Books are still welcome gifts, companions for quiet evenings, or far-away holidays, so they are safe bets for Christmas or any other time giving. The current crop from local and other Canadian publishers are easy, pleasant and informative reading.
Born Naked, by Farley Mowat (Douglas & McIntyre): Readers can join Farley Mowat in this classic memoir, enjoying his often hilarious memories of his eccentric father and long-suffering mother in a series of dilapidated houses and unseaworthy boats, as he developed his undying love for nature and wildlife.
The Last Viking: The life of Roald Amundsen, by Stephen R. Bown (Douglas & McIntyre): A fascinating account of a complex and driven man who trained himself, almost from his childhood, to become an Arctic explorer. Amundsen was not only fascinated by the two arctics, he wanted to become the first to reach their poles. He wrote books and went on speaking tours to raise money for his expeditions, succeeding because of the knowledge gained from the Inuit and his meticulous preparation.
In Antarctica - An Amundsen Pilgrimage, by Jay Ruzesky (Nightwood Editions): The author felt so strongly his connection with his famous ancestor, he decided to try to follow in his footsteps. A poet, his descriptions of his destinations, the people he meets, the weather, the sea and the ice are interspersed with chapters on Amundsen's voyages and experiences in the same areas. Entertaining.
Canada Crosswords, Book 14, by Gwen Sjogren (Nightwood Editions): A great gift idea for the addict, with enough crosswords to take them well into the spring and summer. Canadian content makes the clues more challenging and interesting.
Come Fly With Me - Michael Bublé's Rise to Stardom, by Beverly Delich, with Shelley Fralic (Douglas & McIntyre): The story of Beverly Delich's transformation from telephone operator and hopeful singer in the U.S. Midwest, into a talent manager that had her meeting many of the big names in the American music industry, is a fascinating introduction to her story of her discovery, ongoing belief in, and promotion of, Burnaby's Michael Bublé.
Fishing the Coast - A Life on the Water, by Don Pepper (Harbour Publishing): Pepper's love and knowledge of B.C. coastal fishing are both extensive and very obvious in this well-written book that is both historical and informative of past and current methods.The varieties of fish and methods of fishing and the evolution of coastal fishing boats and technology are all covered and well illustrated with photographs, diagrams and maps.
Tim Bowling: Selected Poems (Nightwood Editions): Full of vivid imagery, strong sensations, all about our own coast and our lives here, Bowling's poems are sure to evoke fellow feelings in his readers.
Fishing With My Old Guy, by Paul Quarrington (Greystone Press): Here's a great gift for anyone on your Christmas list that's obsessed with fishing. While the locale is the east, the humour and exaggeration is universal, as is the fishing community, wherever the location. A second edition of an old favourite.
Law of the Yukon - A History of the Mounted Police in the Yukon (Revised Edition) by Helene Dobrowolsky (Harbour Publishing): Like the Canadian Northwest, the Yukon was kept orderly and law-abiding by a small detachment of Northwest Mounties. These are stories of the individuals who made up that group, and the characters they encountered. The author had access to personal diaries, as well as official records of the times and archival photos.
Legacy in Wood - The Wahl Family Boat Builders,by Ryan Wahl (Harbour Publishing): A history of a B.C. family, the coastal villages and the wooden boat-building trade that flourished for decades on the B.C. coast. Family and boat photographs, drawings and old documents illustrate the story.
A Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants of Canada, by Beverley Gray, and A Field Guide to Birds of the Pacific Northwest, by Tony Greenfield, photos by Penny Hall (Harbour Publishing): Two more in Harbour's useful, compact, beautifully photographed, informative guides. You can learn all the many uses of fireweed, besides decorative; or the differences between a Glaucos-winged and a Bonaparte gull, in a minute, just by flipping over these light, accordion-folded guides. Great stocking stuffers for any amateur naturalist.
Discover Canada - Experience the Best of Canada (Lonely Planet): Lonely Planet's time-tested formula to make faraway places easy to get to and see works for Canada too. A good New Year's resolution would be to travel to the many worthwhile places to see in our own country. With photographs, city and provincial maps, places to stay as well as to see.
For the kids, pre-teens or younger on your list, you could consider some of these:
Reporter In Disguise - The Intrepid Vic Steinberg, by Christine Welldon Fitzhenry & Whiteside): Vic Steinberg was a rarity in the 1890s, a woman reporter whose columns in the Toronto paper were sometimes the first thing people turned to, to read of her adventures and disclosures - as a prison inmate, a maid in a wealthy home, a worker in a sweatshop, drinker in a tavern - all unthinkable for her readers. Well illustrated with drawings, archival photos and interesting sidebars that explain much of the era. Ages 13 and up.
Rick Hansen - A Life in Motion, by Don Quinlan (Fitzhenry & Whiteside): The life story of our famous wheelchair traveler is both interesting and inspirational. Describing his active early years before his devastating injury in his teens and then the difficult adjustment to his disability, the story goes on to his determined drive to excel in wheelchair sports. His Man in Motion tour around the world raised money and understanding for people with spinal injuries. Well illustrated with many photographs, it's a good read for anyone from 10 years and up.
The Legend of Lightning and Thunder, by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt (Inhabit Media Inc.): With beautiful, magical illustrations, this old Inuit legend about how two orphan children created lightning and thunder should captivate the four-year-old and up group.
Skink on the Brink, by Lisa Dalrymple, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo: Bright illustrations in 3D-like Plasticine are the background for this happy story about changing and growing up. The informative back pages give more information on this endangered species.
Do You Know Chameleons?, by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar, illutstrated by Sampar (Fitzhenry & Whiteside): This charmingly illustrated, funny and informative series for ages seven and up got the attention and seal of approval from an eight-year old book addict, the best review possible. Also available: Do You Know Crocodiles? Do You Know Spiders? Do You Know Toads?
In Deep With the Octopus, by Norma Dixon (Fitzhenry & Whiteside): For the scientifically minded young, ages seven and up, this well illustrated and photographed book gives the life story, the dangers faced by octopi, and who they endangered.
A Mountain of Friends, by Kerstin Schoene (Fitzhenry & Whiteside): Youngsters four and up will have fun being part of the mountain of friends that help little penguin fly among the clouds.
Caribou Song, by Tomson Highway, illustrated by John Rombough (Fifth House): What happens when you call in a herd of thousands of caribou? This book tells the story in English and high Cree, with strong, memorable illustrations.
Trip To the Moon, by Vera Evic (Inhabit Media Inc.): One of a series of books in English and Inuktitut, this is a fun story, brightly illustrated, of three boys taking a trip to the moon on an empty oil can they find.