I’m shopping for …
The Know-it-All • The Mogul • The (Literary) Purist • The Culture Vulture • The History Buff • The Exhibitionist • The Adventurer • The Foodie • The Fashionista • The Politico • The Wellness Guru • The Design Aficionado • The Awards-watcher • The Activist Kid • The Kid Who Loves Non-fiction • The Kid Looking for a New Series • The Fairy Tale and Magic Lover • The Kid who Loves Graphic Novels • The Sports Fanatic Kid
For the Know-it-All
Benjamin Dreyer (Random House, $34)
You don’t have to be writing the Great Canadian Novel to appreciate the long-time copy chief of Random House’s pithy, witty illuminations on how to write – you just have to love language.
Randall Munroe (Riverhead Books, $37)
The bestselling cartoonist of webcomic XKCD uses his minimalist style to dispense math, computer and scientific advice for real-world problems, helping us understand the science behind the way we live.
Jim Davies (Pegasus, $38.95)
Davies, a cognitive science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, posits the science of imagination and how some of its power is linked to each individual’s personal symbols and memory.
Simon Garfield (Atria, $34)
The urge to downsize is put into context in profiles of subjects who had the impulse – whether it’s with a flea circus or miniature books that can only be read with high-powered microscopes – to show big isn’t better.
Poisoner in Chief
Stephen Kinzer (Henry Holt, $39.99)
A stark and, at times, shocking dive into the life of chemist Sidney Gottlieb and his reckless experiments to attempt mind control through drugs as the manager of the CIA’s Cold War-era MK-Ultra program.
The Nature of Life and Death
Patricia Wiltshire (Putnam, $36)
Science writing meets true crime narrative in this forensic ecologist’s work across interdisciplinary areas of botany, bacteriology, entomology, mycology, parasitology – too many -ologies to count.
For the Mogul
Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire
Susan Ronald (St. Martin’s Press, $43.50)
After reading this major biography of the legendary Vogue and Vanity publisher, you’ll wonder what he’d make of the fracturing of the print magazine industry.
Edmund Morris (Random House, $50)
It took the Pulitzer-winning author seven years to go through the five million original document pages from Edison’s laboratory (and other sources) to paint this portrait of the famously driven inventor.
Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains
Chad Oppenheim and Andrea Gollin (Tra Publishing, $101.99)
An architectural anthology of modernist captains of industry and nefarious titans – from North by Northwest’s Vandamm house, perched on Mount Rushmore, to James Bond’s many abodes, to Oscar Isaac’s ultramodern house in Ex Machina.
Francesca Cartier Brickell (Ballantine Books, $47)
A racy dive into the jewellery dynasty whose pieces adorned stars such as Grace Kelly and the Duchess of Windsor.
Tools and Weapons
Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne (Penguin, $40)
Microsoft’s president and communications director delve into questions of privacy, AI, cybercrime and other paradoxes of the digital world.
For the (Literary) Purist
Ashley Polasek (Lyons Press, $34.95)
Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be more to say about the sleuths at 221B Baker St.
John O’Connell (Gallery Books, $25)
A journalist surveys the deeper significance of David Bowie’s 100 essential books list, with gossipy biographical tidbits and analysis.
Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life
Marta McDowell (Timber Press, $36.95)
New research into Emily Dickinson’s work together with colourful botanical illustrations capture the maverick poet’s travels, extended house stays and attendance at specific horticultural exhibitions and shows how they were incorporated into her work.
Alberto Manguel (Yale University Press, $26.95)
The writer and eminent literary critic’s charming doodles and eloquent theories tackle our enduring relationship with famous fictional monsters.
Sarah Baxter (White Lion Publishing, $26.99)
The Brontë sisters’ beloved Yorkshire moors and Arundhati Roy’s colourful Kerala rendered in watercolours make for lovely way for a bibliophile to experience a novel’s settings.
