100 years of BC books

“Two literary mavericks appreciated on May 22: publisher & author Howard White (left) and bookseller Don Stewart. Details here.” FULL STORY


Robin Hood comes out of the forest

March 24th, 2022

The social critic Stan Persky once described Alan Twigg (at right) as “the Robin Hood of Canadian Literature.”

Now the founder of B.C. BookWorld has been accorded an honorary Ph.D from Simon Fraser University.

The university statement for the conferring of his Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, reads: “Alan Twigg is B.C.’s leading man of letters and has made a multitude of important contributions to literature in the province, writing 20 books and founding and publishing B.C. BookWorld newspaper for more than three decades.”

Since he handed over the reins of the newspaper to new owner/publisher Beverly Cramp, he has simultaneously published two new books: GIDAL: The Unusual Friendship of Yosef Wosk and Tim Gidal, Letters and Photos (Douglas & McIntyre $39.95) and Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature or British Columbia (Ronsdale $24.95). A free event to launch the latter will be held on April 5 at the Jewish Community Centre. He simultaneously served as the editor for The Tenth Nerve: A Brain Surgeon’s Stories of the Patients Who Changed Him (Penguin Random House, 2022) by Dr. Christopher Honey, one of Canada’s foremost neurosurgeons.


The degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, will be conferred on Alan Twigg on Wednesday, June 8 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony. Other honorary degree recipients this spring include the former SFU president Andrew Petter, former City of Vancouver manager Penny Ballem and historian Robert Turner. The news of the SFU doctorate reached Twigg while he was in Cuba researching a new book on the people of Cuba who are now suffering dire food and fuel shortages under a repressive government that supports Vladimir Putin. Twigg’s two previous books on Cuba were banned by Fidel Castro. The honorary doctorate for public achievement and service is the highest honour conferred by the university. “The degrees are awarded to distinguished individuals in recognition of their scholarly, scientific or artistic achievement, or in recognition of exceptional contribution to the public good.”

Alan Twigg with Leonard Cohen (left) in Vancouver, circa 1970s.

Operating independently, but with the support of Pacific BookWorld News Society, Alan Twigg has founded the B.C. BookWorld newspaper (available via more than 600 outlets, including BC Ferries), the BCBookLook online news service, the ABCBookWorld reference site (for and about more than 12,000 B.C. authors), the Literary Map of B.C. and the Indigenous Literary Map of B.C. He has also co-founded the Ormsby Review (renamed the British Columbia Review), an independent site for and about his late friend Leonard Cohen and a fundraising site for a village in Tanzania named Luhombero.

Alan Twigg in Tanzania.

Twigg has made ten documentary films pertaining to B.C. literature. The subjects include Jim Spilsbury, Jeannette Armstrong, Peter Trower, Bud Osborn, Rudolf Vrba, Eric Nicol, Ivan Coyote and his role model, anarchist George Woodcock, who strived to be “a man of free intelligence” while producing 100 books. Twigg has also founded or co-founded the B.C. Book Prizes, the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for Outstanding B.C. Academic Book, the Vancity Women’s Book Prize and the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness.

His cohort for most of these literary activities has been designer and graphic novelist David Lester. The pair has worked in tandem since they met as freelancers for the Georgia Straight in the 1970s.

“I’m particularly grateful for the steadfast camaraderie of David and my successor Beverly Cramp,” he says. “Howard White and Yosef Wosk have also been essential as friends and advisors over the years.

“I’m proud to be associated with SFU because it was SFU librarian Lynn Copeland who gave the green light to the radically inclusive ABCBookWorld online encyclopedia project when it was only a glint in my eye and because I served as a founding board member for the also-radical Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing spearheaded by Rowly Lorimer and Ann Cowan.”

Four-years-in-the-making, Twigg’s recent biography, Moon Madness: Dr. Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa, (Ronsdale, 2019), honours the last surviving physician to have worked alongside Dr. Albert Schweitzer. In 2019, Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall of Tsawwassen and Alan Twigg met with the Tanzanian physician Dr. Dan Bhwana, who now runs her epilepsy clinic in Mahenge, Tanzania, to confer as to how treatments can be maintained in an area of the world where epilepsy rates are ten times higher than the global norm. For doing house calls by canoe, sharing rooms with bats and scorpions, and getting poked and prodded by curious villagers, as well as managing a 300-bed hospital by herself in the Belgian Congo during a civil war, Dr. Louise Aall was awarded a bravery medal from the Red Cross. She died in 2021.

