Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Open Book Recommends: The Holiday Reading Guide 2012

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Holiday Reading Guide

The holidays will soon be here. Check out Open Book's third annual Holiday Reading Guide for a list of engaging books that are perfect for gift giving or for curling up with in the winter days to come.


My Double Life: Sexty Yeers of Farquharson Around with Don Harn (Dundurn) by Don Harron

My Double Life is Don Harron's insightful, unique story of 77 years in the entertainment business. He's played serious stage roles on Broadway, hammed it up as his alter ego Charlie Farquharson (or Charlie's rich city cousin Valerie Rosedale!), won an ACTRA Award for best radio host, done 10 years of Shakespeare, won a Gemini Award for lifetime achievement, wrote lyrics for five musicals, appeared on Hee Haw and more!

Read Open Book's On Writing interview with Don Harron.

Learn to Speak Fashion: A Guide to Creating, Showcasing, and Promoting Your Style (Owlkids) by Laura deCarufel and illustrated by Jeff Kulak

If you have a budding designer, stylist, photographer or model on your list, this just might be the perfect gift. Fashion is all around us, and it's easy to get overwhelmed by a world that at times seems obsessed with appearances. But fashion can also be fun, impulsive, silly, inexpensive, a creative outlet and a rewarding avenue of self-expression. Learn to Speak Fashion starts with the basics and delves into the art, offering a variety of lessons from how to dress your body to how to harness your own ideas and turn them into something real — whether that's a pair of pants, an inspiration board or a backyard fashion show. Brimming with anecdotes, revelations and clear, conversational language, this book will speak both to the beginner and the passionate devotee of fashion.


Monkey Ranch (Brick Books) by Julie Bruck

What is sufficient? What will suffice? This is what Monkey Ranch and its cast of characters — including a mandrill, a middle-aged woman and even a spoon — grapple with. At times, the companionable tone, accessible imagery and stories of family and familiar experiences from childhood or in nature might deceive you into floating on the surface of the poems, when rich political and personal insights lurk just beneath. Monkey Ranch was awarded the 2012 Governor General's Award for Poetry.

Read Sarah Tsiang's blog post about Julie Bruck.

My Life Among the Apes (Cormorant Books) by Cary Fagan

This collection of ten short stories covers a broad range of human experiences with humour and grace, featuring characters that are by turns funny and serious, peculiar and absorbing — including a woman who leaves her husband, a retired judge, because of his passion for performing as a magician, and a bank manager who, in a tough spot, draws on his childhood obsession with Jane Goodall for much-needed inspiration.

Read Cormorant Books' interview with Cary Fagan.

Dark Days at Saddle Creek (Dancing Cat Books) by Shelley Peterson

Bird can communicate telepathically — with animals, at least. But when she receives a transmission from a farmhand at a horse show, she realizes that she is not alone. And she has so many questions! In this sixth book in the bestselling Saddle Creek series, Bird learns more about her unique ability and the identity of her birth father, all while foiling horse thieves and swindlers (with the help of her favourite horse, Sundancer, of course).

Read Open Book's interview with Shelley Peterson.


Lumpito and the Painter from Spain (Pajama Press) by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Dean Griffiths

Lump is a dachshund who lives with his master, David, in Italy, where life is pretty great — except for the fact that he can't get away from Big Dog, who hounds him constantly. Lump is thrilled when David finds work in the south of France photographing a famous painter and offers to bring Lump along for the adventure! When they arrive, they are greeted by Pablo Picasso himself, and the painter and the dog, whom he lovingly nicknames Lumpito, become fast friends. Convinced they are soulmates, Lump is torn. He loves David, but does not want to leave. Can he show them both that he feels at home at last?

Inspired by the true story of Picasso's friendship with a dachshund named Lump who visited, refused to leave and found himself the subject of several drawings and paintings, this book and its bright, bold watercolour illustrations is sure to delight.

Read Open Book's Dirty Dozen, with Monica Kulling.

My Beastly Book of Tangled Tinsel: 140 Ways to Doodle, Scribble, Color and Draw (Owlkids) illustrated by Christine Roussey

This zany Christmas-themed book features over 140 festive scenarios and activities to spark the creativity and imagination of budding young artists while providing hours of entertainment. Design a new suit for Santa, decorate gift tags, imagine a sleigh drawn by hippos or devise the worst gift ever! Draw, color, cut out, elaborate and more while building confidence and nurturing artistic skills.

A Calendar of Days (Porcupine's Quill) by The Wood Engravers' Network

The antique laid and coil bound A Calendar of Days features 15 reproductions of prints of wood engravings. Each image has been proofed letterpress in the traditional manner before being digitized and printed offset on acid-free Zephyr. Contributors include Wesley W. Bates, Gerard Brender à Brandis, Tony Drehfal, Colleen Dwire, Leslie Evans, Judith Jaidinger, Rosemary Kilbourn, John McWilliams, Gale Mueller, Sylvia Pixley, Michelle Post, Keri Safranski, Richard Wagener, Jim Westergard and Richard Woodman.