The Library of the Unwritten
A.J. Hackwith (Ace, $22)
This fantasy series is a thrilling exercise in world-building. Books that aren’t finished are relegated to The Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and when the evil-doer characters escape, someone has to track them down.
For the Culture Vulture
I Like to Watch
Emily Nussbaum (Random House, $37)
A collection of new and previously published cultural essays by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker television critic about many of the medium’s hottest topics –#MeToo, prestige television and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Fleabag: The Scriptures
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Ballantine, $37)
The earnest deadpan delivery, perfect pause and stage direction of the phenomenal TV series is just as funny on the page and comes with the creator and star’s annotations and commentary.
For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves
Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran (Quirk Books, $19.99)
A most excellent illustrated, humourous essay collection of all things Keanu – his publishing company, why he photobombs weddings and is he a goth version of Audrey Hepburn?
I Lost My Girlish Laughter
Jane Allen, (Vintage, $22)
This thinly veiled takedown of David O. Selznick and the golden-age Hollywood studio system was a sensation when it first published in 1938; today’s reissue is catnip for TCM binge-watchers.
The Letters of Cole Porter
Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh (Yale University Press, $45.50)
Correspondence between the composer and his friends, peers and lovers is interspersed with commentary on how the letters offer an offbeat way to paint a complete portrait of life.
Richard Greene (Open Court, $29.50)
Because the only thing better than avoiding spoilers is talking about them! Accessible and funny with up-to-the-moment deconstruction of spoilers in movies, sports and must-see TV.
For the History Buff
A Shoppers’ Paradise
Emily Remus (Harvard University Press, $53.30)
A close examination of the department store boom in 19th century Chicago shows how conspicuous consumption emancipated women in public spaces and altered their social, legal and economic mobility.
Robert Hutton (St. Martin’s Press, $39.99)
The incredible true story of Eric Roberts, whose deep undercover work in Nazi Germany for MI5 and the British government was so secret even Winston Churchill didn’t know about it.
Delayed Rays of a Star
Amanda Lee Koe (Nan A. Talese, $36.95)
A triptych historical novel biography of Marlene Dietrich, Leni Riefenstahl and Anna May Wong inspired by Alfred Eisenstaedt’s 1928 Berlin party photograph of the trio.
Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright
Paul Hendrickson (Knopf, $42)
The infamous 1914 fire set by a deranged servant at the architect’s estate, Taliesin, killing several people, is the focus of this new work.
The Queens of Animation
Nathalia Holt (Little Brown, $37)
It’s been a long road to Frozen, Disney’s first female-directed animated feature. This looks back at five pioneering female animators who worked on classic projects and gives them their rightful due.
Rachel Monroe (Scribner, $35)
An attempt to explain popular culture’s fascination with violence through four cases and archetypes: detective, victim, selfless defender and killer.
For the Exhibitionist
Cabinets of Curiosities
Patrick Mauriès (Thames & Hudson, $58)
A compact edition of collectors and their wonder rooms throughout history.
Edward Hopper and the American Hotel
Leo G. Mazow (Yale University Press, $52)
A gorgeous examination of the great American painter’s frequent themes, subjects and settings.
(Phaidon Press, $195)
A lavish visual autobiography of the Grammy-winning artist’s life.
Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender
Sean O’Hagan (Carlton Books, $50)
Selections of the showman’s famous portraits plus new ones shared from his parents’ and Queen bandmates’ personal collections.
The Art of Looking Up
Catherine McCormack (White Lion Publishing, $60)
A look at spectacular ceilings from around the world – everything from cultural institutions to tourist spots to religious buildings.
Vincent Darré: Surreal Interiors of Paris
Vincent Darré (Rizzoli, $85)
Inside the eccentric spaces of the designer’s clients, such as Christian Louboutin, Schiaparelli and many more.
For the Adventurer
Around the World in 80 Trains
Monisha Rajesh (Bloomsbury, $37)
A quirky odyssey that circumnavigates the world through the glory of train travel.
