FOR THE HISTORY BUFF
Canada 365: Every Day Tells a Story, by Historica Canada (Collins, 416 pages, $29.99)
Did you know the cancellation of the Avro Arrow was announced on Feb. 20? Or that on Aug. 2, Victoria was incorporated as a city? Canada 365 details the country’s most important events for every day of the year. It’s like an advent calendar for history geeks.
Franklin’s Lost Ship: The Historic Discovery of HMS Erebus, by John Geiger and Alanna Mitchell (HarperCollins, 206 pages, $39.99)
Although there are still questions surrounding the official narrative, there’s no questioning the fact that one of Canada’s enduring mysteries was solved last summer, when the wreckage of the HMS Erebus was located more than 150 years after vanishing. This chronicle of the Victoria Strait Expedition is complete with underwater images of the ship. Now to find the HMS Terror.
Canadian Pacific: The Golden Age of Travel, by Barry Lane (Goose Lane Editions, 200 pages, $45)
There’s no denying that the classiest way to travel is by train. The story of Canadian Pacific, which also built some of the country’s grandest hotels, is chronicled in this beautifully illustrated coffee-table book. All aboard!
Illustration by Maira Kalman
FOR THE DOG CATCHER
Beloved Dog, by Maira Kalman (Penguin Press, 160 pages, $38.95)
A stunningly illustrated and unexpectedly moving “compendium of, and tribute to” the canines who have shaped the artist’s life. Chock-full of good doggies!
Wet Dog, by Sophie Gamand (Grand Central, 144 pages, $26.50)
This collection of photographs of sopping-wet dogs is pretty much the last book you’ll ever have to buy.
FOR THE CAT LADY (OR GENTLEMAN)
You Are a Kitten!, by Sherwin Tija (Conundrum Press, 288 pages, $19.95)
How many of the feline’s nine lives will you need in order to reach the end of this choose-your-own-adventure prequel to You Are a Cat! and You Are a Cat in the Zombie Apocalypse!
Cat is Art Spelled Wrong, edited by Caroline Casey, Chris Fischbach and Sarah Schultz (Coffee House Press, 172 pages, $23.50)
The late David Carr is one of 14 contributors to this anthology about cat videos, which is a sentence I never thought I’d type.
Tiny Hats on Cats: Because Every Cat Deserves to Feel Fancy, by Adam Ellis (Grand Central, 256 pages, $18)
Some may doubt the necessity of a book containing just photos of cats wearing miniature hats. I doubt the necessity of such people.
FOR THE RECORD COLLECTOR
The Who: The Official History, by Ben Marshall, with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey (Harper Design, 320 pages, $62)
Do you know someone who likes the Who? Well, you should probably get them this book.
Dust and Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting, by Eilon Paz (Ten Speed Press, 440 pages, $64)
Record collecting is a contagious illness, and this drool-worthy book celebrates some of the world’s most obsessive vinyl enthusiasts. RZA wrote the intro, so you know this is legit.
Mountain City Girls: The McGarrigle Family Album, by Anna and Jane McGarrigle (Random House Canada, 352 pages, $34)
Roaming from mid-20th-century Montreal to the folk cafes of New York City to hippie-era San Francisco, this is a tender-hearted memoir from two members of one of Canada’s most beloved musical families.
FOR THE BOOZEHOUND
Contraband Cocktails: How America Drank When It Wasn’t Supposed To, by Paul Dickson (Melville House, 174 pages, $25.95)
One of the great ironies of 20th-century history is that the best cocktails were developed during Prohibition. Hell, there was probably never a better time to be a drinker! Part recipe guide, part history lesson, Dickson’s book is best read with a Manhattan.
Gone With The Gin: Cocktails With a Hollywood Twist, by Tim Federle (Running Press, 151 pages, $18.99)
Instead of drinking soda pop at your next movie night, find inspiration in this recipe book, which pairs classic films with cocktails (Harry Potter and the Gimlet of Fire; Blade Rummer). You probably won’t remember the movie the next morning, though. Cheers!
FOR THE CRIMINAL MIND
Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 50s, edited by Sarah Weinman (The Library of America, 1,512 pages, $90)
Depending on how fast you read, this handsome box set, which includes work from the likes of Patricia Highsmith, Margaret Millar and Dorothy B. Hughes, will keep you busy for most of 2016. The ultimate whodunnit.
A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie, by Kathryn Harkup (Bloomsbury, 320 pages, $32)
Harkup, a chemist, dives into the science behind the legendary crime writer’s preferred murder weapon. But if you’re reading this for inspiration, make sure to hide the evidence when you’re done.
Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (Mulholland Books, 497 pages, $34)
Private detective Cormoran Strike tries to find out who mailed a severed leg to his assistant in J.K. Rowling’s, er, I mean, Robert Galbraith’s third novel.
FOR THE CLOTHES HORSE
Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, by Alison Matthews David (Bloomsbury, 225 pages, $52)
An associate professor in the School of Fashion at Ryerson University, David looks at all the ways you can be dressed to kill – literally.
Where’s Karl? A Fashion-Forward Parody, written by Stacey Caldwell and Ajiri A. Aki, illustrated by Michelle Baron (Potter Style, 48 pages, $20.99)
Remember Where’s Waldo? This book is like that, except instead of a happy-go-lucky striped-sweater swearing master of camouflage, imagine a dour German fashion designer in a high collar holding a white cat named Choupette.
Illustration by Kate Beaton
Illustration by Kate Beaton
FOR THE NEW READER
The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin (Crown Books for Young Readers, 32 pages, $21)
You’ve read Go The F*ck to Sleep; this, an international bestseller written by a Swedish behavioural scientist who originally self-published, is a more gentle way of getting your little ones into bed.
The Ghost of Karl Marx, by Ronan de Calan, illustrated by Donatien Mary and The Death of Socrates, by Jean Paul Mongin, illustrated by Yann Le Bras (Diaphanes, 64 pages, $19.94)
These two books, part of a new series called Plato & Co., aim to introduce the work of famous philosophers to the next little Wittgenstein .
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, by Anne Michaels, illustrated by Emma Block (Tundra Books, 124 pages, $21.99)
The titular character, an expert at both baking and eating little cakes, embarks on a series of adventures with her 16 cats in Michaels’s whimsical debut for children.
Louis I: King of the Sheep, by Olivier Tallec (Enchanted Lion Books, 40 pages, $24.95)
A sheep crowns himself king in the prolific French picture-book author’s latest work. It’s a delightful read, but Tallec’s sumptuous illustrations hide a powerful message about power, community and fairness.
The Menino, by Isol (Groundwood Books, 64 pages, $19.95)
Perfect for new and expectant parents, as well as children with new siblings, The Menino, by the acclaimed Argentine author and illustrator, follows what happens when a tiny, constantly crying creature invades your life. One of my favourite books of the year.
The Nonsense Show, by Eric Carle (Philomel Books, 40 pages, $21.99)
The tireless children’s author and illustrator’s latest is an absurd offering in which mice chase cats, snakes have two heads, lions tame humans and a pair of legs run away from their rightful owner. I enjoyed this more than I should admit.
The Princess and the Pony, by Kate Beaton (Scholastic, 40 pages, $19.99)
A brave little warrior who wants nothing more than a big, strong horse is profoundly disappointed with her birthday present in Beaton’s fantastic first picture book for kids.
FOR THE DESIGN JUNKIE
Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging From Around the World, by Gail Anderson (Princeton Architectural Press, 254 pages, $54)
A survey of modern artisanal packaging, from beer bottles to wine bottles to liquor bottles. On second thought, they should have called this “Pretty Booze Labels” and been done with it.
Munari’s Books: The Definitive Collection of Book Designs by Bruno Munari, by Giorgio Maffei (Princeton Architectural Press, 285 pages, $40)
A fat catalogue of the Italian designer and artist’s greatest achievements, which should be of interest to anyone who thinks a book can be a work of art.
The White Road: Journey Into an Obsession, by Edmund de Waal (Knopf Canada, 401 pages, $34)
A beautiful meditation on porcelain – its history, its uses, its power – from the author of The Hare with Amber Eyes.
FOR THE SPORTS FAN
Leafs ‘65: The Lost Toronto Maple Leafs Photographs, by Stephen Brunt (McClelland & Stewart, 192 pages, $35)
In 1965, Lewis Parker was hired by Maclean’s magazine to cover the Toronto Maple Leafs preseason training camp in Peterborough, Ont. The story was cancelled and the photos never saw the light of day. Until now. A fascinating document of a time when the team was actually good.
Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion: The Poetry of Sportstalk, by Pasha Malla and Jeff Parker (Featherproof Books, 142 pages, $20.50)
There is nothing poetic about postgame press conferences and media scrums; athlete is not a profession one normally equates with eloquence. But Parker and Malla, a Globe Books columnist, find insight, beauty and sensitivity in the words of Don Cherry, Mike Tyson, John McEnroe and a team’s worth of professional athletes. A strange and fascinating literary experiment.
