I have known the Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, for almost 20 years and I’m proud to count him as a friend. As well as enjoying pancakes at the traditional breakfast he traditionally organized as federal Member of Parliament, I fondly remember eating poutine with him when my family and I participated in the Calgary Stampede in 2012. If there’s one thing we invariably always talk about (other than politics of course), it is books. He’s a consummate avid reader, a fellow bookworm.
Like every elected official, the Premier is fighting Covid-19 and its dire consequences in his home province of Alberta, making headlines. These are tough times. But I won’t get into that. Don’t expect anything controversial here. This is about books, which I found to be a source of solace in these difficult months. I was therefore extremely pleased when Mr. Kenney accepted to take a few moments within his brutal schedule to respond to a few questions for this blog.
I hope you enjoy this simple yet insightful exchange.
Premier Kenney, I remember, when you were a federal cabinet Minister, those amazing pictures of boxes from a famous Canadian bookstore filled with books you received. Have your reading habits changed since you have become Premier of Alberta two years ago?
Not significantly, although I have had less reading time throughout the COVID pandemic.
What is the best time of the day for you to read?
Late at night.
What are the favorite subjects you read about?
My interests are pretty wide-ranging, but history is a consistent theme, from biographies to historical fiction.
Would you accept to share with us the best recent books you read?
- A collection of Seamus Heaney poems;
- Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer;
- Mary Beard’s history of Rome, SPQR;
- A biography of former Alberta Premier Ernest Manning, The Good Steward.
Who are your favorite authors?
G.K. Chesterton; J.R.R. Tolkien; Flannery O’Connor, Fyodor Dostoevsky; Evelyn Waugh, amongst many others.
Do you like to read about military history and, if so, what is the best book you read in that domain and why?
Yes. Tim Cook’s work on Canadian military history is good, accessible and comprehensive.
It might be more difficult to do that as Premier, but do you sometimes have the possibility of visiting bookstores?
Yes, but only occasionally. Being in a good used bookstore is one of my happy places. I try to order new books through small independent stores, rather than online, in order to support them.
Fictional scenario. An evacuation is necessary, and you can only bring 5 books from your bookshelves with you. Which ones would they be?
- Augustine’s Confessions;
- Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited;
- Collected Works of T.S. Eliot;
- The Brothers Karamazov;
- The Bible.
Who is the most inspiring historical figure for you and why?
William Wilberforce, the leader of the abolitionist movement in the British Empire. A man of remarkable courage and dignity.
Thank you very much, Premier Kenney, for accepting to answer these questions.
I would like to express my utmost gratitude to two of my good friends who proved instrumental in the realization of this interview. They know who they are and how much I appreciate what they did.