Mike and Anne Howard (Falcon Guides, $38.95)
The couple behind the blog HoneyTrek travelled the 73,000 miles from Canada to Costa Rica to detail their 70 favourite destinations.
Frank Mastropolo (Schiffer Publishing, $29.99)
A photographic record of the secret history of ads in old neighbourhoods shows a new version of the city.
Nomad: Designing a Home for Escape and Adventure
Emma Reddington (Workman, $44.95)
Armchair dreaming from the Canadian interiors doyenne (and Pinterest queen) of the journeys made by people who choose to live stylishly off the grid and on the road.
Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth
Dan Richards (Canongate, $29.97)
The book begins and ends in Svalbard, Norway; in between, Richards travels to the planet’s remote hideaways, offering a self-deprecating and humorous take.
The Wilderness Idiot
Ted Alvarez (Falcon Guides, $24.95)
The winsome Backpacker magazine editor uses the everyman shtick to recount some of his exploits on assignment in the great (and sometimes not-so-great) outdoors.
For the Foodie
Stephen Beaumont and Christine Sismondo (Nimbus, $29.95)
This comprehensive regional guide to the country’s craft distilleries (and their star tipples) is indispensable whether you’re planning a road trip or just heading to the liquor store.
Edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (Black Balloon Publishing, $32.95)
Thirty-one writers, including Claire Messud, Alexander Chee, Edwidge Danticat, Colum McCann and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie deliver personal stories about comfort food in illustrated essays.
Notes from a Young Black Chef
Kwame Onwuachi (Knopf, $22.95)
A candid memoir about food by a former Top Chef contestant and recent winner of the James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel
Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump (Knopf, $35.95)
This work about female culinary ambition in a Bordeaux restaurant polarized critics when it was originally published in France in 2016; now, it’s finally out in English.
The Truffle Underground
Ryan Jacobs (Clarkson Potter, $22)
An excursion into the damp, dark and dirty underbelly of the international truffle business that’s equal parts eye-opening luxury exposé and gripping potboiler.
Women on Food
Edited by Charlotte Druckman (Abrams, $38)
There’s no better take on culinary culture today than this diverse compilation of essays, which features an all-star who’s who of the industry.
For the Fashionista
(Clarkson Potter, $85)
A compendium of The New York Times’s late, great long-time street photographer showcases his idiosyncratic eye, organized by favourite fashion subject, decade, theme and season.
Drag: The Complete Story
Simon Doonan (Laurence King, $57)
The complete history of drag, its many subcultures and its impact starts in ancient Egypt and ends today.
Edited by Jenny Lister (V&A, $55)
This comprehensive romp through the archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s recent retrospective of Quant makes her lasting impact on modern fashion clear.
Our Shoes, Our Selves
Bridget Moynahan and Amanda Benchley (Abrams, $37.99)
Forty women, including Christiane Amanpour, Misty Copeland, Danica Patrick and Rupi Kaur, reflect on the impact a pair of shoes has had on their life.
Sneakers x Culture: Collab
Elizabeth Semmelhack (Rizzoli Electa, $60)
With original interviews and rare sketches into the creative process, the Bata Shoe Museum curator collects the best famous and lesser-known partnerships between creatives such as Damien Hirst and Pharrell Williams and megabrands including Reebook, Adidas and Nike.
Mary Wilson (Thames & Hudson, $54)
Wilson goes behind the seams of the Supremes’ influential and elaborate stage costumes (indeed, she goes even further back to their start as the Primettes).
Worn on This Day
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell (Running Press, $35)
A visual tour that looks at when fashion intersected with history.
For the Politico
How to be a Dictator
Frank Dikotter (Bloomsbury, $38)
Tongue-in-cheek title aside, these eight 20th-century portraits of the usual suspects (Ceausescu, Mengistu, Stalin, et al.) are timely cautionary tales.
