Gift ideas for the book-lover
If you're like me, you're in a slight panic mode because there's only a few days 'til Christmas and you’re only about 62 per cent finished your shopping. You may be in the realm of uncertainty, not knowing what to get for those last few people on your list. But Muskeg Press wants to help you!
If you’ve good a book-lover in your family or circle of friends, you may want to peruse the list below. They’re a list of some of the books I read this year, and hopefully, they’ll give you some last-minute gift ideas.
Enjoy, and, good luck!
The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America
By Ben Bradlee Jr., Little Brown, 2018
For anyone still wondering how Donald Trump got elected to the most powerful office in the world, here’s your answer. Ben Bradlee Jr. , an accomplished journalist, looked at the electoral map from 2016 and found a place that might explain the election results: Luzerne County in Pennsylvania. The state usually went Democrat, but in 2016 it went Republican by a small margin. Bradlee found that Trump decimated his opponent Hillary Clinton in Luzerne by 26,237 votes, and he notes that “it is not a stretch to say that this single county won Trump Pennsylvania – and perhaps the presidency.” So, Bradlee went there. He talked to people – actual voters – about why they voted for Trump and why they still supported him. Yes, there are racists and blowhards, but there’s also the scrappy Italian politician who started a few businesses, and the Army veteran who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq (who didn’t care that Trump didn’t serve in Vietnam). The strength of Bradlee’s approach is that he’s very curious about why everything happened, curious about the lives and attitudes of his interview subjects. He certainly doesn’t judge anyone. By the end of the book, you probably won’t agree with Trump, but you will understand his appeal, especially for a group of people who typically voted Democrat but were labelled “deplorable” by the party’s candidate in the election. As Bradlee concludes, Trump acknowledged these voters and they felt respected by him. “It basically all came down to that.”
Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee
By Stan Lee & George Mair, Fireside, 2002
The personality of one of the key players of Marvel Comics jumps out from every page of this book. Energetic, joyful, naïve, hard-working, funny: Stan Lee in a nutshell. The co-creator of Spider Man, as well as some other great comic heroes and villains, tells his life story in this quick 245-page book. From an illustrator for the Army in World War II, to the boiler-room of the New York comics scene, to success in Hollywood, the story itself is also a version of the American Dream. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
By Neil Gaiman, W.W. Norton & Company, 2018
The award-winning fantasy and comics writer looks at some of the earliest stories of them all: the charming and dark tales of the Norse gods. Gaiman goes right to the sources, the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, and reconstructs 16 stories in clear, simple English. At turns funny, tragic, and profound, you’ll read how Loki helped Thor forge his famous hammer, how Odin sacrificed himself to attain absolute knowledge, and how the powerful and cunning Frost Giants frequently lose to these strange gods. Hovering over all the action is Ragnarok – the end times – which stretches out for a long time after everything is gone, displacing the order of things so the game can again begin anew.
Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
By Maryanne Wolf, HarperCollins, 2018
In an age of everything digital, how is our ability to read impacted? And why should we care? Author Maryanne Wolf answers both questions with verve and passion. She shows how we read differently between digital and print media, and how it affects our cognitive functions and our ability to be empathic. In one chapter, she also takes the reader on an incredible journey, describing the mechanics of what happens in the brain when we read but a single word. Another section, on children’s reading, is a fantastic resource for parents, showing the importance of the bedtime story and nighttime cuddle. As the title suggests, Wolf encourages us to find a home in reading again, not only so we can learn, but also so we can reconnect with our spiritual selves.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
By Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick, 2006
The sole children’s book on this list, I discovered it randomly on a trip to the Prince Rupert Library. On the surface, it’s a story of Edward Tulane, a rabbit doll whose heart is initially as uncompromising as his china exterior. But as he gets lost, then lost again, and again and again, he finds new friends and, most importantly, love. And tragically, he finds the price of love: grief. Edward is broken, then rebuilt, then one day, he finally opens his heart again. Like any good journey, he finds his way home, which is a bit different than when he left it, but suitable to his changed nature. It’s a story about connections, about joy and sadness, about the eternal possibility of returning to the place you left. And, as Maryanne Wolf might approve of, it’s a perfect book to read with children cuddled in your arms.
Eat That Frog
By Brian Tracy, Berrett-Koehler, 2017
A classic in time management literature, with a very simple message: each day, do the most important thing first. Or, in the author’s words, “start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first.” Or, more poetically, “if you have to eat two frogs, start with the ugliest, slimiest frog first.” The book is divided into 21 chapters, which the author bills as principles on personal effectiveness. They sound cliché, but they’re very useful: “plan every day in advance,” “develop a sense of urgency,” “slice and dice the task.” And they all come back to that original idea: when you eat that frog, you get more stuff done, and you feel more confident.
The Elements of Typographic Style (ver. 3.2)
By Robert Bringhurst, H&M, 2008
One of the standard reference books for typography, describing the best practices for things you may not think of when you’re reading: font size, font selection, text block layout, leading, and so much ore. It’s also its own best example, featuring beautifully-set pages, with illustrations in the margins that make it a gorgeous book to read. Bringhurst also brings great depths of literary knowledge and witty candour to his subject. With a number of appendices on topics like type foundries, types of punctuation, and mini-biographies on typographers who’ve lived since the 15th century, it also makes you think that this Bringhurst guy knows his stuff.
By Matt J. Simmons, Muskeg Press, 2019
Okay, so I had to put some shameless self-promotion on the list. Before we published it, I re-read the 1st edition and was struck by the elegance and truth on Simmons’ essays on hiking. Of course the trail descriptions are necessary and useful, but it’s the essays that bring the book to something more than mere directions to the best trails. As Matt himself told us in a Q&A, “quote…” In the 2nd edition, there are a few new essays, including a description of a trip to the author’s now-favourite, Balmer Ridge.
By Rudy Kelly, Muskeg Press, 2020
Shameless self-promotion, part II. Muskeg Press will be publishing this book in February 2020, and we were lucky enough to read Rudy Kelly’s manuscript in the closing months of 2019. We don’t want to give too much away, other than the novel tells the story of two teenaged boys growing up in Prince Rupert in the 1970s, and how their love for basketball sets them on their respective destinies.