Alan Twigg with Governor General David Johnston receiving his Order of Canada medal at Rideau Hall, 2015.

Alan Twigg has received various other awards. He was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2015. He received the 13th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2016. Previously, he was the first and only recipient of the ABPBC Media Award in 1988. He was also the inaugural recipient of the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to literature and publishing, in 2000. He became the second person to accept the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University in 2007 “to recognize and support leaders in the humanities who are not necessarily part of the academy.” In the same year he was the first Writer in Residence at the George Price Center for Peace in Belize. In 2010, he received the Pandora’s Collective Publisher’s Award of Merit. In 2011 he received the Mayor of Vancouver’s annual Literary Arts Award. “Few writers,” wrote critic John Moore, “would have sacrificed so much time and energy to promote OTHER writers, for so many years, as he has done. If he’d just written his own stuff, he would have lapped George Woodcock, twice, by now.” He also won a gold medal for Canada in soccer at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy, in 2013.


Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia (Ronsdale Press, 2022).

Gidal, Letters & Photographs: The Unusual Friendship of Yosef Wosk and Tim Gidal (Douglas & McIntyre, 2021). Editor.

Tolstoy’s Words to Live By (Ronsdale, 2020). 978-1-55380-629-5 240 p. (Co-edited with Peter Sekirin).

Moon Madness: Dr. Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa (Ronsdale, 2019).

Undaunted: The Best of BC BookWorld (Ronsdale, 2013). 978-1-55380-253-2 242 p.

The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors. (Ronsdale, 2010). 978-1-55380-108-5 320 p.

Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks (Ronsdale, 2009). 978-1-55380-079-8 271 p.

Full-Time: A Soccer Story (Douglas Gibson Books, McClelland & Stewart, 2008). 978-0-7710-8645-8 293 p.

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800-1850 (Ronsdale, 2006) 978-1-55380-039-2 253 p.

Understanding Belize: A Historical Guide (Harbour, 2006). 240 p.

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale, 2005). 260 p.

First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale, 2004). 229 p.

101 Top Historical Sites of Cuba (Beach Holme, 2004). 126 p.

Intensive Care: A Memoir (Anvil Press, 2002). 80 p.

Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers (Harbour, 2004; Penguin Books, 2002; Bluefield Books, 2000). 198 p.

Twigg’s Directory of 1001 BC Writers (Crown Publications, 1992). 194 p.

Strong Voices: Conversations with 50 Canadian Writers (Harbour, 1988). 291 p.

Vander Zalm, From Immigrant to Premier: A Political Biography (Harbour, 1986).

Vancouver and Its Writers (Harbour, 1986). 165 p.

Hubert Evans: The First Ninety-Three Years (Harbour, 1985).

For Openers: Conversations with 24 Canadian Writers (Harbour, 1981).


First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 1 (Peking University Press, 2013).

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 2 (Peking University Press, 2013).

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800–1850: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 3 (Peking University Press, 2013).

Alan Twigg and Leonard Cohen 


Conversations with Robertson Davies (University Press of Mississippi, 1989).

Margaret Atwood, Conversations (Firefly, 1990).

Take This Waltz: A Celebration of Leonard Cohen (The Muses Company, 1994).

Uncommon Ground: A Celebration of Matt Cohen (Knopf, 2002).

Memories of Chekhov: Accounts of the Writer from His Family, Friends and Contemporaries (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press, 2011). Edited and translated by Peter Sekirin; Introduction by Alan Twigg.

Conversations with Allen Ginsberg (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2019). Edited by David Stephen Calonne.

For more info, visit alantwigg.com

SFU News: https://www.sfu.ca/sfunews/stories/2022/03/sfu-announces-2022-honorary-degree-recipients.html

SFU Convocation website: http://www.sfu.ca/convocation/honorary-degrees.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/simonfraseruniversity/posts/10159371023680020

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SFU/status/1504155938755862536

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6909920047155073024

Alan Twigg at Rudi Vrba’s gravesite, 2021.


At Guanabo, near Havana, 2022.

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