The Economists’ Hour
Binyamin Appelbaum (Little, Brown, $38)
A perspective on the conservative policies of recent U.S. political history.
The Problem with Everything
Meghan Daum (Gallery Books, $36)
Followers of the news cycle will revel in these of-the-moment essays on cancel culture, contemporary commodity feminism and the problem with wokeness.
John Lanchester (WW Norton, $34.95)
An island nation is ravaged by the Change and people are divided by a wall. There are Defenders who have to ensure that the Others do not come through. This dystopian fable echoes our current political situation.
Rob Hart (Crown, $36)
A thriller/literary blockbuster that focuses on what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business.
Thick & Other Essays
Tressie McMillan Cottom (The New Press, $37.50)
Sociologist Cottom co-anchors the Hear to Slay podcast with Roxane Gay and makes the personal political in essays that are by turns truthful, sharp and devastating.
For the Wellness Guru
A Craftsman’s Legacy
Eric Gorges (Algonquin, $37.95)
This tour into how artisans create will encourage you to put down the smartphone and head over to the hardware store.
Laura Weir (HarperDesign, $24.99)
The slacker’s guide to cocooning is simpler than hygge and lagom and starts with a cuppa.
The Art of Flaneuring
Erika Owen (Tiller Press, $25.99)
The old adage – idle hands are a devil’s plaything – is in dispute in this look at the benefits of lounging around.
The Boho Manifesto
Julia Chaplin (Artisan Books, $44.95)
An examination of the millennial generation that’s equal parts hilarious and earnest exhortation. The Karen Generation will devour it faster than you can say, “okay, boomer.”
Natalie MacNeil (Chronicle, $28.95)
Renewal, relaxation, connection or gratitude: through a history of the different spiritual rituals, this books offers a simple practice for every self-care goal.
The Serenity Passport
Megan Hayes (White Lion, $25.99)
Haven’t figured out which calming practice is right for you? This tour of meditation, mindfulness and self-care cures from different cultures helps narrow it down.
The Wisdom of Nature
Dixe Wills (Quadrille, $28.99)
Dozens of inspiring and unlikely underdog stories plucked from the natural world.
For the Design Aficionado
A Colorful Life: Gere Kavanaugh, Designer
Louise Sandhaus and Kat Catmur (Princeton Architectural Press, $58)
The first monograph on the California designer known for her exuberant stamp and bold colour is a joyful object, conveying her joie de vivre for everything from textiles to shopping malls.
Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts (Penguin Books, $40)
A wide array of posters and flight cartography over a century of both advertising and passenger communication.
An Underground Guide to Sewers
Stephen Halliday (MIT Press, $45.50)
A fascinating tour of urban sanitation engineering and infrastructure that includes archival plans of subterranean design from ancient civilizations to the modern age.
Arcade Game Typography
Toshi Omigari (Thames & Hudson, $45.95)
Thanks to nostalgia (and Stranger Things) retro gaming is popular – hence the decision to track down pixel fonts and character sets from bygone video games such as Super Sprint, Shinobi and Marble Madness.
Gideon Schwartz (Phaidon, $99.95)
A lavish photographic history to stun audiophiles who love the look, feel and sound of analog equipment.
Edited by Eugenia Bell (Moleskin Books, $34.95)
Through jottings, sketches, doodles and notes, this scrapbook-style facsimile captures the playful side of Rand, a pioneer in design thinking around corporate branding, logo and art direction.
Cliff Kuang (MCD, $38)
The rules and design paradigms that have influenced and reshaped modern life.
For the Awards-watcher
Cathal Kelly (Anchor Canada, $21)
This bittersweet coming-of-age memoir by Globe and Mail writer Cathal Kelly won the coveted Stephen Leacock award for humour this year.