Hockey Towns: Untold Stories From the Heart of Canada, by Ron MacLean, with Kirstie McLellan Day (HarperCollins, 316 pages, $32.99)
Canada’s favourite broadcaster shares some of his favourite stories from almost 30 years covering Canada’s favourite sport. At the very least, it’ll keep you occupied while waiting for the kids’ practice to end.
FOR THE GALLERY GOER
Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art, by Julian Barnes (Random House Canada, 278 pages, $34.95)
From Manet to Cezanne to Degas, the Man Booker Prize-winning author reflects on some of the art world’s greatest talents.
Looking at Pictures, by Robert Walser, translated by Susan Bernofsky, Lydia Davis and Christopher Middleton (New Directions, 143 pages, $32.95)
The celebrated Swiss novelist’s musings on art.
Life Sketches, by Robert Bateman (Simon & Schuster Canada, 310 pages, $40)
A beautifully designed and skilfully written autobiography by the renowned Canadian painter and naturalist.
FOR THE FOODIE
A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World, by Susan Musgrave (Whitecap, 374 pages, $34.95)
Not only is Musgrave an award-winning poet, but, since 2010, she’s run Copper Beech House, a B&B in Masset, Haida Gwaii (the former Queen Charlotte Islands) off the coast of British Columbia. Not simply a cookbook, it’s a guide to one of the most magical places in Canada.
My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life, by Ruth Reichl (Appetite, 327 pages, $39.95)
In the fall of 2006, the venerable Gourmet magazine, of which Reichl was editor-in-chief, was shuttered. “And so I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened,” she writes. “I disappeared into the kitchen.” My Kitchen Year, a wonderful cookbook that doubles as a piercing memoir, chronicles the months that followed.
Illustration by J.A. Kraulis
Illustration by J.A. Kraulis
FOR THE SIGHTSEER
Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations, by Olivier le Carrer (Black Dog & Leventhal, 144 pages, $29.99)
A survey of the world’s most perilous and peculiar locales, from a crocodile-infested peninsula in Australia to a cemetery in Kansas rumoured to be a gateway to Hell. Give this to your annoying cousin and hope he never returns.
Canada: Images of the Land, by J.A. Kraulis (Firefly, 224 pages, $49.95)
A stunning collection of photographs from the talented B.C.-based photographer includes an introduction by Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor. You’ll want to cancel your trip to Cuba and explore Canada instead.
FOR THE LIT LOVER
100 Years of the Best American Short Stories, edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 723 pages, $40)
This is, simply, the best of the best. Moore and Pitlor have selected 40 short stories from the more than 2,000 published over decades of America’s yearly short-fiction anthology. The book includes work from Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Philip Roth, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, George Saunders and many, many more.
The Little Prince: Deluxe Pop-Up Book, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 64 pages, $35)
The beloved classic gets the pop-up treatment. What more do you need?
The Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer (HarperCollins, 595 pages, $24.99)
Three of our favourite novels from last year – Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance – are collected in one handsome paperback. Supremely creepy and not to be missed.
The Signal-Man, by Charles Dickens (Biblioasis, 51 pages, $8.95) and One Who Saw, by A.M. Burrage (Biblioasis, 59 pages, $8.95)
These two classics kick off the Seth-designed series of Christmas ghost stories, which the Windsor small press promises will become an annual event.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Decoded, by David Day (Doubleday Canada, 296 pages, $45)
Not simply an annotated version of the children’s classic, but a book that puts Lewis Carroll’s novel in an entirely new light.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, written by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay (Bloomsbury, 248 pages, $49.99)
Yes, odds are you already have a copy of this modern classic sitting on your bookshelf, but not one this pretty.
Badlands, written by Robert Kroetsch, photographs by George Webber (Rocky Mountain Books, 360 pages, $40)
What is maybe the best-known novel from one of Alberta’s best-known writers gets the reissue treatment in this handsome new edition, complete with stunning black-and-white photographs of the Badlands themselves.
Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897, by Liz Goldwyn (Regan Arts, 239 pages, $35.99)
Embark on a fascinating tour of late 19th-century Los Angeles in this imaginative short-story collection disguised as a little red book. Wildly original.
FOR THE WORD NERD
Bullshit: A Lexicon, by Mark Peters (Three Rivers Press, 182 pages, $21)
This collection of alternate terms for BS, from balderdash to rigmarole, is a book that celebrates the inventiveness of the English language. My personal favourite? Clamjamphrie.
From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations, by Allan Metcalf (Oxford, 209 pages, $21.95)
A history of the terms that defined each generation, from scofflaw (the Lost Generation) to grunge (Generation X) to YOLO (millennials). If you don’t know what FOMO means, this book is for you.
