Books these days, like TV miniseries and major sporting events, come with their own parallel narratives, human interest stories designed to get the consumer's attention. Stephen Hawking's medical condition helped turn his difficult philosophical treatise into a runaway bestseller. Vancouver: A Visual History (Talon Books) makes a more modest claim for its author, who, we are told, is a former ditch-digger with no formal training in history or geography. This is charming, of course, and so, it turns out, is the book. Former labourer Bruce MacDonald presents the history of a city decade by decade through an evolving succession of maps, and a delightful text crammed with Vancouver arcana—days of fog, for instance, are down from 104 in 1943 to only 15 in 1991 (something to do with sawmills). If you're looking for just one book about Vancouver, this is it.