Books Gift Guide 2022: Fiction, Fantasy, Seasonal Gems

There’s a reason why books are one of the most popular gifts: there really is something for everyone; they fit any budget; and they offer salvation and pleasure. To make life easier for our readers, with so much to choose from, every year we pick books that make great gifts. Look for fiction and non-fiction books and holiday prices this week; next week we have ideas for young readers, as well as updates and revelations.

Great read, boxed set and pairing

“Grey Bees” (New Vessel Press, $23.50) by Andrey Kurkov, one of Ukraine’s best-known writers, is about a beekeeper caught in the middle of a conflict. Pair it with this “Volodymyr Zelensky in his speech” (Pegasus, $37), a collection of quotes from the President of Ukraine on a myriad of topics, edited and researched by Lisa Rogak and Daisy Gibbons and/or “Report from Ukraine: reports, 2019-2022” (Crown, $22), authorized by Zelensky himself, with a new introduction. Proceeds will go to United24, Zelensky’s initiative to coordinate charity work for his country.

“The Passenger” and “Stella Maris”, Cormac McCarthy (Knopf Doubleday, $41 and $36, box set $77): These companion books from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author are both standalones. The Passenger is a grand novel, the story of a rescue diver who makes a terrifying discovery; “Stella Maris” is told entirely through the dialogue of a woman in a mental institution. Buy them individually or in a convenient box set.

“Nomenclature”, Dion Brand (McClelland & Stewart, $45): Over 600 pages, this book collects eight volumes of the beloved Canadian poet’s work and a new long poem, “Nomenclature for Time.” It will be a record of almost four decades of his career and will be a treasure for his fans.

Laureates of indie publishers

“Sleeping Car Porter” by Suzette Mayr (Coach House, $23.95): Winner of the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize, this novel follows Baxter, a black wagonloader who sleeps on a cross-country train in 1929, and what he must endure to make enough money. Pursue a dream: go to dental school.

“Some Hell,” Nicholas Herring (Goose Lane, $24.95): Winner of the Atwood Gibson Writers’ Credible Fiction Award, this PEI debut novel is about a middle-aged Atlantic lobster fisherman with an existential crisis, of whom the award jury said, “What Cormac McCarthy did for cowboys and horses, Nicholas Herring does the same for fishermen and boats.”

“Finding Edward” by Sheila Murray (The Cormorant, $24.95): A finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, Murray’s debut novel follows Cyril, who moves from the Caribbean to Canada in 2012 and becomes involved in the search for the story of a mixed-race baby, uncovering its secrets. The country’s Black history is on the way.

“Local Toronto: The Stories That Take This Place” (Coach House, $24.95): Winner of the Speaker’s Book Award and the Toronto Heritage Book Award, this book wowed the judges (full disclosure: I was on that panel) with stories of a city we thought we knew. It makes you want to explore and understand Toronto’s rich and deep history, all the people and stories we don’t know about.

“Getting Lost” by Annie Erno (Seven Stories Press, $24.95): French author Herna has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her courage and clinical acuity in uncovering the roots, exclusions, and collective limitations of individual memory.” “Getting Lost” is a diary of her secret affair with a young, married man, a story she fictionalized in “A Simple Lust.”

“The story junta”, Tolu Oloruntoba (Palimpsest Press, $19.95): Winner of the 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize and the 2021 Governor General’s Prize, Oloruntoba’s debut poetry finds beauty in chaos and poems, said the Griffin jury, “a reconciliation with chance and fate. They breathe.”

Books for cultural workers

“The Philosophy of Modern Song”, Bob Dylan (Simon & Schuster, $55): In his latest book, Nobel laureate and famously eccentric Dylan turns the singer’s eye to 66 songs by other writers, from Perry Como to The Clash, from “The Whiffenpoof Song” to Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.” .” The audiobook features readers from Dylan and Jeff Bridges, Helen Mirren, Oscar Isaac, Alfre Woodard, and more.

“Movie Speculation” by Quentin Tarantino (HarperCollins, $43.50): Tarantino loved movies long before he was considered one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. “Film Speculation” is Tarantino’s cinematic study focusing on key American films from the Golden Age of the 1970s, including Salvation, Dirty Harry and Taxi Driver.