The Calculating Stars
Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books, $24.99)
This debut novelist joins Michael Chabon and William Gibson as one of the few to win both the Nebula and Hugo awards. A lively alternate history that follows the exploits of a female scientist-turned-astronaut after a catastrophic 1952 meteor impact, this book also won the Locus Award.
Susan Choi (Henry Holt, $39.99)
The Pulitzer-nominated author’s coming-of-age story in 1980s suburban America won the fiction prize for this year’s National Book Award.
The Yellow House
Sarah M. Broome (Grove Press, $38.95)
This memoir, which recounts what happens to a large New Orleans family post-Katrina, won the non-fiction award at the National Book Award.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
Olga Tokarczuk (Penguin Random House, $36)
The Polish writer’s 2009 thriller/fairy tale finally became available in English on the eve of her Nobel Prize for Literature win.
For the Activist Kid
Our House is On Fire
Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane, $23.99, 3-8)
Valentina Camerini (Aladdin, $23.99, 8-12)
Winter’s exquisite picture book and Camerini’s middle-grade biography present ways to talk about climate change, activism and science and the remarkable story of this remarkable teenager.
Greta and the Giants
Zoe Tucker, illustrated by Zoe Persico (Frances Lincoln, $23.99, 4-7)
Takes a more imaginative approach combining’s Thunberg’s activism with a little bit of magic.
We Are All Greta
Valentina Giannella and illustrated by Manuela Marazzi (Laurence King, $18.99, 13+)
Offers ways in which young people can become involved in climate action as well as providing lots of information about climate change.
For the Kid Who Loves Non-fiction
Follow That Bee!
Scot Ritchie (Kids Can Press, $16.99, 4-7)
A fabulous introduction to just how important honeybees are in our lives.
The Girl Who Rode a Shark and Other Stories of Daring Women
Ailsa Ross, illustrated by Amy Blackwell (Pajama Press, $26.00, 8-12)
Fantastic portraits of female scientists, activists, artists and athletes who have changed the world.
When We Became Humans
Michael Bright, illustrated by Hannah Bailey (Words & Pictures/Hachette, $25.95, 7-11)
A wonderful choice for young readers wanting to understand how humans have evolved over time.
Why Don’t Cars Run on Apple Juice?
Kira Vermond, illustrated by Suharu Ogawa (Annick, $19.95, 7-11).
Filled with fun and fascinating answers to a whole slew of highly entertaining questions.
Jessica Scott Kerrin (Groundwood, $16.95, 8-12)
Although fiction, this is a powerful historical middle-grade novel set during the U.S./Soviet space race in the 60s featuring a budding young astronomer who will capture the imagination of readers fascinated by history and science.
For the Kid Looking for a New Series
The Adventurer’s Guide to Treasure (And How to Steal It)
Wade Albert White (Little, Brown, $23.49, 8-12)
The third book in this clever, funny and action-packed series is filled with tales of daring and determination.
The Brilliant Dark
S.M. Beiko (ECW, $22.95, 13+)
The third book in The Realms of Ancient series features epic world-building, rich mythology and high-stakes adventure in this urban YA fantasy set in Winnipeg.
The Case of Windy Lake
Michael Hutchinson (Second Story Press, $10.95, 8-12)
A delightfully suspenseful mystery with four engaging Indigenous sleuths who need to find a missing archeologist.
The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter
Diane Magras (Dial, $22.99, 9-12)
This sequel to her wonderfully engaging first book offers swashbuckling historical adventure at its best.
The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue
Karina Yan Glaser (Houghton Mifflin, $23.99, 7-10)
This is the third volume about a winning, mixed-race family that lives in a N.Y. brownstone. It’s classic middle-grade – scrapes, hijinks, eccentric neighbours, too many pets, kids with lots of freedom and lots of autonomy.
For the Fairy Tale and Magic Lover
The Dragon Thief
Zetta Elliott (Random House, $22.99, 8-12)
This sequel to her Silver Birch nominee, Dragons in a Bag, beautifully combines the search for a missing baby dragon with a wonderfully diverse urban setting for compelling reading.
