Review: The Hamilton Book of Everything

For this new Hamiltonian, the Hamilton Book of Everything is a compact, helpful guide and resource to a city filled with unexpected treasures.

By Joy Jones
Published November 07, 2013

Hamilton Book of Everything
Hamilton Book of Everything

I'm what's known as a "Toronto transplant" (in contrast to the more respectable "Homegrown Hamilton") and I admit to being a rent-refugee from the big city, looking for a quieter life.

Before I moved to Hamilton almost two years ago, my nearest and dearest had words of support...



"Oh! Hamilton??"

And my personal favourite, "Hamilton - you're so... brave!"

From those dear friends who have since then actually made the 64 km trip westward to visit me here, more words of support...

"Oh, it's so nice here," the invariable commentary with surprised, screaming subtext: Hmm, not the hell-hole I expected!

To be fair, before researching Hamilton, I knew little other than the industrial stereotype of the city as seen from the eastern bridge passing through to Niagara Falls.

In the past twenty months of living here, I've explored Hamilton starting with tips gleaned from local papers and magazines filled with praises for various present-day neighbourhoods such as Locke Street, Westdale, James North, International Village, Ottawa Street and so on.

I've met friendly folks everywhere along the way, a refreshing change from the colder civility of Toronto. I've also registered my own internal surprise at times, catching the thrill of finding particularly beautiful architecture or enchanted escarpment views away from the commerce of the main streets.

Some time around the one-year point of my own wanderings in Hamilton, I decided it was time to look at an official guidebook. (For those now wondering, yes, correct: my previous research involved no real scholarly attempts.) So I found myself in the bookstore at Jackson Square Mall, whose intricate halls still baffle me.

There were quite a number of books on Hamilton, frankly more than a person from Toronto might expect (with apologies). After scanning them all and picking up several for a flip-through, the clear choice was The Hamilton Book of Everything, first published in 2008, even though it has only a dozen photos and one black-and-white map.

It's a very small book, excellent for reading on the bus or leaving in the loo for those well-meaning out-of-town visitors. And it's good value for the page size: there are facts and stats on a variety of topics, presented in list and factoid format, along with sidebar comments from local personalities.

Information is presented neatly in modules, which I tend to group into two categories: things I already care about and things I don't. In my opinion, the challenge of any good guidebook is to persuade me to read both, and The Hamilton Book of Everything succeeded very well.

First, there's the information I want to read which needs to be useful for everyday living. In my "transplant" case, this includes sections outlining Hamilton Essentials, Slang, Urban Geography, Economy, Culture and People. The Hamilton Book of Everything gives a good context for the city itself, as well as Hamilton in relation to other cities and the rest of Canada.

Then there's the stuff not so personally interesting to me, though I feel obligated to know it as a responsible citizen: this info needs to be as briefly stated as possible, and because the whole book is so compactly written, no problem there.

Let me put into this grouping the chapters on Timeline, Weather, History and Politics, though others will no doubt disagree with my lack of interest in these topics. I'm sure they'll find as many insightful details in these sections as I did elsewhere in the book.

Presuming an interest beyond the trendy, this guidebook presents all its information with a broad perspective. I definitely found The Hamilton Book of Everything to be an entertaining and concise overview of the city.

For this new Hamiltonian, this little book fills in and complements my own discoveries here. I'll be keeping it around.

Joy Jones is learning to remember that in Hamilton, the lake is to the North. She particularly likes the street in the top photo on page 38 of Hamilton: Brutal Beauty, Hidden Heritage Guide.


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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 09:09:56

As a born(1961)and bred Hamiltonian I enjoy reading and hearing these "transplant" stories. These people are inspiring and I'm continually thinking how valuable it would be for 'regular' Hamiltonians, espcailly those that dump on our own city, to have these people and their stories open their eyes. Their stories kind of give you a mild slap in the face, making you step back and getting a new take on our all too familiar surroundings with a new and refreshing perspective. There is so much to be proud of in our terrific city.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 09:25:45

Five years after publication, still a well-kept secret.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 13:33:12

I think I'll put it on my Christmas wish list.

How do you get it? The website doesn't appear to list the one for Hamilton.

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By Looseleaf (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 22:52:18 in reply to Comment 94495

Coles Jackson Square has a copy.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 10, 2013 at 16:50:46

Good book ... found it really useful when i moved here from Toronto a few years back. I read similar-like books when i moved from Vancouver to Toronto. There is another recent book on Hamilton called Brutal Beauty and Hidden Heritage that's also worth checking out.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted November 12, 2013 at 15:12:27

Thanks to all who provided information on where to find the book!

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