but less than VeryGood). A rating of "3" means that the book is either just not worth the effort to plow through or has virtually no Newfoundland content; a "4" means not too bad, but also not really worth the time investment; a "5" means ok, not bad, maybe better in some places than in others, not exciting; a "6" means a generally enjoyable, if not inspiring, read; a "7" is good enough to look forward to reading each succeeding chapter; and an "8" is pretty much quality cover to cover, often the sort of book that you want to devour in a single sitting. A special rating of "un" is used only in the "Author Index" to show that certain books are "unreviewed" because, although appearing in the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries catalog as being in the NL collection, and often having subjects described in the same catalog as being related to Newfoundland and/or Labrador, they are actually devoid of local content, other than that in some cases the author was born in or lives in the province.

The comments and ratings are strictly those of the reviewer, and are based largely on how enjoyable the book was to read, how entertaining, and, in the case of non-fiction, how informative. The reviewer's interest in the subject matter is sometimes a consideration. The Newfoundland content of the book is the overwhelmingly important and primary consideration. These reviews are based on actually reading the books, rather than just excerpting from the glowing tributes usually found on the back covers or dust jackets. Was there ever published a book so bad that the publisher couldn't include praiseful quotes, even if the author or the publisher had to create them? Apparently not! Back covers tend to portray every book, regardless of quality, as being a prize deserving work of timeless literature!

A book's thickness does not have any necessary relationship to quality or quantity of content. Some fairly thick books are full of information but are also boring, while some relatively thin books are both informative and interesting. A book may be thick due to heavy paper rather than high page count. A thick book with large type, generous line spacing, and wide page margins may have less content than a thin book with smaller type, tighter line spacing, and smaller page margins.

[format] is the size of the book in inches, across by height, so for example [11x9 format] means a book 11 inches wide by 9 inches tall. The format is mentioned when a book is either not in upright format or is of an unusual size.

Many of these books are currently in print, some have been reprinted, while some are doubtless out of print and only available as used.

Additions will be made from time to time. These additions will each have a date appended to the right of the rating, for example "6-Good [2008-Mar]", to make searching for recent additions easier. The most recent group of reviews are contained in the Newest Reviews section, in the order written with the newest first, and are also included within the main alphabetical list.



How to find these books? For those who are fortunate enough to live within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the public library system should have most of the books reviewed here. If a specific book is not available at your local library, it is probably available through interlibrary loan. Some books may be non-circulating, requiring a visit to the A. C. Hunter Public Library at the Arts & Culture Centre in St. John's.

For those who live away, the primary way to obtain these books is to buy them. And the easiest way to buy books about Newfoundland is online (on the web).

The online market for Newfoundland books consists of five broad segments: several used book consortiums, each made up of many individual member dealers; a few large internet sellers that carry used books (acting as a consortium); a few used book dealers that carry a good selection of Newfoundland books; a few retail sellers of new books; and a few sites with free book downloads.

The used book consortiums are basically clearing houses for hundreds or even thousands of independant booksellers, providing them with a forum in which to list their books for sale and for potential buyers to find those books. These consortiums include: Alibris at www.alibris.com, claiming over 60 million books; Biblio at www.biblio.com, claiming over 50 million books; AbeBooks at www.abebooks.com, claiming over 110 million books; TomFolio at www.tomfolio.com; and AntiqBooks at www.antiqbooks.com, claiming over 7 million books from mostly European sellers. Amazon at www.amazon.com can also be lumped into this category, and is probably the biggest vendor of them all.

Of these, I deal mostly with Alibris, Biblio, AbeBooks, and Amazon. And of these four, I prefer to deal with Alibris whenever possible, for reasons detailed below.

At Alibris the customer deals only with Alibris, meaning that there is only one credit card transaction for the entire order, while with the others there are separate credit card transactions for each seller, leading to not only numerous credit card slips, but numerous emails as each vendor makes contact. Alibris also handles all returns, cancellations and other credits.

At Alibris, AbeBooks, and Amazon there is a bookseller rating visible (but not so at Biblio). While looking at the listing for an individual book, at Alibris there is a rating of up to 5 colored circles labeled "Reliability" under the dealer's name, while at AbeBooks the rating is up to 5 colored stars labeled "Bookseller Rating", and at Amazon the "Rating" is up to five colored stars plus additional details. While neither Alibris nor AbeBooks defines exactly what goes into the ratings, I've noticed that a couple of sellers that I've been unhappy with have low ratings. Amazon employs a feedback system wherein the buyer can leave a rating for a seller.