FOR THE FILM BUFF
How to Watch a Movie, by David Thomson (Knopf, 242 pages, $32.49)
Think all you have to do is sit back and press play? Wrong. The veteran critic and author offers a thorough guide for how to become a sophisticated cinephile. It doesn’t come with popcorn, unfortunately.
Ultimate Star Wars, by Patricia Barr, Adam Bray, Daniel Wallace and Ryder Windham (DK, 320 pages, $44)
Prepare yourself for The Force Awakens with this exhaustive history of the Star Wars universe. Want to know more about the Battle of Naboo or the Duel on Mustafar? Who doesn’t! Bonus: C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, wrote the foreword.
Bond by Design: The Art of the James Bond Films, by Meg Simmonds (DK, 320 pages, $55)
Literally everything you’ll ever want to know about Bond, James Bond, and the blockbuster franchise, from early set sketches to costume designs to storyboards. Just don’t let it fall into the hands of SPECTRE.
FOR THE SELF-HELPER
Do Big Small Things, by Bruce Poon Tip (Collins, 216 pages, $29.99)
A lavishly illustrated inspirational journal from the the founder of the travel company G Adventures.
Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks (Knopf, 45 pages, $24)
“I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work, and my friends.” A slim series of essays from the beloved neurologist and writer, mostly written in the months leading up to his death on Aug. 30 of this year. You’ll miss him even more after reading this book.
Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living, by Jason Gay (Doubleday, 209 pages, $32.49)
A “practical and ridiculous” book of advice, containing life lessons on subjects from friendship to fashion, from the Wall Street Journal sportswriter. I can’t guarantee it’ll make you a better person, but at least you’ll be entertained.
FOR THE URBAN EXPLORER
All The Libraries Toronto, by Daniel Rotsztain (Dundurn, 152 pages, $16.99)
A charming colouring book featuring all 100 branches in the Toronto Public Library’s system, not to mention a couple of bookmobiles, it also includes brief write-ups on the history of each building.
The Dakota: A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building, by Andrew Alpern (Princeton Architectural Press, 193 pages, $74)
A thoroughly researched, lavishly illustrated history of “the first truly luxury apartment house in New York,” whose residents have included Lauren Bacall, Boris Karloff and, most famously, John Lennon, who was murdered just outside the building in 1980.
Hand Drawn Halifax: Portraits of the City’s Buildings, Landmarks, Neighbourhoods and Residents, by Emma Fitzgerald (Formac, 128 pages, $24.95)
Part journal, part sketchbook, Hand Drawn Halifax is a love letter to Atlantic Canada’s largest city. “I acknowledge it is not an exact history, but rather my direct experience of people and places,” she writes. “I also hope that visitors, on opening the pages, feel that they are back in Halifax, for a moment.”
Hipster Animals: A Field Guide, by Dyna Moe (Ten Speed Press, 106 pages, $19.99)
A sometimes mean-spirited but often funny guide to the various hipsters who haunt your local coffee shops and dive bars, except in this case they’ve been illustrated as animals.
Illustration by Graham Roumieu
Illustration by Graham Roumieu
FOR THE SMARTY PANTS
Findings: An Illustrated Collection, written by Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, illustrated by Graham Roumieu (Twelve, 144 pages, $24)
Pulled from the Harper’s column of the same name and illustrated by my mortal enemy, Graham Roumieu, this book collects interesting, amazing and just plain odd scientific discoveries. For instance, after reading this book I now know that each year, in Bangladesh, 100,000 people are bitten by snakes while sleeping. I don’t know what I’ll do with that information, but there you go.
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 61 pages, $33.95)
Ever wondered how a sky boat with turning wings stays in the air? Or, you know, one of them newfangled hand computers works? Or have you ever wondered how we extract that stuff in the Earth we can burn? You know what I mean. This book will explain all.
Nein: A Manifesto, by Eric Jarosinski (Anansi, 136 pages, $19.95)
The popular Twitter account, which uses the social media platform “to plumb the existential abyss of modern life,” is like that first-year philosophy class you pretended to understand, except without the mid-term.
FOR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
The First Little Bastard to Call Me Gramps: Poems of the Late Middle Ages, written by Bill Richardson, illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff (Anansi, 114 pages, $19.95)
A winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour delivers a funny, tender-hearted, and honest collection of rhymes about the joy and sorrow of growing old.
Things I’ve Said to My Children, by Nathan Ripperger (Ten Speed Press, 96 pages, $19.99)
As a new father, I can’t wait for the day when I can tell my son “Don’t bite the lamp shade” and “This is why I told you you could not take your sandwich into the bathtub.”