Archive | December, 2010

All I Want For Christmas is Books

15 Dec

Books are my favourite Christmas presents. To receive because they’re unlikely to add to my almost-Oprah-worthy hoard of possessions – if I love the book it’ll earn a tidy spot on my Ikea Expedia. If I’m not so keen, I can give it away guilt-free, because the book still got to fulfill its Christmas destiny. To give because they’re super-easy to wrap.

And the holiday season is doubly booky for me, because it’s also the perfect time for catching up on reading, especially when 20-hour flights are involved. These are some books that have earned a spot in my holiday luggage this year:


To give to the Christmas traditionalist: The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens

There are lots of high-end editions of this holiday classic, but I really like this one by White’s Books, because it’s a bit gritty and scary looking – which is how I think Dickensian London should always be portrayed, even if “A Christmas Carol” did once star Mickey.


To give to the design snob: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

This book doesn’t just explain type, it expounds – on why Helvetica is omnipresent, why we all hate Comic Sans, and on how everyone from Presidents to Fuhrers have been affected by their choice of lettering.


To give to the dreamer/armchair traveller: Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

I’ve probably gushed over this book enough, but it’s extremely giftable – beautiful, whimsical, and somehow personal for every reader.


To give to the lover of good yarns: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

A confirmed crowd-pleaser, even for people who don’t want to be pleased at first (like me). This is a fast, satisfying, curl-up-on-the-couch kind of read. After this, your mom will actually listen to your book recommendations.


To read on the plane: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

I’ve already started this, but I’m looking forward to devoting my whole attention to it so that I can get properly scandalised by sexist pseudo-science. Only possible downfall – will the guy sitting in 21C try to talk to me about it?


And what am I hoping to take back in my suitcase? Maybe something like…


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (or, if you are not giving this to me – and WHY NOT? – To give to the book-news-junkie)

People who like to keep up on the latest thing (ahem) probably already feel a bit left behind if they haven’t read Franzen’s latest opus yet. We may’ve missed our chance to chime in with the rest of the peanut gallery back in September, but I think there’ll still be plenty of chances to casually bring this book up in conversation.


Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (OR, To give to people who like science, especially when it involves space)

Mary Roach brought us Stiff and Bonk, so it’s been established that this is a lady who knows how to make things interesting. And the intricacies of space travel are already pretty interesting.


The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (OR, To give to regressive 26-year-olds, if you wanna get technical here)

Because it’s missing from my set, and it’s pretty much the best one. It gets so cold Pa can’t play the fiddle! They don’t have enough wood, so they have to twist sticks of hay so that they burn longer!

Also, I have fond festive memories involving the Little House books: I was reading the Christmas scene from Little House in the Big Woods (Laura finally gets to replace her corncob doll Susan with a real doll, Charlotte! I’m pretty sure her eyes glisten by the light of the fireplace when she looks at it). My sister had a headache, so was lying on the couch with a cloth over her eyes. Naturally, she got bored and asked me to read aloud. (What a totally “Mary” thing for her to do, am I right?) Little by little, the other members of my family started to listen to me read. It was our very own Little House in the Big Woods moment, and it was awesome.


Happy Holidays everyone. If I get stuck in an airport in Amsterdam or Calgary or Minneapolis, I’m busting these books open and reading them myself. Will try to avoid unnecessary spine-breaking, but I can’t make any promises.

Baby, It’s Cold Inside

8 Dec

It’s freezing in London right now. People always tell me that I must be tough because I’m Canadian. I’m forced to tell them that they are completely mistaken. It’s hard to be tough when you’re fighting off a mean draught. Plus, Canada is built for cold temperatures (at this point I explain about automatic car starters). England likes to pretend that it doesn’t need luxuries like central heating, or toques.

And although I’ve certainly enjoyed seeing headlines like “Snow Doubt About It!”, the weather hasn’t done much to encourage productivity. Even the book blogging world (inside kids if there ever were any) seems to have gone into a bit of a hibernation these days (and I don’t just mean me) – everyone seems to be on vacation or taking a break from the internet or feeling bad about not “keeping up.” I’ve turned into a bit more of a watcher than a doer myself these days, and this is what I’ve been watching:

– Kimbofo at Reading Matters has been doing many curious ebook-virgins a service by recounting her Kindle experiences in extremely helpful detail, both here and here. I feel very informed, now that I’ve read these posts and also read Kindles over people’s shoulder on the tube.

– A new prize called The Green Carnation bestowed this year’s award to Paperboy by Christopher Fowler. The prize celebrates writing by gay men – at first I thought this sounded a bit restrictive, but it turned out they had more than enough to choose from – the longlist included Generation A by Douglas Coupland and the shortlist included the debut Children of the Sun by Max Schaefer, which I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for a while.

– The Guardian Books Blog interviews this year’s John Llewellyn Rhys winner, typical comments shitstorm ensues. I haven’t read Amy Sackville’s winning book, The Still Point, yet (although I want to. The Arctic!), but neither have these commenters, and they’re more than happy to moan about the fact that she is pretty, went to Oxford, and took a creative writing course. I love that as far as these people know, she could be the second coming of Tolstoy, yet they’re certain that she only received a publishing deal because of her looks. Dudes – it’s a prize for writers under 35. Some of them will be hot. And many of them will have taken creative writing courses, because that’s a thing now. Maybe the Bronte sisters would have gone to Goldsmiths too if they’d had the chance.

Too hot to win literary prizes?

– Lastly, one thing I actually have been doing is this – The Book Stops Here. I’ve been helping out with the night for a while, back when it was still called To Hell with the Lighthouse, but now it’s all official. Next Monday we’ve got Evie Wyld (another JLR prize winner, Goldsmiths grad, AND certified hottie – horrors!), Sathnam Sanghera, and Matthew Crawford. First 50 there get a copy of the new paperback edition of Matthew’s book, The Case For Working With Your Hands (Or, “Shop Class as Soul Craft” as it was published in the States). You will also get to enjoy the comedy stylings of host Emma – Amazon reviews never sounded so depressing/hilarious.