Exit Papers from Paradise (Dundurn) by Liam Card

Isaac Sullivan dreamed of attending the University of Michigan and becoming a surgeon. Even after he was forced to take over his father's plumbing business right out of high school, he didn't give up. He has devoted most of his spare moments over the last decade to devouring every medical textbook and journal he could get his hands on. He even performs surgeries on local wildlife for practice, preparing for a day that, at 35, is starting to look like it will never come — that is, until an unexpected event pushes him to finally apply to Michigan. This riveting debut novel from Liam Card explores what happens when life doesn't meet our expectations; it's “about the gap between the person we are and the person we desperately want to be.”

Read Open Book's Proust Questionnaire, with Liam Card.

The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People Are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic and Exploitive — And Why It Matters for Everyone (Wilfrid Laurier University Press) by Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton

The “H” factor, or “Honesty-Humility” factor is said to be one of six basic dimensions of human personality — and one only recently recognized. High levels contribute to sincerity and modesty while those with low levels are deceitful and pretentious. In this book, the discoverers of the H factor explore how this personality dimension affects various aspects of our lives, from our approach to money, power and sex to our criminal inclinations (or lack thereof), attitudes about religion, society and politics, and our choice of friends and spouses. It also provides a guide to help the reader identify people low in H factor and advice about raising one's own level.

Everything, now (Brick Books) by Jessica Moore

This debut book of poetry by Jessica Moore, which describes the untimely and sudden death of Moore's lover, is both lyric and memoir. According to Jane Urquhart, it “confronts the brutality of loss,” putting the inexplicable into words. It breathes life into memory and blurs the boundary between love and grief, facing loss head-on and working to transform it through language.

Read Kate Cayley's interview with Jessica Moore.

The Western Light (Cormorant Books) by Susan Swan

As the prequel to the international bestselling novel, The Wives of Bath, Swan once again takes us into the world of Mary "Mouse" Bradford — a world constrained by many factors, including a dead mother, emotionally distant but widely admired father, a prejudiced housekeeper and too much distance between her and “the only life-affirming presences in her life” — her grandmother and aunt, Big Louie and Little Louie. When former NHL star John Pilkie is transferred to a nearby mental hospital to serve a life-sentence for murdering his wife and daughter, Mouse becomes fascinated with him and she reaches out. She begins to look to him for the attention that is so scarce in her life and the kindness that he returns to her is at first misunderstood. When Mary realizes the Hockey Killer's true intentions, her whole world begins to crumble.

Read Open Book's interview with Susan Swan.


Grey Cup Century (Dundurn) by Michael Januska

Canadian football has a long and rich history dating back to the 1860s. In November of this year, the 100th Grey Cup game was played in Toronto. This annual championship attracts as many as six million television viewers. Celebrate the Cup's centennial year with all the highlights and most memorable and legendary moments leading up to it — like The Terrible Tripper of 1957, Vic Washington's Fabulous Fumble in 1968 and Dave Ridgway's Magnificent Kick in 1989.

Read Open Book's Proust Questionnaire, with Michael Januska.

Inspire Me Well: Finding Motivation to Take Control of Your Health by Sarah O'Hara and Lisa Bélanger (Insomniac Press)

Inspire Me Well asks what inspires us to live healthy lifestyles. There is no debate about the potential benefits; yet, the majority of us still struggle with lack of motivation and other barriers to living healthily, and the disconnect between knowledge and action is getting worse. By looking at stories of those who were moved to change their habits and make better choices — from the mom who took up running to support her five-year-old with cancer to the seventy-three-year-old man who battled obesity and won — and peppered with tips and suggestions based on the latest research, the authors seek to inspire readers to take action and get the most out of life.


Cabbagetown Diary: A Documentary (Wilfrid Laurier University Press) by Juan Butler
This reissue of the 1970 “rowdy concoction of grit and violence and rooming-house sleaze” includes a biographical sketch by Charles Butler Mackay and an afterword by Tamas Dobozy. Long admired for its frank depiction of a “sordid environment,” and often criticized for obscene language and reckless characters, this debut novel “had a strongly polarizing effect on its readers” yet was “unique in Canadian writing at that time.” It is structured like a diary written by Michael, a young Torontonian who tends bar and spends a summer introducing his new, naive teenaged girlfriend Terry to all his favourite haunts, to alcohol and drugs, to nihilist politics — to his own Toronto.

Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War (Pajama Press) by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Tuyet doesn't dream about being adopted anymore. After all, who would choose a girl with a club foot when the orphanage is full of perfect babies and adorable toddlers? Instead, she makes herself useful by helping to care for the others, hoping that if she is good enough, the Saigon orphanage will let her stay. But when the city is invaded near the end of the Vietnam War, Tuyet and 56 other orphans are packed onto a plane and shipped to North America. As she leaves her war-torn country behind and even makes a new friend, Linh, Tuyet rediscovers something she thought she'd lost — hope. That is, until all the other orphans, including Linh, find homes and Tuyet is left alone in a foreign country. Will she ever be claimed? If not, will they let her stay, or will they send her back to Vietnam and a life of uncertainty and peril? Based on a true story, this gripping book is enhanced with archive photos.

One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way (Pajama Press) by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (sequel to Last Airlift)

After years in a Vietnamese orphanage, an escape from war-ravaged Saigon, and watching as everyone is adopted but her, Tuyet finally has a home. Her kind and loving Canadian family help her feel safe, even as she struggles to adjust to a new language and foreign customs. But her club foot and weak leg from polio are making walking painful and difficult, and it looks like a series of surgeries is the only answer. But being around doctors and in hospitals reminds her of helicopters, a field hospital, an earlier operation in Vietnam. Tuyet won't let her fears and shyness stop her — she has always dreamed of having two straight legs, of running and playing, of owning matching shoes. Tuyet will stand on her own two feet — no matter what it takes.

Soldiers of Song: The Dumbells and Other Canadian Concert Parties of the First World War (Wilfrid Laurier University Press) by Jason Wilson

Concert parties comprised of active WWI soldiers inspired the likes of Monty Python and Wayne and Shuster and Soldiers of Song tells their story — from the shows along the trenches to Broadway. Any soldiers who could sing, perform skits or pass as “ladies” were put onstage to entertain other soldiers and boost morale. One such group, The Dumbells, did a run in London's West End, became the first Canadian hit on Broadway and toured Canada for 12 post-war years, becoming a household name and creating over 25 audio recordings. These pioneers of sketch comedy are integral to the history of Canadian theatre and culture — “if nationhood was won on the crest of Vimy Ridge, it was The Dumbells who provided the country with its earliest soundtrack.”


Edge Effects (Brick Books) by Jan Conn

Jan Conn's eighth book of poetry, Edge Effects, is named after an ecological term that describes the effects on an ecosystem of the juxtaposition of contrasting environments — although these are not the only edges Conn explores. It has often been compared to looking at Edward Burtynsky's hauntingly beautiful photographs of industrial wastelands; simultaneously terrifying and breathtaking, calling for thought and maybe activism, and ultimately incomplete until viewed/read.<

Read Open Book's Ten Questions interview with Jan Conn.

Notebook M (Insomniac Press) by Gillian Savigny
Inspired by Charles Darwin's Notebook M, this first collection of poetry by Gillian Savigny “imagines what scientific creativity might accomplish if given the space to play, free of the burden of empirical proof and the need to control meaning.” In a fusion of the “techniques and procedures of poetry and science,” Savigny addresses issues affecting poets and scientists — issues of authorship, value, copyright, originality. She pulls poems from Darwin's own prose, uses metaphor as an experiment and manipulates the lyric mode, all while “affirming the wild, expressive potential of words.”

Read Sachiko Murakami's recommendation for Notebook M by Gillian Savigny.

From Seed to Table: A Practical Guide to Eating and Growing Green (Insomniac Press) by Janette Haase

Organic gardener Janette Haase offers a monthly guide to growing food in your small home garden that will help you in your quest to eat locally grown and seasonal foods. Learn about gardening throughout the year with clear instructions that range from planning to planting, harvesting, storage and of course, cooking and eating! With plenty of recipes and menu ideas alongside essays on food-related issues that affect us all, this is the perfect gift for anyone interested in healthy as well as socially and environmentally responsible eating. All it requires is willing hands and a little bit of earth!


Up Above and Down Below (Owlkids) by Paloma Valdivia

Up Above and Down Below is a stylish yet philosophical picture book that takes readers on a tour of whimsical worlds both up above and down below and asks what would happen if everything got reversed. Maybe we would realize we're not so different after all and that both similarities and differences are things to celebrate.

The Rapids (Brick Books) by Susan Gillis

Like a river, the forces of wind, water and time are at work on the body and the world in this third collection of poetry by Susan Gillis. Various landscapes and locales, from Greece to British Columbia, are rendered vividly in all seasons, at different times of day and as the settings for both the ordinary and the extraordinary. The Rapids is characterized by sudden shifts, surges, eddies, leaps, delivering “strange loops of ordinary moments,” according to Anne Simpson, that “reveal a slippage in time and space. We are not where we thought we were — not at all.”


Buy these books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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