Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Open Book Recommends: The 2014 Holiday Reading Guide

Share |
Holiday Image

Our first big snow fall has come, along with the desire to curl up under a blanket, hot toddy in hand, and eat nothing but cookies. Of course, the Holiday season is never as relaxing as we'd like, so Open Book is here to help you cross some names off your gift-buying list by sharing our 2014 Holiday Reading Guide. We've got a collection of great titles, in many genres, that will be sure to please any reader on your list. And, of course there is no harm in picking up a book or two for yourself...after all, we all need something to read beside that toasty fire.



Pastoral (Coach House Books) by André Alexis

For his very first parish, Father Christopher Pennant is sent to the sleepy town of Barrow. With more sheep than people, it is sleepily bucolic — too much Barrow Brew on Barrow Day is the rowdiest it gets. But things aren't so idyllic for Liz Denny, whose fiancé doesn't want to choose between Liz and his more worldly lover Jane, or for Father Pennant himself, whose faith is profoundly shaken by the miracles he witnesses — a mayor walking on water, intelligent gypsy moths and a talking sheep. A finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.





Sophrosyne (BookThug) by Marianne Apostolides

In this provocative new novel about desire and restraint in a digital age by acclaimed author Marianne Apostolides, 21-year-old Alex is consumed by the elusive problem of sophrosyne — one of only four virtues identified by Socrates — for reasons he cannot share with others. While Alex's philosophy professor believes studying it will help shed light on the malaise of our era, Alex hopes it will release him from his darkly disturbing relationship with his mother.





Wild Women: Painters of the Wilderness (Inanna Publications) by Joyce Burkholder, Kathy Haycock and Linda Sorensen

Wild Women: Painters of the Wilderness is a beautiful art book that is also a strong statement by women about recording, sharing and preserving the Canadian wilderness of the Ottawa Valley. It introduces to a wider public a group of contemporary professional women painters who work together and support each other in their mutual goals. Each has a back-to-the-land experience that drew her to this remote, rural area and connected her to the wilderness.

Princess Pistachio (Pajama Press) by Marie-Louise Gay, translated by Jacob Homel

Pistachio has always known she was a princess. When a mysterious gift turns up on her birthday, she’s sure it’s only a matter of time before her real parents, the king and queen of Papua, arrive to take her away. In the meantime, though, she still has to eat her spinach and get up for school.When Pistachio’s angry wish makes her baby sister Penny disappear, she will need the courage of a true princess to get her back.





Ley Lines (WLU Press) by H.L. Hix

Ley lines mark alignments of sacred sites such as ridgetops and ancient megaliths and create pathways between them. This book too marks alignments and creates pathways, but its sacred sites are not monuments, they’re artworks and poems. Its various forms of exchange between writers and artists offer unique access to contemporary art, poetry and the creative process.





Bear on the Homefront (Pajama Press) by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat, illustrated by Brian Deines

During World War II, 10,000 children from British cities were sent to live with host families in Canada, the United States and other nations away from the war zone. Bear on the Homefront tells the story of two guest children, Grace and William Chambers, who arrive in Halifax and meet Aileen Rogers, a nurse serving on the homefront. With her is Teddy, the stuffed bear whose real-life trip to the front lines of World War I and back was chronicled in A Bear in War.

Cipher: A Mystery (ECW Press) by John Jantunen

In this psychological thriller, Curtis Mays, football star and local military hero, returns home unexpectedly to find his city mourning the death of a little girl — the granddaughter of Saskatchewan’s wealthiest man. As he begins to piece together what has happened, and how his actions may have helped cause it, he realizes that you can try to outrun the past, but you can never escape it.







The Stonehenge Letters (Coach House Books) by Harry Karlinksy

While researching why Freud failed to win a Nobel Prize at the Nobel Archives in Sweden, a psychiatrist makes an unusual discovery. Among the piles of papers in the 'Crackpot' file are letters addressed to the executor of Alfred Nobel's will, each offering an explanation of why and how Stonehenge was constructed. Diligent research uncovers that Alfred Nobel added a secret codicil to his will, a prize for the Nobel laureate who solves the mystery of Stonehenge. Weaving together a wealth of primary sources — photos, letters, wills — The Stonehenge Letters tells the tale of a fascinating secret competition.





Astatine (Brick Books) by Michael Kenyon

Astatine is an Italian girl, who like Dante’s Beatrice, haunts the narrator of Michael Kenyon’s incandescent fourth book of poetry. Named after a radioactive element whose isotopes endure half-lives of mere seconds, she is simultaneously a disappearing and abiding presence who cajoles and comforts, who questions and points, who often leaves the poet puzzled, electrified, heart-broken and wanting more.





In the Unlikeliest of Places: How Nachman Libeskind Survived the Nazis, Gulags, and Soviet Communism (WLU Press) by Annette Libeskind Berkovits

Nachman Libeskind’s remarkable story is an odyssey through crucial events of the twentieth century. With just a box of tapes, Annette Libeskind Berkovits tells more than her father’s story: she builds an uncommon family saga and reimagines a turbulent past. In the process she uncovers a stubborn optimism that flourished in the unlikeliest of places.





Kinds of Winter (WLU Press) by Dave Olesen

After a fifteen-year career as a sled dog racer, musher Dave Olesen turned his focus away from competition and set out to fulfill a lifelong dream. Over the course of four successive winters he steered his dogs and sled on long trips away from his remote Northwest Territories homestead, setting out in turn to the four cardinal compass points—south, east, north and west—and home again to Hoarfrost River in this personal and poignant memoir.





Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths (Brick Books) by Susan Paddon

Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths is a book-length series of poems written from the perspective of a daughter who reads Chekhov obsessively while spending a spring and summer caring for her mother, who is dying from pulmonary fibrosis. Through the prism of the relationships in Chekhov’s work and life an honest, intimate and even occasionally humorous portrayal of the energy we put into each other’s lives through deterioration and suffering.





Bunny and Shark (BookThug) by Alisha Piercy

From award-winning author Alisha Piercy comes Bunny and Shark, a middle-aged coming-of-age story-cum-shark-adventure that reveals and celebrates women's power in the trenches. Plunging into the first thirteen days after the "bastard" pushes his ex-Playboy wife "Bunny" over a cliff in the Caribbean, Bunny and Shark is a fable about island survival, and the perils and potentials of being exiled from one's identity.





Motion Sickness: Flash Fiction (Inanna Publications) by Ursula Pflug, illustrations by S.K. Dyment

Motion Sickness is a flash novel consisting of 55 chapters of exactly 500 words each and accompanied by a wood-cut like, scratchboard illustration that follows one young woman’s humorous and poignant misadventures in the worlds of employment, friendship, dating, birth control and abortion. The illustrations are dark and somewhat whimsical, as is the text.



A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison (Pajama Press) by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson

A Brush Full of Colour is the story of a boy whose passion for learning would save him from a life in the coalmines. Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson trace the life of Ted Harrison and the influences that would lead to his unique style as an artist. Filled with full-colour examples of his vivid art, and with a foreword written by Ted Harrison, A Brush Full of Colour will provide inspiration for a new generation of budding artists.



Someone Else (Playwrights Canada Press) by Kristen Thomson

Lately Cathy, a middle-aged comedian, has found very little to laugh about. Everything seems either tragic or frustrating, especially her eighteen-year marriage to Peter, a doctor at a local community clinic. Despite a once solid and happy marriage, the couple has hit a snag that even counselling can’t repair. Can they negotiate their changing relationship and learn to be comfortable with who they’ve become?





Over Our Heads (Inanna Publications) by Andrea Thompson

Over Our Heads is a novel that weaves together the histories of two very different half-sisters who return home to deal with the aftermath of their grandmother's death.In the raw terrain of profound loss, the two sisters struggle through the stages of grief – each in their own way in this story of acceptance, forgiveness, redemption and the beauty that can be found in the imperfection inherent in being human.





Intimate Letters: The Invisible World Is in Decline, Book VII (ECW Press) by Bruce Whiteman

The poetics of love, loss and desire. Intimate Letters comprises the seventh book of an ongoing long poem in prose called The Invisible World Is in Decline. Its title borrows from a string quartet by Leoš Jánaček, a profoundly emotional piece written late in the composer's life when he had fallen in love with a younger woman. It also points towards the intimacy of letters themselves, the visible pieces that make up language.





I Could See Everything: The Paintings of Margaux Williamson (Coach House Books) by Margaux Williamson

This suite of forty-six paintings, selected and curated by the Road at the Top of the World Museum for their tenth anniversary, shares the gallery's preoccupation with, as curator Ann Marie Peña says, darkness as both geographical condition and conceptual idea. In collecting all forty-six works alongside essays by David Balzer, Mark Greif, Chris Kraus and Leanne Shapton and an introduction by the curator, this catalogue transcends the boundary between the authentic and the imaginary.



Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years (ECW Press) by Sharry Wilson

Young Neil is a detailed chronological narrative of the early life of iconic Canadian musician Neil Young. This book examines the development of Young's unique talent against a backdrop of shifting postwar values, a turbulent family history and a musical revolution in the making. Includes many previously unseen photos, memorabilia and set lists.







orient (Brick Books) by Gillian Wigmore

A polyphonic hymn to Northern British Columbia by one of its boldest, most exciting writers. orient leaps, sings, burrows down, and orients the reader within its rich ecosystem. The appeal of these poems lies partly in their blend of humility (the open-minded approach), in their force (the taut style, the original vision) and in an astonishing boldness. Wigmore is a ‘poet of place’ in the best sense: “about the big picture.”





Polyamorous Love Song (BookThug) by Jacob Wren

From interdisciplinary writer and performer Jacob Wren comes Polyamorous Love Song (finalist for the 2013 Fence Modern Prize in Prose), a novel of intertwined narratives concerning the relationship between artists and the world. Shot through with unexpected moments of sex and violence, readers will become acquainted with a world that is at once the same and opposite from the one in which they live.







carried away on the crest of a wave (Playwrights Canada Press) by David Yee

From the shore of Ko Phi Phi in Thailand to a suburb in Utah to a mysterious Kafkaesque hole in the ground, carried away on the crest of a wave gives us brief glimpses into the lives of a sphinx-like escort, a grieving father, a conflicted priest, brothers of legend, a felonious housewife, an accountant of time, an orphaned boy, a radio shock jock and a man who finds things. Each are connected, primarily, by the cataclysmic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed the lives of over a quarter million people.





House Dreams (Brick Books) by Deanna Young

House Dreams, Deanna Young’s haunted and haunting third collection, is at once a core sample of the life we all live underground, and a view beneath the foundations of the various eras and places that make up one woman’s life story. These poems have the plainspoken power, surreal shifting, uncanny logic and transformed everyday imagery of our most numinous dreams.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications

Dundurn

Open Book App Ad