3 Books for You to Read

By John Chalmers, CAHS Membership Secretary

Perhaps this pandemic summer and Covid-19 crisis that has resulted in quarantining ourselves at home, social distancing from other folks when we go out, and wearing masks that make us all look like bank robbers has also given us more time to stay at home and read.

While we may at times feel like we are under house arrest or confined to barracks, our time at home can still be spent on worthwhile activities that range from mowing the lawn to curling up with a good book. Neither of those projects require wearing a mask!

I have just finished reading three fine books that I recommend highly to all. Each has provided a great experience in providing me with information and knowledge that I didn’t know before. Two are great aviation stories of world wars and one is of a naval exploration story of the 19th Century.

The Candy BombersThe Candy Bombers: the Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour by Andrei Cherney (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008) is a superbly researched and written story with 550 pages about the governing of post-war Berlin and the Berlin airlift. Reading this book revealed how little I knew about those important aspects of European history and a massive aviation undertaking. Vital to the story is the initiative of American bomber pilot, Gail Seymour “Hal” Halverson. His practice of dropping candy for German children led to a practice that mushroomed to raise the morale not only of the children but of the military. Over 50 pages of bibliographic references are an indication of the massive amount of research done by the author in creating an excellent and absorbing read. See more here.

MastersoftheAir 540xA fascinating discovery was Masters of the Air: The Great War Pilots McLeod, McKeever and MacLaren, by fellow Edmontonian and aviation enthusiast, Roger Gunn (Dundurn, 2019). I was completely captivated by the stories of three ace fighter pilots of the First World War. Roger’s extensive research to write this compelling story has taken him from Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa to archives in London, England. Based on wartime letters from the highly-decorated airmen and the hair-raising accounts of their aerial dogfights, this book is hard to put down, and should be read by anyone who enjoys stories about masters of the air. Both Alan McLeod, the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross at age 19, and Donald MacLaren, DSO, MC*, DFC and Croix de Guerre, are Members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Andrew McKeever, DSO, MC*, DFC who with his gunners is credited with 31 victories and was the highest scoring pilot with Bristol F.2 two-seater fighter aircraft. The book is Roger’s second about Canadian aviation heroes. His first was about another members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame: Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight, also published by Dundurn. Book info here.

To order Masters of the Air from CAHS at a discounted price, which also supports the CAHS, click here.


Erebus 300I knew something about the ill-fated expedition led by Sir John Franklin in a failed attempt to discover the North-West Passage and that both ships involved, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were lost along with all men aboard. I also knew that it was only in recent years that both ships were discovered at the bottom of the sea in northern Canada. What I didn’t know was the fascinating story of both ships in their voyages to Antarctica prior to their fatal journeys in the North. Erebus, by Michael Palin (Greystone Books Ltd., 2018) is a fascinating story about iron men in wooden ships. Like the other two books mentioned here, the story is well researched and well written. Palin has travelled to all places visited by Erebus and Terror. He brings to life the story of the ships themselves and the intrepid men who sailed them. More info here.


After you read those three books, we have 150 more for you to read! The list of books recommended by CAHS members was a sesquicentennial project for the 150th anniversary of Canada in 2017. We have posted that list which you can see when you click here.