I love receiving a good book as a holiday gift! I think books make great gifts for busy people who find they have some downtime during the holidays to relax and read. There is nothing like cracking the spine of a new book while enjoying a glass of wine (or in my case, Rooibos tea) by the fire or Christmas tree. Books can also be loaned or given to family and friends or donated to the Free Library so they are well worth the money. Here are some of the best books for holiday gifts 2019.
In this story of mature love and grief, the recently-widowed protagonist, Munir Khan, travels to Delhi to trace his grandfather’s roots. While visiting the city, he meets Mohini Singh, a married Hindu woman. The clash of their religions is highlighted by Munir’s journey through Delhi, in which he discovers the city’s history of religious conflict between Muslims and Hindus. Back in Toronto, Munir experiences a solitude, emphasized by the fact that his only child lives in New York. Vassanji’s writing conjures vivid scenes of the Indian urban landscape – bustling marketplaces, temples, and shrines – and presents a moral dilemma in which he allows his reader to come to their own conclusions.
Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady’s latest book caught my attention during the first few pages. I knew this was going to be a book I couldn’ t put down. Lynn Coady puts on a master class about how to gradually increase the tension toward the “crisis” so that we become addicted to the unraveling of the story and invested in the characters’ wellbeing. Karen is a Toronto-based lawyer who returns to Nova Scotia after the death of her mother to look after her disabled sister, Kelli. Karen encounters Kelli’s personal support worker, Trevor, who has an unusually close relationship with Kelli. The three main characters, Karen, Trevor and Kelli, were very well drawn – Karen’s ambivalence to interfere or upset the status quo as a result of the grief/guilt she is experiencing due to her mother’s death – while the relationship between Karen and Kelli illustrates the everyday challenges of looking after a disabled person. Some of the east coast dialogue had me laughing out loud, but this is a psychological thriller in which the reader will experience a slow burn towards the one or perhaps two of the characters.
Cooking is a total sensory experience – we evaluate a meal by its smell, presentation, and taste. Katie Mitzel has spent years as a gourmet chef at backcountry lodges in B.C. and expands our culinary experience by creating a cookbook that includes stunning photos of the Western Canada locale in which she creates her recipes. Her recipes are geared towards healthy appetites that have been developed from spending a day hiking or skiing so most of the recipes put an emphasis on protein (beef, pork, seafood) or carbs (potatoes, bread). Interestingly, Mitzel’s take on vegetable dishes such as Butternut Squash and Fennel; Brussel Sprouts with Homemade Pesto; and Asparagus Fries with Roasted Garlic Aioli, is what caught my eye. This is both a book to encourage innovation in the kitchen, as well as tempt you to visit the B.C. interior.
If you have a fashionista on your holiday gift list, you might want to consider giving them Fashion, New Edition: The Definitive Visual Guide. This book will provide endless hours of enjoyment for the fashion-forward and even the fashion-neutral because it delves so deeply into the roots of fashion. The book begins with fashions in the Medieval period and how clothing evolved to reflect the culture, climate, and society. The book passes through the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, the Industrial Revolution, Neoclassicism, Empire, Regency and covers trends such as the turban, bustle, fishtail, and crinoline (think Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind). The book moves with the times and covers the rebellious fashion trends of the turn of the century, the roaring Twenties, pre- and post-War periods, the Fifties and Sixties right up to the Designer Decade featuring dresses worn by Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Kate Middleton, Lady Gaga, Halle Berry and Charlize Theron.
New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison weaves her background at a Virginia boarding school into the setting for her latest novel. Tall, blonde and beautiful U.K. citizen Ash Carlisle, whose parents have both recently died under unusual circumstances, has just arrived at The Goode School, a private boarding school for the elite in the secluded Blue Mountains. Ash immediately encounters opposition from the school’s star student, Becca, and generally experiences difficulty assimilating. A few days after Ash’s arrival, a popular professor dies. The Goode School is said to house ghosts from the past as a result of a murder that happened on the grounds in the previous decade. Students belong to secret societies that hold their meetings in the wee hours of the night. The school is also connected to tunnels that were part of the Underground Railroad. All of this lends a decidedly Gothic feel to this page-turner.
One of the best books for holiday gifts 2019 is Healthy As F*ck by Fitness Trainer Oonagh Duncan. Duncan offers a refreshing perspective on losing weight – she emphasizes that successful weight loss is not as much about calorie cutting (although that is still important) as it is about how you feel when you eat. Duncan offers seven habits to adopt to become a “healthy and fit mot**r****er”. As you will have gathered by the title, Duncan very liberally peppers her pages with four-letter words. Fortunately, her book is filled with her unique brand of humour, which should help you get you off the couch. If coarse language bothers you, you might want to take a pass on this book, but you might be missing out as there are many gems to improve your health and fitness in this book.
In Michael Crummey’s latest novel, two pre-teens in a remote Newfoundland outpost experience the death of their parents and must battle the elements for survival. Ignorant of the outside world, Evered and Ada are bound to the local merchant who provides them with food provisions in exchange for the fish they catch in their cove. As a result of their solitary experience, the siblings bond in an unusual manner – both physically and emotionally. Crummey is a master of poetic language, making the most mundane action sound exquisite. Crummey has mined the Newfoundland lexicon to provide extremely colourful sayings, anecdotes and songs in this heartbreaking novel of the struggle against nature – both external and internal.
The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney
JP Delaney’s latest thriller focuses on Abbie, who wakes up with very little memory of the past five years. Her husband, Tim, is a tech startup billionaire whose company’s latest innovation is a robot that provides customer service in the retail sector. As Abbie tries to piece together what has happened to her life, the plot twists point to a dark and disturbing motive.
I hope you enjoy the above best books for holiday gifts 2019. Let me know in the comment section if you have a suggestion to add.
You might also be interested in reading, “Books for Winter 2019 Reading“.