Benny Lindelauf (Enchanted Lion, $25.50, 9+), translated from Dutch
A reality-grounded book with a magic element takes place in 1938 on the border of Holland and Germany. An energetic large-family story but with a dark edge.
The Moose of Ewenki
Gerelchimeg Blackcrane, illustrated by Jiu Er (Greystone Books, $26.95, 5-9)
A fascinating story of an unexpected friendship between a hunter and a moose calf, which combines a fascinating portrait of the Indigenous Ewenki peoples of Mongolia with a little bit of magic.
Sara Cassidy (Orca Books, $10.95, 9-12)
Although it takes place just after the French Revolution, this isn’t a typical historical novel as it beautifully explores some very contemporary themes. It also adds an unexpected touch of magic that will delight young readers.
Pages & Co: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales
Anna James (HarperCollins, $21.99, 9-12)
Tilly has grown up surrounded by books, living with her grandparents in their wonderful little bookshop. But she’s also able to physically enter into the stories, and in this second book in the series she’s off to the land of fairytales where everything is in chaos.
A Tale of Magic
Chris Colfer (Little, Brown, $23.99, 8-12)
This new book is set in Colfer’s Land of Stories universe and offers both new and old characters, which is perfect for the many fans of the original series.
Wolverine and Little Thunder
Alan Syliboy (Nimbus Publishing, $22.95, 4-8)
A creation story but, even more importantly, a story of a wonderful friendship between Little Thunder and his trickster friend, Wolverine. The luminous illustrations that draw upon the Mi’kmaw petroglyph tradition will enchant young readers.
For the Kid who Loves Graphic Novels
The Monster Sisters: The Mystery of the Unlocked Cave
Gareth Gaudin (Orca Books, $19.95, 9-12)
A great start to a new graphic series about two super-sisters who have to battle the monsters that suddenly invade quiet Victoria.
Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler (Groundwood, $21.95, 10-14)
A poetic, quietly powerful and profoundly beautiful graphic novel that is both a magnificent evocation of middle-school and a stunning tribute to the role of music in our lives.
This Place: 150 Years Retold
(HighWater Press, $36, 15+)
A powerful mix of storytelling and illustrations rethink and retell the story of Canada through the stories of Indigenous people.
This Was Our Pact
Ryan Andrews (First Second, $19.50, 10-14)
A magical tale of friendship found in a place that one would least expect to find it.
R.J. Palacio (Random House, $31.99, 9-12)
A story that comes out of Palacio’s phenomenal middle-grade novel, Wonder. It’s an unforgettable depiction of how one young woman survives the horrors of the Second World War.
For the Sports Fanatic Kid
Meet Tom Longboat
Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Mike Deas (Scholastic, $16.99, 6-10)
A fantastic way to introduce one of Canada’s truly great sports heroes to young readers. This amazing Indigenous athlete broke both world records and stereotypes and MacLeod and Deas bring history to life in this engaging biography.
No Girls Allowed
Natalie Corbett Sampson (Nimbus, $12.95, 8-12)
A compelling novel based on the true story of 10-year-old Tina Forbes, who in 1977, fought for her right to play on an all-boys hockey team, taking her battle to the Human Rights Commission and winning
Sid the Kid and the Dryer
Lesley Choyce, illustrated by Brenda Jones (Nimbus, $12.95, 4-8)
An imaginative story inspired by the dented dryer that Sidney Crosby fans can see at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame – dented by all the practice shots that Crosby took when he was just a hockey-loving kid growing up in Cole Harbour. It’s a story of determination, hard work and a love of hockey that will delight the fans of one of Canada’s greatest players.
Expert panel for kids’ books: Bookstores Lexicon Books, Woozles and Kidsbooks; writers Sharon Jennings, Sheree Fitch and Sarah Ellis
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