Canadian Authors for Indies Day, Saturday, April 30, at 32 Books, 3185 Edgemont Blvd., North Vancouver, featuring authors Kerry Karram, Cathie Borrie, David J. Smith and Mark Winston. For more information visit authorsforindies.com.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, your uncle’s career advice, and apiaries have one common characteristic: the power to slow down time.
For author Mark Winston, the clock’s relentless march falters to a meander the moment he’s surrounded by hives. The buzz of a bee before flight, the tangy scent of honey and the site of legions of workers seen through the tint of smoke create a sense of awe for the scientist.
“Underlying all the physical sensations are collaboration and order, communication and common purpose,” he writes in his 2014 nonfiction book Bee Time.
Winston is hoping to achieve a similar sense of communication and common purpose Saturday when he spends the day at 32 Books and Gallery in Edgemont.
When he hit the road to promote Bee Time, Winston says he was fearful he’d find “a desert of bookstores that had been swamped by the e-books and the big box stores.”
Like weeds blossoming between concrete blocks, many independent bookstores have found a way to survive, Winston notes.
“The ones that have made it through the last decade or so have pretty strong business models.”
He saw an example of the bookstore’s enduring power when 200 readers packed 32 Books for Winston’s Bee Time reading.
“I’m extraordinarily grateful to the independent bookstores, well, just for existing,” he says. “A lot of the success the book has had has been because of their support.”
While he may get into a conversation or two about the value of bees Saturday ($217 billion according to a 2008 study based on the amount of crops that benefit or depend on bee pollination)
Winston says he’ll spend his shift as a bookseller steering customers to some of his favourite works.
Unsurprisingly for a writer who has studied insects in Kansas, French Guiana and New Zealand, Winston is partial to stories about the natural world. Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert provide some of the best-written, most important books in that arena, according to Winston. Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History examines mass animal and plant loss. Bill
McKibben’s most recent offering, Oil and Honey, offers a new perspective on climate change.
However, lest it seem that Winston is going to spend his day in front of one shelf, he’s also an admirer of Ann Patchett’s terrorist standoff novel Bel Canto, and may even be able to recall the plots of some of the Hardy Boys stories he devoured in his youth.
Growing up in a suburb on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio, Winston avoided the centre of the city dubbed The Mistake on the Lake.
“Nobody went into downtown, it just wasn’t done.”
But when the burgeoning scientist hit 12, the lure of a “beautiful, dusty, old, two-storey used book store,” was too much to resist.
“We’d go into the basement and just find all kinds of treasures,” he says.
He found J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels as well as The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer.
“I think it’s the same thing as Lord of the Rings,” he says of Shirer’s book. “It was good versus evil.”
It was a lifetime of reading that allowed Winston to distill the evolution of bees – it’s been 125 billion years since nectar-gathering insects evolved from predator wasps – into a single readable novel.
“I love data. I’m very much a nerd that way but I don’t discount the power of emotion and the power of story,” he says. “Science done well is telling a story.”
Both stories and science are set to be discussed April 30 at 32 Books.