About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

And You Think Your TBR Pile is Big!

From the Humboldt Journal

For the past few years a Saskatchewan resident, Shaunna Raycraft, has been dealing with a TBR pile of 350,000 books!

Seven years ago Shaunna and her husband heard that the widow of a recently deceased neighbour, Keith McCoy, was having difficulty coping with her husband’s book collection. When they visited her they found a 3 storey home filled with books from floor to ceiling. The widow was considering burning the books. Loving books Shaunna and her husband did not want to see them destroyed.

I spoke to Shaunna today. She said her neighbour had started building the collection by buying books conventionally. He went on to buy extensive numbers of books through library sales and the Saskatoon Symphony book sales. He would also buy collections at Saskatchewan farm and home auctions. He just kept adding to his collection.

I thought about assembling a 350,000 book collection. If he was buying over 50 years it is still 7,000 books a year or almost 20 books every day for over 13,000 days!

Included in the books are a lot of religious books, a considerable amount of fiction, many children books and tons of baseball books.

Pooling their savings at that time they offered her $823 and purchased the collection.

Where to store tonnes and tonnes of books? They ended up purchasing a house and moving it to their acreage and filling it with the books. Last year the weight of the books started collapsing the house and causing roof leaks. While they dealt with the structural problems it was time to dispose of the books.

She sought volunteers and over the summer of 2011 about 70 people helped her sort books. She was able to give away about 100,000 books to non-profit organizations such as the Northern Literacy Program of North Woods College.

Unfortunately, her marriage has failed and it is time to deal with the remaining 250,000 books. Shaunna turned down a couple of commercial offers for the books not wanting to see them sold for profit.

Shaunna has decided on a grand week long book sort this coming week. She has invited volunteers to join her during the week. She told me in addition to Saskatchewan residents there are people coming from Vancouver, Toronto and the U.S.

She will be donating as many books as she can to Saskatchewan organizations such as the Gabriel Dumont Institute, a Metis group, and Saskatchewan cadets.

Through connections with a priest thousands of books will be going to schools and monasteries in Africa.

Whatever books are not dealt with this week she will regretfully burn. She says there has been a lot of interest so she hopes there will not be many books left at the end of the week.

Shaunna urged me to come to visit her. She said there are mystery books I could take home. I said I would try to find the time to travel the 250 km to Pike Lake. I am tempted.

If you have some spare time and want to see 250,000 books being dealt with and participate in the sort you can get in your car or on the next plane to Saskatchewan. You can find out more about Shaunna’s plans this week by going to the Raycraft Book Collection Group on Facebook.

And I thought I had major TBR piles on my desk and a few neighbouring book shelves. My total TBR are barely worth mentioning next to Shaunna.

(With barely a million people in Saskatchewan there are inevitably connections. It turns out that Shaunna’s mother and my sister and my wife were friends in high school at St. Ursula’s Academy in Bruno.)


  1. Suggest that you take up the challenge for a new book adventure and drive to Lake Pike.

    It sounds like it'll be fun and you'd meet more booklovers. And who knows what titles and authors you'll find?

    This sounds like a perfect trip for a book-o-phile.

  2. Bill - Oh, I wish I could go help sort books! What a wonderful adventure that would be. I am so happy that a lot of books will find homes in Africa with people who need them. If you would like, feel free to give Shaunna my email address; there are a few other international organizations I know of that provide books to those who cannot otherwise get them. She can contact me about them if she wishes.

  3. Odd that she wont sell them.

  4. That is an amazing story. When you consider the way that the official industry sells/treats books - sale or return, pulping what is not sold, etc, it is heartwarming to know of people like this.
    I am part of Book Aid international, a charity which selects books for various third world countries (proper, useful books) and ships them out there. I send a regular donation each month. I wonder if they could help here?

    Good luck to all concerned.

  5. kathy d.: Thanks for the encouragement. I'll see how I recover from the cold I have this weekend.

  6. Margot: Thanks for the comment. It would be great if you made your way to Saskatchewan some day. I will pass on to Shaunna your email address.

  7. Maxine: Thanks for the comment. Shaunna's actions do not fit into our profit driven culture. I will let her know about Book Aid International.

  8. Bill, what a wonderful story! The fact that Shaunna is unwilling to sell the books for profit makes it all the more appealing to book lovers. I can't imagine the sheer range of books in her collection. I hope she and the volunteers make out a list of the giveaway books. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. An fyi: There is Better World Books in the U.S. which donates books to literacy programs abroad and here and to libraries.

    They donate books to several non-profit organizations, and have given millions of books out over its 10-year history.

    When one purchases books from them, books are automatically sent to a literary program to equal the number one has ordered.

    To donate more than 1,000 books, they can be emailed at acquisitions@betterworldbooks.com