“Portable Magic: A History of Books and Their Readers,” by Emma Smith (Knopf Doubleday, $37.99): Oxford professor (and Shakespeare expert) Smith introduces readers to the history of the book—reading not just the content, but the various forms it takes to create a unique experience (a cheese slice book!). There is no better way to “literacy” and there is no substitute for the pleasure of having a book in hand.

“The Book of Days,” by Patti Smith (Knopf Canada, $37): Rock iconoclast and poet Smith has been documenting his life in photos since 1996, with more than a million followers on Instagram waiting for his every update. The Book of Days explores the devotional aspect of medieval form with a picture of each day, designed to engage, interest and intrigue.

“Penguin Classics Marvel Collection” (Penguin, $66): The canonical doors of the Penguin Classic library have been opened, containing three major volumes of Marvel Comics. The books—Captain America, Black Panther, and Spider-Man—not only tell their origin stories, but also detail the emergence of a powerful cultural force. You can get them individually or in a set. For the comic geek of all ages.

Life: Personal Stories to Inspire and Enlighten

“Grown Men Are Afraid of Me” by Mark Burry (Biblioasis, $24.95): Journalist Burry chronicles the life of George McCullagh, creator of the Globe and Mail and one of the most powerful men in Canadian history, a story that has been largely obscured. An entertaining and tragic account.

“Above the Fold” by John Honderich (McClelland & Stewart, $35): Completed just weeks before the author’s death, Above the Fold is the inside story of the Toronto Star’s history. Star Honderich’s long-time publisher leaves the paper, and this fascinating account, a compelling legacy on both counts.

“Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands,” by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly, $39.95): “Ducks” is a graphic memoir about cartoonist Beaton’s two years working in the Alberta oil sands to pay off his student loans. Despite the noisy, risky work and caustic colleagues, “Ducks” is a beauty from adversity.

“Tancre,” Stephanie Johnson with Brandon Stanton (St. Martin’s, $32.99): Originally an online sensation in Stanton’s People of New York, the story of Tanqueray continues in book form, starring Stephanie Johnson, onetime New York burlesque queen. If you haven’t met Tanqueray, here’s your chance: she’s a force of nature, no holds barred, nothing. And if you’re familiar with the story, the book goes deeper than that. This is a treasure.

“Joan Didion: What She Means,” edited by Hilton Als and Connie Butler (DelMonico Books/Hammer Museum, $52.95): A unique way of looking at an icon and our relationship to her, Joan Didion: What She Means brings together works of art and critical responses to the literary superstar. Neither biography nor hagiography, this is an examination of the artist and the impact their work had on other artists.

Stocking Stuffers: Little Books That Make Big Statements

“The Little Book of Exemplary Deaths” by Matt Sturrock (Sutherland House, $16.95) is one of those small volumes of quirky information that’s incredibly quirky and perfect for gift giving. It is a collection of people from ancient Greece to the present day whose death has shown “its extraordinary power at the time of destruction.” Some might call them heroes. With extensive notes and a lengthy bibliography, it also offers a reading list that spans the ages.

“Ghosts of Christmas” ($9.50 each bibliography, $25 for three-pack): This series began in 2015 when internationally renowned Guelph cartoonist Seth dug deep into his ghost story archives to resurrect the tradition of reading Victorian stories on Christmas Eve. This year’s trio includes The Visit by Shirley Jackson, The Corner Shop by Lady Asquith and The Dead and the Countess by Gertrude Atherton.

“All I Want for Christmas” by Maggie Knox (Viking, $19.95): For the second year in a row, Canadian writers Marissa Stapley and Karma Brown team up under the pen name Maggie Knox to create a holiday romance. Add this to last year’s Holiday Swap.

“Shopomania” by Paul Burton (Douglas & McIntyre, $36.95): This is a regular-sized book, so for a rather large stocking — but that may be the case in a season of rampant consumerism. The editor-in-chief of the Hamilton Spectator has developed a new lexicon for shopaholics by mockingly exploring the various reasons we shop, with words such as Shopreneur and Shoptopia.

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings” by John Lorink (Couch House, $23.95): For foodies, armchair anthropologists, and armchair foodies, a delicious little book filled with essays about the various pockets of deliciousness that feature in nearly every country around the world.

Next week: Books for the kids of all ages in your life, plus diversions and armchair discoveries Deborah Dundas is editor of Star’s Books. It is located in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @debdundas


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