All of the consortiums have decent search engines, but at Alibris you only see one copy of each title, with the further ability to then view all available copies, while with the others you see all copies at all times, making browsing through titles much more tedious. [Note that at Alibris the cheapest copy of a book is not necessarily the one that you'll see first.] As an example, a search done in July on the keyword "Newfoundland" resulted in about 500 hits on Alibris, about 9,000 on Biblio, about 19,000 on AbeBooks, and about 33,000 on Amazon. But numbers are deceiving! The Amazon search yielded the greatest number of hits, but the results are repetitious (every copy of every book is presented), bloated (many books listed are noted as being unavailable), and can be sorted by neither title nor author - meaning a brute force browse! The Alibris search shows only one copy of each title (a click reveals all copies), and can be sorted by title or author. Knowing an author or title is a big plus when dealing with the biggest providers.

None of the consortiums has all of the titles available that each of the others has, so you may need to search more than one for a specific title. And since a dealer may list his books on more than one of the consortiums, and at differing prices and with differing shipping costs, it is usually worth the effort to price compare before ordering.

Shipping charges vary significantly, especially if you live in one country (such as the USA) and buy a book from a vendor in another country (such as Canada). A typical book shipped within the USA would cost between about $2 and $4 in postage, but shipping from Canada to the USA would be from around $4 to $10 (these postal rates are based on the postage on a sampling of many actual book packages). At Alibris and Amazon, the shipping is typically a flat rate of about $4 per book for delivery in the USA regardless of originating country, while at the other consortiums you can usually find the shipping cost for each individual item before committing to ordering. Many dealers offer a discount on shipping for multiple books in the same order.

The description of a book is almost always limited to the title, author, publication year, and a description of the physical characteristics and condition of the book. There is usually no information whatsoever regarding the subject of the book, apparently assuming that the prospective buyer already has that information. Note that in some cases the same title has been used by more than one author, so some care is needed to avoid ordering an unwanted book.

All of the consortiums have return policies, and also policies for refunds for undelivered books. Read them carefully - they all have time limitations. Note that permitted returns are usually limited to misdescribed books or wrong books shipped, not books that don't turn out to be as interesting as one would have liked.

There is always a chance that a book will be cancelled after being ordered. Some dealers seem to do better than others with keeping their listings up to date. Cancellations and undelivered books seem to be relatively frequent, but the policy of Alibris (for example), whereby an 85% fulfillment/delivery rating for a seller is considered acceptable, helps to explain this.

Condition of books is usually carefully noted in the listings. Many of the books are ex-library, and so may be stamped as "discard" or "withdrawn".

Delivery is almost exclusively through the mail, with expedited shipping available at extra cost. My experience in receiving books from almost 300 different sellers, is that the vast majority of books are received within about two weeks of ordering. Now and then one even arrives within a day or two!

Packaging varies, running the gamut from purpose made boxes and mailers through slapped together homemade enclosures. I have not yet received a book with significant damage from transit.

There are several large internet retailers (besides Amazon) that sell used books, including Chapters, and Barnes & Noble.

There are at least two internet retailers of used books in St. John's who specialize in Newfoundland books, one doing business as Newfoundland and Labrador Bookfinder at www.bookfinder.nf.ca, and the other Gerald Penney at www.newfoundlandbooks.com. There is also an internet used book dealer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who has a good selection of Newfoundland books - John W. Doull at www.doullbooks.com. All three of these dealers list at least some of their wares on one or more of the consortiums.

Two decent non-internet sources for used books in the St. John's vicinity are Afterwords Book Store at 245 Duckworth Street (toward the east end) and the Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi.

Two good internet sources in Newfoundland for new current books are Tidespoint at www.tidespoint.com and the Downhome Shoppe at www.shopdownhome.com. My experience has been that both have a high fulfillment rate of what they offer.

A good Newfoundland publisher website is Flanker Press at www.flankerpress.com. They have good cover photos and descriptions for all of their books in stock.

I don't recommend eBay for purchasing Newfoundland books. Their listings for these books are not numerous at any given time, and the prices tend to be high.

Downloads can be handy for very old, and often rare and expensive, books. A few sites worth checking are: Google at www.books.google.com lists many books, but many of them are not available to view or download; Project Gutenberg at www.gutenberg.org, where many of the books are text-only transcriptions rather than actual copies of the pages; the Memorial University of Newfoundland digital archives at collections.mun.ca, where books may be downloaded by clicking the PDF icon after a book is selected; and free-book.58search.com/relatedTag/Newfoundland.html, which has a list of books that can be read online or downloaded. Note that downloads in PDF format can be quite large, easily reaching 30 megabytes or more.

[Links within this section last checked April 27, 2010]




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