The 8 Best Books to Give As Gifts This Year
Looking for the perfect holiday gift? Here are the season’s must-reads.
The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
The Canadian-American Ozeki was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest in 2010, and her dreamy fiction is appropriately metaphysical. In her latest, Benny, a 13-year-old boy grieving his jazz-musician father, begins to hear inanimate objects speak to him, forcing him to confront the nature of reality. There are talking shoes, Christmas tree ornaments and even a chatty book. Buy the book.
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Undersong by Kathleen Winter
Dorothy Wordsworth is one of history’s secret geniuses: she wrote poems, travelogues and philosophical works but suppressed her ambitions to support William, her superstar Romantic-poet brother. This novel, set in England’s Lake District and infused with gorgeous images of honeybees and gardens, is a lyrical portrait of a brilliant but peculiar woman whom many scholars believe inspired much of her brother’s work. Buy the book.
The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
Bestselling Canadian authors Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley have teamed up under the nom de plume Maggie Knox to write this grown-up take on The Parent Trap. A pair of identical twins switch lives in the weeks leading up to Christmas: Cass takes over Charlie’s gig as the judge on a holiday baking show, and Charlie moves back to their hometown in the mountains to run the family bakery. Buy the book.
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Sufferance by Thomas King
For decades, King has written about Indigenous life with a sly touch, mingling joy and whimsy with more serious subjects, like land seizure and racism. His new hero, Jeremiah Camp, is a residential school survivor who lives a quiet life in a quiet town. What his friends and neighbours don’t know is that Camp used to be a corporate fixer—and he’s soon lured back to his old life to investigate why billionaires keep dying in freak accidents. Buy the book.
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Binge by Douglas Coupland
One of Canada’s most famous Gen Xers returns with a collection of 60 micro-stories. Each is a perfect bundle of precise observation—wry tales about drag queens, viral videos and Tinder dates, often wrapped up in just four or five pages. It’s worth buying for the cover alone, which shows a young Courteney Cox in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” video. Buy the book.
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The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill
The Hum is a real-life phenomenon first identified in the 1970s as a low-frequency pulsing noise that only some people could hear—it showed up first in New Mexico, then New Zealand, then Windsor, Ont. Tannahill’s creepy new literary thriller is about a high-school student and teacher who, after discovering they can both hear the Hum, stumble into a self-help group (or is it a cult?) that leads them further away from normalcy. Buy the book.
Praying to the West by Omar Mouallem
In his sensitive memoir and travelogue, Calgary writer Mouallem explores the experiences of Muslim-Americans and Canadians by both looking inward, at his own long-time ambivalence toward his family’s religion, and outward, by visiting more than 30 mosques across the West. Among the stops on his tour: the Midnight Sun Mosque in the Northwest Territories, and the Islamic Center of America, a $14-million edifice in Dearborn, Michigan. Buy the book.
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Mennonite Valley Girl by Carla Funk
Funk, a poet and writing instructor, grew up in an isolated Mennonite community in the Fraser Valley, where she was bound by the rules of her church but longed to wear acid-washed jeans, swoon over Kirk Cameron and dance without being branded a sinner (hello, Footloose!). This memoir is a tender chronicle of Funk’s tug of war between her family loyalty and her desire to break free from her religious lifestyle. Buy the book.
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