Books to Buy or Ask For This Christmas
This post is a little late, considering there’s only two weeks now till Christmas, but it’s not so time-consuming to pick out a book or four (and what’s easier to wrap than books?), and you should still be able to order online in time for Christmas at some places (many publishers, like Anansi, are selling directly, and offering nice discounts!)…or ask for these fantastic books on your wish list. Alternatively, you can ask for a gift certificate to spend at your local bookstore (preferably independent! My sister did this last year. She lives in Barrie but she called the store where I work and ordered a gift certificate for me, which they sent her in the mail, totally without my knowledge. I had had no inkling whatsoever. Awesome. Guess how long it took me to spend it)!
- For the baseball lover (but also anyone who just wants a great novel) : The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. This book has been getting so much buzz it’s hard to ignore. I haven’t seen a negative review for the novel yet, and since I love baseball stories, this one is on my tbr pile. Kaitlin Smith at Hachette Book Group says it’s her favourite this year, and that—bonus!—Chad is one of the nicest authors she’s ever met.
- A Christmassy gift: Letters from Father Christmas, by J.R.R. Tolkien: not the book, the CD! I saw @HarperCollinsCA advertising this on their own gift suggestions post. I have the book and it’s gorgeous, so I suggest that, too, but this is a succession of lovely letters Tolkien wrote to his kids, posing as Father Christmas, accompanied by Christmas music and carols. I want this myself! Too bad it’s not Tolkien reading.
- For the lover of children’s illustrations: Brian Selznick’s Invention of Hugo Cabret or Wonderstruck. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg is another stunner. And The Man in the Moon, by William Joyce is breathtaking. These are all books I either have or want on my shelves. I often sell ones I want most, and I put The Man in the Moon in a woman’s hands only Thursday. And if you do a search on Amazon for Robert Ingpen, you should find some of the most beautifully illustrated books on my shelves. I have A Christmas Carol, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden, Treasure Island, Peter Pan and Wendy, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, and The Jungle Book, all illustrated by him. In 2012, Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days will be published, illustrated by Ingpen. Gorgeous hardcover editions, with a silk bookmark, they’re published by Sterling or Blue Heron. I also have Inpen’s biographies of Shakespeare and Dickens and recommend those too. If you just do a Robert Ingpen search, you’ll find other children’s books he’s illustrated as well. I can’t praise his illustrations highly enough. They are breathtaking, to say the least.
- For the music lover (but also anyone who feels like something historical, original, with strong character focus, or award-winning): Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Ha! Everyone knows by now how much I value this novel. Yesterday I began rereading it, afraid that by now while handselling it at the store like crazy I was beginning to romanticize and inflate it. But no: it’s exactly as I say. Esi has a way with words that will make you jealous, if you’re so inclined. And she’ll transport you so far away you’ll need to repatriate yourself when you finish. I love reading this book to songs on YouTube by Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and well…wherever they all take me. Esi herself made a playlist of music she listened to for inspiration.
- For the guy or gal who thinks CanLit is boring, depressing, dark, and about nothing but landscape and broken relationships, blahdeblahblah: Trevor Cole’s Practical Jean, a comedy noir; Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, which magically blends genre fiction with literary fiction (hooray!!); Jessica Grant’s quirky Come, Thou Tortoise; Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz; any of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe collections; John Lavery’s Sandra Beck; Robin Spano’s Clare Vengel Undercover series; Miriam Toew’s The Flying Troutmans…and so many more.
- For the genre fiction lover: Robin’s books fit here, too. Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mystery series, if you like ‘em light but literary; Stuart MacBride‘s mysteries, if you like them dark and chilling and nightmarish, or Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie PI series, if you like character study and UK setting. For sci-fi and fantasy lovers, try Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle (I’m reading the fourth and final tome aloud to my husband every night); Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry (an oldie but goodie); Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy (another classic); Orson Scott Card’s Ender series; Robert Sawyer’s Wake series; and especially for RPG players: the Forgotten Realms series.
- For the thinker on your list: this is a mega-gift, and I’ve got it displayed in the window at the shop because it’s so lovely: Malcolm Gladwell: Collected, a deluxe box set of three clothbound illustrated bestsellers by Canadian essayist Malcolm Gladwell (well, New York claims him now!). Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers are all fascinating books on a large range of topics that have generated much thought-provoking discussion. I find him easy to read, by the way, and I’m not a great reader of non-fiction.
- For the dystopian lover: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is an interesting retelling of Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter; The Unit by Niini Holmqvist is a little reminiscent of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; Scored by Lauren McLaughlin isn’t one I’ve seen much press about but Scott Westerfeld highly recommends it. What if all our actions and confessions, who we hung out with, etc., were recorded on camera and graded, thereby affecting our future? Themes are friendship, loyalty, family, human connection and value, and romance.
- For short story fans: The Reverse Cowgirl by David Whitton; The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell; And Also Sharks by Jessica Westhead; The Divinity Gene by Matthew Trafford; This Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky (Jessica, Matthew, and Sarah are the fab three founders of YOSS 2011); The Odious Child by Carolyn Black; Bird Eat Bird by Katrina Best; This Ramshackle Tabernacle by Sam Martin; Up Up Up by Julie Booker; Making Light of Tragedy by Jessica Grant; The Collected Stories by Carol Shields; The Grant Book of the Irish Short Story; Midsummer in the Workhouse by Diana Athill; The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis; The Journey Prize Anthology 23 (although any of these will be great)…hmmm. I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Wait, one more: Katrina Best said she could not put down Jennifer Egan’s Emerald City. All we had at the shop was A Visit from the Goon Squad, which is kind of a novel in short stories, so maybe that could fit here too.
- Graphic novel fans will find their jaws dropping over Habibi by Craig Thompson, and Big Questions by Anders Nilsen. Or, if Maus is a favourite, try MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus.
- For those who enjoy poetry (this is hard, since poetry is very personal): Beyond Remembering by Al Purdy; Dani Couture’s Sweet; Damian Roger’s Paper Radio; and The Deleted World by Tomas Tranströmer, this year’s Nobel Prize winner.
- For historical fiction fiends: Far to Go by Alison Pick; The Carnivore by Mark Sinnett; The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay; The Paris Wife by Paula McLean; The Reinvention of Love by Helen Humphries; Under Ground by Antanas Sileika; the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, by 1928 Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset; and City of Thieves by David Benioff.
- Non-fiction fans: One Bird’s Choice by Iain Reid; Winter by Adam Gopnik; Adventures in Solitude by Grant Lawrence; Canadian Pie or Beyond Belfast by Will Ferguson; Belonging by Isabel Huggan (one of my favourite non-fiction books); Film Club by David Gilmour; A Writer’s Life: The Margaret Laurence Lectures; the very gorgeous Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman; and Stories About Storytellers by renowned former publisher and editor Doug Gibson.